Thursday, August 25, 2016

The First Few Days of School

Yoga outside on the lawn! Kids have yoga several times a week including Monday, Wednesday (on the Farm), and Friday.

Theatre games for getting-to-know-you.

Setting up school supplies and learning routines.
Subject color coding key for plan books:

    yellow - Language
    orange - Cultural (History and Geography)
    red - Art
    purple - Practical Life
    blue - Blue
    green - Science and Nature
    brown - P.E. and Health
    gold - Form Drawing and Penmanship
    silver - Foreign Language

Getting brand new boxes of colored pencils, plan books, creative writing journals, and daily gratitude journals.

Learning how to plan a balanced day and make good choices for little bits of time. Choosing chapter books and picture books to read, getting lessons on educational games, figuring out what color each would be in your plan book. For example, the wooden marble run building set is green for Science and Nature (Physics).

Story Starters in a Jar - yellow

Colorku - blue

Circle Time: working on memorizing our poem of the week ("The Sun" by Grace Nichols), practicing multiplication tables, creative writing time

Form Drawing: straight line and curve, find these forms in nature and trace them with your finger, draw straight line and curve with your toe on the ground, finally and only once your body has completely internalized the form you may draw it with stick beeswax crayons on a large piece of paper taped up to the wall, roll beeswax candles (straight sheet of wax becomes a curve), begin finger knitting (straight piece of yarn becomes a curve)

Handwork - Finger Knitting: warp hula hoop loom to finger knit a rug, read Red Berry Wool, feel three bags of raw wool fleece straight off the sheep, talk about the process of making clothing from sheep to finished product

It was only after beginning to add finger knitting to our hula hoop loom that I realized that weaving this rug also makes a sun!

Quality of Numbers:
one - there is only one sun, one earth, one me
"The Prince Who Could Not Read" by Dorothy Harrer
recall the sun from Red Berry Wool, listen to "The Secret and Magic Name of the King" by Dorothy Harrer, make "one" with our bodies by standing straight and tall, this is the number one and it is also my name, I!
add Roman Numeral I and illustration of sun to main lesson book

I wanted to make sun tea but we ran out of time, so this might be a nice thing to do at home!

two - Snow-White and Rose-Red
(a Waldorf painting teacher once told me she uses this story to introduce how to take care of paintbrushes because the dwarf is so finicky with his beard! The brush bristles are like his beard and you never leave them sitting in water or full of paint at the end of your day...)

The Story of Geometry: String, Straight-Edge and Shadow
Prologue, Chapter 1, 2, 3
the development of Geometry beginning in the Stone Age
nature walk around the yard, collecting geometrical forms in natural materials, illustrate and summarize chapters and add to main lesson book

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Teaching Waldorf Second and Seventh Grade

I'm not doing this but I have a homeschool client who is. I enjoyed putting the booklist together for her and thought I would share it, in case anyone else is in this situation. They are just transitioning into Waldorf so it's a little bit nontraditional (like the 6th grade geometry block being in there) and they will be ending with Farming & Gardening to transition into grade 3 over the summer and Chemistry & Nutrition to transition into grade 8.

The Tasks & Content of the Steiner-Waldorf Curriculum ed by Martyn Rawson and Kevin Avison

AWSNA curriculum chart - available at

Learning about the World through Modeling by Arthur Auer

Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools: Classes 1 to 8 by Thomas Wildgruber

Creative Pathways: Activities that Strengthen the Child's Cognitive Forces by Elizabeth Auer

A First Book of Knitting for Children by Bonnie Gosse and Jill Allerton

Form Drawing grades 1 through 4 (

The Write Approach: Form Drawing for Better Handwriting, books one and two (

collections of Thornton Burgess (public library)

Physics is Fun: A Sourcebook for Teachers by Roberto Trostli

School as a Journey: The Eight-Year Odyssey of a Waldorf Teacher and His Class by Torin Finser

Making Math Meaningful by Jamie York (three resources: elementary book, middle school book, book of games and puzzles)

7th grade Algebra & Geometry main lesson block plan by Jamie York (PDF)

Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly by Gail Carson Levine

Kids Crochet, Kids Weaving, Kids' Embroidery (public library)

collections of Aesop's Fables (public library)

Teaching with the Fables, a Holistic Approach by Sieglinde de Francesca

A Child's History of the World by V.M. Hillyer (I prefer the 1951 edition)

Saints among the Animals by Cynthia Zarin

String, Straight-Edge & Shadow: The Story of Geometry by Julia Diggins

Geometry and the Imagination: The Imaginative Treatment of Geometry in Waldorf Education by A. Renwick Sheen

