School Days Are Back

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First day of school, September 2, 2014. Lucas is in seventh grade now. He is handsomer, and more grown up every day. (Alack! He is 5 feet 1.25 inches tall now!) He is bracing himself for more and harder schoolwork. I think he knows the stakes are higher and more will be expected of him. I’ve seen him mature a good deal over the summer. He is ready.

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Asher is starting second grade. Asher really didn’t want to go (this is the only shot he let me take in the morning before we drove to school). Asher gets a little nervous. I choose to take this sad face as evidence that he really enjoys his family time.

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But he jumped right in as soon as he saw his friends, playing tag, racing up the play structure, and then horsing around in line before shaking his teacher’s hand and going into the classroom.

Asher says recess is the best thing about school. He is excited about music class, with Ms. Greenberg. “It’s so fun!” Main lesson is boring, he says (they are beginning with Form Drawing). He likes German and Spanish, but German more. He hates Eurhythmy. So basically, he’s right where I’d expect him to be. My beautiful precocious boy is right on the cusp of learning to read. He cracks this joke all the time in a silly English accent: “I can’t read!” But soon, that won’t be true any more.

 

On the Beauty and Oddness of This Week

My Lucas #spring #waldorf #sixthgrade #camping #11yearold

My son has gone away. He is with his Waldorf class and two teachers at Steiner College for the week, working with and for the master biodynamic farmer (who probably has an official and better title than the one I’ve just used). The sixth grade kids are farming, fulfilling CSA orders, feeding and caring for animals, and camping out—four nights and five days.

Brave teacher #spring #waldorf #sixthgrade #camping

Sixth grade camping trip.  They are going to have so much fun.  #spring #waldorf #sixthgrade #11yearold #camping

Aren’t they beamish? Aren’t they mighty?

The rain came down in buckets yesterday, day 3. Then it hailed. A little tornado touched down a few miles northeast of here. Let me assure you, we do not get tornadoes here, except for yesterday.

I am amused by my own mixed feelings of worry and delight that this special camping/farming adventure became an honest-to-goodness adventure in weather, a test of endurance in the wet. I worry a little that my son is/was cold and miserable. But I don’t really think that’s what is happening. I believe my son is having a fantastic time. I believe Lucas is out there having the time of his life, actually, being tough, learning how competent and capable he is, working hard, and being silly among all of his friends. I believe they are bonding. Even if the kids have moments of misery or homesickness, I believe this trip will be a highlight of Waldorf primary school, among a whole galaxy of sparkling, magical Waldorf school experiences.

I believe that. I won’t get to know until Friday afternoon, when I pick him up. Until then, I hope, while the rain continues to fall.

I also believe that this is more a test for us parents than a test for our 11- and 12-year-olds. I believe it is meant to prove to us that they are growing up, and can handle more (far more) than we give them credit for. They can handle themselves. They have a solid foundation that we have painstakingly built for them, and from this they are launching themselves. (Whether we’re ready or not.)

What a wonderful thing! What a beautiful, odd thing!

Watching the rare hail come down #spring

So, this little fellow, who only rarely is without his brother, is having a week of only-child status.

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My little scientist

He doesn’t mind too much. He’s had extra attention from mama, and visited with grandparents. Papa even took him to the ice-cream parlor, just the two of them. He can play with all the LEGOs. Plus, the crazy weather gave us the opportunity to collect hailstones in a big bowl and then do color science with food dyes—my little potion-maker!

Having only one child to care for this week has felt odd. And being with this little guy, without big brother around to influence or direct him or make him feel like he has to act older than he is, is beautiful thing, too.

Marveling About Sixth Grade

Once again I’m in awe of what’s happening in my son’s sixth grade Waldorf class. Everything around him and everything in him is leveling up, stretching, ready to take on more. The class started this year with a new teacher and immediately tackled Rome and manned the Michaelmas dragon. They’ve studied astronomy, physics, added more mathematics into every day, and started writing essays. They’ve recently been through the Fall of Rome and are now working a unit on economics. They’ve begun to participate in organized individual and team sports at school, complete with coaches, practices, and competitions.

Right now, the sixth graders are studying economics and the mathematics that goes with it: money, interest, etc. They are launching into their study of the Middle Ages, too.

