Welcome to Wood Nymph Way! I have created this blog with two intentions: (A) keeping our family and friends, many of whom live in lands Far Far Away, up to date with what we've been doing, and (B) as a tool to document and learn from our journey as a Waldorf homeschooling family. Enjoy! And don't forget to check out my resource pages on the right!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

While the title of this blog may be reminiscent of that old Christmas song, it definitely doesn't pertain to that holiday.  At our house, Halloween is getting to be a big thing.  Autumn tops the list as our favorite season.  Great weather, fall foliage, fabulous food, cool nights for sound sleeping, tons of birthdays and celebrations and an exhausting list of seasonal activities...what's not to love? 

During our school day we've been preparing for the big day by reading lots of great stories and doing lots of really fun activities.  We started the week by telling the story of the Sugar Sprite Fairy, who will come visit us late on Halloween night.  She has a hard time finding sugar to feed her children with this time of year, what with the flowers gone and nectar being scarce.  So children who know about her may leave their Halloween candy (except maybe one or two special pieces) on their doorsteps so she can stock up on sugar for the coming winter months.  In exchange for this kindness, she leaves a small gift for the children.

Some of our other favorite stories for Autumn and Halloween are on the list at the bottom of this blog.  Pumpkin Moonshine by Tasha Tudor is a favorite, and the children requested that their pumpkin moonshine (jack o'lantern) be a fierce one like little Sylvie Anne's in the book.  So of course, there has been pumpkin carving galore this week.  Our favorite pumpkin piece is our Pumpkin Gnome Home.  Four shepherd gnomes live there, with their two fluffy sheep.  They have a brussel sprout and berry garden and grow flowers in their sea shell window boxes.  They seem to be very happy.  I made the residents a while back with instructions from Toymaking With Children by Freya Jaffke.  We also roasted lots of delicious pumpkin seeds with this simple recipe.

Pumpkin Gnome Home

Sheep by the garden

One of the art activities we did this week was a painting story from Our Little Nature Nest.  I narrated the story, which was breif, and the children and I painted along together all the way to the surprise ending.  Here it is for your enjoyment:

Set up your paper, water, and paints as usual, but mix the yellow a bit stronger than usual.
First paint a large yellow ball, this will be your pumpkin, but do not tell the child.
Next surround the yellow with blue. Try  not to let the blue touch the yellow.
Tell the simple story as you do this. 
Gold  shines from the paper like a golden ball. Red says “let me warm you up a little”.
Paint over the yellow ball with the red. It will turn a golden orange hue.
Blue presses in from all sides, but the glowing orange will not let him touch her.
“Remember, you must leave me room to breathe”  says orange.  So blue comes soft & gentle.
Then yellow shouts out, " Please let me shine out!! I am getting too hot & feel all boxed in.”
“OK,” says orange "I will open some holes so that you can peek out.”
Then show the child how you can lift off color with a clean brush. Make sure you have removed the excess water. Lift off the color in places to look like eyes, a nose & a mouth. Then go back over those places with yellow.
The Jack-o-lantern will be complete. When you begin this activity do not let on that this will be a jack! Allow the suprise to unfold.
S's surprise jack o'lantern

We are preparing now for the day of Halloween, and I'm sure I'll have at least one post before then.  But here are some of the things we have planned, aside from trick or treating.

The night before Halloween we will be at my cousin's pumpkin carving party.  He and his family and friends usually do about a hundred pumpkins or so!  On Halloween day, we will have a little family celebration with Boo-Nilla Shakes, Chips and Guaca-moldy, and yummy Witches Fingers, all recipes from the Halloween issue of Martha Stewart.  Yeah, I know.  __GASP!___Martha and Waldorf?  Whatever.  She does some pretty cool stuff. 

