Waldorf Curriculum Homeschool Blog

Having tried unsucessfully to get Blogger.com to work for me, I suddenly realized that I can easily create journalling pages linked to my site without extra help. This is a very informal page with my personal notes as to how homeschooling is going for my family. Please feel free to email me with comments. Learn more about my preschool curriculum by visiting the Curriculum Packages page.

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February 2007

  • Natalie is 4 years, 11 months
  • Leah is 3 years, 3 months
  • Rebecca is 2 years, 1 month

February 27 - Sunday we had a big snowstorm here (I actually got trapped at church, it came up so quickly) and by Monday it was beginning to melt, so it seemed like a good time to get out Ollie's Ski Trip and read about King Winter and Mrs. Thaw. We added a snowflake-stamped silk (from A.F.E.W. Natural Changes) and our King Winter and Mrs. Thaw dolls to the Nature table. I made the King Winter myself (my first Waldorf doll!) last year using the directions in The Nature Corner; Mrs. Thaw was a gift from a friend. In the afternoon we read The Snowy Day and then the kids went out to play in the slushy remaining snow. We enjoyed hot cocoa with marshmallows.

Today I am starting a new read-aloud with Natalie, Liputto by Jakob Streit. He also wrote a book called And Then There Was Light (the story of Creation) for the 3rd grade Old Testament Stories block. I'd love to have a copy of that for Sunday School! I think I'll be placing a B & N order today; the church finally reimbursed me for the last group of supplies I bought and the check is burning a hole in my pocket. :-) I also need to order Natalie's bunny ornament for her birthday ring. I get all my birthday ring ornaments from Nova Natural. Today while the kids were napping, I made a HUGE blue-grey pompom bunny tail for Natalie to wear at her party. I had bought a skein of this weird soy yarn (Paton's SWS - 70% wool, 30% soy - color Natural Denim) but didn't really know what to do with it once I got it home! It's very very soft and silky but fuzzy at the ends. It seems to disintegrate quickly. Good for a pompom which is nothing but a bunch of ends tied together anyway. :-) I found out that I absolutely detest making pompoms. That must have been the most boring hour and a half of my entire life. It came out great, though, and I know she'll be thrilled. I used the directions in Crafts through the Year by Thomas and Petra Berger and a pub-style pint glass for the template. You just need a small circle inside of a big circle so I traced first the rim of the glass and then the base.

How to Make a Pompom

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Well, I just ordered two books (And Then There Was Light plus Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures) from Bob & Nancy's, as well as a group from the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship. These are from England and are very hard to find here. I got

  • About Dynamic Drawing by Hermann Kirchner 2.50 GBP
  • Reading List for Religion Teachers 2.00 GBP
  • A Collection of Riddles 1.75 GBP
  • Working in Combined Classes by G. Reijngoud 3.00 GBP
  • The Contribution of Woodwork in a Rudolf Steiner School by A.W. Mann 2.00 GBP

They take PayPal so the currency exchange thing is not a problem. Total 12.93 GBP. Currency conversion $26.07 USD. Exchange Rate: 1 U.S. Dollar = 0.495982 Pounds Sterling.

February 26 - I just added something new to the website: a list of a dozen essential Kindergarten books. I moved the old list of "What's New" off the front page and onto here since I don't have links to these articles anywhere on the site and don't want to lose them.

Natalie and I are moving books today but I'll try to get back online to blog a bit later and to create links to these.

February 24 - We are working hard this weekend to get all my books moved over into the new office so we can paint Natalie's room and get her moved in in time for her friends to see it at her birthday party. Hard to believe she's turning five! For school, today we are making and mailing her invitations. We went to Michael's and found translucent pink paper which we will fold in half over plain white inserts with the party info printed on them. Then N can put a bunny sticker (thankfully, stores are clogged with bunny stuff right now) on the "Rosebud" outer paper to introduce the theme and we'll put some dried flowers inside with the insert. Cute, simple. The bunny stickers are part of a sheet with Easter eggs as well, so I now have Easter stickers. My new Barbara Helen Berger book came, called Thunder Bunny which will be the perfect read-aloud for the party. I'm not sure about party games, still thinking about that one. This morning the girls also helped their Papa make breakfast.

My personal to-do list for today is to make a new quilt and pillow for an adorable vintage doll cradle that Steve brought home for me. I can't wait to add it to Natalie's new room. It'll be the perfect present for her and cheap too, since he got it from Freecycle. Happy birthday, Natalie! All we have to buy is the bunny ornament from NN for the birthday ring and any party game supplies. Plus food. She wants a chocolate cake so I got (also at Michael's) these small ceramic bunny molds that will be perfect for cupcakes. Each child can have and decorate their individual cupcake and then take the mold home as a party favor, filled with some other treats, which I haven't thought of yet. She picked a jeweltone blue, so it's gender neutral. And they were only a dollar each!

Yesterday I finished the scrapbook for Rebecca's birthday (good, since the next one is coming up soon) and Steve tried to take the kids to a thing at the local community center but it was cancelled due to low attendance. That was too bad. We did see our first robins, though, so Spring is on the way! Ranger Jackie told us Tuesday that when the trees and bushes start having red tips that they are about to bud, and sure enough when we woke up Wednesday it was warm and the red was coming out. We all went out to the ballfield Wednesday because of the nice weather and the kids rolled basketballs down the sledding hill. I love doing that with my kids, because we live so close to where I grew up that I can take them to do the things I did when I was a kid. One of which was playing on that same sledding hill. We also founds some new playground balls at the grocery store, which have bunnies on them, so Thursday the kids went out into the yard to play with them. Funny, though... I don't know if it's because they are girls or what, but they don't really enjoy balls that much. It quickly morphed into gathering acorn caps and gumballs into a pail and tearing apart the old bales of straw from last summer with their child-size gardening rake. The balls sort of got left in the dirt. Thursday Natalie and Leah and I also watered our tree and augmented it with some worm castings. The best organic soil amendment ever, in my mind, because it doesn't "burn" the plant and the kids can touch it with their hands. I like kelp meal also but can't find mine.

