Friday, December 23, 2011

Stone Thoughts

"I speak cold silent words a stone might speak
If it had words or consciousness,
Watching December moonlight on the mountain peak,
Relieved of mortal hungers, the whole mess
Of needs, desires, ambitions, wishes, hopes.
This stillness in me knows the sky's abyss,
Reflected by blank snow along bare slopes,
If it had words or consciousness,
Would echo what a thinking stone might say
To praise oblivion words can't possess
As inorganic muteness goes its way.
There's no serenity without the thought serene,
Owl-flight without spread wings, honed eyes, hooked beak,
Absence without the meaning absence means.
To rescue bleakness from the bleak,
I speak cold silent words a stone might speak."

-   Robert Pack

Friday, December 16, 2011

Oak and Moon

waning gibbous moon through autumn oak leaves
The cool autumn days were a much needed relief and my compass is finally finding north again, I think.  I must have been in the honeymoon phase of death during the first few months after Julien was born.  When that wore off in late September, things got dark.  Really dark.  

But autumn has a way of un-sticking our stuck places.  Sitting under this big oak tree season after season, watching her leaves change colors and her form change shape has certainly taught me that nothing lasts forever.

I've been practicing letting go -- again and again and again -- and I'm back to working with the moon cycles.  This is my second waning moon and, as I sit here right now, I cannot find the right words to describe the peace that has washed through me since giving my grief to autumn and to the waning moon.  I've been working with a meditation I wrote for A. --- visualizing each emotion, each thought, blowing away with the falling leaves.  My great oak tree is resting now, her leaves - whose birth we witnessed in spring - now cover the sweet, earthy ground below.  Her barren branches reach into the pale sunlight like arms stretching during the deep yawn that comes before sleep.  

I'm ready for the long rest of winter too.  I'm ready to nourish my body with roots and soups and home-baked bread and to welcome the stillness that only comes when we enter the dark half of the year. 

After breaking my cup in September, I've been filling it up again with some beautiful literature.  I've been sitting outside under my old, oak tree re-reading Thoreau's Walden, enjoying Noam Chomsky's Profit Over People: Neoliberalism & Global Order, falling in love with Jack Petrash's  Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out, and I'm just diving into Rhythms of Learning : What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents, and Teachers  -- a wonderful collection of essays by Rudolf Steiner edited by Robert Trostli.

Through the turning of the seasons and the pages of these books, I seem to be remembering that what matters most about education - and life - is not the pedagogy to which we subscribe, but the reverence we are able to nurture in our children.  I feel that this must be the thing most central to education.  By honoring one another, the earth, and the very sacredness of our own lives, we create a soft place to fall when things fall apart.  I think that when we listen very closely, we can hear the moon and the old oak trees whispering this wisdom. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Broken Cup

Recently, I've been taking the time to read the entire California Content Standards for Kindergarten through Third Grade.  My intention was to find creative ways to present this material to A. throughout the year.  I thought that she needed to keep up with her peers and feared that I would somehow be putting her at a disadvantage if she wasn't learning what the Joneses were learning.   

On September 12th, we hit the books pretty hard and, unfortunately, I was hit with more resistance from A. than I ever imagined possible.  She is a bright cookie and understands just about anything you put before her... but, quite suddenly it seemed, she wanted nothing to do with anything I gave her.  Of course, this was a huge red flag that we were doing something wrong... so we just s-t-o-p-p-e-d doing everything. 

We've taken a few days off for emptying our cup and I'm hoping that here, with a beginners mind, we'll discover something altogether new.  In fact, if I had to take the cup analogy even further, I would say that we've thrown the damn cup on the floor, stomped on it and shouted, "to life!"  Maybe here, amidst the broken [deconstructed] pieces, we can find a new perspective. 

Meanwhile, I've been plodding along at John Holt's classic, How Children Learn, and having quite a few light-bulb moments about my approach to our studies.  It seems that I've created a little version of public school at home again.  I'm so conditioned by my own education that I unconsciously fall back to this paradigm again and again!  Un-leanrning, it seems, is more difficult than learning!

