Monthly Archives: January 2013

Homeschool Mother’s Journal–Our First Full Week Back to Homeschooling

ID-10049990In my life this week… This was a stressful week. It was our first week back to our usual schedule and Dora had a very hard time with the transition. Then today, I had a nightmare doctor’s appointment. I went to the nephrologist for a follow-up appointment, just to learn that most of my lab work was supposedly lost. I was told that would have to go back to the lab to have it redone. When I got to the lab, however, I learned that the results were not lost at all, so I walked back to my doctor’s office to hand deliver the results (sadly just walking to and from the lab left me completely exhausted). Annoyingly, my doctor had a full case load today and was not able review the results with me. There were a couple of take things that I was able to glean from the whole experience. Firstly, it has now been 100% confirmed by a nephrologist that my kidneys are not functioning properly. Also, since I carried my lab results by hand, I could not help but notice that a few of the results were bolded, highlighted, AND asterisked, one of which cardiac/enzyme markers. I was majorly freaked out by this as no one had even told me that there might be something wrong with my heart! Being the modern and paranoid woman that I am, I Goggled the test results as soon as I got home and I learned that this particular test really doesn’t have much to do with my heart. Whew! The surprise, however, was that lab result and every abnormal lab result that I had, seem to point to me having an autoimmune disease, probably lupus (this part is based on my “professional” lab interpreting opinion, so don’t quote me). I guess the nephrologist had suspected it, which is why she ordered the test, but she hadn’t mentioned it to me, so it came as a bit of a shock. Now I am eagerly waiting to hear back from her to see where I go from here. I know exactly what time she will call, because it’s the only time anyone calls me – the minute I try to go to the bathroom.

In our homeschool this week… Dora is really responding to our Waldorf inspired approach to homeschooling. Today, both she and I were completely wonked out after the stressful day I had. We had not had time to do circle time all day and finally, right before our very LATE dinner, she was completely falling apart and I asked her if there was anything I could do for her and she said, “We haven’t done circle time all day! Can we do circle time?” So we sang our songs, read our poetry, and reread Trouble with Trolls, by Jan Brett. She immediately calmed down and was a much more pleasant person to be around for the rest of the evening. By the way, Trouble with Trolls is a great book! If you read it, be sure to follow the action that occurs at the bottom of the page, in particular, pay attention to the hedgehog. Meanwhile, Gohan asked to skip the rest of his pre-algebra book and go straight into algebra. Essentially, we covered most of pre-algebra last year with Montessori materials, but I didn’t feel he was ready to go into algebra this year for a variety of reasons. He has decided that he wants to start being more hardcore in terms of prepping for college, though, so we’ll be switching to Saxon Algebra 1. I’ve warned him that he will really need to buckle down and work hard, but he seems very determined. He even wants to do year-round school so that he can finish Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra 2 by the end of his sophomore year (he is halfway through 8th grade now).


Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… In theory, tomorrow we are going to the Seattle Aquarium and the new giant Ferris wheel they built on the pier. The mere thought of such an excursion exhausts me right now, however, Dora really wants to go, so we’ll see… We do have tickets to this Saturday’s kids symphony show. Otherwise, we just spent the week trying to get back into our weekly rhythm. 


My favorite thing this week was… The snowflakes that fell on my face as I trekked to and from the lab’s offices today. We’ve not had any snow this year and this snow did not stick, but it was a bright moment for me during what, was otherwise, a horrible experience.


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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.


Labels: Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Days of the Week in Gnomeville

Gnomes - Days of the Week

With Waldorf education, one usually does not start any academic work until the child is in first grade and/or at least 6 1/2. So though I wanted to continue doing daily weather/nature journaling with Dora, I decided that I needed to change my approach in order to be in better synch with Waldorf philosophy. Firstly, I decided not to focus on the month, date, or year at all. Secondly, I decided that we would start using gnomes to represent the days of the week. Each gnome is painted in the color that Rudolf Steiner associated with each day of the week:

Monday – Purple

Tuesday – Red

Wednesday – Yellow

Thursday – Orange

Friday – Green

Saturday – Blue

Sunday – White

Steiner also associated a planet and grain with each day of the week. All of these associations have to do with anthroposophy, but it just so happens that it also makes for a great way for children to remember the days of the week and to enforce the rhythm of your week. Dora is much more likely to remember that our “purple” day means that she will have music class and we will be doing painting at home, than she will remember that “Monday”, which is a very abstract concept for this age, is music class and painting day. I do start off each day by saying something like, “Today is purple day, which is Monday, and the day that we….”.

