in the workshop……

The last two weeks have been incredible and busy.

I wanted to share some of what we've been working on in The Workshop. My students are wonderful! I am truly enjoying this bit of time with them. I have two classes divided into age groups that run an hour and a half each week. So far we've mostly worked with clay in the younger group. In the older group we've worked with clay and watercolor……..








This week was sort of dark and gloomy on Monday and I really loved turning on the lights, and setting out materials for art, and supplies for tea making before they arrived. My older group is all girls and I'm seeing new friendships forge while they're making art. My hope is that they form their own little tribe of creative souls. Start 'em young, right?

One of my girls this week told me, "I'm just not very good at watercolor." I told her, "don't say I'm not good. Say, I'm experimenting." She laughed at me and then looked at her painting and said, "I'm experimenting with watercolor." And then she laughed again, and started painting.

We're halfway through our first session. I offered a mini four week camp to kickstart this new venture. We'll take a little break for summer in July and then start again in August with longer sessions throughout the school year and I'm dreaming of some monthly day sessions for crafting holiday give-ables and a mama's night out. 

It feels pretty magical to see this new venture take shape.




homeschool q&a part 2……..

This is part two of a list of questions I am answering from my readers about how homeschooling works for our family.
You can read part one here
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homeschool q&a part 2........

A few more questions from my readers::
I can envision children feeling like they are missing out, socially, by not going to school–was that ever a source of conflict for you/children? 
I have learned that "socialization" is subjective. Is socialization hanging out with people of your exact age, similar socioeconomic status, in one building, 30+ hours a week? Or is interacting with many different people in the world around you socialization? I don't say that to be a jerk, instead I offer it as something to ponder. My kids who are not attending school certainly don't hang out in a cardboard box by themselves all day. We find lots to do in our community to fill their "plays well with others" quota. And my big kids have had no issues interacting in the typical school scene when they arrived. Maybe kids are better equipped than we give them credit for? As my older ones got closer to high school, we met less kids their age and they expressed their interest in going to public school. That being said, my oldest daughter spent a ton of time hanging out with the mamas as a young teenager, genuinely being accepted and loved by them. This is *huge* for a teenage girl in my opinion. To have this sense of belonging in a circle of women. She had such a different attitude heading into the high school scene because she felt confident and comfortable about who she was as a young woman. This is vastly different than my own experience at her age.
Have/Had they asked to go to public school, but high school was the planned time for entering public school?
It's been decided as each child has brought it up. My oldest son was not happy at home & wanted to do something different. My oldest daughter was happy at home, but wanted a new challenge. The younger two aren't expressing any interest in attending public school currently. If at any point before high school the younger kids really wanted to do something different, we would certainly discuss & explore options. One of my main reasons for educating my kids at home is to teach them to be in charge of their eduction. That learning is something they do & seek out, not something that "happens to them". If they needed something I was not providing for them, I would honor their voice.
Have you utilized tutoring for math or science?  Practiced test taking in general?
Because we have only home schooled up to a jr. high level, my husband (who has a background in electrical engineering & environmental science) has been able to handle all of the science & math so far. When my older daughter knew she wanted to attend high school, we prepared her by studying very traditional math & science in 8th grade that required her to take tests & notes.
Lastly, I can't tell you how much things have evolved in the last seven years. The reasons we began this journey are far from why we continue it. I'm more laid back about what gets done and what we do. I have more confidence that despite my many imperfections, my kids will turn out just fine. (Regardless of Bill Nye's suggestion that they might lack the ability to interact socially. Phooey Mr. Nye) It turns out my current number one reason is freedom. Childhood is fleeting. You can catch up on math later in life, but not hours spent exploring who you are. I'm in no rush for my kids to grow up. It happens fast enough. I love that they get to be sort of unplugged from pop culture. Plus I really get a kick out of spending so much time with them. They're way cooler than I will ever be.
ps ~ If you missed the first post. I want to recap one important thing :  We all choose to educate our children in different ways. I don't think one is the only or right choice. I totally support and honor my fellow mama in the decision she makes that works best for her family. I truly mean that.

The Waldorf Homeschool Handbook ~ for you!

