Thursday, May 31, 2007

Parts of a Plant

We had been planning to use this week on our Soil Study, but we ended up spending extra time on Parts of a Plant. This is partly because I don't have the money for worm bin supplies this week and partly because it seemed natural to expand on the topic since the kids were still making comments about it. I had someone tell me once that I was "Waldorf-inspired with an unschooling bent" which I think she meant as an insult but which didn't really bother me. At least for the under 7 years, I think that doing things that you and your kids find interesting is the way to go. Anyway, we've been happily finding the seeds inside different kinds of fruit (dates, watermelon, etc). Steve was joking with me at snack time:

"If you give the children a date, you'll have to cut it open."

"If you cut it open, you'll have to show them the seed inside."

"If you show them the seed inside, they're going to want to plant it."

And so on... :-)


Anyway, we have a little pile of seeds we want to plant, including apple, lemon, and date. I know there was another one we looked at but I can't think of it now. Examining seeds is a nice way to bring the plant life cycle full circle, since it puts you back at the beginning.

We have been spending a little time on Mud. Out of the most recent spat of library books, one of the most popular was Mud For Sale. In fact, we had people over for Memorial Day and my friend Laura asked Leah, what do you do with mud? And she said, you put it all over your body. Poor Laura looked taken aback -- little did she know this was part of the plot of the book. Besides making mud pies and so on, I gave the kids their bin of cornmeal back (20 pounds of blue cornmeal, three wooden spoons, and a flour sifter) to explore. I thought that they might articulate some comparisons between having your hands in cornmeal and having your hands in dirt but I didn't hear any conversation along those lines.

This week's field trip is Children's Day on the Farm. Steve is taking them on Sunday. My job is to research the worm bin thing so we can try it for next week. Then we (meaning I) have to make the decision about starting another theme or just hanging out and relaxing over the summer.

By the way, I found a game to go along with our Plants unit. It is the Balancing Cactus from Plan Toys.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Poison Ivy

Well, our Plants unit has momentarily taken a different direction than I expected!

Yesterday the kids were outside playing in the yard for quite a long time (happily planting and watering seeds for four o'clocks -- since I wasn't able to find any of my plant list at the nursery -- and then making mud pies). I was busy thinking what a super mom I am to let my kids play in the mud for hours and then this morning TA DA! Leah had broken out all over in poison ivy. I used to get poison ivy all the time as a kid and so it was no big deal to treat it. Now the kids know not to head over to the part of the woods where the poison ivy is, and I know that we have poison ivy in the yard, so we're all winners. [wry grin] It was no big deal, really, but sort of funny to me that it happened during our Plants unit. :-)

Our actual Plants theme for this week is supposed to be the parts of a plant that we eat (which ends up being all the parts of the plant, and so it is a good review of plant parts as well as the process by which a seed grows). 5 days in a week is perfect for this. Seeds on Day One. You can eat sunflower seeds, almonds or other nuts, or pop popcorn. Then we had a Root day. Roots are carrots, turnips, radishes, and so on. You can also do potatoes and sweet potatoes. Leaves is super easy -- cabbage, kale, spinach, lettuce, all kinds of salad greens. Also herbs. Natalie and I just made a Triple-Herb Cucumber Soup and the plant materials in it were scallion, serrano chile, cucumber, dill, tarragon and chive. After Leaves we did Flowers. This isn't as hard as it sounds... there are edible flowers (like violets and nasturtiums). You also get to eat broccoli and cauliflower on this day. Fruit is the last day and the best! Our field trip, which will be tomorrow, is to go pick strawberries. Yummy.

Next week is the final week of this unit and I want to do a Soil focus, with lots of digging in the dirt (hurrah!) and start our worm bin.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tips & Tricks

So we have now officially begun our "Plants" study. Wednesday we started with some outside play time, opened up papaya fruits to discover the seeds at lunchtime, and Steve came home early from work to take the kids down to a bamboo patch and gather poles for our vine-covered tent. I told him that I thought 5 foot poles (what Sharon Lovejoy recommends in her book) would be too short and that I wanted the tent to fit all three children standing up. So he brought me 20 foot pieces, thinking I could cut them to the size I wanted. I missed that memo and erected it "as is" so now it is taller than our second-story master bedroom windows! Should be a marvelous tent, though!!!

