Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Divide and Conquer

It was a perfect day for me, with elements that make homeschooling fun: a very enthusiastic student in Lucy and a funny, sweet companion in Jasper. Plus a Grandma providing loving childcare for the afternoon for Lucy that is extending into a sleepover - which explains why I have time to write on the blog... With Lucy, I only homeschool on the days where nothing else is scheduled for the morning. That is when it works. Often there is an initial "I don't want to" hump to get over but then it is very good. The three of us do a circle, which includes singing and doing movements to songs she will later learn on the recorder, doing special "base sense" and midline crossing songs/verses and movement, and academic games or chants with movements (i.e. "even's end is great: 0,2,4,6,8, odd ends every time: 1,3,5,7,9"). It is fun and it works to help her learn this stuff. And Jasper knows and sings many of the songs with us and generally participates and enjoys himself.

Then we do a form drawing walk: I'm walking some combination of curvy or straight lines and after a few days of this, she tries to draw the shapes we have been walking on the chalkboard and then puts a perfected drawing of the "form" in her form drawing book. Form drawing is very Waldorf and very interesting to me. I can't say I fully understand the whys and wherefores, but I have a good feeling about it from going through the process with Lucy. It takes a lot of brain dexterity for anyone to walk a shape without having seen it and then to draw it, especially a more complex shape. But it is especially powerful for the child who is taking hold of so many new shapes all the time as she writes more and reads more and does more work with numbers. And for a child who is perpetually creative in an explosive, 3-D, anything goes kind of way, it seems very centering, controlled and grounding artistic endeavor.

We went on to our recorder practice. Lucy learned a new note today - E (she's been playing three-note songs only - G, A, and B) and all by ear. The process goes like this: we spend a few weeks singing the song as part of circle and then once a week or so, I play one of the songs we've been singing on my recorder and she follows along with hers, watching my fingers as she needs to. She gets the hang of the song quickly on the recorder because she already knows it well. We sit cross-legged on the floor facing each other, singing each song we practice first with hand motions. We then play together and she plays by herself. We go through 4 or 5 songs. I love it. She doesn't say she loves it, like she might say she loves marshmallows and movies, but I can see that it is nourishing for her and building her musical capabilities and confidence in a way that is incremental and natural, rather than stressful.

From recorder, we go to the dining room for "morning lesson" which today involved drawing Dominick Divide from a story I told a while ago and then working with the concept of division with stones. She got it quickly with stones and wanted to move on to equations. She loves to practice mental math or math facts she's memorized but she'll go to the stones if she's stumped. She told me over and over today, "my mind is a calculator!" She has stamina for the math, in a way she doesn't yet have for reading or writing. More like her stamina for drawing or any of her creative projects. She kept writing herself equations to solve and having me write them. She's most comfortable with single-digit add and subtract, but she can also manage multiply and divide, sometimes with stones and especially if I use ideas from the story I told her to give a clue (i.e. if Max Multiply picks up three treats each time he cartwheels and does three cartwheels, how many treats does he have?).

Mom arrived then to whisk Lucy away, while Jasper and I prepared for an afternoon at our old haunt: the zoo. We just fell right into the sweetest rhythm on our whole outing, reminiscent of our days at the zoo while Lucy was at Kinderhaus, except that Jasper is so much more capable, mature and just plain fun now. In keeping with his love of shape-shifting, he himself was a bear for a long stretch of our tour of the zoo. My little cub ran most of the time and insisted on sharing his sweet potato fries with me. We chatted and laughed and played games with each other (well, a game: baby bear springing out at momma bear and surprising her greatly). I gave him lots of leeway (he was a bear after all), but he was a mellow bear when it was time for a transition from here to there or when an exhibit was closed. He had lots of ideas about what he wanted to see: snakes, budgees, kangaroos, otters, bears, giraffes for starters. We topped off the visit with an extended post-zoo closure flamingo viewing that revealed how raucous and entertaining those critters are after hours. Sneaky.

He and I had the rest of the evening just the two of us too, with Rob at badminton. He ate dinner, he bathed, then he drew for a bit while I did dishes. Around 10 after 7, he said, I want to go to bed, and he went upstairs to pick a book. We read, he asked for his usual bedtime song (Swing Low) and he slept. Let's just say that I am grateful for this day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I haven't had much to say for myself. We're rocking steady around here. Jasper had croup last night, but was in great spirits all day today. It didn't hurt that we spent the bulk of the day outside at Lincoln Park in West Seattle. It was crisp but sunny and clear. We got there early for nature class and so we set up a picnic in a sunny corner of the forest. Lincoln Park is a maze of treasures - paths leading every which way, through a meadow, along a hedge, traversing the forests, winding down hills to the beach, along the top of a ridge overlooking Puget Sound. Wading pools and playgrounds pop up here and there as you walk along. Some of the trees in the park are close to 200 years old. I laid out a blanket in the sun and the kids sat there with me munching for about... 3 minutes before taking off running through the forest, Jasper a lion. I forgot what Lucy was, but she tells me "Remember, I was a little gnome?" Oh, yes, a little gnome. It was almost painfully cute to see them literally tee-hee-heeing their way through the trees and over and around and around little mounds, into brambles, across long stretches of grass.

After all that, the nature class itself almost seemed beside the point. But we did get to hang out with sweet friends, see an eagle quite close-up and pillage the bones of small rodents from pellets of owl poo. Plus Jasper got to chase around a big boy (almost 9 yrs old) named Emmet. Emmet also pushed Jasper around in his stroller - which I don't usually bring anymore, but thought Jasper might need if he got tuckered from his night of croup. Emmet is silly, well really more funny than silly says Lucy. And fun to play with. The fresh air and sunshine did us all wonders... Now I go to give Lucy her last snuggle and help Rob with (hopefully) the last dish...