What’s more, they have a new class this year, taught by two amazing teachers: Social Arts class is one in which these gorgeous “tweens” are tackling issues of communication, individuality, self-expression, friendship, respect, personal space, and more to build a firm foundation for the coming (challenging) years. These children on the cusp of adolescence are courageous in so many deep and awe-inspiring ways. And Social Arts and their study of the Middle Ages are dovetailing into this:

The students have been asked to develop their own personal coat of arms and their own motto that reflect who they are. They have each chosen three challenges—physical, moral, and intellectual—which they must work on each day. Parents must sign off, to indicate the student worked toward meeting these challenges. In two weeks they will have a special overnight at school, complete with a nighttime vigil, scribing, and an initiation alone. In the morning they will be knighted in a special ceremony, complete with costumes, pageantry, and a medieval feast that follows.

My son has committed to running two miles every day, being nicer to his brother, and practicing his piano 10 minutes every day. These are his ideas and I appreciate how he picked things that are challenging and require diligence, but are within reach. Naturally, his other responsibilities and homework will continue during this time. He has done two days of twelve.

Then, a week after this knighting ceremony, his class will go on a five day trip to a local biodynamic garden, to work and study economics and food. They will be a stone’s throw from home, but gone longer than ever before.

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I have been quieter on the subject of this child lately. I am sensing a shift in him and I want to respect his individuality and his privacy. Several people have asked me if I’ll keep blogging when my boys get bigger. I don’t really know; I guess that is a question I’ll have to continually ask. And I’ll do the best I can because, frankly, I’m off the map. Public and private life is different in this world than it used to be.

I write here for so many reasons. To figure stuff out—most especially myself—and to chronicle our experiences as a family. I write to hash out my feelings and record my discoveries and observations as a parent because this journey of motherhood is the most challenging thing I have ever undertaken and I am learning every day. I also write to honor ourselves as individuals, for at each moment we are beautiful, striving, growing, and changing, and to honor our relationships, for these too morph as we go through time together.

So much change is happening for this sweet son of mine. It is hard at times and wonderful. I stand in awe of him and all he is now, knowing that he has so very much more becoming to do. I am so grateful that our parenting is supported by this sixth grade curriculum and that we are surrounded by so many loving educators who are willing to honor this age. Truly, we are educating his head, heart, and hands.

Cross Country

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I’ve been meaning to write this post for four months now. A-hem.

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Lucas joined the school’s cross country running team this past fall. He’s in sixth grade and it was his first opportunity to be involved in school sports, and he jumped in with both feet and tons of heart. The team started practicing even before the school year began, and Ian and I watched with wide eyes as he completed two after-school practices each week and ran meets on many Saturdays and a few Wednesdays too. The sixth grade boys turned out in force (I think we had eight from our class), and for many of them it was their first team sport experience. I am so proud of them. They were supportive of each other, encouraging, and really gave it their all.

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They trained hard and had a lot of fun too. Practices often involved running more than 3 miles.

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They practiced and ran races in 100-degree heat. Races were usually about 1.4 miles or 1.25 miles long.

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These are shots from their very first meet at the Lagoon Valley Classic Invitational in Vacaville.

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This was a meet that took place at Capital Christian Center school. I love this photo because it illustrates what it’s like to have sixth, seventh, and eighth graders racing at the same time! (Fortunately, they gave medals for the five fastest boys in each grade.) It also illustrates to me how much growth our boys are going to experience in these next three years.

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Some of our boys are just born to run; they’re fast and lithe, and they want it bad. But all the Sacramento Waldorf School boys were dedicated and worked hard to improve their times. And they all did through their training.

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Lucas got 5th place (among 6th grade boys)! He is feeling great!

Lucas came in fifth of all the sixth graders at this Capital Christian race. It was a very proud moment for him.

Over the course of the season, which was about eight weeks long, he improved his mile time by more than two minutes. By the end of the season he was running a mile in under-7-minutes.

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This was in the foothills at Foresthill High School for the Wildfire Invitational. The Waves middle school runners were warming up. This course took them a little more than a mile through the forest. It was a beautiful location.

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Go waves! Last middle school meet of the season.

