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!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Development, Readiness, and the Tooth Fairy

Recently, my daughter's second teeth have begun coming in and there is a great deal of excitement about this developmental milestone.

In Waldorf education, this is a significant step towards academic readiness.  Children typically enter first grade at the age of seven, when most children are beginning to lose their teeth.  Obviously, the growth of new permanent teeth alone does not mean a child is ready for first grade.  There are other things as well.  These include the ability to tie one's own shoes, care for oneself by buttoning and zipping clothes, getting washed, etc.  Being able to walk a low balance beam, throw and catch a ball, skip, and hop on one foot. A child should be able to sit for a longer period of time and be able to focus on the given activity.  She should also be able to track a line of text from left to right, even though she is not expected to be able to read the text.

I feel like I need to say a few things about these skills and what we expect of children.  As I said, these are some of the things a Waldorf teacher looks for in a child who will be entering first grade.  At the age of seven.  I used to be a public school Kindergarten teacher, and most of these were things we looked for in children who were entering Kindergarten.  At the age of  five.  We are expecting more and more of our young children and when they don't deliver, they are often diagnosed, labeled, or otherwise considered challenged.  But I digress, that will have to be a post for another day.

So what do you do when you're in a situation, like myself, when the child is young, but showing all the signs of readiness and more?  My dear girl is still a young five, but looks about seven.  She reads, writes, is wonderfully athletic and artistic, and loves to learn.  But she is five.  She has the emotional and spiritual needs of a five year old.  If she were to attend a school of any sort this might cause some issues. 

However, I am in the fortunate position of being able to homeschool.  I can be as flexible as I want.  So yes, we do some first grade work, modified to her needs and abilities, and we spend most of the day doing other kindergarten things.  Playing, singing, cooking, making art.  Remember when kindergarten used to include those things?  In most places, it doesn't anymore.  The public school children where I live don't have art or music in kindergarten, and only have Physical Education once every couple of weeks.  Not to mention a long school day with little or no recess.

I guess what I'm saying is that we need to honor the developmental stage our children are in, whether they are behind, ahead of, or right on the typical schedule.  Celebrate the changes when they come, but don't push them to get there.  They do grow up too fast after all.

So, for now, we're getting ready for a visit from the tooth fairy.  I'm sure she'll be visiting in a couple of weeks.  I wonder what she'll leave?  There are so many wonderful ideas I have found for little tooth fairy gifts.  All simple, but sweet.  A little more meaningful than just slipping some money under the pillow.  (Besides, you wouldn't believe the exchange rate for teeth these days!  Yikes!)

Here are some of the things I have found.  First, a little poem/story about what the tooth fairy does with the teeth she finds.  I found this poem on several sites, and I can't find who the original author is, so my apologies and not giving him/her credit.
 This night it is a special night
As fairies dance upon the roof.
All the fairies must alight,
For _______ just lost a tooth!

The Fairy Queen gives her commands-
Twelve bright fairies must join hands
Then together in a circle stands
To guard _____ while s/he sleeps.

The Tooth Fairy into the circle leaps
The hidden tooth she takes
Ah, but has far to go
Before ______ awakes.

Three times around the world she flies
Over valleys deep and mountains high;
Skirts the storm clouds thick with thunder,
Wings over waves all wild with wonder.

Deep within their earthly homes
Finally she finds the gnomes,
Who upon the tooth must work
Never once their duty shirk.

Some are hammering, hammering, hammering,
Some the bellows blow
Others sweat at the sweltering forge
And then cry out, "Heigh Ho!"

The tooth's been turned to a shining stone,
A glimmering, glowing gem
The tooth Fairy takes the gnomes' good gift,
And bows (curtsies) to all of them.
Before the sun's first rays are shown,
She returns to _____’s bed,
And then - - - away she's flown!

This of course, would make it only natural to leave some sort of gem or crystal as a ittle gift.  I have also heard of people leaving one gemstone bead for each tooth lost.  Eventually, when they have all been exchanged, all the beads are left for the tooth fairy to collect and they are returned the next day, all strung together into a little bracelet. 

