1000 + 100 = Right Now

One photo plus 100 words tells you where I find myself right now. Inspired by Susannah. Wishing you wide open expansion, wherever you find yourself right now. xoS



The West. The West. The West. Packing. Over-packing. Unpacking. Asking myself what I need. Listening for the answers. Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening. The Solace of Open Spaces. Broken: A Love Story. Dreaming. Journalling. Revisiting Myers-Briggs. (INFJ). Hitting a wall with painting. Avoiding my art table. Trusting something to emerge. Turkey feathers. Acid at the back of my throat. Long cotton nightgowns. Meticulously cut hayfields. Air conditioning. Contemplating (once again) the wisdom found in the cycle of a year. Prayer. Friends. Sounds of the Native American flute. What waits. What is. The West. The West. The West. See you in September.

Links and Other Thinks


Loving Danielle LaPorte: especially her book, The Desire Map and her #truthbomb app.

Tenderly exploring this church.

Absolutely juiced about Brave Girl University.

Andrea has a new cd. It’s fantastic: sultry and sexy, transporting and transformative. Expect to hear more about it, but if you want to know what she had to silence in order to sing like that, read this back post. (Oh and here is a free sample. And to think she used to sing on my answering machine in grad school! Those were the days.)

Guess who won Best Graphic Design in western North Carolina? Yup. Tom and crew! (It’s practically like living with a celebrity.)

My new favorite line of greeting cards. Laugh out loud funny. (I found them “locally” here.)

Going to see Brene Brown in Charlotte and Elizabeth Gilbert in Asheville. I have been anticipating their new books for months!!

This post and this one from Melissa Wiley were inspirational at a core level for me homeschooling-wise. It is a place I want to move toward and a philosophy I want to own in my bones.

My boys are loving Warfare by Duct Tape.

Enjoying these free calls with Jennifer Louden. They are a relaxing blend of guided mediation and journalling prompts that translate into real-life change. If you sign up, you will have access to the previous two recordings and also be able to participate live in the final one which is August 28.

The free Woman Unleashed Retreat starts this week. Looks interesting.

This article by Parker Palmer.

Susannah Conway gives an amazing interview about journalling and creativity. And have you seen her new website? Oh my stars. It’s gorgeous.

Sunday Selections


Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between “green thread”
and “broccoli,” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,

but today you get a telegram
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

—to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.

– Tony Hoagland, “The Word”

Sunday Selections


You say you have no spirit,
but truthfully ask yourself this—
Would you look into my eyes
and see something beyond color?
You look at my hands,
but do you see beyond their shape to what they create?

When you notice my feet,
would you see beyond perception to
see how I travel through my journey,
or the way I am following after you?
Don’t imitate an eye and only see the object;
Don’t be fooled by the word reality.

When I look into your eyes, I see your spirit.
When I notice your feet,
I see the journey you’re taking,
the compass you follow.

Would you put down your logical way of thinking for just
a moment to see the hidden spirit glowing in you,
the spirit I see living through the truthful, inspirational
things you do,
the spirit that keeps me walking after you?

–  Katie Pratt, “Beyond Words”

Ask Alison: Animals


“Ask Alison” is a well-loved feature on this blog. (You can see former installments on geology here and here.) She is one of my dearest friends and along with Jean Miller, one of my go-to women for homeschooling advice and support. I thank my lucky starts to have met them both through Barbara Dewey’s Taproot Teacher Training. For the first time in four summers, I will not be joining them in Ohio. Our trip to Yellowstone and a few other things have conspired to keep me away. However, I would like to encourage anyone on the fence about attending this year’s event. You can get an idea of Barbara and Jean from their websites, but Alison has not entered the blogosphere yet. Consider the post below and also this one from Jean as an introduction to the extraordinary gifts she brings in expanding the Waldorf curriculum for homeschoolers. I promise it will be worth the trip!


I wanted to share how I make sense of the developmental progression of the Waldorf curriculum in terms of how it affects the way the teacher/parent might handle presenting and discussing animals. Hopefully this will help you see the ways that studying animals can help your child build many academic skills and how the progression moves from imitation to feeling to reflection and reason. The progression of the Waldorf curriculum allows students to develop the deepest kind of “knowing” of animals – this type of knowing naturally integrates feeling and reason in a very profound way. What more could we ask for?

Kindergarten and Grade 1 – fairy tales and nature stories  – Just being delighted by animals and co-existing with them.  Noticing, imitating and naming.

Grade 2 – Aesop’s Fables, African Animal Tales (please check out Verna Aardema – especially her non-picture book collections if you can find them), Native American stories.  Heetunka’s Harvest is a favorite. (A Donna Simmon’s recommendation from my former life:))

Aardema’s picture books are great as well.  Leo Lioni and Jan Brett books are wonderful at this age.

Our noticing goes deeper here in 2nd grade.  By giving animals human qualities we begin to describe their unique and particular qualities: the slowness of the tortoise, the quickness of the hare, the pride of the lion, the slyness of the fox, the mischief-making of crows ….

It is fun to notice the particular animals presented in the stories and to OBSERVE and DESCRIBE in just a bit more detail.

Grade 3 – The farming and Bible story blocks bring out potential developmental themes to focus on. Animal husbandry and animal keeping. I taught a world history class of high school students, and one of our main texts was Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel. In it he gives an account of the history and science of animal domestication. It is so amazing to me that this happened first the fertile crescent – the BIBLE belt. Remember 3rd grade is the Old Testament year – for me this is yet another confirmation of Steiner’s genius in laying out the progression of the Waldorf curriculum.