Gnomes - Weather

Originally, I had planned to purchase a set of “Days of the Week” gnomes, but the I only found one set that I really liked, which was at Wild Faerie Caps, and was sold out. She did, however, have a set of weather gnomes in stock and it was love at first sight for me! I was very excited to include the weather gnomes, as this meant that Dora and I could continue to review the weather and the days of the week together. I tried to wait to see if Wild Faerie Caps would add some “Days of the Week” gnomes to her shop, but finally decided that if I was going to introduce the gnomes at the beginning of the new year, I needed to take matters into my own hands. So, I ordered some blank wooden peg people and made my own gnomes, trying to make them as much like the ones at Wild Faerie Caps, so that they would match the weather gnomes. I ended up making some of my water colors much too dark, so they are a bit intense, but given that I have never done any wood burning or made a gnome before, I thought that came out rather nicely.


Dora has responded very enthusiastically to the gnomes. So enthusiastically, in fact, that we had to get out all of the seasonal/nature table pieces and set up our own “Gnomeville” (Dora came up with the name). All of the gnomes were sent to live with their appropriate seasonal trees, mushrooms, stackers, etc., except for poor “Stormy”. Stormy is the purple gnome with the lightning bolt. Dora is not a fan of Stormy and was all for exiling Stormy. I finally convinced her that he could live in the mountains, which far away from everything else, and which she begrudgingly agreed to.

Dora also felt that “Rainbowy” should be set out on our nature table for the day, even though it was pouring rain outside. She kept running to the window and insisting that the sun was peeping out and making rainbows, I just wasn’t fast enough to see them. We finally agreed to set out “Rainbowy” as the “weather we would “like” to be having” and “Rainy” as the weather we were actually having. I am pretty sure she was just humoring me when she agreed to this though. Then today, she decided that Stormy should stand for “cold” instead, his new and highly original name being “Coldy”. So now Coldy is allowed to join in gnome activities and is no longer shunned by the other gnomes and everyone is happy in Gnomeville (except those hatless gnomes in the background, which Dora made and are “mean” gnomes who go around wreaking havoc and generally being obnoxious).

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Labels: Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Nurturing Nature Indoors–Forcing an Amaryllis and Starting a Terrarium

Amaryllis 12-30-12 - 3

This last month, Dora actually spent quite a lot of time outdoors. Mr. Mo was very good and took her outside to play every day that he had off (and let me sleep late while he was at it! Sorry ladies, he’s taken!). He got her into such a good habit, she has come to expect her daily outdoorsy time. Still, it’s not quite the same as during the warmer months, when she might spend hours outside each day. So we tackled a few indoor nature projects so we could keep our green thumbs in green during the cold months. Our first project, forcing an amaryllis bub, was something we actually started back in mid-November.

Amaryllis BulbAs you can see, the amaryllis bulb we used was humongous! The nursery had some that were at least twice as big as ours, but they cost $28.99/bulb!

Amaryllis 12-19-2012 (1)

The plant first started to bloom after about three weeks. Since then, we have had constant flowers that are quite large. We have been cutting some of the flowers and keeping them on the nature table, but this morning we were saddened and surprised when we came downstairs and found that one of the stems had cracked, due to the weight of four flowers blooming on it at once! So, we currently have no flowers on the actual plant. We have no cat-safe windows in our house that get a lot of light, so I am not sure if this plant will have got enough sunlight to “recharge” the bulb for next year. I’m planning to plant it in the yard and we’ll find out. I’ll probably buy a new bulb next winter, just to make sure that we have some indoor color.

Terrarium - 1

Our second project was to start a new terrarium. I got this large jar at Target for just $10. Unfortunately, it is so big, it won’t fit on any window ledge, so I am not sure if it will get enough light to support the terrarium. Currently, it has survived three months with only one mishap, that being that it seems to have some sort of fruit/drain flies in it. I have tried to shoe them out, but they seem to like it in there. I just hope that they don’t reproduce and start some sort of colony! I think they must have hitched a ride on one of the plants.

Terrarium - 2

We used the same layering system that we have in the past, a layer of small rocks, followed by a layer of activated charcoal, followed by a layer of dried moss, followed by the soil. We tried a different type of moss this time, but I’d recommend sticking with the tried and true sphagnum moss, as the moss we bought smells a bit funky and I don’t like having such a bright green layer in between the layers of soil and charcoal/rocks. We topped of the whole thing with moss wherever there weren’t plants, but that was just a personal choice and is not necessary. We also added a few decorative stones. I’d love to add a small figure or two to the scene, but haven’t found anything that caught my eye.

