Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Money Math

Nightowl made this little clutch purse on her weaving loom. She uses it to store her money. She now earns a weekly allowance and is saving her money to purchase a flock of chicks and chicken supplies. Occasionally, her riches seem tempting so she'll bring her purse along when we do errands. She might purchase a book, stickers, etc.

With this saving and spending has come concern about how money works. Previously, she has had little interest. Watching her it became very apparent that she had no knowledge of coins, dollars or their value. So, in true homeschooling fashion we put Nightowl in charge of her money. She must keep it, count it, and consider the value. She's working on recognizing the coins, writing amounts and making change. To this end I made up a little game. I'll pull out my pocket change, hand it to her and say: "If you can tell me how much this is worth and the names of the coins you can keep it."

We've been playing for a day or so and this morning is the first day I lost. I'm out $0.36 which Nightowl has tucked away in her Chicken Fund. Bummer for me. Guess I'll need to make the game harder!

Aesop's Fables

Our first language arts block focused on Aesop's Fables. What we did with this was really pretty basic: I told Nightowl a fable from memory (they are short) and drew a picture to illustrate. She discussed the fable, came up with a descriptive sentence about said fable and then drew the picture into her Grade 2 Language arts book. At the end of the week we'd recap sometimes acting out a favorite for the Bearcub. On Wednesdays, our water color painting day, we skipped the picture drawing and tried to come up with fable paintings - this was interesting. All in all it's been pretty mellow and has a very tidy feel - which works for us.

I was eager to see Nightowl's response to the fables and I was not let down. My second-grader is sooooo moralistic about everything. These tales really appealed to her sense of right and wrong. It was even more interesting when a fable spoke directly to one of her personal issues - such as the Fox and the Grapes. My little perfectionist has a real tendency to proclaim sour grapes if she cannot complete a task. Her sentence for that particular fable was: The fox was not successful. A true statement and interesting considering the source. We're still discussing this story and the saying.

At the end of last week I gave her the copy of Aesop's to read on her own. She was delighted - for some reason this surprised me. She really does enjoy these literature lessons and seems to get a lot out of them.

Regarding the language arts watercolors: I find we are more apt to include subjects if I can make them work within the block - they just seem to fit better. Thus the watercolor fables. Our routine has been to do two paintings per week. The first deals with something from the block. The second comes from David Darcy's watercolor painting curriculum from Inspiring Your Child's Education - which is great! I highly recommend this resource for Waldorf homeschooling.

Images: #1 - The Cock and The Pearl, #2 - The Fox and the Grapes, #3 - The Dog and the Bone, #4- Belling the Cat

Sunday, October 28, 2007

2nd Grade Form Drawing - Part 1

We're doing forms a little differently this year. Rather than doing a long form drawing block we do forms once a week, on Monday mornings. Our other difference is that I'm using an actual story (that I did not make up) to present the forms.

Truth: I borrowed with idea from Sara, yet again. Last year she did form drawing using the Clown of God, retold and illustrated by Tomie de Paola. I like this story very much, it has a nice spiritual feel and works really well with the focus of second grade. The Clown of God is the story of Giovanni, a beggar child who can juggle.

My my plan is to use this story through Christmas - as it is a Christmas story that ends on Christmas Day. Our final form will show the final scene of the story. I have a hardcover copy of the book that I plan to present to her on that day. As this story ends we will begin our second, main lesson, language arts, block focusing on stories of the Saints. I just love it when things tie in nicely.