For my part, I went out that evening to buy night-blooming plants with absolutely NO luck so I came home with a bunch of pure white flowers which I thought would lend a nice effect around the tent in the evenings. We'll also be planting our tomato plants there, simply because of the fact that I can't keep two parts of the yard weed-free at a time. I have tomato spirals but I may just plant them near the tent posts so they can climb and twine at their leisure.

Thursday was the tent-erecting day. Now, for some tips & tricks. First, don't quadruple the length of the tent poles and then think you can raise it up by yourself (especially when the directions for the 5 foot poles say to use more than one person). Second, learn how to tie knots BEFORE erecting the tent. I had to grab all the poles when my first knot fell apart and try to direct them to fall away from the children. I managed a controlled fall and no one got hurt but it freaked them out a bit and I hurt my arm in the process. Third, when soaking your morning glory and moonflower seeds overnight in water to soften their outer layer, do it in a plastic storage container or something else with a lid, so your cats don't slyly get up on the counter and drink up all the water. Fourth, it helps a lot if your tent is being erected on flat ground. It is much harder to get it stable if it is leaning to one side. We waited a while before tying our ropes (for the vines to climb on) in case the whole thing was going to fall over. So far, so good though. I'll take photos when I can and add them here. And, fifth, if you are going to need specific plants for a garden, don't just head out to Wal-Mart the night before thinking you are going to find them. Either research a nursery which has them in advance, or just start them from seed.

Friday Steve and the children planted the seeds at the base of each pole. I did nothing. Hurrah! It's nice to have him more involved, and this is a good hands-on manly project. :-)

Saturday was our field trip day and I chose to take the children to Eastern Woodland Indian Village Day at Jefferson Patterson Park. (This section of the park stems from, I think, the archaelogical sites present there. At least, I know they excavate Native American artifacts and do research on them -- I'm just not sure if the village is being erected on an exact historical location). We saw wigwams and longhouses under construction, where you can clearly see that they are built of saplings bent into the desired shape and tied together with thin strips of bark. Then we saw a completed wigwam with a bark roof (completely covering the top and sides except for the smoke hole directly above the central fire pit) and a fire inside. Then we went to the workhouse and the children helped to make sleeping mats of cattail grasses tied together with twine. The teacher showed Natalie the cattail "flower" (the hot dog looking thing at the top) and I learned that it is made up of all the seeds! If you run your fingernail down it, the whole thing comes apart and each little seed will fly away. Just like a dandelion. She worked assiduously on this task for about 20 minutes and eliminated the entire flower. He was pretty surprised that she stuck to it. Leah, our climber, ran around leaping off of log benches and Rebecca, our budding geologist, discovered pieces of charcoal in the (cooled) fire pits and promptly went to work drawing on whatever she could find. So our plant related learning was 1) people can build houses out of wood, 2) people can use tree bark to make their roofs, 3) thin pieces of bark can be used as rope, 4) cattails and other grasses can be used to make sleeping mats, 5) cattails have seeds too -- what they look like, where they are located, and how they travel, and 6) when you burn wood sometimes you get charcoal and you can draw with it.

In case you're wondering, yes, removing the bark does kill the tree. They have to do it, though, because if you use found bark on the ground it is not in long enough and wide enough pieces. The living history folks visit construction sites where trees are already being cut down and get permission to remove bark first, so that trees are not killed needlessly. They can also use bark off of freshly fallen trees in the park. You can only remove it during a certain season, though: spring through early summer (basically when the bark is growing). Otherwise, it sticks and does not come off.

