Thursday, February 28, 2008

Peter and the Wolf

This week has been engulfed by errands (doctor and dentist appts. for Leah, car repairs, haircuts, and so on) and preparations for Natalie's birthday party on Sunday so we are officially taking a break from school this week. However, Natalie is studying Russia at Tidewater and so she has been bringing a lot of it home; for example, teaching her sisters to polka, which was cute to see. She's been painting onion domes and sewing matrushka dolls out of felt at school. Peter and the Wolf is the big obsession and she and her two younger sisters are constantly acting it out. Rebecca chooses to be the Grandfather most of the time and I think it's because all the parts about the wolf make her a little nervous. She likes to go behind the gate and close it and feel safe. But the other two love to be Peter, the Wolf, the Duck, and the Little Bird and always want me in on the game as well. Cat isn't popular, I don't know why. Maybe they just don't like the clarinet. :-) Natalie made a series of puppets for the characters at school and brought them home, which is how the whole thing got started. We read (of course) Peter and the Wolf -- I have the version trans. by Maria Carlson as does Natalie's teacher -- last night and then today we are listening to it in the car. I have several narrated versions including the one by Dame Edna which is a hoot.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Baking and So On and So Forth

Today we made Sun-Dried Tomato and Cheese Focaccia from a boxed mix. It was actually pretty good and went well with the lentil soup we had for dinner.

Leah fell off a dining room chair today and her front lip is all swollen and her front gums were bleeding quite a lot, although the ice stopped it quickly, and began to bleed again when she brushed her teeth tonight so we have to take her to the dentist tomorrow to check her gums and teeth. She says her teeth ache. Some of the things I have planned for next week are throwing and catching, balance beam work, acting out a story with dress up costumes, reading The Wiggler and making butter, talking about the dairy farm we have visited in Connecticut and making play dough. I also want to talk about insects and other creepy crawlies starting to wake up with the warm weather because the children have been noticing that some days there are flies buzzing around. I found a fantastic new book about the life cycle of a spider (basically like reading Charlotte's Web but without all the stuff about pigs in it) :-) which is called Once I Knew a Spider. I can't wait to share it with the children especially since it talks about the human life cycle and you can compare them side by side. It really is a beautiful book. The weather is warming up so we can take more Nature walks now. Plus we have that wasp's nest in our Bird Nest Box which we can observe. I wonder if they all died or are just hibernating? It will be fascinating to see.

Todder Program

I am soooo excited because I just went to Bob & Nancy's Bookshop and found out that the final book in Irmgard Kutsch & Brigitte Walden's series of seasonal activity books for children has been translated into English. I ordered Summer and can't wait for it to arrive! I've been hired to help develop a todder program (2-3 year olds) and want to make it very verb-based and these books will form the backbone of my curriculum. If you have a family with young children I highly recommend them. Here is what is included in the Summer volume (as you can see, it is organized by month, so if you have all four books you just look at the calendar, grab the appropriate book, and boom! you're ready for lesson planning):


Working with Herbs

* The Herb Garden
* Raised Beds for Herbs
* Working with Herbs: Basic Skills
* Herb Recipes

Breeding Butterflies

* Butterflies: a Symbol of Beauty
* Looking after Caterpillars
* A Butterfly's Favourite Places
* From Caterpillar to Butterfly
* Making a Butterfly Cage



* A Bridge to Lie on
* Ponds and Streams
* Water: Lessons for Life



* Giant Soap Bubbles
* Conscious Listening


* A simple fireplace
* Building an underground oven
* Building a clay oven
* Building a clay ball oven
* A wood-fired kiln
* Some thoughts on responsibility, safety and supervision


From Grain to Bread

* Healthy Nourishment
* Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
* Creating an Eating Culture
* From Whole Grain to Fine Flour: The Story of Grain
* Grain Recipes
* A Quick Reminder

ISO Maps

Now I am in search of some regional maps to help my children understand how these areas are situated near each other. I already have -- and love (definitely worth $17.99) -- The Timechart of Biblical History but I'd like some posters for the classroom walls that we can point to and reference while we talk. I have one which is called The Holy Land: Then and Now but it only shows Canaan, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, and the top of Egypt. I need one which includes more of the other side of the Mediterranean Sea.

