Category Archives: Waldorf

autumn days

Here in New England September and October are the months of county fairs and harvest festivals, cider pressing parties and bonfires.  Iain often dances at local events and 4-H (did I mention the big boys joined 4-H?) draws us out to others.

Can you tell this post has been a long time in the making?

I’m often asked what a typical homeschooling day looks like for us.  That is very difficult to answer because of course there is no “typical”.  Another question I’m frequently asked is how we balance schooling so many children of different ages.  The answer to that one is a little more straightforward.  While each individual child has a nice balance of work and play, free time and structured time, I pretty much “do school” all day long.  It’s a little unconventional, but I don’t mind and it works for us.

I thought I would try to post how this plays out on a random day, with a few disclaimers.  One: there is no way I remember every last detail, so this is not a comprehensive account, more a general over-view.  And secondly, I’m going to try to just mention the school specific activities, but honestly our home life and education are so intertwined that it’s hard to tell where one starts and the other ends because really in most cases they are one and the same.

On this morning Iain (age 14, grade 9) and Elijah (age 12, grade 7) both had their math completed before breakfast.  We’ve recently started using the “Life of Fred” series in addition to the “Key To” workbooks that we’ve been using for years.  This allows them to do the majority of their math work independently.

Iain is an early riser.  He likes to get as much of his school work and chores out of the way as early in the day as possible to leave time for other things later.  After he had completed most of his chores and math he settled in to read The Adventures of Robin Hood to Galen (age 8, grade 3), while Galen knitted.  He’s working on a pair of mittens for Mairi for Christmas.  Shh!  don’t tell!*

Over breakfast we all played Timeline.  I’m a huge fan of games as an educational tool.  This one involves trying to place various inventions in chronological order.

After breakfast and after-meal chores, Iain and Elijah set to work making a Albertian Veil for their perspective drawing lessons.  Then Iain went out to work on a landscape drawing, utilizing the veil, while Elijah worked on a writing assignment, then they switched.  Galen made his Weather Journal entry for the day.

When I returned from settling the baby for her nap, Mairi (age 5, Kindergarten) was dressed in a mouse costume.  My plan had been to do some sort of creative movement/story telling exercise with her.  I made sure to incorporate the mouse theme, knowing that would draw her in right away.  First we tidied and swept the playroom, to make space to work, while singing cleaning songs (including one about a mouse tidying her house!).  I started in on a story about a little mouseling being rocked to sleep by her mama (using the rocker board to rock her and singing a “mouse lullaby”) as the story progressed, the little mouse had a dream about being a seed that got buried under layers of leaves, rain, snow, etc (playsilks), many animals ran over the seed without even knowing it was there (massaging her in different ways to show different animals….a rabbit hopping, tiny nail tip bird claws, etc).  We continued on like this…the seed grew to be a tree, stretching towards the sun, being blown about by the wind and so forth, until the whole thing came full circle with that tree creating a seed, which she became.  That seed dropped to the ground, all curled up, whereupon mama mouse gently work her slumbering mouseling.

Time to check in with my other scholars.  The bigs boys shared their drawings.  I looked over their writing and gave them a few suggestions/corrections to be made.  I looked over Galen’s Weather Journal.  Since it was a cloudy day, I gave him a book on clouds to read aloud.  He read the story part.  We looked at the pictures together and I explained about the different types of clouds, their names and so forth.  This information is in the back of the book, but the presentation is a little too technical so I paraphrased.  I set Galen and Mairi up for painting.  Galen painting different types of clouds (at my request) and Mairi painting whatever she wanted (it started out as a mouse, but then she decided she didn’t like it and turned it into “blobs of color” instead).

Occasionally Iain and Elijah go to the stables early to get a couple of hours of extra work in before their riding lessons.  This was one of those days.

After they left Galen and I worked on his math together.  Afterwards I took the three little ones for a nature walk where they identified tracks, scat and trees and played in the woods for a while damning up a stream among other things.

Back at home I had planned on having them help me bake pumpkin bread to go with the soup I was serving for dinner.  They asked if they could try to make it themselves.  I said, “yes” and instructed and supervised them while preparing my own contribution to the meal.