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Labels: Nature Study
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Why Waldorf? Part 2

MP900431679[1]As I stated yesterday, as of last spring, I was 100% turned off to Waldorf education. Several things came about to change that view. Firstly, Dora had become very resistant to working with our Montessori materials. Secondly, I was feeling frustrated by how hard it was for me to present each Montessori lesson correctly, I did not find the materials intuitive in any way. Thirdly, storage had become an issue. Fourthly, I did not feel Montessori was matching Dora’s learning style. I briefly flirted with the idea of a Charlotte Mason or Classical approach, but ruled those out as well. I then contemplated going with our tried and true, eclectic approach, but honestly I felt that I wanted something that was more cohesive. I wanted something that met Dora’s needs academically and my needs emotionally. After two decades of homeschooling, I was tired of constantly having to research curriculum for each and every child, for each and every subject, each and every year. I wanted a system that I could rely on to get us through all of Dora’s years of schooling (some minor tweaking would be okay).

I had also begun to be attracted to Waldorf, by Waldorf-inspired blogs, which I did not even realize were Waldorfian at first. They showed me that Anthroposophy was not as crazy as I had come to believe, that a Waldorf-inspired education could be done with a secular or Pagan system of beliefs. Yet, part of what was attracting me to these blogs was a spiritual connection they were making in me at the time. This was during the time period when my potassium levels were dangerously low, unbeknownst to anyone. There were days that I honestly thought I was dying. It was not a panicked sort of feeling, but a great sense in me that without some major change, I would soon leave my body. I began to have experiences that I could only describe as “spiritual” in nature. My secular readers may squirm at my words or may believe that my “experiences” were simply a matter of my brain misfiring some electric signals as my body was too deficient in potassium to properly operate. Two years ago, I would have agreed with my secular readers, whole heartedly. Now, not so much. Having lived through these experiences, having felt on three separate occasions that my soul was trying to leave my body, but could not, due to a strong tether to my heart (why my heart? I do not know, perhaps because my heart knew I still had to be here for my loved ones, or perhaps because my heart is the strongest part of my body, or perhaps because that is how my brain was misfiring,?), I find that I am no longer able to dismiss the idea of a soul or of there being some sort of greater being that has had a hand in our creation. Does this conflict with my beliefs in regards to evolution or the Big Bang? No. Am I becoming a Christian? No. Do I believe in an after life? Not necessarily.

What my experiences have lead me to is more questions than answers. What Waldorf education, and by extension Anthroposophy, have brought to me is the possibility of some sort of spiritual reckoning or understanding, at a time when I have no choice, but to look my own mortality in the face. I may yet live to be 100, but I have come close enough to the “other side” that I will never be the same again.

So, I hope that I do not lose my secular readers as I do not intend to use this blog to preach anything or to discuss spirituality in any form, beyond these posts where I am attempting to at least partially explain a major change in my life and my educational approach to our homeschooling. Though I may, on occasion, have to offer some sort of spiritual explanation for certain aspects of Waldorfian methods.

I also hope that I do not lose any of my religious readers. I do not mean to imply that any religion is better or worse than another. As always, I respect everyone’s right to religiously worship in his or her own way.


Labels: Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Why Waldorf?

Steiner Berlin 1900 bigI know many of you may be wondering how a fanatical Montessorian could so suddenly switch to becoming a staunch Waldorfian (yes, I do believe that I just made up both of those words). In actuality, I first started looking into Waldorf-inspired education over 15 years ago. I met several Waldorfian homeschoolers (I am entering “Waldorfian” into my spell checker, in an attempt to make it a real word) and became quite intrigued with the method of education. Unfortunately, my relationship with these homeschoolers was to be short-lived, as  a local Waldorf school opened its doors. Most of the Waldorfian homeschoolers I knew had actively participated in getting this school launched. All of the Waldorfians I knew enrolled their children in to the school ASAP. At the same time, I became pregnant with Gohan, so had no spare time to devote to further researching Waldorf education, not to mention I had been given a strong message by my former homeschooling friends that Waldorf was not a style of education that could be reproduced in a homeschool setting. The final nail in the coffin of those friendships occurred when Gohan was two and we moved to the Northern California.Rudolf Steiner als AbiturientShortly after moving to the Silicon Valley, I was quite excited to learn about a weekend-long Waldorf retreat that was being offered nearby at a very respected institute. I took Secunda and Tertia with me and they were able to attend typical “Waldorf” classrooms, while I attended various workshops for Waldorf-inspired teachers, parents, and homeschoolers. While we were greatly enjoying our time at the retreat, two events occurred on the second day that turned me against Waldorf education for the next decade and a half. Firstly, the kindergarten teacher lost Tertia. I mean, literally lost her. She had no idea that Tertia wasn’t with the group  when I arrived to pick Tertia up for lunch. She also was not particularly concerned that Tertia was missing, insisting that she would turn up somewhere. A half hour later (one of the longest half hours of my life, mind you) we found Tertia, who had gone to meet us at the lunch area. The teacher’s lackadaisical attitude towards Tertia’s absence really left me feeling extremely disconcerted. After lunch, however, I returned my daughters to their respective classrooms and went to my workshop, which was about Anthroposophy. At this point in time, I only had the vaguest idea as to what anthroposophy was about and what it’s relationship to Waldorf education was. I actually enjoyed the first 2/3 of the class quite a bit and was feeling that anthroposophy might actually fill the spiritual void that was in my life at the time. Unfortunately, the anthroposophy teacher then took us outside to do some meditation. As a martial artist, I was quite familiar and comfortable with meditation. This meditation, however, was like no other than I had ever participated in. I can’t even remember the whole event very well, other than it involved staring at the sky and that the discussion became more and more strange (in my mind) the longer we stood outside. I would go so far as to say that had I later learned that everybody else in the group had been smoking shrooms right before the workshop, I would not have been surprised in the slightest. In fact, if I had later learned that I was actually on Candid Camera, I would have been quite relieved. Unfortunately, neither proved to be the case and finally, the conversation reached “okay, these people are really weirding me out here, I just want to get the hell out of this place right this second” levels for me and I suddenly garbled out something about having to leave early, grabbed Secunda and Tertia and hightailed it out of the area. I never again considered Waldorf as an educational option until nine months ago….