Let's see...
Here's a beautiful map of the Roman Empire for $35

An Interest in the Romans

We are working our way through A Child's History of the World in Sunday School; I didn't want to rush through the Babylonian Captivity, I wanted my children to really understand the history of countries in that area conquering each other over and over. They are loving it, too, and really getting a sense of how the whole thing works together instead of a selection of random Bible stories never in chronological order and with no cause and effect. I was originally going to move to Hurlbut's book for an extensive look at the stories of Daniel but my class is asking me a lot of questions about Rome and since we're coming up on Easter and how Rome intersected with the history of Israel I think I will spend more time on it. In fact, my pastor told me that the book of Daniel was written during the time Israel was under the rule of the Romans to help inspire people that they could become free from that rule just as they had become free from the Babylonians in ages past. The new timeline for lessons looks like this:

Today we did chapter 12, 13, 16, 17. That's Kings Saul, David and Solomon for the Jews, the Phoenicians, the beginnings of Rome, and the Assyrians.

March 2 - chapter 18, 19, introduce class play "Daniel, Servant of the Lord"
Instead of spending all our weeks on Hurlbut I will just introduce and develop the stories about Daniel as we learn the play script

March 9 - chapter 22, 28, 29
That's Rome and Alexander the Great

March 16 - chapter 30, 31, 32
Rome and more Rome

March 23 - chapter 33, 34, 35
Rome, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the history of some of the disciples and early martyrs, today is Easter

March 30 - assign parts for class play

I know that Ancient Rome is usually saved for later grades in Waldorf but it is really helping my Sunday School students get "the big picture" and they are enjoying it. I'll add some sections to the website soon on these ancient civilizations.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Getting Married Again

My children are currently completely obsessed with playing wedding. Of course, there are three of them so one is the bride, one is the groom, and one is the minister. Somewhere along the way they seem to have picked up quite a few of the details of a wedding. Leah told me she wants to get married just so she can ride in a limousine but I pointed out to her that you can ride in a limo any time you want to. We have only one book about weddings that I know of (Snapshots from the Wedding by Gary Soto -- it has really neat collage illustrations). The children are dying to see my wedding photos so I'll have to get them out soon. Natalie was telling me the other day during some one-on-one quiet discussion time that if I got married again and got her a new father (her words, not mine) that I would wear a white sparkly dress and he would wear a black or grey suit (her words, not mine) and she could be a flower girl and wear a yellow dress and scatter flower petals all down the aisle... I was kind of blown away. So I wondered is this something she's thinking a lot about and I said, were you thinking I was going to get married again because I'm kind of thinking I won't, and she said, I don't know, I only just thought about it. So I dropped it. It doesn't seem to be a source of stress for her and she pointed out that her dad could get married again too. We came on to it because she was saying was she in my tummy when I got married and I said no she had already been born and she said did I carry her down the aisle and I said no someone held her and she sat in the front row. And she said, that's not right mom, you should have been carrying me. Maybe she's right about that. So I joked that next time I get married I'll carry her and she said, no, that would be silly, I'm big enough to walk and then all these ideas just spilled out of her.

Who knows, perhaps she'll be a wedding planner when she grows up. The girl certainly has a passion for it. I remember being the same way when I was her age so maybe it's a little girl thing. I remember throwing silk flowers over a little boy in the street and yelling, now we're married. :-) Anyway, I don't mind if they dream but I just want them to know that there's more to life than just being married and there are lots of paths you can take to be happy. Leah's idea of getting married just for the limo ride isn't that far off... I know some people who want to get married just for the idea of being in the spotlight for a day.