And how’s this for a culminating moment? In the last meet of the season (“The Other Meet”), the runners trekked out over a track through an undeveloped field on the edge of some soccer fields. They ran past a hornet nest, and the insects stung them. Some described seeing runners covered in hornets. All of our boys came back with a sting or two. They kept running and all of them finished the race! So tough! I think I would have flipped out had I been in their shoes.

The middle school runners’ season ended in the middle of October. The Waves high school runners continued to train and run till Thanksgiving. I somehow misunderstood the team schedule and assumed that Lucas would train through November also. When we learned that was not the case, it was a great disappointment for him. He was having the time of his life and getting so good, he just wasn’t ready for the season to end! I am quite sure that he will be on the team next fall.

The Waves high school runners went on to perform very well in statewide competitions. They run faster and farther in their meets. The coach is looking at this big crop of young, middle school runners with excitement, perhaps imagining what they will do when they are older.

We are so proud of Lucas and what he accomplished! We are delighted that his first team sports experience was so completely positive, so affirming and encouraging. We are so grateful to the coaches, the other parents, and to kids on the team for such a wonderful time. And we cannot wait for next year’s season.

Michaelmas: New Dragons

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Well, I really don’t like to go this long between posts. All I can say is that our lives have been remarkably full of all kinds of wonderful and challenging pursuits, including lots of work and play. While I enjoy writing here and really need to write here, sometimes I’m just too worn out.

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I will catch up a bit by saying that our Michaelmas festival at our Waldorf school was amazing. This year our son’s sixth-grade class created and manned the dragon—and what a dragon it was! Our new class teacher brought with her a host of new ideas about the Michaelmas dragon, its form, its symbolism, and how we might create it, interact with it, subdue it. I’ve been attending Michaelmas festivals for eight or so years and I’ve never seen a dragon like this one. Our students, teacher, and a team of clever parents engineered it.

For one thing, the dragon didn’t come lumbering onto the field at the appointed time. It spontaneously reared up out of the body of our community, out of ourselves.

Maybe I can show you …

Lucas at Michaelmas 2013

Each sixth grader carried a large Roman-style shield, silver gray on one side, gold on the other. They arrayed themselves around the circle, standing quietly among the other grades and spectators.

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The festival carried on as usual, with the twelfth grade performing a play for the people of the land: this time the Arthur sword-in-the-stone legend. The young villagers danced. When the alarm sounded, the valiant fourth graders offered the villagers protection with their newly made shields. The drum boomed. This is normally when a fearsome beast would approach the field.

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Instead, our sixth graders, dressed as Michaelic soldiers, began to march and form up into ranks. The terrifying drum continued to beat, but no one knew what to expect—no manxome foe was apparent. Saint George searched and searched the field of battle for his opponent. Where was the threat?

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And then a remarkable thing happened. The sixth grade moved again in response to loudly barked commands. They formed up into a Roman battle formation called the testudo, or tortoise formation. The shields covered their bodies, hiding them behind a great silver wall.

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From its hiding place, the dragon’s head emerged and the body joined up to menace George. A technology dragon was formed of chips and wire and lights, all silver and gleaming, and spitting smoke and ferocious noises!

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The dragon’s tail was wireframe with tech parts all over it.

It was a dragon representing a threat of our modern day, as we are frequently consumed by and controlled by our own technology. We are fighting, some of us, to maintain our humanity in the face of this changing world. Some are fearful of technology, some embrace it. It is both the miracle of today and a thorny problem. The important thing is to recognize it—how it is changing our communities, our families, ourselves—and confront it, and make sure that it is working for us, and not the other way around. This is how I see it, anyway.

Furthermore, I think it’s fascinating and timely. These sixth-grade children are on the brink of becoming (probably heavy) technology users. Perhaps some already are. Our son has dabbled in a very circumscribed way. As they mature, they will learn to use the Internet for research and for fun, join social networking sites, encountering friends and strangers online. They will enjoy video games and smartphones and YouTube and Skype—all of which are fun and exciting ways to connect in a global community. Navigating this will be new and strange and wonderful for all of us. And we must face it with courage and compassion.

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As usual, our strong, noble seniors surrounded the beast, and together with the sweet, hopeful spirits of our second graders, brought this dragon to its knees.

