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!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Summer of "I Can!"

This has been one eventful summer.  When School was winding down in June, I had (mostly at my husband's request) made plans to extend our schooling by having little "summer practice" lessons every day.  Yes, I know this is not Waldorf, by the two of us are educators, and are aware of that daunting statistic that over the summer, students lose about 30% of what they learned during the school year.  Supposedly.  Personally, I don't put too much stock in that one, especially for Waldorf students who learn things in such an organic and complete way.

As fate would have it, I dropped my plans completely.  Not intentionally at first, but after realizing how important S's physical development was, during this summer before she turns six, I just let the whole thing go and decided to see what she could accomplish otherwise.  I knew we would spend lots of time outside, as we always do, gardening and playing, and taking day trips here and there.  (Nothing elaborate or costly.  And avoiding the usual summer vacation things like amusement parks.  The very words "amusement park" make me cringe on so many levels.)  I thought we'd take a step back, for the kids' sanity, and my own, and just enjoy the summer without any big goals or expectations.

Well, was I in for a surprise!  S spent a week at an amazing Farm Camp at a Waldorf school.  This was her first time away from both parents, and her first time in a group setting with other kids.  I was a nervous wreck the first day; wondering if she would speak up for herself if she needed something, engage with the other kids, or end up in a puddle of tears at the end of the day.  I am happy to report that she had a great time! 

The girls in her small group were several years older, but were friendly.  So while she didn't come out of the experience with a new best buddy, she did participate appropriately and happily, and fully enjoyed all the activities.  By the end of the week, she walked around like she owned the place!  Over five days, she had matured measurably in the areas of self-confidence, independence, and social skills.  And I am so grateful for that.  I'm sure many of us worry about our kid being "that weird home-schooled kid with no social skills" that mainstream society seems to fear so much.  Not the case. 

I think that new found independence also contributed to her determination to master things that she had been working on. This summer, she was finally able to ditch those training wheels on her bike!

No training wheels!
This was such a thrill for her, and she couldn't wipe that smile of her face for days.  I was so proud of her, and she even said how proud of herself she was.  It was amazing to watch her determination to practice...and practice...and practice until she accomplished her goal.  Just the mindset she needs entering into her year of six year old Kindergarten/sort-of-first-Grade mix.

Swimming has been a challenge too, as we have limited access to swimming spots, but given a few opportunities to swim this summer, S made the most of it.  She opted to forego her "floaty suit" and just use those good old water wings.  Again, shear determination, some practice, and voila!  she's a swimmer!  Next year she vowed, she will ditch the water wings as well.  :)

A little ride on a boogey-board is a nice break from
swimming practice.

During our time indoors we have practiced string games together, such as Cat's Cradle, started some embroidery projects, and even made some potholders with those loops on one of those metal looms (remember those?).  In other areas of our home life, S has exhibited her maturity by learning to take on some small responsibilities, such as doing her own hair in a pony tail, and helping to let our new chickens out in the morning, feeding them, and helping to get them back in their coop at night.

All the physical changes, such as loss of teeth (five so far!  It put quite a damper on corn on the cob season), changes in movement, posture, and curve of the spine, among others, are  right in line with the Six Year Old Change.  There's a good article about that change here.

Everything I've learned about child development, and especially from a Waldorf perspective, is right on target.  I'm learning to let go of how I had taught (previously in public schools) and really embrace this philosophy.  All of the Steiner I have read (and it's been a lot this year) is reflected in what I have observed, in both of my children, since the beginning of our Waldorf journey a year ago.  I always suspected this was the right path for us.  Now I know.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What Gnomes Do During Summer Vacation

Apparently we are not the only ones who have been busy this summer!  While we have been outside gardening, playing, and taking day trips to the beach, our tree house gnomes have been enjoying themselves immensely. 

After a recent rainy day of playing indoors, I discovered what they have been up to.  I thought it was so cute, I just had to share. :)

Papa Gnome has been busy taking inventory of his crystals.
He found a basketful of small pieces to bring home to his children.

Mama Gnome has been busy organizing the kitchen.

Fortunately she found time later to rest by a
cozy fire with Baby Gnome.

The kids have spent long afternoons reading on their
little boat in the river.
Have a relaxing rest of your own summer vacation!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sweet Dreams


Sometimes when I get into bed
And cannot go to sleep,
And after all my prayers are said,
And I have counted sheep,
I call to Mother, and I say,
"A drink of water, please."
She knows that I'm not thirsty, and
I only want to tease.
And so I laugh when she comes in
And opens wide the door,
She knows I only want to kiss
And hug her just once more.

