Turning two and home learning preparations.
Here we are at the beginning of spring, and while we are in a country in the midst of their school year and poised for springtime frolicking, I cannot, cannot shake the back-to-school feeling. It’s definitely due to many of my much-loved friends from home sharing photos of conkers and their children starting the new (or not-so) adventures of homeschooling and twenty-five years of ingrained September vibes. But I think it’s also due to my end of August baby, who will always turn the page of another year while another hemisphere collectively turns pages of their own.
Two has felt momentous. Developmental leaps and bounds have been happening, concepts are being vocalised, and now feels like a lovely time to slowly (oh so very, very slowly) wind our way towards our anticipated decision to homeschool. When the time comes, who knows where we will be, but at the moment everything about it feels inevitable.
We’ve settled in, we’re finding new rhythms, and I’ve had the luxury of a lot of time to research, to wonder, and to dream, on how the next couple of years might pan out. Nothing will be fixed or forced; together Eilish, Toby and I will continue to carve a childhood that is wondrous and child-led; and play will always be at the forefront of it all, but it’s been nice to decide upon some of the central points that I’d like us to focus on in the coming months.
We are so lucky in some ways to be discovering together a new natural world. We’ve replaced deciduous trees for evergreens, and we find gumnuts instead of conkers, and we’re learning lorikeets instead of blue tits. We exist in an entirely new habitat. I’m finding at this point that there is no sense in pretending to be anything other than entirely clueless about it all. Instead we’re embracing the knowledge of the friends that we explore with, and I’m spending my evenings googling banksia pods and wattle flowers.
Centring Eilish’s childhood around nature is something so important to me, and I’ll be using both Forest School and growing things in our garden in order to bring as much opportunity to be outdoors as possible. A lot of the spaces around us are very cultivated and clean and Forest School is turning out to be the perfect thing to bring some wild into our lives, while also giving us a roster of some more wild places for us to explore alone.
Our books are mostly nature-based too, and we often spend breakfast talking about butterflies or bees, or reading through a few native flowers or plants.
One of the things that our lovely Forest School does so well is creating learning opportunities through oral storytelling. I’ve absolutely loved this inclusion in our weekly rhythm because before now I hadn’t been able to possibly fathom how we could include it in our home. The only other example I’d seen done in front of me was at out old Steiner playgroup with a whole variety or props and a storytelling apron. It was gorgeous and lovely, but it didn’t feel very attainable to me. Our local Forest School does storytelling so stripped back and yet filled with wonder and magic, and it’s given me the confidence to try some of our own at home.
Storytelling is at the very foundation of good literacy skills, and while books provide rich language, it’s really oral stories that can build a child’s confidence and imagination when it comes to their first forays into the English language. I’ve begun simply, by creating story baskets to retell simple fairytales and I’ve created a couple of seasonal stories that I’ve been telling to welcome the beginning of spring.
I’ve included one below that you can tell yourself with one of our favourite Waldorf rhymes inside, which can be used for either autumn or spring. Feel free to replace any of the animals to suit the your country or climate, or the props that you have in your house! We used silks for rain, snow and sunshine, some wool roving for a warm coat for the seed, and the animals and fairies in our stash.
It was autumn and the leaves of the forest were golden. The child knew that the cold weather was coming by the chill in the wind and each day becoming shorter and even shorter. The child wanted to plant a little wish for the long winter months ahead. They took in their hand a small seed and buried it into the ground. As they did so they sung to the seed a little song:
"A little seed for me to sow,
A little soil to make it grow,
A little hole, a little pat
A little wish and that is that.
A little sun, a little shower,
A little while -
And then a flower!”
The child then closed his eyes and wished hard for his seed, gave it a little pat with his hand and then scurried off home to cosy up by the fire.
It began to get cold. It snowed. Winter was here. The rabbits spent long days frolicking in the snow before curling up together in their burrows. The bears were eating lots, and then they settled down in their caves for a long winter sleep. The birds flew off to faraway places where it was warm. And the seed slumbered on beneath the cold ground.
In the forest, a small flower fairy lived. The flower fairy had heard the child’s wish for their seed. The flower fairy flew past the seed and gave the seed a papery coat to keep it warm.
The child came and visited the seed, but was disappointed to see that it was still buried in the soil.
Months passed. The flower fairy flew past once again and brought with it the sunshine which melted the snow away and warmed the seed. The seed began to wriggle and planted its long, brown legs into the ground. But still it stayed safe in the soil.
Again, the child came to see the seed but felt disappointed when they saw it was still underneath the ground.
A little while passed again, and the flower fairy came with the rain to soak the ground. The seed was thirsty, and so grateful for a cool drink of water. It was beginning to wake now, and it began to stretch its small, green arms into the air. But still it stayed safe in the soil.
The child walked past and was still disappointed to see nothing there.
The flower fairy then came to wake the forest. She nudged the bears, and shook the trees, called the rabbits to come out and play, and sung the birds back from their time away. And then, finally, she tiptoed over to the small sleepy seed and gently coaxed it out of the ground. The seed stretched up and up and up, further and further, basking in the warm sunshine and drinking up the rain until there appeared it’s smiling face. A beautiful flower head atop a long green stem, roots digging deep into the soil.
And the child came and was so happy to see that finally their autumn wish had become real. Spring was here.
Weaving another language into EIlish’s childhood has always been one of the things I have always, always had in my mind since day dot. But, it’s funny isn’t it, how sometimes the things that you put the most emphasis on don’t materialise until you have the headspace to do so. It’s only now that I can even fathom adding in another language to the mix, and so we are doing so very gently.
We have chosen to do French only because I have a starting foundation there from school. While my French has never been anywhere near fluent and it’s very rusty, I’m really looking forward to sharing in this life skill with my daughter. So far I’ve begun with books from the library - I really like the Lonely Planet’s First Words - and we’ve begun listening to the Beth Manners albums on a recommendation from a friend. That is definitely enough for us for now.
I’ve slowly began introduce more and more opportunities for handwork in our days, and create more intentional opportunities to do so. While we’ve always done a lot of playdough, I’ve began accumulating ideas for more practical activities that Eilish can take part in to fulfil this part of our days. These include; bread making, wet-felting soap, exploring beeswax, threading, painting, introducing some simple sewing activities, kinetic sand. I’m so keen to keep this as an integral part of our days as handwork is so great for strengthening those fine motor skills in preparation for eventual mark-making and writing.
Play will, and always will be, at the very epicentre of childhood and learning for us. But I’m setting a very personal intention for our coming year to play more myself. To be more involved in these small worlds that she’s creating, to soak it all in while I still can. And to stop focusing on what to buy to further the interest and instead to let the joy come anyway, because it always does.
Do you still get that back-to-school feeling? What are your learning intentions for the coming year?
If you liked this, you may also enjoy creating a seasonal table.