Staying Out of the Way

One of the most challenging things for me in working with Silas on projects is staying out of his way. It's so easy to catch his enthusiasm and to want to share the experience with him so badly that I end up taking over and forcing my ideas over his, however gently or well-meaning it is that I do it. I've definitely had the experience of having my own excitement and interest in a topic being co-opted by someone else and it is so deflating and discouraging. I definitely don't want to do that to him. My job is to provide him with the tools to create, to encourage his ability when he gets stuck, and to generally just stay out of his way.

The other day Silas came up to me and said, "I have a good idea! Let's make stairs for my gnome house!" I was in the middle of something else at the moment and so directed him to find a piece of paper and a pencil and draw out his plan so that we would know how to proceed. After he did so I asked him what materials he needed. "Wood, plastic, and cotton," he answered.

We gathered these things together and it was at this point that I almost derailed the whole thing. He started arranging his materials in a way that didn't at all match what I thought stairs should look like. I kept trying to gently direct him to see stairs the way that I thought they "should" look. Luckily, I caught myself, closed my mouth, handed him the tape and let him build his stairs the way that he saw them in his mind. In doing so, he was able to maintain ownership of the project and the pride at its completion was his and his alone. As it should be.

Our Week in Review: Catching Up

It has been a busy week or two at our house. In amongst our other daily activities we had a little boy who turned four (!), the accompanying birthday party, an extended visit from grandma, and several big baby preparation projects completed. I've been taking pictures all along, but somehow at the end of the day, I've barely been able to download them from my camera, let alone do anything else with them. So, today is a catch up day. Here's what we've been up to for the past two weeks or so...

A birthday breakfast table...

Four seems so old doesn't it? It seems far closer to little kid than to baby, which is what I think has taken me most aback about this most recent birthday. I remember imagining what his voice might sound like before he could talk and now I find myself in deep discussion with this little person, about the most fascinating of things.

We've kept birthday celebrations pretty low-key in the past, but with the birth of a sibling just a short month away, we decided to do a bit of a bigger party, complete with friends, crafts, games, and a well-stocked snack table.

We invited two of Silas' friends to join us for a bit of a gnome-themed afternoon. The boys painted gnome houses,

Went on a scavenger hunt to find little peg gnomes,

And played "pin the hat on the gnome" (don't let Silas fool you with that perfect hat placement; we used an "eyes-closed" method rather than a blindfold and I suspect he may have peeked).

I was lucky to get one photo with the mama-made gnome hat on; he was far too excited to have it on (or be still!) for much more.

This month brought us our second time of celebrating Brigid's Day, which for us means rolling candles, spending all day making French Onion Soup, and celebrating the returning light in anticipation of spring.

We tried our hand at a Papier-mâché, making a globe. Silas was pretty adept at it, considering it was his first attempt. He totally "got" the process of dipping the strip of newspaper, rubbing his fingers along it to remove the excess, and then placing it on the balloon.

After a couple days of drying time, he painted the oceans. 

After some more drying time, he painted the continents. I had hoped to use this in a Montessori-inspired Celebration of Life ceremony for his birthday. The timing worked out perfectly, as something similar was on our list of things to do that week for our Biome curriculum. We had limited success with the ceremony, although he did say that this was now his "celebration globe" and is excited to use it again next year.

Exploring Art

The easel lives in our living room and is always stocked with paper, crayons, and pencils, but we rarely bring out the paint to use with it. This was our art exploration for the week. Standing up and painting is such a different experience than sitting up to the table; you can use your whole body and really make big movements. He enjoyed the experience and had a good time with the prompts that I offered him while he was painting.

"Can you make a mark that goes all the way from one side of the paper to the other side? How about all the way from the top to the bottom?"

"How far away can you stand from the easel and still make a mark?"

Watercolor Painting

In this week's watercolor painting, we left more water on the surface of the paper to see how that affected the paint.

Nature Study

We've been braving the cold and spending at least a little bit of time outside on most days. Our first sledding of the season was a highlight.

"Air" was the theme in our biome curriculum and we made a collage of our planet with an atmosphere of fluffy, cotton ball air all around it.


I introduced our first grid game invitation: a piece of cardstock stamped with ten trees, a bowl of little cherries, and a die. Just like all of our other math games, it's entirely up to Silas to make up the rules of how to play. He initially rolled the die several times and each time placed that number of cherries on the first tree of the grid. The thing that I didn't anticipate, though, was that he didn't see each cherry marker (each is a pair of cherries) as "one," but rather as "two," counting each individual cherry. He lucked out for the first few rolls and got only even numbers, but as soon as he rolled a "one" he was frustrated that he couldn't break the cherry pairs apart to make "one." His solution was to abandon that game and to engage in some dramatic play. He gave all the trees cherry "roots" and arranged the cherries into the figure of a person. After a couple more rolls (to determine where his last two cherry pairs would go), he decided the game was over.