So, anyway, that's what has been going on here. I got a sweet peas growing kit at the grocery store last night as a bit of an impulse buy... I'm very prone to those if it's something I can incorporate into "school"... and I think it's time to pull out the Spring book from the Wynstones Kindy series and start planting seeds and doing our spring stories and verses. Hurrah!

February 20 - Well, I haven't been blogging for a week. Sort of stunning. I've missed it, too. It's a good way to think back about the day. However, I have been staying off the computer because I don't have a good time slot for it anymore. Spending much more time with my kids! My house is cleaner too. People always ask me, how do you do it? And the answer before was that I skipped a lot of things. A shower for one. Doing the dishes, doing the laundry, all that stuff. Even though I meant to have the kids help me sweep and so on, I always ended up on the computer checking my email or writing curriculum or blogging. Then hubby and I decided that it would be better if I only worked at night and could spend the whole day relaxing with the kids. Then my marriage counselor told me that I can't continue to spend every evening working and never spend any time with my husband (who leaves at 7 am and comes home at 7 pm). So now I'm stuck! Well, not stuck, exactly... I ditched the computer for a week and spent time with my family. I feel great! The only downside is that I can't share my notes and teaching ideas which, I know, a lot of people rely on. AND I really enjoy doing journaling about my day and what's successful and what isn't. It makes me feel more balanced. Right now I'm on the computer during naptime, but it may be that I start to hire a babysitter for a few hours a week in order to work. Since I spent last week resting while the kids napped. That was a new concept!

So anyway, here's what we've been doing. Last Tuesday was craft time at the church, so I packed up Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli and our Valentine's Day craft supplies and we headed over there. The kids each made a handful of valentines and had a great time. In the evening, Steve and I set up the fairy, decorated the windows with hearts, and set out their gifts.

Wednesday we woke up to an ice storm, which I believe hit much of the East Coast, so we were able to mail valentines but not deliver the ones we had wanted to do by hand. The nature program for that day ("Which Way Does the Wind Blow?") was cancelled as well. So a day at home, playing with the new toys, and then Natalie did a sewing project -- which she loved -- which was the Herbal Sachets from Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children by Carol Petrash. She made a red felt heart sachet for her Grandma. Sewed the entire way round it herself. Grandma came to get her and they went out for dinner, the Valentine's Day storytime which the library had planned having been cancelled.

Thursday we got back into Caring for the Birds and Squirrels, our current school "theme". Setting out four new kinds of birdseed (thistle, black sunflower, a millet blend, and cracked corn) was fun, and we hung a new feeder and added a tray feeder on top of an old stump. I have to say, though, that we haven't seen a single bird yet. :-( Natalie and I also started a new Nature table display (on the top of a long bookcase) with four small bowls, each holding one of the kinds of birdseed, and a series of nine illustrated bird notecards which my mom gave me. It worked out well because the bags of birdseed often have an illustration on them of the type of birds that are attracted to that seed, and so Natalie was able to see the connection between the seeds and the cards. She is learning "cardinal", "chickadee" and "goldfinch" and already knew "blue jay" and "snowy owl." In the afternoon, the box from Nova Natural arrived and our Varialand game was here! I was so excited, but it almost immediately backfired. Natalie and I do so many projects where I have the directions out beside me that she didn't do anything imaginative with the tiles... she simply began to copy the examples on the back of the box. So I whisked the box away, transferred the tiles to a basket, and we began to play a game called "once upon a time" which goes something like this. "Once upon a time there was a..." and you pick a tile out of the basket. And then you draw tiles and continue on with your story as it develops. She really liked it but it was difficult at first to get her away from just imitating that box top!!!

Friday the girls went with me over to Janet's house to help her pack up her extra food. She's going back to Cambodia so we went to say good-bye, give her her valentine (the roads having finally cleared up) and she gave us the food from her pantry and fridge. So that was nice. In the evening we went all as a family to a "Pizza and a Program" activity at the nature center. It was on the topic of star gazing. The teacher did two legends behind the constellation Orion and the children acted them out. Leah didn't draw a part out of the brown paper bag at first, but when the teacher said everyone left on the carpet could be animals, she shouted out "I want to be a kitty" and dashed up to the stage. That was a legend where Orion hunted all the animals and killed them constantly and they got tired of it. Leah was the only one of my kids who starred in that story. Then the other two polished off their pizza and punch and joined the crowd. I say crowd but it was probably 8 or 10 kids. The second legend involved Orion constantly chasing women and everyone got very irritated by it. One of the women he was chasing was Leah (playing the part of Merope) which was hilarious and very cute and Rebecca drew the part of Leah's father who DID NOT want Leah to marry Orion so she got to stomp onto the stage (I helped with this), get him drunk with wine, and poke out Orion's eyes. Then he was going after someone else and Natalie, who played Apollo, went and shoved him away. Finally Orion died, once again. He was kind of a shmuck, apparently. Then we all tromped outside and looked up at the stars. I was very proud of myself because I learned a new constellation, Leo. So now I know two. I am not sure how Leo stands in the sky picture but I know that it looks like a curling tail and is on the lower left of Orion, who is the only one I've ever been able to find. I've read plenty of sky books, too, but somehow things never seem to click.

Saturday was Natalie's special day with her Grandma and they spent the whole time together. Leah and Becca got to play in the sensory bin (a regular plastic bin into which I dumped 10 lbs of blue cornmeal -- this came about because Amazon.com shipped me five broken bags of cornmeal -- and added three wooden spoons and a flour sifter) and then got a long bath and played in the water. They had a grand time.

