Thursday, December 13, 2018

Santa Lucia Day Celebration ECE

A few notes from our week of festivities, leading up to the Santa Lucia Day celebration on Thursday!

We continued with our Songs, Verses & Movement for classroom routines.

Circle Time


  • Advent Spiral invitations
  • "Whole Barley and Mixed Fruit Pudding" recipe
    from Rodale's Basic Natural Foods Cookbook, page 298
  • "December" poem and illustration & "January" illustration
    from Around the Year by Elsa Beskow
  • "Jingle Bells" and "Round and Round" songs

You can read this barley pudding recipe on Amazon if you click on "Look Inside" and type the name of the recipe in the search box. It was delicious!

We had two upcoming events to get ready for, the Advent Spiral next week and Santa Lucia Day this week. Reading the poem and looking at the illustrations in Elsa Beskow's book helped us begin to understand how Santa Lucia Day is celebrated in Sweden, and practicing our songs and making our parent invitations for the Advent Spiral helped us begin to lay the foundation for that family event. The sheet music for "Round and Round" is found in Seven Times the Sun and the song is track 36 on the CD.


All of the boys are very excited to be Star Boys for Santa Lucia Day! The hat and wand making was serious business and I met with the children one at a time. I used a piece of 11 x 17 white paper for each hat and simply wrapped it into a cone, fitting it individually to each boy. Once I had the measurement correct, I taped up the seam with clear tape. Then we used glue dots to adhere the smaller stars up the seam. Glue dots are awesome because they are pre-measured. They are neat, precise, and you don't have to wait for them to dry. They are instant and permanent. I used three small stars for each hat. For the wand, I taped a 12 inch bamboo dowel (the ones we use for making knitting needles in first grade) to the backside of one very large star, then put a glue dot on each point of the star. I laid the other matching sized star on top and pressed each point to adhere. The boys each went running to the mirror to see themselves when the pieces were complete.

I bought two sizes of star punch for making Mary's path of stars for our Nativity scene this year, since I knew it would be a lot of stars, but for the Star Boy hats and wands I just traced two different sizes of star cookie cutters from my Christmas cookie collection. It worked out perfectly! I got "Pyrite Metallic" paper from Hobby Lobby. I did write each child's initials in the finished hats and on the finished wands, and I made sure the stars for the wand lined up and wrote the initials on the backside of the stars at the point which I wanted to line up. I wrote initials on the three little stars for each hat too, even though lining up points isn't an issue there. I just thought it would make things go more smoothly on the morning of assembly. It did!

After snack I showed the children some traditional wheat straw and red thread ornaments. I even had a "Kirsten" American Girl Doll straw ornament making kit (which someone gave me when my girls were small) and we got it out so that they could see the straws and the wheat. We made much simpler Pine Cone Weaving ornaments, but we did also use the color red.


  • "Jingle Bells" and "Round and Round" songs
  • "Santa Lucia" story by Tiziana Boccaletti
  • Santa Lucia Sweet Rolls recipe

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

sweet potato

The beautiful handmade felt Santa Lucia crown I purchased on Etsy didn't arrive in time so we had to create one out of artificial ivy. It was still lovely, though. Here is the simplest-ever recipe for sweet buns, which I got from Becca's Kindergarten teacher years ago. In the hustle of fashioning a replacement crown, I didn't remember to glaze the buns. I had the children help shape them, giving them each a piece of the dough on a piece of parchment paper, and showing them how to make the traditional swirly shape. We placed dried cranberries in each curl of the "S" before baking.


    You will need: 5 cups of Bisquick, 2 eggs, 6 T grapeseed oil, 3/4 cup + 5 tsp milk, 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

    Directions: Combine the Bisquick, eggs, grapeseed oil, and 3/4 cup milk in the order given, stirring after each addition. Divide the dough so that each child has a piece. Ask the children to shape the dough into 8 inch long rolls and curls the ends to form an "S" shape, as shown. Add raisins or dried cranberries for decoration if you wish.

    Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.

