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BTRT Patterns (on Etsy)

Wednesday, 30 May 2012
One aspect of the move to homeschooling which I hadn't anticipated was the 'de-schooling' phase!

{{This is a long one, folks...  but writing it all out is very helpful to *my* de-schooling!}}

When we realized that our need to homeschool Rowan was arriving sooner, rather than later, we began to plan for the transition.  (You can find more about this in our past homeschooling posts). Most of our friends who currently homeschool have always done so for their children, but a few have had their child(ren) in school and then moved them out. These folks spoke of 'de-schooling'.

The blog 'Living Joyfully' has a wonderful overview of de-schooling.
And I am grateful to those who brought this aspect of the transition to my attention!

We joked that it felt a little like de-programming a cult escapee... and yes, we parents, as much as our child, needed the time to de-school!

It meant letting go of all the routines that had become such a battleground in our life, and which were weighing down our daughter's ability to learn~ her availability for learning.
It meant releasing the pressure valve and letting go of all of the anxiety and fear that had been built up over 2.5 years of school.

We made an exit plan for March Break.
We would take the break and then just not return to school.
For the week following March Break, Rowan and I visited my mother~ shopping and visiting, going to the zoo... basically living in holiday mode~ not the usual routines for home OR school, in order to break the cycle.
During this week, I actually noticed an increase in both tics (her first gross motor one~ jumping everywhere) and in OCD behaviours. 
The unknown/ transitions have always been very daunting for Rowan.
And then we went home.

Allowing ourselves to de-school was such a fascinating process.
For a few weeks we just threw out all but the most basic of routines (morning and bedtime) and let Rowan follow her bliss as far as playing, eating and learning.
We slowly reduced screen time~ not that she had a lot to start, but the void left by the absence of school left her a bit at sixes and sevens as to what to do with herself and her free time, so she was pushing for that type of stimulation.

At first, there was the release of the pent up fear and other nasties, resulting in an angry child, confused but relieved. 
We resisted the temptation to rush in with schedules and program, and bore a week of petulance and some outright tantrums as she struggled to know where or how she fit without the school routines.
Thankfully, this coincided, intentionally, with working with a counsellor at our local family resource center.
Through this time, Rowan had new tools for managing her big feelings, and they came in very handy!
The tics and OCD behaviours receded considerably during this time.
This soon gave way to a state of near euphoria~ a child who was blissful and over the top with
big emotions.
Happy, chatty and highly energized.
Overly precocious, and with it demanding and challenging.
She wasn't sure what it meant to be at home, where she fit... whether all of this meant she ran the world...

While she was attending school, we were always very gentle, understanding that often her lack of emotional regulation came out of fear. That her desire to control the minutiae of her home life came from feeling so out of control at school~ the details of which were unknown to us.
BUT now she was home.
We knew what happened all day long.
And we knew better when it was appropriate to be firm, and we were able to be FAR more consistent with greater confidence.
It only took a week or two of her testing the boundaries, and us helping her to understand where and why they were established for this phase to resolve.
It was quite shockingly easy (though it made me glad we did this NOW and not a year or more from now!)~ we had a responsive child rather than a reactive one. 
SO many of the simple parenting skills that many rely on were now available to us again as Rowan came back into herself and felt safe and confident in her role and her environment.

And the appetite!
Having never eaten at school and having had a sore tummy the rest of the time from the anxiety, Rowan was a very picky eater and had remained a small child~ for two years she wore the same pants (size 5).
Since March she has gained 10 (!) pounds and grown several inches and shoe sizes.
(If we needed any concrete 'proof' of the rightness of our decision, this was one piece... our child GREW).

Next and quite naturally, we moved into a gradual routine for schooling and greater expectations of responsibilities as part of the family at home.Slowly we built up our ideal days.
Monday to Wednesday with daddy~ a school block morning and afternoon, surrounded by free play and simple chores and outdoor time.
Thursdays and Fridays with mom, our time more flexible around outside activities and more focused on the creative aspects of the curriculum.

