Saturday, September 29, 2012

Homeschooling after loss

Struggling to find ways to cope after the loss of a child is hard enough, but having to homeschool in the midst of grief seems near impossible.

I am in the midst of a grief session. Until now, I had never heard the term before, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for it either.

After Joaquim passed away, I think I stayed in the shock part of my grief for a long time. I had 3 living children who needed me, and I found that diving straight back into my daily routine was a welcome distraction. We homeschooled with a new fervour, and everything seemed fine.

I threw myself into projects, lesson blocks and party plans. 

Joaquims birthday fell slam bang in the midst of those plans.

My forward momentum skidded to a halt.

And it has remained there……..stuck in limbo…… while I stand back reeling from the shock and disbelief. Has it already been a year?.

Our baby died.
This is my reality.
There is no getting over it. I did not have a cold.
 We had a baby brother!

Our baby brother who was with us one minute, and gone the next.

Our baby brother who’s tiny hands we had held as we formed a family circle every morning in circle time.

Our baby brother, who we carried around the garden, showing him the weaverbirds making nests in the trees.

Our baby brother, who we ran outside with the first time it rained to show him the rain fairies bringing drops of water to the seed babies.

Our baby brother who listened with wide eyes as we practiced recorder, the same songs over and over.

Our baby brother, who slept peacefully in the Moby wrap hugging mommy’s chest as lessons were taught and stories were told.

Our baby brother, who I can still see on the lounge ottoman, gazing in wonderment at his busy little family.

Our baby brother, our pride and joy, who was stolen from us in the blink of an eye by Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia,.

Tell me? How do you go back to normal after that?

There is no going back.

There is no moving on.

There is only moving with…..
Moving with the memories so fresh in our minds, moving with the heartache so deep in our souls.

I have taken the the time to embrace all of my feelings, all of my memories. I have let the tears fall, and I have spoken of little else for the last month.
I have realised that I cannot continue the way things were before.

I need a new rhythm. And the panick starts to creep in as yet another week has goes by without lessons, but then I realise, we are learning something far more important right now.
We are learning to cope with just breathing in our home after loss.
The home he was born into and the home so full of the empty space that his memories occupy.

I don’t have the luxury of spending months in bed grieving for him. I have to pick up the pieces, and start preparing the next lesson block. Next week we are doing man and animal in Grade 4, and St Francis in Grade 2. We will start our circle times by lighting a candle for Joaquim, and embracing our loss as a part of our new life. I will look out for the little signs that he brings me every day, and be inspired by his memory. I will look at things the way he did, with newborn wonderment at the simple miracles in life. The birds in there nests, the silkworms spinning their caccoons, my daughter singing and dancing with careless abandon, and my beautiful boys.
I will stretch my arms as wide as I can and embrace this new space that I have to learn from the beginning how to hold for my family.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Norse Mythology part 1

From : "Mission of the Folk Souls" Rudolf Steiner

".......In primitive times, as we have shown in the case of the Scandinavian and Germanic peoples, the "I" was revealed clairvoyantly to humanity. According to tradition this "I" ws bestowed upon humanity by an Angelic Being, Donar or Thor, who stands midway between the human being and the Folk Soul. We have seen that individuals still felt themselves to be ego-less, devoid of personality; they looked upon the "I" as a gft from the spiritual world"

I had heard so much about the brilliance of the Norse Mythology block, that we couldnt wait to start. It feels like this block was tailor made for our family, with our love for Vikings and Mythology and swordfighting and medieval festivals. The wonderful thing about waldorf, and planning ahead, is that you can prepare the groundwork long before you actually begin. My son had shown a great affinity with these stories for a long time, even more so as he approached his 10th year, his inner developement apparent through his emerging personality.
We had started attending medieval festivals about 2 years ago, as some very close friends of ours are professional Orustra(viking) swordsmen, and they often exhibit their skills in public arenas, dressed in authentic viking gear.
They also carry years of wisdom and knowedge, and are always ready to answer any questions on Odin, Viking heritage or the correct way to hold a hammer..

We had also signed my son up for winter school at the Michael Mount waldorf school. It was a one week course where he did woodword and metal forging. At the end of the week he had hand carved a beautiful dolphin scene for our Angel Joaquim remembrance table, as well as forged a dagger, a knife and an assegai (african sword) out of iron.

So needless to say, when Grade 4 rolled along, we were eagerly anticipating the lesson block.
We worked mainly from D'aulares' book of norse myths, and compared a few creation myths and legends to find similarities.

 We aquired The Bible of Illuminated Letters, and a caligraphy set from Mercurius with gold leaf paper to practice writing some ancient script.

Some of my chalkboard drawings during the block. Yggdrasil and the 3 norns.