Compass Drawings: Construction Designs Using a Compass and a Ruler by Linda Harst

The Age of Discovery by Charles Kovacs

Geology and Astronomy by Charles Kovacs

Photographic Card Deck of The Elements: With Big Beautiful Photographs of All 118 Elements in the Periodic Table by Theodore Gray

collections of Native American Legends (public library)

Keepers of the Night: Native American Stories and Nocturnal Activities for Children by Michael Caduto and Joseph Bruchac

I Once Was a Monkey: Stories Buddha Told by Jeanne Lee

Teaching Practical Activities: Farming, Gardening, Housebuilding for ages 9 & 10 by Roy Wilkinson (

Food, Nutrition, and Health by Eric Fairman (

Don't forget that there are plenty of Waldorf books available as PDFs.

This is due to the incredible generosity of the Online Waldorf Library.

All ages from birth through high school are included in their selections.

And, as someone who bought a LOT of these books, I can tell you it is many thousands of dollars worth of free content.

Here are some that I think would be particularly helpful for this school year:

Monday, August 22, 2016

Measurement: Mass and Volume

Just realized, before I write about our first day of school, that I didn't finish my notes from our Measurement week over the summer!

On Friday, I introduced two more educational games

Rhyme Out!

Story Starters in a Jar

We finished our handmade books, our mini MLBs, with sections on calendars, clocks, temperature, mass, and volume.

We estimated the mass of items in the house. The first child lined up a handful of items from lightest to heaviest, based on her predications. Then she weighed each item and wrote its name and its mass in grams on a sticky note. We arranged the sticky notes on the chalkboard from lightest to heaviest. Then the second child chose a new household item, compared it to the items already weighed, estimated its weight, wrote the name of the item and her estimate on a sticky note, then weighed it, wrote the mass on the note, and added it to our growing data table. They did this for a long time!

I like to go over the metric stair using the story of LaGrange, ("The Professor Who Did Not Know") from Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians, volume 1. I bought this book on September 2, 2006, according to Amazon, and I have used it countless times since then. I love the image of LaGrange just quietly suggesting from the back of the room that a system with increases and decreases of a decimal place (multiplied by ten, divided by ten) would be so much simpler than multiplying or dividing the base unit by 12! Nothing against the ancient Babylonians, of course.

It is also fun to line containers up by predictions of capacity, then checking by filling them with water or rice (water is more fun) and then rearranging. You can do this with a collection of vases or bottles and jars, but I LOVE my Power Solids! I've had these for over 15 years and they are still holding up with nary a crack.

I think it is important to do mass and volume side by side so that students can see how they are different. As I wrote in a previous post, we bake using the metric system to help students internalize the measurements. The chocolate chip cookie book and recipe are always a favorite! A great book for volume, and SUPER-VINTAGE-FANTASTIC, is

The Duchess Bakes a Cake

This book is published by Purple House Press and from what I understand it was the book that brought them into existence. Purple House Press specializes in bringing long lost favorite children's books back into print. I love that! They also publish the fabulous chapter book

David and the Phoenix

One final note. I got a little bit of a rhyming bug and was coming up with silly sayings to emphasize the prefix in the metric stair. The first was

    Would you measure a horse in grams?
    Goodness no
    A kilogram's the way to go!

Then I altered it slightly to be

    What do you use to weigh a horse?
    You use kilograms of course!
And I thought they could jump and form their bodies into a K. This was silly and fun and I share it in case it works for you!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Emptying a Child's Room

Each child has been doing a massive bedroom clean-out project here and I am passing along how we did it. Because it has been awesome!

First step. Take every single thing out of your child's room except the furniture. Empty it. Take everything out of every drawer. Take the art off the walls. Take everything out of the closet. All of it. Put it in your living room.

(By the way, I thought this part of the project would take one day but it takes four so be prepared to go without a living room for a week. And you might not want to have people over.)

Next step. Arrange all the furniture as you like it. Or as your child likes it... this is easier said than done. But I had to let go of how I thought my daughters should arrange things and just let them figure out what makes good sense. It's not the end of the world if the dresser is in a weird spot and they can't open the curtains because they've blocked the path to them.

Final step. Put things back, Marie Kondo style. Start with clothing. Use the spark joy test. Hold it to your heart. If you love it, keep it. If it doesn't fit anymore, you never liked it anyway, etc. then donate it. If it's not in good enough shape to donate, pitch it. Say thank you to your items that you are discarding.

The gratitude for your possessions is a big part of her philosophy. It shows respect for yourself and your things to keep your space nice. These items have been working hard for your child. And they didn't like living in a mess anyway, so it's a win-win for everyone. You're happier and they're happier.

