Monday, June 28, 2010

crafting creativity

summer craft conference at steiner college

Jennifer has a boundless creative spirit. Her fiber crafting has thoroughly blossomed. The seeds of fiber delight were planted by her mother and grandmother through the passing on of knitting and crocheting. In college, I remember the amazing crocheted quilts she produced. Then, gradually, quietly, miles and miles of yarn crept into our home like tendrils of a magical vine, filling every cabinet space, and it was total yarnage! Then, perhaps, along with the growth of our children, Jennifer branched out to carding and spinning her own fibers and yarns. Adorable, unique, delicate, quirky fiber creations sprouted like wildflowers. Tunisian crocheting, kumihimo, weaving, needle felting, hand-dyeing, Jennifer harvested a crop of creative wonders.

A summer handcrafts conference with Ruskin Mills at Steiner College this week is another beautiful element to add to Jennifer's fiber garden. The conference is called Recreating the Human Vessel: Educating through Rhythm and Crafts.

This is the way of Jennifer's creative soul. She loves to learn for herself, but I think she loves to learn equally to be able to share it with others. All her creative energy often becomes the nourishing water and light for our kids, and others around the world, coaxing the expression of artistry in others take root.

Friday, June 25, 2010

watercoloring video

from earthschooling

We had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Kristie Burns one weekend when she was a workshop speaker at a conference at nearby Rudolf Steiner College. Kristie has a wonderful website called The Bearth Institute, where she has many reosurces to help families in their homeschooling journeys. With video camera always ready to capture a lesson opportunity, Kristie convinced me to do a video workshop on wet-on-wet method painting. You can take a peek at Part One of my Watercolor Journey debut video.
Thanks, Kristie, for your energy in sharing our creative lives!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

father's day

a family day

In the morning, my family treated me to a breakfast of funnel cakes and gifts made by their loving hands. For lunch, we invited my mom and dad, my brothers, and their families. I have four younger brothers, two of whom are married with children. My kids have four cousins on the Tan side of the family. To find everyone in good spirits, to share a meal prepared by all, to enjoy a sunny Sunday afternoon together, this father's heart fills with peace. Father's Day, when everyone gathers, is really Family Day!

my mom and dad with the grandkids

the "original" Tans


a shady spot for lunch

Friday, June 18, 2010

teleseminar grades one thru three

The Waldorf Connection Homeschool Expo workshops

Rick is speaking on Saturday, June 19 at 4:30pm EST on Grade Overview 1st-3rd. You can access this on your phone or online. If you are on your computer, you will also be able to see a visual presentation.

Length: approx. 60-70 minutes. Replays are available for 48 hours after live call for free. You may also purchase mp3 files. You must register in advance. Free registration:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

fabulous forty

a birthday verse for my wife

At ten,
You were someone I did not know,
A girl, dancing, playing with her Barbies,
And I was entering my teen world.

At twenty,
My girlfriend whom I was glad to know,
A young woman, learning at UC Davis,
And I was studying too in our college town.

At thirty,
My wife whom I had grown to know,
A mother and principal at Rail Ranch Elementary.
And I was caring for kids and a lawn to mow.

At forty,
My partner whom there is much yet to know,
A being of immense Love and boundless Energy,
And the children and I love you more and more.

Friday, June 11, 2010

brother francesco

learning language arts and love

In our last block with Class Two of East Bay Waldorf School, the life and stories of San Francesco di Assisi brought forth the learning of language arts and values such as devotion, charity, kindness, and peace. In the second grade curriculum, the deeds of noble characters in fables, in animal legends, and the saints, speak to the spirit of the seven to nine year old child. As they emerge from the oneness of grade one, they begin to see themselves as separate individuals. And with that separation comes a mixed sense of freedom and uncertainty. Guidance that gives them both boundaries and room for exploration is a challenging task of the teacher and parent. It leads them to a balanced self-awareness and world-awareness.

Saint Francis offered an image for the second grader of a life that transforms from selfish to selfless, and also an opportunity to build our artistic and basic language arts skills. I brought for Class Two young Francesco born into a wealthy family, who enjoyed extravagant and boisterous feasting and partying with his friends. The town of Assisi was then engaged in wars with neighboring people and Francesco joined the army to fight, soon to be captured and imprisoned by the enemy. Alone and miserable in prison, he heard a voice, "Francesco, please help me to rebuild my Church."

When Francesco was released from prison, he shunned the wealth and partying of his youth. He donned a simple burlap robe with a rope for a belt, and wore no shoes. He began to rebuild a church in the countryside (it may be the church of San Damiano). Stone by stone, he restored the church. Francesco had a great affinity for nature, and he would often be seen outside among the birds and creatures of the earth, and they would flock to see him and hear him preach. A famous story of a fearsome wolf and the townspeople of Gubbio showed the peacefulness of Brother Francesco. He came to the aide of exiled lepers on the outskirts of town, providing them with food, clothing, and care, when no one else dared.

Devotion, Charity, Kindness, Peace - stories offered guidance towards selfless virtues. In the playground, at home, in the classroom, the second grader is in an amazing process of transformation. Based on a presentation made by wonderful Mrs. Ricketts, a friend and partner teacher at EBWS, I had written a letter to the second grade parents about this process: It is a process that is necessary and normal. The process unfolds, revealing human development at its most primal and at its most endearingly elegant. The poking is their way of communicating! We observe, we monitor, we are patient, we are very patient, we guide, we encourange, we model, we remain calm and smile (we cry when they are not looking), we become stern, we become firm, we become loving ogres when behaviors reach tipping points, and the children learn and grow. Lay down the fenceline, not too close, not too far, just enough room for both freedom and supervision. And always love. In the words of The Beatles, "all you need is love, love, love is all you need!" Click here for a YouTube video.

The langauge arts gleaned from Brother Francesco had been fruitful. We built on previously introduced curriculum such as word families and blended consonants, and I introduced some new stuff like story sequencing, setting, and mood. We unscrambled sentences. (Mischievous elves always seem to scramble my sentences when I am not looking!) We practiced printing on lined paper. We worked beautifully in our main lesson books, learning new artistic techniques.

Learning the mood of a story was particulary fun and memorable for the children. In using the story of Saint Francis, the children and I first sang songs and danced in our well-lit and gaily decorated classroom - the party youth of Francis. Then, we marched to the laundry room of the school, dark, dank, dingy, cold, and cramped - the lonely despair of Francis in prison. Then we were happily freed and we ran up to the straw bale structure on the upper fields of the school where the quiet, softly lit interior of this plastered, thick walled woodshop echoed like a church - the restoration of San Damiano. And finally, the children and I strolled into the grove of trees, where we listened to the birds, and played as second graders do, in nature.

The second graders had also been doing eurythmy to Saint Francis' Canticle of the Sun, so there was this interdisciplinary cohesiveness to their lessons.

During this last four week block before school's end, I hoped the children learned and grew, as I did. Interestingly, during this block with Brother Fancesco, a nest of young birds had hatched in the rafters just outside our classroom, where they chirped all day. We also, one day, returned to our classroom to find that a blue jay had come in and we carefully let it out through the window. And I, at home, was visited by mourning doves, who perched on branches just outside on our back porch. Brother Francesco's spirit lives on.