Thursday, February 24, 2011

Yoav's Castle

Yoav spent almost the entire day on this project, which was his idea, his plan, his implementation.  A friend gave us some heavy cardboard paper and this morning Yoav saw it and asked me what he could do with it.  I, infinitely less creative than he is, suggested he draw a picture and I would hang it on the wall.  Not interesting enough.  He has about twenty pictures on the walls as it is, some framed.  Yesterday we were at a friend's house - the girl had a wooden cut-out castle that she (mostly her mother) was trying to put together.  So, Yoav decided he would make a castle.  Out of a piece of cardboard.  I was worried that the day would be fraught with tears and failures, but as a wise Waldorf mama LOL, I simply said, "Ah."  There were no tears, and there was no failure.  Step by step, he made this.  He started with the two cubes - slowly gluing the edges, then doing something else for a bit while he waited for it to dry enough for him to handle again.  Then I think he put the windows and stones on each and cut out the doors.  The doors are cut completely out and then have a little cardboard hinge on the inside.  He realized when it was finished that he doesn't have a way to close the bottom door (the top door he closes by putting his finger inside and pushing it closed from the inside), so he's still trying to come up with a solution for that.  The only part I helped with was the small square openings around the top (I have no idea what that's called!) - he did a few and tired of it and asked me to do the rest.

This could be a sign that we're nearing the end of the six-year change.  For a child that sometimes says, "What can I do / What can I do / What can I do?" he certainly has an enormous ability to keep himself occupied and he also has the beginnings of a strong Will.  A few days ago he played store and everything in the store was handmade - a picture, some wool animals, some paper people.  We'll see.  I'm going to be watching closely.

More Playful Transitions

This recent post was very popular and a few people asked me to provide more examples.

It would be fun to really keep track and make a little page with a lot of examples.  I'll see if I can be organized/disciplined enough for that!

A recent transition that worked really well recently was this:

Elie was pretend driving around the living room in a cardboard box and Yoav got in front of the box as a barrier, which Elie did not want ;)  I stepped in and scooped up Yoav and laid him down on the couch.  I shaped one of my hands to be like a microscope and said, "Oh my, what is this strange obstacle in the middle of the road?!?!?"  I moved my eyes/microscope up and down one arm (while I rubbed it with the other) and said, "It has a long tentacle - maybe it's an octopus?"  Then moved to the mouth and said, "Hmm, no - it has sharp teeth - can't be an octopus.  Maybe it's a crocodile?"  You get the picture.  Then when you've done a bunch, "Hmm, white, sharp teeth; four tentacles; two eyes; blond hair, etc...  hmm.  I wonder..  It sounds like it might be Yoav?  Could it be?  Hmm?"  Then remove the monacle, see that it is and give a big hug as you joyously determine that you've found your child ;)  He was laughing with glee and Elie was back to bumping along happily in his box...  One thing I'm finding works particularly well is these transitions that involve play *and* touch.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Elie's First Embroidery

We did embroidery today with both boys.  I didn't realize that Elie was ready, but looking back in my blog, I see that Yoav started right at the same age, actually slightly earlier...

Yoav's First Embroidery just before third birthday
Yoav's Second Embroidery

I've gotten a little smarter since then and now we use linen (from Gray Line Linen in NYC) and a real needle.  I need to make the next step and get better thread - we've been using DMC thread, but it's pretty junky, particularly in terms of color.  I hear that silk thread is the way to go, but I haven't done much research yet.

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Yoav always enjoys embroidery and it turns out that Elie enjoys it too!  He caught on right away in terms of which side to put the needle into and after the first thread, he did the rest himself (he held the hoop himself and did the stitches - I did the start/finish of course, although he did try to do the finishing knots which was pretty amusing since he was so serious about it!).  I sang, "The thread follows the needle; the thread follows the needle; In and out the needle goes while Mother mends the children's clothes."  That's our standard needlework song.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Modifying our Rhythm

I've been enjoying Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie's "February Guide to Caring for Children".  She has everything you need to provide a young child with a Waldorf homeschooling environment with the blog divided into the static pages about Rhythm, Stories, Verses, Menu, etc and then the blog, which goes through the month with more details about her daily activities.