So far it's going well. Nightowl is having no trouble with the forms, so I might adjust my plans to include more difficult forms. Until then, here's what we've done so far:

#1 - Giovanni, #2 - Juggling,

#3 - the crowd, young and old, #4 - the traveling players

#5 - Giovanni joins the traveling players, #6 - Giovanni's clown suit

I find that I'm liking this weekly version of form drawing better because it spreads out this extremely intense activity, allows us to explore more forms, and keeps Nightowl involved in the serial of the story. Its good recall for her to re-tell the story each week. Plus, she is not getting overwhelmed by the activity - which was one of our problems last year. Finally, with this schedule we have the feeling of doing many different subjects as opposed to just a single block; it keeps things interesting. I'm already considering what we'll do for the January - June forms. I'm not sure yet, but there are a number of interesting possibilities.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Give me that Old Time Schoolin'

On the Monday of my return home we had a field trip scheduled, thank heavens. Our community school corp maintains an 1800s school house out in the woods, just north of our little town. Every year there are a number of field trips and camps. This year our homeschool co-op got in on the fun and got to attend a day of old-time school.

That day Nightowl put on a calico dress, apron and sunbonnet. She carried her bread and butter lunch in a tin pale, her McGuffy First reader, and slate. I dropped her off at the school, crossed my fingers and returned home.

That sounds more dramatic than it was. I knew she'd be fine. We've been reading the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nightowl is quite caught up in the story. We also use a set of McGuffy Readers from the 1800s as a way to practice reading. Quite recently I began asking Nightowl to recite from the readers. She was well prepared. Plus, she got to share a seat with her best pal Sunburst and saw a number of other homeschool friends from the co-op.

When I picked her up at the end of the day she was ready to go. There was no air-conditioning in the school and she was hot. She hadn't had enough water; she's an all-day sipper and modern water bottles were not allowed. But she did enjoy herself - especially the dressing up part. She let me know that while she liked the trip she did not want to attend a week-long old-time school summer camp.

What made me giggle was the fact that a bunch of homeschoolers were sending their kids to an old-time school so that they could experience the difference from modern schooling. Ha! ((Oh, I know there was more to it than that - but it made me giggle all the same.))

Photos: #1 - Inside the school. #2 - The school marm takes attendance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I shared my flight home from Canada with The Four Bettys, the 2007 International Queens of Harmony. They were crowned on Friday after the contest and, yes, they wore their crowns on the plane. The trip was also shared by members from at least four other choruses and a renowned director. There was singing on board and even a rousing round of applause.

It was that way all week. From my flight out last Monday (I met 12 members of my chorus in the airport) to the taxi to the hotel (cued up with chorus members from New Zealand), to every restaurant we sampled (Anyone have a pitch pipe? Let's sing while we're waiting for our meal), to our day off hiking in the Canadian Rockies (Yes, we ran into Sweet Adelines in the mountains) - it was complete submersion.

We rehearsed daily, shared rooms, hotels, transport. We talked barbershop, costumes, scoring and stats. We discussed coaching and held hands. We sweated through rehearsals. My chorus ate meals together in mass and in small groups. After the contest we hung out in the bar, listened to quartets strolling by and processed our performance.

It was grand, exhilarating, distressing, stressful, joyous, rejuvenating and exhausting. In one week my phsyical and emotional state hit the following hightlights:
  • exhaustion from travel preparations
  • sick with a horrible head cold
  • teary at the spontaneous marriage of a chorus member and her partner (cause they can do that it Canada)
  • healed from the aforementioned head cold
  • well rested, ready to perform
  • excited, exhilerated, and blissful in anticipation
  • disappointed about our performance
  • bitter about our performance
  • sad about our performance
  • awed by the natural beauty of the Canadian Rockies
  • dizzy with discussion of our performance, our chorus and the state of Sweet Adelines
  • breathless at the sight of Lake Louise
  • exhausted from travels
  • peaceful from the mountains
  • resigned to our performance and the results
  • positive about our performance and the results
  • happy with the trip
  • ready to move foward.
All of this in seven days. Whew. True we were not happy with our performance, we knew we could have done better. However, we did place 12th and that's a great thing. We did get to sing, gloriously, in the Calgary Saddledome to an audience of thousands. We did get a standing ovation. Nothing to sneeze at.

I had my last dose of convention during the ride home from the airport. Our driver had recorded our performance and three of us huddled around a latop computer, watching, as we wound our way home in the dark, early morning hours. What did I notice? Simply that this hobby is quite wonderful.