The children were photographed and interviewed by reporters from both local papers (the Calvert Independent and the Calvert Recorder) since we were one of the only families there. So maybe we'll get our picture in the paper! This afternoon we are going to the Strawberry Festival held by our church. I guess this week you can say our Plants theme was focused on "What do we get from plants?" in terms of fruits and vegetables, as well as uses for leaves, bark, and wood. Next week we can watch our seedling vines sprout, hopefully, and enjoy seeing them grow. We have planted and grown so many different kinds of seeds in the past few years that I'm not sure we need to spend a tremendous amount of time on this. In fact, we went to a Nature program a while ago where you grow a White Pine Tree from seed... amazing! and one of our seeds actually sprouted last week. It looks like a tiny 1 1/2 inch tall green whisk sticking up out of the ground. Adorable.

Anyway, I'm thinking we'll keep the theme light, since it is really just review for Natalie and Leah, and hands-on exploration without explanation for Rebecca. The theme work which Gini Newcomb suggests for this unit, in case you are interested, is the following:

  • Plant & Animal Classification

  • Parts of a Plant

  • Earthworm Ranch

  • Parts of a Worm

  • Parts of a Seed

  • Seed Sorting

  • Seed Matching and Labeling

  • Diagram of the Garden

  • Garden Tool Cards

  • Planting Seeds

  • Garden Signs

  • Seed Packet Matching

  • Root View Farm

  • Above Ground & Below Ground Vegetables

  • Plant Life Cycle Cards

  • Plant a Sunflower House

  • Matching Fruit and Seeds

  • Fruit & Vegetable Classification

  • Flower Seed Packet Matching

  • Match Fruit and Tree

  • Leaf Field Book

  • Tree and Leaf Matching Cards

  • Leaf Press

  • Parts of a Leaf

  • Tree Labeling

  • Count Tree Rings

  • Needles & Leaves

  • Seasons of a Tree


Obviously, this is a lot more academic than a Waldorf kindergarten would do this theme (she's Montessori). Out of all this, we might do the vermicomposting. I've always wanted a worm bin. It might be nice to go the Paint 'n' Pottery place and make some garden signs too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Popcorn!

I have a little sheet of paper that was included with our popcorn share last year from Clagett Farm. I have been keeping it in my kitchen drawer. However, now I will transcribe it here so that 1) it does not get lost, and 2) other people can enjoy the information.


Popcorn!

These little ears aren't just decorative -- they're delicous! We harvested this popcorn last fall, and now it's finally dry enough to pop. Fresh popcorn is full of moisture, and it needs to dry substantially (to 13% moisture, to be precise) before it has just the right water content to pop.

Using the microwave: Did you know you can pop the kernals right off the ear? First, remove the papery husk. For tidiness, put the ear or loose kernals in a paper bag. Or for amusement, leave the popcorn out of the bag and watch it pop. Then follow the same procedure that you would for commercial popcorn -- cook the popcorn on high until you hear the popping slow down to a few seconds between pops.

Using the stove top: Unfortunately, I haven't found a way to pop the kernals off the ear using the stove. You can easily rub the kernals off by pushing with your thumbs, beginning at the tip and working your way to the other end. Cover the bottom of a wok, dutch oven or some other heavy, lidded pot with a good amount of oil (my family used to use 1/4 cup oil and a 1/4 cup popcorn). Heat the oil until a few test kernals pop. Then add the rest of your popcorn and shake vigorously while it's popping. Remove it from heat when you hear the popping slow down to one pop every couple seconds.

In general, don't season the popcorn with your butter, salt, parmesan, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, etc. until it's popped.

If you have a little time and curiosily, we recommend the Jolly Time popcorn website. They have a great review of the science of popping corn that's interesting and kid-friendly.

