Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Making a Nature Table

First off, sorry for my absenteeism! I've been quite busy researching and marveling over this whole homeschooling thing. In my research, I've discovered the wonder and beauty of Waldorf-inspired homeschooling, and I think this is the direction we are going to take with our little ones. I love how it is so grounded in nature and in the arts, and helps to create such a beautiful and rich life experience for children. I've bought a couple of books to help get me started. One is Kindergarten with your Three to Six Year Old, by Donna Simmons. The other is Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer. I've been devouring both of them, and working on putting in place some of the many wonderful suggestions they have to offer. One of my favourite suggestions has been the Nature Table! A Nature Table is basically a place for you and your children to celebrate the beauty of each season. When you go on your daily walks, you can find things in nature that represent the season, and bring them home and place them on the Nature Table. It helps the children get a strong sense of the yearly rhythm of the seasons by helping them to appreciate and celebrate them. Some people also add various other things to their tables, like handmade seasonal accessories. I was even thinking of making seasonal curtains for the window above the shelf (yes, our table is actually a shelf - our shoe shelf, actually!). Our table will evolve as we add things to it and change it around. On there now is a tart burner, burning a beeswax candle with apple peels and cinnamon sticks in the top (which makes the house smell wonderfully of fall), some pinecones (that we painted!), some acorns and rocks that we found on our walks, and some gourds and Indian corn we got at the farm where we get our produce. The kids are really enjoying it, and I love that I don't just have a boring ol' shoe shelf in our entryway!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

So much to do, so little time...

It seems that as we plunge further into this lifestyle, the work that needs doing just continues to expand... yet the number of hours in a day stays the same! I'm in awe of those of you who can juggle all of your responsibilities successfully, and not drop any balls. (And if you're reading, feel free to leave me some tips!!).

My husband and I have had some further discussion about homeschooling, and have decided that since legally, we are not required to register our daughter for school until the year she turns six, we're going to hold off on becoming official homeschoolers until next year. That gives us a year to feel our way through this, and figure out what the heck we are doing. :) That definitely eases some of the burden on me, as it gives me plenty of time to research and gather curriculum (as much as is needed for a kindergartener). We're still going to do some unofficial homeschooling, but definitely a very relaxed approach. I just feel like four-going-on-five year olds should still just get to be kids. Thank goodness, because that leaves a little more time for everything else!

My dear husband is working on fixing up the basement to make it habitable... and creating a playroom/schoolroom for the kids. I am counting the days until there is no longer a train table and a sea of toys in my living room. :) The only downside is that whatever precious free time he has will be spent holed up in the basement for the foreseeable future, which means he has less time to help me with the regular household stuff. But I'm quite happy to grin and bear it if it means we finally get a play room!

Last week-end we had a lovely visit with my husband's family in the beautiful Annapolis valley. The Valley is a beautiful agricultural community, and is best known for its apples! I was determined to come home with as many apples as we could fit in the van. We picked some of our own, and bought some, and all told, we have 30 pounds of apples. They weren't certified organic, but they were pesticide-free, which is good enough for me! Do you know how much we paid for 30 pounds of pesticide-free, practically organic apples? $14.00. At the grocery store we would have paid five times that much. And what am I going to DO with all of those apples? Make pies, of course! Lots and lots of pies. And freeze them for winter. With all my spare time. And here's the kicker. I have never actually made a pie. Ever. Not even with a store-bought crust. Even if I wanted to, I'm not sure I could find time to make ONE pie. But somehow I am going to make like 30 of them. If I manage to pull this off, I promise to take a picture. :)

Also, our little Square Foot Garden is producing like mad! We have already harvested all of our radishes, eaten some crisp, perfect sugar snap peas, steamed some beautiful yellow beans, and today, my husband appeared at the back door with two perfect (albeit small) green peppers. We had them in a stir-fry tonight, and they were crisp and green and as flavourful as you could imagine! And there are lots more to come. But I am afraid... very, very afraid... as we planted 16 square feet of tomatoes. And they are all going to ripen at pretty much the exact same time. That is a LOT of tomatoes. So what are we going to DO with all of those tomatoes and peppers? Make salsa, of course! Lots and lots of salsa. (We are big salsa eaters!). So if all goes well, we will never have to buy another pie or jar of salsa again. Well, for a few months, anyway.

So far we have picked (at a U-Pick) and frozen several pounds of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries for smoothies all winter. And made strawberry jam, strawberry rhubarb jam, and blueberry jelly. I want to freeze some peaches while they're fresh and in season as well (peaches in a smoothie are YUMMY!). It's so much cheaper to freeze fresh fruit in season than to try to buy it in the winter. Our goal is eventually to be able to grow and/or freeze/preserve almost all of our food. Luckily I won't have a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and a five-month-old forever. :) Just when I think I can't possibly find room on my plate for one more thing, I somehow manage to squeeze something else in there.

And soon it will be time to get our wood delivered and stacked and then we'll be all set for winter. I love the cozy feeling it brings when all of your hard work pays off, and you finally get to enjoy the fruits of your labour. I look forward to cozying up by the fire and doing some crocheting, and maybe munching on some nachos and homemade salsa. :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Holy crap, we're homeschoolers! :)

Well, today would have been the first day of Kindergarten. Our daughter was registered, school supplies bought, and we had been singing the praises of "Big Girl School" for weeks. However, this nagging, gnawing feeling in my gut just would not go away. The feeling that I needed to look deeper into homeschooling. I had toyed with the idea of homeschooling in the past, but never really thought I could do that, and certainly didn't for a minute think that my husband would agree to it. But as the countdown to "Big Girl School" began, I found myself devouring more and more information about homeschooling, and ultimately I knew that this was the path I wanted to choose for our family. But I was also scared to death. How would I tell people we weren't sending our kids to school? Could I really be responsible for my childrens' education? Weren't those public school teachers professionally trained? How could I possibly rival what they did? What the heck did I know about teaching?? Well then I realized, I had been teaching them all along. Through our day-to-day interactions, through answering her bazillion questions a day, through exploring, by helping her learn the names of all the bugs she was catching in her bug cage, by planting and tending our garden, by baking muffins, by reading together. I never deliberately taught her to crawl or walk or talk, but somehow, she managed to figure that out without any professional guidance. Could it be true that learning could happen in the real world, and not just inside the four walls of a classroom? Is it possible that being inside the four walls of a classroom could actually inhibit learning instead of fostering it? As my mind raced with all of these thoughts, my greatest concern was my husband's reaction. After all, I had been gently (or perhaps not so gently) making changes to our lifestyle over the past couple of years. Would this be the one thing that would put him over the edge and think I had finally lost it? I carefully compiled a list of pros and cons for homeschooling, the list of pros being 7 pages long, and only 3 little cons (none of which couldn't be overcome with a little creativity). I presented him with my list, and he read it over, and said "Sure. I think she's too young for school anyway". I nearly fell to the floor. Have I mentioned that I have the best husband ever?? :)

So instead of shipping my little almost-five-year-old off to school today, we attended a "Not-Back-to-School" pool party with a local homeschool group. I felt like we were playing hookie, and I loved every minute of it. :) I'm so excited to learn and grow with my children, and to see this big wide world of ours through their eyes. To continue to be as close as we have been thus far, and to not yet have to experience the heartache of sending them away. We're planning to take it year by year and see how it goes. Yesterday I called the school to tell them she wouldn't be attending, which made it all very official and real. Holy crap, we're homeschoolers. :)