We chose to start Grade One over again.
This allowed all of us to work with familiar material, more focused on the new processes of learning (and the love of learning) than on the content. 
This has worked well, allowing us to move gently through the material with plenty of room for diversions and a more 'unschooling' sort of approach, appropriate for this time of transition and Rowan's age and interests.
We anticipate beginning the Grade Two program around October, although she is working well ahead in math and reading at this time (by her choice). By then we should all be ready for more concentrated skill building.

During this de-schooling time we also made some conscious choices about Rowan's social life.
We enrolled her in a homeschool gymnastics group ~ the wonderful, quirky, easy going kids there were real models for her of kids living this lifestyle and loving it.  We also enrolled her in a local dance class so she could see her local friends in a structured setting.  She continues to attend Sparks (Girl Guides) as well.
Interestingly, being away from school, we had NO requests for playdates after the first week or two.
Whereas she would have been upset not to have playdates planned for each weekend, feeling the need to keep up with the social whirl of Grade one and two girls, being out of that environment it was not an issue any longer (which is an interesting bit of learning about what (some) 6 year olds may really want vs. feel they need!).

We have since begun to have mom and kid playdates again with great success.
Our intention is to continue with positive experiences with kind kids to rebuild Rowan's badly damaged sense of self.

As our de-schooling progressed we have seen even more surprises emerge!
Two in particular have been a boon to both our schooling and life at home in general.
Where previously independent play was a challenge (despite a great imagination, Rowan was clingy and felt she needed a parent's attention in all play), now, she plans for her free time every day, eager to get to playing, sometimes for hours without interruption.
And where teaching or reviewing skills from school was a battle~ Rowan was frustrated and often angry to be asked to focus on this type of work outside of school (this was one of my big concerns for moving to homeschooling, and one many other parents have expressed to me as well), now we have started printing over from the beginning (ie picking up the pencil) and Rowan happily goes along. She often initiates lessons and learning outside of school time and happily receives direction and correction.

After two months, we are nearly completely deschooled.
I very rarely think "tomorrow is a school day" any more!
We have a happy, healthy, growing child who is learning with passion and confidence.
She is more comfortable socially and physically well.

Her counsellor 'graduated' her from her services without finishing the anxiety program... because it was no longer pertinent.
Her pediatrician declared last week that there was no medical reason for him to see her again at this time (my child diagnosed in December with Anxiety with a likely upcoming diagnosis of Tourette's Plus to encompass her tics, OCD and other issues).

We still have lots of work to do... Rowan would not be ready to return to school.
We expect at least a few years more at home before even considering~ the issues she has still exist, but the longer she can live WITHOUT them active, the better her skills will be for coping as she grows up.
We are looking forward to starting occupational therapy to address the root sensory integration and processing issues.
Transitions are still tough and our daughter is still incredibly emotional sensitive.
But we now have the space to breathe and allow these 'issues' to be the gifts that she has been given.

It has been a remarkable process.
For our child, and for us as parents.
Our lives in many ways have been re-arranged by having a child at home all the time.
Yet also, they are simpler, allowing us to find our own natural rhythms.
I wouldn't trade it for the world and I am so grateful that we are able to do this at this time in all of our lives, and for those who have recognized our daughter's gifts and supported our choices.

{{and for you, dear reader, if you have made it this far! ♥♥}}
Wednesday, 16 May 2012
Welcome to Wednesday and enjoy these beautiful handmade mermaids ♥
1. Viola 22" Waldorf Doll, by Roses & Cream.
2. Mermaid & her Treasure, by Nushkie.
3. Needlefelted Mermaid, by Nalii.
4. Mermaid & Playsilk, Armadillo Dreams w/ BTRT
5. Little Mermaid, by MinnieFolk.
6. Custom Made Crocheted Mermaid, by Snowfall Studio.
7. TABEA Mermaid doll, by LivelySheep
8. Mermaid Costume for 14-15" Waldorf Doll, by German Dolls.
Tuesday, 15 May 2012
This last Sunday was Mother's Day.

I have been waiting for my daughter to get old enough to insist on marking the day with appropriate adoration.
I mean, she has to do better than my husband's attempt, several years ago when he had forgotten it was Mother's Day at all.  He mowed 'Happy Mother's Day' into the lawn. But he forgot the 'h' in 'mother.
Happy Moter's Day my lawn said for a week or so.

