Renaissance Biographies

  Today we began a Waldorf homeschool unit on Renaissance Biographies. I am new to this lesson and will post what I do along the way. Here are some of the resources I am using:

Live Ed! Renaissance Biographies

This website recommended these books:

And some Netflix movies!

 Today we did a recap discussion of the crusades influence on the Renaissance. Also we talked about the Medici family (I need to recheck the beautiful book about them from my local library….). I hope to cover da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo. Maybe Botticelli, because I love him.

 We watched a Netflix movie about Leonardo da Vinci. ( I had planned to wait a few days on this…) We got into a really great talk about what his religion and sexual orientation was.

  Finally we looked at this website and the boys drew/painted a picture of Il Duomo in their main lesson books.

    Have you done a junior high type unit like this? I’d love to hear about it!

Silk Dying Tutorial

  This week my family hosted a Waldorf inspired silk dying day. We used Kool Aid to dye the silk. It was really fun and worked surprisingly well!

 Here’s how to do it:

We ordered bolts of silk from Dharma Trading Co.

First, soak your silk in equal parts hot water and white vinegar.

While it is soaking, prepare your dye bath:
3 Kool Aid packets
2 cups hot water
2 cups vinegar

The kool-aids we used were cherry, grape, orange, lemonade, lemon – lime, and blue raspberry.

Put your silk in the dye bath and stir for two minutes. You might want to wear gloves and aprons. It’s really cool to watch the silk absorb the color and the water turn clear.

Rinse the silk in cool water until the water runs clear.

Hang your silk to dry.

We got very creative making rainbow play cloths.

And tie dyes.

And bellydance veils.

My boys made juggling cloths.

Some folks dyed yarn.

It’s beautiful to watch my fairy girl dancing with her silks.
These sites were inspirational:
And now I want to make these butterfly wings:

Screen Free Week, April 18 – 24

Kill Your Television!

  I am gearing up for Screen Free Week. I am excited and nervous. Excited to get the damn screens out of the living room, nervous about not blogging and checking facebook.

  I know my children will have no problem with it. We have been TV/screen less off and on for many years. And with the beautiful weather they’ll be playing outside a lot! We’re secretly buying a few new toys to restock our supplies – Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, and art supplies, in case we get a rainy day.

  It will help that we have a busy week planned too. A field trip to the museum’s Titanic display, Waldorf homeschool silk dying day, book club, 20,000 bees and the American Atheist National Conference.

   I have been listening to the lectures on Feed.Play.Love. A Virtual Conference. Some of the first ones were, well, uninspirational. But this week two really stood out: Media Impact and Child Development, a Realistic View with Kim John Payne and Dr. Thomas Cooper and Where Anything can be Anything: Fostering Creativity in Your Child  with Sharifa Oppenheimer. They discuss how parents don’t want their children to be bored, but boredom is a gift. It is the gateway to creativity. And we often give in just before the creativity happens. As a parent of 7, I really enjoyed being reminded that sometimes the bridge between boredom and creativity is sibling torture. 🙂 I enjoyed the concept of Original Thought. How much original thought do we have? How much original thought does our child have? Are they only re-enacting what they see on TV? Singing commercial jingles? We put so much stress on IQ that we forget about “EQ” – emotional quotient. How to deal with other people in an honest way.

  The American Academy of Pediatrics is pretty clear about screen time. Spending more than two hours a day in front of a screen is detrimental to your child’s (and your!) physical, psychological and emotional health. Yes, screens include ipads. These are not “crazy hippies” making these claims. In fact, the AAP finds:

The sheer amount of time spent in front of a screen does not engage active thinking or playing, creative pursuits, or talking in-depth with family and friends.

 Media exposure at a young age (birth through age 2) often substitutes for important parent/caregiver/child activities that encourage early brain development, such as playing, singing, and reading.The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends reading to children every day, starting after they are first born. Reading stimulates the development of the brain, language and a closer emotional relationship with a child.

Studies show a relationship between excessive TV viewing and declining school performance, particularly in reading and comprehension skills.

Viewers of media violence may engage in violent or aggressive behavior, become desensitized to violence, or experience the world as a scary, dangerous place. Media violence also can increase a young person’s appetite for violence in entertainment and in real life.

Children and adolescents may learn and incorporate some of powerful myths and stereotypes about people from what  they see on screen. 

Heavy media exposure may contribute to a “culture of disrespect” — intolerance, stereotyping, ridiculing, and bullying, which includes pushing, shoving, hitting, and kicking.

Children and adolescents get all kinds of messages about tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use through media, mainly that such substance use is normative and/or associated with excitement and glamour. These images and messages may shape young people’s accepting attitudes and behaviors toward smoking, drinking, and illicit drug use.

