Mojave in my Heart

From a not-so childlike beginning in New York City to my child inspired world here and now

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Fall Festival Weekend


As I was tucking Arlene into bed one night last week, she asked: when is the next holiday? Like a fun one, not like Labor Day!? I was so glad she asked! It was a good reminder to pull a few things together for our upcoming fall festival. In our family it is an annual tradition the weekend before the fall equinox – a time to celebrate the change in seasons; from the enormity of  the outdoors and hot days to cooler, more inward days.  It all begins when our neighborhood squirrels leave out a basket of apples or pumpkins, along with a seasonal book.  Such thoughtful rodents! In turn, we make applesauce and a brunch feast!

This year I really wanted to add a night of stargazing to the weekend. I wanted to take note of some of the celestial changes too. I’m more familiar with the summer skies than winter, except that Stephen talks about Orion quite a lot in the cooler seasons. So we made plans to  head up to Peaceful Valley Campground for Saturday night. Peaceful Valley is 45 minutes from our home at about 8500 feet.  It is steep valley, a product of glacial erosion.   It is just beautiful. It looked uncertain Saturday as both the girls came down with horrible colds. Poor Ada was really struggling in the morning, so we decided to just play it by ear.  However, enthusiasm won, congestion, ZERO. We headed for the mountains…


We took on a short hike before setting up camp and cooking dinner. The late afternoon light was brilliant but softer than the rays of noon. The cool air just what we needed. Both the girls and Stephen were in some stage of a nasty virus.


After our hike we settled down to some campfire cooking and hanging out! Dinner? Cowgirl potatoes (potatoes, onions, peas, cheese and bacon) on an open fire.  Delicious! More so by my hunger and the outdoors. Blankets covered us as the air grew cooler and the stars slowly surfaced. We ate our s’mores and watched for new stars to emerge.

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The squirrels once again came through with a basket full of apples the next morning –which we put to immediate enjoyment! We continued our celebration of fall continued with a seasonal brunch: pumpkin waffles, grits, bacon and fried apples.  The rest of the apples with make their way into next week’s apple jacks!

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day in the life: Monday

After a somewhat leisure morning of breakfast, reading, and chores we light a candle and start circle time. Circle time is made up of songs both familiar and old, verses, games, and usually something spontaneous! Often Ada and Arlene suggest games they learned over the years from dance class- cute and fun. Circle time has been a part of our lives since before the girls were two! I smile thinking back on the years we’ve shared this time and all the ways it has grown. We use to tie long scarves around our wastes and sing and dance around the house while holding onto these makeshift “tails.” We haven’t done that in awhile and I’m thinking we might should!

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Morning lesson follows circle time, a rotating block study.  In Waldorf schools the first grade focuses on blocks: form drawing, language arts, and mathematics. In addition to blocks there are additional “subjects” which are woven into the day such as: knitting, baking/cooking, painting, Spanish, singing, etc.  I begin our main lesson with a story, some playful movement and work with their head and hands, depending on the block.  We just finished form drawing which is composed of more “hand-drawing work”that prepares the 6 year old for letter writing. Although the girls know and write all the letters of the alphabet, there are occasional reversals and inconsistencies. Form drawing helps to establish the fact that there is a way to “drawing” or writing the form, while strengthening their hand muscles. All packaged into an interactive, creative delivery! Oh and it is fun to draw these forms as they relate to actions and plot within the story.  Morning lesson on Monday segues into painting followed by reading time before lunch.


We’ve been reading a lot of books on Native Americans and early frontiersmen to Colorado and Utah. A clash of worlds to say the least and lots of questions ensue from these reading selections. Another popular read is Girls Who Looked Under Rocks which takes us through the lives of six women whose curiosity and passion for the natural world led them to lives in science, often against the current.

I really love our lunch time together. Relaxed and satisfying, it is  wonderful time of sharing and eating!

After lunch we’ve been heading outdoors!  We bring along our jump ropes, balls and hula hoops for a little fun. This play has been interesting; we start with traditional games of tossing the ball, maybe through the hula hoops, jumping when we catch it, etc. and very soon it evolves into their own creations. I LOVE witnessing these developments. The possibilities are infinite and it is one of those many moments where the girls teach ME that there are SO many possibilities in the day. They remind ME that there’s a great BIG horizon ahead, not just a schedule to adhere to!


We take Happy out for a walk after our playtime, sometimes riding bikes, other times just walking. It has been so hot lately and especially around this time that the walks are not entirely enjoyable.  They take their own “dogs” on these walks and tell fantastic stories about them as we go. I like to call Arlene’s “Bling, Bling” although her name is Ruby. Ada’s is Lily. They tell me all about the training they do with them, how old they are and where they were rescued from.