Yesterday, I gathered all of the content standards together and set out to organize these several hundred pages into a three-hole binder.  Today I've discovered a better use for them and a better use of our time.  Instead of stressing about how to teach what the state of California has deemed necessary, I'm spending the next week paying attention to my girl and re-discovering what amuses her mind.  It was after all, a great mind, one who did not attend a factory-model school, who said this:

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” - Plato

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our Ever-Evolving Pedagogy

I finally got my hands on a copy of John Holt's classic, How Children Learn," and I am loving it.  His observations take me right back to when A. was a toddler and my own fascination with her innate ability to learn.  I'm about a quarter of the way through and will try to post some of my thoughts and favorite excerpts as I go.  

If you've followed our blog for very long, you might have noticed our ever-evolving methods.  In preschool, I fell for the "more-faster-better" mindset of early education.  I was so mesmerized by how fast A. learned that I thought the best thing to do was set up a little version of school at home, teach formal lessons, and keep spreadsheets of what was learned.

By Kindergarten I'd seen the error of my ways, began slowing down, and became more conscious of the need to nurture A. as a complete human being and not just a mind to be filled with information.  We began exploring Waldorf and Montessori methods and incorporated both into an eclectic style of home-education.  

For First Grade, we used the complete Oak Meadow curriculum and, while we both enjoyed it, I felt as though my own creativity was being squashed a bit by my conflicting desire to go by the book.  I also noticed that A.'s natural pace is pretty fast and that she, like I imagine all children, becomes board when she's not challenged.  I learned that I needed to balance nurturing with inspiring.  The beauty of home-education, of course, is that we can curtail each day to keep interest high and encourage that innate passion for learning.

For Second Grade, we're flying without a net for now -- although I am considering purchasing the Oak Meadow Second Grade Syllabus and using the lesson plans for inspiration.  I'm also reading the California Content Standards through Third Grade and thinking up ways to reach those goals without worksheets or too much desk time.  I'm not married to the standards, however, and do plan to take great liberties with them.

I'm discovering that, if left to her own devices, A. will draw, paint, read, observe nature with her binoculars, write and illustrate little books, play piano, invent games (she's particularity fond of creating board games with intricate rules and pieces), and, of course, engage in imaginative play.  I'm trying to cultivate a more relaxed attitude and trust that learning takes place naturally; however, I am also admittedly so conditioned by my own education that, for me, it's essential that we stick to a flexible schedule and work towards specific goals.  I guess you could say that we're eclectic, partially child-led homeschoolers still slightly fearful of taking the leap into purely orthodox unschooling.

We're studying Homer's Odyssey right now.  We found a great edition titled, The Adventures of Odysseus by Barefoot Books and we're using this myth to inspire inquiry into all of the other subjects -- including math.  We're working with fractions right now and have had some great discussions about how fractions, like myths, are small parts of a greater whole. 

We made salt clay yesterday and worked with fractions -- slicing the "pie" into half, quarters, eighths, and sixteenths, looking at equivalent fractions (two eighths is the same as one quarter, etc.) and exploring the four functions with fractions.  I gave A. some informal instruction in this last week and made a point to compare fractions to the musical notation with which she's already so familiar.  A. is keeping a Main Lesson Book and has drawn circles and pies and toyed with some simple equations (If 1/4 plus 1/4 equals 1/2, then 1/2 divided by 2 equals 1/4).  

Later, we used our salt clay to make Greek-inspired "pottery" and spent the early evening painting our creations with geometric shapes and black silhouettes (we'd planed to paint scenes from the Odyssey but quickly discovered that painting on clay is much more difficult than we'd imagined).

