Thursday, December 6, 2018

St. Nicholas Day Celebration ECE

A few notes from our week of festivities, leading up to the St. Nicholas Day celebration on Thursday!

I didn't introduce any new movement verses in Circle Time this week. Since we have so many new stories to hear all throughout this month, I'm keeping the Circle as consistent as possible. However, I did put one little addition into the verses for classroom routines: "Here are Grandma's Spectacles." This goes after we have washed our hands for snack and before we sing blessing.

Songs, Verses & Movement for Classroom Routines

    cleaning up after indoor play
    "This Is the Way We Tidy Up"
    to the the tune of "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush"

    laying out the sunflower quilt for circle time
    "A Ram Sam Sam" song
    from the Seven Times the Sun CD, track 17

    at the end of the story
    "Snip, Snap, Snout" verse

    washing hands
    "This Is the Way We Wash/Dry Our Hands"
    to the the tune of "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush"

    folding hands and waiting
    "Here are Grandma's Spectacles"

    grace before snack time
    "Blessings on the Blossom"
    from The Singing Day, track 23

    getting ready to go outside
    "This Is the Way We Put On Shoes"
    to the the tune of "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush"

    lining up to go outside/inside
    "All in a Row"
    from The Singing Day, track 11

    goodbye verse
    from A Child's Seasonal Treasury, page 14

Circle Time


Today we made wet felted acorns as parent gifts for St. Nicholas Day!


  • Wooden Shoe craft
  • traditional German poem from Winter, page 20
  • legends from Saint Nicholas by Jakob Streit
      "Little Trips Around the Neighborhood," page 14
      "Nicholas Loses His Parents," page 17
      "When Nicholas Left the Earth," page 39


As it began to snow first thing in the morning -- when we were in the middle of gluing the acorn caps onto our wool acorns -- we went and spent an hour outside. Then we had the rest of our St. Nicholas legends during our snack time and I read the poem on the top of page 20 in Winter. After snack, we sewed our paper shoes and set them under the Christmas tree. The wooden shoe template I found was perfect. On my printer, I printed at 260% and only printed page 2 and it was the full-size shoe. Trace and cut two out of light brown construction paper for each child and lay one over the other and hole punch along the sides and bottom edge for sewing up with a yarn needle and 18 inch length of light brown yarn. Write the child's name on the shoe and put a carrot in it for St. Nicholas's horses on the evening of Dec. 5.

On Wednesday night Zac carefully put the carrots for St. Nicholas's horses in his shoe and the ones for his friends.


  • "St. Nicholas" legend from Winter, page 73
  • St. Nicholas Day gifts

And, of course, today was also Stone Soup Day! Here was our list of group contributions to the Stone Soup this week:

white potato
butternut squash
baby spinach

Zac was so very excited to share the gifts which St. Nicholas brought for our family! We do all of our gift exchanges on December 6th since my older daughters spend Christmas with their father in a different state. In the morning we had our St. Nicholas gifts under the tree, as well as the chocolate coins and clementines in the shoes. St. Nicholas brought Natalie, Becca, and me one gift each and there were two gifts for Zac (a train table and the Caravan) plus a gift for the whole family to enjoy (the absolutely gorgeous Grimm's Large Stepped Pyramid of Wooden Building Blocks)! Even the big kids crowded around eagerly to build with those blocks.

There was so much excitement around the presents that it was an absolutely lovely day. And that night we opened our family gifts which we gave to one another and Natalie made a delicious special dinner, Forbidden Rice Pilaf.

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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Montessori First Great Lesson - Notes

This year I am tutoring several boys whose parents have asked that I work on reading and writing. We don't want to "drill and kill" sight words -- and spelling word lists are silly anyway (I'm a big fan of SWI) -- but we want them more involved and comfortable with reading and writing. Our solution?

We are making Waldorf main lesson books about engaging Science and History topics, which they aren't getting in these public schools that only stress Math and Language Arts. Montessori's Five Great Lessons (and some people see The Story of the Great River as the Sixth) are the perfect choice.

With Waldorf you write first and then you learn to read by reading what you yourself have written (thus the book making). Writing had to exist before reading, so this approach follows the natural progression of human history.

The Great Lessons are so-called because they cover broad spans of history and science, sparking a child's interest in lots of different directions of potential follow up work. We have the luxury of time so we can go into any direction we wish, and we have the additional luxury of working one-on-one, so the activities can be perfectly tailored to the child. I'm very excited!

