Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I Want to Join a World Culture Swap

I think a lot of homeschoolers will be tickled pink joining a Worldwide Culture Swap. I am really interested to join but do not quite have the budget for sending packages to four/five families just yet. Even if I will just be sending packages in tyvek envelopes, that will still cost us... because I really want to spend on the contents as well.

Nothing fancy, really. But I am sure to send Adarna storybooks, like "Luis and the Enchanted Creatures" and "Tight Times" :)  What else is truly Filipino? A sungka set would be too heavy, haha... and for the life of me, I can't make a street-type sipa nor haven't seen a tirador (slingshot) for a long time now. Maybe a balisong? And peanut kisses? And a shirt with a tarsier on it? :)

I can also send pictures of our travels, sort of like post cards.

And definitely, recipes!

It's just endless, the possibilities!

Well, it's a good thing you have the option to just join a one-on-one swap... so we're definitely trying that.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Growing Pains

Yakee would always be excited to go to play school... until recently. For the past 3 weeks, he'd start out raring for Wednesday, and then appealing/throwing a tantrum against going to school on Thursday... then he'd be quite happy again on Friday (because it's TV watching day and date day for us).

At first, I thought it was something about the home... like jealousy over my alone time with Yamee. But this week, the appeals not to go to school became more pronounced... he was even invoking sickness. Upon further inquiry, he told the tale of how two classmates are hurting him.

The ironic thing is that these other boys are only 2 years and 8 months old.

We brought the matter to the nurturers' attention, however, just so they can help police. After talking to the head nurturer, I found out that the hitting happens during rough play. It seems the three new boys haven't been gentled enough yet, and my son can't help himself from joining them in their rough play. Unfortunately, the younger two don't know their strength yet and do not stop when they're asked by Yakee to stop. The Jap kids even have to intervene and defend my son (who is the oldest).

Yes, I can't help but smile as I type this. Because really, some boys are rowdier than most. It's just unfortunate for my son that he, as it turns out, is someone the boys feel safest with. Otherwise, they won't be hitting him if they're scared of him. (it's like last year with another boy who wasn't blending in, but would respond to Yakee... but would also bite him in play)

Then I remembered another conversation with Yakee which I shared with the nurturer... about how my son used to be all excitement to report seeing his former buddy during joint park time with the full day care, but now would only tell me about how his former buddy doesn't like his new buddy.

The nurturer related to me that just that morning, the former buddy told her that he feels Yakee doesn't know him anymore. Sigh. Clearly a classic case of feelings of rejection, confusion over loyalties and inability to handle all the tension.

Oh, I sooo feel for these boys. And sure enough, when Yakee feels psychologically upset, he exhibits a nervous bladder (he keeps going to the toilet to pee, even if he's just peed).

I really wish there's a way I can make things right for them all... and spare them all this tension. But I know I can't.

Cake Boss Addict

Yakee and I are Cake Boss addicts. I love the noisy family that still manages to appear genuinely loving despite this being reality TV. And I salivate everytime they say things like, cream cheese frosting, hazelnut cream, marshmallow icing.

The episode last night was of Buddy's cousin and sister-in-law's wedding... and this neophyte baker (I forgot his name, but he's the one who DJs and was a recipient of a cake that looked like a mackie cfx-12, and they presented it to him at a club while he was 'mixing' too) who had to deliver all the cakes all on his own because everyone was at the wedding.

My favorite episode, so far, is the one with the kickass bumblebee cake and the jousting cake :)

Yakee loved the jousting cake too... but also the ones with the shark head, the alligator head and the one filled with all things candy :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

On Reading Early... from a Waldorf Perspective

(Note that I am a Waldorf newbie, not a true blue anthroposophist nor a Waldorf nurturer. My views may be totally off so please do not judge/crucify the Waldorf community for what I say here... and those who know better can freely, but gently, correct what I say... but so far, this is what I know)

This post is arising from the all-too common phenomenon/trend nowadays of teaching very young kids to read. The earlier the better, it seems. I started with the same notion, teaching my son the alphabet and phonetic sounds before he was 2. But then I heard, from homeschooling circles, of the hurried child and stopped... and at almost 5, Yakee still doesn't know how to read.

Now, in the usual Waldorf curriculum, reading and writing are not taught till a child is 7 years old, at Grade 1.  Mastery isn't expected till age 9 or 10 and is most definitely not exacted. The philosophy behind that has much to do on human development. A child age 0-7 has to grow its body first. Part of growing the body means moving it, not sitting still. The eyes are also believed to only really mature at age 10, so straining to read (as one is wont to do when they're exerting effort to remember an association or understand meaning/context) just won't do. It just won't do.

The Steiner way also believes that the eyes are best used to enjoy the world, see the beauty of nature, observe texture, colors... not strain at print. Plus, books are flat.

And Waldorf education is big on imagination... a child who is given loads of storybooks with pictures won't have to imagine anymore. The images are fed them. In a way, it's sorta like TV. Instead of being able to see in her mind a princess in her likeness (or her mom's, or her friend's), a girl will just see the princess image in the book and forever associate that image with that story. The image won't grow with the child, it won't change as the child changes.

