What We’re Reading

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I began an Audible subscription this summer and absolutely love it. I am able to “read” something on a regular basis that is not related to homeschooling – this feels beyond luxurious. And because of a well-timed sale on children’s audio books, I have been using Audible for homeschooling as well. We began the year with the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. We immediately fell in love with the Walker children and their adventures with Peggy and Nancy on Wildcat Island and finished the first book before I left for Wyoming. We are currently about half-way through the second, Swallowdale, and it is just as good as the first. Highly recommended!

On my walks, I am currently listening to Longing and Belonging by John O’Donohue. It’s 31 hours (!) of his books and lectures – all narrated in that lovely Irish brogue. John O’Donohue’s voice speaks directly to my soul. His poetic vocabulary of the eternal, of landscape, of threshold, of language itself helps me put words around spiritual concepts that define my personal relationship with the Holy. Let me just say, if I ever get to heaven and God turns out to be John O’Donohue, I will not be disappointed.

I am also reading a “real” book as well, LOL. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown has been sitting on my shelf since early summer after listening to her here. The book corresponds with the e-course I’m taking – which is fantastic by the way. I have completed the first art journaling lessons (which are very step-by-step, if you are new to medium, or find it intimidating). The combination of her candor and her depth make for a powerful experience.

And you? What are you reading these days? I would love to know.

Favorite Books: Literary Fiction

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I remember learning to read in Miss Young’s kindergarten class at School 15 in Elizabeth, NJ. Miss Young taught kindergarten when my grandfather went to School 15 – my grandfather. Miss Young was old. Ever since those little yellow readers about Sis the Snake, I have loved to read. I still remember my first trip to a library. In my memory, it is a dark fall night and the children section glows as if by candlelight. I remember when we moved to the suburbs and lived in a house where I could walk to the library. Walk to the library? Absolute bliss. Blindfolded, I could probably still find the biography section and where the Encyclopedia Brown books were shelved. Later, I went on to earn two degrees in English which both required a lot of time in libraries. And now, there is a whole new set of sweet memories in bringing my children to the library.

So in celebration of National Library Week, I am declaring April “Book Month” here at Sure as the World. Each week, I will be posting a list of my favorite books. I will try to limit myself to a dozen or so titles, however, I’m not making any promises. The lists are not hierarchical, nor are they definitive. And even though nothing makes me break out in a cold sweat faster than the question “What’s your favorite book?”- I’m diving in and reminding myself to be brave in all things. I hope you’ll join me.

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon

  • The Sparrow and Children of God, Mary Doria Russell

  • Broken for You and Sing Them Home, Stephanie Kallos

  • Animal Dreams and The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver

  • The Red Tent, Anita Diamant

  • The History of Love, Nicole Krauss

  • The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

  • The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón

  • Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris

  • The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

  • Fair and Tender Ladies, Lee Smith

  • Salt, Isabel Zubar

  • Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

  • Jazz, Toni Morrison

And now you. What are your favorite literary fiction titles? Do tell.

Holiday Books

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**These are NOT my bookshelves!**

I love getting out the holiday books! Below you will find some of our favorites. If you have a list of holiday books on your blog, please, please, please leave a link to it in the comments. And if you don’t, why not do it now? We would all love to know what you’re reading at your house during this time of year.

**Due to the ongoing (and hysterical) conversation unfolding in the comments section, I feel compelled to edit this post to say that the bookshelves pictured above are about as real as my blond hair – which I can assure you, comes out of a bottle every four weeks like clockwork. It is a photograph of a piece of wrapping paper.

Activity Books:

  • The Toymaker’s Chrismas (I buy several copies of this every year. Great fun for my kids and for gifts.)
  • Sarah Jane’s Nutcracker Suite Paper Puppet Theater (These are being used in all the Ralph Lauren flagship stores worldwide this year. Oooh la la Sarah Jane!)
  • Holiday Folding Stories: Storytelling and Origami Together for Holiday Fun, Christine Petrell Kallevig (This is one in a series of books that uses origami to tell stories. They can be hard to find, but worth the search. Thriftbooks.com is one of my favorite places to find books like this.)