Everyone was back home by dinner time.  After dinner we went through the usual bedtime routine with Mairi (which involves reading a book, singing songs, my writing what she dictates into her journal and saying a blessing).  Steve played a game with the boys during this time.  Then Galen went up.  He’s working on writing a story as a gift for Steve and I (side note: he’s been working really hard on this and I can’t wait until I finally get to read it!).  I try to make sure he has some quiet time set aside to work on it.  He usually writes for half an hour or so before going to read.  I insure the right kind of books get into his hands and he’s more then happy to take care of the rest.

Everyone 12 and up watched an hour long documentary together, followed by the big boys going off to bed to read for a while.  At this point I assign them a book a week.  They read a lot so they have no problem accomplishing this in addition to whatever pleasure reading they might do.

And that was our day.  More productive then some, less productive then others, just a little glimpse at what a random day might look like.

*This is a perfect example of time that I consider to be educational and productive, but that they would never think of as school time.  It’s just the way we live life.  Really there is a lot to be said for a lifestyle that’s conducive to learning!


hand crafted

1&2: earth plastering a friend’s living room, 3: carving a snow gauge, 4: arrow making, 5: wood burning, 6: making cordage, 7&8: home made rope, 9: carving a spoon, 10: primitive tongs

It’s been really interesting to see how our concept of hand crafts has changed, grown, matured and adapted as they have.


kindergarten in the garden

Honestly I sometimes resent the amount of time and energy it takes to homeschool the older boys.  We now have one at middle school level and one high school.  That is a lot of work, not just for them, but for me as their teacher.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy teaching them, very much (well, most of the time!  There are days…).  Add in a third grader and baby and my days are full, full, full.  I’m sometimes nostalgic for the quiet, slower paced days when we could just “do kindergarten” all day long.

Mairi Rose had a challenging summer.  I spent a lot of time meditating on how to approach the coming school year with her, trying to figure out what would nourish her soul, ease her troubles and hopefully nurture her into a calmer phase of development.  It didn’t come all at once, but eventually, what became clear to me was that this girl needed a deeper connection to the natural world around her.  I set about planning ways to immerse her in the magic of the ever changing seasons, to give her the chance to be grounded by the earth.

After much frustration last year, I decided it was better to do one thing in a day well and with great care and attention then to be frazzled and frantically trying to create a “full day” for her.  We now have one yoga day (I’ll try to post more on that at a later point), one project day, a nature walk day, baking day and story day where I try to do something a little special with, say, props or puppets.  I do wish we were getting out for walks every day, but right now that is just not happening.  I try to make our one day as unhurried as possible.  Even if we do make it out other days, this is the day where we don’t have to rush back home, in theory anyway.  Even with this simplified arrangement there are days and even the better part of weeks that we miss.

In the notes section of my calendar I jot down the planned projects and baking items assigned to each week.  I’m working from a general theme that everything is related to.  We started off with “herbs” and have moved on to include both herbs and the harvest.  We made dream pillows full of sweet herbs from the garden.  Rosebud has been enjoying mixing her own herbal tea blends and takes great pride in serving them.  Together we made lavender-chamomile lotion for the girls bedtime massages.  Actually Elijah swears by it for sore muscles after riding!  We’ve planted garlic and daffodils.  I’ve been sharing stories about herbs with her.  After learning that chamomile is good for teething, she began bringing in bunches from the garden for her sister, whenever she thought her uncomfortable.

Together we made a garden loom.  I was going to make it myself and just show her how to weave with it, but we had the gift of time together, apart from the others and I thought I’d give her the chance to do some building herself.  She really got into it and again showed a lot of pride in her work.  These are her special things.  They are dear to her heart.

A Kid’s Herb Book: For Children of All Ages by Leslie Tierra has been a wonderful resource.  I have two minor criticisms regarding this book.  I wish they used more natural sweeteners in the recipes and maybe less sweets in general.  I also feel like occasionally they ruin the magic of the stories by over-explaining at the end, stating exactly what you were supposed to have learned, instead of just letting the lesson sink in through the power of the tale.  But both of those things can be altered for personal preference and otherwise I find it invaluable.

I try to keep a list of ideas on hand to give our life and lessons some continuity while kind of rounding things out for her, so if I have a spare moment I can implement them.  Little things like harvesting some herbs to go with dinner, playing a game of Wildcraft, turning her normal bath into an herbal bath or simply brewing a pot of tea together.  At the moment we have one day a week where all three boys are at their own nature program for a full morning and afternoon and I take advantage of that time together trying to channel that laid back all day kindergarten mindset of yesteryear.  It’s rapidly becoming my favorite day of the week.