Studies have shown obesity in children — a very prevalent health problem — to be associated with heavy TV viewing. The most commonly advertised foods on TV during children’s programming are typically high in sugar, salt, and fat.

Media advertising and commercialism entice people by using powerful visual images and audio effects. This can be compelling, especially for children under the age of 8, because, developmentally, they are unable to understand the true intent of commercials and advertising — which is to get them or their parents to buy a product. Children are also frequent targets of product merchandising for new movies, TV shows, and musical groups.

  This applies to “educational” screen time as well! Just this week the Center for a Commercial Free Childhood filed a Federal Trade Commission complaint against Your Baby Can Read!, a video series that encourages parents to put infants as young as three months in front of screens. The complaint is part of their ongoing campaign to support parents’ efforts to raise healthy babies by stopping the false and deceptive marketing of “educational” baby videos.

  Children learn best from adults. That’s one of the reasons I homeschool. I want to teach my child the ABCs. Not have “Fish School” teach her. (I don’t actually teach my children the ABCs, they seem to just learn it , like walking…)

Remember :

◆ All media messages are constructed — and are constructed for some purpose.
◆ Media messages shape our understanding of the world.
◆ Each person interprets media messages uniquely.
◆ Mass media are often driven by powerful economic and political forces.

What do you have planned for Screen Free Week 2011?

  You can learn more at the Screen Free Week website, facebook page and RSVP at their event page. You can even register your family!

How to Make Ukrainian Eggs

Each egg is a little universe, an Orphic egg, and everything contained within it is arrived at through the use of Sacred Geometry. The practice of making an egg reminds us of who we are, and how our actions relate to the universe around us. Certain rules are followed: what is above, so it is below; always complete a section (or action) before beginning the next. You will have less confusion, and therefore fewer mistakes. Perfect yourself before you try to perfect an egg – the rest will follow. Project every line, and know that your thoughts are projected in the same way. Do not keep your eyes on the kistka as you draw a line. When you set the kistka down, look forward and push the tool to that spot. The results will always be better. Likewise, we should always look forward in our lives, trying to determine the outcome of our actions. ”   –Deirdre LeBlanc

  I always enjoyed dying Easter eggs with my German grandmother. It was a yearly tradition. When I was 18 I enrolled in a Pysanky class at the local community college. Interestingly, that was the same year I took a basket weaving and bellydancing class. As if I knew what life had in store for me.
  To make Pysanky, or Ukrainian eggs as they are sometimes called, you need some basic tools and household supplies. Every March I set up a work table.

kistkas (kistka means “little bone” because they were originally made out of bones – over three thousand years ago!)



I initially bought a basic kit.

Mix your dyes: Follow the directions for making your dye baths, written on the powdered dye packages. Mine needed 1 1/4 cup water and some vinegar added. I used dye ordered from Magic Cabin Dolls; you can also use RIT in a pinch, but it totally pales in comparison.
Apply wax: Start with an egg, and let it get to room temperature. If it is too cold, the wax won’t stick. You then light your candle and warm your kistka in its flame. Then scoop a bit of wax and hold it near the candle until the wax is melted. Begin to draw your design. You can draw something as simple as a spiral, or your name. Or you can make something complex and colorful. Covering everything you want white in wax. My wax draws on black because, I think, I use an old kistka and the wax has been scorched like a campfire roasted marshmallow. Your wax might go on clear or yellow.

Dye Bath: Put the waxed egg into the next color needed, most often yellow. After a while (15 minutes to overnight), remove the egg from its dye bath and repeat the wax process, color by color.
Green isn’t applied as a bath, rather it is applied only to the areas desired with a Q-tip. Green is the only color this is done with. My green sucked this year, as I used old RIT dye instead of pysanky dye.

Now more wax. Then orange.


Then blue, purple, black.

By now your egg is a black waxy mess.

Remove wax: Take your waxed and dyed egg and hold it near the flame. Do not put it directly in the flame because it will get scorched and ruined! As the wax melts, carefully use a rag or tissue to wipe of the melted wax, revealing its colorful brilliance! And be careful! Flames are dangerous! AND this is the point at which many eggs break. I pay my children one dollar if I break an egg they’ve been working on.

You can also melt the wax off in an oven. (Instructions below)  But you’ll need to blow it out first if you want to hang it.

 Blowing out your egg: This is another risky egg breaking endeavor. We rarely blow our eggs, rather choosing the traditional method of leaving them intact. Give them away as gifts as soon as possible. You’ll feel good about it, and won’t be responsible for their destruction.