Every year I ponder the same questions, explore the same fears and worries --- mainly, can we do this without that formal institution called "school?"  Every year I come back to the same answer.  That answer is yes; however, it does require, as Holt explains, faith that children can and will learn on their own.  I'm working to loosen my grip a little each day -- while still encouraging self-discipline.  I think Holt said it best when he called it faith:   

"Call it a faith. This faith is that man is by nature a learning animal. Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to "motivate" children into learning, by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and the classroom; give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way.  We can trust them to do the rest."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Natural Learning

Thanks to grandma, we did a little school shopping at our local Montessori shop last week.  Some of the fun things we found there include Wildcraft: An Herbal Adventure Game,  a Peg Loom, CitiBlocs, and, a card game called Yoga Pretzels.  On the back of each card are step-by-step instructions for getting into the pose and additional insights about the pose's health benefits.  There are even breathing cards to help us, "slow down, increase awareness, and make non-reactive choices" and fun games like "Yogini Says!"  A. is really enjoying yoga this week and I'm amazed by how many poses this kid knows.
We're also enjoying the new cooperative game, Wildcraft... and I'm realizing just how much A. learned this summer.  After tragedy struck in early June, all my plans for doing a summer lesson block on healing herbs came to a crashing halt.  What kept going though was our little healing garden and actual use of the herbs found there.  Without any formal instruction, worksheets, or boxed-curriculum, A. has learned to identify herbs and edible flowers including elderberry, calendula, violas, sage, nettles, oatstraw, catnip, and peppermint and can explain a little about how each is used for healing. 

I've also been reading the California Content Standards for Kindergarten through Third Grade and dreaming up creative ways to cover this material this year.  While I won't adhere to the standards completely (that would take all of the fun out of homeschooling!), I do want A. to keep up with her peers in the event that we transition to traditional school at some point. 

I'm hoping that we can learn some of these standards the same way that A. learned about healing herbs this summer.  By seeking out teaching-moments and cultivating an open and curious attitude, we can encourage natural learning and avoid some of the resistance and stress that squashes creativity and takes the fun out of education.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Creating the World

Autumn.  It's almost here and I cannot wait.  I'm always going on about how important it is to be present -- to enjoy the moment... but this summer cannot end fast enough for me.

Some of my restlessness is the heat.  We live in a pretty rural area and there is not much to do to escape the high temperatures.  Some of my restlessness is my grief, I'm sure.  I want to get on with things and leave this summer behind.  I'm eager to shake off all of the funk and crust and emotions that are no longer serving me... and move forward into the cool, dark half of the year.

It's interesting how autumn, which is really and ending, is also the beginning.  It feels like the right time for starting school, for getting back to the books.  As the days grow shorter, our minds turn inward.  As the nights grow longer, a deeper stillness settles within us.  It's the time of year of introspection and rich, warm soup.

(Funny how this continuum of beginnings and endings seems to be a topic to which I keep returning.  See: What Are the "Two Simple Happenings?")    

We've been easing back into the school-year with half-days and will begin our full schedule September 12th with the full Harvest Moon.  I like working with nature's rhythms like this.  When we're tuned into our natural environment, we're more likely to also notice our changing inner-seasons.  

We're trying on some unit studies this year and our first area of interest is mythology.  I'm calling the lesson block, "Creating the World," and plan to look at cosmogonic myths from around the world and stories that illustrate our shared heritage as human beings.  I have plenty of books on hand and we've checked out quite an assortment from the library --- as well as several audio books and DVDs.  

We'll also look at some historical figures who have overcome hardship and/or helped shape the world as we know it -- people like Marie Curie, John Muir, Rachel Carson, Hellen Keller and Thurgood Marshall -- and explore how real-life heroes resemble the heroes of mythology.  And, of course, we'll explore how each and every one of us is the author of our own story, creating our world each day with the choices that we make. 

After everything my family has been through, I think looking at the hero's journey will help remind us that, while life is full of darkness, it is also full of finding the light. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Journeys

I've decided to start a new blog where I can explore and process the birth and death of our boy, Julien.  I'd like to invite you all to join me there.  The blog is titled Two Simple Happenings and I hope that it will be a help to anyone who has experienced loss or suffering.  

