Friday, March 27, 2015

Plans for Holy Week

There are so many things that I want to do to celebrate Holy Week with the kids. As always, I plan big and then pick and choose what it seems like we can handle each day.

I really liked the ideas for scripture study and a little craft and activity for each day found here.

Of course we'll continue our tradition of Easter in Eggs. You can find instructions for how to put your own together here. I remember this fondly from growing up and my kids look forward to it every year.

Now that we live in California and have many, many palm trees all over, I would like to do a bit more for Palm Sunday. At the very least we will try to put one on our nature table. You can of course make your own palm leaves with green construction paper and scissors.

Earlier this week we made a Resurrection garden. It's beginning to sprout. This Friday we'll put crosses on the hill and cover the opening with a rock. On Easter Sunday we'll roll it back. I really like these directions.

I think we'll incorporate it into homeschool this week too. I'm going to have the kids handsew little bags for their Easter egg hunt. Then of course we'll also dye eggs. And then devil them with my favorite recipe.

Thursday a Jerusalem Dinner. I thought about doing a Passover dinner, but as we'll be covering so much of Hebrew culture and history in grade three, I think I'm going to save that for then. So we're going to do a Jerusalem dinner, which will just be filled with foods that would have been eaten during Jesus' time. We'll eat it on the floor and then discuss Jesus washing his disciples feet and maybe try it ourselves.

What do you like to do?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Starting a Nature Table

I've wanted to add a nature table to our home ever since I read about it three years ago in YOU ARE YOUR CHILD'S FIRST TEACHER. I've seen all the pretty pictures. I had inspiration (pinspiration) but how to start?

And where to put it?

And what about the baby getting into it?

These were all problems for me. Are they problems for you? Have you been letting these worries stop you from doing this? It's considered an important part of early Waldorf education, but it's really a fun place to mark the movement of the year, upcoming holidays, etc for anyone regardless if you are a "Waldorf" family or not.

So here's what I did and maybe it will help you.

1 - JUST START. Part of what held me back is that I didn't have anthing to begin with to have those beautiful nature tables you see online. What would I put on there except for a few dandelions my kids picked out in the yard that would shrivel up the next day? Well, guess what. That's what I put out at first. Use what you have. Start where you are. Stop waiting until you can "do it right" and just do it now. Pick something up on your next walk and bring it home.

2 - WHERE TO KEEP IT. This was a big problem for me. I barely have any knick-knacks, let alone little tables or display areas for said knick-knacks. I tried for a while on the side of my piano and that worked okay but it was sort of in the way when I actually wanted to use my piano. Then I tried the mantle and that worked fine but only I could see it which wasn't really the point. (But I just want to say if that's your only option then use it and just start.) What started actually working for me was when I went to Target and bought a wooden sort of raised, cake platter. That's not what it is, but it looks like that. It's wood and round and has a place to put things. You see it in the picture. That's what I used. I kept it on my dining table for a long time and just moved it off for meals. Now it's on a bookshelf in the family room. It's smaller, but it holds everything you need for a full nature table and the smaller size makes it feel less overwhelming, like I don't have to fill the whole thing up.
See that wood platter thing under the green silk? That's what I'm talking about.

3 - WHAT ABOUT THE BABY GETTING INTO IT? I've got an 18-month old and he gets into everything. Right now, the nature talbe is on that platter on top of the bookcase and it is out of his reach. He'll get bigger and I may have to re-evaluate. If that happens, it will move back and forth between the counter and the dining table. This is another perk of the platter display thing. I can move it as needs arise. That being said, I also put things on there that are really okay for him to touch. A pine cone. Some sea shells. A knitted cat. Felt fairies. I'd rather he didn't. But when he or one of the other kids makes a mess of it I just clean it up. It's not that hard becuase for us it is a SMALL nature table.

4 - WHAT DO I PUT ON IT? I have loved using Waldorf Essential's kindergarten curriculum. She gives you tons of ideas to put on your nature table with the handwork patterns and everything. But really, the pattern she lays out that you're supposed to take is very simple. Mineral, plant, animal, human. If you have one of each of these on your table, you're good. And sometimes we have two humans and no plants. And we've had the same seashells on there for two months now and they'll probably be there through the summer. Oh well. We're still having fun with it. Our decorations are not always amazing as you will see. I finally needle felted something pretty, but for a long time the humans were just tiny pipe cleaner and felt fairies and the kids still loved that. My animals are always knitted and often time not shaped well, but they get the point across.

As I've grown more comfortable with it, I've added more. A green silk. A watercolor painting. A leprechaun. Right now we have an easter egg banner behind it and have put our Resurrection garden there while it sprouts. Make it yours!

I love having this small section of my house to bring the outdoors in and reflect on upcoming holidays.

It's been fun, and not nearly as hard as I thought.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The problem with reading to your kids when they love books

Today I tried to sit down and do storytime with the kids. It went something like this.

