Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm a musician!

If your in-laws have recently arrived for a month-long visit and your house is topsy-turvey, or if the scale says you've put on five pounds though you've been dieting for the past two weeks, if you can't draw to save your life and your last cake fell because you can't bake is an instant confidence-booster:

Learn to play the recorder. Right now. In about five minutes. Then go play a song. It feels great!

I have been procrastinating. For about a year. Since adopting many Waldorf ways to our home setting a year or so ago, I have been avoiding the recorder. Waldorf schools begin their day in singing or playing the recorder. Doesn't that sound lovely? I would love to start our days in music, but poetry is as close as we were coming, and that was pretty good. Besides, I had to master it myself before I could teach the children, and I simply had no time for one more thing. Sure, my daughter taught herself and my husband can pick it up and play it. And once upon a time I played it as a small child with my mother's tutelage. The plan was to work on it some day, when I had a minute, and "layer it in" as our homeschool consultant advises of each new endeavor.

I checked out a book on flutes and recorders from the library. Yesterday, with hubby and parents out of the house, I picked up the once-renewed, about-to-be-due book, turned to the finger chart and played through the exercises on the first page. Then I zipped through the second, third and last page and thought; huh, I can do this. I pulled the only recorder book I could find off the shelf; a Christmas duet book I'd ordered a few years ago when my dd decided she would learn recorder. It is May and I know we have other recorder books somewhere in this playroom, but I was not about to argue with fate or reorganize my library. Ten minutes later I was playing "Away in a Manger."

Victory! My kind of instrument!

Yes, friend, you too can play music, you too can make melodious your household each morning...Karen Carpenter was right...and even if you cannot and should not sing (like me), you can play the recorder. Go on, find yourself a $2.50 recorder ( has a couple at this price), check out a book at the library, and you'll be on your way!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The In-laws Have Arrived

After a wait of seven years and much planning, dreaming and some dreading, my in-laws arrived Saturday night for a month-long stay. This is their first time in the United States, their first time leaving France, and the first time they have visited our family since we moved here in 2001. Such an event!

The last time they visited we had two children, not five, and we lived an hour and a half from their home, not 20. We were not homeschooling then either, and we had not converted to a simpler, more practical way of cooking and eating, and if I was still nursing a toddler, I was hiding it! Oh yeah, and I was not trying to plan the first family reunion in years and years with my family and them too, nor a family trip to Chicago, two birthdays, French Mother's Day, Father's day, shopping trips and sightseeing.

Will I have any hair left when they leave?

It has all begun splendidly, with many gifts and much joy all around. We made a real French meal yesterday for lunch, (at the end of which my father-in-law said only: don't you have any lettuce here?) They helped us in the yard all day. We took them on a walk, made a nice dinner, with fresh-from-the-oven scones and gingerbread in the shape of roosters (the French national bird.)

We are all on our very best behavior, we shall try to maintain this for one short month and all go home with happy memories. Watch for updates.

Friday, May 2, 2008


At circle time yesterday, our daily morning gathering, every single person named "park day!" as their joy for the day. The three-year-old named it his sorrow too; but he always has two joys every morning; one he calls "my joy" the other "my sorrow". (His baby brother is usually his sorrow, and though we know he means it to be a joy, you have to wonder...) After a winter hiatus of meeting in church basements and gymnasiums, and many weeks of illness keeping us from our weekly appointment with friends, we were all thrilled to be meeting our friends outside again.

Being an intensely private person, from a family of people that love to be alone, the whole concept of purposely planning a get-together with a bunch of other people with a zillion kids is a painful notion, at best. I have practiced play date resistance successfully ever since we moved to this country seven years ago. No mommy groups for me, thank you! But I have to tell you, this weekly rendez-vous has become the highlight of our week. And it was finally nice enough yesterday to go back to the park.

Not for you, a set play date each week? Bear with me a moment, if you will, while I convince you of the error of your ways. Knowing that one day each week you are setting aside for play and (the great buzz word of the school people, "socialization") creates several advantages. One, you get to see your friends and talk to people you like. Two, the children get a running, shouting, friend-filled day to look forward to. This is good for everyone. But you must make sure that your park day is with people you like to spend time with, because, don't tell the kids, but the socialization is mostly for you. Three, in setting up a regular day each week, you help to build a rhythm to your week, a fundamental of a Waldorf environment and good for children. Children do well with some sort of regularity in their lives. It need have nothing to do with school work or a school day. I know that's part of the reason you are homeschooling, us too, gleefully even! However, working rhythm into their lives in agreeable ways is both reassuring for them and makes life easier for you. Since I stopped asking myself the question each week of "Are we going to playgroup?" it has become easier to plan my week around it, prepare a loaf of bread for sandwiches the night before, or throw together a pasta salad and fruit. It has become a part of my routine, and not something I try to add in at the last minute.

How to go about creating a park date? Well, this is how it worked for us. A few homeschooling friends were meeting sporadically on nice days at the park a few years ago. Each week we would work out what day and where we would meet the following week. One day we decided we would set a day each week. We fiddled with the meeting time and place, but finally settled on Wednesday around lunch time. Little by little, our group grew. One brilliant woman had already set up a website for area homeschoolers that was inclusive to all, no matter what your reasons for homeschooling were. I began posting our weekly meetings there to get the word out. Last year we had our first "Not back to school picnic," in September. Over 25 families attended.

Our group is special, in that it is inclusive and unique in the area. I very clearly desired a space to come together, first with friends whose families had grown to the point of making getting together at our houses impractical. Second, one in which my family and I might connect with people from many places and many walks of life. Exploring the world is part of why we have chosen to homeschool.

Connecting with others who felt this way has been such a good part of my life. Dedicating a time for play for all honors the child in each of us. If you haven't already, you might want to give it a try.