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What doesn’t show in my photographs is that our community was suffering mightily on this day, especially this senior class, for we very recently lost a student to suicide. It is a tragedy that none of them will forget, and this circle of brave young men and women was one shining soul short. I think no one ever anticipated that suicide and loss, and tremendous grief, would be a dragon to face on this beautiful day.

(Thank you, Hinmans, for the terrific video!)

Technology dragon with teacher

Afterward, the sixth grade class enjoyed the praise and congratulations of many. Some said it was the most interesting dragon they had seen. Many adults found it to be wonderful and thought-provoking. Our kids were somewhat unsure of this innovative design. Lucas even despaired that it was too weird, and wouldn’t it be better to have a normal dragon?

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Here they are, all tuckered out after the hot performance. I really love these kids. And we are all so very proud of them. Many thanks to our class teacher for encouraging all of us to embrace innovation and change. I think she is brilliant for getting this strong-willed class to march to her drum within days of her joining our class.

Here are the morning verse and afternoon verses by Rudolf Steiner that the sixth grade had been saying in preparation for Michaelmas. I especially love the second one:

Oh Michael,
I entrust myself to your protection
I write myself with your guidance
With all my heart’s strength
That this day may be come the
Reflection of
Your destiny-ordering will.
*
I bear my worry into the setting sun:
Lay all my cares into its shining lap.
Purified in Light
Transformed in Love—
They return as helping thoughts,
as forces rejoicing in deeds of
Sacrifice.

So, what do you think? Pretty different, eh? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Also, you can read about our past Michaelmas festivals here:

School Community Michaelmas Festival

Our Beautiful Michaelmas

Michaelmas Time

School Michaelmas Festival

Michaelmas in the Waldorf Kindergarten

Waldorf: Forming

Lucas is home sick today. This is what he made for me and to pass the time. Wow. #waldorf #sixthgrade #geometry #drawing #art

Lucas drew this for me on a day when he stayed home sick.

I went to two parent meetings this week, one for first grade and one for sixth.

In first grade, we parents don’t all know each other. We are reaching our way into new relationships, new trusts. We have a new teacher and we’re working out things like how to handle Michaelmas with our little ones, lunch sharing, who has dangerous nut allergies, and how the kids are supporting each other through the change and challenge of first grade, with desks, worktime, mental math, after care, etc. We played get-to-know-you games. Within the first moments, a clever and gregarious dad had us all laughing. We have a long way to go together. It was a good start.

Our class teacher taught us this quote from Rudolf Steiner:
“Form is movement come to rest.”

This makes for a nice segue. First graders are learning their first form drawings. The class is forming. The parent body is forming.

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In sixth grade, we class parents know each other well. We’ve volunteered together; chaperoned together; sewed, cooked, and worked together. Over the last five years (or more), we’ve built friendships that mirror—or even contrast—the friendships the children have with one another. We have supported each other through tough emotional times, through change and loss and struggle, through moments of great celebration like births and birthdays, new jobs. We have a new teacher in this class, too. And she has both the joy and challenge of winning over and leading a cohesive, cooperating parent body.

And though taking two evenings away to meet with new and old friends at school is an inconvenience, it’s also deeply satisfying to be in community. See, parenting can be lonely work. It can feel as though one is standing on the shore, trying to direct and guide the ocean waves—“You, come now.” “You, not so far!” “Wait, not yet, I’m not ready.” Stand your ground. Bend when appropriate. Sink or swim.

We parents don’t all make the same decisions with and for our families. We don’t always see eye-to-eye, or have the same value system. Families come in different shapes and sizes, with different routines, different pastimes, different stuff. We sometime crave more or less connection. But despite these contrasts, we are all here on this journey together. Our trip through Waldorf as parents is a kind of echo of our children’s experience, or maybe the base note that lies underneath their intricate melody. We get to paint and carve wood less frequently than they do, but along the way, and by involving ourselves and intersecting with the school, the class, the parent body, and the festivals, we have the opportunity to find soul-enriching connection and learning just the same.

Last night our class teacher taught us how to make a geometric drawing. (See what the children have been up to in the photo above.) We got to use our children’s high-end, magnificent, school-supplied tools: the sexiest compass I’ve ever touched, shiny metal rulers, mechanical pencils, a 30-60-90 drafting triangle. We made a circle on our paper and added six intersecting circles, forming a flower inside with six petals. It took time. We had to listen and concentrate. Our class teacher had to be precise in her verbal instructions. It was a taste of the kind of demanding and beautiful work our children are doing in their main lesson.