Inspired by her Rhythm suggestion, I'm changing mine a bit.  Yoav's least favorite day is "Cleaning Day" (guess that shouldn't come as a big surprise) so I'm going to switch it to Soup Day, BUT, I'm also going to have a Homemaking Rhythm so our housework is planned out and taken care of through the daily Rhythm.  I'm also going to modify Horseback Day to be Horseback/Farm Day - when we move, there will be a nearby ranch which is conveniently located near a small petting farm, so we'll spend some time at the petting farm before going to Yoav's horseback lesson...

So, our new Rhythm is:
Sunday - Family Day
Monday - Horseback/Farm Day
Tuesday - Painting Day
Wednesday - Craft Day
Thursday - Soup Day
Friday - Baking Day

Homemaking Rhythm:
Monday - Gardening
Tuesday - Ironing
Wednesday - Washing windows and cabinets (with spray bottle of vinegar/water and cloth towel)
Thursday - Sweeping (for me) and Polishing / Vacuuming at night when kids go to sleep
Friday - Mopping

This week we are using Lisa's "Rabbit and the Carrot" story.  I will tell the story this week, then next week I'll do it as a puppet show, and then the following week I'll attempt to act it out with the kids - this will be done in a very non-heady way - my plan is to simply put the carrot next to Yoav when the story says the rabbit gives the carrot to the donkey and I'll see if Yoav plays along.  I'm curious to see what happens ;)  Yoav really loved the story - he was smiling the whole time.  I love telling him stories.  It is so rewarding.  It's a completely different experience than reading a story to a child out of a book.  If you've never tried it, I highly recommend it - Waldorf or not!

We had a lovely day today - the weather was beautiful and Yoav was out for four hours!  Our morning "walk" was two hours - the kids took their bikes and we rode to the end of the moshav where there's a great street for biking since it has a perfect incline - steep enough to be fun to ride down, but not so steep that it's miserable to get back up...  So they biked, played around in the dirt for a while and played on the playground.  Yoav seems to have taught Elie how to pump.  It was the sweetest thing - Elie wanted to do it himself and told me to push him some and then told me to let go when he was going fast enough.  Then after a few minutes he sadly said that he was going slowly.  Yoav excitedly showed him how to go faster - just go like this with your legs and he showed him what to do and Elie was able to do it!  It was so cute for me to watch.  And I loved that Yoav remarked his surprise that Elie was able to do it since he only learned to pump in the last year - this was said with pride mixed with surprise/curiosity, no hint of jealousy!

In the early evening, we were in the garden (for our Gardening Day part of the day ) and a neighbor saw the kids and invited us to join him and a group of people going for a walk along the forest path.  The kids ran to get their bikes (since that's what "walk" means to them) and off we went.  It was fun to be part of the group - there were about ten kids and when we got to the end of the paved road, we stopped and the mothers took out all their snacks - various fruits and one mother had tea in a metal insulated canister with lots of cups for all the kids.  One mother pulled out a cutting board and paring knife to cut up some fruit - I loved that :) 

In the evening, after dinner, I was feeling a bit sick, which I think was dehydration from all of the time spent outside since I felt much better after a few glasses of water.  Jeremy first got me some water and then went back downstairs to work.  A little while later, Elie came and checked on the cup, saw that it was empty, refilled it for me (the water bottle was already on the table for dinner), and told me to drink it so it would "feel me better".  Meanwhile Yoav went upstairs to get me a pillow so I could rest comfortably on the couch.  I was appreciating them both so much for all the love they share with me, always and especially when I'm in need.  They are both very nurturing souls...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Playful Transitions

There has been some talk on Mrs. M's Yahoo group (waldorfhomeeducators) about the Six-Year Change recently.  Since I've been focusing on it, I've posted a few times and the discussions have helped me sort through some of what I've read and tried.