*Open up THE RUNAWAY BUNNY*  Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away.
*Tommy climbs up into my lap with HIS favorite book. ITSY BITSY SPIDER.*
So he said to his mother, "I am running away."
*Tommy screams and waves the book in front of my face until I give in.* "Okay Jane. Hold on. Let me read this really quick." *Stick my finger in the spider puppet and sing* The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout. Down came the rain and--
"Can you start over?" Jane asks. "I missed the first page."
*Go back to the beginning. Start over* The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.
*Finish that book but don't take finger out of the spider because Tommy wants to bite it. Go back to THE RUNAWAY BUNNY.* If you run away, said his mother, "I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.
*Turn the page and sing the first line of ITSY BITSY SPIDER to Tommy while Jane looks at the picture. Let finger take a break from being bit inside the spider puppet until Tommy starts yelling again.*
"If you run after me," said the little bunny, "I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you."
*Max runs in from whatever he'd been doing when I called him to come to storytime.* "Can you start over?"
Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away.
*Tommy starts screaming and waving ITSY BITSY SPIDER again because it's time for his next reading.*
"Okay, hold on guys." The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout. Down came the rain and--
"Can you start over?"

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Our Homeschool Days Right Now

I haven't written about our homeschooling in a while. It's still moving right along. We're in a nice little rhythm that's flexible enough for changes but reliable enough to get things done. I'll give you a peek into our days but just want to warn you, especially those of you in more traditional school settings, we are using a Waldorf educational philosophy that doesn't push formal academics until first grade at the age of seven. As you'll see, we do a little bit of academics, but not much.

The day will sound laid back and it really is, but there is still a lot of learning going on here.

Today we began with a morning walk, then came home and did chores and played until 11. At that time we did circle and calendar time. The circle time is filled with seasonal verses. Last week Jane wrote her own poem and asked that we add it to circle time, so we have. There is a lot of movement and singing, but it lasts only about five minutes.

Then we sat on the floor and I told the story. This week it is Hansel and Gretel. I was amazed at how well Jane remembered it just from the one telling yesterday. She fixed little minor details that I didn't think they'd catch if I changed, like changing the word supper to lunch. Nope, she stopped me and made me say it right.

Yesterday they sanded the wooden spoons we are making while I told the story. That was fun, but we made the handles a little too small and Jane already snapped hers.

My chalkboard drawing for Hansel and Gretel.

Then we did some wet on wet watercolor painting. Tommy thinks he should be involved in everything and painting today was no exception. But he couldn't decide which paintbrush he wanted and he kept almost tipping over the paints and then screaming and throwing his paintbrush. I was very glad when painting time was over in about seven minutes.

Then it was lunch and quiet time. I've been cutting back on screen time a lot but they still get to watch some TV a couple times a week during Tommy's naptime and today was one of those days. They turned on Super Why and Jane continued to embroider her lowercase letter T square for her quilt. She is doing an actual cross stitch with this one, which was tricky at first but she has it down now.

After quiet time it was game time. We pulled out a game that requires reading of simple words and I was pleasantly surprised and impressed when Jane did beginning and ending blends all by herself without any trouble! Tommy joined in and kept putting tiles together, pointing and grunting and then wanting me to read it. He's adorable.

A page from my nature journal and Jane's nature journal.

Then we ventured outside, again. We spent a lot of time outside today. Max was in swim trunks all day. Jane and I nature journaled for 5-10 minutes and then the kids pulled out the popsicle sticks and glue (this was very undirected). Jane made a sign that she put in the garden next to the flowers she's growing and Max made the letters of his name (and then some).

After bath and jammies, Jane and Max each got to play one game of chess with Rob. They'd been looking forward to it all day but had to wait for Tommy to go to sleep.

Then they both got to listen to 20 minutes of audio stories and fall asleep.

I'm sure you noticed that I forgot reading time. We usually do it, but just didn't today. Right now we are working our way through Because of Winn Dixie and our books about spring and kittens. Rob usually reads them Shel Silverstein poetry for about ten minutes a day.

You'll also notice no math. This is where we really stray from Waldorf and venture into Montessori as I do have a math curriculum for kindergarten. It only requires two lessons a week though, so we'll do one tomorrow and one on Thursday. You can read more about our program (I love it) here.

And that's it. Tomorrow we'll dip Strawberries and talk about that yummy candy house from the story. We'll also begin making a felt easter egg banner to hang over our nature table. There will be more nature journaling, tending to the garden, checking on the kittens, some math, and maybe even another wooden spoon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Simple St. Patrick's Day

So you woke up today and forgot it was St. Patrick's Day. Your kids showed up to school in purple, the leprechauns didn't trash your house, you blew it.

Or maybe you just don't do big St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

That's just fine. Because I'm going to give you a few ideas that you can easily pull together to round off a very nice and simple celebration.

Waldorf celebrations focus on nature, simplicity, and rhythm. They usually incorporate something special that day with food, a song, and a story. I'm adding in a few other things that you can pick and choose from. But all of this can be done in about an hour and TA-DA! You did St. Patrick's Day.

So I'll give it to you fast.




Eat potatoes, or corned beef, or anything green.

Try THIS IRISH DANCE.    (Warning: you will get tired and feel silly.)

Go on a walk and try to find clover, or green things, or whatever.

Paint a rainbow.

Feeling overwhelmed? Just do the story and song. The kids will love it and it takes ten minutes.