Pretzel Recipe

Today we had a snow day due to a big ice storm so the younger two and I got to enjoy Natalie's company for a full day! We played marching band with instruments from the kitchen (the two spatulas banged together as rhythm sticks were a big hit, as was the upside-down wooden bowl drum), read stories, and had a playdate with a new friend. We are still loosely doing a cooking theme with homeschool so we read "The Clever Mouse" from The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book: World Folk Tales Especially for Reading Aloud (this book is a bit of a hit-and-miss as far as the quality of the retelling but the stories themselves are a nice collection of folktales from all around the world -- I like to read, digest, and retell in my own words). Then talked about the profession of baker. Tomorrow we will do Walter the Baker and make pretzels. I don't remember if I wrote this before but last week we did Pancakes, Pancakes! and made pancakes. We have also enjoyed his book Today is Monday. (Regarding the days of the week, Natalie is lately enamored with the Mother Goose rhyme "Solomon Grundy." It's slightly morbid but she loves it.) Leah and Rebecca enjoyed doing the verse "I'm a Little Teapot" with me this week as well. We went to visit my grandparents on Monday since Natalie had the day off from school. It's been a long time since we've had tea party with them!

Solomon Grundy
Solomon Grundy,
Born on Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday:
This is the end
Of Solomon Grundy.

And here is the pretzel recipe we'll be trying tomorrow:
Pretzels to make with kids

Pretzels were once a special Lenten food for Christians. Some say the twisted center is arms crossed in prayer.

2 pkg yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
1 1/2 cups water
4 cups flour
1 tsp sugar
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup coarse salt

Mix 2 packages of yeast with 1 1/2 cups of warm water.

Add 4 cups flour.

Add 1 tsp salt.

Add 1 tsp sugar.

Mix, turn out on floured surface, punch down, then fold. Repeat punch/fold 10-20 times.

Make 6-8 small balls. Roll and shape. Brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Put in preheated 425 degree F oven. Bake 12 minutes.

From the Viking Little Chef Series: Making Pretzels by Elizabeth Martin (1986, Viking Penguin)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Prayer for Myself

Do you know that the day after we saw that deer got hit and said a prayer for all drivers to be safer on the road, I had a deer run out in front of me just a few feet ahead of the car? And I was able to stop short and avoid him. So maybe that very prayer saved my life...

Monday, February 18, 2008


Today is a beautiful sunny day so we celebrated by going outside to blow bubbles. I got some star bubble wands from Bella Luna Toys & the girls loved them. Natalie is home from school today for the holiday so during naptime for the other 2 she stayed up and did some special projects with me. First she wrote a lovely thank you card for her Aunt Jenn. Then we designed and assembled her birthday party invitations. It is customary in her school for the child to invite the entire class (14 kids) but I needed something low key and low budget. The solution? A picnic party! Wonderful for including siblings too and all those boys can happily run around and be rowdy.

The invitations were made of a small white paper bag (inside a regular letter size envelope) with the child's name written on it. Inside the paper bag we put a large tag with the invitation information on it. Beside the typed information (Date, Time, RSVP, BYOB = bring your own picnic blanket and picnic lunch, drinks will be provided, no gifts please) we glued a little "picnic blanket" made of a rectangle of red and white gingham checked scrapbook paper cut with pinking shears. Natalie glued these all on herself and then stamped a cute line of little black ants walking across the blanket. They are adorable invitations. I am hoping to reserve the church instead of a park so that we have a building to go into in case of rain or cold weather and we can just have an indoor picnic lunch! If not I will just find another location; it is a simple enough party to move around. For drinks I still have plenty of that organic lemonade mix left over from the gorilla fundraiser. Now I just have to think up the party games...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