And here we are! What have you been up to these past weeks?

Writerly Things

I don't think that the feeling I get when I see my words in print will ever fade...a mix of disbelief, shock, and fear that at any moment "they" are going to see through my ruse of competence. 

The Winter 2015 issue of saltfront literary & arts journal arrived on my doorstep a short while ago, with a piece that I wrote about my grandfather included in its beautiful pages. Seriously, this publication is gorgeous, check it out.

From the website:

saltfront is an arts and literary journal for a radically new type of ecological storytelling. We are searching for the newest and most vibrant eco-lyrical expressions, new ways to tell stories of what it means to be human amidst the monumental ecological transformations taking place on this planet.

It's an honor, truly.

I don't think I shared it here, but I had another piece published late last year in Natural Child Magazine, which is now available to read for free on the website (although you should still's a wonderful publication).

Our Week in Review: Sorting Buttons, Making Books, & Tracing Snowflakes

If you ask Silas, last weekend was about as perfect as a weekend could get. Daddy didn't have to go into work at all and we were covered in a blanket of about ten inches of snow, which led to much shoveling and warm drinks. That's perfection according to this almost-four-year-old.

Exploring Art

We spent another week playing with finger paint, although this time I gave Silas plexiglass to paint on rather than paper. The idea is to keep the focus on the process rather than the product and painting on a surface that will only temporarily hold the paint and be washed when we're done helps us to do that.

He made comments in the days after doing this painting that he "didn't like" the way the paint felt on his hands, which was a complete surprise to me because he dove right in and really seemed to be grooving on getting his fingers into the paint, spending a lot of time squishing it between his fingers and rubbing it into his skin.

Since discovering that he could use the tips of his fingers to make negative space drawings, he has been really focused on doing so. He makes similar drawings in the frost on the front door window when we let the dog out every morning.

Although it completely runs contrary to the whole temporary nature of painting on plexi, we couldn't resist an opportunity to do a little printmaking and pull a print from  what he had painted. He added some handprints.

Another day we noticed the shadows that our window stars and snowflakes cast on the dining room table and did some tracing.

Watercolor Painting

Silas chose to paint with orange and purple this week. I encouraged him to try getting one color as close as he could to the other without overlapping.

Practical Life / Bookmaking

He practiced some scissors and punching skills and then decided that he wanted to make a book. He provided the illustrations and then dictated the words that I was to write.

It is so amazing to me to watch him puzzle out how to solve problems. He had punched all the way around this piece of paper when he paused for a minute and then asked for his scissors. As he was cutting he explained that he wanted to do more punching, so he needed to cut the paper in half so that he could do so.

Nature Study

Oral storytelling is one of the Waldorf components that we include in our days. I choose a new story every week and tell it to Silas each morning, using wooden figures to illustrate (and to help me remember the story!) and then at the end of the week, he tells the story to me. This week, we're talking about energy from the sun in our Introduction to Biomes. There is a play included in the curriculum that I adapted it into a little oral story to tell instead, about how energy works its way through the food chain and can all be traced back to the sun.

On the second day of hearing the story, Silas, unprompted, ran to grab his biome cards off the shelves and placed them down as each element made an appearance in the story.


For a math invitation this week, I set out a collection for Silas to sort in any way that he chose. It included a bowl of buttons and a tray divided into three sections.

I didn't guide him about how to sort the buttons, instead letting him freely explore and come to his own conclusions about which attributes he saw them as having in common. 

He picked through them for a bit before starting to put them into the different compartments. After he placed one of the buttons I asked, "how did you know where to put that button?" He pointed to each set and said that they were "wide, medium, and small."

Later in the week, I set this out again, but started the sets, putting three green buttons in one compartment, three black in another, and three purple in the last. When he came out of quiet time and found the set-up I asked him, "can you find any buttons that might fit into one of these groups?" He accepted my category of "green" and added more green buttons to that set, but rejected my other two sets, seeing them instead as "large" and "medium" groups and adding to them in that manner.

I think that he was a little bored by this one. We've played with buttons many times before, so there was no novelty factor and I also didn't do a very good job of curating the collection of buttons that I set out. There really should have only been three to four different attributes by which he could sort. The variety that I had in the bowl was too great and I think was a little bit overwhelming.