Friday, September 27, 2013

Spanish 101, Waldorf-style

We have incorporated Spanish for many years; singing, reading picture books, counting and using some phrases. I wanted to move forward with the language with the children, so I ordered a new book, and combined it with art to form a Waldorf lesson-a-day in Spanish. Besides the polite phrases we are learning to use with each other, we will draw the lesson from a very concrete sentence. This morning's dilemma? This is not the way ("La manzana esta sobre la mesa,") I ever said; "the apple is on the table," in Spanish!!! Thoughts, Spanish speakers? I would have said, "la manzana esta en la mesa." But I lived in Spain, not Latin America, and it was many years ago now. !Gracias!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Aah, September; School and the Rest

The cool, crisp mornings of autumn are finally here...and I feel uplifted in every way. I've been wanting to write a post of gratitude for the fall weather, but I was too busy enjoying it with my family and friends!

School is back in session; 11th grade and encouragement for my 16-yr.old daughter. She published her first book about a month ago!!!
Here is a link, and shame on me for not posting about this sooner; we are all sort of basking in her glow.
 She is largely on her own for her studies, with a German tutor and a math tutor, but I impose some reading to give her new perspective and look into subjects she would otherwise pass by. Here is the book I have given her to read for science; it is an excellent summary of scientific history for the past 100 years and further back. I enjoyed it, and I think she will too, as soon as she is done grumbling about how long it it.
The Making of the Atomic Bomb: 25th Anniversary Edition

10th grade and public high school for my son who is 15. He is playing football for the first time. I am a mother, I worry. I am also proud of him; he has been so motivated to get into shape, train and run and lift...and learn all about the game. He is giving us lessons this week, as we all gear up for the Homecoming game Friday night. Growing up in a sailing, cycling and rugby-loving home, you get to discover everything about football all on your own.
Duncan; second row from bottom, far left

2nd-year kindergarten is what my 6-year-old guy has going on. He has Super-Gael the Gnome stories from Early Years Curriculum by Melisa Nielson, nature and gardening time, counting and manipulating bigger numbers than last year, cooking and baking with me or with Dad, painting, singing, music and knitting.

3rd grade for my son who just turned 9, has the happy chance to fall on the same year that his Sunday school class focuses on our Judeo-Christian heritage and the Bible. And this is my year to teach that class at church too.

6th grade begins with a bit of a return to 5th grade. My daughter is 11, going-on-12, and we did not finish it "all" last year, but we focused on ancient cultures and botany, as she was very interested in plants and growing them. We will continue with a study of Greece to lead us into Rome. We read the myths of Greece last year, but the parts I do not want to miss are The Trial and Death of Socrates
 and Alexander the Great . Some heavy reading is in store for the week. The Romans are better suited for a 12-year-old anyway. 

We started out the year with local history and geography, expanding to the rest of North America and South America. We learned about the Native Americans who first lived here, and about the settlers from the East who arrived not so very long ago in the big scheme of things. I chose one biography to read together, someone I knew would capture their interest and hearts for a spell; John Paul Jones, in a book called The Pirate Patriot.

Charles, grade 3 and I,  have continued on to follow the story of the family in A Journey Through Waldorf Homeschooling, Grade 3, whose Jewish grandmother comes for a visit. We've begun reading stories from the Old Testament, or as I learned while prepping my Sunday School lessons, it is also called; The Hebrew Testament.  We have already been incorporating Native American stories and fun history books about their way of life, because my boy has been interested in this piece of history for awhile. His big goal is to build a really cool tee-pee, mine is to find a place to store said tee-pee. 

Outings were rather severely limited for the first couple of weeks. A good friend took them to the pool often, which was fortuitous, because it was darned hot. Every single day for weeks on end it was in the 90s or above. The motivation to leave the house was not strong, and they took turns getting a yucky virus for a week or so, as well.  

We joined our local art museumThe Figge during that time, and enjoyed being amazed and creative in air-conditioned bliss.