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It also formed a visual metaphor for where our sixth grade child is in his or her development. This is the soulful part: the teacher allowed us to experience the meaning through the metaphor of drawing. The twelve rays we drew represented the twelve main subjects they will be studying this year: geometry, Michaelmas, minerology, Roman history, physics, astronomy, business math, the Fall of Rome and the Golden Age of Islam, geography, math/percentages, medieval history. She included review/sleep as a ray—a key component to their learning and processing of the curriculum. The twelve rays find their way to the center, into the soul life of the child.

We talked about how sixth graders need form, order, and support in this because they are not quite able to order themselves yet. They are competent, but not organized. Self-aware but not self-possessed. They are special individuals who crave conformity and unity. They are forming. Each of the drawings above is the same form, but look how individual the expression of it turned out. Amazing.

Oh—the Michaelmas dragon is going to be AWESOME!

First Days of School 2013

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Last Tuesday, September 3, was our first day back at school. I was over the moon to get some hours to myself. The boys were excited, but Lucas pretended to be sad about summertime coming to a close for this photo. The first morning was playful and optimistic.

Brothers (First Day of School, 2013)

Asher is in first grade this year and Lucas is in sixth! This is one of those milestone moments when you realize, wow, time has passed! Somehow Lucas’s new haircut makes him seem so much older.

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See, Asher was calm, cool, and collected, right? Lucas acted somewhat blasé about the whole thing that first morning. Though I knew that he was very, very jazzed to get to spend his days with his friends and classmates again. Lucas is also excited about having a new teacher this year. He is rededicating himself to his studies, and to his first school sport, cross country running, which is terrific.

Unfortunately for Asher, the first day of school proved to be difficult and scary. He became clingy and and weepy when it was time to go into his classroom.

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Shortly afterward the school held the annual welcome ceremony. All the classes and many parents attended. This turned out to be a stressful thing for Asher, who had never been to anything like it. He wept a bit until his new teacher brought him to sit by her at the end of the row. She rubbed his back and helped him to calm down during the speeches. The tradition is that the second graders give the first graders a flower as a welcome to the school. The teachers also give flowers to the senior class. It’s a lovely acknowledgement of their place in this beautiful Waldorf journey.

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Then, each senior student takes the hand of a first grader and as a group they walk through the school. The older student shows the younger one around, explains where everything is (playgrounds, bathrooms, classrooms, library, farm, etc.). This lovely young lady was Asher’s buddy. He was trying so hard to keep it together, but he was overwhelmed and sad.

He spent a fair amount of time that evening worrying about the next day. There were lots of tears and fear.

Day 2 for Asher started very rocky, but got better. When Ian and I picked him up after school, Asher was in good spirits and said, “It was better than I thought it would be.” Then he showed us his first form drawing and gave Daddy a drawing lesson. He said he met the Spanish teacher and learned some German words for colors. He was in good spirits, and enjoyed spending some special time with Dad in the afternoon.

By evening it was a different story, however. I was forced to admit that tiredness got the better of him and he … well, lost his composure. Again with the tears, the wracking sobs, and “Mama, I just don’t think I can make it through first grade!”

So, with plenty of cuddles and reassuring words, I lay beside him in the dark, and taught him that no matter how bad or scared he may feel, five deep, long breaths would ALWAYS make him feel better. I held his sad, shaking body and remembered that there was a time, only six years ago, when our positions were reversed. When his soft, trusting, tiny, breathing presence was the thing that kept me going when I was very sick, depressed, and terrified.

As exhausting as this mothering job is, as ceaseless and hard and infuriating as it can be sometimes, I am still amazed at the privilege I possess: to see this little being unfold and encounter the world. To see him experience his challenges and stand up and face them, to ride them out until they cease being challenges and transform into achievements. It is an honor of the highest kind.

Asher is teaching me anew about Michaelmas this year, in a way I didn’t anticipate. I am the squire who is tasked with helping the little knight onto the field.