Clagett Farm

Today was the first day of our new unit, Plants, and -- fortuitously -- this was also the first day of our CSA farm pickup for this year. Hurrah! We love supporting Clagett Farm. Today they gave us two tomato plants, a Swiss chard plant (Bright Lights), a bag of popcorn, radishes, baby bok choy, and asparagus. There were several other vegetables we could have taken but I don't usually take a full share because my family rejects some things. Thinking about this now, I should probably find another family to split my share with. It's pretty expensive up front ($405 for the season) but we think it's worth the money because you definitely get more than $15 a week worth of produce, even not taking all that is offered, and school-wise it's great for us to have a farm to call our own, walk around on, visit weekly. Plus they have lots of pick-your-own stuff throughout the growing season (we get shares from May through November) which are completely free if you're a member. Last year we had so much fun picking strawberries, walking through the sunflower patch... not to mention the enormous fields of pick-your-own heirloom tomatoes... yummy!

In the morning we got things started for our big project I have planned for this unit: the Moon Garden from Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children by Sharon Lovejoy. We laid out the space where our garden will go and tomorrow Steve is going to take the children to gather five 6 foot long bamboo posts for the central tent. I will be heading out to buy the plants. The plants she suggests for this garden are jasmine tobacco, evening primrose, four-o'clocks, evening-scented stock, white alyssum, white petunias, white yarrow, and moonflowers. I already have the moonflower seeds but I need to buy the rest.

This morning I also showed the kids our renegade patch of sunflower seedlings which sprung up. This is because my brilliant idea to attract birds to our yard (the house was vacant for a while before we moved in, and there were no flowering or berrying plants of any kind to attract wildlife) was to shower the ground with about 40 pounds of birdseed over the course of the winter. We got plenty of birds, but it didn't really occur to me that they are seeds and might actually sprout! It will be fun to see what kinds of sunflowers come up -- naturally, there was no photo of the flowers on the package. I know only that they were labelled white sunflower seeds and that cardinals love 'em.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pictures

I've added two new Photo albums to the Group, one for the Asia table and one for Little Bo Peep.


Mount Vernon

Today I am taking down my beautiful Little Bo Peep mobile and putting away Pelle's New Suit, our basket of wool, and the hand carders... tomorrow is a new unit! We had a marvelous time in our week of wool study. I got to almost everything I had wanted to do, miraculously. Didn't demonstrate spinning wool into yarn or complete a weaving project with wool yarn. But we did the rest of it: the Pelle's New Suit circle play, the field trip to Mount Vernon to see the sheep shearing, a wet felting project. Mount Vernon worked out well.. after I found the place! They used to have good signage for it as soon as you got over the bridge from MD to VA but the bridge was torn down and replaced with a new one and I guess they haven't gotten to signposting the new bridge properly. So I am writing the directions here, so that I have it for next time: go over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Take first exit in VA which is Route 1. Head for Alexandria, not Fort Belvoir. Turn right at first light onto Franklin Street. Turn right on Washington. Follow signs to Mount Vernon. When leaving, take 495E/95N to get home.

At Mount Vernon we first hit the visitor's center so I could get my photo taken for my annual pass ($18 vs. $13 for a daily pass). Kids were free. They had a wonderful furnished dollhouse-size replica of Mount Vernon which Natalie looked at, also full size bronze statues of old George, Martha, and their grandchildren Nellie and Washy which they raised as their own. Then we headed out of the building, walked past the mansion but didn't go in (we'll do it when the kids are older) and headed for Washington's farm exhibits. He was big into agricultural experiments, actually. We saw his Seed Beds (why buy seeds when you can grow your own?), the pig pen complete with a passel of piglets resting in the sun, a mule, a horse (blind in one eye), two cows (or oxen, I'm not sure) and then we went to his Tomb. Now that's not something I would have gone to, but Natalie really was curious what was up the little path so we trotted up. She wanted to know who had died so I told her George Washington... she looked for a while, and then came back to me and whispered "He's not there". So I had to explain that he was buried and we had a little talk about dying -- not something that I had planned for the day but what can you do. She wanted to know why he had died, not being familiar with the idea that people can die of old age. She is lucky enough to still have all four of her great-grandparents from my side of the family and the ones on Steve's side died way before she was born, so she never even knew about them. So after her questions ("He didn't like his number?" -- that one made me laugh) we walked down the road to the Wharf. The mansion was built on a river, naturally. Don't ask me which though, although I should know, having gone over it on a big bridge...