~Kate Cox Goddard

I'm sure this situation sounds familiar to all of us.  Despite the never ending urgency children exhibit during the day, they sure do know how to drag out the bedtime routine!

And perhaps we should take our cue from them on this one.  It takes quite a bit for children to settle their bodies and minds down at the end of the day.  You can't just expect then to plop into bed and go to sleep.  So make bedtime a time of slowing down.  Of course, it helps a great deal to have a predictable daily rhythm to every day.  Then bedtime won't come as such a sudden surprise.  ("What?  Bedtime already?)
A bedtime ritual can ease the transition from busy day to peaceful night.  The book, Seven Times the Sun has lovely rituals for bedtime and any other time of day.  If your bedtimes (or days in general) are hectic, than I strongly recommend reading this.  It's inspiring.

Here's how bedtime goes at our house:

~after dinner, wash up and brush teeth (we put some quiet "bedtime" music on at this point)
~story time (about 20 minutes.  One story for my 3 YO son, and one chapter from a book for my 5 YO daughter)  I'm firm about limiting the number of stories here.  Too many can counteract the settling effect.
~bathroom visit

Now, the bedtime rituals for my 3 year old son are different from my 5 year old daughter's.  But both are simple and pretty quick, so I don't mind having different routines.  Each child will have different needs at bedtime.

My son, being three, is one who has more trouble physically slowing down, so his routine incorporates a more tactile approach.

~after bathroom visit, hop into bed
~turn off lights and light bedtime candle
~while I recite a poem, I give him a firm back rub (or scratch!) Sometimes a firm leg rub if he's feeling wiggly.  This can help a lot.
~Blow out candle (he likes to make a wish)
~Kisses and hugs
~Blow kisses while I'm at his door

My daughter, being five, knows when she's ready for bed, and almost never resists bedtime.  I take a different approach with her since she's one to lie there thinking about all sorts of things once she's in bed.  (Just like me!)

~after bathroom visit, turn on night-light and hop into bed
~turn out bedside lamp and light candle
~I read her a poem from her Sweet Dreams cards (more about those later) and tuck it under her pillow
~blow out candle
~hugs and kisses
~wind up the musical bear (which was mine when I was little.  Very special for her)
~blow kisses at the door

Both routines are simple, meet each child's needs, and are done in under five minutes.

So often I hear other parents complain about bedtime and the three big things that I notice when they describe their days are:

~The child is not getting enough physical activity.  OutsideFor at least three hours a day.  Yes, really.  Indoor play is not enough.  Children need to run, jump, climb, and really move around.  Sitting inside with toys, while it is valuable play, is not physical play.

~too much media.  Especially at night.  I could site a bazillion studies on the effects of TV on a child's brain here, but I'll let you Google that on your own.  Let's just say it is counter-productive to a child's brain development, and watching TV will not help your child truly settle down.

~there is a lack of structure/rhythm during the child's day.  Daily rhythms are so important for a child, and adhering to one will help you tenfold in getting through the day with minimal transition issues with your child.

Bedtime can be a peaceful and reassuring time for bonding with your child.  It can be something special that your children will remember fondly as they grow.  For me, it's a time to spend a few minutes alone with each child, treasuring them and truly seeing who they are.  Children are so peaceful at sleep, and watching them sleep can be a reminder of just how little they still are, despite the fact that they're growing, in my opinion, way too fast!

Here are some bedtime related items that we love:

Sweet Dreams:  36 Bedtime Wishes  These are beautiful little cards.  Each one has a vintage children's book illustration one one side, and a lovely poem on the other.  I've been using these since my daughter was two, and you wouldn't believe how many poems, some quite long, that she's memorized from hearing these every night.  These make a great stocking stuffer, tooth fairy gift, or Easter basket treat.

All these books offer valuable suggestions for simplifying your (and your child's) life and providing a strong daily rhythm that will benefit the entire family.

These are our favorite three cds for bedtime.  The kids will often request one of the Dreamland cds during the day, just for some quiet time.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

August Nature Table

maggie and milly and molly and may
~E.E. Cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were

and molly was chased be a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles; and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

I haven't had time for much blogging this summer, but I did manage to get together our August nature table after a recent trip to the beach.  August is usually a month of beach trips for us, and probably the busiest month of the summer.  We're trying to enjoy the summer one day at a time, although thoughts and plans for the upcoming school year are bubbling up to the surface of my mind each day. 

I hope you are all enjoying the last few weeks of summer vacation before commencing another fabulous and creative school year!

Our sea themed nature table.

I made little sailboats with shells and twigs. 
The twigs are stuck on with modelling wax
and I sewed on the little sails.

The squid, turtle, and jellyfish are happily
drifting along in the current.

And on the sea floor rests a little mermaid among
her  treasures.