Then it is time for relaxing quietly together or apart. We gather together, each with a pile of books or drawing pads (often Ada draws) and relax for about an hour. We pacify Happy with a bone during this time so it is important to get right down to business as his clock runs tight!

We’re trying to ride our bikes around town more often–both for fun and to get from A to B. Last week we rode to Lucky’s for some essential baking ingredients and another day we rode up to Foothills Playground, another day to the library!  One day we brought along Beatrix Potter. After playing we found a sweet spot  under a tree to watch clouds and to read several chapters from our book. It was so beautiful. This is why we sacrifice my not working. This is why we homeschool.

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When not using our bikes, we’re taking the bus. It has felt absolutely WONDERFUL to hop on the bike, or the bus to get around. Traveling this way, I’m finding myself less stressed and more connected to the girls. We have interesting conversations, take in the sights and there’s so much more flexibility when not chained to the car.
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our homeschool plan: less is more.

I started mentally planning for our homeschool year in May.

Brainstorming activities continued while driving across the country and back. I managed to sketch a decent outline during the summer- not so arduous of a task since I’m embracing Waldorf pedagogy and there are many curriculum guides and ideas to turn to for help. Plus, I’ve been preparing for THIS for years and taking the advice of those more seasoned: layer slowly, each year. It is hard not to try to do it all immediately because it is just so EXCITING! Im homeschooling my girls, a dream only so long, now coming true! Having patience with this decision, to layer appropriately, not to jump ahead and introduce too much too soon, has been just one of my many edges of my growth. With regards to planning- at times it has been truly agonizing. I’ve gone back and forth on what to cover (what NOT to cover), how much, when, and how to juggle the great variety of recreation (homeschool gatherings, museum outings, art classes, enrichment days through the public school, horseback riding, dance, etc.), then the AFTER school activities, social engagements, Quaker Meeting, and so forth. As a close friend of mine would say “cheekishly”, if we had everything we wanted, where would we put it??! Once again I’ve decided less is more. Furthermore, I’ve been reminded of the importance that there is plenty of time ahead for cerebral pursuits, academic forays and structured activities. They’re SIX years old!  I can say with certainty that the lack of intellectual foundation in my early years fortunately did not hinder its development in the latter years. : ) I’m finding that with the decision to take on less, I have so much more. I’m not the first to have this eureka moment, but nonetheless it has been so invigorating. We’re not doing dance, art classes, nor riding lessons. No enrichment days. Instead we have time for lessons together and PLENTY of time for birthday parties (complete with with cake and candles) for their “babies”, playing with the cat family, yogurt parfait while it rains, early morning drawing and doodles, baking for neighbors, time to play at the creek and leisure walks with “our dogs.”! Time to spend looking at pictures of hummingbirds (and paint them) and reading about the frontier people of Colorado.

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The present moment, the current year is about continuing with our rhythms — knowing that from the predictability of our daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythms we find comfort, peace, confidence, less stress, and increased time to focus on what’s meaningful! We will continue this through our routines, various celebrations (seasonal, birthdays, religious holidays, Saint’s Days,  travel trips, etc.), and our practical “work” such as handwork, hiking and nature, the arts and baking. Yet, also begin to scaffold new skills such as those in reading, mathematics, second language, and  music. All the while I will pay attention to their interests and carry on with my work in mindfulness, compassion, and balance. With home as the center, family as the heart, less is more as the mantra, we’re starting off on the right foot.


The choice to homeschool has been driven by several forces. Some intangible, some black and white. There’s been a force within me, even before the girls were born, that has been leading me to the homeschooling path. Sometimes it is hard to explain when folks ask– especially since I was a high school teacher, part of the “establishment.” How can I explain that sometimes I feel there’s no choice, that it is just what I am meant TO DO right now. There’s also the current state of education -very disappointing to keep it simple– especially in the early, elementary years with excessive emphasis on technology and testing coupled with a lack of practical skills, creative outlets and freedom.


“I found my purpose and it was to become a physician. My intent wasn’t to save the world as much as to heal myself.”

This line is from the novel Stone Cutter which I just started; it resonated immediately. Not about being a physician, but a teacher to my children. There’s a strong undercurrent of self-healing in this journey, which began years before the girls, at a momentous juncture about 10 years ago. The turning point was brought on by a crisis, one that changed me profoundly. This loss, ushered tremendous tumult, question and confusion and I came out of it KNOWING that my life had to change. Now, to be frank, my life was very, very good- stable and full, but it lacked a certain comfort, passion and a personal depth, which only became unearthed by this loss. It was within all the time, but hesitant and scared to surface fully.  I’m not entirely sure. However, I don’t think i would be homeschooling today without the events and change and growth that occurred those years ago.

And time to eat our cake, too.