In the past I have blogged about Mother's Day~
how I learned to argue less.
what mother's were looking forward to in their lives.
This year, my reflection on our day is much less deep but it still has me tickled pink.
Like my tongue, pink.

You see, Rowan and Andy got up early on Sunday morning to make me a cake.
(that is almost forethought, right?!)

It was a gigantic monster of a double-decker chocolate heart.

The issue was the icing.
Well, the colour of the icing.
They used, they say, a 'dab' of hot pink icing colour.
 This thing tasted like the inside of a perfume bottle, the red dye taste was so cloying and thick (ugh.)
And it looked like something the unicorns tossed out because it was simply TOO pink for them.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the gesture.
And Rowan was very, very proud.
But my teeth and tongue bore some explaining on Monday when I went to work and lead a funeral (!!).

On Sunday evening I did some sewing after Rowan went to bed.
Andy left the cake on our dining room table until late evening, when he put it in the fridge.
At that time, he wondered at the missing portion of cake, thinking (rightly) that I wouldn't have eaten any more, but must have changed my mind, red dye be darned.

On Monday morning, Rowan exclaimed that Archie was all pink around his mouth and down his front (he has a snowy white ruff).  We figured she was exaggerating, maybe he had stolen  some tidbit of cake off of the floor.

On Monday afternoon, I came home when Andy and Rowan were out.
I walked past the dining room and did a double take.
THIS is what I saw.
Standing on the dining room table.
The bag of cement with legs~ he is not known for his jumping abilities.
Now Murray? Murray is four pounds of flying Papillon and he regularly ends up on the top of furniture.
But never Archie.
And the criminal stood there while I got the camera and took his picture, not a clue that he was doing anything he oughtn't!

The penny still hadn't dropped.
Andy came home.
I showed him the photographic evidence.
He wondered aloud that Archie would do that, after all... "he has never gotten any food up there, or anything..."

And he looked at me, realization dawning... "did you eat cake last night?"
As I gasped "did you put the cake away after supper?".

Rowan was right... Archie was pink from eating cake.

At least I had a an excuse to put a merciful end to the pink atrocity.
But I will have to explain why my dog has a pink mustache for a few more days. ♥♥
Monday, 14 May 2012
Thank you for all of your feedback on my first post about our journey to homeschooling. ♥
It is so helpful and interesting to hear from different voices and experiences.

As I said in the last post (well, the first post, technically)~ the previous post! I am writing out our journey to homeschooling for our 6.5 year old daughter.  I have a lot of reflections I want to sift through, so I am breaking the story down into several posts.

This post is about how we made the actual transition out of school and into our chosen curriculuum~ how we crossed our 't's and dotted our 'i's so to speak.

Once we realized that we needed to withdraw our daughter from school for her mental health (and frankly, our own!) the scope of the responsibility involved really kicked in.

We knew that while Rowan is a very bright child, excelling in her reading and creative skills, her travels through school had been fraught with anxiety, and her learning overridden by her coping skills which manifested themselves in inattention, slow transitions (often missing portions of lessons and activities) and defensive actions like collecting rocks or bits of refuse and examining them to the exclusion of her outer environment.  So we decided that to ensure she had her basic skills AND to let her begin homeschooling with a strong feeling of competence and success, we would 'restart' Grade One.

Our search for a curriculum and an educational approach began.
Knowing that Andy would be the primary teacher for the core subjects, a printed curriculum seemed to be the way to go~ something offering clear direction and teacher support.

Waldorf was an obvious choice for us, but given that Rowan had almost 3 years of traditional schooling, we felt that the philosophical divergences would require too much backtracking.
Both Classical and Charlotte Mason style education are appealing, but at this stage we wanted to work on drawing out our daughter's creative spirit and healing her self esteem and confidence~ so we put them in our back pocket for consideration later.
While we are Christians, most of the faith based programs are far more conservative than we are and we prefer to continue our Christian education as an integral part of our living, so weren't seeking a faith based option.
Given a preference for minimal screen time for a child who easily loses herself in the overwhelming world of the internet and the flashiness of children's programs, online options were not ideal.
And we didn't feel confident enough, yet, to call ourselves 'eclectic'!