Then we ground corn into cornmeal in an old mortar and pestle and sieved it through a piece of mesh. The pieces which were fine enough fell down into the trough and the pieces which were too large went back to be ground again. Then the sheep. The kids had a good time, I think, but they didn't want to stay and watch the shearing for too long. We headed for the barn where Washington threshed his wheat. This is actually a really cool design, which he invented. The barn is built on a hill and the top level you walk right into although it's quite high up (like an attic) and the bottom level you access by going around to the bottom of the hill and walking in. The top level is built of slats of wood with spaces between them, like a grate over a drain. The entire thing is a circular shape. So you lay your wheat down on the slats, harness up a team of horses, and walk them around and around in a circle. The little grains of wheat fall down in the cracks to the bottom level and the parts of the wheat that you don't want (called the chaff) you just sweep away. Slaves also used a hand-cranked fan down at the lower level to blow off any remaining pieces of chaff from the wheat. It is a nifty design. Then we took the Forest Path up to the cafeteria, ate, shopped a bit (I like to get a few linen dishtowels each time we go) and headed home. All in all, a very successful day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Beautiful Branches

Today was a wonderful day... we didn't get to teasing wool but that's fine, we can do it tomorrow. When the children woke up from their naps, we made Southern Spiced Pecans (recipe follows). Then while the pecans were in the oven, I did the Little Bo Peep puppetry (which went super-well) and then we packed up our still-warm pecans and headed back to Jefferson Patterson Park for a picnic snack. After snack we went to the ballfield and the children ran around while I talked to a local art teacher who was there walking his dog, and who asked me if I would like to teach a felting class at Annmarie Garden!

I took a series of pictures of Bo Peep being made, as well as the final mobile, and will post them if I can figure out how to get them off my husband's camera. She is a smallish figure, dressed in yellow (sanguine) with a light blue bonnet. There are five sheep which I made simply of rolled bundles of wool batting, lightly needled. Complete materials list: two pipe cleaners, natural-colored wool batting, dyed wool batting for clothing (yellow and light blue), dyed wool roving for hair (light brown), one felting needle, one large kitchen sponge, a sewing needle, scissors, white thread, a beautiful branch. Total time: 1 1/2 hours for Little Bo-Peep, 30 minutes to make five sheep. Where do you find beautiful branches? Check the florist. I used a decorative branch which came in some flower arrangement I got a while ago. I loved the shape of the branch so I kept it. It's nice to know that some of the things which lie around on my office floor get used! Judging by the internet research I did, I think it is a Manzanita branch -- check out some of your decorative branch options at Nettleton Hollow. I laid my green embroidered silk scarf down over the top of a dresser and hung the mobile above.

By the way, I found out why I missed the Sheep and Wool Festival. It's because I was at the wrong place (duh). It's at the Howard County Fairgrounds, not the Maryland State Fairgrounds. Remember that for next year....

Here's the pecan recipe. The kids loved 'em.

Southern Spiced Pecans

1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups pecan halves
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

In a large skillet, melt butter. Add the cumin and cayenne; cook and stir for 1 minute. Remove from the heat; stir in the pecans, sugar and salt until well coated. Spread in a single layer in a greased 15 x 10 baking pan.

Bake at 300 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Cool. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 3 cups

Little Bo Peep


Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
And can't tell where to find them.
Leave them alone, And they'll come home,
Wagging their tails behind them


Why is this verse on the top of my mind? Just as Little Bo Peep lost her sheep, so did I lose mine... well, they weren't my sheep exactly, just the ones I had been hoping to see at the Sheep and Wool Festival. That's right, folks, the Festival was a no-go. I showed up and it was not there. According to the Fairgrounds Police, it was the previous weekend. Ha! So I was not a little disappointed. But life goes on and I am bravely carrying on with Sheep Week. We will go to the sheep shearing at Mount Vernon this Saturday instead for our family field trip.