Sunday was church, of course, and a day of surprises. First of all, my husband, the darling man, finished my new office! So I was able to start to move in. This vacates my old office (a much nicer room with two windows) for N to have as her new bedroom). I moved four large storage shelving pieces for all of the non-book school items, such as Nature table dolls, musical instruments, and art and craft supplies. I couldn't believe how much of what we own falls under the category of "school" (although it makes sense, of course, considering how much shopping I do -- now at least Steve can easily see what I've been getting all this time; it used to be strewn all over the house). We'll do adjustable shelving for all the books, so I have to measure and purchase uprights and shelf supports. We gave away my old desk, which is much too large for the new room, to an animal shelter. That made me feel like a good person. :-) I love the room, too, it's very soothing -- pink with white and grey accents. Next to be painted is Natalie's "suite"... she gets a bedroom and the bathroom next to it. So I'm doing them in two blues with a sandy-colored hallway and shells and other beachy things. I have boxes and boxes of them and we can easily find more, since we live by the beach, and N can feel like she is helping to decorate. So last night I handed Steve the next paint chip in the line, for the downstairs hallway (which is clean at last! we needed to clean it out in order to get that big desk out) which is called Claire de Lune. A nice warm soothing color.

The BIG news for Sunday, though, was that Natalie lost her first tooth! It was a real shock to me because I looked over at her during the service and it was gone. She didn't even know it had fallen out. So we knew it was somewhere in the church but didn't know where. We searched her classroom and the Sunday School gathering room and the sanctuary but no luck. Then I found out that she had had apples for her snack during her preschool S.S. class, so it is almost certain that it fell out then and she swallowed it by mistake. I was so upset, I was almost in tears. We've made such a big deal about this loose tooth and waiting for it to fall out (and using it to try to get her to stop sucking her thumb), then for it to be lost so we can't even put it in the tooth fairy pillow... I was distraught. When I got home it was okay though, because I realized that we still have her tooth from when she was 2 years old and knocked one out on a bookcase. So we put the tooth from when she was little (didn't do the TF then because she seemed too young) into the pocket pillow plus a note explaining to the TF that we had lost the other tooth because it fell out at church and it worked out just fine. The tooth fairy must have known it was a big occasion because she brought a purse full of new soaps and shampoo and mouthwash and toothpaste and dental floss. N was thrilled to have her very own special bath things! It was a Tom's of Maine sampler that I picked up at the grocery store and thought she would get a kick out of. Which she did. I'm torn on the money thing because in order to give her enough money that she could actually buy something with it it would have to be like a dollar a tooth. I got a dime! So a dollar seems exorbitant. Plus she wouldn't be able to buy much more than plastic garbage or gum -- yuck. However, having an actual gift each time means I'd have to keep a stash on hand. I wonder if the money thing just came about because parents needed to find something on the spur-of-the-moment.

Monday we tried Step 1, Level 1 of Child Size Masterpieces. I did it separately with both N and L. Natalie found it very easy and wanted more of a challenge. It was right on Leah's level, though, and she enjoyed it but it took her a long time. I don't think I'll move her up. Then Natalie and I read Ollie's Ski Trip and talked about Mrs. Thaw coming to sweep the snow away. I have a King Winter and Mrs. Thaw pair of dolls for the Nature table which I have to unpack and set up soon. N went outside with her Papa to see if all the snow had been swept away. Then she got a bath with her new shampoo and soap, which was a special treat. Leah got to spend some special time alone with Papa too. She helped him make the Chunky Turkey Vegetable Soup for dinner and they played dominoes. N and L also had a hand in making Raisin Bran Muffins with Papa for snack time. Yesterday was a holiday (President's Day) so he was home from work. It was really lovely for the children to have several days in a row to spend with me. Me too. :-)

This morning (Tuesday) we went to a nature program called "Animal Tracks That Last", where we learned about animal tracks (river otter, deer, rabbit, raccoon, muskrat and fox) and went outside to find some. I personally found deer and rabbit tracks and was pleased as punch. We travelled with Plaster of Paris, water, a spoon, a container, and a knife and stirred some up on the spot and made castings. Then went back inside for snack and dug up our castings when we left. They are drying now and then this afternoon we'll clean them with an old toothbrush and see how they turn out. The kids had a great time doing it.

Today was also the day we began to plan Natalie's 5th birthday party. And the official theme is (drumroll, please) a Bunny Party! Fun fun fun. I can't wait. I got her away from ballerina, luckily. She said ballerina and I kept quiet and thought about it and then when I asked her about food to serve, she said carrots, celery, lettuce and muffins and I thought, "that sounds like rabbit food" and then I lit up and said, "how about a Bunny Party?" and she got really excited! So that will be fun and easy to do. She has friends now for the first time ever (that aren't family) because of Sunday School so we'll actually have a group of little girls over. Sounds like fun. (Can you tell I'm excited about this?) So now it is bunny planning time. Invitations are getting mailed on Saturday and the ones to her friends at church hand-delivered Sunday. Now I have to work on a to-do list for the party.

The party time is 10 am to 12:30 pm and it will be games, lunch, book swap, and cake. If anyone has bunny ideas and would like to share them, either for this party planning or for Easter, please do!

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Today when it was time for Leah to go to bed, she was dragging her bedtime book along the floor, saying "I'm making a track"... so I guess something from today stuck. :-)

February 13 - Still haven't written about my weekend, have I? I had such a great Sunday School lesson that I want to detail... not much time. This morning we focused on Valentines but can't mail them because of the weather so everyone will be receiving theirs late. Lovely gifts arrived for the V. day fairy to bring in the morning... I bought some things from Harmony (her Yahoo group is called dragonsandmermaids, she's also a member of waldorfhandmadeexchange) including a felt heart necklace with a pocket for a tiny doll (for Natalie), a flaxseed stuffed heart with ribbons on it (for Leah -- these look lovely flying through the air with the ribbons trailing behind) and a cotton sack with three small beanbags in it (perfect for Rebecca), plus a red cotton playcloth for the three of them to share.

