Monday, August 29, 2016

Quality of Numbers Three & Four

First let me share what my 6th/7th grade group did with their Extra Lesson time. They don't get a half day on Tuesdays and Thursdays... they have the mornings with me as well. We did the first question in Joan Westley's EXCELLENT Puddle Questions series (I have books from both the Scientific Thinking series and the Mathematical Thinking series). We used the grade 8 Mathematics book. I highly recommend this series for middle school ages.

We also had a ratios mini-lesson featuring Oobleck. I used my Recipes with Wooden Stars technique -- see my previous post to teach the recipe and it worked great. Two red stars and one green. The recipe is two parts cornstarch to one part water. All ingredients at room temperature. Heating it up ruins it. Just mix with a spoon. Precise measuring is key to your success! Oh, this concoction is super-fun and it's great for assessing students' scientific observation. For clean up you MUST use a DRY paper towel. Clean off your hands well with the dry paper towel and throw it in the trash. Scoop the oobleck out of your bowl with a spoon and throw it in the trash. We let our bowls sit outside and get filled with rain by mistake before we washed them and it was easy to wash it. Becca did notice, before it rained, that the stuff outside had dried out and wasn't acting like oobleck any more but if she added water she could revive it. That was a nice review on ratios. If water evaporates out, the proportion isn't kept consistent. Add more water so you get back to that two red stars and one green star... you have oobleck again.

Natalie brought this recipe home from her high school science class. Thank you Natalie! If you haven't tried making oobleck at home, go for it!

We also did some of the math problems and puzzles from Jamie York's book Making Math Meaningful: Fun with Puzzles, Games, and More!. This is a must-purchase if you are teaching middle school or high school math.

Ok, back to my notes about the whole group last Thursday and Friday:

new educational game

Pattern Play - blue

current events from the newspaper: the discovery of a new planet which may be in that "Goldilocks zone" where liquid water is present

setting up and choosing birthday ring ornaments for a birthday celebration!

our beautiful cherry wood birthday ring from Nova Natural

free exploration with clay, leading up to Form Modeling in the future

We work outside, set out a bowl of warm soapy water for people to wash their hands off when they are done, and have plenty of towels available. Happily, we lay down bath towels in the grass when we do yoga, as mats, and so these are all already hung over the railing to dry. Thus we have plenty of towels around for clay as well. I love seeing the mixed ages of our group interacting with one another so sweetly, and snapped this great shot of a seventh grader and a two year old washing clay off their hands together.

Clay is a FANTASTIC thing to have at home. And we had one child who couldn't put it down for over an hour, he was so thrilled! (Early finishers read chapter books or picture books or read to one another. I didn't rush anyone on this free exploration day.)

Don't be intimidated by clay. If you have a large bowl, hot water and dish detergent, a bath towel, an old hand towel or dish towel, dental floss, a plate, and a ziploc bag, you can totally do clay. I would recommend not putting self-hardening clay down your sink because it may clog your drain, but if you're willing to wash off outside it's not hard at all. Cut small pieces off with dental floss (loop the waxed floss around the block, grasp the ends, and pull your hands in opposite directions and it will cut the clay and separate it so easily), cover them with a damp cloth when you're not working directly with them, and then wrap the damp cloth all around the clay and put it in a ziploc bag or other airtight container. Don't let it dry out. That's the key. But if it does, you can wet it again. Kind of like oobleck!

My book on modeling clay forms, by Hella Loewe, is actually available online for free as a downloadable PDF, courtesy of the Online Waldorf Library; find it here.

Basic Sculptural Modeling: Developing the Will by Working with Pure Forms in the First Three Grades

She recommends following clay work with a period of intensive language mental work. Thus we are following clay each Friday with our foreign language offerings, ASL and Spanish, which those parents will be team-teaching, presenting vocabulary in both languages simultaneously. The ASL teacher commented to me that she really appreciated how much the clay had helped the children to warm up their hands!

introduction of the weather tree, another daily classroom routine (green - Science and Nature)

starting a new chapter book to read during snack time, inspired by the interest in one of our students in sharks and fossils!

The Monster Shark's Tooth: Canoeing from the Chesapeake Bay into the Ancient Miocene Sea

This book was written by a scientist with the National Geological Society in Washington DC who happened to be my neighbor in MD. He's Grumpa in the story. I also know that his publisher, another woman in our community, lost all of her copies of the book when a derecho came through and a tree fell on her house and then the rain destroyed the books. So I am GLAD to have my copy!

reading a favorite picture book to finish out the week, just for fun

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

Quality of Numbers:

skip counting, walking and stamping out rhythms, creating quantities with "gems" and looking at patterns

I bought a large quantity of flattened glass marbles and Leah polished up a beautiful sterling silver platter. We love thinking of our gems as belonging to the cranky little dwarf from Snow-White and Rose-Red, so we are always very careful to lay them out quietly, so he won't realize we are borrowing them to do our math work!

adding Roman numeral II to MLB, hearing story for three (The Three Billy Goats Gruff), acting out the story... once it finished raining, adding it to our MLB and the Roman numeral III, lesson in block beeswax crayons and drawing simple animal forms based on the geometric shapes in their bodies, hearing the story for four (The Four Skilful Brothers)

To get just the primary crayons in block beeswax crayon form, I recommend A Small Green Footprint. They sell each crayon for $1.65 and will let you get the primary colors without getting a whole tin of the others.

The Story of Geometry:

add The Secrets of the Stone Age to MLB, hear Reading the Shadows, place a brick at the end of a tree shadow at 3 pm on August 25th (will check at 3 pm on September 25th to see if the shadow's end falls in the same place), add chapter to MLB, hear The Rope-Stretchers about geometric discoveries in Ancient Egypt of the easiest way to form a perfect right angle triangle and the invention of the level

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!