Cherry Blossom Poetry Celebration

Third Grade Cherry Blossom Poetry Festival

In Washington D.C. they are celebrating the National Cherry Blossom Festival, called the Sakura Festival.

Here at home, there is a fantastic Japanese cherry tree right outside the third and fourth grade classrooms at my son’s Waldorf school. It’s magnificent.

Third Grade Cherry Blossom Poetry Festival

Mrs. M, the Eurhythmy teacher, was inspired to have a little cherry blossom  poetry festival with our third grade to celebrate spring. On Friday, the last day of school before spring break, the third graders wrote poems about springtime and cherry trees and hung their poems in the cherry tree.

Third Grade Cherry Blossom Poetry Festival

Cherry blossoms feature heavily in Japanese poetry. The blossoms, sakura, symbolize the beginning of spring, purity, and also a kind of melancholy, for like the blossoms, life is short and beautiful.

Third Grade Cherry Blossom Poetry Festival

The people of Japan have been on all our minds and in our prayers lately, although I’m not sure how aware the third graders are of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It’s hard to think about it. One tourism website I looked at had this to say: “This year’s cherry blossom season will be overshadowed by the tremendous loss caused by the recent earthquake. However, we believe that the blossoms will serve as symbols of hope and resilience and a source of motivation along Japan’s road to recovery.” 

Third Grade Cherry Blossom Poetry Festival

There’s no doubt that these blossoms are exquisite and ephemeral.

Third Grade Cherry Blossom Poetry Festival

Life is such a sweet mixture of joys and pains, celebrations and disappointments, and even exultation and tragedy.

Third Grade Cherry Blossom Poetry Festival

Sometimes it hurts to live life fully; to do so means opening ourselves up to all the beauty and pain around us. It hurts to be human. It is a joy to be human.

Rainstorms, Galoshes, Chickens, and Shearing

Here’s another roundup post, which is all I can manage at the moment.

But first …

“Knock, knock”

“Who’s there?”

“Ding-dong!”

“Ding-dong who?”

“Floooooo!”

That’s Asher’s joke du jour, or rather joke of the week. We hear it a lot these days.

Flooding

It’s raining. The thunderstorm the weather folks predicted is right on schedule. Holy hailstones! We are getting a wee bit sick of the rain, here in Northern California. We’re far more used to dire predictions of drought and onus of water conservation than full rivers, threatened levees, and flooding. Ian’s been running about in his galoshes, tending to pumps vigilantly to keep the water moving from our backyard, where it wants to stay, out and around to the front yard, where it can go on its merry way toward Arcade Creek. The neighbors generously give us all of their runoff, and our drainage—which I swear is like 100 percent better than it used to be—cannot keep up.

No Dumping!

Speaking of Arcade Creek, I’m wondering if there’s a place where we can go and visit it—some kind of public land or easement where we can see and appreciate it. You see, all of our neighborhood drains say, “No dumping! Protect Our Creeks … Drains to Arcade Creek.” Asher has memorized this very important message and is keen to point out every such oval placard he sees on every storm drain in the neighborhood. This makes me happy; he’s getting an environmental consciousness at a young age. Don’t you think it would be good if we were to actually find Arcade Creek and explore it a bit? I’m betting Arcade Creek is plenty full right now.

Now, a paragraph ago I mentioned Ian’s galoshes. He’s very practical, you see. His galoshes are all black and he and bought them from Home Depot on one extremely rainy day in January. I’ve decided that I need a pair of galoshes, too—not so much because I slog about in our flooded backyard, fussing with pumps and worrying about our house flooding, but because I am, as you may know by now, a chicken farmer. If you don’t believe me, you can read here on my blog about our chickens, our chicken coop, and the ten baby chicks that we’re raising. Or, you can head on over to The Wonder of Childhood, a new online magazine published by my friend Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie. Lisa is bringing beautiful articles and inspiration on the topics of parenting, education, nourishing, living, and story, with a flourish and all the seasoning of her experience as a Waldorf childcare provider and mother. If you click on “Living,” you’ll see my article, “Raising Chicks,” detailing our chicken farming adventures. Many thanks to Lisa for letting me be a part of her inaugural issue. I’m looking forward to being inspired on a regular basis by The Wonder of Childhood. (Thank you, Lisa, for including me!)