I woke on Monday to a school field trip and children whiney from too much time away from Mom. It was wonderful to see them and hand out my presents. Nightowl asked me quite seriously: "Why didn't you win Mommy?" (She had watched the webcast here at home.)

After I explained that we hadn't done our best on stage she asked again - "Why not?" Nerves? Lack of focus? Insecurity? We talked about all of it. Her next question took me by surprise: "Will you give up?"

My answer was, of course not - because while it is easy to get wrapped up in the contest, the real joy is the singing. That's what it's all about - the singing. Then she made a lovely mental leap and brought up her violin playing and how the songs are getting harder, but more beautiful. There are days that she wants to give up, but she doesn't. Together we plow through with our individual struggles to learn notes and create music. It is not easy, but it is worth it.

Her last question: What did you bring me? I brought out the maple candy and quartet CDs I'd brought home. Then I showed her the picture of the mountains and Lake Louise and described my day hiking in the icy cold air near the glacier. Her last gift: a glacial rock for her nature collection. She seemed quite satisfied.

Me? I'm getting re-grounded. Re-entry is always a bit awkward. I exclaimed joyfully when a chorus member called yesterday evening - it had been a whole day since I'd seen her. And I've got the barbershop music playing constantly. And I'm still processing all of it. And I'm getting ready for our next concert and checking out our newest piece of music, the oh-so-challenging "Good-bye, World." And my job is calling. And my kids are calling. And I'm glad it is all still here. And I'm waiting for the DVD of our Calgary performance and our next rehearsal. Back to life. Back to reality. Happy sigh.

Photos: #1 - CCC Singing the Ballad in Calgary, #2 - CCC Singing the Up-tune in Calgary (check me out!) #3- Lake Louise and Victoria Glacier, Alberta Canada, Canadian Rockies, #4 - Chataeu Fairmont, Lake Louise

Monday, October 08, 2007


Tonight I am leaving.

I've packed my bags and shown Chillymama the homeschool schedule. I've got my passport and my in-flight knitting project. Friends I am leaving. For seven (S-E-V-E-N) whole, glorious days I'll be gone.


Because I belong to this cult. A large group of barbershop singing and performing women. And this week is our annual international contest. Ok, it's not really a cult but it's kinda cult-like considering the amount of personal devotion I have to this decidedly splinter group hobby.

I was thinking about it this week, as I was packing and itemizing my lists and keeping my voice warm. My chorus is my first, and longest commitment. I auditioned and joined this group in 1993. I was a mere 23-years-old, a pup! For almost 15 years rehearsals have taken place weekly, on the same night at various locations. The membership of the group has waxed and waned but the core stays steady. We sing and work and rehearse on weekends devoting money and travel time and sleep. Cult? Maybe. Chillymama sometimes calls herself a barbershop widow. She's not completely wrong.

And here's the kicker: I've been involved for 15 years minus some downtime to get kinda married and birth and nurse babies. This is longer than I've known my partner or children or cats - and I'm not considered along time member. Heavens no. That honor goes to the 50 year members. At 15, I'm just a babe in the woods with grand aspirations toward the 50 year mark. Although this goal could prove tricky as Chillymama's schedule is going to change to evenings and I'm not sure about rehearsals and childcare with my commute. Ah, yes I'm so wacky devoted that I commute for this hobby (just like about half of the other members - think: cult). But I can't think about this scheduling dilemma right now - I've got to concentrate on the upcoming singing.

Truthfully, it's all about the singing. There is nothing, nothing, like singing in harmony with 100 other women. The music gets into your body and raises the gooseflesh and just erupts from within. It is the best kind of therapy ever. It is like seeing the face of God smiling. It makes me calm, revives my soul and renews my spirit. Sure it's competitive singing but it's not really about the winning - it's about perfecting the art. Singing really well means you make it to the international level. Singing really, really well means you make it from the International Semi-Finals to the Finals. And friends, my chorus sings really, really, really well. So well, in fact that we're competing this year. It's glorious. The music, the women, the make-up, the sequins, the jazz hands - all of it.