We incorporated the three norns into some language practice, representing past, present and future. From the Christopherus Language arts book we used some fun examples to converting the tenses.
Urd-what was-the past
Verdanade-What is- the preseent
Skuld- what will be- the future

Some sentences :
Ymir and the cow lived in Ginungagap (written in past tense, from Urd)
Then we move between the tenses playing with the words. Ymir and the cow lived in the Ginungagap. ( Verdanade- present)
and then Ymir and the cow will live in the Ginungagap (Skuld- future)

We followed a typical waldorf sequence of telling the story on day 1, then we would compose a few lines together and draw or paint a picture, then on day 2, my son would retell the story as we walked through the garden, and we would finish composing the paragraph, do gramatical corrections, and then write into his main lesson book. This worked very well, and as my son likes to work at a slow pace, we got through about 3 stories a week. He really enjoyed the drawings. We also played around with form drawing celtic knotwork and used this to make borders around his pages. Here are a few pages from his main lesson book.

 His 10th birthday rolled along in the middle of the lesson block. He had asked for a violin and a chess board for his birthday, and we were fortunate enough to get them both for him. He has been doing really well at his music lessons, and his music teacher measured him for a violin. He has such long arms that a full size Violin fitted comfortably on his shoulder. He was thrilled with his gfts, and it is clear he appreciated them immensly. The chess board we picked up from a retired couple who were selling second hand collecters item chessboards. It helps to search sites like or to find good deals.The chess pieces are individualy hand painted, and are all knights, kings and queens from the medieval era.
His birthday party theme was easy! Vikings! Our dear friends from Orustra agreed to come and entertain the boys in exchange for tea and cake! We set up an arena in our garden and planned a quest for the boys. It took about 2 weeks of prep work which we incorporated into our homeschooling crafting days. We made each boy a shield, viking helmet and hammer that we cut out of cardboard boxes that we had collected from recycling areas. We glue gunned them together and duct taped them together and even stapled them together. It was really all trial and error until we got them perfect. 11 of each!

We made a huge Pinyata out of a guitar box. The tutorial we found here.

Then we tackled making a Viking lonboat out of card-board boxes. 
The weather was acting unpredictably, so we built the longboat in our lounge, everyone doing their bit to help with the sticking, painting and design work.  

The cake we made out of cupcakes, following this tutorial.
We planned a quest for the boys. It was written on a scroll that my hubby (dressed in medieval garb) anounced in his booming voice across the garden:
"hear ye! hear ye!
you have been selected to go on a quest to slay the dragon.
for this quest you will need:
and Strength

you have 5 tasks to complete to prove that you are worthy

to prove you are brave, you must enter the abandoned unicorn castle,
and fight your way through the briar patch,
through the dark cave,
and then cross the raging waterfall bridge.
If you make it through the maze, you will come upon the dragons lair,
there you must creep in as silent as a mouse,
and take from the dragons treasure box,
a scroll with an ancient writing code.

to prove your wisdom, you must desipher this code,
and find a medalion on the yggdrasil tree with your name on it.

to prove your fearlessness, you will be required to eat a magic worm.

the test of endurance will be age old viking games.
1. viking longboat race
2. musical vikings
3. viking pass the parcel

the last test, that of endurance, will be the jousting of the pinyata.
where you will combine your skills and slay the dragon.

may you be greatly rewarded for your courage, young vikings!"

When the guests arrived they were given their shields which they had to decorate inside the longboat, with runic stamps we had made from kitchen sponges. Once they had all arrived my husband gathered them all together and read from the scroll.
They made their way through the course we had plotted out in the garden. The unicorn castle was one we had built for my daughters birthday a month before out of refirgerator boxes. We placed the castle in front of a large bush that our rabbits live in, and the boys had to crawl through the bush, and they came out in to our trampoline that we had covered with fabric(the dark cave), once through that, they had to climb over the "bridge" which was a garden bench draped in blue silks.
The dragons lair was our tent that we had decorated, and inside we had draped silks and voils to make chambers. In the last chamer, one of the older boys was dressed in a dragons costume, guarding his treasure chest which was filled with the scrolls we had made earlier.
 Each scroll had the ancient runic alphabet code, we had stained the paper with tea, burtn the edges and put a wax seal on it.
The boys took their scroll and headed back into the garden to find the Yggdrasil tree, that had all the medalions hanging on the branches. The medals we had carved out of wood, and engraved each childs name in runic.
Once they had achieved this, they were handed their axes and helmets, and they joined the Orustra vikings in the arena.

 Lunch was "long boat" dogs, and viking juice.

 It was a great success!
We are looking forward to the second block, which we will do after our fractions lesson block and our man and animal block.