Sunday, September 27, 2009

sand meditation

versatility of our new sandbox

With three rocks from our collection of geological treasures and a piece of wood I cut teeth into, Joey discovered the art of the Zen garden in our own little sandbox! Traditional Japanese meditation gardens capture the essence of nature through minimalist use of the elements - stones, raked gravel, and a few carefully chosen plants.

Joey placed the three rocks with a great eye for design! Upon completing the raking, Joey commented that it needed more. I said to her, "These days, we live in a world where we always seem to want more, but really what we need to do is learn to live with less."

I introduced her to the thinking behind the Zen garden. The minimalist approach encourages one to find the most beauty in an object, in the experience. The form and color of the earth elements, their arrangement, their relationship to each other, their connection to our own life experiences, from these are derived the beauty of nature. We learn to appreciate the smallest yet most meaningful moments of our everyday life.

"You ask me why I dwell in the green mountain; I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care. As the peach blossom which flows downstream and is gone into the unknown, I have a world apart that is not among men." -- Li Po

Friday, September 25, 2009

building willfulness

a sandbox project for the kids

Arts and crafts, including wood working, plays an important role in the development of children. Creativity and imagination is expressed through handwork, building confidence, skills, and willfulness in the child. The finished product, when well conceived, is both beautiful and functional, connecting us with the world's resources and with the inner spirit. When designed, built, and enjoyed as family, handwork projects connect us to each other.

This sandbox project was completed in one day by Ricky, Joey, Wilson, and myself.

We began by designing the sandbox, whose dimensions would be fitting for Wilson. It would be compact enough to move around in the yard, yet adequate for homeschool lessons and lots of imaginative play activities!

We decided that its dimensions would be 27 inches tall to the top edge of the box, and be roughly 27 inches by 20 inches in length and width, and about 6 inches deep. We used 1 x 8 cedar fencing for the side panels,1/2 inch oak plywood for the base, and 2 x 2 cedar for the legs.

Under my supervision at all times, we cut the cedar panels to the appropriate lengths to meet the pre-exisiting dimensions of our plywood oak base.

We nailed the cedar panels to the plywood base roughly 2 inches from the bottom edge of the cedar planks.

Wilson also helped! Each nail we used a nail set tool to bury the head of the nail for a more finished look.

Using a drill, we pre-drilled holes to screw in the tops of the legs to the plywood base.

After drilling and gluing the legs into place, we used braces with 45 degree angle cuts to support the legs, gluing those into place.

When the glue was sufficiently dry and the legs appeared quite sturdy, we flipped the sandbox over and sanded the edges to minimize splinters.

Then, we poured 50 pounds of playsand into the box.

And voila! A new sandbox for Wilson - and everyone else too - to enjoy!

Monday, September 21, 2009

syrendell sunday

a wonderful workshop with new friends

Our "Creative Family in the Dell" Workshop at Syrendell brought new friends to our Fair Oaks home. We had a wonderful time sharing in our creative striving, learning about art and crafts, music, home schooling, Rudolf Steiner, and Waldorf education. The joyfulness of family and children made the day very special.

Here is a brief synopsis of the workshop.

Circle Time

We gathered together to welcome the day with singing, verses, and movement, lighting a candle, and chiming a Tibetan singing bowl. It was an example of how a classroom teacher or homeschooling teacher may start the day with the students.

Introduction to Waldorf Education

I facilitated a lecture and discussion on Steiner and Waldorf education, using a diagram to show the thread from Steiner to anthroposophy to Waldorf.

  • from the Greek "anthropos," meaning man, and "sophia," meaning wisdom

  • it is the study of the fundamental nature of man

  • spiritual science

  • it formed the foundation for anthroposophical medicine, inner work, eurythmy, bio-dynamic farming, and Waldorf education

Waldorf Education

  • began in 1919 for the children of the workers at the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Factory

  • the main point is the approach to teaching from the development of the child

  • its mantra is heart, head, and hands (thinking, feeling, and willing)

  • the main lesson is a key feature

Inner Development

  • Steiner believed that to be an amazing teacher, one needs to work on the inner self

  • the four aspects of the human being: the physical body (the organic, sensory body), the etheric soul (the emotional self), the intellectual soul (the thinking self), and the consciousness soul (the self that has developed intuition, awareness, and will)

The Developing Human

  • follows 7 year stages of development

  • 0 - 7 years, physical development, oneness with the world

  • 8 - 14 years, etheric development, emotional growth, separateness from the world, self-expression, feeling and thinking