I posted today about a playful transition I used yesterday.  I've gotten several personal emails thanking me for the suggestion.  These have really lifted my spirits today.  I often focus on my less perfect moments rather than the highlights, so hearing so many people say that this transition was "beautiful", "loving", etc. feels very good to me, particularly given how difficult the last few weeks have been with travel and jetlag mixed in with the 6-Year-Change and trying to get back to our Rhythm!

I'm going to copy most of my post below and then add some additional thoughts.  This was in response to a woman seeking advice on how to return to her Rhythm when things go awry.
We have the very same problem here.  Probably most of us do.  I almost posted here last week in the middle of craziness when the kids seemed totally out-of-control (after a rhythmic morning but they got nuts when I was prepping lunch) and I couldn't figure out how to get us back on track!

Definitely look into the 6year change.  I think that's a big part of it for us.  Ruth Ker's book "You're Not the Boss of Me" is a godsend.

What I've learned is that the whining/not listening (different problems in our house, but we also get difficult behavior) isn't real - it's a sign of anxiety and a need for you to help him relax.  So when my son tries to engage me (in a negative way) into talking, I have to remind myself over and over NOT TO ENGAGE!!!!  I need to find a way to playfully pull him out.  But if I so much as start talking or responding to his nonsense (yesterday yelling at his little brother for driving a toy truck without a toy driver - he was saying, "You can't do it like that!  It needs a driver!"), it's no good for anyone!

The ways that work if you can get the child to do it - depends on how off-track you are - if the child (in my case) is totally out-of-control, I can't engage him in these:
Food
Outdoors
Real Work (cooking, cleaning, washing windows, folding laundry, ironing, etc etc)

When my son has gotten into the crazy, out-of-control stage (which sometimes happens quickly!) - what I've found works best for me, though, is play.  Yesterday, when we were dealing with the yelling about the toy truck, I came up to my 6yo with a heavy blanket, wrapped him up and said I was mailing him to Grandma.  I wrapped him up, pretended to write the address on, pretended to put stamps on, and then carried him in a circle back to the couch, plopped him down and pretended to talk to the mailman about the delivery.  Then picked him back up again as the mailman and walked in a circle to the couch again which was now Grandma's house, plopped him down again and then pretended to be Grandma opening up the package, finding him, kissing him with excitement, asking where his mother and brother were and if they were going to come too, etc.  He LOVED it.  And all the anxiety was gone and he was able to move into normal, calm play while I finished getting lunch ready.

And then, of course, you can try to figure out why the crazies set in to try to avoid it better.  Yesterday it turned out my son had asked my husband to play with him when DH had come in, but DH said he had to work.  We have found that my 6yo's negative behavior is highly linked to the amount of interaction he gets with DH.  A few minutes play with DH when DH comes in helps a lot for us (my DH works at home, which is why this happens to us sometimes in the middle of the day...)

Hope some of that helps for you.  Now back to my regularly scheduled rhythm :)
What I want to add to this is some background on how we came to find this solution (the playful game).  Ruth Ker's book "You're Not the Boss of Me" suggests Real Work as a transition out of negative behavior.  I don't have time to find and quote the article right now, but there is an article in the book that says if a child is not centered (or worse LOL) a bit of Real Work (chopping veggies, washing windows, polishing, etc.) can help him regain his Center and he will then be ready to resume play or continue with whatever the class was doing after a few minutes of the Real Work (this was an article about kids in school).  I mentioned this idea in this post a week ago, with my intention to try using more Real Work as a transition in these difficult times.  After a few tries, it became obvious to me that unless I was being very pre-sponsive in my parenting, the Real Work was not going to be appealing for Yoav.  He was just saying no he didn't want to do anything I suggested (note that I was not asking him - I was singing transition songs or doing things myself hoping he'd join in).