These are my notes for myself -- and they are a bit brief because I've been teaching these lessons for so long -- but I'm happy to share them and if you have any questions please ask and I'd be quite willing to explain more.

week 1
NAMC binder with demonstrations

  • The Formation of the Universe - large black balloon filled with air and a handful of silver confetti stars, pin

  • Light Comes to the Universe - candle, candleholder, match

  • Galaxies Form in the Universe - pie pan of water

  • The Size of the Sun and Earth - golden bead, red yoga ball

  • The Different Weights of Liquids - large straight sided canning jar, three smaller jars, honey, vegetable oil, water, blue food coloring

  • Solid, Liquid & Gas - three bowls, ice cubes, water it is nice to put some water in a tea kettle and watch it turn to steam
    it is also nice to put some water in a bowl and put it in the freezer; when it freezes a bit and there's a thin crust of ice but the inside is still liquid take it out and notice that the surface of that ice is wrinkly; this is just like the texture of the Earth's crust when it first cooled

  • The Earth's Surface - cast iron panini press, stove, spray bottle of water, hot pad spraying the hot pan with water and watching it sizzle and evaporate up is very effective; after you take it off the burner, spray it and watch the water stand and fill in the low parts of the panini press texture; this is just like the endless rains forming the Earth's oceans

week 2
read Older Than the Stars by Karen Fox

add to MLB or start calendar project artwork

  • front cover - single Sharpie dot on white 12 x 12 paper
    the Universe before the Big Bang
    "Everything... before it was anything"

  • January - toothbrush and splatter white paint on black 12 x 12 paper
    the stars

week 3
read How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World by Faith McNulty

do the The Rock Cycle Mat from Waseca Biomes; look at the pieces of pumice which I picked up on my hike up Mt. Vesuvius in Italy (in 1993)

add to MLB or continue calendar project artwork

  • February - water soluble oil pastel on dark grey 12 x 12 paper
    the swirling colors of the still-molten Earth

  • March - blue paint cloud stencil on textured red 12 x 12 paper
    the endless rains

week 4
continue calendar project artwork

  • introduction - toothbrush and splatter white paint on black 12 x 12 paper, accented with dimensional glow in the dark paint dots and stenciled stars and galaxy swirls around cutout of the child's hand
    "I love you more than all the stars in the sky"

  • April - torn paper collage and cork pieces on orange 12 x 12 paper
    the Earth with green oceans, brown land, and an orange sky

  • May - misc. paper squares on green textured 12 x 12 paper
    the building blocks of life

  • June - an empty piece of 12 x 12 paper
    the still-empty ocean

In the Timeline of Life calendar, which we begin during the First Great lesson and finish in the next Great Lesson, each day in the calendar represents 13 million years in the life of our Earth. The child creates artwork showing what the planet looked like each month as time slowly passes. Ours was an empty planet until July 4th! My information on what evolved when according to this scale is from Early Humans by Michelle Breyer, and will definitely become out of date as scientists learn more about early Earth. However, it is still a valuable project for helping make the abstract more concrete to students.

Here are some pictures of sample artwork; click on any photo to enlarge it:

Sharpie dot
"Everything... before it was anything"

the Big Bang, the start of it all

the concept of the calendar and the scale


February art
the still-molten Earth cools
distinct layers inside form by the end of the month

March, the month of endless rains

H and O were being belched out of the volcanoes covering the restless Earth but rain that fell sizzled on the hot planet and immediately evaporated again

mid-way through April the Earth has cooled enough that oceans form
but this is still a very foreign world

May... the building blocks of life appear


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Saturday, December 1, 2018

ECE Planning for December

There are sooo many wonderful holidays to celebrate in December!!!

Every family and every homeschool group and every school has some tough decisions to make this time of year as to what to celebrate. It's important not to do to much with young children, so that the specialness of each celebration has time to be felt. Not everything can be done every year.

The Winter holidays from around the world share common themes of love and light, warmth and giving, community and celebration, so I feel that there are always unifying threads to be found among the traditions we choose.

This year the early childhood program meets on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. St. Nicholas Day falls on Thursday, December 6th. Santa Lucia Day falls on Thursday, December 12th. Our final week in December we will have stories from the Advent/Christmas tradition. Here is a list of resources I've found which I like, as I compile my thoughts and choose stories, songs, recipes, and activities for our busy December month.

Please realize that this is not a to-do list... that would be way too much... I'm just listing things I like and then will make final decisions from there. Listing is part of my planning process! Hopefully having these be live links will be helpful to others who are going through the exact same planning process this weekend! I'll post at the end of each week what we actually do.