Having started singing with my kids on a daily basis (a HUGE triumph for me -- church got me into it, mostly) my new passion is learning to make wool pictures. I'd like to have some to accompany the fairy tales we are reading, Natalie's new passion. Good that our passions correspond, huh? :-) Wool Creations has a felt board set that I could probably create myself at home, goodness knows I have enough roving! It's just a question of tacking a large square of neutral colored felt onto a frame. I could probably cover an existing blank canvas (these are found at any craft store). Magic Wool, which I just leant out to a friend, has lots of detailed instructions for this type of project and they recommend a piece of hessian as the foundation. I don't know what that means... I'm guessing it's like burlap? Let's see... yep, burlap. I'm sure you could also use some coarsely woven hemp or jute fabric.

Anyway, if you have a kindy or 1st grade child, I really recommend some of the wool books to help you in your storytelling. Magic Wool by Dagmar Schmidt and Freya Jaffke is mostly about flat wool pictures and specific fairy tales scenes are included (also some Saint stories), Making Magical Fairy Tale Puppets by Christel Dhom goes into great detail about making dry felted figures (pictures & instructions for characters from Grimm's fairy tales), and Making Fairy-Tale Wool Animals by Angelika Wolk-Gerche focuses on making the animals and also gives some rhymes and games. This is the best book for the animals for your Nativity scene, also for acting out The Bremen Town Musicians.

I've been very pleased with how my new preschool package turned out (a set of 12 essential books that you buy up front, which covers all the bases and gives you all the background you need plus the activities) and thinking I should see if it is feasible to make such a booklist for each of the grades. Instead of endless lists of what would be great for each block -- just a "here, buy this when you're getting ready to teach _____ grade". Bing, bang, boom, done. And when I write my lesson plans they would stick to that 'short list' so that people could download them and use them without a hitch... there would be no nasty surprises. I hate when you think you have all the books you need for a main lesson and then someone mentions something else that everyone seems to know about but you.

I'm thinking that if they build on one another, so that you keep the books from the previous year, you should be able to cover all the subjects pretty affordably. The real problem is first grade... where you need SO much because almost every topic of study is new. Knitting, Letters, Numbers, Recorder, Form Drawing, etc. Perhaps they would not all be exactly 12 (I certainly don't want to artifically shorten OR "pad" any of the lists unnecessarily) but maybe I could aim to make it under $200.00 each time, to keep it affordable. Or just say that first grade is the exception. Or maybe it only works for preschool! Anyway, that's a project that's in the back of my mind. When N starts kindergarten this Summer I will see if such a list naturally comes together. From what I'm thinking now, it would mainly be storytelling & puppetry resources (like the books above) and more circle time and movement games. Bob & Nancy's is constantly listing new books in this category and they all look delectable.

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Dinner: Pasta with Chicken and Peas & Cherry Tomato Crisp.

Yesterday was Salmon with Couscous Pilaf which was a HUGE hit with my family! It's so nice to have the kids run up to you and give you a hug and say, "Thank you for making dinner, Mommy. It was delicious". :-) It was the highlight of my day. Especially considering everyone refused to eat the dinner from the previous night, always painful. I take it really personally when people don't like the food I cook, even though I'm trying to let go of that. My other Good Mommy Moment yesterday was at 11 pm, when Leah woke up with a terrible croup attack (my kids don't get any of the other common illnesses but are very succeptible to croup) and I sat on the bathroom floor with her with the shower on full blast, steaming up the room, and rocked her and sang to her. Her favorite song right now is Jesus Loves Me, so I sang it over and over. And mixed in some other songs too, to keep me from falling asleep. She's okay this morning but it's always scary during a croup attack. Actually, this was one of the worst ones I've ever seen, so I think I was singing partly to calm myself down as well. Worked.

Right before that point, Steve and I were watching a movie. It's called Timeline, based on a book of the same title by Michael Crichton (which I haven't read). I thought it was very interesting. I won't be teaching History any time soon, but I have so many notes I have to make on it... books I've read that were set during different historical times, that help give some understanding of the dynamic of the time period. Gotta do that soon. Anyway, this is set during the Hundred Years War, which was between France and England, and it takes place at a town named Castlegard. Whether this is based on actual events, I cannot say. I haven't done that much research on it. But a group of modern time archaeologists are digging up the area and come into contact with a group of scientists who have discovered (accidentally) a wormhole which sends objects and people from their laboratory location back to 1357 Castlegard. One archaeologist cannot pass up the opportunity to travel back in time and gets stuck, whereupon his son and colleagues go back to try to rescue him. So picture some historical drama plus sci-fi mixed in. There are battle scenes but relatively stylized -- I didn't find it too much -- but I would preview before showing it to your child. However, if you're studying the Hundred Years War with a high school student, consider this movie. It has a satisfying ending, with a time travel twist (although they don't do anything to alter the course of the battle), and lots of "what it was like back then" thrown in, especially if you're studying battle tactics or weapons of the time. Most of the Amazon reviews seem to give it 3 stars out of 5, so don't buy it or anything, but consider renting.

February 12 - What a weekend! I have a lot to write about but first I want to make a quick note of some new purchases. Yesterday at the used book store I found

and just this morning ordered The Waldorf School Book of Soups and Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children from Amazon. I also FINALLY bought Varialand from Nova Natural. That's been on my wishlist for a long time! So I am feeling quite content.