Om School isn't closing it's doors... in fact we've been hard at work all week preparing our classroom for the new year.  Getting back into a rhythm feels great.  We're practicing piano twice per day, reading two chapters per day, working with the calendar to track the moon, clouds, and temperature, and putting our heads together to choose this semester's subjects.  We've decided to step completely outside the packaged-curriculum box this year and I'm excited about the journey ahead of us.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ocean Sunset

"Creation is only the projection into form of that which already exists." - The Bhagavad Gita

Monday, July 4, 2011

Honoring our Baby

We lost our little boy.  He never took his first breath.  One minute I was having a beautiful delivery and the next minute our Julien was gone.  

He would have been one month old this week.  After loving him every day for nine months, my whole body aches for him.  My belly is a hollow cave.  Still, at the same time, I feel him... I feel him like he never left me. 

We had a private funeral service and buried our sweet boy next to my grandparents.  An evergreen pear tree marks the space where his little body went back to Mother Earth.  As they lowered his casket, our daughter and I sang:  "We all come from the goddess... and to her we shall return -- like a drop of rain flowing to the ocean."  I truly believe that -- that the earth is a living thing... a goddess... our mother... from whom we are born and to whom we return.

Our daughter is heartbroken, of course.  She's asked a lot of questions and wants us to try to conceive again soon.  It's hard to even think about that but at the same time there is some comfort in the idea.  We still want another little soul to join our family.

My mind is full of questions.  I'm not sure what to do with the nursery or his clothes.  Do I sell everything?  Donate everything?  Do I box it up and put it away in case we are blessed with another pregnancy?  Will I want to see Julien's clothes on a different baby?  Am I strong enough to make these choices?

Time is beginning to feel real again but the first few weeks were a blur.  It felt like sitting in the eye of a hurricane -- the world rushing by while I sat still in the middle just holding on to the feeling of being close to him.  

We've been to the ocean as much as possible -- I feel close to him there too... under the big spacious sky.  Julien's name means, "sky," actually.  His whole name, Julien Honor, was inspired by a quote from the Buddha... it means to remember the pure, open sky of our own true nature.  We are not just these bodies having this experience.  We are so much more than that.  We are infinite and luminous -- vast like the sky.  

I had no idea how important his namesake would end up being.  Now, whenever I sit in meditation, when I sit on the beach, when I let myself dissolve into the sky, I feel him.  Even now, just thinking about it, I feel him... like a part of him never left me.  Our separateness is just an illusion, I think.  By remembering this, I feel like I'm honoring him.

I just finished reading a book exploring the Heart Sutra by Mu Soeng.  In it he says, "In the great ocean the wave and the water can not be separated from each another; the wave is the water and the water is the wave."  This resonates with me so deeply.

I'm writing here now hoping to process some of it -- hoping that writing about it will help me heal.  It's still so raw and both real and unreal.  I lost my dad last year and have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about death, reading about death, meditating on death, talking to our daughter about death, and considering our impermanence.  Maybe some of that is helping now.  It's really hard to know for sure -- but beneath my grief I do feel a sense of calm.

Maybe what gives life beauty is our very capacity for feeling -- for loving and knowing that all we have here on earth is temporary.

Anyways, thanks for listening.  The support of family and friends has helped keep my heart warm through it all.  Deep peace and many blessings to all.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Intentions for a Homebirth

Pregnancy to-do lists can go on forever.  I think of things to add faster than I can cross them off!   I'm due May 27th... so, after going over all of the details one last time, I'm putting this list of intentions down and not looking at it again!  Too much thinking makes me crazy.  It's time to just settle into these last few days and be present with whatever energies arise.

