The secret has been finding times throughout the day when we are gathered. The girls are so independent now, which I couldn't imagine ever being a problem when they were younger, but it means that they are often absorbed in something in their rooms and cannot be pried away.
I can hear you asking "why do they need to be pried away from something that is so absorbing to them?" It has to do with staying connected to each other. It has to do with having some common experiences to build from. Meeting for an afternoon tea and poetry (this is where the chocolate on the shirt came in) means that we are interacting and sharing, laughing at the Shel Silverstein that inevitably shows up in someone's hands. Playing with words together. It is so easy to disappear into one's own bubble, and resurfacing can be tricky. Having some predictable times of the day to make contact helps us share the day.
|je suis un yak|
What seems to be working right now is a bit of structure. Eliza has a math program that she's working through at her own pace in the mornings. We read through lunch - currently from Story of the World, or something related to the time period, from the library. After lunch Eliza does the cleaning up while we all listen to Pimsleur French. These photos are all from "french class", which is to say, there is always something else going on - making clay models, drawing, folding clothes...
Gathering together at several points throughout the day also carves out the "free" time of the day, which then gets filled with art projects, reading, and, for Eliza, hours-long writing sessions. Something about having a framework for the day provides rich pockets for delving into other things. I don't know that I'm describing this particularly well, but it's as if rather than having hours and hours of open time, there are stepping stones to lead us through the day, and the stones show us not only where we are going, but also describe the gorgeous other time that gets filled in in whatever way interests us.
I've heard of a Waldorf concept of in-breathing and out-breathing which is maybe what I'm trying to describe here. It's a pattern of together, apart, together, apart that lends a nice rhythm to our days. It's a structure flexible enough to accomodate the spontaneous sleepover or need to follow a question down the rabbit hole of the internet, and the best I can say is that it's what is working for us right now!
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Now to some of the particulars. (This is really two posts in one, but I've heard some complaints about my lax blog-writing lately, so I'm trying to catch up a bit...)
This fall we read Mark Kirlansky's The Story of Salt, which is so interesting that I think we'll probably return to it several times, and occasionally we find some follow-up to that interest. This week it was Saltmen of Tibet (or Salt Shakers of Tibet, as Ani calls it), the story of a nomadic community of people in Tibet who send a small contingent on a 3-month journey every year to the holy salt lakes to gather salt. It is a beautiful, slow movie with subtitles, and you never quite know how those will go over, but we loved it. At one point, as a symbolic animal offering to the Goddess of the Salt Lake, one of the men sculpts yaks out of clay. Ani was inspired, so one French class resulted in several sweet little yaks and one "Lord of the Animals" as the character was called.
Eliza has jumped into writing a novel this past week that had her on the computer for several hours a day, giggling and exclaiming and interrupting herself to read aloud from chapter after chapter.
Ani's math time is centered around game playing. Occasionally we read a math book (Life of Fred or something by Marilyn Burns who is big into Math through Literature), but lately the practice comes from card games like Kapaga (the national card game of Greenland, of course) or cribbage, or strategy games like Pente. A part of the practice comes from being the one keeping score.
|for the record, in this game you don't want points.|
Choir has started back up, we've joined back up with the learning coop for this quarter, and we've been trying to spend as much time as possible with our friends-in-the-woods who have returned from living in Texas for the past year. We're happily busy, with the snow slowing us down just enough...