With a third grader in the house, we find ourselves yet again celebrating many of the Jewish holidays as we work our way through the festivals of this particular school year.  I’ve really been enjoying eating out there.  Most days anyway!  Some days it’s quite cold and it’s always inconveniently far from the house.  BUT, it also drags us out into what may be some of the last days before serious cold hits.  Days that we might otherwise over look in our haste and let pass us by.  It pulls us out of the house, out of usual habits, out of ourselves and there is often something wonderful about that.  Tomorrow night we have some friends joining us.  Such a treat!


in the beginning…

Some scenes from our first week of school, that have taken me a full month to post!  Every year has a different feel, with different priorities.  I can’t quite explain why, but this year it seemed really important to start the school year off working all together before we broke off into separate age-appropriate groups.  This is tricky with kids kindergarten up through high school!  I knew we would be visiting the art museum, so I basically made that our focus for the first couple of weeks.  There are actually some really nice lesson plans in the teachers resources section of their site.  I utilized a couple of them and everyone worked at their own level.  There was one on geometry and quilts.  I made it easier for some and harder for others and adapted the whole thing to our life style…meaning we didn’t stop at paper quilts, but broke out fabric and needles as well.  I’ve been re-working our homeschooling room and decided that I’m sick of the poster of hatchling turtles.  It’s feeling old and tired.  What better way to kick off the new year then with a project that instructs while beautifying our space?

I started every morning by arranging large sheets of paper on the floor, with art supplies in the center.  I had them all lay on their stomachs.  Each day I would choose a different piece of classical music to play and they were to draw how it made them feel or anything that they thought of as they listened, the idea being less to create a perfect picture and more to get used to conveying emotion.  I have no idea where this idea came from, it is not my own, I believe I read about it many years ago.  Afterwards we would go around and anyone who wanted to share would talk about what they drew and why.  Elijah, who thinks in horses the way that I think in yarn, complained about the mood changing.  Of Rhapsody in Blue he said, “At first it was like a lipizzaner doing dressage, but then it suddenly became a herd of mustangs racing full speed in a cloud of dust.”  I would then pull the big boys aside for a bit to talk about the composer, the time period and significance of each piece.

The butterflies!  We listened to a free Sparkle Story where the children surprised their homeschooling parents by decorating with butterflies as a teacher gift to start the new year.  Mairi was inspired to start making butterflies out of coffee filters that she found in the craft drawer.  Iain and Elijah picked up on her idea and started making intricate paper cut ones while referencing a field guide with actual pictures of butterflies to copy.



On Monday Steve was home and I decided to make our very first day back to (home) school a field trip.  We had recently heard about a local historical area where remains of old mills were to be seen and we were both eager to check it out.  We’ve been living here for two and a half years now and we honestly haven’t learned as much about the area as we would like.  One of our personal goals this year is to remedy that.

An afternoon spent in and around the ruins and adjoining creek turned into not just a history lesson (as we had planned) but also a natural history and geology lesson as well.  Elijah figures he could spend a year or so exploring that particular site before he got bored.  Unfortunately we only had the afternoon.  This time anyway.

Our first week back is going well, but I am busy all. the. time.  This afternoon I told Steve that I really felt like I was doing well by them just now (she said a whooping half a week in).  Sometimes I still feel like we are really just starting out on this whole homeschooling journey.  Then I remind myself that this is our 9th year and that not one, but two of my children are much closer to the end then the beginning.  And there are many things that I’ve learned in that time, but the very fact that I’m still learning so much, each and every year, if not each and every day, is exactly what makes me look over my shoulder when someone mentions the “veteran homeschooler in the room” before realizing…oh, right, yes, you mean me! got it. One thing I’ve learned for sure is that the first week is important.  I’ve found it can set the tone for a whole season of learning.  If everything goes wrong, yes, there is always tomorrow, and any mother or any sort will tell you that’s a motto to tie your heart strings to.  But often times tomorrow will go a lot easier if you can just manage to get things right in this moment now, it’s a momentum sort of thing.  As such I try to make our first week back a very enjoyable one while easing into new rhythms.  I recently joked to a friend that I kind of sneak up on them with the work.  I’ve recently started “naming the days” with Màiri, as I used to with Galen, and both of the last two days were some variation on “the day we had fun”, so I think it’s been something of a success.