And then we found Oak Meadow.
Waldorf style, but curriculum based, with an enrollment option which would solve any tricky problems later on with transcripts and records.
Emphasis on the feeling and rhythm aspects of the primary aged child's development.
Rooted in nature and creativity.
Hello love!♥
(I will say more about OM in a later post).
We purchased the Grade One package (we didn't enroll).

Another aspect of our preparation was to meet with Rowan's teacher and the special ed/ literacy teacher at the school. They are both wonderful women who love teaching, and were kind and generous in sharing where the children had been so far and where Rowan in particular should be headed in relation to the curriculum for Grade One.
For Ontario families, you can view/ print the entire curriculum online.
(note: each grade is embedded in the larger document for all grades, and divided by subject areas, so you have to do some selective sifting)

I did this, read it over, and then met with the Grade One teacher to ensure I understood the basic premises and principles and that I got a few pointers about the 'new' math (or is it the new NEW math?).
We laid out the OM curriculum alongside the Ontario one to test for coherence.
So far so good!

In the meantime, we spoke with Rowan about the transition that was coming.
She was excited, if not really understanding!
We kept it very low key, not making any final decisions until we had a chance to try things out at home
At the school, we simply let them know that Rowan was taking a break following the March Break.
Which we did, including the March break, that gave us 3 weeks before we had to notify the Board about our intentions. We didn't actually *know* this (as in, the principal did not communicate this when I told her we intended to try out homeschooling)~ if I hadn't gone in to the school just prior to our 15 days of absence allowed, we would have been truant and in violation of the provincial education statutes. 

As it was, we got the paperwork and sent it in.
The paperwork was rather fascinating.
And hostile.
It was a single page upon which you had to sign your child out of the Board's services and into your own, committing to providing an education in line with the multi-page appendices about the rights of children to receive an education.
I totally understand and applaud the vehemence around children's rights, and I am grateful to live in a place where they are so firmly upheld!
It was the overall tone of the documents~ that you are making a poor decision by homeschooling, and that your child will lack, even suffer for it~ that left a bad taste in my mouth.
And that it was all or nothing.
Either your child is in the 'care' of the Board or utterly cast out. 
There is no sharing of resources, no support.

The challenge of  'no support' is that nearly all of the services for children are funneled through the schools and the system is not set up to provide services outside of those parameters (ie Occupational Therapy).
On the other hand, a clear break means that families have the freedom to choose how their children are educated without interference or direction from the School Board.
It is a trade off that families do not take lightly, I am sure, so the negativity surrounding the transition is a tad offensive, but not surprising.

I'll stop there for now ♥.
I'll be back soon with a post about de-schooling!

Friday, 11 May 2012
Deep breath.
And... jump!

THIS is the reason for my epic case of blogger's block.
Not because I don't know what to say, but because I have so MUCH to say about it all!

I'll try and begin at the beginning (a very good place to start *cue Maria and the curtain clad Von Trapp children*).

For our daughter, school has been very difficult.
Maybe it was four teachers in her JK (Junior Kindergarten) year.
That was rough.
Probably it was the harassment from a peer in SK (Senior Kindergarten) in the form of inappropriate contact (how to say it so as not draw in the 'wrong' crowd of readers?) and the resulting impotence of the school to do anything to protect this or any of the other children from a troubled child (or the troubled child himself).
(Some day I will write about this, when I can process my anger and hurt and not just sound like a mother bear roaring in rage). 
 The bullying by the other girls was a factor.
And Rowan's own high sensitivity and what is suspected to be some sensory integration issues.

Add in the resulting Anxiety diagnosis and the appearance of OCD type symptoms to cope.
The failure to eat at school, like EVER.
The attention issues at school and behaviour at home....
Did I mention that for our daughter, school has been very difficult?

I know.
Why didn't we do this sooner?
I could ask that a million times, but the fact is we did it now.
We could do it now, with my husband working from home and my job flexibility.

And it was scary!
How so?
Homeschooling is not particularly common in our region, although there are many others (as we are discovering).
As a person in a community leadership role, I have striven to work with the school and to maintain that important relationship, and honestly, I always loved school!
My mother thinks it is going to warp our child.
(I am not sure my mother-in-law even knows!)
I think we might warp our child.