Duh, duh, duh, duh (that is some melodramatic and gripping music – just in case my writing didn’t properly convey the tone I was trying to accomplish).

Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to this post, when you will learn all of the whys and wherefores of this personal transformation!

P.S. – I included that second picture of Rudolph Steiner, just because I have always thought of Steiner as a stern-looking, old man (okay, maybe throw in a “tad bit creepy-looking” while you’re at it). Yet, it ends up that at one time, he was actually a piece of eye-candy (at least in my “swoon over the Eastern-European look” mind). Of course, spiritually-speaking, that is kind of akin to referring to Mother Teresa as a “hot babe”, so I’m probably now damned to spend eternity in an Anthroposphian version of hell…

Labels: Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Happy 2013!

Happy 2013Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. We enjoyed a simple and restful seasonal celebration, which left me feeling refreshed and revved up to start the new year. I did see a nephrologist during the break. She ran numerous tests and we are awaiting the results, but in the interim, she increased the amount of supplemental potassium that I am taking every day (it only comes in prescription form, so can only be done through a doctor). I cannot tell you how much better this small change has made me feel. I am no longer having constant muscle aches, spasms, and cramps. In addition, we figured out that the secret to keeping my headaches at bay is for me to drink a LOT of water as I was passing more water than I was taking in (I need to drink about 100 ounces per day to keep up with my kidneys). So while I am not feeling 100% myself, by a long shot, I am feeling so much better since I last posted!

I am never much of one for resolutions, but this year I do plan to focus on getting back to the basics. That’s back to the basics in my food choices, my personal care items, Dora’s toys, our household, and so forth. As I mentioned before, I am trying to eliminate any and all toxins from my life, in order to take some of the load off my kidneys. This will be a long term process, but I have made a pretty decent start thus far. One thing that is complicating this process is waiting to see my nephrologist again, as depending on what exactly is wrong with my kidneys, I may have to reduce unusual things, such as protein sources, from my diet.

As I have been focusing on simplifying our lifestyle, I have found myself drifting away from using the Montessori method with Dora and drifting towards a Waldorf-inspired method of home education. This process was given a great big nudge by having Secunda move back in with us and me subsequently losing my office/homeschooling room. Space became a major issue, but also, Dora just had no interest in doing any of the Montessori materials anymore and I finally got tired of trying to get her to do them. So, over the break, I sold ALL of our Montessori materials and invested in some Waldorf books and materials. The books are mostly for me to learn how to provide a Waldorf-inspired education to Dora, something I already knew a bit about. I needed very few materials for Dora, as I had already been heading in a Waldorf-direction for several months. In addition, I actually reduced the number of toys and arts and crafts materials we have on hand, as I now have a have a higher standard about what qualifies as non-toxic than I used to. Finally, when trying to emulate a Waldorf education, one usually tries to keep the environment simple and uncluttered. So, all in all, it seems like all aspects of my life are coming together in synch right now.

I only made one change to Gohan’s curriculum and that was to switch to Oak Meadow for his language arts. I did this to make things easier for me. I no longer have to plan out every component of his language arts curriculum, as Oak Meadow has already done this for me. He will be continuing with Teaching Textbooks for math and the Cartoon History of the World series for social studies. He takes science through our local homeschool co-op. He is also continuing with his two drama classes and Taekwondo. Honestly, he is maturing so quickly right now, it just blows my mind away. After years and years of dealing with his learning disabilities, it’s like a light bulb turned on and his brain is trying to make up for lost time. I doubt I could have started him with Oak Meadow in September. Now, not only can he do a pre-packaged curriculum, he is actually working at grade level in language arts for the first time in entire his life!

How about you? Have you made any major changes to your life or homeschool for the new year?

Labels: Peg Dolls, Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disorder, Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff