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Caveat: I wrote this over a year ago, specifics and rhythms have changed as my children have grown and matured and our lives change. Perhaps I will do an update….A Working Life:

On my bookshelf, a row of familiar books show their broken spines and disintegrating covers. They reveal their frequent use, probably the most read books in my collection. My guess is that it is the most-read collection of books in many homes, homeschooling or not. Laura Ingalls Wilder gave us the most wonderful gift in her writing: a picture of a family life lived in real, palpable and functional work. I am talking about the kind of work that was central and integral to daily survival. This work was not an afterthought to the day, it wasn’t relegated to “chore time”. Nor was its components listed on a chart, complete with rewards and consequences given based on its accomplishment.

This work WAS their life, not a component of it. Woven into daily work was family relationship, community identity, spirituality, sense of “self”, communion with environment and nature, and “education”. In this modern age, these components of self are rudely ripped from each other into separate compartments, leaving us constantly seeking “wholeness” and peace. I could not imagine a childhood classic written today from the perspective of modern mainstream life (or even a Waldorf homeschooling life) that could convey such nourishing and holistic concepts. Can you imagine it?! Perhaps titles like:
Maybe some chapters:

Perhaps I am just cynical, and I certainly often feel that perhaps I was born in the wrong era. However, I think that this longing for real work, and a return to a life lived wholly, not in parts, is universal….especially to us homeschooling mamas. The problem that we face, as children of the 70’s and 80’s now raising children of our own, is that most of us were never taught to work in this way. In fact, our particular definitions of “work”, “education”, “pleasure vs. leisure” and “survival” are so far removed from how these concepts were defined in Laura Ingalls’ time that we don’t even know how to approach life in this way, especially with our children.
When I was growing up, my most important “work” was my “education”. I put these words in quotes because going to school was not “work” that lent itself towards survival and unity of the family and community…and “education” was about a mental and intellectual gathering of facts and skills, not the development of my whole being (body, mind and soul). I was rarely required to do physical or domestic work, as my time was mostly devoted to school and extra-curricular activities. Yes, sometimes I had to sweep a kitchen floor. I was in charge of my own laundry by the time I was 12. However, I had no picture of how an entire household was run and organized. My parents did this work all the while encouraging me “to focus on your education so you can be something more than a housewife or maid”. The daily mundane work required of a family home was considered to be the work of the grown-ups, and relegated to a part of the day allotted to “unfortunately necessary work”. It was seen as a side-effect to life, not life itself. Domestic and physical work was something we had to get through to get to the “real stuff” of life. We were raised to believe that the MORE we focused on our intellectual acuity or “education”, the less of this nasty daily mundane work we would have to worry about when we grew up. A sign of being totally successful was one where we could have others do this gritty day to day household stuff so we could focus on our careers and our passions.
Flash forward to when we all started getting married and having babies. We held our children in our arms, looked into their eyes, and decided that we didn’t want to send them off to school. We all chose something different, we knew (and we still know) that we wanted our children to have an experience of their own lives that is deeper, more home centered and less compartmentalized than what we experienced. Many of us brought our childhood fantasies of a Little House on the Prairie life to our young families. However, because of our lack of “training”, and our culturally skewed views on “work” and “education”, we find ourselves fatigued in our daily life and at constant odds between our ideals and our realities.

I make no pretense here. I do not want to put forward an image that I have it all figured out; and anyone who knows me in real life can attest to the fact that my house is often out of control and messy. I often allow the necessary tasks in front of me pile up while I spend precious hours on a blog or nose deep in a novel. However, through grappling with this subject, I have been able to redefine life and work in a functional way. My children work very hard compared to their contemporaries, and I recently calculated that they spend more literal hours a day engaged in domestic and physical work than in any other single activity.
On so many parenting and homeschooling sites, we see questions like “how do I GET my children to do chores”? Often there are many answers that involve the typical manipulations we perform with children, “getting” them to eat vegetables, clean their rooms and “share” their things. We have tried every chart and reward and punishment system. I have even seen parents make complete clowns of themselves creating elaborate “fun” stories and scenarios that make the chore or undesired request “enjoyable”. So many parents think that if a child expresses displeasure in a task that there is somehow something “wrong”. A child that refuses to work, share or eat vegetables is called “strong-willed”. A child that wilts with a broom in his hand makes us feel as though we have not properly filled him up with the right nourishing stories or foods. Before we try and manipulate our children’s behavior with the application of our own will…let us realize that children wilting at work is the sign of a WEAK will.
Children often do not know how to say “no” to themselves and their own whim of emotion (sound familiar?….I experience this myself faced with a laundry pile that is taller than my 6 year old). Sometimes washing dishes does not feel good, it is not fun. We know this as grown-ups, and perhaps our generation of homemakers feels this more than our forebears for whom work was an assumption of life. So we look in the eyes of little Johnny or Joan, wet with tears over an intense desire to not put the blocks back in the basket, and think “I need to figure out another WAY to GET them to WANT to do their chores”. Hence the cycle of manipulations and struggles and bad feelings and throwing up our hands and just doing it ourselves to get to the other side of chores to the important real stuff of grimm’s fairy tales, pentatonic flute lessons, beeswax modeling and circle songs.

We need to step back from our preconceived notions of work and priorities of family life, and instead of asking “how do I get them to do their chores”, we should ask “how can I re-center my priorities around daily work and elevate these tasks so that they become the most important cornerstone of all facets of our life”? That is what the first part of this essay has been about. Once we redefine, re-center and reevaluate our assumptions, we can get to the how-to. If we don’t first do the philosophical readjustments, anything we try or do will be another materialistic scaffold that will eventually make us feel imprisoned. I offer now a picture of what I have done in my own home that seems to be working, at least for now….not as a “method” but an example of one family’s WAY and CULTURE of home life. I also freely admit that this is a picture of us on our very BEST days…and that many days are nothing close to this ideal. You will certainly create your own ways and means through your own journey in redefining your relationship with work.

I no longer consider myself as completely responsible for the home and housework. I may be the shift manager, or lead homemaker, but all of us in the family are responsible for the running of the home. My daughter, now actively in that 9 year change, craves responsibility. She is responsible for breakfast, and makes toast, oatmeal or pancakes every morning without my supervision. I have even trained her to make coffee in the press and bring me a cup in bed. Yes, I am admitting this to you! (you might vacillate between horror and jealousy on this point) She is such an early riser, and quite frankly, I need an extra hour most mornings….so this works for us. We have a notebook where she writes a letter to me every night, talking about things she is thinking about, and asking about the next day. She leaves it next to the bathtub for me. When I am filling my nightly bath, I write back to her. I write to her loving thoughts, and also give her responsibilities for the next day that she needs to attend to. I give her ownership over that first hour of the morning, and often by the time I have risen for the day, she has already accomplished much household work. This simple early morning breakfast is not eaten until everyone is dressed and beds made. I am not afraid of them starving because they don’t want to make a bed. And they won’t die from eating cold oatmeal through tear stained eyes after finally relenting to making their bed.

After this first part of the morning, we head up to the barns to do the barn chores. Sometimes I send the kids up on their own to do them while I prepare for the homeschooling or other portion of the day. My husband and I have spent many hours teaching the children how to do these chores, by working alongside with them, then eventually giving them the GREAT PRIVILEGE of doing these tasks all by themselves. We often spend hours up in the barns. Besides the watering, feeding and mucking that needs to be done, we spend time hugging the goats. We pet the horses and take them on walks around the paddock and pastures. The kids will get lost in a puddle, using gravel and sand to build a tributary where they float a bark and leaf boat. We strike a balance between the necessary work and the freedom of experiencing our environment. I make sure that most of our commitments are home-based, not outside of the home, so that we don’t have to quickly push through our chores to get to our co-op, playdate or class. Chores and deep unstructured time in play become one in a way that is impossible in an overly structured and scheduled life. I remember in the Little House books, Laura and Mary would play alongside the work being done, seamlessly moving in and out…the work and the play were ONE. This is just “what we are doing”….not “something we have to do”.

If the barn chores take 30 minutes or 3 hours, we then move on to the “BIG BREAKFAST”. This is a hearty meal, and a grounding time before we move on to studies/homeschool. We all stand together in front of our icon corner (we are Russian Orthodox) and say our morning prayers. We sit on the living room floor, and the children color and draw, or do handwork as I read to them from the Prologue, the lives of the Saints, and stories about whatever feast day is upcoming on our religious calendar. I send Bella, our 9 year daughter, off to play with Meir (just turned 6) outside or elsewhere so I can have a solid 30-45 minutes to read Jude (7) his Grimm’s fairy tales and work on his main lesson book). At this point, Bella and Meir have had enough of each other, and I send the boys off to the pond to look for frogs, or to do some activity in another room. I set Bella up with what I need her reading that day, work on a celtic knot, have her retell me a story from the previous day, work on our times tables. She has become much more independent in the past year with her schoolwork….and I have let go some of my fantasies of my children being able to have a “waldorf classroom” experience here at home. She basically does everything herself, and my role is less of a teacher and more of a guide and mentor.

Meir helps me make lunch while the older two work on whatever they are working on. He loves to cook, and while we are doing that, we will often sing, tell stories, have a chat. When we are done eating, the children clean their spots. Meir wipes the table, Jude moves the chairs and sweeps under the table, Bella does the dishes. If the kitchen is still dirty from the morning, we wipe the counters and clean the floors. Nothing else happens until all of this is done.

The children go to a quiet time, everyone alone in their own space. We are not allowed to interrupt each other, and if they come down to ask “when is it over” or because they can’t wait to talk to me about something, I send them back and add on another 5 minutes to the quiet time, no exceptions. It is rarely perfect, but after years of doing it this way, they can all reasonably be alone without need of outside stimulation…and I get a good hour of decompression.

As soon as quiet time is over, they have to “clean up their quiets”… if they took out toys, cut up paper, made a mess of any kind, they can’t come out of quiet until their space is clean and set back to “zero”. At this point, I usually ask them to do some housework, depending on the day and need. If there is a snack, there will be NO SNACK until this work is done. Sometimes we are taking clothing off a line, putting clothes away, weeding in the garden, reorganizing the book or school shelves, or perhaps finally putting away all the random stuff on the “messy counter”. Snack is served, and the afternoon is then spent in freedom. I usually have something that I am working on, depending on the season and need. I could be working on dinner, sewing, canning food, working in the garden, reading a book, sitting and being lazy, etc….and they will come in and out of my world and theirs.

Before dinner, everyone is required to go to “their rooms” and make sure everything is as it should be. Every child has two rooms of the house (not their bedrooms) that they are completely responsible for. I have taken the time to show them where everything goes, how to clean it top to bottom, and what it should look like when everything is in order. Some days all their room needs is a quick straighten. Other days it requires dusting, sweeping, mopping and even washing the woodwork. Many times one of the children will come out of their appointed room crying, “but I didn’t make that mess in there!!!”. It doesn’t matter. They are responsible for that room, and part of that responsibility is going to be cleaning up messes they didn’t make. We are a family, and we take care of and serve each other. We are not just a bunch of individuals thrown together by genetics and a shared last name……only responsible for our own singular welfare.

There have been times when a child has sat sulking in their room refusing to clean up someone else’s mess, but the next thing (dinner in most cases) will NOT happen until this is done. I assure you no one has starved in my home, and after doing it this way for long enough, I rarely if ever meet resistance. On the contrary, my children meet most work with joy and gladness. Bella sings constantly while working, and the boys often create imaginary scenes for themselves that incorporate their tasks. I didn’t accomplish this by convincing them, manipulating them, bribing them, punishing them, or trying to make “everything fun” for them. I just made it a reality. Work is a reality that moves our day from one thing to the next, and the day doesn’t move unless it is done.

On top of this “reality”, I have also given my children the responsibility and privilege of being able to take full ownership over their appointed rooms. They are allowed to decorate it, and request moving furniture arrangements if possible and reasonable. I will often find an arrangement of pebbles, feathers and silks on a windowsill, or a mason jar filled with flowering weeds on a shelf. The children take pride in their spaces. It is not just their “chore” that they have to “do”. They are integral and important homemakers. I need them, and what they do is necessary to the unity and survival of our family. Not only do they help clean, they help create the environment and beautify our home.

Another question that is often asked on parenting groups is “what chores are appropriate for my – year old?” We will see a suggestion of a good list: “my two year old can put silverware away, help make their bed, put their clothes on a hook, etc…” “my 10 year old can do his laundry, clean the bathroom, and clean his room.” These suggestions are good, but I think that we often greatly underestimate what our children are capable of. Would you be shocked to know that I taught my daughter to make coffee at age three and also let her use a sharp knife? Now at 9, she drives a small tractor to mow the lawn, and can cook an entire elaborate meal. My 7 year old can lead a horse to pasture and wrangle a sheep. Both of the boys have been splitting firewood with real hatchets for two years. They are able to do these things because they are always beside my husband and I as we work. Since work is not relegated to the least important part of the day, their experience of these tasks become the most important part of each day. In Farmer Boy, Almanzo rose in pride when he was given two small calves and yoke for his birthday. When work is elevated to such a central part of life, children crave it as most other children crave the latest toy or video game. When my husband bought my five year old his first hatchet, he was overjoyed….not because it was “fun” but because now he could “help chop firewood”. He knows himself to be important to the functioning of our home.

We need to be careful of chore LISTS, as if we can just check things off and know that we are done. The list creates a “work as separate” attitude as opposed to just being part of our existence. I do not need a list “breathe, drink water, eat” to check off every day. My body tells me I need these things, and I respond accordingly. When we redefine work in this new (yet old) way, it becomes as necessary and natural as these other bodily functions, yet it touches more than our bodies. It strengthens our wills, elevates our souls and refreshes our spirits. It is in this creation of a culture of work that we find our Way. Once we have done this, we no longer need to ask “how do I get my kids to do their chores” or “what chores should I expect of my children”. And you know what? Your house might actually be a little cleaner and more organized too, leaving you with more room to finally take that pottery class, or have your mom’s night out. And your children will be well-equipped to deeply apply themselves to whatever comes their way in life, no matter how difficult or “unpleasant” it may feel. Let’s not let our fixation on natural toys, main lesson books, and particular pedagogies get in the way of this most simple and nourishing of all aspects of life. You don’t need to order it from Germany, it doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars, and it can be done right now…..not after you have mastered anthroposophical child development theory or the telling of a story without actually reading it from a book. I dare even suggest that if you get this part of life in order, there will be much more room for these wonderful Waldorf “things” and activities. Blessings on your homemaking!!

PS: Please remind me of all of this when you hear me complain about housework and overwhelm!!


So….here is a follow-up I wrote, which I will share here….remember, this is a post from a yahoo group so those are the “questions” I am referring to…..

I want to apologize in advance that I am not the best on yahoo groups with
checking in and giving quick answers/having a conversation. I tend to wait
until something I am really passionate about, then write an essay. I am
really more of a “hey, here’s my phone number…want to chat over a glass
of wine (tea for some others) after the kids are in bed?!”
Seriously….that is how I started to talking to (name here) lol. And
unfortunately, I am not on facebook….after being on it for quite a while,
I realized it was one of those things that kind of sucked my time and
attention and didn’t enhance my homelife, or my good feelings about
others…..;-) I attempt here in one place to answer all the different
questions that came up in response to my Oak Meadow post, and a couple of
other posts.

Last night, Carrie reminded me in an email that this “Waldorf Way” and
developing it in the home, etc….is a slow process. Often the deeper I
get into it, the more I realize I DON’T know. That’s why I won’t even
pretend to put myself off as any kind of expert on Anthroposphy. I would,
however, suggest getting the blue and pink Kindergarten books. You can get
them at Bob and Nancy’s.
scroll down on this page, one is blue, one is pink lol. They are
collections of AWSNA articles that go much deeper into the Kindergarten and
its anthroposophical underpinnings (or it is written from that
perspective).That is a very good START. I also know that there are places
where you can listen to Steiner’s books and lectures read aloud in English
if you don’t have much time to read actual things on paper. It would be
near impossible to have a quick workshop on it. However, there are some
basic things to understand like the threefold nature of man, etc…so you
can understand more of the why’s and wherefores of his child development
theory. (actually human development theory….those 7 year cycles of
development continue on…and it would behoove you to know which one you
are in!!….I am in the “Sun” years.) Sometimes in Waldorf circles, you
will hear things like “he is still in the ether”, or “too fast to
incarnate”….and you need to understand what they mean by this, and what
it means for what is important for each child. I mean, why wouldn’t we
want our child to incarnate quickly…..our culture says quicker is better!

As far as “what to do”, I would suggest starting with what you already
have. I too have a kindergartener with two in the grades. I am not always
going to be able to prevent my youngest from loftier
concepts/words/activities than what he is “ready” for. We have cousins, we
have guests with older children come to our house….we have friends that
don’t have a single wooden toy in their house. Add on top of this, I am a
very choleric individual who has a super loud voice, a penchant for
sticking her foot in her mouth, acting like a stand-up comedian all the
time and an addiction to intellectual stimulation. I was a theater major in
college, and a singer….a powerful belter to be exact. When I would go
to a parent child class, and hear the sweet singong voice of the
teacher…”CHILLLLLLLL-dren!!!! WHOO-hoooooooo! All little birdies come
back to nest!”….I immediately felt that without having my vocal chords
removed, I would be unable to provide for my children that particular
Waldorf environment….that just by nature I would be incapable. Could my
children go into cryo-freeze until they were in middle school, where I felt
my particular “gifts” could be more useful and less “harmful”?

I made an amazing friend, whose daughter had been in a Waldorf nursery with
mine, and we both pulled them to homeschool. We started meeting once a
week, and I was amazed that there could be someone louder and
more FILL-UP-THE-ROOM than I. Seriously, she made me feel like a quiet
dormouse….and her demeanor with her children was often sarcastic and
quick, and her gestures over the top. She explained to me it was being a
“Russian Jew, child of immigrants”…..perhaps that might have some
cultural truth to it, but I knew better, it was just her temperament! Her
children weren’t fading under her great presence, they were bright eyed,
grounded and capable of deep deep uninterrupted play…….that sign we are
all looking for (in answer to “what to observe”?) to know that our children
are “doing well”. She threw a birthday party for her daughter, and read a
birthday story while her daughter sat in a throne with a crown on….read
it off of paper, with a huge dramatic flourish…completely unlike the
angelic slightly monotone voice of the practiced Waldorf story teller. It
didn’t matter….her daughter and all the rest sat in rapt attention…and
my children from that time on begged me to tell their stories (I thought I
had before…but they remembered this one!). SHe just approached these
activities without hesitation, without shame, without trying to put on a
“waldorf” façade, imitating what she saw in a classroom. She was fully
present, and dove straight into the moment she was in.

Thank God for this friend! She gave me permission to realize that “quiet”
in my home (and certainly hers) would have a different decibel level that
others. When I have had other children here for co-op, many of them who
come from naturally quiet mothers, have physically shirked from me the
first few times I spoke to them with such authority and vigor. I look at
them and have to remember, “oh right, quiet is actually really quiet in
other peoples homes and I am probably freaking this poor kid out”.

In a waldorf kindergarten, the teacher is meant to be an archetype of
“Mother” (that is one reason why even male K teacher wear an apron). Now,
as homeschoolers, we are ACTUALLY mother, and can never fully embody the
archetype because we have full relationships with our children, that
include our human temperments etc…. We are like
frontiersmen/women…..what does “waldorf” or anthroposophical theory
actually LOOK like growing from the soil of my own individual home and
family? We have the great privilege of creating and discovering this
together! The moment we by rote apply a material system of waldorf on
ourselves, we will never make it to the Promised Land!

So, I say all this in response to….”I have older children, public school
children, etc….how do I still preserve my child’s innocence and keep them
out of intellectual activity”? You can’t entirely. But you can be sure
that when you are there with your kindy child….that you are fully present,
that you carve out some relatively quiet time for him every day where you
leave him alone. Or you let him follow you in your tasks with a song on
your lips and very little verbal direction. And if a little one “wants” to
read and learn letters…let them, but if they come to you asking for you
to “teach them to read” tell them firmly and lovingly, “no, now is not your
time… will begin that after you have had seven springs!!!!” Your
child does not know what they are asking for. We don’t want to serve the
devil “want” in our children, assuming that just because they want
something or are interested in it it is somehow the best thing for them. A
lot of children, without guidance and through imitation and play, will
indeed teach themselves to read before the first grade. But if they do
this entirely on their own, that is one thing….if we as parents take
their playful imitation of reading and writing as a need to “start them
learning to read because they want to”….we begin to awaken their
intellects in a way that we don’t want to. My 9 year old didn’t read until
she was 8 and a few months. She jumped from sound recognition to reading
chapter books in the period of a few weeks. Many of her homeschooling
peers, who have been doing “reading” work since a very young age because
“they wanted to” are already burnt out, and equate all things reading and
writing for school as “work” and a task they just have to push through to
get to the more fun stuff.

So……I think that the following questions might help you make a clear
idea of a day for you in your own home:
-What tasks do I need to do every day? (make bed, brush hair, cook, laundry)
-what moments to have throughout the day/week/month to be able to quiet
down and carve out a non-intellectual sanctuary for my K child? (hint,
those moments might be found in the above tasks)
-how can I begin taking the “things” I have learned from waldorf into these
moments that already exist….(ie, a washing the laundry song? singing
folk songs while walking around the block? Giving my child a knife and
having them cut the zucchini?)
-which moments are the MOST troublesome to me regarding what my child is
exposed to? How can I try to dial it down just one notch for them in those
moments? (ie, teenager can only watch tv/play video games in his room or
in family room with door shut….hence the joke of the “tv in the closet”
at waldorf schools….making sure that the kids spend at least one hour
outside when you visit the cousins, etc….)
-put on an apron when you are working in the home! And research “why
waldorf teachers wear aprons”

Once you start trying to enrich what you have, instead of scrapping
everything that makes your family and home your family and home, and
replacing it with a “beautiful waldorf curriculum” you will start to see
fruit….ENRICH what is already there! You could really take the MOST
mundane day at home and turn it into a magical journey for your child with
a little enrichment It is this approach, and only this approach, that
brings peace to the whole family, and doesn’t colour your waldorf path with
frustration, bad feelings and even possible divisions between your family
and others (like the in-laws). I promise…..the more you live this life,
as the children get older, the in-laws and friends start to see that
something is “different” and won’t be so critical of your strange ways.

Anyway, there is my big huge ramble of a bunch of thoughts…..I really
want to write a blog post called “Leave Your Children Alone”, as I think
sometimes this is the key to a lot of our questions….perhaps after the
kids are in bed lol. Right now, I am completely ignoring them! Time to go
make sure the kids did the barn chores!!

WOW! I guess I am resurrecting ye old blog! On a yahoo group (editing to say that Carrie of Parenting Passageway asked me…her well-known and expansive blog is here:, I was asked to repost something I wrote there….about Waldorf homeschool curriculums and “what to do” every day with little kids. So…I post it here, perhaps this blog is taking a more homeschooling route instead of my inner spiritual ramblings…so here it is:

I wanted to first chime in on Oak Meadow…it is definitely not Waldorf, although slightly influenced by it. I too suggest it to non-waldorf-y homeschoolers that are looking for a more hands-on (less workbook, less school at home) style curriculum.

ANother major difference besides the early introduction to intellectual activity…is that they don’t do unit studies/blocks in the way that waldorf does. All subjects are done all the time, like in a mainstream school. Oak Meadow was in part (I believe) designed to take waldorf “style” (materialistically) and structure it in a way that followed a mainstream school’s academic schedule.

There are two words that we confuse a lot I think…or interchange when we shouldn’t….Waldorf and Anthroposophical. The Waldorf schools were created based on Steiner’s teaching of anthroposophy and childhood development. They were also created to meet the need of urban children whose parents were working in a factory. Here we are decades later, and we have waldorf schools, which also meet the particular needs of their communities. They are filled with classrooms that have multiple same-aged children, and are also lead by teachers who generally consider themselves to be anthroposophical in philosophy (which at the center puts the teacher’s own inner work at the front of the line). In a Waldorf Kindergarten, there is usually a lead teacher that holds the room energetically, leads the circle, etc…and a teacher’s assistant who often attends to the “chores” of the room, setting up the bread dough, cleaning making sure the soup is ready, etc… and they are all managing a group of 12-20 kindy aged children who are generally in similar stages of development, interest/way of play, etc…

We CANNOT emulate a Waldorf school classroom in our home, in no way, shape or form…..except in materialistic way (ie, having the right toys, singing the right songs, even lazuring our walls in a pretty peach colour). When we get focused heavily on this outward and materialistic part of “waldorf”, we are throwing out the “anthroposophy”, and making ourselves generally miserable. It is from here we end up with the frustrations and questions like “but my child doesn’t like to fingerknit….how will I ever get him to do handwork?!” or “My five year old hides under the table during circle and refuses to sing in front of others!” (that’s one that I wrote).

Back to Oak Meadow…I would venture to say that even the more “authentic” curriculums (ie, Christopherus and Live Ed) can be “not Waldorf” when approached in a materialistic way. When we take a step back and look to Steiner’s teachings and the underlying philosophy to “why” fairy tales, circle songs, etc… we begin to be able to dig deep into the culture of our home, and our individual souls….and create an authentic holistic approach to “education”, “home” and our day to day lives.

I realize this sounds all very nebulous…and the question still exists….”but what do I DO every day?” It is exactly that question that led me to have Oak Meadow K when I had a four year old, 2 year old and barely one year old. I quickly realized it wasn’t for us, then switched to Live Ed (and shamelessly I will tell you I have tried MANY other curriculums as well)….but anytime I approached the curriculum as a curriculum, as opposed to a guide….I made myself completely nuts, and lived in constant frustration that I wasn;t able to do it all.

We CAN’T do it all…..and stay away from any “system” that tells you that you can if you just “a, b, c or d”….and then sells you a way to do it!!!! That is why I love and support what Lisa is doing here (….she is giving all the great resources and basic scaffolding to enrich your life, NOT mold it.

Your home is already a “waldorf kindergarten” the moment you put your personal inner work at the forefront, deeply observe your children, make a quiet life and do everything you can to preserve their innocence…and not awaken their intellects too early. It isn’t the toys, the curriculum, the finger plays, etc….those are just wonderful things that ENRICH a Waldorf home, not make it. It is a philopophy and a Path, not a THING. Your personal home and culture should be the soil in which your “kindergarten” is planted.

I wish that I had relaxed more when all I had was littles….and not worried so much about how to fill my days and structure them in the most perfect way….to be sure that my children hear all the right stories, did all the right handwork, etc… My 9 year old just read “Little Women” and “Anne of Green Gables”, and she obsessively writes poems about fairies and nature…..and I can’t ever remember actually teaching her to read lol….AND I was never ever perfect in following a curriculum. The kids get there on their own, and sometimes when we think we need more, that is actually a sign that what we really need is LESS….to slow down and see what wonderful moments we can make out of the most mundane.

Just when I was ready to throw in the towel, just when I was going to give away all my worldly goods and join the Bruderhof, just when I was considering giving my children to gypsies to raise so I could get away from it all……

Friend Raye comes to the rescue!  After reading my very depressing blog post, all striving and longing…she offered to come and visit and minister to me.  Oh, how I needed minstering to!  She emailed me asking if there was any way that she could help me.  Here is the list I gave her of my needs:

I would love for you to come and visit. I need some silent worship.  I need someone to do a craft with my kids.  I need space to fold some laundry.  I need someone to talk to me about love and G-d.  I need to eat some food that I didn’t actually have to labour over.  I need to do a Bible Study.  I need to get put back on my path with G-d (teshuvah, repentance).  I need a quiet walk in a beautiful place.  I need someone to be kind to my children and interested in what they have to say……
Take your pick!  If you can help with any of those, I would be grateful!”

Well, armed with a pot of turkey/tuber (my children ate Jerusalem Artichokes!!) soup and gluten free cornbread, Raye arrived with her bag of tricks.  After a nice lunch, she sat down with my two older children, and showed them how to spin wool with a drop spindle.  This was a perfect thing to do, as my children have been washing and carding wool since before they could walk, but mommy could never motivate to learn to spin.  Janka Fairy even wore her “Quaker Bonnet” (which is really a stiff Mennonite bonnet), because she was so excited that a Friend was coming to visit.

After looking at my empty space, where I hope vegetables will grow next year…I put my children in their rooms for quiet time, and in between ten minute intervals of putting them back in their rooms, Raye and I were able to talk.  I was able to unload some of my troubles, and in Quaker-ly style, Raye just listened and did not judge or jump to tell me what I should “do next”.  We joked about how the conservative Quaker community in Connecticut has grown 100 percent since I moved here a few years ago…now that there is two of us….and what AMAZING growth stats those are!
How simple a visit is.  I have often brought a meal over to someone, along with my polite (or sometimes funny and crass) conversation…but I never realized how wonderful something so simple is in the midst of troubling times.  It recharged me enough to turn back towards the WAY I am meant to walk, instead of becoming dejected and shut down, or frantically looking for something else, something better.

So….Raye!  Thanks for you, and blessings on your house!

I will always remember how helpful such a simple thing was to me….and I hope to increase my visits to others.  Even though we are all so far apart from one another, we can still come to each other’s sides.  It was just enough to keep me from giving up, and I hope to do the same for someone else one day.

This week I have been taking Janka Fairy to swimming lessons at Kennedy Park in West Hartford.  The draw to go there is that the lessons are only 35 dollars for two weeks worth, and there is a sprinkler park right next to where The Fairy takes her lesson.  I can watch My little swimmer in the water, while the boys play in the sprinklers.

There are also a lot of local camps, run through the public schools, that come to the park.  Today, a large gaggle of them, dressed in matching green shirts descended on us while we played in the little adjoining playground.  They were accompanied by two counselors, women in their 40’s or 50’s.  These women were alternating talking on their cell phones, texting, and yelling at the kids to “hurry”, “get over here” and “stop that”.

Several of the boys were playing with my sons, treating them sweetly like little brothers, helping them on a swing or seesaw.  I began to chat with them and ask them about their camp.

Apparently, today (Thursday) is Field Trip Day.  On this particular day, their excursion was going to be to Hometown Buffet, then to a movie.  At summer camp.  Did I miss something?  I don’t remember camp ever being like this….spending time eating at restaurants and going to movies….  They also told me that they can “do basically whatever they want” at camp, and that they don’t really have any activities.  I am hoping this means they have free play, outside…but I have a feeling it might mean that they are just “basically” supervised while they are shuffled around to one controlled environment after another.

