Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wild Things

Apparently, there are some local experts in our area on foraging and they occasionally do nature walks and lectures. I would love love love to know more about this. It makes me completely nuts to realize that if the road between here and town were blocked I would have absolutely no idea how to survive. Does that make anyone besides me crazy??? Maybe I'm alone in this. Anyhow, I was thinking of putting up a page on my site with the area edibles and when they come into season. The Wild Things chapter says "Many delectable wild foods were purposely left out of this section to discourage widespread harvesting and the resulting negative effects on precious natural areas. Instead, this section focuses on a smattering of wild foods that are available seasonally either in farmers' markets or through CSAs." They include the following - watercress, dandelion, nettles, ramps, and sorrel. There is also a recipe here for stir-fried daylily buds!

I know that we also have here acorns, black walnuts, persimmons, and pawpaws. But it's handy to have a list of when they come into season.

Foraging (Botany Block)

Dandelion Greens

Tuesday we visited a lovely organic farm which is near us and they sent the children and I hope with a large box of greens and a medium box of sweet potatoes. In the box of green things we had green cabbage, baby bok choy, endive, lettuce mix, collard greens, spinach, and dandelion greens. I am so excited to try dandelion greens! I have two recipes (both in the "Wild Things" chapter of Asparagus to Zucchini) but would love more if people have some to suggest.

Cecily Mary Barker wrote a poem for the Dandelion Fairy -- you can find it on page 17 of The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies (to see it online, click See Inside and then Search for "dandelion").

Happy Spring everyone! I can't wait to get those bunnies...

Funeral Time

Well, they buried Papa yesterday. My children attended the funeral and the reception afterwards (I, unfortunately, missed the funeral since I was terribly ill with food poisoning and had been up the entire night before being sick). The night before the funeral I read the children The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst. This book is all about how you put the person (or, in this case, a cat) under the ground and say some words about them. And it goes into the eternal question, where are they now? In heaven or under the earth? And the father says we don't know for sure. So if you are teaching your kids about Heaven you might want to preview the book to make sure it matches the message you are sending. In our case, I told Natalie that we don't know for sure but it makes people feel better to think that the people they loved and lost are still watching over them. And the book goes on to say that when the bodies are under the ground they change and become part of the earth and then they help plants grow. Which is the 10th good thing about Barney. It's very concrete and good for right before a funeral, whereas Badger's Parting Gifts is more abstract about what happens when you die -- Badger has a dream that he leaves his body behind and runs joyfully down the long tunnel -- and talks more about the feelings of grief and then later on remembering happy memories of the person.

Natalie's teacher also recommended Lifetimes (subtitled, "The beautiful way to explain death to children"). It focuses on the message that everything in nature is part of a cycle. By the way, if you're looking for a book about reincarnation, The Mountains of Tibet is a beautiful one.

I hope these recommendations are helpful to someone!

I have added quite a lot to my brainstorming about summer camps; I'm really looking forward to them. I'm also going to be giving some presentations at our local library about the wonderful age of 2 -- instead of the social stigma of the "terrible twos" -- so I'll post some thoughts about that and recommended books as I draft it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Camp Choices

I am planning two week camps with different content each week so kids can do one or both depending on their schedule. I have picked the following topics.

2 weeks - Farming and Gardening
2 weeks - Housebuilding
2 weeks - Art & Drama: Fables
2 weeks - Ancient Civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome

I have been given permission to choose an animal for the school to keep (they had a sort of goat habitat but it is standing empty right now) so I'm excited to plan that. I'm going to begin a series of live pages on the website for my brainstorming and lesson planning which I'll update as things get hashed out, instead of miscellaneous notes here which will be hard to follow. If you're a Waldorf Curriculum member, these links will work; otherwise, you'll need a subscription to log in. Currently the note pages are empty but the Daily Schedule has been completed.

Easter Egg Hunt

We had a marvelous Easter party yesterday. I've determined the formula for complete success in party throwing. Plan every detail of the party on the day before you send out the invitations, then forget about it completely. No use in carrying it around with you and stressing out. Premade food is a must. I hate cooking and rushing and worrying about recipes and then trying to clean the kitchen and get all those dishes washed and put away before guests arrive. Begin to decorate (NOT clean) the house as soon as you wake up. Tablescapes and so on will make you feel organized and more cheerful and then you can clean right up until the first guest arrives without worrying what else is on your to-do list. Besides, you wander around dusting aimlessly anyway, may as well make it your plan. Don't change into your party clothes until after your shower -- DO remember to shower and change. I threw a party once and realized just as my guests were leaving that I was still in my nightgown! I was so stressed out rushing around before the party that I didn't even notice and everyone was too polite to say anything. Before you shower go walk around the exterior of your house. The inside may be waxed and polished within an inch of its life but the outside is what guests see first and it could probably do with a bit of tidying up.