The school days that followed have been progressively better as he became more used to his new school routine, the new expectations, new children in his class, a new teacher, desks, lessons, etc. He lamented to me several times, “Mama, it’s just all so new!” It’s true. There is so much to learn. We have talked a lot about bravery—that one can only be brave if one is also afraid. And that courage lives in us, even when we feel small and scared.

By Friday, “It was the best day yet!”

And now we’re halfway through the second week. No more tears. Asher’s teacher and his friends all report that he’s now fine. Yesterday he stayed for aftercare and even that went well. Although he was worried about it beforehand, after school he said, “It was fun.” And this morning, “Mama, you don’t have to worry about me and nap. I mean, I’m fine with being picked up and fine with staying for nap.”

Asher's first form drawing. Now he is giving Daddy a drawing lesson. #waldorf #firstgrade #formdrawing

So, with some patience, talking about our feelings, extra cuddles and songs, and some quiet routine-building, we seem to have made it over this big scary adjustment. I am so proud of him!

Lucas, suffice it to say, has dived into school. He’s happy, connected, and working hard. Homework every night, which is new, and running practice twice a week after school. He has a lot more on his plate this year, but he’s approaching it with joy.

Back to School

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I feel like this might not be the most positive post. But it’s my blog and I get to tell the truth.

I can’t get excited about “Back to School” anything. This isn’t to say that I’m not looking forward to the school year starting up. Believe me, I am! We’re currently in the middle of Week 11 of Summer Vacation. School for us starts after Labor Day.

What I’m talking about is all the fuss that’s made over “Back to School.” The sales, the school supplies, the new gadgets, the Buy Buy Buy mentality that every store in America is trying to get you to embrace. Going back to school doesn’t mean you have to buy everything.

You can go back to school wearing the same clothes you wore all summer (around here the temps don’t dip until late October).

You can go back to school with any old notebook and old pencils and pens.

You can go back to school with last year’s backpack, lunch box, sneakers, or whatever.

(Pretty anti-American of me, right? Check out the data. “According to NRF’s 2013 Back-to-School Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, families with school-age children will spend an average $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, down from $688.62 last year. Total spending on back-to-school is expected to reach $26.7 billion.”)

Now, I like shopping. I like deals. I like buying new things for my kids. But I don’t like being made to feel like I have to—that my child’s self-esteem will suffer without all-new stuff. Nobody needs all-new stuff.

I don’t like the way I get sucked into shiny ads or sales, looking for deals and cute things that we don’t really need. And I really don’t like the way that ads attempt to suck in my kids. (Leave us alone! We’re fine just the way we are.)

And I REALLY don’t like the giant, nationwide push to make fashion something kids need to think about. (Fashion is bullshit and can even be harmful. In this regard, I am lucky. My boys seldom notice fashion trends. At this point, this is what they look for in a shoe: “Does it make me really fast, Mama?”)

When the weather turns colder, we’ll buy jeans.

When there are no more pencils or pens in the kitchen drawer or my office, we’ll buy more. (And I’ll check the kids’ desk and “drawing baskets” first.)

When the shoes don’t fit or are too worn, we’ll buy new ones.

I’ll replace the T-shirts that are too stained or don’t fit anymore.

Just a few new things will do.

I’m tired of everyone trying to sell me stuff, aren’t you? Fending off the online ads and the billboards and the junk mail is exhausting.

Keep it simple.

Replace what you must. Reuse stuff from last year; get as much use and joy out of it as you can.

Spend your money on experiences instead of stuff whenever possible. Aren’t you struggling with too much stuff anyway? Yes? So is your child.

So, here’s what I think is important about “Back to School.”

If you still have summer vacation left, LIVE it. Go back to your list of “things to do this summer” and see if there are a few more experiences that you can squeeze in. Want some ideas?

  • Make popsicles. Yes, again.
  • Visit the zoo.
  • Spend as much time as possible at the lake/beach/swimming pool.
  • Hike in nature.
  • Go to a drive-in movie as a family. Remember those? They’re still cool.
  • Go to the library, point your kid at an age-appropriate section and say, “Choose anything!”
  • Break out the old pencils and do a little bit of math or writing. Warm up those skills just a little. Don’t overdo it!

Think of any special thing that you can’t or don’t do during the school year and do that!