But wait... Waldorf is big on storytelling, isn't it? Yes. Storytelling. Not story reading. Seldom reading from a book (and usually, only those without much pictures). We use puppets, or doll cloths or moving sotrybooks... all of which are made and generally unfinished. Again, we're big on imagination. And making puppets/using moving storybooks help make the stories alive for a child because for one, they move along with the story... for another, they are made with intention. In Waldorf education, it's the intention that is more important than the story. It is why fairy tales are great for a child's psyche, because it's not really about a wolf eating a grandma or a princess finding a prince. There are deeper meanings to these that are lost when a young child just reads them off a book (or watches them as cartoon).

(And because the puppets used are unfinished, there is no risk in turning a child away from the story down consumerism and materialism... because they will not want to have the pillow/chair/dress with the princess they read about. But yes, they will pretend to be the sun, the tree, the frog, the giant they were told about)

Then, there's the language development that gets lost when a child starts reading on her own. Young children do not really hear us when we talk to them, or sings songs to them, or tell them stories...  at least, not in the way we adults hear. But their vocal chords vibrate along as they listen to us, and that is how language develops in them. That is how they come to memorize and internalize songs and stories. Because they heard it live from us, it becomes alive in them. This isn't exactly weird/new phenomena... how else did you grow up treasuring stories told by your parents about your own childhood? And how do you think culture and traditions were handed down through generations back when books were not as easily had?

 And yes, we have to repeat stories/rhymes many times... because we want it internalized. It may sound boring for some that a story in a usual Waldorf kindergarten is told for many weeks because there are schools that take pride in reading a different story each day/week to a child... and yet how many children remember all those stories read to them? Where is the meaning when a story doesn't become alive in a child?

And... storytelling is an experience in a Waldorf Kindergarten. There's usually the scent of the beeswax candle, the song that calls the child that settles him down to listen, there's the texture of fabric, the tenor of a teacher's (or parent's) voice. The story is alive. I'm being redundant here but it is alive... something that requires complete concentration from the storyteller. Story reading, unless you're a professional or it's a new story... doesn't require the same effort.

Storytelling the way we do it also follows the seasons and the festivals. It helps make a child part of a rythm... of a bigger picture, a major dance, a natural unfolding that is happening as it should... that there is a flow of seasons and that we are where we should be. That is lost when a child reads a Christmas story in March, because he can, or when they read about snow while living in a tropical climate. If not lost, it at least breeds disconnect.

Waldorf also discourages anything that tries to replace human interaction, especially for the very young. There really is not much human interaction when a child reads to himself. Plus, a young child should be engaged in the world, not reading about it. Instead of reading about busy spiders, they are better off observing one. Instead of reading about princesses trapped in castles, they should be pretending to be one and building their own forts. They should be moving, jumping, exploring, socializing.

There is also this truth: reading is a skill that, once learned, is hard to unlearn. And with the various media out there, how do you protect your child from words like 'rape' or 'murder'? Or the naughty stuff on statement tees in malls? Once they start reading, they aren't dependent on you anymore for information. And like it or not, they will be subject to any printed text. Any.

To most parents, that must seem liberating... to most parents, they must see it as a child coming into his own. And well, the Waldorf community has a different view of how independent a child should be... but basically, we believe that very young children do not yet have enough life experience to process a lot of things in this world well. Because they are children.

And then there is this curious thing about reading... which is somehow related to all the things I have already said.

Reading is entertaining. It allows you to go places and be different people and live different lives... which is why I read so much as a child. It provided me with escape and adventure. Unfortunately, it also set me up with unrealistic expectations... because everything seemed to be more romantic, fun, etc in books. And because the libraries I went to had a great selection of donated textbooks from the US, I grew up reading about pioneers and prairies instead of farmers and fishermen. Imagine the disconnect I feel about our culture, our literature now.

There is nothing wrong in reading per se. It's definitely one of God's more magical gifts to us. But for the very young child, it just might do more harm than good. They have to be actively engaged with the world they are in and with people first, not passively reading about them. They have to create their own stories first, and just play in earnest.

Waldorf is not anti-books nor anti-reading. The readings required in a typical Waldorf curriculum, if you check it,  taps world literature and is far richer and more extensive than the ones required in typical schools. But Waldorf believes that for the very young child, books are generally not age-appropriate... there is a time for them, and it's not in the first 7 years.

Childhood is not the time for hard facts and logical thinking and what's on the news.
It's the time for exploring using the, and developing the, senses (Steiner lists twelve!).
It's the time for modelling behavior and mastering the body.
It's the time for play, not studying.
It's the time for wonder and creativity, magic and make-believe.
It's the time for innocence and only the good.
Only the good.
(all this has to do with the kingdom of childhood, something I hope I can blog about)
And childhood is but a short time when you compare it to the rest of a person's lifetime spent in adulthood.

All that being said... where are we as a family?

We're in transition.