So I'm going. Off for a week with my cult, er...chorus. And I don't regret a minute of my leaving or my preparations to leave.

If you're interested in the show you can watch the contest live, via the free webcast. Here's the direct link: http://www.sweetadelineintl.org/webcast.cfm.

My chorus is contestant #20 in the Semi-Finals, performing at 3:44 Mountain Time. Check it out and see if you can find me. I'll be the fabulous redhead in the front row.

For now, I'm leaving - no email, no cell-phone, no day to day general stuff. Just one big musical party. I'm going.

These Days

Looking for Nightowl? Most days this is where you'll find her, with her nose buried in a book.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Watching and Doing

We've been doing a lot of natural, Natural Science. That's really the only way I can explain it. For most of this month's block we've spent time outside observing nature. We're watching. Talking about what we see. Watching some more. We've taken field trips to two orchards and a local farm to watch some sheep sheering. As a bonus, on the sheering trip, the kids discovered a great big spider and watched as it caught, trapped and wrapped a cricket. Then they all looked on as the spider moved in to taste its meal. It was pretty amazing.

In the Hand book of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock, 1911 she writes:
Nature-study cultivates the child's imagination , since there are so many wonderful and true stories that he may read with his own eyes, which affect his imagination as much as does fairy lore....bringing to him a love of the beautiful; it brings to him early a perception of color, form, and music.
This book has become my new favorite for homeschooling. Ms. Comstock was an early elementary teacher and staunch advocate for moving the classroom outside as much as possible. In this amazing tome she entreats all teachers to let their students observe freely, learn to question and revel in the joys of discovery.

Plus, this "handbook" (900 pages!) lists, by subject information on virtually everything in the observable natural world. Ok, this is probably an exaggeration, but hey it seems like a lot. If there is something we want to observe I just check the book on where to find it. The book also gives a short lesson for each subject. These are basically, open ended questions about the bug, flower, tree or mammal that you might be watching - ways to get the discussion going.

Thus far we have not created a good book for natural science. We've done no fact searching or elaborate drawing - I'm sure this might emerge, Nightowl loves to draw, but it's not part of the lesson. For now we are watching. This is a challenge for me, too, as I'm a library junkie and most inclined to use the library info center or look up a topic on Google. Following my nose is not my first inclination. Got a question? Look it up in a book. Well for now, we're trying not too.

In regard to doing - we're cooking. The kitchen has become our lab. We are working together to create meals and process food for the winter. We've been experimenting with natural fermentation (via Nourishing Traditions). We've made fermented ginger-carrot relish, yogurt, and fermented grains for breakfast and baked goods. We've learned to can, and to be careful when handling knives. We've harvested and dried our herbs.

Nightowl is itching to try natural dyeing, make our own cheese, and harvest yeast spores from the air (sourdough). And while working in our lab we discuss what we eat, what our food eats, and where food comes from.

My views on food and food production changed recently when I read Michael Pollen's: The Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. This amazing book has influenced our homeschooling. As a family we are trying to lower our food mileage - better for the planet and better for us. We want our food as natural as it can be - grass fed meats, local produce. We talk about how we eat what our food eats - and what do we really want to eat? Interestingly we all like our food better when we view it this way. Nightowl is taking a class on permaculture and it is influencing her choices regarding water, planting, cooking, using the car, and nature.

I have also noticed that the way she interacts with nature is quieter, more reflective and more purposeful. Recently, she mentioned that she wanted to learn more about bats. "How shall we do that?" I asked her. "I guess we'd better go out and find some." she replied. I think Ms. Comstock would be proud.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Gnoming Along

Ok, so now we're really Waldofers - we're making gnomes. This just cracks me up. For our first second grade craft we started needle felting. Nightowl really enjoys it. I'm in the process of creating the four math gnomes to use with our November math block. Nightowl, is making a large, harvesty gnome. More images of the completed project once we've finished and I have a working camera again.