But if you blow them out, you can thread them and hang them on your Ostara branch. Here’s my method. Be careful!

Use a straight pin and carefully poke a hole in the top of the egg. Then turn the egg over and poke a few tiny hole in the bottom of the egg, essentially scoring out a small circle. Turn the egg back to small side up and blow, gently but firmly, the egg contents into  bowl. The technique takes some practice, so you might want to try this on a few less dear eggs.

Imagine me above the egg making a face like a trumpet player.

Then you can string your eggs. This year I used a doll making needle and some Malabrigo wool, but ribbon is lovely, and bead work would be beautiful!

You can also melt the wax off in an oven. I have been making pysanky for over 20 years, and have never before tried this method. Use a regular oven @ 250 deg F. I balanced the eggs on beer caps on an old pizza sheet. It worked great, but you need to blow out your eggs BEFORE you bake them. Also, I found some of the magic of slowly revealing your design was lost.

Watch for the wax to soften, then remove carefully and wipe off with a soft cloth or paper towel.

Varnish: Whether or not you’ve blown your egg, the final step is to apply varnish. It makes the eggs very shiny and fancy! Spray several thin layers of an oil based varnish.

Christopher got home from Paganicon late last night, and look what he brought me. A shiny new kistka and natural dyed eggs from Steven Posch!

Here are some websites you might enjoy for further study:

And more photos of our pysanky week:

How are you celebrating Spring?

What I’m Reading This Week

So many books, so little time!

Today I am cleaning in preparation for tomorrow’s Waldorf Homeschool Day. As I came to the coffee table, I looked lovingly at my knitting (tomorrow…) and stack of books. And since they’ll all be put away tomorrow when you get here  🙂 I thought I’d share. Maybe some of you could read along with me!

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

  I really LOVED the sequel to this book, The Year of the Flood, which I accidentally read first. Apparently I wasn’t alone in this love seeing as the book has a website and musical. It reminded me a bit of The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk. I am having a rougher time on Oryx and Crake. I think it’s because the main character is a man and the beginning is very bleak. But I’m holding out.

Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children by Shafira Oppenheimer


Christian-y name, but actually a nice book about applying Waldorf principles to your home. This book is lovely. I don’t agree with all of her ideas, especially her stance on gun play. It also makes me think I should write a book , I have so many opinions on everything! Here is the description from

As we witness the shifting of old forms that once stood as the foundation of our daily lives, parents—who must prepare the next generation to meet this changing world—have more questions now than ever before. Although our culture and the nature of the family may be changing, the atmosphere in the home continues to create the foundation of a child’s life. In Heaven on Earth, parent and educator Sharifa Oppenheimer reveals how to make the home environment warm, lively, loving, and consistent with your highest ideals. 

Heaven on Earth balances theoretical understanding of child development with practical ideas, resources, and tips that can transform family life. Readers will learn how to establish the life rhythms that lay the foundation for all learning; how to design indoor play environments that allow children the broadest skills development; and how to create backyard play spaces that encourage vigorous movement and a wide sensory palette. Through art, storytelling, and the festival celebrations, this book is a guide to build a “family culture” based on the guiding principle of love. Such a culture supports children and allows the free development of each unique soul. 


Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin 


Why ever put this away? It is breathtaking of course, because it’s by Anaïs Nin, my favorite author ever. (Okay, okay, Tolstoy is pretty awesome too. But WAY different.) I was gifted this book on Sunday by new friend and bellydance student Angela Chenus. She looks EXACTLY like Anaïs. 

Some of the stories are really “out there”, and a few even I take issue with. But some of them are, well, delicious

Here is a description from Wikipedia:

“Faced with a desperate need for money, Nin, Miller and some of their friends began in the 1940s to write erotic and pornographic narratives for an anonymous “collector” for a dollar a page, somewhat as a joke.  Nin considered the characters in her erotica to be extreme caricatures and never intended the work to be published, but changed her mind in the early 1970s and allowed them to be published as Delta of Venus and Little Birds”


 The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking

I haven’t even started it yet. But I can’t wait. I love Stephen Hawking so much. I really want a full back piece tattoo of him, but Chris says he won’t like it.


From Magical Child to Magical Teen by Joseph Chilton Pearce


This is a re-read for me, sometimes I just need a reason to keep the teens out of the kennel. My favorite book by Pearce is Evolution’s End.

Success With Houseplants by Reader’s Digest

I have owned this book since my childhood. I am reviewing the section on cyclamen. I cannot keep these beauties alive, yet insist on buying them every year. I am open to suggestions.

