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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summertime

The kids don't know it yet, but I am putting off the beginning of the school year by one more week. It is only July, and the thought of starting at the beginning of August as planned leaves me lukewarm, at best, and feeling like a cruel mother at worst. Not that homeschooling is particularly time-consuming in terms of hours in a day that we are all actually studying, writing and doing math. But it is summer, and it has been a cool one. It has also been a busy one. Almost no time that has felt lazy and unfilled with activity and obligation. We need a good couple of weeks of lazy and relaxation, and hopefully boredom to motivate a desire for more. If the hot days are about to begin, I want to be able to enjoy the beach, the garden, (and hide inside in the air-conditioning when I need to.)

This weekend was perfect; we picked up our eldest, who had spent almost a week with her grandparents in Dubuque. While we were there, Thierry and I made the most of the weekend before our anniversary to leave all of the children with grandma and grandpa and spend a lovely afternoon in Galena. We strolled the streets, window-shopped (with the exception of the yarn shop, which I spent as much time in as I could romantically allow myself. To be fair, it really is a fantastic yarn shop). We had a leisurely lunch, fudge from the candy shop I went nuts in as a kid, and coffee from a newer coffee shop across the way by the railroad station. The weather was perfect, the ambiance relaxed and us-focused. That felt like summer.

Yesterday the children and I took a bike ride at the time I should have been preparing lunch, the worst time of the day for sun exposure, and it was lovely. We accomplished nothing else the whole day except lunch and dinner. That felt like summer too.

I wish you many days of summer-like feeling for the rest of the season. Store up some sunshine before winter arrives. My plan for today; visit my tomato plants, plan our math block in detail, knit a bit (socks), finish up the laundry I began, go to the library, make lunch, take a nap with baby, read a story to the kids (Treasure Island right now), make dinner while they build a snowboard with Daddy, go to bed. Lazy enough for a mother of five!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Not crafts

I have always been a rotten craft mom. Can't come up with one single idea for popsicle sticks and that fun foam stuff leaves me uninspired, but give me some beautiful colors of embroidery floss or warm,inviting wool to knit, a sewing machine and fabric, and I become a prolifically productive individual. The past two weeks have found us busy making a doll for my little guy's birthday, with my oldest daughter knitting and sewing him a wardrobe. I also spent two days inexpertly making him a pair of overalls out of a friend's old curtains. (I can knit better than I can sew.) He is the sweetest doll, and I think my two-year old could care less. What he is really into is playing shoot-my-big-brother and watch him fall over "dead", or reading a story with mama. He will pick him up once in awhile and call him "baby" but it does not look to be a deep, endearing sort of love, oh well.

My sweet little seven-year-old girl brought me a gift yesterday; a folded-up wad of paper. When I opened it, there was a thick, pink and yellow gunky sort of design. "I made it with glue stick glue and eraser parts." That's my kind of girl. I told her about the hours I spent as a child trying to perfect the art of painting with eraser shavings (they were all pink back then) mixed with glue; tactile art. I try to encourage them in all of their artistic endeavors, though it is sometimes hard to keep breathing normally when "art" equals really big mess. They use things like ink and pen (the pen is not the problematic part of the equation), sealing wax, play dough, beeswax for modeling, colored pencils (ah, colored pencils, such a nice, clean medium!) yarn, wool potholder loops, fishing line (not cool), paint, they love paint, and real clay...I've hidden that one in the cupboard.

I had a long talk (rather a one-sided talk, since I did all of it) with a friend yesterday about Tasha Tudor. When Tasha was asked to contribute to a book on her crafting, she indignantly retorted; "I don't do crafts!" This from a woman who grew her own plants for dying her wool, split her own branches for weaving baskets and wove her own cloth for the 1830's clothes she loved so. No, she didn't "do crafts" but her life was one long creative endeavor.

What I hope to instill in my children is not a series of recipes for learning, making or doing (except perhaps for mathematical formulas and my recipe for chocolate chip scones), but a love for fine materials, for color, for taste and for living in harmony with the world around them.

Yes, in Waldorf education, this translates to teaching by example; seeing me knit, garden, sew and cook, they learn that this is a normal part of life. Painting and drawing are a mix of seeing my drawing and imitating it, painting with colors as we add them together, and free-style scribbling and finger-painting. There is a moment for each during the day. We have some instruction time and a whole lot of free time. This is not limiting as one would think. For a child to produce something of quality, be it art, writing or music, they need to have experienced quality first-hand. This does not, however, translate into coloring books and foam craft kits with pre-cut pieces (though we have been known to buy Klutz kits for things from beading to origami to snap-together animals; a dark environmental shame I will carry to the grave!) I know a few unschooling friends who will have lots to say on this topic...please feel free to leave comments, and have an artful day!