Okay, so back to the topic of galoshes: Dang it, I need my own! Because chicken farmers, like me, need to walk into mucky chicken runs to feed hens, collect eggs, and scatter oh-so-yummy scratch for the girlies. Said chicken run was delightfully dry and clean last July when we built it. But now, almost eight months later, it’s a muddy, poopy mess. I’m really looking forward to things drying out around here! So, galoshes. I have found a colorful pair I want to by for $39.95 and a black and white pair I could live with for $29.95. What do you think I should buy? Wellies style in paisley or black and white, William Morris floral?

Okay, I’m done now. Generally speaking I’m too keen on writing about stuff, even though I admit I really like stuff. I try not to make it my focus in life.

So, on to other things…. Did I mention that it’s raining? Today, Lucas’s third-grade class at Sacramento Waldorf school was supposed to shear the sheep. Unfortunately wet fleece doesn’t shear well or easily, I’m told. I have been asked to take photographs of the third graders shearing the sheep, which is thrilling on so many levels. Although, I have to admit I’m not sorry today’s shearing was canceled because of the weather. Although the sheep probably don’t care much about the rain, and third graders (in my experience) don’t care a lick about getting wet, my camera prefers to stay dry, dry, dry.

And now, it’s dinner time. Bye!

First Day of Spring!

Lilacs Blooming

Happy first day of spring! It’s raining like crazy. What’s up with us, you ask? Lots and not much at the same time, it seems.

Mama’s busy with work—two books are chugging along, hot and heavy. One new one is just starting up. All three feature different tasks and require different portions of my brain, so that’s something to celebrate. I give thanks whenever I get to use rusty brain cells. Alas, these hours spent working mean I take fewer pictures.

We are—at present—all healthy and strong. This is also something to be celebrated! Pardon me while I whoop and holler. Woo hooo! Yippie!

In fact, we’re getting stronger every day. Our workout regimen is paying off for Ian and me (which is something I feel I can finally say out loud in this space). It’s still very hard for me, but I’m doing it—and although I have a hard time being positive about it at 6 a.m., when it’s time to start sweating. It’s much easier to be positive afterward, when the workout is done, and now I can fit back into some of my skinny clothes. I’ve lost approximately 9 pounds. Ian, well, Ian looks and FEELS terrific! And anything that makes my love this happy is worth it—whatever it takes.

Asher gets stronger after every meal, just ask him. He bares his muscles and asks me to feel how they’re growing from all the good food he eats.

Tattoos (a la Avatar: The Last Airbender)

Asher’s Dreamland adventures are getting more complex and elaborate. There’s a new character there—James—who hangs with Asher and Kompatchuk. They go out everyday and fight bad guys. Apparently, they are extremely competent at the superhero business. They do ninja moves and kung fu and plenty of magic. Just about any weapon in the world is available to them and they rescue people in dire straits. Asher also does a lot of work there: mostly in factories with systems and equipment and donations. And, oh, the competitions! They are held often, and Asher always wins. Furthermore, in Dreamland there is tons paperwork to deal with, like chapters and grading. Asher works constantly on his computer, programming and energizing and downloading. I haven’t yet heard him use the phrase “leveraging the synergies,” but I expect it’s not long now until I do. Honestly, he can talk 35 minutes nonstop about this stuff.

Using the Force

Lucas is in a really good place most of the time these days. (Creating the triangle prism above out of skewers and string is how he spent part of this morning.) He’s happy at school, learning like crazy, and enjoying life. His only real complaints center around not having enough time to have all the play dates he would like to have, and having to practice his piano. Lucas loves playing the piano, just not practicing. Next week he will perform in his fourth piano recital. He’s been playing less than a year. Lucas would dearly love to start taking martial arts classes. Unfortunately, although I think he’s ready to do it, it’s not presently in our budget.

Asher has formally been accepted into the Red Rose Kindergarten at Sacramento Waldorf School. This is very exciting and wonderful, and is exactly where I want him to be. Now I spend lots of mental cycles worrying about how we’re going to pay for it. But never mind about that. Let’s focus on how he calls me the “Princess of Love” instead, shall we?

Firefly Recovered

Firefly, our special-needs, almost-starved-to-death chick, seems to have made a complete recovery. I have to say, I’m flabbergasted. I thought sure she was a goner, and that we’d be having that kind of teachable moment around here. She is not only walking, but also now runs and flies short distances.

So, yeah. I guess we’re good! One final thing: Thanks, Mom, for the new shoes for the boys, and clothes for Lucas!

A Day at the Park

Patriot Park

Last weekend we got to spend a beautiful day at our local Patriot Park with friends. It’s so local, we were able to walk there from our home. This park was an undeveloped field known as “Future Park” for the better part of 20 years. It’s pretty awesome now, although it was wonderful as a wild place, too.

