What’s Working


I hinted in this post that our days look a lot different than they have in the past. And they do. Our school day is shorter, more focused and dare I say, less Waldorf. I have an “ideal” day which we are working toward: it includes free reading and art enrichment in the morning and then two main lessons. For now, however, we are “treading water” – preserving our relationships and focusing on the academic essentials. Here’s a look at what’s working:

Drawing: Vincent is methodically working through the book Mapping the World with ArtWe both love this curriculum! It uses a combination of background reading, freehand map drawing and numerous supplemental activities to teach geography and cartography. (There is a companion CD that demonstrates some of the drawing lessons, but I didn’t find this necessary.) Jude has spent his drawing time ploughing through Ed Emberley’s drawing books (again). This series is well-loved at our house and a must-have for the “What can I do?” shelf. I am compiling their drawings in a binder to show progress and also to remind me how much time they are spending at their desks (WITHOUT ME!) doing something very worthwhile.

Writing: I purchased Julie Bogart’s Brave Writer curriculum this summer and we are taking suggestions from The Writer’s Jungle and The Arrow to extend Vincent’s composition skills. While Friday Freewrites have been hit or miss, I’m trying to take a long view. I have also incorporated notebooking pages into Vincent’s main lessons, because main lesson books have never, ever worked for him. He has trouble orienting text and images on the page and having lines and a border/margin pre-defined helps him to concentrate on composition. We are using a variety of pages from this set and this one, specifically about explorers, is taking us through the entire semester.

Math: For the upper grades (starting in grade 5), I use the first semester of a new grade to reinforce skills from the previous year and wait to introduce new material until the second semester. Vincent is continuing to use the Key to series (focusing on Measurement and finishing Decimals and Percents) along with Jamie York’s free speed sheets. For some reason, he doesn’t like the MMM workbook, so we are still doing Old School Math for both mental and written practice. We will take a break from the subject in November and December will see our third and final geometric drawing block. This has been a favorite and we love using this curriculum from Melisa Nielsen. I am also hoping to sneak in a few lessons in constructing Platonic solids out of paper and clay while we listen to Christmas carols before the holidays.

Audio/Visual: I started incorporating a couple of documentaries into our blocks last year. We watched some real gems and had fabulous discussions over dinner, recapping what we watched for Tom. This year, I decided to make this a regular part of our homeschooling and we are subsequently enjoying “Filmstrip Friday.” About twice a month, we watch something from Netfilx, youtube or the library. I am doing a free 30-day trial of Discovery Education’s streaming, but don’t think I’ll cough up the $100 for the year. I am also using audiobooks almost exclusively for afternoon story time – thanks to audible.com and the library. I read to both boys almost every day for main lesson, and reading aloud in the afternoon was feeling overwhelming. Using audio books lets me just enjoy hearing the story along with them. I would like this to be a time for handwork as well, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Things to work on / Soliciting Advice, Suggestions, HELP!

Reading: This is really a post in and of itself, but suffice to say for now, neither of my boys read fiction on their own. They are both voracious readers, but it is exclusively non-fiction and magazines. I recently read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller (thank you Alison) and she reminded me how important it is to dedicate time in the school day for free-reading. I want this time to be for fiction, but so far I am being met with big-time resistance. Like I said, I have a whole post in the works about this, but wanted to know if anyone else has this issue.

Math: Kara mentioned Teaching Textbooks and they look pretty enticing. Anyone have any experience with them??

Other: I want to add in some enrichment time in the mornings for both boys. Art appreciation, music appreciation OR nature journaling. Admittedly, at one point, I wanted to do all three – one a day, a la Charlotte Mason. However that is not realistic, so for now, I want to choose one. I found some great resources for nature journaling, but cannot seem to get the gumption to actually do it. I like the looks of this program for music appreciation. Our library has a couple of their cds, so I’m going to sample those first. Anybody have any other suggestions – especially for art appreciation??

Sunday Selections


The self is no mystery, the mystery is / That there is something for us to stand on. – George Oppen

There are no guardrails at Canyon de Chelly.
On the very edge
Of the great brow of rock,
I suffered a vertigo
That tied me forever to the earth.
I want to be here,
With the oak floors creaking under me,
And outside, among the flowers,
Where the columbine
Sensibly dies back upon itself
In the first freeze.
The mysteries are all here:
Roots, the leaves turning,
The spiders hard at their geometry lessons,
The seed that obeys perfectly
Its own limits,
The worms turning among the leaves,
Turning the leaves to compost,
Dung beetle and bottle fly,
The fluting of the white-crowned sparrow,
The shrill cries
Of the flickers, newly arrived,
The dog at his dreams,
The airiness of the dogwood,
The heaviness of the cork oak,
And the Bradford pear,
Burning its deepest reds like a candle flame,
And the sun, most mysterious,
Will be almost that red
Just before setting this evening.
The muddiness of the self
Can be forgiven, almost forgotten,
In the clarity of late October.