I'm so grateful for all of the people and experiences that have brought me to this place in my journey -- for the beautiful shower and blessingway, for the hand-crafted birth-mala, for the heartfelt note-cards, the abundance tree, the gift of a beautiful nursery, for my awesome midwives, and for every supportive word and vibration!   I am so blessed!!  I'm also excited about delivering this baby at home.  I didn't write a birth-plan because I know that plans change and I think it's better to have a "birth-general-idea" than something seen as set in stone.  Still, there are quite a few things that I'd like to remind myself to do or try when labor begins.  Here's what I'm visualizing:

light candles

turn on lavender diffuser

take a shower

call midwives & call or text friends and family


cut all blessing-way bracelets

fill the pool and bless with essential oils

make bed

put sheets on the co-sleeper

bake baby a birthday cake with big sister and daddy

listen to mantras


use the birth ball

try Marjaryasana/Bitilasana - cat/cow pose

try Kaliasana - goddess/squat pose

talk to baby

breathe & connect with breath

meditate 20 minutes every hour

eat whole grains, almond butter, and drink water

stand on patio under oak trees

repeat mantra, "supported, present, and trusting."

The mantra (above) is the short version of the birth intentions I set last month:

  • To know I am supported in every breath by my family and by an amazing network of beautiful and strong mamas. 
  • To be fully present, aware, and connected with the magic of each moment
  • To release, let go, and trust my body's ability to open and give safe passage to this baby.
    My midwives have the most beautiful quotes up on their websitesColette's say's, "We have a secret in our culture... it's not that birth is painful. It's that women are strong." Laura Stavoe Harm.  

    Laura's says, "There is power that comes to women when they give birth. They don't ask for it, it simply invades them.  Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it."  - Sheryl Feldman  

    I'm ready to welcome that power.  I've cleared my mind of can't, I'm releasing my fears with the waning moon, and I'm ready to welcome this new life into the world.  I feel supported by friends, family, and the age-old lineage of strong, able women who safely delivered their babies naturally.

    What a gift it is to be at the center of the universe creating itself. 
    What an honor it is to have so much support. 

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Just Being Present

    Me - 38 weeks
    I've been in prenatal la-la land and absent from the blogosphere for quite some time, haven't I?  The months have flown by -- relatively discomfort free... and I'm feeling truly blessed.  

    Growing a new life within me turned out to be personal business though... so my writings found their way to a good old fashioned paper journal -- one that I've dedicated to Baby Om.  Big Sister has even taken to decorating the margins and adding her own loving notes for her baby brother.  I'm not sure what it is exactly, but my reflections feel better suited for that journal than the blogging world.

    Maybe it's because this pregnancy feels so deeply spiritual.  After all, I'm right at the center of the universe creating itself -- and that is both empowering and humbling.  Throughout my pregnancy I've felt more inclined to simply be present for the experience than to publicly write about it.  I also think it's because we're planning a natural home-birth.  While I am confident in our decision, I haven't felt like debating with the naysayers. 

    Big Sister and Mama
    So what's been happening on the school front?  For our April mindfulness until, we looked at ACCEPTANCE.  We listened to the rain and learned how our resistance to our experiences often creates more discomfort than the experience itself.  For May, the month or flowers and of mothers, we're revisiting LOVING-KINDNESS.  You can read about last year's unit here.  Loving-kindness is the unconditional love that a mother feels for her child; a friendliness and warmth that reaches out and embraces others.  It's the feeling we experience when we hold our new baby in our arms.  Cultivating loving-kindness means holding ourselves and others this way too.

    We wrapped up our formal academic year the first of May and are unschooling now.  While we've loved incorporating Waldorf methods into our routine, we're both relieved to have finished the curriculum and feeling a new surge of expansion and creativity now that the weekly lessons are completed.  I hope we'll be able to hone our unschooling skills this summer and continue with that approach in fall.  Only time will tell.

    Until then, I'm due May 27th.  The baby is in a great position, fully engaged, and feels like he could come any minute.  Pregnancy causes us to slow down and take inventory of our lives.  Each breath, each drop of rain, each wildflower is an opportunity to connect more deeply.  Just being present often reveals the everyday blessing that might otherwise go overlooked.  This pregnancy has certainly unveiled the abundance in my life... and I am so very grateful.