More Treats and Surprises

Today the mail lady brought another surprise: a box of Valentine's Day treats for the girls from their Aunt Jenn. Dress up costumes (including a super-cool jester hat, we've never had one of those), stickers, pencils, magic wands, and beautiful sparkly valentines. We opened it after first going through Natalie's treat bag from school which was packed full of great stuff. Our seasonal display by the front door features our lovely Valentine's Fairy (made by a dear friend) surrounded by cards and a little red basket full of the candy Natalie was given. She is only allowed to have one piece a day. She also got stickers, play-dough, jewelry. I was amazed at how many she got, especially since this is a new experience for us. Each teacher at the school gave every child a valentine, even those who aren't in their classes!!! The director also gave each child a hand-signed card. Natalie's teacher made rice krispie treats packed in a cute little red Chinese take away box and gave each child a book as well: If You'll Be My Valentine by Cynthia Rylant. One of the other teachers made each child a heart-shaped crayon of melted crayon pieces (directions for Rainbow Crayons -- this site also gives lots of other great crayon activities). Those were adorable and I'm so impressed that she took the time.

We are having tortellini and baked acorn squash for dinner, both roughly heart shaped foods. :-)

Prayer for a Deer

Unfortunately, last night the children saw someone hit a deer with a car and kill it. When Natalie went to bed she asked me if we could pray for the deer. So we prayed that God had taken the deer to heaven, that He would take good care of all the other deer and help other drivers to be safe on the road and to pay attention. I was so upset -- the driver didn't even stop. There was glass all over the road, the deer was thrown down the hill and died very quickly. It must have been some impact... how could anyone not stop? I was behind a driver who hit a deer last year and the same thing, they just kept going. I stopped and the deer was there in the road in front of me trying to walk with only three legs, confused and disoriented. I went to the closest church and called the police since the deer was wandering about in the road and it presented a hazard. The police came and shot it and left it in a field where it proceeded to decompose over the course of the next year. I felt so guilty every time I passed the corpse because I felt like I personally had killed the deer. Of course, I didn't. I don't know if deer go to heaven or not but I hope this one does. It really wasn't his fault that the car hit him and, mercifully, he was soon out of his misery.

Today the Valentine's Fairy brought us snow! Natalie pointed out that last year she had brought toys and games but, as we all know, the fairy is working with a somewhat smaller budget this year. :-) Actually I fell asleep feeling terribly guilty that I had nothing to give the children this year for V. Day but when we woke up to snowfall and a two hour school delay it was a real blessing. Natalie gets a long weekend vacation so I am really excited about having her all day Friday and Monday.

By the way, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch is the classic V. Day story but I also really love You and Me which is a current favorite in this house and a wonderful love story suitable for any adult and child to read together.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine Frenzy

Something new for us... the responsibility of providing a valentine for every child in the class. Can't afford store bought valentines but don't have time to hand make 14. And I had forgotten about V-Day because we were so focused on Japan. In the car on the way to get Natalie from school I came up with the solution. What do we have 14 of in the house? Clementines! And clementine, luckily, rhymes with valentine. Her teacher specified that she needed to hand-write the name of each boy and girl in the class and sign each card by hand so that's already a lot of writing -- I printed out cheerful sayings on a sheet of address labels and we put a clementine in each baggie with a card upon which Natalie had written her name and the name of the recipient, folded the baggies over and sealed each with a sticker. Done. She also decorated the cards with some stickers we had on hand since it took her less time to write the names of her friends than I had feared. Apparently she's been practicing them in class because that's what she really really wants to learn how to write. My original plan had been to stencil a heart on each card and fill them in by gluing vintage buttons... still a cute plan but voted too time-consuming. Next year.

Here's a clementine for you, Valentine!

Volcano & Fish Printing Notes

Our volcano model of stacked nesting mixing bowls (upside down) with a small cup on top (right side up) covered in tin foil and placed on a cookie sheet with wooden trees around worked beautifully. Here is the recipe:

Pour into vessel
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
a few drops clear dishwashing liquid
a few drops red food coloring

When it is time for the "explosion," pour in 1 T baking soda very quickly.