Now, if you don’t have any summer vacation left, if your kids have already started school as many public schools in our area have done, here are a few more tips that can make “Back to School” safe and sane.

  • Spend your time and energy establishing a good rhythm that works for your family.
  • Focus on your values and reinforce them.
  • Don’t sweat it. Allow for some time to adjust.
  • Choose five new, easy recipes that you and the kids can make on school nights.
  • Whenever time and weather allow, go outside.
  • Be reasonable when buying.
  • Thrift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Days of School

We’re in the final stretch of the school year. My kids are about to change overnight from Kindergartner and fifth grader to first grader and sixth grader. These last few days at school are spent packing up the classroom and moving items into the sixth grade room, horsing around, and enjoying lots of time with friends. The Kindergartners will spend as much of the next two days as possible outside. On Friday we’ll go to an annual end-of-year party at the home of one of Lucas’s classmates, where we always celebrate with style and great joy.

In a way, it’s no small accomplishment that they’ve completed this year. Their challenges may seem small compared to those that adults experience, but they are significant for the children.

My little Asher has grown from a somewhat shy baby to a confident, clowning boy of the world in the two years he’s been in Kindergarten. He is highly social, a great listener and storyteller, a good friend, a very fast runner, a heartthrob, and a proficient helper. He has mad cleanup skills now, thanks to Kindergarten, and his art has moved lightyears ahead of where it was even just a few months ago. I see so many signs in him that he is ready, that he’s “graduating” and moving on to first grade.

Yesterday we gathered in the Kindergarten yard to celebrate and watch the “olders” from both the White Rose and the Red Rose Kindergarten classes join together with their new first-grade teacher and ceremonially walk over to the first-grade classroom.

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The parents created an arch over the walkway and the new teacher, Miss H, led them under it.

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Many of the children were all smiles, several were nervous, several were super goofy; mine was, for this moment at least, acting jaded when he saw me and Daddy. But I saw him scampering along with the rest of the children, clearly enjoying himself.

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They crossed the campus to the first grade, little ducklings all in a row.

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It’s exciting to see these kids growing and changing, some of whom we’ve known since they were babies. This group has been playing together for a long time. And for Ian and me, there are so many new friends to make!

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We parents got to wait and visit with each other until the “rising first graders” returned. Of course, the current first graders aren’t actually ready to relinquish their classroom, and our kids came back to their yard and classrooms to finish out the week.

Scrapbook page for departing class teacher. So hard to put 5 years of growth and precious experiences on one page.

Lucas, at 11, is finishing up a glorious, fifth-grade year, what some call the “golden year” of the school-age child. He reveled in woodworking, learned to enjoy orchestra class and playing his violin, improved in all subjects, and ached all year for their study of the Greeks to begin and then soaked up every morsel of it once it did. He trained his body all year to compete in the Pentathlon, and has continued to do so since the big day. He is every day more independent and competent and it’s a both joy to see and a huge help in my life. I’ve been experiencing some nostalgia lately because I’ve been going through old photos and working on our end-of-year gift to his departing class teacher, our beloved Ms. D, who is retiring this year. My how these fifth-graders have changed!

And my son is eager for new, exciting experiences, more alone time, more time away from his little brother, and more responsibility (specifically when and only when he wants it). I am highly cognizant of this and am working to find him experiences that stretch his previous limits. I’m thinking of it as measured risk-taking.

And so, summertime is almost here. I can see it in all the children. They are boundless and expansive and loud, as if their spirits are no longer contained within their bodies. The teachers look both pleased and tired. The parents … well, there is a kind of “oh, I can’t wait for summer” on their lips or behind their eyes. And I kind of get it.

Now, in the interest of honest, full disclosure, I admit to feeling great trepidation about the coming 13 weeks of summer vacation. 13. 13 weeks. That’s a lot of days. I always feel this way at the end of the school year. The eagerness I felt for summer as a child is very different from how I feel now that I’m a parent. I have some excitement and daydreams and some wonderful plans for us, but I also know that it won’t be a huge bowl of cherries every day.

The boys will be engaged in any number of wonderful activities and play. Swim and summer camp and weekend camping. They will be blessed with the “gift of boredom” and plenty of nature time and unscheduled time. They will do chores. They will bicker and negotiate and hurt each other and cooperate—all of which is essential to both their growth as humans and their relationship as brothers.