New To Us This Year:

  • A Newberry Christmas: Fourteen Stories of Christmas by Newberry Award-winning Authors
  • American Christmas: Poetry Celebrating the Beauty of Christmas, Webster Schott and Robert J. Myers, Eds.
  • The Beasts of Bethlehem, X.J. Kennedy (We’ll be reading this during the second week of Advent.)
  • Hallelujah Handel, Douglas Cowling (A lovely companion to Messiah.)
  • Jesus, Demi (Biography of Jesus using text from the King James Bible.)
  • The Glorious Impossible, Madeleine L’Engle (Illustrated with frescoes by Giotto.)

Old Favorites:

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charles M. Schulz
  • The Tomten, Astrid Lindgren
  • Harold at the North Pole, Crockett Johnson
  • A Calf for Christmas, Astrid Lingren
  • The Night Before Christmas, Clement C. Moore (Vincent’s all time favorite.)
  • Flight of the Reindeer, Robert Sullivan (Great for older kids who don’t “believe.”)
  • Miracle on 34th Street, Valentine Davies
  • The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg
  • Katy and the Big Snow, Virginia Lee Burton (Jude’s all time favorite.)
  • Boxes for Katje, Candace Fleming (A gift and recommendation from Mama)

Other Holiday Book Posts from Other Blog Hoppers and Non-Hoppers Too:

A Brand New Rhythm

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When I first came to Waldorf, I built our daily rhythm around three things: cooking meals (perfect for grade 3), walking (perfect for when you have nothing else planned – which I didn’t) and afternoon story time (which, in my opinion is just perfect period – anywhere, anytime). Last year, Jude began first grade and that meant I was teaching two grades. Cooking became less intentional and more simplified, but we still walked every morning and had story time every afternoon. This year, Vincent is in middle school and Jude is in grade 2. What has worked in the past is not working anymore, and our rhythm has gotten a significant overhaul.

Perhaps the biggest change is with cooking. This summer I did a series of posts asking for suggestions on breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. After reading those posts that week, Tom came home and said bluntly, “You cook too much.” (This from a man who grew up in a house with an Italian mother AND grandmother who cooked every meal, every day and then some.) However, I did see his point and a couple of slight adjustments have made a big difference. I already had the idea to streamline school day mornings with a serve-yourself breakfast/morning snack bar. (No cooking and no major clean up!) I adopted this idea from Maya and list the daily choices on a small chalkboard. (No questions!) I have also been lowering overall expectations (mostly my own) for lunches and dinners during the week and serving more leftovers. No one has noticed or complained and the time I am saving is considerable.

The second big change to our rhythm was initially postponing and then ultimately forgoing our morning walk. I knew we needed to make more time in the morning for Vincent’s main lesson which has been taking about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Vincent and I are both up early and ready to go – we don’t need a walk to get our energy going. Why wasn’t I taking advantage of this? Live and learn, I guess. So after Tom leaves, we both begin to transition to the school day. We have been beginning around 9:15-9:30, which lets us finish both main lessons before lunch. I thought about doing our walk between main lessons, but really we (well, I) need a break. So instead of walking together, the boys go outside and play for about 20 minutes, and I take the dog for a walk or sneak in a quick dvd workout.

Giving up afternoon story time is proving to be my biggest struggle, as it was my absolute favorite, favorite part of the day, everyday. However, as much as it pains me to say this, this is not all about me (lol). I started afternoon story time with the intention to encourage Vincent to read fiction. Well two years in, it has finally started to work! Now we have something every afternoon called DEAR (Drop Everything And Read). The form is the same as when we had afternoon story time: I set out a snack tray and light a candle. Instead of reading together, we are each tucked into our own book or current handwork project. This quiet time provides a nice in-breath after all the energetic playtime after lunch. I still read aloud to both boys during their individual main lessons, and we will still have our annual tradition of reading the next Little House book in January and the next Anne of Green Gables book in February.