The children in her class were very impressed with the volcano model and enjoyed Natalie's presentation quite a bit. The fish printing also went over big. This was a new project for me and here are the notes:

1. thin paint (or calligraphy ink) works best

2. thin paper such as newsprint (or rice paper) works best

3. a foam brush works better than a foam roller for quickly covering the fish but still preserving detail and not overpowering it with paint. If your fish has too much paint on it do two prints and keep the second

4. having the children choose which hand will hold the paper steady on the fish and which will slowly and carefully press all the parts of the fish before they lay their paper on the fish is a good idea

5. so is having them write their name on the back of the paper first

6. rubber fish are a fantastic invention (otherwise you have to use EXTREMELY fresh dead fish which can be hard to get hold of)

7. two rubber fish is plenty. Set up two fish printing stations instead of having to pick up wet painty/inky fish with your hands when the child decides she wants to do the other one

8. set the fish on a cafeteria tray for easy cleanup

Acorn Naturalists is a good source for replica fish as well as other goodies for the naturalist in us all; they also sell a complete Fish Printing Starter Kit.

UPDATE 06/02/2017: Acorn Naturalists is no longer the supplier I recommend... I get my Gyotaku Fish Printing Replicas from Dick Blick.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Food From Japan

This weekend I went to the grocery store to buy some snack foods for Natalie's class to enjoy in their "restaurant" part of her presentation. I found rice crackers, Pocky (cookies), roasted sheets of seaweed for rolling sushi, instant green tea powder, black sesame seeds, bamboo shoots, Japanese brown sugar, crystallized ginger and a sugar cane baton which is the coolest thing I've ever seen! It has to be refrigerated so I have it in my fridge and I keep peeking in to look at it. It is an actual hunk of sugar cane cut right off the plant with a machete or whatever (see below). Apparently you simply stick it in your mouth and chew on it vigorously.

Tomorrow we are practicing our fish printing, our volcano eruption, and reviewing the items in the artifact box so that Natalie is not nervous for her presentation in front of the class.

For the younger children, our radish and lettuce seeds have sprouted (it was super-fast, within 48 hours) and they are happily spritzing them with water at every opportunity. They'll be in on the fish printing tomorrow. I also plan to get out all the pots and pans in the house and have us bang on them. This is a classic moment from childhood that somehow they missed... so time to rectify that!!! Maybe it's because they've been helping cook since they were so little that they knew what the things were for and so never thought of flipping over a pot and swatting it with a spoon. But I am tired of seeing it on TV commercials and thinking, we've never done that, so tomorrow we will. It will be a cold cold day here so some indoor fun is just the ticket.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Restaurant Books

I have been guilty myself of the trap I always tell others not to fall into -- not posting because I'm afraid what I'm doing is not "Waldorf enough." It's true we've had to go a bit more mainstream because of the heavy scrutiny of the custody battle but I do try to keep things literature rich. We are doing the art and the cooking and the nature and the stories and the movement and so on and now a bit of letters and numbers are creeping in. So if you hate me for that, move on to a different blog. :-) But I do have some book notes on things that we've done this week so if you like book recommendations read on.

I took the children out to breakfast yesterday and we went to lunch today, of course, so here are some books that go well with a "restaurant theme".

Things People Do pp.10-11

Mr. Angleo by Marjory Schwalje

Today is Monday by Eric Carle

Some notes:
Re. Mr. Angleo, this book is VERY hard to find and I'm thrilled that there are some copies available on Amazon right now. It is the story of a man who wakes up each day, decides what he'd like to cook, and then makes a tremendous amount of it. One day he decides to open up a restaurant since he's already cooking such large quantities (he eats the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). But when his customers come he only has one thing to offer and it's never what they wanted! He is discouraged and about to give up on his dream when a young boy named Jim comes up with the perfect solution to the problem. Mr. Angelo washes up all the dishes at the end, too, which is a nice touch. I always like books that talk about cleaning up after your project is done. There's a book called The Man Who Never Washed His Dishes which I like to read to my kids too...

Eric Carle's book Today is Monday has written music in the back; you can also buy a cassette tape of the story being read and then the song. This has been a big hit in the car. It also teaches the days of the week (and you have to recite them backwards which is tricky) which is something my kids care an awful lot about now that they spend some days with their dad and some with me. So which day is which and what order they go in and how far it is between them has been a big deal here lately.