I have come up with a new homeschool schedule (which will not surprise anyone who knows me) and the current version is this: The school week will run from Tuesday through Saturday, so that we can do the field trips as a family. Sunday is church and a day of rest. Monday is Housecleaning Day. That means all the laundry, scrubbing the kitchen floor, and so on. Gets you off to a good foot for the week! We had a very busy Housecleaning Day yesterday and now today are ready for our Sheep "unit." The other portion of the schedule has to do with the time of day we do school. Previously, I got up in the morning and tried to do school first thing with Natalie while her sisters played upstairs. This didn't work very well for two reasons. I never got breakfast, so I was prone to be cranky, and Natalie didn't get her running around and playing outside time until the afternoon, which doesn't work out at all! Morning is unquestionably better (they are more likely to sleep for naps, plus it is not so hot and the sun is not directly overhead first thing in the morning). I had planned things that way because I was thinking about the first grade daily schedule which is Head/Heart/Hands and Head always comes first thing in the morning when they are fresh and most able to learn. But, of course, the Kindy crew wakes up in the morning fresh and ready to play! Lots of will-directed activity is what they need, not sitting still for stories and handwork projects. So I have changed my mind and now our plan is breakfast, outside play time, lunch, naps, snack, school (3:30 pm), inside play time, dinner, bedtime. I'll keep you posted on how this new agenda works out.

This morning we went to Jefferson Patterson Park for our morning playtime. In the afternoon, the plan is to do Little Bo Peep as a puppet show and then give the children handfuls of clean raw wool to card and/or tease into great fluffy piles (see more on this in Toymaking with Children). For the puppet show, I am using Making Magical Fairy-Tale Puppets by Christel Dhom. I will make a Little Bo Peep with a thread on top of her head for hanging, and a cluster of 4 or 5 little sheep hanging from a branch to form a mobile, like she shows. Little Bo Peep will be in my right hand, searching all around for her sheep (see my notes from Suzanne Down's workshops -- posted to the Yahoo Group -- for more on puppetry with dry wool figures as well as how to tell nursery rhymes) and then the sheep will be in my left hand. I have a lovely green silk scarf with embroidered flowers to put over my lap. Then Little Bo Peep can be added to the mobile with the loop on her head to hang over the school table for the children to see. I love dry felting... and I should have plenty of time during the childrens' naps to make the figures and prepare for school (this is the other great benefit of doing it in the afternoon).



Friday, May 4, 2007

Sheep Week

I've decided to do a one week Sheep unit for school; this will be next week, and then we'll spend the remainder of the month of May on Plants. (This is a switch from what our curriculum calls for, which is 3 weeks of Plants and then 1 final week on Africa. I'm not adverse to studying Africa, but I think it is too much after just doing Asia, I'd like to keep things closer to home and more concrete.) We haven't done any felting in a while so this will be an excuse to get back into it. I've even heard of some people felting with their feet -- which I'd love to try! My youngest two children have never felted at all, this will be their first time. So we will do this topic for combined Kindergarten and Preschool. Hooray for Sheep Week! I bought some bamboo stick placemats for wet felting and tomorrow I will buy some roving... I also have dry felting supplies (although Suzanne Down doesn't recommend needle felting with kids this young, so that will just be for me) and I plan to make some of the wool pictures that are in Magic Wool. I'd love to start with Rumplestiltskin (this is the one that is on the cover). Give me a piece of burlap and I'm ready to get started!






In addition to being really excited about the festival tomorrow, and all things sheep-related, I want to share a recipe that we made yesterday that was a big hit with my kids. Don't be scared by the words Spinach and Tofu in the title... they scarfed it down! Not only was it tasty (and easy), but it's very kid-friendly to make, especially the parts where you get to mash your block of tofu with a fork, and where you put your hands in to mix it all up and form little balls.

Here's the recipe:

Tofu-Spinach Balls

6 oz fresh spinach
1 c. unsalted matzo meal
12.3 oz pkg very firm tofu, drained and mashed
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cook spinach (wash, add to a medium saucepan with water still clinging to leaves, and cook over medium heat, stirring often) and drain well.