Living Cafts, Spring 2011

The beautiful bellydancer Rhea introduced me to this magazine when my baby Méabh was sick in the hospital. I have subscribed ever since. This Spring issue has articles on silk dying (April’s Waldorf day activity) and a daughter’s wedding!

Midwifery Today, Spring 2011, Number 97

I have subscribed to this magazine for 15 years. Just got the new issue today. Can’t wait. Especially the article by the very sexy Gail Tully!

Oh, and I can’t forget, Chris has a book on the table too!:

A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism by John Michael Greer

I’ll have Chris write a review. I know it’s led to lots of discussion here, and that Chris is looking forward to meeting the author at Paganicon next weekend.

Here is the description off

In this book John Michael Greer turns his attention to the intellectual underpinnings and superstructures of the Pagan and magical movements. Pagan religions have tended to be more concerned with practice that with theory and in a system that has no dogma – no legislated doctrine – that is as it should be. Yet as out movement grows and matures, it is inevitable that we will begin to think in a more abstract way about our models and systems. John Michael Greer has provided a primer on the kinds of ideas and themes that must be included in any discussion of the theology and philosophy of Neo-pagan religions.

There you have it, with links even! Read along with me!

What are you reading?


Homemade Paper Bag Ostara Baskets

  15 years ago, my children, grandmother and I made a basket from paper bags.  I still have this basket; it has survived floods, toddlers, and blizzards.  I was going through our house, looking for baskets for our upcoming Waldorf home school day.  I realized that this paper bag basket would be a great basket to grow wheat grass in.  It would also be an appropriate Brigid activity because of the weaving.

This is my first tutorial, so follow along carefully, but use your own intellect and experience as we go.

Here’s how they are made:
You will need

nine paper grocery bags ( I use Aldi bags, of course!)

a yard stick or ruler
a pair of scissors
a sturdy stapler

Cut twelve pieces of paper bag paper 20″x16″

and cut another six pieces 28″x16″

That’s 18 all together!

Fold them as if you are folding double fold bias tape:

Fold them to the middle, then unfold.

Then fold the edges to the middle

then again fold to the middle

then again in half. They will measure approximately 1 ” wide

Rub them over a counter to make really sharp folds.

Choose one of the longer strips to be the top edge.

Evenly space 12 of the 20″ strips from the top edge and staple them in place.

(This also looks like a hula skirt!)

Fold 6 of those strips to the opposite side and staple them.

Then begin weaving in the remaining 6 strips, as if you are making a lattice pie crust, and staple them to the opposite side.

Now weave four of the last strips around the width of the basket from the bottom up. Overlap their edges and staple them to themselves. if possible, hide the staples under the horizontal strips.

Your basket should now appear mostly done.

 Use the last strip to cover the top heavily stapled strip and glue it in place.

If you would like a handle, you could punch a hole and sew or use a  manilla envelope fastener. You could also make a handle by making one of the strips as long as possible and weaving it all the way through.

My basket looked especially good today, since it was holding all the finished wedding invitations!

Wednesdays Waldorf- Inspired Homeschool day is looking very fun.

Oak Moon

  We gathered early Wednesday for full moon festivities.  First we had homeschool Waldorf craft day. Felting balls with the children was delightful. The house got steamy from all the boiling water and the children got clean.

  Juniper helped the children make nature offerings to use during the ritual. She spoke of how even the smallest of gifts can be meaningful. She had us bring to mind hardships that had occurred during the year and think about ways they made us stronger.

  For the evening ritual, the children called the Quarters and lit candles. Because it is the Oak Moon, we processed to our little pin oak tree and hung our offerings upon it. On this dark December night, the moon is visible the longest time of the year. Simple words were spoken:

 “Lady of the Night, be our guide;
Lady of the Moon, stand by our side.”
Blessed Be!

Dodecahedron Paper Lantern Instructions

After scouring the internet to find instructions for making these, and finding very little, I thought I would write my own. Here goes:


  3 watercolor paintings done in “wet on wet” fashion
  school glue

1. Make a pentagram pattern out of cardboard. It must be a perfect pentagram. This was probably the most difficult part of the process!

We found this link helpful and fun!
If you have a printer,  this link will do the trick.

2.  Trace 11 pentagons onto your paintings and cut them out.

3. Inside of your pentagons, draw another angled pentagon, with its points in the exact middle of the larger shapes straight sides, so that you can fold the points down.

4. Fold all the points over.

5. Glue the shapes to each other, starting from the base. We used school glue applied with a paintbrush.
When you get to the top opening, make sure and glue those points down too to make the star affect when lit.

I found these links helpful as well:

And apparently, the complete instructions can be found in this book.
Put a votive candle inside your lanterns to see the stars!