Coming to the decision to remove Rowan from school was difficult.
We had no objections to it, in theory, in fact, it fits well with our parenting philosophies.
But doing it is not the same as dreaming about it!

I think the largest concern was Rowan herself. 
With her self esteem being so battered, and her extreme resistance to change, we worried that this move might exacerbate those issues.
We had set for ourselves the principle that as long as school was more positive than negative, we would stay put and try and ride out the remainder of Grade One.
The scale tipped in February when the cumulative affects of 6 months of school were becoming obvious and miserable (for all of us).

For me, the penny dropped when I spent a day in the school as a volunteer.
It was a celebration to mark the 100th day of school.
I have worked with children for 25 years, and I was so saddened and disheartened on that day.
The problems are systemic, rather than specific (we have been blessed with kind and caring teachers doing their best).
But when as a culmination, a chair flew across the room at lunch time, and *I* wanted to scream or hide under a desk, I knew we were done.

I will continue~ you can decide if you want to continue reading! 
{{This is good 'therapy' for me to write it out.}}
I'll give you a little hint about where it goes... we have one happy child in our house (and two happy parents!)♥♥

I would love to hear about your journey to homeschooling, too, so please add your thoughts and comments!
Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.
Pedro Calderon de la Barca

In Waldorf education, each day of the week has an associated colour, planet and grain.

Friday's colour is green.  Keeping a weekly rhythm of colour in season leads to all sorts of wonderful finds, and today I want to share with you some green.... aren't they lovely?
1. Froggy, by Eve's Little Earthlings
2. Gnome Home, by Willodel
3.Needlefelted Toadstool House, by Moon Forest
4. Frog & Lily Pad, by Two Raccoon Hollow
5. Tree Guardian, by Made 4 U By Magic
6. Lemon Blossom Gnome, by Forest Mother
7. Waldorf Dragon, by Wild Child Clay Works
8. Flower Fairy, by This Cosy Life

All items are chosen from Etsy shops featuring Waldorf inspired and natural material toys.
Some are long time favourite artisans, some are new to me.
All are unsolicited ♥♥
Thursday, 10 May 2012
An old friend once told me that the best cure for writer's block was to write.
I suppose the same principle applies to blogging.

Hello. Again.

We have had a busy, busy spring, the biggest excitement being that we have become homeschoolers.
(*so* loving it).
I will get to that in the days to come.
For today, I thought I would share a few snaps from our spring adventuring.

In Northern Ontario, some say, there are two seasons~ winter and blackfly.
Blackfly has officially** begun.
(**officially as determined by the first family member to get bit... this year it was Rowan).

So, this past Sunday, in anticipation of our enforced captivity, we had a an afternoon of outdoor play with good friends and happy dogs. The sun was shining and the ditches were full of water.

I am very clear with my child that spring run off makes for dangerous waterways.
I am not sure that this day set the best example of that rule... because the ditches were where we found the frogs and minnows. 
And where all three kids, both dogs (neither fans of swimming) and two out of three adults ended up.
We should have known better.
Children + water = mud.
They were actually swimming in the ditch (gosh, that makes for parent of the year material when you read it in print, doesn't it?!).

They had a ball...
We're not sure who went in first, but it didn't take long for all three to be drenched.

The problem arose when a foot got stuck deep in the mud.
Concerns about quicksand and crocodiles were quickly dismissed. 
Rescue attempts were made.
(finally the mother of the stuck boy had to wade in and dig out his shoe...)
Rowan discovered the joys of filling your rubber boots with mud while your feet are still inside.
Nothing says childhood in spring like the splooshing sound that makes!
 Wet, cold and muddy they headed home for dry clothes having caught and released their frogs and one single minnow.
 I freely admit that I was the one person who did NOT get wet.
My excuse was that I had the camera (more realistically, I was the only one without a change of clothes at hand!).

The kids ended their adventure looking like a trio of swamp things or zombies coming up the lane.
In this last picture, note my daughter's face.
I just told them they looked like zombies... and she REALLY doesn't like zombies.
Happy spring ♥♥
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