Yesterday, after a morning of school work and chores, seeking balance, I took the children to the pond.  Ombré blue sky with huge dollops of fluffy cartoon roving clouds, looking oh-so-close enough to touch.  Splashing and laughter and sand.  Baby sleeping by my side as I knit woolen tights and the breeze ruffles the leaves of the tree above our heads.  I was thinking that there are times in life when you can look back and remember them as such a happy golden time.  How much better still it is to be able to recognize them as they are happening.  Back home after a hot shower, pajama clad, ringlets still damp, ukelele in hand, Galen sighed a deep sigh of contentment and said to me, “Mommy, hasn’t this just been the most wonderful day?”


not by the hair on my chinney-chin-chin….

There has been a lot of building this summer.  Iain and Elijah spent a couple of weeks helping around the building site where a straw bale home is going up.  At home Galen has been reading My Side of the Mountain and constructing his own shelter from whatever he can glean around the yard.  The building came first which in turn inspired me to dig out the book.  He’s entering third grade next year and from a Waldorf perspective there is quite a bit of focus on building and shelter.  It’s fascinating to me to find him ushering himself into the curriculum without my in any way leading him to it.


May Day

Nothing went as planned and yet, everything was just as it should be; dancing, music, friends, family and what eventually turned in to a beautiful spring day.  We danced the May Pole, dyed eggs and shared brunch with our neighbors.  In the afternoon; the beach…first trip of the season for most, first trip of a lifetime for one.  Happy children back on, near and sometimes (just briefly) in the water.  Tic tac toe in the sand.  Apparently none of our sand toys survived the year.  Galen brought a garden hoe instead.  Mairi planted stick “trees”.  Steve used paddles to signal to Iain and Elijah who had kayaked off to an island.  Galen used them to be a bird.


Waldorf at Home: horses, horses, horses

Random pictures from trips to the stables, clearly not recent!  It’s cold here today and rather nice to think about a time when a fan blowing in your face might have been a welcome thing.

Lest you think that all we do around here is celebrate various holidays!  It’s only that was the season when I started this series and easy to find pretty pictures of that sort of thing.  But I get a lot of questions about “how we do school” and regular requests to share some of our work.  So that is what I’m trying to do here.  You will all have to bear with me though, as I am very likely to jump around, topic and time period wise, as I think of things to post about or come across old projects or pictures.

Last year Galen started first grade.  I really wanted to concentrate on working with him in the first couple weeks of school.  For the first time I introduced the concept of assignment books to the older boys.  They were each assigned a project to work on independently, with very detailed instructions as to what was expected, when it was due, etc.  Because I wanted their year to start off well also, I tried to tailor these assignments to their strengths and interests.  It seemed like a really good time for Elijah to do an in-depth research report and the logical choice of topic to entice him, well horses of course!  This is truly a head, heart and hands subject for him.  From the physical acts of riding and caring for the horses, to his horse themed artistic work, to reading and learning all he can on the subject.  Clearly there is a strong emotional component as well.

Above is just as small sampling of his finished report.  I can no longer find the tutorial that he used for the book binding, but I know that it came from this site (found! Thank you Katie!).  He really got into the project and would come to me asking, “do you think I should include a chart of all the breeds of the world?  Because I think I should.” For resources, he highly recommends The Encyclopedia of Horses & Ponies by Tamsin Pickeral. 

Looking back at these pictures, I can’t believe how he has grown as an artist in the last year and a half.


Waldorf at Home: Nature Journals

Our Solstice treats were a big hit, especially the log feeder.  We’ve kept nature journals for many years now.  In them we have recorded everything from temperature and weather conditions to the life cycle of a butterfly.  Lately I’ve been admiring the beautiful work of Melanie’s children.  I’m completely charmed by her idea of journal pages associated with different holidays.  We decided to do a page the day after Christmas of all of the animals we’ve seen come to partake of our treats.  On New Year’s day, mourning doves appeared on our porch and we made a page for them as well.  Above is a small sample, by children of various ages and stages.  Mairi’s little chickadee at the bottom there is one of my favorite things ever.  I think these pages will be so much fun to look at these pages in years to come.  And to think, if we had started this tradition earilier, I would actually have a definitive answer to the question of when the redpolls and grosbeaks arrived at our feeder last year.