This new pattern fits the needs of our family as a whole right now. And while we are still working out some kinks and falling into the rhythm of it all, it seems to be working out nicely for now.

*Read other examples of our yearly rhythm.

sample rhythm teaching 2 grades

sample rhythm teaching 2 grades

sample rhythm teaching 1 grade

sample rhythm teaching 1 grade

Waldorf Starter Kit

This post is a part of Waldorf Wednesday. See all the links here.

The inspiration for this post comes out of the initial frustration and paralysis I felt when trying to choose resources that would help me to homeschool with Waldorf-inspired methods. This is my third year doing this, and I have found I return again and again to a very small set of resources. I have recommended them to homeschooling friends in real life. I have recommended them to people through this blog and also people who have emailed me privately. One or more of the resources listed below can usually be found on my desk at any given time. These are the resources I use to do the bulk of my planning – both long-term planning and that last-minute “oh-no-what-are-we-going-to-do-today” planning. (Which, despite my best intentions, still occurs.)

Just a note: I am not associated with any of the companies listed below, nor am I given any royalties, favors or brownie points from any of their Waldorf Empires. All prices listed are for new items and do not include shipping.

Start with the general curriculum: I don’t use a scripted curriculum, and I just want to say that up front. I have purchased several and wind up looking at them, getting completely “spinny” in my head, and then quickly reselling them. I would be embarrassed to admit how many times I have done this. That said, I would recommend starting with some general resources that provide an overview of the Waldorf curriculum tailored specifically for homeschoolers. Especially in the beginning, and especially if you are coming to Waldorf late, I cannot recommend these 2 books more highly. They are wonderful and provide a solid grounding in Waldorf homeschooling.

  • The Christopherus Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers, Donna Simmons (Grades 1-8) $56 (new; Christopherus)
  • A Journey Through Waldorf Math, Melisa Nielsen (Grades 1-5) $18 ebook (new; Waldorf Essentials)

Add in some extras: Either of the first 2 books will provide more ideas than anyone could ever accomplish. They are chock-full of verses, crafts, recipes and stories all arranged seasonally. They make it easy to put together a daily circle time, a weekly baking day or a special festival celebration. I actually think that either one could be an early years or kindergarten program on its own. I have also thought if we ever needed to take a year off from formal homeschooling, we could structure a year around the seasons and festivals using either of these books as a spine. Anyway, I own both of them, and it varies as to which is my favorite. (Just a note: the recipes in All Year Round are written for a British kitchen and have no conversions for those of us across the pond.)

The second suggestion is an updated and expanded edition of The Waldorf Student Reading List, which used to be the best $9 you could spend. I don’t have the newer version yet (it is on my wish list though), but since it has been compiled by the same people, I feel confident it will be full of solid suggestions for read alouds that coordinate with the anthroposophical view of child development and the various main lessons for a given year. I keep The Waldorf Student Reading List in my library bag, and consult it almost every time we go to the library.

  • All Year Round, Ann Druitt, Christine Fynes-Clinton and Marije Rowling $17 (new; Amazon)
  • or
  • Family, Festivals and Food, Diana Carey and Judy Large $16 (new; Amazon)
  •  Make Way for Reading, edited by Pamela Johnson Fenner and Karen L. Rivers $18 (new; Amazon)

Get a few art supplies: Don’t feel pressured to buy a ton of art supplies all at once. (I have written more about this subject here.) I think block crayons and watercolors are the most versatile and least intimidating. Drawing with block crayons imparts a soft, gestural picture with few details. You don’t have to worry about things like facial expressions or hands. In the beginning, wet-on-wet watercolor should just be a study in color. Don’t worry about introducing form until you are comfortable with the paints themselves. This took me over a year, but some of our early color paintings are still my favorites.

Total cost – if you purchase everything – is around $140 without shipping. All of the books and supplies are useful for multiple grades, which I think increases their value even more. If you have a favorite resource or suggestion for getting started with Waldorf that is not listed above, tell us about it in the comments.