By the way, the 1st/2nd grade S.S. teachers (who had approached me with whether their students could be in our class play) are quite agreeable to the idea that their children will perform after our play ends -- David having killed Goliath and the Chorus ending their lines with "what a King he'll be!" and then we all troop onto the stage to take a bow -- and that they will either recite or sing one of the Psalms written by David, many of these having been put to music. This allows them to be part without actually taking away from our children in any way and is a good compromise. Did you know that 73 of the 150 psalms in the book of Psalms were written by David?

February 9 - This morning we got up, ate a quick breakfast, and headed out to the post office for an errand. Then I told N and L to keep their coats and shoes on when we came inside, put Becca down for a nap, and then we made a parachute and dropped it off the deck. The reason they had to keep their warm things on was because after we threw it, someone had to go out and around the house to retrieve. Everybody got a turn with the parachute. At first we tied the strings to a rock as our weight, but it came untied and we lost the rock. So then I got one of Becca's stacking rings, but I think that was too heavy. The parachute just dropped like... well... like a rock. Funny, since we didn't use a rock that time. :-) So three tries and then we headed in since it was super cold out. I think we'll try it again with a different weight. Maybe a nail or something. Anyway, to help the kids get cozy I broke out the modeling beeswax and told the story of The Golden Goose while we held the wax in our hands to warm it. Then lunch, naps, and I'm not sure about the afternoon. I had planned on some watercolor painting (done properly this time! soaking the paper and everything), a sewing project (so N can practice sewing before making her heart sachets for V. Day) and reading The Cat's Purr by Ashley Bryan (this is a GREAT story about Cat and Rat and their quarrels, one of which is that Cat has a special cat drum -- that only plays when you stroke it, not when you hit it -- and Rat wants to play it. Cat ends up swallowing the drum and that's why to this day when you stroke a cat's tummy, you hear a low quiet purring sound) and, of course, some time spent playing our singing drum. That's a pretty full schedule and I'm leaving today at four so we'll see...

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Just hit the Clearance Section at Magic Cabin and placed a HUGE order! None of it will come in time for V. Day but I purchased some goodies through the waldorf handmade exchange Yahoo Group for that. We have a lovely Valentine's Day fairy that was made by a dear friend and I need some little gifts for her to bring. :-) I think the new Magic Cabin toys will mostly be for Natalie's upcoming birthday and Easter (which is always a big celebration here). N is going to have her own bedroom soon so I can start to get her more fragile things, that she is old enough to play carefully with, since I don't have to worry that her sisters will get their hands on them and ruin the toys. And I needed to get her a doll buggy since L has the stroller from NN and loves it! They fight over it all the time. So one buggy and one stroller and when N thinks playing with the stroller is too babyish, it will just go down to Becca.

Natalie crashed after lunch and is still asleep (3 pm) so there's no way we'll do our afternoon school stuff. That's okay, sleep is more important. Just move it to another day! Tomorrow we'll start making valentines so maybe we can do some wet on wet watercolor painting with red and then fold the paper into a card shape and make our valentines that way. Earthways talks about teaching the children to fold the paper and draw an "elephant's ear", then cut out and open to reveal a symmetrical heart! So maybe we'll do a little bit of that too. The kids would have to want to cut up their paintings though, that's not something I can just spring on them and decide unilaterally.

By the way, for those who care and/or want to plan ahead, there will be a total lunar eclipse March 3.

February 8 - I was getting ready to enter my Valentine's Day ideas when I realized that every year I wish I had saved my notes from before on some kind of Holidays page. So -- you guessed it! -- I decided to add a Holidays page to the site. Only Candlemas and Valentine's Day are there so far. Please feel free to email me with suggestions for holidays & how to celebrate them. It would be nice if the site was truly multi-cultural and not just U.S. oriented.

This morning the girls had a nice long play time and then I did a special story with Natalie after the other two went down for a nap. I think the best anthology of Grimm's tales for this age is Favourite Grimm's Tales illus. by Anastassija Archipowa. We did Little Snow-White and I added to the story one of the dwarf verses from Eurythmy for the Young Child: A Guide for Parents and Teachers by Estelle Bryer. It is about the dwarves tramping back and forth from their underground work each day, so I used it to great effect each time the dwarves were about to come home and discover Snow White. Then we acted out the verse around the circle rug, marching and holding our heads up high and then digging in the earth and then carrying home our heavy sacks, bent low. The verse itself is called "Little Dwarves So Short and Strong." We had such a good time! This afternoon we are going to play with parachutes (this is from Hanky-Panky: traditional handkerchief toys by Elizabeth Burns) and take turns dropping them off the back deck.

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I've been increasingly interested in the book How to Use Child Size Masterpieces for Art Appreciation by Aline D. Wolf (a Montessori author). I've even put it in a past unit but never remembered to buy any art postcards (card size reproductions of paintings). Last week I noticed that the Metropolitan Museum of Art had several boxes of notecards in its clearance section so I snapped some up. When you do the pairing activities, you need two of each painting... and I can use the extras that I don't cut up for my own stationery. So I purchased the Sunflowers notecards, Cats notecards, American Watercolors notecards, Poppies notecards, and Seasons of Impressionism notecards. Her book can be used all the way up to high school, creating timelines and studying the schools of art, but only the first three levels are suitable for the young child. In my opinion. One of the unique things about Waldorf is that there are no topics that can't be part of the Waldorf curriculum (ie. there's nothing that's NOT Waldorf), it's just a question of when you introduce it. The main focus of the method is Steiner's underlying theory of child development.

