Why the Tree of Life?



We went to see the Treehouses at the Dallas Arboretum. They ended up being more like interactive sculptures rather than what we were all expecting treehouses to be, so they were more interesting to look at than play in. But it was a beautiful place to spend the morning. And I just liked these two pictures.

Fountains, Smoothies and Styrofoam Cups

Ohhhh!! A fountain!!! With fish in it!! Let, me just take this frying pan and see what happens when I put it in with the fish? What about this sand sifter? Hmmm.... there's just too much water in here....

Oh boy, smoothies! How come I don't get one? Well, I'll just take K's. He won't mind. Mmmm, it goes great with bites of styrofoam. Huh, now I'm a little sticky... well, a lot sticky... nothing another dip in the fountain won't fix! Good thing I'm washable!


Too Much Too Soon

Newsweek has an article this week that really illustrates some of my recent conclusions about early education.


Enki Education

So, we are officially changing directions in our home learning. When we first decided to homeschool, we seriously considered using the Waldorf method, but there were many aspects of Waldorf that we just didn't like or didn't fit our family or our beliefs. Then I came across The Well-Trained Mind and Charlotte Mason and thought I had found a better fit, especially with Charlotte Mason's philosophy.

But as K has gotten older, and I have tried to implement a few of the 'preschool-ish' things recommended by the classical approach, namely getting him to read before first grade, I am realizing that this is just not what children of his age need to be doing. There is no joy in it, and this whole push to read and choice in classical method is really more about my fears that he (and D) will somehow reach 18 not knowing how to read, and my concerns about others judging our family by how smart my children are, than about what my children's deepest needs are.

So, I re-evaluated what is working for our family *right now*, and most of it stems from the Waldorf elements that I picked up earlier. We have a minimal amount of toys, most open-ended; art supplies, musical instruments and books. We're out in nature as much as possible, and I'm conscious of our daily rhythm and including them in the real work of homelife as much as possible. And we read a lot.

But sitting down to work on learning to read now, even though 'everyone else is doing it' and The Well-Trained Mind recommends it, is not where Kirven is at right now. We could do it. I could push it. But it would be painful for both of us. He would know how to read, but at what cost?

So, where did that leave us? I still really like a lot of Charlotte Mason's thoughts on the child and education, but not everything. I also began to drift back to more Waldorf resources, but was still not sure where we fit.

Earlier in the year, I got a chance to view an acquaintance's Enki Education materials and discuss them with her. I initially thought Enki was just another Waldorf curriculm, but really, it has turned out to be its own wonderful thing.

Beth Sutton, the developer of Enki, is a former Waldorf teacher, so there are all the elements of Waldorf that I love in her program (teaching through stories, handicrafts, working with beautiful materials, music...). But she has also brought in strengths from Montessori (particularly in math, using real-tools, the three fold lesson) and discovery learning from John Holt, and there even seems to be some Charlotte Mason (quality living books, nature study). She has also kept up to date with current understandings of child psychology, which supports our choices in parenting, and she is Buddhist and has brought a contemplative spirituality to the whole process, which fits very well with our Quaker faith. On the whole, I feel really blessed to have chanced upon her work in education. So, that's where we are now.

I have been reading through all the guides that came with my kindergarten package, and I have set a date for starting kindergarten next year: May 1. It seems like an odd date, but we have decided to take the months of April and October off because those are the best months in Texas. We will have a Winter Term (November 1-March 21) and a Summer Term (May 1- September 21).

The Whole Thing

D has started doing something that I don't remember K doing. When we are eating or snacking, just handing him bites is no longer ok. He will reach toward your food, asking very politely, but when you offer him a bite, he will shake his head no. You might try bites of your other food... no... sippy cup? no... He wants the whole shebang. He wants his own plate with his own *whole* servings, and he wants to feed himself, thank you very much. It took several days for me to figure this out, and when I did last night, you could see the relief on his face.