Whatever you do this Halloween, have fun, maybe start a new tradition, and for crying out loud, please carve a pumpkin!
The Pumpkin Fairy's House

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ye Olde Fun Times

F with his spiffy new Robin
Hood hat and fancy
dragon face painting.
Yes!  This past weekend was the much anticipated trip to the Ren Faire!  Okay, Renaissance Fair to the non-geekish crowd.  King Richard's Faire to be precise.  Admittedly, this sort of thing is much more my husband's kind of activity.  I have a thing about people in costumes.  They freak me out.  Especially when they are role playing so sincerely that they question any 20th century word that comes out of someone's mouth.  And they call me "M' Lady."  [[shudder]]

The first time I went was about eleven years ago.  I was so freaked out by all the folks in costume that I actually shelled out a considerable sum of money to buy my own while we were there.  I figured that if I blended in, nobody would bother me.  It worked!  Well, nobody was really bothering me in the first place, but I felt like people were looking at me as if I had lobsters crawling out of my ears.  Not the case, I'm sure, but I was very self-conscious.  As it turns out, I had a really great time, and quite got into the spirit of the whole thing.  Plus my dress was fun.  Did I mention that there's a TON of cleavage showing at these things?

We read lots of fairy tales and stories about brave knights and my kids love to spend their time bouncing around the yard on their hoppy horses while "jousting" or "chasing dragons" with their swords and sheilds.  they were excited beyond words to be going to a fair where this sort of thing was the theme.

S goes whizzing by with her sword
as she tries to capture the ring from
the dragon's hand.
They were not disappointed!  As soon as we arrived, we hit the tournament field to watch four knights, one of whom was a woman (yay!), compete at various skills on horseback.  Knocking things over with lances, tests of good aim, etc.  All of which were duplicated the next day in our back yard and living room, minus the bawdy medieval insults from the crowd.  Then we ate some lunch.  Pizza.  Not as medieval as a giant roasted turkey leg, but, hey, we're vegetarian.  If we got hungry later, we could grab a snack at___no kidding___"The King's Nuts." We caught a great story telling of Jack and the Beanstalk, and the kids got to try out a couple of the rides, all of which were man-powered.  These are medieval times after all.  They even tested their skill at knocking over tin knights with little crossbows.  Oh, and they got their faces painted.  Total bonus there.

At this point I feel obligated to offer a few words on all the weaponry.  I am appalled at children's gun play.  I don't let my kids watch anything violent.  They don't watch any TV at all, actually, and do not use the computer.  However, somehow, I am not bothered by the play they exhibit while using their little wooden swords and shields, or even the little marshmallow shooting crossbow which technically belongs to my husband.  It all seems so noble, to be fighting a dragon, or testing their skills at some knightly game.  There seems to be a sense of honor involved, not just fighting for the sake of fighting.  I'm sure I could write a whole blog post on this topic another time.  Just thought I'd mention it.

The kids can't wait to go back next year, and they loved it so much we're thinking of staying for the whole day next time.  And we're definitely going in costume.  The kids were a little miffed that they didn't wear costumes this year.  Honestly, I was going to dress them up with some play silk capes or something, but the weather was iffy and I wasn't sure how much they'd be able to take of walking around in costumes before I ended up shlepping around their stuff.  So next year, costumes it is.  And I might even dig out my own,  cleavage and all.  ;)

S and the big wooden wizard.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On Birthdays and Toys and Things

Autumn really hits full force at our house in October.  In addition to the usual autumn activities of cleaning up the garden and yard, getting the house ready for colder weather, and raking the seemingly endless supply of leaves our neighbor's tree dumps in our yard, we have quite a few birthdays to celebrate.  And all within a few days of each other.  As with other celebrations, it has been exciting to see new traditions and rythms emerging in our family.

On each child's birthday, we celebrate as a family with a few small gifts in the morning and the child's choice of dinner and dessert.  This year, with the start of school, we added a special acknowledgement during our morning circle time. 

F looking a little suspicious
at our request to blow out his
candles.  Oh, and he really
liked his "gnome hat."
So here's how it goes on a birthday at our house:  On the day before the child's birthday we set out his/her birthday ring.  I believe this is a German tradition (which we have borrowed) and we all love it.  S and F selected where their candles would sit (there would be five and three this year!) and where the little woodland characters would sit in and out of the ring.  For those of you who are not familiar with this, the birthday ring contains 12 holes to fill with candles (one for each of the child's years up to the age of twelve) and little wooden decorations.  It's lovely to have the child set it up on her own when she's old enough, and to see the candles beginning to fill up the ring.  Plus, I have to say it always seems kind of gross to eat cake that some kid blew all over while blowing out the candles on the birthday cake.  I like to spare my guests that gesture.  This fits the bill nicely.