We've also talked about the seasons changing and especially birds. There is a great book to go along with birds building nests that I want to recommend; it's really cute and it's called Who Took the Farmer's Hat? by Joan L. Nodset. This one is a classic and good for ages 3 & 4 because they are old enough to get the joke. The premise of the book is that a gust of wind takes the farmer's old hat and sends it flying but every animal he meets who he asks about it gives him a different response. Each says no, but I saw a... and you can see that it was the hat but they think it was an old brown hill, a nice brown hole, a round brown bird, etc. The final person he asks is a bird who says, I haven't seen your hat anywhere but I have this nice round brown nest and the bird has already settled in and laid an egg so the farmer says to her, yes I see that this is most definitely not my hat after all and goes off and buys himself a new one. It's very sweet.

The Bot Mystery Solved

By the way, we have solved the mystery of the bots. Rebecca has fallen in love with a simple little picture book I got out from the library and will definitely buy since the kids are reading it by themselves and to each other 20 times a day: Animals Sleeping by Masayuki Yabuuchi. There are many many books of this type but this one is fantastic. The illustrations are beautiful, the text is simple but elegant, and the animals they choose are really fun. Koala, leopard, sea otter, albatross, flamingo, bat, and camel. They have copies used on Amazon starting at 18 cents so, really, I urge you to get one if you have a 2 or 3 year old. Makes a nice bedtime story too because I end it with, and how does Rebecca sleep? And she shows me how she lies down on her bed. So anyway she's been reading it to herself and one day I realized she was calling bats "bots". Aha!

Jon J

In homeschool today we had a play date at Annmarie Garden with some families from a local Mom's Club. I've decided to bite the bullet and join (having resisted for almost 6 years) mostly because my little girls need some boys to play with. I did get them a book on construction equipment, having realized that I was inadvertently being sexist and neglecting that aspect of their education, which was fantastic because when we arrived at the sculpture garden they were pouring a sidewalk for the new visitor's center and we got to stand and watch. After walking around and looking at the art for about an hour the children and I went to lunch with Katie and her mom Sarah. We had Chinese food, something my kids are not that familiar with, so that was a special treat. I packed up the leftovers to take home for Natalie to try. Her class is studying China this week as part of their World Tour.

Next Tuesday Natalie is leading her class as the tour guide to her chosen country, Japan. Two days ago we made a big backdrop with a mountain on it (she colored a white cardboard backboard) and the title JAPAN on it. I had her trace and color a red circle on a white piece of paper to be the flag and we glued it on the backboard in the upper lefthand corner. Now it looks really cool because it is the flag and the sun in the sky above the mountain. Hopefully that will help the children in her class remember the Japanese flag.

In Natalie's school, being tour guide is a huge deal. You help the children off the plane (or whatever mode of transportation they used to get to your country -- the kids actually line up in the hallway to enter the country) and take them around, teach them about the country and even take them to eat in a restaurant there! My role as parent is to help her learn about Japan but not to take over. I had a parent conference with the teacher just to make sure I was walking the line properly and not turning it into "Rhoda's Report on Japan." :-) But we have planned some really cool things. The backboard will stand on a table with a volcano diorama in front of it -- my parents NEVER let me make a volcano model and I always wanted to so this is the perfect opportunity!!! -- and she will talk about how the islands of Japan were formed and then make the volcano erupt. She will have a box of artifacts to help her remember the salient points about Japan. We will read the book Taro and the Bamboo Shoot by Masako Matsuno and then head over to our "restaurant" table to try bamboo shoots! Then the best part... Gyotaku: The Japanese Art of Fish Printing. I'm also going to leave some books (I thought when we first got this country that I didn't have any picture books about Japan but, of course, I was wrong) for the teacher since they'll be in that country for the rest of the week. Here are the other books I'm recommending

By the way, if you love Jon J. Muth (and who doesn't???) I've heard he has a brand new Zen book for children out, also featuring the lovable panda Stillwater. It is called Zen Ties.