A few days ago, Yoav was in a particularly foul mood.  I wasn't Centered enough myself to help him transition, so I called in the troops (my husband) for back-up.  This particular time, Jeremy came with the perfect solution - with minimal talk, he started playing horse with Yoav - Yoav riding on Jeremy's back as Jeremy pretended to be a horse.

That evening, Jeremy and I talked about various recent parenting issues and my reading in the Ker book and what was working and what wasn't.  We came to the conclusion that we shouldn't engage AT ALL in the nonsense that Yoav talks about when he's in a bad mood.  None of it is real - he says he doesn't know what to do, or he doesn't like this or that, or wants Elie to be doing something differently etc.  It doesn't help to talk to him about it, because it's truly just nonsense, which is obvious by how different he is once his does regain his Center.  It's just anxiety/un-Centeredness spewing out in the form of words.  So, we decided to make a concerted effort to just step in with Play when Yoav was off.

And that's how I got to the mailman idea.  I knew I had to think of some sort of physical play and he was lying on the couch with a blanket nearby...  I think I actually first wrapped him up in the blanket and only then got the idea to pretend he was a package...  I think in the Ker book there is an idea to put the child between two pillows and pretend to be making a sandwich and discuss what type of sandwich.  I've done that a few times since reading it and it is a great game as well.

I have some more I want to write about this, but I'll save it for another day so I can get set up for tomorrow.  I've been doing a puppet show of "The Frog King" each day this week and the kids (particularly Yoav) are loving it so much.  Yoav's eyes bulge out of his head when I take off the next playsilk to reveal the next scene - you'd think he hadn't already been hearing this same story for two weeks LOL!  Anyway, so I want to get it set up again and review before I go to sleep.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Winter Nature Table

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We cleaned up our nature table today and changed the playsilk from the orangish one we had before (left on from Autumn) to this green one we just dyed a few days ago.  Feels a bit strange to me to use a green silk for winter (instead of the blue one I used to use for our Winter Nature Table in New York), but, in Israel (where I live anyway), winter is when it rains and the grass is green and flowers bloom.  Similar to April in New England I guess ;)

Yoav drew a picture to represent Winter to hang above the Nature Table - it's a drawing of a rainy day outside, with a person walking by a tree.  I was planning to buy seasonal postcards, but I think I prefer to make our own seasonal drawings or needlework to add to the Nature Table.  I might make embroidery designs in small hoops, one for each season, to hang just above the Table where the drawing is now.  I think I'd like that.

Back to cooking...

Shabbat Lunch Plans

We're having 15 people (three families) for Shabbat lunch this Shabbat.

Yoav made each young child (up to age 8) a paper placemat.  They are SO thoughtful and beautiful.  Each child's placemat is a drawing of something that child likes -
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Top left:  Spongebob and Patrick;
Top right: Hello Kitty;
Middle left: trucks and carpenter ants building a house (idea of ants building is from "The Magic Knot", a Tiptoes Lightly book; one is trucks;
Middle right:  gnomes standing near a tree;
Bottom: this is the one for Yoav - three cats and three chickens in a chicken coop
He is planning to make one for Elie tomorrow, which will have trucks.


Shabbat Menu

Broccoli Soup
Chicken Soup (MIL's recipe)

Challah (Joan Nathan's "The Foods of Israel Today")
Babaganoush (Janna Gur's "The Book of New Israeli Food")
Hummus (Joan Nathan's "The Foods of Israel Today")
Israeli Salad (Janna Gur's "The Book of New Israeli Food")
Rice with Turmeric and Onion
Mejadra
Plain basmati rice
Sauerkraut (purchased from Shoresh Eitzion - shoresheitzion@gmail.com)
Fermented Ginger Carrots
Raw veggies for the kids to dip in hummus

Chicken and Figs (92nd Street Y Cookbook)
Cholent

Halva (purchased at Shuk)
Fruit Compote (Janna Gur's "The Book of New Israeli Food")
Cinnamon Apple cake (Janna Gur's "The Book of New Israeli Food")


As you can see, I should be cooking instead of blogging :)