    While they are baking, prepare a frosting by combining the powdered sugar with 5 teaspoons milk. While the rolls are still warm from the oven, brush with the frosting.

our Advent Spiral invitations
the children drew a snowy scene on the front with white crayon
the white border of the invitation details, on a paper which I printed and glued inside, shows through the punched stars

gathering supplies

taping the wand dowel securely onto the star
labeling the points where the stars need to line up

putting a glue dot on each point

Star Boy hat!

the oldest girl is Santa Lucia

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Finishing Up Measurement

Our older homeschool group has now flowed into play writing and a study of improv, but we still used some of our classroom time last week to work on Measurement. It's such a fun topic... the kids weren't quite ready to let go.

Estimation Wall

We used last week to complete our Measurement main lesson books with numbered pages, tables of contents, and front and back covers.

We also continued with the Estimation Wall. On Monday we did a small bottle of bubble stuff (121 grams). That was very interesting because the front of the bottle had a metric measurement on it (milliliters) but of course we needed to know mass, not capacity. On Tuesday we did two items with similar volumes, a cotton ball (1 gram) and a large marshmallow (6 grams). On Thursday we did a stapler (438 grams).

Here is the Final List of Estimation Wall Items in order of mass (which is why sticky notes on the chalkboard are helpful... you can move them around):

    stapler - 438 grams

    red onion - 346 grams

    bubble stuff - 121 grams

    lemon - 75 grams

    chalkboard eraser - 45 grams

    large marshmallow - 6 grams

    poker chip - 3 grams

    cotton ball - 1 gram

Again, we left all of the sticky notes up throughout, to help them have more information and fine-tune their estimates.

On Friday we flipped the estimation activity around a bit. Instead of me producing an item and asking them to estimate the mass, I gave them an amount in grams and they had to try to measure that amount and then check their guess for accuracy. It was 60 grams of sugar. I went first, so that we could have a number to get us going. I fell far short, with an amount of 25 grams. We measured the sugar into a clear plastic cup (13 grams) with a spoon and we were able to add more sugar or take some out, before being happy with the quantity and pouring it onto the kitchen scale. We sat in a circle and went all around the circle, watching each quantity measured. The last two people, of course, had the most experience with watching incorrect guesses and they were both able to estimate fairly precisely, coming up with 61 grams of sugar! This activity went with the Rainbow Density Experiment.

Science Experiments

If you're interested in a few fun at-home science experiments to follow up on this, here are two I recommend:

Rainbow Density Experiment
The Rainbow Density Experiment (PDF, print pages 6-7) uses four different solutions of sugar and water, plus food coloring. It is very easy to do at home. The measurements are given in both metric and imperial. I tried this one and it worked beautifully! The most dense sugar-water solution (60 grams of sugar in 3 tablespoons of water) layered on the bottom, with each successively less dense solution layering nicely on top. Since the children know that density is the relationship of mass to volume, and they can see that they are changing the mass of the sugar each time while keeping the same volume of water, they can easily understand this experiment. Revisiting the Galileo thermometer discusssion is helpful here too.

Snowball Launcher: Testing Newton's Second Law of Motion
The experiment which goes with Tuesday's items (the cotton ball and the large marshmallow) also has to do with the relationship of mass to volume. These two items are about the same size but they have very different masses. Snowball Launcher: Testing Newton's Second Law of Motion is a fun activity to explore how far they would go with the same force applied to them. The worksheet (this item is FREE on TpT) is meant to follow up on a Physics lesson, so it talks about formulas a bit (Newton's second law is F=ma) but you could skip that part and just do the activity and observe the results and leave them for your child to think about. You need tape, an old file folder, and a meter stick, plus the cotton ball and large marshmallow. Also easy to do at home!

Structured Word Inquiry

We also talked about measurement in SWI on Friday, looking at the prefixes on the metric stair. This was a very interesting discussion. It turns out that the steps up from the base unit (x10 deka, x100 hecto, x1000 kilo) all come from Greek and the steps down from the base unit (1/10 deci, 1/100 centi, 1/1000 milli) all come from Latin. We also discovered that the base units (liter, meter, gram) are very old words which come to us from both Greek and Latin! We had a great conversation about other words where we see those same prefixes, and what they mean. Words written in the lower left hand corner of the board are ones we were not sure about. I welcome your thoughts about other words to add to these lists!

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.

Becca helps Zac when his thread comes out of his needle

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


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