  • 15 - 21 years, intellectual development, thinking and willing

  • 22 + years, spiritual development, consciousness soul, action towards global citizenry

Main Lesson

  • unique to the Waldorf classroom

  • a four-part 2-hour daily rhythm: circle time, new content delivery, main lesson book work, and storytelling

  • subject blocks (see previous blog journey unfolds)

  • three-day cycle: new content is introduced on day one, day two is an associated lecture or activity, then on day three, main lesson book for that content is done by the students

Basics of Wet-Method Painting

At first, trying out a new artistic medium is, frankly, quite frustrating! When I was first introduced to wet-on-wet painting, I found myself frustrated with not being able to control the paint. Soon, I realized I needed to "let go," to give in to the nature of watercolors, and to allow myself to be taught a new technique.

With our workshop, it was no different for the first-timers. A bit of patience, of letting go, of perseverence, and the self artistry will emerge beautifully!

I do not teach the students how to express themselves - that comes from within, but the techniques can be learned, which act as tools of expression.

To recap the lesson (refer to previous blog art of letting go for examples):

  • begin with laying down masses of color with a fluid yet firm application of the brush
  • blend primary colors to get secondary colors, and so on, to give a nice dimension to the page
  • use the negative space technique by applying a wet brush, then dry brush, to lift the pigments off of the page where you intend it to be white space or for appying a new color
  • when the paper is a bit drier, begin to lay down some foreground details such as trees, shrubs, animals, structures

Fiber Arts

For fiber arts, we carded wool with two different sizes of hand carders and a drum carder. We did some needlefelting and spinning on spindles.

Nature's Classroom

The children strolled around the yard with baskets and collected samples of nature. In Waldorf education, nature studies are always related to humankind. How do plants and animals and humans coexist? How is the human form similar to plants and animals? Do we share physical cahracteristics? Physiological similarities?

With the young ones, it is simply about exposure to the earth's bounty and beauty. Being in nature is meant to be a full sensory experience, touching, smelling, listening, and tasting.

We tied together the fiber crafts with the nature experience and crafted a tiny figure cloaked in a hand-felted wool outfit and an acorn hat!

Music, Verse, and Song

We ended the day with a drum circle, singing, and verse writing.

I particulary liked the spontaneous jam session with my little friend Tyler (2 years old) when I played harp, he played a mini zylophone, and we sang a song about bananas!

Please visit our family blogsite at Syrendell as well for more on the workshop!

Friday, September 11, 2009

verse for peace

choose to proceed with love

born from the cosmic seed all
humankind begins as a cellular ball
with potential energy to proceed in love

growing in the womb of our earth mother
tethered to spirit cords of one another
a family cared for by our heaven father above

we crawl then walk and talk and interact
with innate sense for mindfulness and tact
yet some brothers choose to push and shove

a downward spiral created by the unthinking few
ending our earth stay in a catastrophic brew
so I offer now suggestions to extend our lease

close your eyes and inside you will find
your earth family connected by oneness of mind
think collectively and goodness will increase

the blood of angels from your chest the flow starts
coursing with others via oneness of heart
feel in empathic wisdom and be naturally at ease

sift through wartime rubble or play in timeless sand
we choose our actions through oneness of hands
so in kinetic energy let us proceed today in peace

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

snail trail

from syrendell to australia

My blogpost today has few words - I am thankful for Diana of Artemis Moon, who through her blog has made my day:

Blessings to your family, Diana.


Friday, September 4, 2009

watercoloring with wilson

daddy and son and butterfly

My son Wilson and I spent a few minutes together painting a butterfly. Using the wet-method painting, we first created the background color with reds and blues. Wilson then lifted the pigment from the page using a wet, then dry, brush where the butterfly would be. He added yellow for the wings, then painted its orange body.

Jennifer is his homelearning teacher, and the letter "B" was one of their letters of the week - "B" for butterfly, and the shape of its wings. Jennifer told him that I would be doing the painting lesson with him, and when I was directing him with his brush strokes, doing it just a bit differently from Jennifer, Wilson said, "I haven't worked with Daddy before." He is so cute!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

syrendell workshop

creative family in the dell

Just a couple of weeks away is our one-day seminar at Syrendell called Creative Family in the Dell: Workshop for Parents and Toddlers. If you know a family in the Fair Oaks, CA, area, please let them know to register with us for a day of wet-method painting, nature studies, and fiber crafting! Just click on the workshop title to go to our Syrendell Academy website for details.

Have a beautiful day!