A trip to the "Tractor Place" was absolutely necessary, because we had a guest with us from BVI; or the British Virgin Islands. No one minded, from the youngest up to myself. This is a museum-like display place for various John Deere tractors, combines and harvesters. You can climb up the biggest machines and sit in the cab, or knit while the children climb and explore the interactive programs.

We were offered a zoo membership, for which I am so grateful. It is one of those places that feel as though you do not have time to see enough in one visit. They give mini-lessons on a different animal twice a day too, so we make sure to find the animal du jour and the 2 waiting zoo keepers for the talk when we are there. Like the art museum, the first visit is like an intro for kids; they are too excited re-discovering everything at high-speed that we do not have a minute to settle down and focus. The visits are invariably richer and less frenzied the next time around.

The guest? Funny you should ask. I could either respond; "a charming, quiet, but quick-witted young exchange student, who came to discover the Midwest and stayed with us for a month". Or I could say; "some tall-ship sailor, 17-turning-18, who met my daughter and requested permission to visit and camp out in someone else's backyard." You will remember that Cate sailed upon a historical replica of a tall ship back in July. She spent a week aboard the fabulous Unicorn. Sailing has been a passion of hers for's sort of in her blood. So when she met another young person with as much love for sailing and drive to continue it, they hit it off and became fast friends. They are both writing books and both planning and plotting to get back on a tall-ship as soon as they are able. He turned 18 while he was here, so we honored him with some true Iowa treasures.

With the delicious cooler weather, tea time is once again a favorite moment of the day, replacing iced coffee or smoothies.

We have been very blessed this summer and this fall season. I hope you have been too.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

DIY Laundry Soap: Best-Ever!

There are many variations of this to be found on Pinterest and online, here is a super-easy, effective one. It smells lovely and makes enough for over 600 loads of laundry. The addition of Oxyclean (or its generic equivalent thereof), helps add brightness and removes stains. Changing out the Fels Naptha for lavender soap adds the calming, clean smell of lavender, my favorite. My source? A sweet mother of seven sitting next to me in our kids' kung-fu class!

4 lbs. Baking Soda
4lbs. Washing Soda
4lbs. Borax (20 Mule Team)
3.5lbs. Oxyclean
3 bars of Fels Naptha soap, grated
(I used one bar of this, 2 bars of a natural lavender soap)
Container: one big plastic tote works great for mixing
Smaller containers for storage

Pour in and mix all ingredients. Use 1Tbsp. per load.
The first 3 ingredients come in boxes with close to this exact amount, some are 3.7lbs, some 4.1. I happened to have leftover pouches or bigger boxes of some ingredients; I just used the Borax box to measure out quantities. It is approximately equal amounts of each ingredient.

DIY Laundry Soap

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Crunchy Not-Wanna-Be

Grating a bar of lavender soap into a large bin of mixed natural detergents, I had shed all traces of my previous existence. Really? I have to make my own laundry soap? Yet there I was, enjoying the whole thing too; nuts.

"Crunchy" for me meant a bad hair day, when I needed so much gel to calm the frizzies that the word defined the texture atop my head. The sort of mother I was meant to be was, first of all, loving and engaged with my kids. Then efficient, keeping it all together, teaching them their ABCs, math facts, and in time, world politics and involvement in one's immediate community. Next, elegant and chic, or at least sort of always somewhat put together. Earth mother was not my goal.

Here I am, 16 years later, in an average house in an average neighborhood, having nursed five babies for too many years to count, given birth three times at home, washed a million cloth diapers, making each meal from scratch, growing herbs and 3 tomatoes per season (the clay in our backyard really stinks for vegetable-growing)...and grating soap to wash the family's laundry. Oh...and we homeschool, of course. 

Though my goal was not crunchy per se, it was and always will be, to do things in a way gentle to the earth and in the best interest for health and well-being. To that end, I will cook real food, bike where I can, reuse rather than re-buy and toss, and even grate soap on a Sunday morning.

Life is beautiful. Crazy, but beautiful.  Recipe for the other crazies, can be found above.