S at morning cirlce
with her new doll
I'll use S's recent birthday here as the example.  Before breakfast, she got to open her presents as we sang Happy Birthday to her.  During the morning circle, I read her the Birthday Story from Gateways while lighting one candle at each appropriate moment in the story.  It is quite a lovely story, and I regret only having just discovered it.  It will be part of my children's birthday rituals from here on out.  Then F and I sang to her again, and she blew out the candles on her birthday ring.  This will go similarly when it is F's birthday.

In the meantime, we had "The Big Party."  This is one of the only times of the year when we get a fairly large amount of family together (about 20 people or so).  The party has always been just for family, and I think it will remain so.  When S requested to invite a friend from the neighborhood, I explained to her that in our family, we celebreate birthdays as a family.  The kids have been to plenty of "kid" parties, and enjoyed them, but it's not something I ever think we'll do.  She seemed to understand and take it just fine, and we did make an extra party favor in case her friend happened to drop in, as she often does.

As we have only just begun our Waldorf homeschooling journey, I was faced with the expected dilemnas:  What about gifts?  Toys? The whole idea of a huge party in and of itself seems so not...well...Waldorf-y.  So we did our best.  I have seen innumerable posts on Waldorf group sites regarding the toy and gift dilemna.  It seems to be something that we all struggle with.  How can we let people know, without offending them or passing judgement, what we deem acceptable for gifts for our children?  And how do we not fall into the trap of teaching our kids to be greedy and materialistic?  I was tempted to ask people to not bring presents, but after much debating, and for several personal reasons, we decided to go with the giving of gifts.  This is how I handled it. I sent out an e-mail to most of the people who were likely to buy gifts for the kids.  And this is what it said: 

"Hello!  It's that time of year again.  Birthday season.  Some of you have already started asking about what the kids would like for their birthdays, so I have attached a wish list.  The items on the list have been chosen by the children from their very favorite catalogs.  For safety and ecological reasons, we are trying to eliminate or at least cut down vastly on plastic toys in our home.  The toys on the list also fit in nicely with the Waldorf philosophy, which is what we are using in homeschooling the children.  Thanks so much for your support (or at least tolerance!) in this!" 

Hopefully I didn't offend anyone.  If I did, no one mentioned it, and I'm happy to say, that this actually worked!  As people purchased items from the list, I sent out updates letting everyone know what had been purchased.  Seems like a lot of work, but it was so worth it to have the kids get quality toys that they wanted, will last, and fit in with our philosophy.  I should mention that there were a few pleasant surprises too, from those relatives who do really understand where we're coming from.  :)

gnome terrarium!
the cake
In keeping with all of the fairy tales we read, and my kids' (and yes, my own) slight obsession with gnomes, the kids decided they wanted an "enchanted forest" party.  What?  A themed party?  Yikes!  I decided to go with it though, and it was so fun.  For party favors, the kids and I made each child a little gnome terrarium to take home.  I made a cake in the shape of a big mushroom and made little marzipan gnomes (one boy, one girl) on top and the kids scattered leaves they had collected around the base of the mushroom.  It was pretty cute, actually.  S wore her gnome party skirt that I made for her, and F wore his gnome T-shirt that I made for him (at 11:30 the night before the party.)

S with the tree blocks
and some home made gnomes
After the party, the kids were able to sit down and enjoy their new toys, which I had already made room for in the playroom so they wouldn't be overhwelmed by choices the next day.  I have really enjoyed watching the kids' play evolve as they are using more toys from nature.  Baskets of shells, feathers, acorns, stones, and tree blocks have completely overshadowed the more "traditional" toys they used to play with.  They have had playsilks since S was less than a year old, but they are getting more use now than ever.  This comforts me in my decision to be a little more outspoken about what is okay for my kids to have.  I am truly realizing, although I always suspected, that less is so much more when it comes to children's playthings.  I'm looking forward to days ahead when I don't have to purge the playroom of things they no longer play with because the toys they do have will be enjoyed for so many years to come, and through many stages of development.  And I can't wait to see what the kids put on their wish list for next year....