Their counselors weren’t engaging with them in any meaningful way, so the boys and I showed them how to make Fairy Houses.  We talked about how the fairies fly around every night looking for a place to rest their heads…and that it’s every child’s job to build houses for them wherever they can.  Even though at this park there was more garbage than leaves and sticks, we managed to forage some acorns, a few twigs and dead leaves to erect a small fairy house in the root of a large elm.  We even broke the “natural materials only” rule, and used a discarded bottle cap as a “sink”.  Perhaps urban fairies must make use of discarded garbage in their homes, as that seems to be a local resource.

People often ask me if, as a homeschooler, I am going to “use” the resources available at the public school…if I am going to follow their curriculums, keep my children “up to date” with what they do there, let my kids join their sports teams….  I think this question has it all backwards.  From now on, I am going to think about what we can give, as a homeschooling family, to children who are herded off into institutional “educational” settings.  Perhaps we are uniquely positioned to show these children how to look at their environments in a different and more magical and deep way…instead of as a mere destination for an “activity”.

I am going to hope for more circumstances where my children and I can share our way of life with others who would not otherwise experience it.  I am hoping that at least some of those children we met today will continue to build fairy houses wherever they go, and teach other children how to do the same.

I am completely obsessed with all things Plain.  I own “secret bonnets”, once hidden safely away in a drawer, now proudly worn by my five year old daughter.  I have white aprons for “Baking Days”.  I even own some near-cape dresses, made to my specifications by women who make Plain clothes for the great UNplain masses.

Religious dress has always fascinated me, in all of its incarnations.  Through my many turns in and out of various religious expressions, I have come to love the idea of dressing in a manner that says, “I belong to Something/Someone Else”.  I am a daughter of the King, and I want what I present to the world to be emblematic of that.

Here’s the trouble: as a girl who will sit and watch American Idol while wearing a bonnet and apron in secret, I have to be realistic about who I am inherently.  I am not Amish, and I am not called to being Plain in that beautiful historical Quaker Way.  Having a woman in a bonnet next to me at Meeting (it’s happened ONCE, and she was visiting from some fantasy Quaker land far, far away) is overwhelmingly wonderful.  But I will most likely never be that woman in the bonnet sitting next to you.  I do, however, have a distinct style that is borrowed heavily from Orthodox Judaism, anthroposophy, Mormons, Russian Orthodox, and a small sprinkling of Islam and Old Navy. I don’t think that it could rightly be considered Plain in the orthodox sense, but I approach it in a Quakerly way.  I allow G-d to speak to me about what He wants from me, and I follow H-s leadings, never fearing what he wants from me.  I want to be as authentically ME as He made me.

I first started thinking about my manner of dress long before my Quaker Days as an Evangelical, when I read an amazing book, called The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer.  Her husband is the creator of L’Abri in Switzerland.  In it, she speaks about how since we are made in the image of The Creator, it is our birthright as followers of G-d to be CREATIVE.  We can express “art” and “creation” even in the smallest details of our lives.  This includes how we dress.  See how G-d clothes the lillies!  At this time in my life, I was still wearing trends and very modern clothes, without a thought to thinking about if G-d would be pleased with what I wore.  I began to open my heart to seeing my dress as a way to express G-d in my life.  This is why I do not include only muted colours in My Plain.  I do wear colours and patterns, as He clothes H-s Creation.

I have to admit that I place modesty above Plainess.  I think in our present day culture, and this day and age…just to dress modestly is Plain in a sense.  Even children have a hard time finding modest clothes in a mainstream store.  I cover all of my parts.  I wear skirts and dresses….or at least a long tunic over pants.  It’s my personal conviction that when women wear pants, the eye goes STRAIGHT TO THE PANTS, no matter the figure of the woman or the cut of the garment.  So, the skirts-only thing isn’t about not dressing like a man, which G-d condemns…but a personal choice based on keeping private the parts of my body I would like to keep private.

So many Islamic “hijabi” blogs speak about how dressing modestly frees them as women from having to meet certain societal expectations.  They don’t have to look sexy, or thin or stylish.  Men (and women) can really look at them for who they are inside.  This idea speaks to me deeply, and has helped my move towards dressing modestly.  Shukr Online has long skirts that you absolutely CANNOT find in regular stores.  My “Islamic skirts” are one of my more recent favourite things to wear in the summer.

In the Mormon world, where adherents wear “temple garments” which cover them from knees to shoulders, there has begun a new and unique industry.  Women who wanted to be able to wear contemporary clothes from mainstream stores, but couldn’t find things modest enough to cover their garments created a line of “layering” shirts.  These jersey shirts come in a variety of cuts and lengths, and can be worn alone, or under mainstream clothes to make them more modest.  They have recently branched out in skirts, dresses and swimwear.  My two favourite Mormon clothes sites are:  and  I always wear these layering clothes, to cover a bustline, or under something sleeveless or see-through.

On to Judaism…my years in Orthodox and Messianic Judaism gave me a love for headcovering.  In Orthodox Judaism, the woman begins to cover upon marriage.  I see it as a wedding ring that you wear on your head.  To save your hair just for your husband is a beautiful and precious thing.  Many women wear sheitls (wigs), but the Modern Orthodox style is to wear a variety of tichels (scarves), bandanas, chaponnes, berets and doorags.  Because I also believe in the Messiah (and therefore the New Testament), I also take seriously 1Corinthians11 which tells women to cover their heads…”because of the angels” and as an outward sign of submission to our husbands, and therefore to Christ.  G-d has called me to cover, and I have recently taken it on more full-time.  I do let my hair hang down, but I always have something on my head….as a reminder.

My children are being educated (at least in large part) in Waldorf Education, which is based on anthroposophy.  In anthroposophical philosophy, there is a lot of importance placed on the “archetype”.  As teachers (which I am as a homeschooling mother), we are to present ourselves as much as possible as an archetype.  We can be the archetype of “Mother/Madonna”…working calmly with our hands, while we gently hum and escort our precious charges through transitions from one activity to the next.  We preserve the dreamy wonderland our our children’s lives by approaching them gently, completely open to them.  We want to “hold” them with the arms of our love and spirits.  The archetype of Mother provides a spiritually rich and warm domestic environment, where the children feel safe and at peace inside of themselves.  I feel this falls so much in line with Quakerism (but more on that in another post).  All kindergarten teachers in Waldorf Schools wear long skirts and aprons.  Some even wear kerchiefs on their heads.  They wear this “uniform” because it helps them to represent the ARCHETYPE.  It’s a mantle of Madonna.  So…even though as a mother to three little ones, I can in no way access this archetype with any great regularity…I find that dressing in this manner helps me a great deal.  On really stressful day, where I feel like I am going to pull my hair out and call my husband at work crying from him to come home, I may even “amp it up” with one of my secret bonnets and a prairie dress….all the while chanting “I’M ACCESSING THE ARCHETYPE, I’M ACCESSING THE ARCHETYPE”.