I used to love to organize parties, hated to actually throw them. Now I have found entertaining nirvana. :-)

We had a craft station set up with brown paper bags, crayons, stickers, and Easter stamps and stamp pads so guests could decorate their egg-finding bag. Then we all headed out for the Great Hunt. I hid 54 eggs. We decorated them ourselves with a variety of natural dyes: turmeric, tea, spinach, beets, blueberries, and red cabbage. The red cabbage ones were awesome!!! The cabbage leaves made beautiful swirly designs on the eggs where ever they touched them. Next time I know to nestle the eggs in the mass of leaves instead of pushing them to the bottom of the pot. Blueberry was a gorgeous indigo color with little speckly designs where the disintegrating skins had come into contact with the eggs. Turmeric was a wonderful bright gold color. Beets were a forgettable light brown (which surprised me, I was expecting pink) -- identical to the tea color. Spinach was a very very pale green. Lovely though. Our hunters found 53 of the 54 eggs which I thought was awesome! Natalie led my family of finders with 10. Leah checked in with 8 and Rebecca 3. From what I understand from Nancy, who walked around with Rebecca, she was very choosy about which eggs she decided to pick up.

Then it was inside to count the eggs and snack on M&Ms, gumdrops, and shortbread cookies. I had the candy leftover from decorating Natalie's flower cupcakes from her birthday party so it cost me almost nothing to throw this party and I got all that candy out of the house! I also set out some Easter books (The Golden Egg Book, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, The Bunny Who Found Easter by Charlotte Zolotow) which the children read and they played with the rabbit hutch and our finger puppets and the play kitchen. Overall it was a very fun and successful party.

Egg Dyeing Instructions

Here are the notes I made from yesterday. First -- and this is important -- set out your pots and determine how many you have. Then pick your dyestuffs from there. How many small pots (blueberries, beets), how many large pots (spinach, red cabbage). Strong dyes like turmeric can be heated up and then set on a potholder while the burner is used for another pot. We had six so turmeric and tea soaked on the counter. Place your dyestuffs in pot. Red cabbage is a great one for kids to tear up themselves. Add the eggs. Remember for things like spinach that it will decrease greatly in volume as it cooks so quite a few eggs can be added to that pot. Add some white vinegar to help fix the color and fill the pot with cold water. Bring to a boil, push the eggs under the dyestuffs (they will tend to float up to the top) and then hard boil as usual. For some people this is turning off the heat and letting the eggs stand, which is what we did. Some boil their eggs the entire time. Scoop eggs out with a slotted spoon (you can leave them in longer as long as you keep an eye on how long the eggs are at room temp and caution guests not to eat them if longer than 3 hours) and place on a cooling rack to drip, then into the egg cartons and back into the fridge to wait for the hiding time.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Summer Camps

I've been hired to teach a series of week and 2 week long summer camps at Tidewater School -- themes of Nature Exploration, Art & Drama, and World Cultures, specific topics to be of my choice. I am super excited to begin planning these! Hopefully even if my family circumstances prevent me from homeschooling (if I have to go to work full-time to support myself and my three children) I will still be able to use my wonderful curriculum library and enjoy the Waldorf approach. I get to use any philosophy -- the sky is the limit. I hope to begin brainstorming topics soon and adding my curriculum notes to the website for others to use when they brainstorm these same main lesson blocks. The ones I am most inspired to tackle are

2nd grade -

3rd grade -

4th grade -
Norse Mythology

5th grade -
Ancient Mesopotamia
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Greece

6th grade -
Ancient Rome

I get a total of eight weeks, from Monday - Friday, 8 am to 3 pm.

On a completely unrelated topic, today the children and I went to visit my Grammy and got trapped in the elevator when the power shut off. We just sat down on the floor and told stories until the lights came back on. Was pretty nervewracking though.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Badger's Parting Gifts

My mom just called to say that my grandfather, who is fading fast, is going to be removed from all support. Time to break out Badger's Parting Gifts and talk to my kids about death. We'll go visit my Grammy tomorrow to offer our condolences.

Today we spent two hours at the Calvert Marine Museum in the morning on a play date. After naps the girls helped me spread mulch for our new butterfly garden. I figured that a landscaping project was a good way to put into context how much dirt construction equipment moves and how much time those machines save. I won't articulate it though, just let the idea grow in their minds. It was a lovely warm day and perfect weather to be outside gardening. The Baby Bird with Worm puppet from Folkmanis came home with us today from the Marine Museum gift shop, as well as the mini field mouse.

Yesterday we did a Nature program at Kings Landing Park on seeds sprouting. The Ranger gave all the children plastic spoons and cups and sent them out in the field to clear away dead grasses and things and look for signs of new life. Then they were supposed to dig up the baby plant and put it in the cup. Leah heaved a huge spoonful of dirt right into her eye and we ended up having to skip the rest of the program and go home in order to wash it out. She had chunks of dirt under her upper and lower eyelids. It was quite a thorough job. She was really afraid the Ranger would be mad at her for leaving early but I assured her that it was fine.