WH-Cover-Flat-400px tall copy-1

When Valarie asked me to review the newest book from Audrey Press, The Waldorf Homeschool Handbook by Donna Ashton, I was so thrilled! I've known both Valarie and Donna in the online homeschool circle for years and I was sure anything they created together would be full of magic……

The Waldorf Homeschool Handbook is exactly the thing I wished I had when I began learning about Waldorf education many years ago. While completely fascinated with this style of learning, I was so overwhelmed at the thought of doing it all. Donna does such an amazing job of simplifying the ideas of Waldorf, while encouraging you to explore more as time and need allows. She meets you right where you are on your homeschool journey, assuring you not only that you can do it, but that you don't have to do it all. That is the beauty of Waldorf inspired homeschooling. You can choose the things that resonate with you, the things you know your child will love, and go from there. 

In these pages you will find the basics of creating rhythm, a learning environment in your home, planning, choosing a curriculum, presenting the material to your children, and support from a mother who is currently on the very same journey. She also takes the time to address the importance of finding time for self care. This is something I personally struggled with greatly in my early days of homeschooling. I spent so much time care-taking and teaching and running the household that I forgot to fill my own well. I think as mothers this is a common issue, and I was so happy that Donna shared her thoughts on this. This book is the kind that will end up dog-eared and highlighted and revisited by the homeschooling mother.


Whether you are knew to, curious about, or a long time Waldorf inspired homeschooler : this book has something to offer you. Donna has worked so hard to create a support system for her fellow homeschoolers, and her book shares so much of her wealth of experience and knowledge. I'm so excited to be able to offer a copy to one of you!!

The book is specially priced for the new release right now, and if you leave a comment here you can enter for a chance to win a copy! This giveaway is open to anyone in the world. (Thank you Valarie!)

You can visit this page to learn more about this wonderful book. Feel free to share this giveaway with your friends & Waldorf communities.

Giveaway open thru Monday 2/17 ~ winner will be announced Tuesday 2/18.

Best of luck to you!




p.s ~ As a disclaimer of sorts, I want to be clear that Gypsy Forest is sponsored by Audrey Press. However I do not write paid reviews and opinions in this post are my own real true opinions. Both Valarie & Donna are long time friends of mine & I am genuinely happy to support their incredible work!


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congratulations Erin K! You are the winner! Enjoy~~  


homeschool q&a part 1 (finally, I know…..)

homeschool q&a (finally, I know.....)


*my youngest, sewing while skyping with her friend*

Well gosh. I had such a hard time wrapping my brain around how to write this post. I had really meant to do it months ago when we began our school year and several of you asked how we did things. The truth is, I tend to tread lightly on this subject because it can really spark some strong feelings in people. I know you all have different ways you choose to educate your children and I don't judge any of them, or you. We all choose different paths, you know? I don't think one is the only or right choice. I truly honor our individuality.

If you're curious about how & why we started homeschooling, you can start with this post from a few years ago.

And now, some questions from you ~ answered by me:  

How much time do you spend daily on school?
This is a tough one because my kids spend HOURS a day learning something through their many (many!) crazy, messy, creative shenanigans. Things that teach them volumes, but cannot be tidily put into a subject box. I value this tremendously. That being said, actual sit down time with me teaching them is somewhere in the two – three hours range, at least four days a week, between the two of them. We cover writing, math, spelling, reading, history & science in this time on any given day. We use a mish-mash of curriculum and guides, things I've found work well for my kids & for me as their teacher. They sometimes groan over things they don't love, but we still get through it. Sort of like they sometimes groan over chores, which still need to get done.
Do you have required reading time?
My big kids are voracious readers. However, when my kids are learning to read + practicing their new skills, we do try our best to have a short reading time every day during the week. Enough to read a short chapter in an easy reader or a few pages of a favorite picture book. You can read more about my thoughts on reading here.
Okay, so your bigger kids are going to public school.  What was the matriculation process like, to figure out what grade they were to be placed in?  Did they have to take a placement test?
Both my high school kids took standardized testing for math to be placed. Especially in New England, I was firm that my daughter did not need testing in anything else. I wanted them to meet her and talk to her and *then* if they had any concerns we could address them. Freshman level classes are pretty basic + required. So I felt math was the only one she needed to be "placed" properly in. It took a bit of back & forth but after they met her, they were totally okay with just the math test. Both of my kids entered high school to take "at or above" grade level classes. 
How do you answer your children when they ask why you homeschool?  
I tell them now that we homeschool for the freedom & flexibility. I'm trying to get them to tell people "I homeschool" instead of "oh, I don't go to school." We're still working on that. The latter statement results in a lot of funny looks from folks!
I've got a few more questions for you in part 2, which I'll publish next week. Tomorrow I've got something else in store for you. See you then!

nature collection :: outgoing

nature collection :: outgoing

nature collection :: outgoing

nature collection :: outgoing

nature collection :: outgoing

nature collection :: outgoing

nature collection :: outgoing

nature collection :: outgoing


We signed up for the nature exchange a few weeks ago, did any of you participate?