    I'll try to post again soon.  Many blessings to all.

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    The Goddess Thing

    Recently, while discussing our spiritual paths, a friend of mine admitted that she just didn't get "the goddess thing."  I understand that her path is not my path... and I love and honor our differences.  Still, I'd like to shed a little more light on the subject by sharing a few questions here...

    What would happen if, instead of growing up with popular male images of divinity such as these dominating our mental landscape,

    we were also given just as many images of divinity that looked like this...

     and this...
    and this...

     and this...
     and this...

    Would we see ourselves in the same light? 

    What if creation didn't look like this...

    but looked like this instead...

    How might our consciousness be transformed?

    Those patriarchal images take root in our mind.  They effect how we view ourselves, how we treat one another, and how we treat our planet.  When we see that all things are sacred, when we honor both the feminine and the masculine and see that the life in us is the same life that causes trees to grow, the sun to shine, and the earth to spin on her axis, we liberate ourselves from dualistic thinking and become free.

    Sue Monk Kidd writes in The Dance of the Dissident Daughter:

    "Walking into the sacredness of the female body will cause a woman to "enter into" her body in a new way, be at home in it, honor it, nurture it, listen to it, delight in its sensual music.  She will experience her female flesh as beautiful and holy, as a vessel of the sacred.  She will live from her gut and feet and hands and instincts and not entirely in her head. The bodies of such women, instead of being groomed to some external standard, are penetrated with soul, quickened from the inside."

    When this new consciousness takes root within us, we also begin to experience every blade of grass, every drop or dew, as infused with divinity.  Kidd writes:

    "Divine feminine imagery opens us up to the notion that the earth is the body of the Divine, and when that happens, the Divine cannot be contained solely in a book, church, dogma, liturgy, theological system, or transcendent spirituality.  The earth is no longer a mere backdrop until we get into heaven, something secondary and expendable.  Matter becomes inspirited; it breathes divinity.  Earth becomes alive and sacred.  And we find ourselves alive in the midst of her and forever altered."

    Would we treat Mama Earth differently if we felt that she was a living, sacred, thing?  Would we still spray our strawberries with poison?  Would we still fill our oceans with plastic?  Would we still genetically modify our crops so they were "pestiside ready" or support the corporations who did by buying their products?  Would we still value material wealth over spiritual abundance or wage war against one another?   

    Would we treat ourselves differently if we honored the sacred in feminine form?  Would we dance and play and honor our bodies regardless of their shape?  Would staying home with our kids be as valued as pursuing career goals?  Would our little girls grow up believing they were just as strong as their brothers?  Would we see ourselves in a different light?  I certainly think so... and for reasons like these, this mama is loving every minute of her journey into the collective feminine soul.

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Cézanne's Apples

    Still Life of Apples and Biscuits, Paul Cézanne, 1880-82
    Yesterday was Paul Cézanne's birthday.  We've been celebrating since last week with a lesson block on post-impressionism.  We began our studies with, Monet and the Impressionists for Kids by Carol Sabbeth.  This is a clever book with 21 activities for kids.

    My goal was to expose A. to a form of art she hadn't seen before and inspire her with Cézanne's apples, Monet's lilies, and the dancers of Degas.  What happened was so much more...

    We typically make time for art a few days per week with special projects like watercolor painting or sculpting with homemade play dough.  A. also enjoys drawing and coloring in her Main Lesson Books with beeswax crayons nearly every day to demonstrate her favorite part of a story, something we learned on a nature walk, or a new math concept (such as King Equal distributing jewels to the gnomes).  Until now, however, we haven't formally studied art or given it a regular place in our schedule.