You could work with wool and shearing and spinning. Jacob was a big time herder – as were Cain and Abel. You could also think about milking and cheese and yogurt making. PLOWING with oxen was a huge step for the ancient farmers and allowed them to feed so many more people.  Please consider visiting farms.

Warm as Wool is a great picture book about a pioneer family and sheep farming.  A New Coat for Anna is a favorite book that much like Pelle’s New Suit follows the process of making a piece of clothing from shearing the sheep to the finished garment.

Another way to enhance the 3rd grade practical/doing focus is animal keeping in the classroom and in the home.

Think practical – what food and shelter and training do our pets need?

James, my youngest son, kept a pet and potential pet (he could dream!) journal for one of his main lesson blocks. He wrote and wrote and wrote and drew and drew and drew. What supplies and cages and chores did he need to do to keep fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, parakeets, and mice? We acquired over the grade 2-4 grade span – a small fish tank, hermit crabs, and a parakeet.

Books that link in with this passion are A Room with a Zoo by Jules Feiffer, Pets in a Jar by Seymor Simon, and I just love The House of a Million Pets by Ann Hodgman.

4th grade – Man and Animal. The first “science” block where the rubber meets the road! One of the qualities of the 4th grade is the emerging ability to separate him/herself from the action so to speak. To observe from above (bird’s-eye perspective) To observe as a distinct person with his or her own ideas about why and how … with a good dose of mischief and playfulness thrown in there as well. Man and Animal is a perfect place to cultivate this ability.

Here we Describe in more detail – both in our pictures and with our words and also in a 3-D way by creating dioramas and sculptures, beautiful water-color paintings and perhaps posters and displays. Julie Cannon books like Stellaluna work very well here in a Waldorf both for drawing inspiration and the learning the information woven inside of the story.

We put animals into categories – fur, fins, feathers, 6 legs, 8 legs, and shells  –  Mammals, fish, birds, insects, spiders and mollusks, etc.

OBSERVING, DESCRIBING and EXPLAINING how form and function work together in this animal – how does its beautiful and wonderful design help it to perfectly do what it needs to do to survive. Then make some interesting COMPARISONS and CONTRASTS between this animal and to the human being.

For this block I really liked Altruistic Armadillos and Zen like Zebras – I read it out loud – but you will need to summarize, explain or paraphrase some parts. Animal Footprints by Kato would also work well – it compares our hands and feet to those of various animals.

When I taught this block to James, we chose a variety of animals from the book together, printed the names on index cards and then drew the day’s animal out of hat. He adored the suspense and the surprise and so I did I. He drew his own picture and composed a very simple summary. It was so easy and relaxed and we learned so much together. His brother was a 6th grader at the time, and he enjoyed listening and the surprise as well.

There are a host of children’s books to read – Rascal by Sterling North, Charlotte’s Web, Ribsy, Wheel on the School – on and on … that highlight the deep connection that human beings have with animals.

Tarantula in my Purse by Jean Craighead George would be excellent for this block or even 5th grade as well.

5th and 6th grade – Many Waldorf grade summaries leave out zoology here, and I personally think this is a mistake. Classification can be a great approach at this age. Vertebrates, Invertebrates, etc. I love, love the book Tree of Life: the Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth by Rochelle Strauss. I also like Lyrical Life Science as a teacher resource for planning out this main lesson – specifically chapters 3, 4, 5, and 8. I love using the songs that go along with each chapter. There is also a workbook that you could make copies of worksheets from. I personally feel that in grades 5 and 6 it is nice to mix up the pedagogy a bit. Animals on the Inside by Ruiz would be excellent.

In 6th grade, scientific nomenclature is a really nice tie in to Rome and Latin.

This is where we complete the whole to the parts cycle. Diagrams and labels are perfect for this age – animal anatomy and physiology. Skeletons, the anatomy of the fish, the parts of an insect, the life cycle of various animals – you get the idea.

This all is a great lead in to human anatomy in the 7th grade.

Grades 7-9 – These years present a wonderful developmental opening to the study of the biographies of famous zoologists.  Eugenie Clark, Jacques Cousteau, Charles Darwin, Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall….  they model the knowledge and the passion  and the curiosity and the work ethic that all great scientists possess. Watching documentaries about animals and these scientists is also very appropriate at this age. Young people are looking for direction and role models at this age.

As your child progresses through the Waldorf curriculum and their study of animals grows in scope and depth, always remember to keep it living: act out gestures and stories, recite and copy and memorize poems about animals, read the many beautiful works of children’s literature that connect human beings and animals in your main lesson blocks and as a family, paint,  assign reports, posters, projects and assemble collections. I love using those tubes of animals at Hobby Lobby for displays and for reports (your child can pick one out of hat – you can pick one too:)) Mix things up.

Animals provide many opportunities for homeschools to widen their circle. Enjoy exploring your local zoos, parks, nature centers, and natural history museums. Take a sketch pad. Join 4H, dog obedience classes or volunteer at a shelter.

Studying and keeping animals allow us to gain knowledge, foster discipline, build community, and to grow in the love and appreciation of the natural world.  Many of the books and activities I mention here would appeal to non-Waldorf home schoolers as well, so perhaps you would enjoy creating an animal study group with children in grades 4-6.

Humanity is exalted not because we are not so far above other living creatures but because knowing them well elevates the very concept of life.  – Edward O. Wilson