The younger kids & I collected bits of the sea from our recent beach outing to send to our swap partners in Texas. We used Annie's idea from the recent Alphabet Glue issue for packaging them up. We all really enjoyed wrapping each treasure in tissue paper…. hopefully everything arrives safely to our young naturalists in the south!

We've got another small collection of items from our woods in the works that we're sending to a good friend of ours. I'm hoping to find some time today to dip leaves in beeswax for that box. I think maybe a bit of leaf garland might by a good idea too. (here's hoping I can locate the box of beeswax) In a week or so, the last of the autumn hues will be off the trees and a bit of color decorating a window will certainly be lovely into the winter……

Happy Wednesday to you~




change, learning, & new beginnings

change, learning & new beginnings


change, learning & new beginnings


change, learning & new beginnings


change, learning & new beginnings


change, learning & new beginnings


This year marks our seventh year on this homeschooling journey. And much like other aspects of parenting… I expected to be such a pro by now. But I'm not. Of course. We're doing more things that look like school this year than ever before, but it's the non-school things that always catch my attention.

The hours spent following their passions. The big chunks of boredom turned into incredible creativity. The laughter. The fighting. The building. The running. The collaborating. The freedom. 

This year the two big kids are both off at public high school and it has made a tremendous shift in our day. These two left at home are, as they say, thick as thieves. Paired up in nearly every bit of what they do. It's been fun to watch.

We're still finding our footing in this new place. Meeting homeschool friends is always the last and slowest and hardest thing to unfold when we move. So for now, it's just the three of us. But we'll get there. This I know.

I had planned to pull together a more formal post about homeschooling for you this week….. but my mind isn't quite there yet…. so you'll have to be patient with me. Today I am drinking lots of tea, fighting off a little cold, solo parenting for the week, and getting ready for the art fair this weekend. Goodness there is much to do. As for shop talk, the shop will be closed on Thursday for the weekend. I do hope to bump into a few of you at the fair. I've got a limited amount of sets of three postcards to give to you if you are able to stop in and say hello. (yes, for free!) Also, I'll be sharing sneak peeks of new shop goodies here all week.

Today I leave with these tree house photos. I've been meaning to share the tree house for awhile now. Joe and Sophie built the basic structure over the summer and Sophie has recently been using scrap wood to add walls and such. That girl knows her way around the shop, I can tell you that! At first I wasn't keen on this idea. I don't love the idea of it being a smorgasbord of wood and screws. Safety, aesthetics, etc.

And then Joe reminded me, "It's not your tree fort."

And he's right.

So I stand back, and let it go.

As I pulled these photos together today I realized how much we have to learn to do this as parents. The stepping back and letting go. Reminding ourselves this isn't our tree fort. I do believe this freedom is what they learn from more than anything. Hard as it might be sometimes. All learning environments and theories and education styles set aside…. a deep and genuine love and trust of their ability is what really makes them soar.

In the meantime I'll keep my eye out for lost screws and gently remind them that bare feet and saws might not be the best of ideas……



{ps ~ if you are wondering what they are up to, they've caught a wooly bear caterpillar}


learning : at home

learning : at home


learning : at home


learning : at home


learning : at home


learning : at home


learning : at home


learning : at home

just for fun, subjects photographed : science, p.e., home ec, art & english/reading


When I started this little blog we were half way though our second year of homeschooling. This fall we'll be entering our seventh. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this truth. Seven years. My oh my.

I have some secrets for you.

I used to think homeschoolers were weird. (We're all kind of weird, right?)

I had no intention of ever homeschooling (or finding out I loved it).

I do not homeschool because I want the smartest kids, or because I'm afraid of public school, I do it because I like to see my kids enjoy an incredible amount of freedom.

I found out that last statement on accident.