    A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1886
    Last week we gave art top billing and sat down every morning with a new project.  We experimented with oil pastels and met five new artists.  A. learned to identify Cézanne's apples (he painted a lot of still-lifes on tipsy tabletops with fruit looking like it might roll right off the table), Monet's lilies (they look a lot like lotus flowers!), Degas' dancers (ballerinas stretching, yawing, twirling but never posing!), Gauguin's girls (Tahitian girls and tropical scenes often outlined in black), and Seurat's dots (he painted with small dots in a style called pointillism).  Yes, I know the "t' is Seurat is silent... but it's so much easier to remember when it rhymes!

    Amelie's first still life (inspired by Cézanne)
    We also moved piano to our morning session of school -- something else that I typically don't schedule but always encourage.  In the past my thought was to let her come to art and music on her own - especially piano - and not to push it.  She is only six after all.  But this week's change in our schedule really worked wonders.  

    Moving the arts to our morning session breathed new life into our routine and fired up my girl's mind and heart so that the afternoon subjects were a breeze.  Studying the arts is not just about learning to paint or play, after all.  The arts, both visual and performing, actually enhance brain development in young children (read about it here).  It's such a shame that they're absent from so many schools today.  I suppose there's no time or money for the arts when we spend it all on test-taking though.

    Bedroom at Arles, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888
    The highlight of our lesson-block came Tuesday with a trip to San Francisco to see the de Young exhibit, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay.  Standing inches from the original works mesmerized us both... and it was here that A. met my favorite artist, Van Gogh.  I thought the star of the exhibit was his Starry Night over the Rhone.  A. preferred his Bedroom at Arles and has since created a little masterpiece of her own bedroom using oil pastels. 

    Cézanne is quoted as saying, “The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.”  With the arts no longer present in school, who will start the revolution?  Will be become a world devoid of beauty and meaning?  I refuse to imagine that world.... so we're keeping the arts right where they belong -- as the first subject of the day.

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    This Moment

    {this moment} – A weekly ritual.  A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week, inspired by Amanda Soule.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, join in over at SouleMama.

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Music, Math, Mapping, and More

    With the holidays behind us, we're getting back into a steady rhythm at home.  We started the morning with a little music.  Like her dad, A. loves composing her own...

    Figuring out the notes...
    writing them down...

    & putting it all together.
    Then, instead of hitting the books right away this morning, we went for a little adventure...

       We found a heart shaped hollow in a tree...

    ... and a heart shaped rock.

    We walked by a little stream, smelled pine needles, listened to the sound of the water...

    ... and built a fairy house.  

    When we got home, it was time for some math.  We've been working on what we're calling "doubles."  (2+2, 3+3, 4+4, etc.)  A. has them committed to memory through eleven now -- so I thought I'd try something new.  I gave her some division and multiplication problems based in the knowledge she's already acquired.  I thought maybe since she knows four plus four, she can figure out eight divided by two and four times two.  It worked like a charm all the way through twenty.  

    We've also been working on word families and spelling.  Instead of just writing her words again and again (that would be boring!), we have make-believe spelling bees.  I gave her thirty-two words today (some from the Second Grade No Excuse List, others from the Fry's 300 Instant Sight Words, others just easy word family words like rain, train, and plain.)  She only missed two.  I think that really says something about the importance of keeping it fun. 

    Where's Mama Wind?
    There She is!
    Then it was time for some Social Studies.  Last session we learned the four directions using the wind and a naturally dyed silk ribbon streamer that we found on Esty at the Tan Family's amazing shop, Syrendell.

    With that knowledge intact, we started a cartography project today inspired by our Oak Meadow first grade curriculum.  A. created a map of her bedroom using the four directions to accurately depict the placement of her furniture and other big objects in her room.  Next week we'll expand her map to include the whole house.  Once she's successfully mapped our home, we'll expand to include the neighborhood, the whole town, the state, the country, and then the world!  

    I think this geography lesson also has a deeper meaning.  Home is where all adventures, great and small, begin.  And when our foundation there is solid, there's no limit to where we might go.
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