Asher and R Sliding

The kiddos had a blast playing. Lucas showed us how he can do the monkey bars now! He has tried for so many years and now he can do it! Very exciting.

He Can Do Monkey Bars Now! Almond Blossoms, So Sweet Lamppost

I got to take photos of my darlings under the almond trees, which I had been eyeing for a few days.

Clowning

We got to clown about. Our darling Headra was visiting us!

R & R: Photos for Their Parents

We took some portraits of the delightful H kids …

My Boys under the Almond Blossoms

and some of my handsome guys.

My Beautiful Son

Lucas climbed a tree.

R and Asher among the Almond Trees

Asher tagged along after R, who is very sweet to him. The sky was very dramatic after the rainstorm of the night before. It felt so nice to be outdoors and surrounded by the scent of almond blossoms.

The walk home felt a little long for the kiddos, but the hot chocolate at the end proved to be a sufficient reward.

Our Baby Chicks

Our New Peeps

Our babies are here! We picked out ten wee chicks at the feed store on Thursday and it was a thrill. We got two chicks each of five different breeds in the hopes that this will help us to know them all as individuals even when they are grown.

Lucas and a Baby Chick

Lucas picked them all out. They are sweet little handfuls of fluff.

Our New Peeps

They are completely “a-DOH-able,” as Asher says. Fuzzy and peepy and sleepy and ever so young! Just two or three days old now. For the next few weeks they will be living in our makeshift “brooder box” in my office, the warmest room in the house. We have learned that they need to be kept warm — really warm. You and I would call it hot. We have had to make adjustments of our plans and setup to accommodate this new info. (I expect to say that a lot during this chick-raising adventure, since this is our first time!) As they grow, they will become more comfortable with slightly lower temps. Nevertheless, we are all enchanted.

More later. I think I’ll go hold one and watch her fall asleep in my hands.

This Moment: Wizard Chess

(Wizard?) Chess

Inspired by SouleMama {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Third Grade Shelter Project

Lucas has been very busy for the last week and a half working on his major project for third grade. In the Waldorf schools, third graders study lots of practical things like cooking, measuring, building, and making clothing. They also study shelters—the various types of homes people made or make for themselves in different parts of the world throughout history. The students have to choose a people with a particular type of shelter, build a diorama of their shelter, and write a report about it.

This the first big homework project, and it synthesizes what the students are learning in school with all kinds of other awesome qualities of third graders: their practicality, their extensive experience of modeling, their creative thinking, and their love of measuring, using tools, and building. It also calls into use their developing writing skills, their recent study of grammar and parts of speech, their artistic ability, their awakening to the real world around them and awareness of others, and their blossoming love of realism.

Making the Gunwales

Lucas wondered if he could make a house boat for his shelter project—after all, some people live on house boats. After some research, he and Ian hit upon a people indigenous to the Andaman Sea called the Moken, and we checked in with Lucas’s teacher to get her okay to proceed.

The Moken live on their handcrafted boats, called kabang, most of the year, and travel around the islands off the coast of Thailand. During the monsoon season, they live on land, but that’s only about three months of the year. They fish and trade fish for rice. Their kabang keels are dug-out logs that are passed down from father to son. “It can take a family four months to build a kabang. The traditional boats have sails and oars, but the new boats run on diesel engines” (from Lucas’s report).

Lucas used clay to make his kabang keel. Bamboo skewers were used as struts on which to weave the boat’s gunwales, which are traditionally made from zalacca wood. Lucas made his from garden twigs. He built the shelter on the deck of the kabang and thatched it with more twigs.

Making Beeswax People

Lucas modeled two Moken people out of beeswax. (Whole families live on these kabang, and the boats travel in groups of six or more.)

Lucas Weaving the Kabang Sail

Then Lucas wove a sail from raffia. The Moken use pandanus leaves to fashion their sails.

Third Grade Shelter Project: Mr. Moken Spearfishing

Here is the finished kabang shelter. Mr. Moken is standing in the sea, fishing with a spear. The kabang flies the Thai flag. The Moken people spend much of their time in the sea diving for shellfish, and studies show they’ve developed better underwater eyesight. “The sad thing is that there’s only about 1,000 Moken living on the sea today because the Burmese and Thai governments are trying to get them on land.”

“I want to go there and help them out. I also want to build a kabang with a Moken,” Lucas concluded.