Lastly, and most importantly, I have sat for the last five years second guessing my every move. Wondering if I was really messing up my kids. Trying and failing many different types of homeschooling. Thinking we needed to fit inside a box. Silly me, I should have known better. S-l-o-w-l-y finding my way to what works for our family. I should have talked to you more about this journey. But the truth is, I was scared. Who wants to stand on a soapbox and yell, "hey guys, look! I have no idea what I'm doing". See, scary. Now I'm okay with it though, and I can tell you what everyone said to me when we started was pretty much the perfect truth. Love them, read to them. Read. Read. Read. Everything will be okay. Actually this truth might work for parenting in general….

We aren't unschoolers. We don't follow a strict schedule or do school at home. We land somewhere in the middle where Joe and I both feel comfortable with the amount of freedom and structured learning that happens. I admire people who let the whole process of learning organically unfold. It's just not for us. On the other hand, neither is keeping to a rigorous schedule that looks like a regular school day.

We do follow a math program and practice spelling for those that need the extra help. We'll be loosely following inspired by a science curriculum this fall. We'll keep nature journals. Read books. Visit museums. Visit the library. Spend hours building legos. Learn life skills such as taking care of animals, cleaning, managing money, and making food. Visit our Farm. Read more books. Practice handwriting and creative writing. Hike. Kayak. Imagine. Travel to visit family and friends. Play Music. Invent. Build forts. Daydream. Create art. Explore the forest and sea. Read more books.

And that's how it goes. 

For the first six years of this journey I've done little more than send in a slip of paper to "the officials" each fall. This year however, I'll be required to submit an Education Plan. While some of these life learning activities fit neatly into subjects. Others don't. And there is one subject that seems to be the least covered. History. To be honest, I'm not much of a curriculum girl. I would much rather compile a list of amazing historical books to read. I imagine having a list of books for us to read for the school year, recording the titles on a giant timeline, visiting local historical museums that would enrich the whole experience. Cooking food that is period related. Drawing comics or writing stories of who you would be in the time period we're reading about. Watching a few movies. And of course finding some folk art to do…. real art. Making baskets or pottery. This is what I want to do with my kids. 

I'm guessing none of you are jumping in to tell me this already exists? A nice little guide full of ideas and books and movies and such? No? That's what I figured. But I have an idea. What if all of you shared a book title your kids loved. Or that you loved. Historical non-fiction or fiction. Any book or movie resource that teaches History. We can get a whole list going. Let's go with ages 5-11.

So far, we've loved the Little House on the Prairie series. Sophie read the first 8 books in the last year. Her interest waned in book number nine…. but with Laura all grown up I could see why. We also love Appleseeds and Ask (and for literature: Spider and Cricket too!)

How about you? C'mon and share, this mama needs some inspiration!


a kid designed fort with salvaged wood + weekend links

Joe helped the younger two kiddos build a fort out of our old picnic table. The legs had rotted, but the rest of it was good so a salvage project was certainly in order. The kids designed it and he helped them make some tweaks based on materials we had on hand. I love that he stands back and lets them trouble shoot ideas for walls and roof and stair materials. And of course, you know Luke loves using tools! Aside from snapping photos, my only contribution was the fabric for the walls……


a kid designed fort with salvaged wood + weekend links


a kid designed fort with salvaged wood + weekend links


a kid designed fort with salvaged wood + weekend links


a kid designed fort with salvaged wood + weekend links


Since the photos, they have also built a swing. They've been playing on and in it for hours a day, Luke especially likes to perch hisself on the very top to do his work. They are currently tying to convince us it need wheels!! Remember their car? I can just imagine the whole thing flying down the street if we give in to that request… I don't how I feel about that!

One thing for sure though, I love watching their kid built creations take shape.


And now… a few links for your weekend…..

I love this reclaimed coat rack by MissMacie. Just think of all the cool reclaimed stuff you can make. My mind is churning with ideas! Other bits making me smile on etsy are these lovely prints and these beautiful little wooden birds.

Annie launched a fresh new website for Alphabet Glue and Volume Nine is out!

Speaking of Glue. After the last issue, my kids have become mildly seriously obsessed with making comic books. These are our favorite blanks to fill in with lovely creations.

My blogging neighbor Amanda has a lovely little pop-up shop going on full of knitted goodness.

Jade just purchased this album on vinyl with her birthday money. It's just as good as their first one!

This is the cutest thing I saw this week. {well, aside from my own kiddos, of course} But really. You should watch it. I love Sesame Street.