If you don't like to break with the tradition of leaving coins, there are a few neat options.  I have heard of someone leaving  coins from around the world, showing where the tooth fairy has been.  My husband came across these beautiful Tooth Fairy coins, which you'd have to purchase, but are really pretty cool.  Here is a different site with beautiful Tooth Fairy coins.

Here is a site with all sorts of special tooth fairy gifts.  I prefer to make my own, even if my children don't know they're from me, it makes them a little more special.  But you can get some really good ideas from looking around.  Have fun!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Got Stuff?

It is preoccuation with possessions, more than anything else,
that prevents us from living freely and nobly.
~ Thoreau

It's the time of year when many of us are working on New Year's resolutions.  A topic I have encountered many times recently is that of materialism, clutter, and trying to live more simply.

For some of us, cleaning and getting rid of things we don't use is an easy and emotionally satisfying activity.  For others, it can be overwhelming and entirely traumatic.  We tend to get attached to our "things" and when they hold, or once held, meaning for us it is difficult to part with them.  Or perhaps the environmentalist in us keeps things with the intent of re-using or upcycling them, saying to ourselves, "Perhaps someday, I'll find a use for this" and then it gets packed away and more often than not, forgotten about.

Before you know it, there are boxes piled up in your attic/basement/closets/living spaces and you don't even know what their contents are.  So where do you begin?  How can you even begin to tackle the sorting out of your belongings?

I think it's really important to do some serious self-reflection about why we save/purchase things in the first place.  Identify where all this stuff came from in the first place!  Then you can stop making excuses and take some steps to simplify at least that part of your life.

"But I'm an environmentalist, and everything can be re-used, recycled, or upcycled.  I hate to just send something to the landfill."  Listen, I'm an enivronmentalist too.  That doesn't mean I'm going to turn my own home into an indoor landfill.  Saving something because it "might" be of use later is a lovely idea, but perhaps it could be of use to someone now!  Post it on Craig's List, Free Cycle, or sell it on EBay.  Have a yard sale.  Donate it to Goodwill or Salvation Army, or some other charity.  (Most of those places will even come to your house to pick your donations up!)  Unless it is truly just junk.  Then you need to get rid of it.  Seriously.  Stick it in the recycling bin.

"But it was so inexpensive!  And look, I got five of them!"  Good for you.  Thanks for keeping the ecomomy afloat like a good American.  Now where are you going to put it/them?  Oh, wait, you have no room in your closet/shelves/drawers?  Just because it's cheap, doesn't mean you need it.  And beware of buying some things in bulk.  Sure, you'll use up those thirty rolls of toilet paper, but do you really need a ten pound bag of walnuts?  Unless you're feeding hoardes of squirrels, they'll go bad before you can eat them. 

"But it really was so inexpensive!"  The same thing goes for yard sales, thrift shops, and discount stores, folks.  Just because you can doesn't mean you should.  If you wouldn't bother to save up money and purchase it down the road, then you probably don't need it in the first place.  Control yourself.  And let your children see you control your purchasing impulses.  They might learn something about saving up for things they really want and how not to fall for instant gratification.

"But I can't throw that away!  It has sentimental value!"  This can be tricky, and gets back to our emotional attachment to objects.  Seeing something special reminds us of a certain time/place/feeling, and it's nice to relive those special moments.  This is especially true of our children's items.  That little lock of hair from their first haircut, the first tooth they lost etc.  Things like these are special and are treasures to share when they grow up.  But let's face it, most of the junk we keep is just junk.  Let yourself have one small trunk to keep your own personal treasures in (maybe one for each member of your family?) and keep to that limit.  I have one that I keep my old horse show trophies and varsity letters in, along with my old yearbook.  That kind of thing.  An broken old waffle iron, for example, does not fit into the sentimental value category, even if your dear old mother did make the best waffles in the world with it.

So you get the idea.  Redefine for yourself what "want" and "need" really mean.  Make yourself a list, if you have to, of things you want to get this year and things you'll need to get.