    Step 1 is matching two identical paintings. You prepare 6 pairs (a dozen total cards) of paintings and the child places them in matching sets. There are three levels of difficulty here: easy, intermediate, and advanced. She describes them thus

  • Easiest - All identical pairs in a folder are totally different from all the other pairs in that folder, primarily in subject, but also in color and style. Because of the radical differences between each pair in a folder, it is almost impossible for a child who understands identical matching to do the exercise incorrectly...
  • Intermediate - Some of the identical pairs in each folder are somewhat similar to other pairs in that folder. They can be similar in subject; they can be similar in color or they can be similar in style. Because of this slight resemblance between some of the pairs, the child must look more closely at the details in order to make the correct matches.
  • Advanced - All six identical pairs in each folder are very similar to one another. They are all by the same artist; they feature the same kind of subject and they are all done in the same style. This high degree of similarity requires the child to check details very carefully in order to do the exercises correctly. Some examples of paintings which can be used in Level 3 folders are six pairs of blue-green garden scenes by Monet, six pairs of Cubist paintings by Picasso, or six pairs of misty seascapes by Turner.

Anyway, this seems like it would be fun even for adults, so I'd like to start trying it out. My MIL has started bringing games to play with Natalie on Friday nights (and she's currently doing Thomas the Tank Engine, which I'd like to persuade her to drop. It involves a lot of counting, besides being too commercial) so maybe, since it's games they want, I can set these out for them to do instead. If I do, I'll make notes of the pictures I choose and put them under the Play section of the Textures unit.

My kids have some card decks for simple games (which we got from Magic Cabin) and they call them all indiscriminately "deckofcards" and just do sorting and matching things with them. So this will take it to the next level, with more beautiful and sensitive images for them to absorb!

Time to sort the cards and put them in a pile to take to church (where there is a wicked sharp old-fashioned paper cutter).

February 7 - The sling turned out beautifully, although I haven't taken it down the ball field to try it out yet. You can buy leather strips (called "Suede Lace") at a craft store or even WalMart and an 8 yard packet was perfect for this project. I cut the piece into three 8 foot long lengths and then made a long braid (stuck the loose end under a flower pot to hold it steady) and then cut the braid in half to create two pieces. The length of your sling straps should be roughly the distance from your heart to your left hand outstretched. It looks gorgeous, and cost about $2.00 to make. I'm not sure if I'll have my kids try it, since they might break a window in the church if they release the stone at the wrong time, but they can at least look at one up close. And I'll certainly give it a try myself before Sunday.

Yesterday for school we went to a nature program in the morning called "Squirrels on a Tightrope." The teacher read a book called Animals in Winter (the link is to the old version, not the new re-illustrated one) and then we went out to look at squirrel nests, to check on the tightropes she had left out earlier, and to make our own. Squirrel nests are about 40 feet off the ground, usually in oak trees and sugar maples (both provide sources of food -- squirrels adore the frozen maple sap "icicles" that form when the sap begins to run), and look exactly like huge piles of leaves. That's how you can distinguish them from bird nests. We saw several nests and then went to check on squirrely snacks. The park ranger had read about creating a thin rope tied between two points and then hanging peanuts (unsalted, in the shell) from the rope using thread. The squirrels will walk along the "tightrope" to get the peanuts. You also sprinkle some peanuts along the ground to help them find the spot. So we visited her tightropes to see if the nut shells were empty and then we hung some of our own. This was a real lightbulb going on in my head because we have our clothesline still strung out in the backyard and I've been chastising myself for being lazy and not bringing it in. But now I see that all along it has been because I'm a Nature Lover. lol. So I got some peanuts in the shell yesterday at the grocery store and we can try it at home. Perfect timing, too, since it snowed last night and the animals are really going to be looking for food.

Yesterday afternoon we made our Earth Candle (finally!!!!) and it turned out to be just lovely. Ground too hard to dig in, as I mentioned before, so I got a flowerpot and the children filled it with soil, then wet the soil and dug a hole with their fingers for the wax to go it. I tied a piece of wick to a small rock and dropped it in the bottom of the hole (couldn't find a washer, which is what they suggest) and then we laid the paint stirrer across the top of the pot and set the other end of the wick on it with a rock also to hold it down, so it wouldn't wiggle when the wax was poured in. Pouring the hot wax was a grown-up only job. Then we left it overnight to cool and solidify and today we will burn it!

So today's school plan is to bake muffins in the morning, add peanuts on thread to our clothesline in the backyard (the kids can see this from their playroom window so they'll be able to see if any squirrels discover it) and along the ground, burn our Earth Candle, make our star window transparency (I think this will really happen today since I cut out all the stars last night and am 100% ready to go), and -- last but not least -- play in the snow!

February 5 - Well, I never would have expected it but apparently today is my day to make a sling, David & Goliath style. I did some research at Slinging.org and found plenty of patterns and directions. I'd like to make a pair, so the children (my Sunday School students) can each try their hand at it without too much waiting. First, I'm cutting up an old purse that got ruined when a bottle of something spilled in the bottom. The fabric that lined the purse is splotchy and goopy but the leather is still in beautiful condition so I've been hanging onto it. Well, it's been on the floor next to my bedside table for at least 2 months. And now I have a use for it!

According to recommendations on the above-mentioned site, the pouch should be about 5 inches wide and 2.5 inches tall. Then a braided strap is added onto each side (you punch a hole in the leather to attach it) and you take it outside and have a go. I'll be sure to let you know if I break any windows...

There's a nice illustration of a sling on page 118 of the DK Children's Illustrated Bible.