And as always…. a year ago this week.


Have a lovely weekend friends!




homeschool science at it’s best

We've been studying life science and learning about the animal kingdom the past few weeks. Classifying critters and such. One of our projects was to order some butterfly larvae {caterpillars} and watch the metamorphis magic happen. I regret not taking better pictures of the amazing growth of those wiggly caterpillars…. but in a few short days they were all ready plumped up and climbing to the top corners to make their cocoons. It's amazing to see the little caterpillar skin fall off, as if they're just changing into pajamas for a nap.

So for a week the little girl watched & watched……… and watched & watched.



Until finally they began to appear…. we never did see one actually emerge, but still those empty cocoons and a box full of jittery new butterflies had us all pretty excited. We fed them some sugar water and fruit slices and once they were all hatched it was time for their release into the wild….



It was an exciting event for the {rather serious} budding entomologists…..





Sophie was more than happy to assist a rather reluctant flyer…. who decided to rest on her finger for a bit before taking flight and joining the others…



It was science and learning about our natural world at it's very best.


{Painted Lady butterflies are native to all of north America}


on reading

It's funny. I can share an embarrassing moment, my own shortcomings and other seemingly personal tidbits here on this space. But the school thing? The homeschool thing. It's a tricky thing to portray in a virtual setting. And though I am finally at a point where I am happy with what we're doing….. I sort of keep it to myself.


serious stuff


I guess it's partially because we have this eclectic-Waldorf-unschooling-smorgasbord learning going on. Yes we do math workbooks and (loosely) keep main lesson books, but we play with plastic legos while we wait for the whole wheat bread to rise and everyone uses computers. Phonics? Spelling? Well, uhm. So how's the weather in your neck of the woods? 

When my oldest girl was in public kindergarten, she was learning to read. She didn't want to. But we pushed her. Her teacher pushed her, and we had this "reading at grade level" kid. Good right? She comprehended well. Did her schoolwork well. But here's the sad part. Reading was work. It wasn't fun. She didn't read for fun. Ever. A million caldecott paperbacks wouldn't budge her. It seriously broke my bookworm heart. In fact she didn't begin reading for fun until last year

When we began homeschooling, I vowed to not push my younger girl. I taught her letters in the Waldorf style. Answered her questions about letters, words, pronunciation, rules to be followed and when to break them. Our language isn't completely phonetic, the rules are broken often and eventually we all get to point that we mostly sight read. So I mostly skipped phonics, held onto a whole lot of John Holt reading and waited, read tons of books to her, and waited.

Kindergarten passed, first grade passed, we got a little nervous, second grade started and our nearly 8 year old girl began reading Dr. Suess, on her own. She painstakingly sounded things out, asked for help when she got stuck. We neither ignored nor celebrated the fact that she was beginning to read on her own……


owl lover's book


And then it just took off. Frog & Toad, Little Bear, Magic Treehouse and now Guardian's of Ga'hoole. From October to February we went from a beginning reader to a voracious chapter book reader. We've eaten dinner with a few books that were just too good to put down. I'm still sort of standing here with my mouth hanging wide open. 

I'm not saying this is the way to do it. Nor am I taking credit for anything, she gets every bit of that. But something just clicked for her. Reading became extraordinarily important to her life at this moment…. and somehow along with that the basic grammar began to make sense too. Punctuation and spelling and all of that. There it was. Her handwriting got better, she started writing tons of letters to everyone she knows and even helps with pantry organization. Yes, I do think all those count as writing lessons. Again, I'm just sort of in awe.


life writing lessons


And while I think there is a lot of good in every type of learning, be it homeschool or public style, I feel strongly that each child has their own path. We know that average is a mathematical term, not an actual child. A whole lot of real children on different levels make up this average. And non of them is better or worse with where they're at. As the Buddha would say "they just are".

I once read somewhere "teaching to the middle, is like teaching to no one." A good teacher may plant their feet in the middle but they've got a fishing net and a watchful eye to catch anyone that might, that will slip away. I know this, I've met these teachers. And by teachers I mean all of us, every one of us that has children in our lives. Embracing children for who they are and having the patience to let them bloom just when they need to, when they're ready. Even if we silently hold our breath out of worry for them. It's a beautiful thing to watch them evolve and grow and I'm feeling awfully grateful, and even more humbled, to do so.