This was a tough project, but one that was very rewarding, I think. Making something with his hands helped Lucas engage with the material, much more so than simply writing a report would have done.  It was also great to see Lucas work so hard over so many days, with his dad’s careful support and supervision.

Lucas and his classmates will also present their shelters to their class and talk about them. They will answer questions from the teacher and classmates as well. I’m proud of all of these kids for accomplishing something that took two weeks or so to make; perseverance is an important trait to develop.

Making Valentines

Watercolors on Coffee Filters

We have a class set of valentines to make this weekend for third grade, in addition to a big school project. (Lucas has to build a traditional shelter diorama and write a report—his first major homework assignment ever.) We have opted to make some kitchen valentines for his classmates this year. I’ll tell you about those after we’ve made them. This is what we did last year and it was super fun.

Valentines from Repurposed Gift Bag

In the meantime, Asher and I had some fun painting coffee filters with watercolor paints (above). The filters really soak up the paint, and the hearts are equally beautiful on both sides. We haven’t decided exactly how to use these yet: window decorations, cards, mobiles … there are so many possibilities! I spent a few moments the other day hacking up a shiny red gift bag into hearts. You can never really have too many of these, just in case.

At preschool, Asher and his classmates have been making valentines for a couple of weeks now. It’s hard work for a 3- or 4-year-old to make enough valentines for all of his friends!

Third Grade Valentine Tree

This Valentine Tree is on the third grade nature table at Lucas’s school. The hanging hearts are all made by the students from modeling beeswax.

I still want to come up with some kind of gift for the children, as I do every year. We always have a small breakfast-time celebration on holidays and I like having a wee something to surprise them with. I have loads of paper hearts that I keep year to year, and one thing I always do is to make a pathway of paper hearts leading from their bedroom door to the holiday breakfast table.

Strawberry Muffins with Honey-Sweetened Cream-cheese Topping

Just might have to make these again! How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day with your family?

Why Waldorf? Part 3

Basket Full of Second-Grade Knitting

This is the third part in a three-part article about what Waldorf school looks like compared to public school. If you’re just coming to this, I encourage you to read Part 1, which can be found here, and Part 2, which is here. This is, of course, our experience and others will have different takes on Waldorf education. Please keep in mind that Ian and I are parents, not teachers, so our perspective on Waldorf is a parents’ perspective.

 

Lucas's Desk and School Work

11. The School Day. A typical day at Waldorf school for the third grade consists of main lesson (subjects of language arts and math are taught in six-week blocks), snack time, specialty class, lunch, and then two specialty classes. There are several recesses too. Spanish, German, handwork, music, and gardening are each taught twice a week. Movement, Eurhythmy, painting, and form drawing are taught once per week. Two or three periods a week are devoted to reading practice and groups. My son loves all of his subjects.

Right now in main lesson, they are working on math, with specific emphasis on measurement and reviewing carrying and introducing borrowing. Next month they will move into a “shelter and housing” block. They will study housing around the world and the history of life skills. The children will choose a particular type of house or home and then fashion a realistic 3-D shelter diorama and present a report to the class. I have seen the most amazing shelter dioramas—igloos, geodesic domes, longhouses, log cabins—pass by me at school, lovingly carried (with difficulty) by their third-grade creators. This shelter block harkens back to autumn blocks of gardening and farming and building. In the spring, the third grade will have a social studies and life sciences block that covers clothing and textiles. Students will complete a clothing and weaving project, which handsomely dovetails with their handwork classes covering crochet and spinning.That’s a lot of information about our grade specifically, but it gives a picture of what school is like and shows how many teaching modalities are present, as art, movement, and music are interwoven throughout. All grades have some variation on this kind of day, with subjects becoming more advanced as the children grow.

Overall, the Waldorf curriculum is highly geared to meet the needs of the growing child, whose development can be divided into three main phases. Birth to age 7 is considered to be the imitation/will years; 7 to age 14 are considered to be the imagination/feeling years; and ages 14 to 21 make up the truth-seeking/thinking years. Subjects are introduced with these developmental stages in mind, for example eighth graders study world revolutions.

12. Parent Involvement. Our school is not, strictly speaking,  a “parent-participation” school. Parents do not volunteer regularly in the classroom. However, parents support and help with many tasks, and are asked to get involved in everything from festival committees and boosters clubs to the parent guild and the board of directors. There are celebrations and festivals all year long that require a great deal of parent involvement, and many fundraisers. Each family is asked to volunteer in numerous ways and to let the school know their particular talents and hobbies. There are hundreds of ways to be involved in our child’s education. I was thrilled when I was asked to help with baking dragon breads, to take photographs of the Harvest Faire, and to paint wings for the third grade’s Firebird Eurhythmy performance last fall.