The habit of story reading has been ingrained in Yakee ever since he was a baby. It's always two books before bedtime. But I have also made up stories for him ever since, usually told in the dark. I have also used the moving storybooks I painted often enough. I have procrastinated making puppets though, so I have not moved onto using story tables. But I have been telling him stories. And reading to him, and not off picture storybooks.

At one point, he asked to learn how to read already... and I failed to honor that request. I'm not quite sure I regret it though I take it as a sign that sooner or later, he will demand to be taught. And I have made the decision that I will not refuse him, just that I won't offer too.

I hope, in this way, I have still preserved the best of him.


I am not saying, too, that the Waldorf way is the RIGHT way, or should be the only way. And I certainly don't mean little ones who read early are without imagination or are damaged.

I just attempted to give an idea of where we're coming from.

The Giant and the Gnome

This is a favorite tale in Waldorf circles and there are enough stories of young children who were overly shy, or had some special needs, responding to the story with so much investment... that parents have been pressed to learn it too.

I was too happy to just realize that I have a copy of the English version (because I have a copy of the Filipino one).  I am sharing it here so that others can tale the tell to their own children...

This is easily told using knotted doll cloths and on someone's lap.


There was a giant, big and bold,
Whose feet were getting very cold.
He came along to our town,
And walked the hills all up and down,
Calling, "Is no one hearing me?
My toes are freezing bitterly!
No single shop that I could tell
Has stockings giant-size to sell."

A little gnome, both old and wise,
He gave him very good advice.
He brought two pretty bits of stuff;
The giant thought them good enough.
He wrapped his feet, the pain was eased,
And home he walked, content and pleased.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Domestic Goddess

I didn't want the job... but my cousin leaving (ad our new helper not being keen on cooking) meant that I have to do most of the cooking nowadays. Well, at least the helper chops everything up for me so my contact with meats and produce is limited, and my eczema isn't that aggravated.

Anyway... I never thought I'd find it rewarding but Yakee usually thanks me for cooking. Plus, I've noticed that the boys and the helper only eat with gusto when I cook the usual veggie and meat viands (tinola, nilaga, sinigang, sotanghon). I swear, I cannot eat properly from having to fish their veggie of choice from the broth. Yakee would even say, I'm his favorite 'cooker' :)

He also thanks me profusely for crocheting him hacky sacks. I guess this is really meaningful work that a child appreciates... not my time on the PC.

So, anyway... I steamed some brocolli and made a parmesan cheese sauce for dinner, and my family loved it. Hubs even said that we should go to Baguio or Sagada (places that are super cold, with a metal building being the most practical kind of home) where vegetables are really fresh, rent a transient home, and just prepare the same dish. Haha. How's that for appreciation?

A big part of me still gets resentful that I have to plan the menu and budget the money and balance that with good food... but I like it, too.  have, so far, perfected those viands above as well as champorado.

And when all else fails, there's the daing na bangus we boy that the helper just needs to fry... and my boys thank me for. Haha. After all, I also do the marketing... every day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Preparing for Yakee's Birthday

Yakee has come home from school with a box of chocolate mallows, an apron with a red balloon, and a felt beanie and felt tool belt with yarn balls and wooden clips... all giveaways from schoolmates who have celebrated their birthdays.

And don't I feel pressured!

But the thing is... I know the parents thought to give those away because their children are good friends with the other children already. And it's not like there is some sort of unwritten protocol that this has to be done. And apart from the mallows, the giveaways are craftsy and tons of fun. I loved them so much because they really had 'play' as motivation.

And since we're not throwing a party this year, and I want Yakee to have a birthday story told him in school (which reminds me, I need to purchase the birthday ring and beeswax candles already... or make do with diptyque candles)... and it may be his last birthday there, I have been thinking of what to give away to his schoolmates.

It's down to three things... a cloak made of velvet cloth (for make-believe play), a bug's eye toy (to look at the world in a new way) with fairy rings/hand kites or burlap frames and cut-out leaves/tree trunk (with instructions on how the child can make her own tree). The deciding factor would be the cost, so I better head back to Divisoria soon and source materials for the first and third, otherwise, I'd have to order the bug's eye from abroad already.

And I'm thinking of having a crepe cake for Yakee's birthday instead :)

(yes, all preps for him, none for me)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Parent Support Group

The Parents Circle meeting at my son's day care has officially begun yesterday... and our first topic was the why and how to strategize against TV and gadget use for the young. It was informal, personal and really fun... because we all wanted to embrace the Waldorf way more but share the same hurdles and challenges.

Plus, we all kneaded the bread we ate for snack :)

It's great to talk to parents who are on the same page and struggling towards the same direction. Plus, we all got to learn from each other and remind each other that there is payback at the end of the road... or that, at least, we're doing it for good reasons.

Next topic is about angels, I think... and the parents also signified interest in being taught the school songs so we can sing and chant along with our kiddos.

I thank God for this social life... and great opportunity for more conscious parenting. Heaven knows yesterday found me so lacking, and I can't thank the heavens enough that my sons are very forgiving.