I appreciate Carrie's blog, The Parenting Passageway: Peaceful Parenting for a Hectic World. A veteran Waldorf homeschooling mom, she has taken multiple children through to high school and has lots of curriculum planning ideas and tips to share. She recently put together a post Making the Holidays Bright! on what they are doing for December in her family, focusing on the holidays of light and including links to ideas for St. Nicholas and Santa Lucia.

The Parenting Passageway blog posts 2018:

All Year Round is also an excellent resource and one I highly recommend, particularly for background information on holidays and how they have been celebrated over time and in different countries. Here are the Winter holidays:

    The seasonal table in winter, pages 169-171
    Advent, pages 171 - 172
    St. Barbara's Day, page 190
    The gift bringer, pages 190-191
    St. Nicholas Day, pages 191-192
    Christmas Eve (Adam and Eve Day), pages 217-218
    The Christmas tree, page 218
    Father Christmas and Santa Claus, pages 219-220
    The twelve days of Christmas, pages 223-226
    St. Stephen's Day, pages 227-228
    New Year's Eve (Hogmanay), pages 230-231
    Twelfth Night / Ephiphany / Three Kings' Day, pages 235-237
    Plough Monday, page 244

Well, I was glad to finally discover what Hogmanay is, since there's a song in Candy Verney's The Singing Year (track 90, "Today is Hogmanay") which I've never understood! Festivals Family and Food: Guide to Seasonal Celebration by Diana Carey and Judy Large is also a fantastic book for background historical information, traditional crafts and activities, and lots of recipes!

Feast Day of St. Nicholas - December 6

Feast Day of Ste. Lucy - December 13
celebrates the life of Ste. Lucy and light for the longest night of the year (under the old Gregorian calendar this was the Winter Solstice)

The Four Weeks of Advent

    "Mary's star path" nativity scene instructions, pages 174-176
    Advent spiral activity for a group of children, pages 188-189
    suggestions for treats for the birds, pages 207-208
    from All Year Round by Ann Druitt et al.

    "The Naughty Little Angel" story, page 10
    from Christmas Tales for Young Children by Suzanne Down

    "Advent Circle" movement journey, page 45
    from Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures: Movement Enrichment with a Therapeutic Approach for Early Childhood, vol. 1 by Nancy Blanning and Laurie Clark

    "Hark, Children" song for the end of the movement journey, above
    from Let Us Form a Ring CD, volume 1, track 23

    Christmas present ideas, for the children to make for their families:
    Pine Cone Weaving ornaments and/or wet felted soaps

    Advent cookie recipes, pages 122-126
    gifts for children from me: paper spirals and walnuts, pages 134
    "Star Mother's Youngest Child" story, page 141
    from Festivals Family and Food by Diana Carey and Judy Large

    "Thumbprint Oatmeal Cookies" recipe for the Advent Spiral, page 45
    shared by The Waldorf School of Baltimore, MD
    from The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book

    "Advent" song, page 103, track 88A
    from The Singing Year by Candy Verney

    "Holy Nights" story, page 93
    from Tell Me a Story edited by Louise deForest

    Advent Spiral family celebration - Thursday, Dec 20 - 5 pm

    "The Legend of the Christmas Rose"

    regular cicle time with families? traditional Waldorf Advent verse? songs? story? walking a spiral of greenery in the field? dinner as a potluck? the giving of Christmas presents?

    red beeswax candles from Nova Natural in apple candleholders?

    jingle bells and coconut shell clackers for "Jingle Bells" carol?

    for second grade Saints block:
    Mary chapter "Thus the temple became her home..."
    Brigid chapter "Have you forgotten me, Bride?"
    from Stories of the Saints by Siegwart Knijpenga

In my own family, we purchased and put up our Christmas tree from a local nursery on Farm Day and we are slowly decorating it together. Tonight we went to my town's Lights Fantastic Parade and enjoyed seeing all the lights! I'm also planning on having us go to see the decorations at the Harrison-Bruce Historical Village tomorrow, December 2nd, and sing Christmas carols at our church on December 20th.

Our family exchanges all of our gifts on St. Nicholas Day, so for us it's a rush at the beginning of December to get ready, but then we have the rest of the month to relax and enjoy celebrations in the wider community. We do a wrapped "Advent calendar" of winter and holiday books. This isn't 24 books. We do it on a smaller scale just to count down to St. Nicholas Day. This year we will also create Mary's path of stars as part of our needle-felted nativity scene and that will count down to the actual Christmas Day. We also have an ornament Advent calendar of 24 pockets, with a white crochet snowflake in each. The snowflakes will be hung on the Christmas tree as we count down.

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!