The Tall Man likes me in modern clothes, so I don’t wear the prairie dress and bonnets out.  G-d calls me through my Dear Husband as well, and I want to be sensitive to that.  I want to be the bride that is desirable to him, not just follow my own fantasies without care for the one who should mean more to me than myself.  So…I dress in modern clothes, in that they cannot be placed in a particular historical era.

My Plain also encompasses what materials things are made from.  As much as possible, I try to buy things used, or make things out of other used things.  I have a great jersey skirt I made from used t-shirts.  I make most of my children’s clothes in this way.  I use only natural materials, using the resources that G-d gave us in a responsible way.

Sometimes I become muddled and envious.  I want something that I see in a magazine, or I wish I could look like a good friend who does not stay up at night praying about what she should wear (oh, to be so unburdened….).  However, I bring these temptations to G-d, where they are levelled to the ground in H-s Great and Magnificent Presence.  I am willing to be on a journey with My Messiah on this one…and to watch H-m slowly unfold H-s will for me moment to moment.  I remain open to scratching all of these ideas and putting on a cape dress at any point…when He tells me to!  Until then, I will continue to pour over those great blogs of women who dress in a True Plain manner, while I sit in my Mormon shirt, Islamic skirt and Jewish doorag.

I’ll post some pictures soon, maybe a little gallery of examples for the curious folks out there…or maybe as inspiration to those who feel called to adopt a more “Plain” style of dress.  Ultimately, I know that PLAIN is not just about clothes, but it is an approach to life.  If I were to immediately say, “Forget it, I am throwing out all of these clothes, and I am only going to….(insert rules here)”, I would give up.  Trust me, I have done it.  I want to always look first to my heart, to see if I have sufficiently removed all of the obstacles and distractions that prevent me from hearing G-d’s Voice.  I desire first an uncluttered and Plain spirit, one that is singly devoted to G-d.  The clothes should reflect that, and hopefully give reason for people to wonder about why my heart swells with gratitude and love for H-m.

*caveat….I have never been a Mormon or a Muslim…after reading this post, I realize it looks like I really have been in a ton of religions!  🙂

Little Crazy Matas eating all of his berries

Little Crazy Matas eating all of his berries



Our berry bush

Our berry bush

The view looking down into the little "valley" where the berry fields and orchards are.

The view looking down into the little "valley" where the berry fields and orchards are.

I’ve heard that Glastonbury is the center of all things “U-Pick”, but have yet to pick anything.  So, we went on a search for a U-Pick farm, and discovered Rose’s Berry Farm.  We followed the signs along New London Tpke., through residential neighborhoods, past some building that looked a bit like a warehouse of some kind.  When we turned into the drive to the Berry Farm, we were met with a beautiful view of the road cascading down into the berry patches.  The view was so beautiful, and I was surprised to find so much farm land ahead of us.  I was expecting some dinky little patch.  This instead was an enourmous operation.

To the right at the bottom of the drive is a playground, with ample room to picnic and play.  To the left is the store, a gazebo, and the place where the truck comes and picks you up to take you to the patches that are farther away.  A woman gave us a big bucket, and shuffled us off in the right direction.  We were met by a teenager, who showed us the four blueberry bushes that were to be “ours”.  What a well oiled machine, and no competing with other customers for a place to pick.

Little Crazy Matas didn’t allow even one berry to make it into his box, and he was blue around the mouth and fingers by the time we were done.  The older two helped me fill my large pail halfway.  All told, we left with three pounds of blueberries, and probably ate a pound’s worth more while picking.  We hope to go back next week to pick raspberries.

We ate a lot of them just plain, alongside some nuts for a snack, and also on top of some vanilla ice cream as a treat.  I decided to try my hand at a Blueberry Buckle, to bring to the Quaker Family Sabbath Meeting that we were attending on Sixth Day evening.  I found a recipe on the Food Network site.  It turned out wonderfully, although slightly raw just in the very middle…although no one seemed to mind.    I tend to overcook cakes and muffins, so I think I jumped the gun on this one.  It was served after a meal of curried lamb, brown rice and goat’s milk yogurt…the lamb and the yogurt from the farm that we had the Meeting on.  More on this Meeting in another post, it was lovely beyond expectations.

Seventh Day morning, and I woke up before the Tall Man.  The children and I made “Adirondack Flapjacks”, which is really just a nostalgic name for pancakes…although it did involve separating eggs, and whipping the whites until stiff to fold in the batter.  We used up the rest of the berries (I would say about a cup and half’s worth) with about a 1/4 cup of honey and 1/4 cup water.  I boiled them down to make a syrup for the flapjacks.  It turned out beautifully, and I am wondering if there is some way I can can this syrup for use in the winter.

When I am out with the children doing something like picking berries under the sun surrounded by farm land, I am almost immediately able to lose my hardened “Mean Mommy” exterior.  When we are gathered with some common purpose, away from the distractions of a house filled with junk, we get a glimpse of life as it is meant to be.  We were just playing at “work”; our survival certainly did not depend on these berries that we picked.  However, it reminds me that our family’s goal of becoming more self-sufficient (where the berries ARE something we depend on to add to our food stores).   When I read the Little House books, I see such a wonderful picture of a family living and working not for some secondary gain (money, entertainment, and “self-fulfillment”), but because G-d told us that we were to live by the toil of our own hands.  The meaning and purpose of life really was about G-d, family and the very simple blessings (and toils) of an authentic life. 

I want it, I want it!  But I realize that if all of a sudden you were to pull the plug out on modern living for me, my family would die very quickly.  I do not posess the skills to live self-sufficiently.  It is a lost art on this generation.  If the groceries stores and U-Pick farms were to close down, we would be about two weeks from starvation.  In this day and age, I think that we need to be prepared for a situation where the grocery stores are closed.  We are working towards it, but still so obviously far from the goal.