Here is the list of categories, as she suggests them:



School & craft supplies



For everything, don't take it out of your living room unless you LOVE it and want it. The goal is to be surrounded only by what you truly adore. And as you walk it from your living room to your bedroom, put it in the perfect spot. It may seem like overkill to empty every drawer but then there are no obstacles to putting anything away. The work goes swiftly and it is joyful.

I have decided to get my homeschool co-op kids one more thing for the start of the year. I have her daily journal and I love it. It's not too overwhelming for either kids or adults. Just a few lines each day. You write down what sparked joy for you that day. And each page has a section for you to write in it for three years, so you can look back next year and the next and see what you put for today, August 12th. I love the idea of doing this as a kid and being able to look back at the little details of your life and what made you happy at each age. I think we will end our day at 2:45 and tidy up and have a little bit of journaling time. Becca's 4th grade teacher had her keep a daily Gratitude Journal and it is one of our most precious treasures from that year.

So five Life Changing Magic journals it is!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Coupon Codes

It's time for back to school shopping, and for me that meant preparing for my five students who will arrive on Monday, August 22nd.

    a. five black & white composition books, wide ruled

    b. five boxes of colored pencils, plus five gold and five silver

    c. five spiral bound sketchpads for creative writing


    d. five blue main lesson books, medium wide

I was shocked to discover that the Prismacolor pencils were $27.99 at Staples and $57.99 at Hobby Lobby. (They're $14.99 right now at Amazon.) So check! Composition books are fifty cents everywhere because people have price-matching guarantees, but the same is not true of the nice art supplies. If you are in the store and realize H.L. is ripping you off, look up on your phone and they always have a "40% off a full-price item" coupon which the cashier will scan for you.

A Child's Dream Come True, which is where we got our MLBs, is offering 10% off all their art supplies (and this includes main lesson books). The coupon code is ARTS10 to save 10% off all of their arts & crafts supplies.

Happy hunting!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

Tomorrow, Thursday, August 4th, is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.

This is according to the email I just got from my neighborhood co-op. And it's perfect because we are doing the Maths of Practical Life block and we are on Weight. And for Weight I like to have us bake, among other things. And I like to have us practice the metric system. And I have a great chocolate chip cookie recipe in metric AND the ingredient list for it perfectly matches

All in Just One Cookie

So I suggest this for tomorrow, if you're looking for a recipe to celebrate this holiday. It's a great book, if you like books in the "romp around the world" style. And I found the mining of baking soda in Wyoming very interesting! So even adults may learn a thing or two.

Yesterday was The Maths of Practical Life: Temperature. It looked like this:

  • introducing a new educational board game, Qwirkle
  • continuing with math facts, creative writing, and memorizing our poem of the week
  • folding and cutting the paper for our handmade main lesson books (Accordion with Tunnel, page 26)
  • drafting the text for our main lesson books
  • continuing to practice reading the clock and elapsed time problems
  • wet on wet watercolor painting - Little Yellow and Little Blue - soak the paper first for a minute or so, then lay down on your painting board and wipe with a clean sponge to push any air bubbles out - paint along with your child to introduce the painting but stop yours halfway and let him finish his using his own vision - outgoing happy swirling twirling yellow plays in the center of the paper - timid little blue creeps along the edge of the playground and comes closer and closer to little yellow but never quite talks to him - paint a yellow circle in the middle then bring the blue from the edges toward the middle - the blue should stop right before it touches the yellow
  • add today's weather to the weather tree from All Year Round
  • main lesson story inspired by chapter 18 of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
  • follow-up work including Celsius vs. Fahrenheit, reading a thermometer, boiling some water in a kettle to make tea and seeing if it is really 100 degrees (GET AN ALCOHOL THERMOMETER), Thermometer page and science experiments Heat Transfer 1, 2, and 3 from NEED Energy Works curriculum (PDF)

Follow Up Ideas for Homeschool / Home

    more of the science experiments in the NEED packet if you like them
    (just to be clear, we didn't do any lessons on or study of Heat, just used the experiments to practice reading a thermometer)

    there's a nice Thermometer Stamp for $5.50 at Montessori Services

    practice reading the temperature each day at noon when you do your weather tree, writing it on the kitchen calendar

    make sun tea and see how hot the water gets as the jar sits in the sun

    make chocolate pudding, which has to boil in order to "pud"

      Chocolate Pudding

      In medium saucepan combine

      1/2 cup sugar
      1/3 cup baking cocoa
      2 T cornstarch

      Whisk in 2 cups of milk and 1 egg, lightly beaten. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat. Flavor to taste with 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and/or 1/4 tsp almond extract. Serve warm.