The summer between year one and year two was definitely a transition time. I remember doing a lot of planning: tons of reading of many different resources yielding lots of plans in my mind. Unfortunately, all of this energy and supposed preparation did not translate into what we were going to be doing every day. I did have an idea of how I wanted the blocks laid out for grade 4 and some things I wanted to do for kindergarten. I totally over-planned our first block, slightly planned the next block, had a vague idea of what we were going to do through December, but had absolutely nothing planned for the rest of the year. Hence, much of this year was constructed by last-minute planning on Sunday night or the weekend before a new block began.
I was not as hapless or as overwhelmed as the year before, but I still was nowhere where I wanted to be. I started this blog about halfway through this second year of Waldorf homeschooling and it helped me to process our days differently. For me, writing helps to clarify my thoughts and distill events down to their essential nature. Writing also helps me to get quiet. I like to write in the early morning, when no one else is awake. This time of silence in the morning is ripe for reflection and I am able to put things in perspective in a way I am not able to do at any other point in the day. All of this enabled me to be more centered, more present and more open. Here is a glimpse of year two.
- Rhythm Our rhythm was hit or miss this year. We were past the point of where I had to write everything out, but there were definitely extended periods of arrhythmia. My problem with rhythm during year two was that unless we were doing school, I didn’t know how to keep it going. Melisa Nielsen talks a lot about this: how you need to hold the space. At this point, I could just not get my head around that concept. Looking at it from a distance, rhythm was still something I was willfully trying to impose on our day. It wasn’t something I had absorbed fully or practiced consistently. Like year one, there were days I was too tight and then there were days I was too loose. I could definitely see progress in this area, but I still had a lot of inner work to do around this issue.
- Curriculum I agonized only slightly less this year over specific curriculum choices. I purchased the grade 4 syllabus from Christopherus, but resold most of it. I kept the grade 4 math book (which I highly recommend, we have continued to use it during the beginning of grade 5) and the human being and animal guide. I was still clinging to the idea that the right curriculum would solve all my problems, but I was becoming less and less sure of this notion’s validity. One big insight I had during the latter part of the year was to see both blocks and main lessons as much more expansive, flexible and fluid than I had been viewing them before. Until about the middle of this year, I thought main lesson equalled making a main lesson book and that all extra activities (novels, baking, field trips) had to be accomplished during the time set aside for that specific block. This rigidity forced me to both cram things in and also leave things out. When I could relax a little and allow myself some creative thinking, our year began to flow much better. Our US Geography block was one of our most laid back (it was also our last formal block of the year), but it was also the most memorable. We started it in May and continued it informally throughout the summer.
- Art This year I chose to focus on wet-on-wet watercolor painting. I painted by myself several times over the summer and also during the year. (I was still using hopelessly diluted paints, but at least I was gaining experience in technique.) Vincent did several paintings throughout the year, but in all honestly I was not good about incorporating art into our main lessons. I felt like I was forcing a lot of the more creative elements of our lesson. I also felt that I was absolutely NOT doing them correctly. This pressure did not serve any of us, but it took me awhile to realize it was even there and then to rid myself of some Waldorf standard I had created in my head. We didn’t do modeling, form drawing or drawing with any kind of consistency or regularity.
- Music While Tom was still trying to find that elusive “MUSIC” drawer in the schoolroom, I went ahead and signed the boys up for group lessons with a penny whistle teacher in town. We started late in the year, and I tried to incorporate practicing during our already much-too-long circle time. For some reason, I felt like I had to learn the songs and play with them. This worked for about a month. At this point, neither one of the boys wanted to practice (during circle or at any other time either.) A power struggle ensued, and then became a moot point because lessons ended for the school year. Honestly, I was writing off any hope of music lessons, penny whistle or any other instrument for that matter. I am not musical by nature and just didn’t see this as a battle worth fighting. (Here is a little foreshadowing: penny whistle would be one of my greatest personal lessons and homeschooling successes of year three! Stay tuned!) One bright spot we did have with music this year was during our US Geography block. I checked out a few cds of American folk songs and patriotic marches from the library. I played them during main lesson time and we would all sing along. We all enjoyed this so much, the boys started requesting the songs in the car and throughout the summer.
- Handwork We started the year off with finger knitting. Even though I knew how to knit with needles, finger knitting had eluded me. I finally mastered this fun little process by watching Melisa’s finger knitting video included with TFW. We made a bunch of chains that we used to decorate our Christmas tree. We also worked on embroidery this year, completing a fabric map of the United States. Vincent and I both really took to embroidery. We worked on the map during main lesson time and also in the afternoons. This project helped me to see how handwork could be incorporated as a natural part of our daily rhythm. It wasn’t yet, but I got a glimpse. No one did any knitting this year.
- Extras We incorporated circle time into our day. It was great in the beginning, but then got too long and complicated. Vincent started to balk at doing the songs and verses toward the middle of the year, and I tried to force him to participate. That was not a fun way to start the day. We did poetic recitation and memorization every month. We also started afternoon story time. This was by far my biggest achievement of the year. We did not have much success with making main lesson books. Truth be told, I was completely intimidated by them. I didn’t do any chalk board drawings, and I was still reading rather than telling the stories.