* * * * *

For people who have been patiently waiting for my list of essential preschool books, here it is. These are the books I would NEVER pack away. Or sell. For as long as I have little kids around me. I didn't mean for it to be twelve, it just turned out that way. So don't think I added any "filler" just to get it to a good number. If money is really really tight, you could buy one book each month. However, I think the best thing if you're just getting started is to get them all (the cost for all books plus some initial art and handwork supplies is roughly $300, so the same as you'd pay at Live Ed!) since they complement each other really well and if you have them all, you really have every single thing you need. I've written it up as my new Preschool Curriculum Package since these are the books I truly want to recommend to every "newbie" that hits my site, and I come under sooo much fire for leaving the old preschool plans on the site. Since they aren't as Waldorf-y as they could be... but I didn't know that at the time! I was really doing my best. AND I think it's important for there to be something that addresses the transition because if you try to be the perfect Waldorf parent overnight you just end up overwhelmed and frustrated and you quit. So it's better to take it slowly and achieve success. Anyway, I still have the old stuff on there but you have to look longer to find it, and people will hopefully see this new booklist and get a lot of use out of it!

* * * * *

Today for school we visited the cabin and packed up our groceries and toys that were left behind; then in the afternoon Leah and Natalie gave the dog a bath and now we are in the process of getting ready to make dipped candles. Yes, we're several days behind on Candlemas! I have determined that the last sheet of beeswax definitely broke up due to temperature (we turned the cabin heat down to 50 on the night we weren't there) since it was pliable enough today. But we had to break it up into pieces also so that we would have enough to dip candles. I had considered Earth Candles but maybe next year. Ground is too hard to dig in. Anyway, I currently have two clean Juicy Juice cans partially filled with broken pieces of beeswax (a one ounce pure beeswax block from Clapham's and two Summer Yellow honeycomb beeswax sheets from Yaley) and set in a large soup pot in some water to melt. We have plenty of wicking and so it's just a question of trying the dipping process for the first time. If you don't have a book with directions for this (we are using Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children), you can find plenty of articles and pictures on the internet. The only really tricky part is don't leave the candle dipped in the hot wax too long enough or the previous dip will melt off. Carol Petrash suggests a little hum to give you the rhythm: "Dip it down, pull it up." She also recommends marking a long-ish circular path on the floor with masking tape so the children can trot along the path and then back to the hot wax for another dip, thereby giving the previous layer of wax some time to set.

We are stirring the hot beeswax with clean paint stirrers. Steve painted my office a beautiful (and very Waldorf-y) color. It is called Cinnamon Whip and is very close to the color of the Children's Garden room at the Washington Waldorf School, but without using lazure. So pretty. I just love it!

* * * * *

Okay, here I am with more news. The quantity of wax I listed above, which is what we had been planning on using, is nowhere near enough to make a dipped candle. Carol wasn't kidding when she said you'd need several pounds of beeswax (which can be expensive, by the way). Kids are in bed as I promised to come up with a new plan. Back to All Year Round, which has many more candle-making projects than most Waldorf books. Candles which need just a little bit of melted wax include

    Floating candles (using small cookie cutters as molds -- I like the fondant cutters by Wilton)
    p.28

    Walnut candle boats
    p.29

    Sand candle
    p.29

    Earth candle
    p.30

    Water-dip candles (these are really beautiful! Perhaps hubby and I might try some tonight.)
    p.30

February 4 - Just got back from our weekend at the little cabin (no phone, TV, or internet). Super relaxing. I love my weekends at the cabin! Steve primed and painted the new room in our house while the kids and I were away, so we're making definite progress there. I packed our HS activities from Friday since we didn't get anything done on February 2nd. Yesterday we tried the bread dough (from a packaged mix) with terrible results! I don't know if the yeast was old, or if I added water that was too hot or too cold, but it didn't rise. However, I had a brilliant last-minute thought, right before throwing it out, which was to give the bread dough to the children as a modeling material. Which I did and it was a HUGE hit! They played for over 2 hours with the dough. You know how elastic it is and really not messy at all. Plus it was a whole wheat mix and so the dough was slightly gritty. It had a really pleasant texture to sink your hands into. So that saved the day, and after our modeling session we put it outside to compost.

Sunday was Sunday School in the morning (and our lesson went really really well! I'll write about that in a minute) and then during playtime N enjoyed grating nutmeg into a set of four little bowls. They love grating nutmeg! It sounds so weird but it is strangely satisfying for them. And sooo simple. It is definitely true that the simpler I make our activities and play materials, the more imagination they show. I wish I could remember more of the things they say and do. There are many moments in the day when I am impressed by their imagination and creativity and innocence and I think, "this Waldorf thing is really working!" They are great kids. Anyway, then we tried rolling our candles but I don't know if the kit was old or the cabin was too cold overnight but the wax completely disintegrated. So I gave N the job of tearing it up into little pieces and I'll melt it and we can try another candle-making method. Maybe the Earth Candles from All Year Round -- I've always wanted to try those. After the candle catastrophe (although she did really enjoy her job of breaking up the sheet of wax) our Sunday afternoon babysitter came to stay with Leah and play with her and N and I went to Paint 'n' Pottery and painted our new set of house numbers. This is so funny, because I've been trying to find a set of house numbers I like for nearly a year (we moved in to this house last April) and was just about to Google something like "hand-painted house number tiles" when it suddenly struck me... if hand-painted is what I want, why don't I paint them? So we hit the paint your own pottery place for the first time. It was a lot of fun although the process took longer than I expected. You have to paint the same design three times, drying it with a blow dryer in between, so that the colors are really deep and rich and show no brushstrokes. Then they take about a week to glaze and fire them and get them back to you. I can't wait to see the finished result! I did the actual numbers and gave N two tiles to decorate, one to put at either end. I think she had fun but the restriction that she had to paint each tile the exact same way every time was hard on her. Maybe we'll go back there when she's older.

After we got back, the kids played while I made dinner and then we took baths and headed back here to rejoin Steve and Becca. The only activity I haven't done with them is the star window transparency, so I'll try that tomorrow.