Monday we sent out invitations to our Easter Egg Hunt on Friday at 3 pm. The vintage postcards from Magic Cabin were perfect for this! I also made a lovely Apple Bread Pudding with raisin bread, sauteed apples in butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and butterscotch baking chips.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Building an Igloo

I hit upon an idea for our "construction" theme which is how people build houses around the world. This week we will do Building an Igloo by Ulli Steltzer and try our hand at making a model out of sugar cubes, per the directions in Finding Fairies: Secrets for Attracting Little People from Around the World. I would also like to begin The Eskimo Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins as a bedtime read-aloud. It fits in well with Natalie's World Tour curriculum.

In later weeks we could set up our bamboo tipi again and make a wall out of cob!

I'm wrapping Natalie's birthday gifts today. She is getting two books (Birthday by Norah Romer and The Tale of the Little Little Old Woman by Elsa Beskow), the Princess cooperative game, and -- best of all -- she finally gets to sleep in the top bunk of her bunk bed! The rule is you have to be six and so her mattress has been on the floor next to her sister who is in the bottom bunk. Monday we will break out the ladder and move her mattress up high. She is super excited about this.

Friday, March 7, 2008

"You Look Strange"

Rebecca was combing my hair with her fingers the other day and I sat patiently and then when she was done I looked up at her, expecting her to say, "Mommy, you look beautfiul!" and she looked at me and instead she said, "You look strange." Ha! That's what I get for assuming that life is like the perfect pictures you see in the movies. I've been struggling a lot with letting go of my expectations for myself and just enjoying my kids. Today we took a nature walk, made butter, read stories, played pat-a-cake and piggy toes, and had fun! In the back of my mind I'm still chastising myself for the hundred things I didn't do... but then I realized that I have just got to let go of that stuff! Super Nanny this week was about a woman with seven kids (7 in 8 years!!!) and she was a ball of stress, wasn't enjoying being a mom at all and Jo put a huge sign on her wall -- instead of it being House Rules or anything like that, it was a reminder to relax, breathe, take a break, have fun!

The craze with my kids right now is construction equipment. This is a little out of my realm... does anyone have books to recommend??? Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is the only thing I have on my shelves. We stopped at a bucket truck the other day and the men showed Leah and Rebecca how they climb up into the bucket. That was cool.

We are planning on setting out baskets of dryer lint today for the birds to use in their nest building.

The lovely dump truck we got from Rosie Hippos.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Picnic Party

Here are my notes for Natalie's birthday party:

Cupcakes (24 yellow) are cooling now. Tomorrow we frost and decorate. Luckily, the current issue of Woman's Day Magazine, March 4, has a beautiful cover of flower cupcakes which totally inspired me. What fun! I also have plain white craft paper to cover the food table as well as some little ceramic toadstools and we have beautiful flower stickers to put on the table covering and I will also set out crayons for the children to draw more flowers and ladybugs, etc. I have a dried flower crown which we got at Rennfest for Natalie to wear as the Birthday Girl. Besides the cupcakes we will serve pitchers of lemonade.

Party games (indoor or outdoor depending on the weather):
Duck Duck Goose
Sack Race
3 Legged Race
Egg and Spoon Relay
Wheelbarrow Race
Water Balloon Toss
Fruit Basket

Fruit Basket is one I got from an old fashioned Betty Crocker book of games for children's parties. We are using our fruit and vegetable index cards that Natalie already made. Here is what it says

Fruit Basket

ages 5-8
number of players 6-18

what's needed?
colored construction paper

preparation - choose a different fruit for each player. cut the fruits out of colored construction paper. mount them on 9x12 sheets of construction paper. on each sheet tie a string large enough to go over the head of a child.

1. Have each child put on his fruit card. He will keep this fruit throughout the game.

2. Sit the children down in a circle, either on chairs or on the floor.

3. Select one child to go into the center of the circle. This child then calls the name of two fruits. The children bearing these names are to change places with each other. At the same time, the child in the center tries to reach one of their places first.

4. Whoever loses out on a place to sit must go into the center and call the names of two other fruits.

My to-do list right now is to punch holes in the fruit and veggie cards and run lengths of yarn through them, to buy some balloon for the water balloon toss, and to cut strips of fabric for the three legged race. Tomorrow we will make frosting and frost and decorate the cupcakes.

Instead of party favors we are doing a craft project of clay seed balls. I have a HUGE bowl of clay which has been soaking in water for several days (since most of the time when I use clay I forget to prep it, I have been extra vigilant this time), mixed flower seeds for a hummingbird and butterfly garden, and worm castings for fertilizer. I have little plastic ziploc bags for the children to put their balls in when they are done and we can write the child's name on the bag and decorate it with a ladybug sticker. I really really wanted to buy the chocolate ladybugs from Magic Cabin, especially since they come in a little cute red and white checked bag, but I can't afford $6.00 per child. We invited all of Natalie's class, as is de rigueur, and it looks like about 14 people, including younger sibs and moms, will attend.