- C. G. Hanzlicek, “Mystery”

Shout Out: Eurythmy in Asheville

Spiritual Perspectives on Life before Birth and Life after Death
A weekend workshop with Eurythmy, Study and Conversation
With Cynthia Hoven
November 7-8, 2014
As the days grow short and the nights grow long, we feel drawn to consider the mysteries of death and dying. Rudolf Steiner, through his profound insights into the reality of the spiritual world has given detailed descriptions of how we have descended from the spiritual world before birth, clothe ourselves in matter during our life on earth, and pass again into spirit realms after we die. Our journeys before and after our earth life pass through the realms of the planets and the constellations, home to spiritual beings more lofty than we.
A courageous study of this journey will help us find perspective for our life on earth, and understanding for how to rightly value our relationship to those who have died before us.
In this workshop, Cynthia will lead us through a study of our journey into, through and out of the realm of earth. In eurythmy, she will teach us through movement and gesture how to understand the mood, color and power of the planets and constellations. These studies will bring new life to any previous understanding you may have had of astrology and the spiritual world.
Please feel free to bring to this workshop any pictures or small mementos you may have to honor those of your family or friends who have crossed the threshold.
This class is appropriate for both beginners and those with previous experience. Students from 16 to 90 are welcome! Wear loose comfortable clothing, and bring the lightest, soft-soled shoes that you have. All movements are done in standing (no floor exercises).
Time: Friday November 7, 7-9pm, Saturday Nov. 8, 9-4pm
Cost: Sliding scale $90-$125. Pre-registration is required.
To Register: Contact Elizabeth at solas9@earthlink.net
About Cynthia Hoven
Cynthia has taught Eurythmy to thousands of people over the past 30 years, in college settings, public workshops, retreats, and in private therapeutic sessions. In 2002, she founded the Eurythmy Training at Rudolf Steiner College, a four year, full time professional training, where she served as director and principal instructor for eight years. She is the author of Eurythmy Movements and Meditations: A Journey to the Heart of Language. See her new website www.eurythmyonline.com

Notes to Myself


Fall is finally here. The air is crisp, the leaves are turning and the light is the kind that only shines in October. As this season of change comes into fullness, I have been reminded again of words I wrote down this summer. I recently found a page full of notes I made after first listening to Brene Brown at the beach back in May. They seem prescient and wise and even more instructive than they did five months ago. As I continue to journey through her book and e-course, The Gifts of Imperfection, I am becoming clearer and clearer of the path I want to pursue. It can be hard to follow those trails that seem to beckon beyond the limitations of our vision, but I’m trying to trust, follow and be open to new directions.

One thing has become very clear to me: I need to write more. I have never, ever been a journal writer. But if the mid-40s are teaching me anything, it is to never say never because you will end up making a liar out of your own self. Blogging is about as close as I have ever come to journaling in a sense of regularly recording my thoughts. And although I do love writing in this space, what is posted has been revised, massaged, finessed and edited over and over again. I can be obsessive like that, but to me, that is half the fun of writing. With journaling, however, I’m talking about old-school, long-hand, pen and paper. Uncensored, unedited and raw. Scribbling what looks like nonsense, but trusting that somewhere among the stream-of-consciousness ramblings are nascent threads and emerging themes that can only be seen in retrospect. So, yes, I need to write more. Because if you know anything about me, you know words are how I navigate. They are my touchstone, my currency, my art, my soul.

I was going to make journaling my new year’s resolution. Start fresh in January and all that. But as I find myself alone in the dim kitchen on these dark, dark mornings, I keep hearing John O’Donohue’s gentle admonition to court the soul by candlelight. He warns against examining the self under bright light – both real and metaphoric – and instead advises welcoming the heart in still places, heavy with shadow. So I’m beginning now, this third week in October, with a bit of time and space to simply record notes to myself. I’m hoping the soft glow of my candle will welcome all voices, from the boldest ones I cannot ignore to the softest whispers that need to speak their truth as well. Those words I wrote last summer seem like a list of directives of exactly what I want to cultivate during these fall mornings.

  • to be vulnerable
  • to be creative
  • to show up
  • to be uncertain
  • to draw forth from who I am and who we are
  • If I am filling myself with who I am not, who then speaks?
  • to come at things sideways and find what fills us
  • to be confident that I am enough
  • to be confident we are enough
  • to trust that there is divine purpose and I am not asked to give more than exactly who I am
  • to foster courage, compassion, connection and creativity
  • to engage
  • to plan, but to leave space for what arises
  • to embark on the day/the month/the year with a plan and a purpose BUT to be open to what arises in the present moment
  • to trust that if I am truly being creative, there is no room for comparison
  • to create out of who I am for who is in front of me. No one else is in the room. The chatter of other voices are hushed in the quiet stillness that I cultivate.
  • Vulnerability and control have inverse relationships in my life
  • Can I see vulnerability and how I am protecting myself when I have the need to control a situation?

Sunday Selections



It seems we must be stripped
of the skin
of all we think beautiful
before we open to the kind of beauty
that can’t go away.
It seems sky must pour
and howl like it will never stop
before we notice the smile
of our own forever sun. It seems
we must hunt with starving
hungry eyes before we know
this belly is and has always been
full. It seems this wall
deep in the center must be hammered down
before we let soft, breathing hands
curl in around us. Each drop
of dark carries
with it a candle of holy
light—with each miracle breath
we are invited to turn toward
the nearest whispering spark
and, like momma bird sheltering her baby—like a pebble
in stream’s safe lap—

- “What I’ve Learned from the Dark” by Julia Fehrenbacher