Today's Sunday School lesson was to finish making our knitting needles (glue on clay balls or acorn caps, sharpen points, sand them, and rub with beeswax finish) and to do a table read of our class play "Saul and David." I got permission from the superintendents to put on a class play so I'm really excited about that! I had originally wanted our Spring service project to be leading a church service but I think a play will be better. I've been submitting receipts like crazy (although heaven knows I've contributed the vast majority of what we've used, like all the books and most of the art supplies) and so they came to me to see how much more I thought I'd spend this year. I guess that means we'll be requesting donations of fabric for costume-making! I'm sure that won't be a problem. People are always happy to support children learning about God. It's a nice church; I'm pretty happy there. I just worry that it's not attracting any new people. The older congregation members keep dying and there's no one to replace them. So if I can do my part to keep the children there, I feel good about that. Today we began by gluing our polymer clay balls (which I baked last week) on the end of our needles. Those who weren't there last week got a selection of acorn caps to choose from instead. Then we cleaned up the glue that had gotten on the tables with wet paper towels and passed out the pencil sharpeners. Then we cleaned up the wood shavings (there was a lot of clean-up duty today but the kids were eager to pitch in) and passed out the sandpaper. Then we collected the sandpaper and passed out the beeswax polish. After rubbing that in, we set our needles aside and I took a minute to write the name of each character in the play on the front of their photocopies of the class play (this is from Plays for Grades One through Four by Michael Hedley-Burton) and asked who wanted a (and I quote) "largish" part. Three people raised their hands. So I gave them Saul, David, and Samuel. Then I passed out the remaining scripts and asked the kids to read through and find each of their lines and mark them so they would know when it was their turn to speak. Two people complained that they wanted bigger parts at this point so we moved some folks around. Then the table read began. I didn't tell the children that we were going to put this on as a play because I wanted them to think of it first. Which they did... I told them we wouldn't get up and move around and act it out, we were just going to do a table read and at the end a very enthusiastic boy (actually, the one who chose to be David) asked can't we do it again and act it out? And the class all agreed putting it on as a play would be a great idea. So that's settled. :-)

I had expected to cast on the yarn for each child onto their new needles during the play, so I could teach the actual knit stitch after the table read but 1) I had to read two of the parts in the play because of some children who were missing and 2) making the needles took longer than I had thought and we were running low on time. So after the table read I passed out HW and then had the children stick their needles in their yarn and I did the cast on after they had left. This is "Waldorf-legit" by the way, because Barbara Dewey's Handwork book says that in 1st grade, when children are learning how to knit, the teacher casts on for them in the beginning. Then they learn how to do it for themselves later on. I had been afraid of teaching cast-on to the class and having them become immediately discouraged... it's the trickiest part. But I think the kids are really jazzed about learning to knit, with the exception of a boy who just started coming to class and thinks it's silly. I had worked so hard all year to be the wacky teacher who gives her kids lots of projects and you just have to go with the flow when you're in her room precisely so that when it came time to teach them how to knit it would just be one of those things that Miss Rhoda has you do and no one would question me too much. Not that I want to teach my kids to blindly obey authority... I'm just saying that I wanted to establish a creative atmosphere and not get bogged down in "why do we have to learn this?" conversations. And I have had no gender problems at all until this kid joined the class. So I don't know what is going to happen with that. I hope it doesn't affect the group dynamic. Up until this point the kids would happily follow me... wherever I took them. Anyway, next week is the knit stitch and I have another S.S. teacher coming to learn alongside the kids because she has always wanted to knit. So seeing another adult learn with them should be a postive experience -- no matter how old you are, you always fumble at the beginning of the learning process. And so it shows the children 1) that you keep learning new things throughout your life and you shouldn't be afraid of looking silly and 2) that it's okay if it takes them awhile to catch on to knitting because every person learns at their own pace. My superintendent who has been reticent to give me compliments because I'm a little too hippie for her actually came to me today to say that my children really love my class. So that made me exceedingly happy. :-)

By the way, the version of the story of Ruth from Lights Along the Path was a huge hit with my students and both the sub who taught the following Sunday and a parent (who is also a Sunday School teacher) remarked to me how well the children remembered the story. So I highly recommend that version to anyone studying the story of Ruth.

February 1 - Sad day for me. :-( We took the kids to the dentist this morning and I gave special attention to Natalie because I've been concerned that her middle teeth in the bottom row are wiggling. One is very very wiggly. Since she knocked out a complete tooth -- root and all -- when she was 2 years old I thought she might be prone to having weak roots, maybe even improperly formed ones. When the doctor examined her, he said that seven or eight teeth showed signs of mobility. So I insisted on upper and lower X-rays and stayed until he could read them and tell me what they said. And guess what? Everything is perfectly normal. Those adult teeth are just coming on in. The lower middle teeth have no root left at all and could fall out at any time. So I am in the middle of choosing tooth fairy traditions. Didn't think I'd be doing that any time soon!

Tomorrow's school plan is to bake Honey Whole Wheat Bread in the AM and a trio of activities from Earthways for the PM. I picked

    Rolling Candles
    p.101 (tomorrow is Candlemas, after all!)

    Star Windows: Tissue Paper Transparencies
    pp.75-76

    Nutmeg Grating
    p.79

Carol Petrash wrote this book and I love it! It's one of the ones I love to recommend to families transitioning to Waldorf.

* * * * *

Bella Luna Toys carries the Tooth Fairy Pillow by Sarah's Silks. I'm going to go ahead and order one.

* * * * *

    Book Boxes from Office
    • 1 - Native Americans, Housebuilding
    • 2 - Oak Meadow, Spiritual Syllabus kindy, Storytelling, CDs/DVDs
    • 3 - Handwork (A), HCA fairy tales
    • 4 - Handwork (B), Festivals, Movement
    • 5 - PE/Games, Math manip (math gnomes, clock), Xylophone, Music (A)


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