We will make the most of it, the best we can. And we will learn so much. We will all soak up all that Summer has to give us, and we will level up.

Fifth-Grade Pentathlon

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What a day! Last Friday we attended with Pentathlon for all area Waldorf schools’ fifth graders. It was held a Live Oak Waldorf School in Meadow Vista and it was nothing short of spectacular in every way. Honestly, I couldn’t be more impressed with the way this event came together. Approximately 300 fifth graders from 12 classes joined together in a spirit of peace to compete in five athletic events. This is the culmination of their studies of the Ancient Greeks and Greek mythology. They have studied and trained hard for these celebratory games.

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Before the games began, there was a very stirring opening ceremony. Prior to arrival, the children were divided into five Greek city states, depending on temperament, and each had its own color. So our class of 26 competitors went into five different cities. Each city had a set of parent and teacher judges, who were specially trained before the Pentathlon to judge the five athletic events.

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They rang a gong to quiet the crowd. We were welcomed to this special day of fellowship and competition. Musicians played lyres and sang. The Olympian gods were invited to witness. The children chanted and sang in both Greek and English, in honor of the gods.

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The gods were invoked to bless the event and to inspire the athletes to do their very best, to let their highest selves come forward in their conduct for the day. Aphrodite, Poseidon, Artemis, Zeus, Athena, and Apollo each gave speeches, calling on the athletes to hold in their hearts peace, beauty, courage, compassion, fairness, friendship, and good sportsmanship. I just let the tears roll down my face. It was perfect. (Thomas, Janelle, Suzi, Steve, Anne, Sandy—I wish you could have seen this!)

As part of their main lesson studies in class, each class wrote odes to the gods, and then chose one student to read his or her ode aloud to all assembled on this special day. The poems were marvelous and full of epithets for the gods and imagery evocative of the Homeric hymns. The whole ceremony set a beautiful tone for the day and by the time it was done, there was no doubt in my mind that these kids were transported in spirit, and were the embodiment of the Greek ideal of ἀρετή—excellence—for the duration of the Pentathlon.

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Then the athletes processed, carrying flags of the color of their city state, around the entire field.

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In the center of the field, the gods assembled around a giant torch. A child ran a small torch around the length of the field, entered the center, and then Zeus lit the big torch to officially begin the games. Such pageantry! Such effort! They really spared no expense to make this day a marvel.

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Naturally, Ian and I followed our own sweet fifth grader around and snapped shots of him competing. (He’s in dark blue with a ponytail.) I also tried really hard to get pictures of all the fifth graders from Sacramento Waldorf School. I don’t know how to say it really—they were truly inspiring. They gave it their all.

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I know for a fact that our fifth graders have been training all year for these events. They had great form and confidence, having practiced discus and javelin, long jump, and both dashes and long runs.

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After each event was done, the whole city state trooped up to Mount Olympus to receive the awards of the gods. Laurel wreaths were given for first, second, and third place. And two wreaths were awarded to athletes who exhibited excellence in Beauty, Grace, and Style.

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These children just flew!

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Lucas won a laurel wreath for Beauty, Grace, and Style in the long run, which was a race around the entire field. I am so proud of him!

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Javelin was the final event and all four corners of the field were used at the same time. Hay bales were put up to separate the areas. Here is Lucas getting ready to throw the javelin. Both of his throws were good and stuck, making them count. For a little while he was in first place, but then other children got greater distance with their throws. I think Lucas would really like to continue with this sport.

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Every athlete received a medal for participating. Some kids won several wreaths; many won none. But I think everyone had an amazing day.

There was a closing ceremony, of course. The gods were thanked for attending. Each of them spoke about the noble qualities they saw in the children: perseverance, bravery, honor, kindness, fellowship. They chose a winning ode, and one more laurel wreath was awarded to the poet.

The day was challenging, long, and tiring for the athletes. They were physically competing from about 10 to 4, which is a long time for 11- and 12-year-olds to stay focused and follow the rules. They comported themselves with such maturity and determination, even when struggling or disappointed, and also with camaraderie and good spirit. Oh, the GLORY!

 

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2017 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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