In a large bowl, combine spinach with remaining ingredients and mix well. Then shape into 2 inch balls, place on baking sheet (ours took only one baking sheet, in a 4 x 6 array) and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Yield: 2 dozen

NOTE: Balls may be prepared in advance and frozen unbaked. When ready to use, thaw for 10 to 15 minutes and then bake as indicated.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

MD Sheep and Wool Festival

Saturday I am going to the 34th Annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I am very excited about this! They hold it the first weekend in May, which is also when the Kentucky Derby is always run. Now, my family has been huge fans of the Triple Crown ever since I can remember and we would always gather for the Derby that weekend... then the following Monday morning EVERY YEAR I would Google "sheep shearing" so that I could take the kids to see it and realize I had missed the festival! Aargh! I'm determined to go to the festival this year, though, no matter what.

The classic Waldorf sheep shearing book is, of course, Pelle's New Suit by Elsa Beskow. However, you may not know that there is also a new Pelle's New Suit circletime play composed by Nancy Blanning -- this may be found in Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures: Movement Enrichment with a Therapeutic Approach for Early Childhood by Nancy Blanning and Laurie Clark. This is a new book that just came out and it is very very good, especially if you're a new homeschooling parent looking for circle time movement and stories and don't know how to put it all together. This book spells it out step-by-step just like a dream. The Pelle's New Suit is in the Springtime circle chapter and includes songs to sing (Pelle's Song, Washerwoman's Song, Sarasponda, and Little Lamb) as well as verses, dialogue, and all corresponding movements.


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Mr. Toad Goes Free

Late Sunday evening Natalie and I came back from our weekend homeschool conference at Taproot Farm in Ohio (the conference was hosted by Barbara Dewey). We had a really enjoyable Family Science and Art Weekend. There were two other little girls there Natalie's age and she got to run around outside, pick violets, play in the sandbox, and swing on the tire swing. Our three workshops were Drawing and Painting Nature, Bread Science, and Household Physics. Natalie was very conscious of fairness and made sure we did one with each of the teachers. :-) We also got to see baby chicks hatch and had a campfire Saturday evening where one of the groups of children launched their hot air balloons. All in all it was a wonderful time.

Monday I discovered that Guiseppe our toad had been hiding in his toad house nearly 24x7 and so I made the decision to set him free. My last toad, Danny, was perfectly happy to romp around in full view of people but apparently this one was becoming depressed. So I sat the children down after breakfast and told them this story about Farmer Brown's boy catching Old Mr. Toad and taking him to his house and putting him in a cage. And Farmer Brown's boy had thought it would be so much fun to have the toad and watch him and play with him but Old Mr. Toad was very unhappy and spent all his time hiding in his house and never came out because he was sad. And so Farmer Brown's boy thought and thought, what should he do? And I stopped there. And Natalie said, he should put the toad back outside, and all three children leapt up from the sofa and ran to the bathroom to get the toad. We were all happy to set him free.

That concluded Frog and Toad, with Natalie getting the last few chapters of The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad for her bedtime that evening.

Tuesday our book for the Asia unit was Red Dragonfly on My Shoulder, which is a book of haiku, gracefully translated and illustrated with whimsical collages by Molly Bang. Natalie really liked it. Today our book/lesson will be Basho and the River Stones, a new FAVORITE book of mine which we found quite by chance at the library. Wonderful text & stunning illustrations. (I was able to buy a copy of it with some of my Amazon Associates earnings, so everyone who clicks through on the links on my website to shop -- thank you! I really appreciate it.) I won't give away what happens with a review, but let me just say that if you get this book you won't be disappointed! It also deals with Japanese culture. Our countries this week are Japan and India so it is time to start up yoga again (which originated in India). This will be a very light week, I think it will be haiku, Japanese stories, and learning some yoga and that's it. Next week is the first full week in May and we'll begin our next theme which is Plants.