When Janka Fairy was in ballet camp last week, the boys and I discovered JB Williams Park.  This 160 acre park on Niepsic Rd. looks unassuming from the parking lot.  However, when you start walking along the trail, you discover so much more.  Walk to the right, and you walk over shallow creeks on the way to a small fishing pond, stocked with trout and other such fish.  Also is a heavily shaded playground.  If you walk to the left along the trails up the hill into the woods, you come upon a beautiful little red clover “field” cut through with a babbling brook, just the size for wading. 

There was a town sponsored “camp” for 3 year olds up at the playground.  I had the boys at the creek, wading and splashing.  They were pulling leaves to float downstream as “boats”, and stepping on the skunk cabbage to make it “stinky”.  When it came time for pick up the campers, all the parents passed us by on their way.  So many of them smiled and made comments like, “oh, that’s so wonderful” “I remember doing that for entire summers when I was a kid” “that’s what you’re supposed to do in the summer” and “OOOO, looks like so much fun”.  I tried to be open and friendly with all of them, actually hoping to make some connections, as I know absolutely no one here yet. 

About five minutes later, camp was dismissed and the mass exodus began.  The comments from parents completely changed.  All of the children saw us in creek and thus began the “mommy, can I go in the water?”  “I want to do what those kids are doing”.  The parents all hurried by, only two of them saying that tomorrow they would bring their wellies so that they could go in after camp.  One father, obviously irritated, dragged his daughter (who was clad in shorts and crocs) across the little footbridge saying, “you don’t have the right shoes”.  Other parents were in a rush to get to another activity, “oh no, you have your tennis lesson now” …”mommy has an appointment”.  Some refused to look at me.

What happened to these parents…on the first pass of the bridge, they were reminiscent of their long-gone childhoods, smiling at the sight of two children just “hanging out”…on their return trip they turned into hurried, irritated grown-ups with much more important things to do.

I decided to return the next day, to see if some of the parents brought the kids boots.  This time, on the way to pick up the campers it was, “you guys again…are you going to start sleeping here too?”  “you guys are pretty hard core?” “I guess if it was good one day, might as well do it again?”.  The departure was even quicker and more curt….except for one mom, who stopped at the end of the bridge with three little children and one baby in a car seat, and opened her large sack.  Out of it she pulled three pairs of boots…..”thought we’d join you today, I’m glad to see you’re back”.

Picking Leaves to Float downstream as "boats".

Picking Leaves to Float downstream as "boats".



At the fishing pond, a short walk from the lower creek.  Second day at the park.  We brought our boats on ribbons.

At the fishing pond, a short walk from the lower creek. Second day at the park. We brought our boats on ribbons.

Who needs a playground and a summer camp?!

Who needs a playground and a summer camp?!

Here we are on a trip to the Audobon Society in South Glastonbury.  The inside is filled with caged birds and other small animals, including a parrot of some kind that says “Hello” and sings a mutilated musical scale, “La La La LA La La La”.  They offer a small table with some paper scraps and markers/crayons.  Also a big box of soft animal hand puppets…even a little carpeted stage.  I am thinking this will be a good rainy day/fridgid day destination.

The path down into the woods crosses a wading stream, only a few inches deep, very gentle and very wide.  The bugs attacked us upon entry into the woods, however.  So….next time we will bring our wellies for wading in the water, and bug spray to fend off the insects.

Pass the mini-bamboo grove, down the hill, and follow the path to the left, and it opens to a large clearing abutting a horse farm.  Apparently, sometime horses and riders can be seen jumping and cantering in the big ring, but we have yet to catch them.

At the entry to the path is a large mulberry tree, and a bit past that, a currant bush.  My little foragers noticed right away, and quickly stuffed their mouths full.

I love it here.  Glastonbury is absolutely beautiful.  I actually discovered this after moving here.  Having been in West Hartford for two years after leaving my happy existence in Rockland County NY, we were ready for a move.

I never felt at home in West Hartford.  Things seemed to move too fast. People seemed to be pressured, living such busy lives.  I thought the big colonial on a street within walking distance to its busy town center would give me feelings of connectedness and community.  The truth was, the huge house just needed to be cleaned, and it became quickly filled to overflowing with STUFF.  My whole life became about managing the stuff, and blocking my energetic crew of inventors and destroyers into one corner of the house or another so I wouldn’t lose total control of things.  I never made the connections, and I never felt at home.  We would drive long distances to go to untouched places of natural beauty.  And to top it all off, rent was probably more than we could comfortably afford, and it felt like we could never get ahead.

When looking for a new house to rent, we knew that we wanted to downsize considerably.  We craved having a small, cozy space, where we could still feel close and connected even if at different corners of the house.  We also knew that we wanted some usable space outside the door.  We also did not want to live in a house right next to another one, where my children could scream, “the neighbors are watching baseball, mommy!”  And most important, we wanted to reduce our rent significantly.

Enter a mad craigslist search and and tours of rentals from Avon to Western MA.  The house we felt best for us was in Glastonbury, CT.  We never had considered this town, but the listing had rent lower than we had even hoped and two acres.  The house is a small ranch, and one-level living was beckoning to us.

So, we moved here.  We figured any place with a drive-thru Starbuck’s and a Whole Foods with a playroom is a good place.

After being settled here for a few weeks, I took a drive to help calm the late afternoon crazies.  We drove down Hebron Ave. towards Hebron.  After making a quick discovery of Highland Market, we watched the houses turn into farms and rolling hills.  Stone houses covered in ivy were across the road from red barns, Holsteins and wild flowers.

I literally pulled the car over and began to cry.  “Why are you crying, mommy?”  “Because it is so beautiful here, and we live here.  This is our home.”

Weeks in Glastonbury, and I feel more at home here than I ever did in West Hartford, and even in NY before that.

So, my children and I are planning to stick around Glastonbury this summer, and resist any temptations to venture out of the town limits (well, okay, maybe I’ll go to Gilead and East/South Glastonbury…).  We are still going on our weekly Sturbridge Village trip and family visits out of town, but otherwise…our plan is to discover every bit of Glastonbury that we can.  We are going to jump in streams, go into the old schoolhouse libraries, pick flowers, find walking paths, and anything else that tickles our fancy.  We are also going to do this to help us develop a better sense of Place (remember, our family mission?)

We’re going to make this our home, and I want my children to say when they are older, “I am from Glastonbury”.

So…Glastonbury, this is my letter of devotion to you!  Here I come, I’m gonna love you up!

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