Now here's a situation you can't control too much, but you can at least set some guidelines:  receiving gifts.  Especially for your children.  This can be tricky, as we're all hesitant to potentially offend anyone.  This is a great way to cut down on incoming clutter and items that might not fit your ideals.  Before my kids' birthdays and Christmas, I usually send out an e-mail with the kids' wish list.  Much of our family lives far away and don't know what they have already, so it can be helpful to have some suggestions.  I have also addressed our reasons behind some of their choices:  we're concerned about the safety and environmental impact of plastic and battery operated toys and they don't fit in with our Waldorf lifestyle and the children's education.  Some other ideas include asking for "donations" to fund lessons or special activities, or setting a limit on the number of gifts per child.  I only have two kids, but let me tell you, the stuff adds up pretty quickly on Christmas morning!  Simply explaining that fewer presents doesn't mean being less thoughtful can do the trick.

So then what?  Take it room by room, one at a time.  It's usually best to do this with out the kids, at least for rooms other than theirs.  Really take apart your room, make piles for donation, to sell, and to keep.  Remember not to just shove the "keep" stuff back into boxes.  If you can't have it out where you will use it, you're not likely to use it at all.

Get the kids involved in gutting out their own rooms.  My three and five year olds are familiar with the practice of going through their belongings and making a pile of toys or clothes to donate.  In fact, my five year old will come to me on her own now with things she no longer needs and would like to donate.

Some people put boxes of toys that can't (or won't) be parted with in temporary storage and rotate them out every couple of months.  While this is not a bad idea, I think it's important to ask if a child needs so many toys that some of them have to be stored.  Personally, I'm slightly horrified that my kids even have a playroom, as small as it is.

So pull it together, people!  When in doubt throw it out!  (My mother used to say that all the time when I was a kid.  I think I inherited her clean gene.)  While you clear out that physical baggage, you'll be surprised how much of a psychological burden is lifted too.  You'll have room to breathe, and room to live in your living spaces!  You'll finally be able to start (or finish) projects, and actually enjoy the things that you have.

Here are some helpful resources for organizing your home and living more simply in general:





As a very serious note here, some people actually do have issues that go beyond simply being disorganized and keeping a few too many things.  Hoarding is characterized by severe cluttering of a person's home so that it is no longer able to function as a viable living space.  If this sounds like you, look here for help.

Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol: you want it not for itself, but because it will content your spirit for the moment. ~Mark Twain

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Out with the Old and In with the New

The New Year has arrived and with it, endless possibilities.  Tomorrow begins our first day back at school, and we're trying some new things.  First, you should know that while we do follow a Waldorf curriculum, I'm not a purist. A ninety-eight-percent-ist maybe.  But the beauty of homeschooling is being able to tailor your child's education to his or her needs, no matter what pedagogy you follow.  Therefore, we are beginning some Waldorf Grade 1 work with my five year old.  (insert gasps of horror here from those who are purists)

We are starting a two week block of Form Drawing.  This is typically how the first grade year in a Waldorf school begins.  It is taught before and literacy, math or art skills, and incorporates elements of each.

My DD (dear daughter), however, was an early reader and already has a pretty firm grasp of the alphabet, phonics, and writing skills.  Why bother with Form Drawing then?  Because: A)  It won't hurt to take a small step back to educate her will a bit.  (For more about Form Drawing and the will, look here or here)  B) It will certainly improve her handwriting, which admittedly is pretty good already.  And C) I have seen her produce many of the repeating forms on her own in her drawings and paintings.  She is ready.  And in my opinion, as a parent and trained teacher, when a child is ready, you jump right on board, even if where they are developmentally or academically is not where a typical student (Waldorf or otherwise) is.

There is some excitement building around this new beginning.  We are awaiting the arrival of our large free-standing blackboard.  It'll feel much more school-y around here with a great big blackboard!  And she gets to use her first Main Lesson Book.  I have no doubt whatsoever that she is going to love this. 

We're also going to begin some math games during our Circle Time in the morning.  We'll start with some counting rhymes (like that good old "One two, buckle my shoe"), then move onto some even adding and odd adding rhymes and games.  Again, some of these activities might be seem a bit redundant as she has been counting and adding (and subtracting) small numbers for quite a while.  However, my three year old, who joins us for just about everything lest he feel left out, will benefit greatly from listening and moving with us.  He's great at remembering songs and verses, and by the time he's ready for math, they'll just be in that smart, little brain already.

Here's to an exciting new school year!