Sixth Grade Dragon

First Graders Throw Their Petals

13. Festivals. So what are these festivals anyway? Waldorf schools celebrate a plethora of festivals that might be unfamiliar to many, or perhaps may be familiar only because they once were (or still are) a part of the yearly liturgical rhythm of European cultures. These festivals are closely connected to the seasons and occur almost once per month. Michaelmas occurs at the end of September. Harvest Faire happens in October. Martinmas and Thanksgiving are in November. The season of Advent is celebrated as the contemplative days leading up to the winter solstice and Christmas. May Day is a big school-wide festival that happens in the first week of May.

School festivals are opportunities for celebration, for contemplation and inner revelation, and for community building. By celebrating holidays and holding festivals, we celebrate the bounty and beauty of life. We stand up, take a deep breath, and collectively say, “We are human and humans together.” Because they are unique to Waldorf schools, these festivals are a kind of icing on the Waldorf cake and most families love to partake.

Scenes from the School Farm

IMG_6278

14. Nourishment. From the moment we set foot on our Waldorf school campus we have been nourished in every way. Every sense* is considered in every moment: sight, sound, taste, touch. Lighting is beautiful. Materials used in school are superb and of the best possible quality so that they may please and inspire. Wood, wool, sunlight, silk, paints of the purest colors, and nourishing foods are the delights that surround my son during his school day. Every item is both functional and beautiful, from the desks to the doorjambs, from the spectacular woods and river surrounding the campus to the school farm. And let me talk about that farm a moment. Fruits and vegetables are grown organically and biodynamically all year. Some (very lucky) animals make their homes there: a sweet old cow, a flock of chickens who produce lovely eggs, several sheep, and an old man llama named Balboa. Children participate in working this farm throughout grades 1–8 in their gardening classes. They learn where food comes from, and through their labors in the sun and open air get an inkling of the time, effort, and knowledge required to produce and harvest food. In the Waldorf Kindergarten, snack is provided by the school and the little ones are fed nourishing grains, vegetables, and soups. I assert that whenever 24 5- and 6-year-olds eat organic vegetable and barley soup together as a class, a small miracle has occurred. And I think any parent with a picky eater will agree.

Girl Holding Chick

We're Heading for the Sheep

15. Nature, Reverence, and Respect. This is perhaps the aspect of Waldorf education that most appeals to me. Wonderment and reverence for nature and humanity are part of my personal morality, and this is something I truly hope my children will learn. And I see these principles in practice every day at school. Rudolf Steiner said, “Receive the children in reverence; educate them in love; let them go forth in freedom.” We believe that our son is being taught as and treated as an individual with worth. We believe he is loved and valued and that his contributions to the class and the lives of the students and teacher are valued. We think this is a pretty good case for Waldorf education, since it is in feeling loved and wanted and respected that people are able to open up to learning and new experiences, and make lasting relationships. We do not want our son to burn out on school. We don’t want him to hate school and hate learning. We do not want him simply to survive his schooling, but rather to thrive in it and because of it. We feel that our private school is an investment in his future success and may help stave off some of the problems that teens and young adults face. We might be wrong, of course. Nothing is guaranteed. No school will raise him for us. We still have the toughest job of parenting. I wouldn’t have it any other way. (I welcome your comments.)

Lucas on the Vine

* Steiner described and explored twelve senses of the human being. I am not qualified to explain these.

Handmade Quills

Lucas has been very keen to have his own old-fashioned feather quill. Yesterday was the day. He announced his desire to Daddy, and while Asher and I went to a birthday party, they set out to make this dream come true by means of a trip to the craft store.

Lucas's Handmade Quills

They had to figure out how to cut the feather tips to make a good calligraphy nib; apparently this is harder to do than you might think. Any opportunity to use a knife is a worthwhile endeavor in Lucas’s mind, no matter the difficulty.

The result of their efforts, though, is this beautiful rainbow of quills (his arrangement)—all of which work. They are perfect for writing magical spells in spell books or on fancy parchment paper, don’t you know.

I confess I’m somewhat nervous about the pot of india ink in the hands of an 8-year-old who is frequently prone to daydreaming. There’s nothing for it, however. Not only do I remember my own joyful and spotty experimentation with such arts as a girl (thank you, Nana!), but also I’ve come to terms with an important truth: Parenting is a fundamentally hazardous occupation.

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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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