Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blogs and Bird Logs

I was talking to some of the other teachers about the Paper Problem...

And I would just like to say, a blog solves all that!

As many little notes as you can possibly make to yourself about relevant books, museums, craft projects, or any other teaching idea can all fit on a blog AND IT'S SEARCH-ABLE. And you can have live links, which is handy if it's a museum that you'd like to plan a visit to or an online article that you want to reference. Not to mention easy and free. No technical expertise required. I have a website & a blog so I have organization options galore but anyone can start a blog. You can make it private so that no one but you can view it. Any time you find a resource, a link, or have a great idea in the middle of the night you can just create a post. And then you can find your idea later (which is the best part). So I am going to be holding a little workshop at my school for the teachers who are interested in getting familiar with blogger.

Here's a good example. When the teacher next door was unpacking her boxes she found these lovely little Bird Logs that she used about a decade ago. They are fabulous, especially since Audubon is our Artist Study for October. So I wrote down the ISBN and now I'm here looking on Amazon to see if they are still in print. And they are!!! Bird Log Kids: A Kid's Journal to Record Their Birding Experiences

But even if I hadn't been able to find a live link to the product, I still could have used this blog post as a place to write down the publisher name and contact information so I could try to track the journals down.

Adventure Publications

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Straight Line and Curve

It's time again for that perennial lesson: the first form drawing lesson. I use the indications in Form Drawing: Grades One through Four by Laura Embrey-Stine and Ernst Schuberth. I think it's the best text for laying out that first week clearly.

(Yikes! In creating this link I discovered that Bob and Nancy Parsons have redone their wonderful website for Bob & Nancy's Books,, and that means that EVERY LINK I've created to their site is now out of date! The new site looks great though.)

I am gearing up for the new school year and have my stick crayons, large sheets of newsprint, sidewalk chalk, window crayons, and trays of cornmeal all ready for Form Drawing. I also think that a wonderful project to accompany Straight Line and Curve on that first day is to roll beeswax candles. It's a logical craft project for the beginning of the year, since we burn candles every day, and when you are doing it you are actually taking something straight and making it into something curved which I think is lovely.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jellyfish Sting

The most exciting event of yesterday was Rebecca's jellyfish sting but a lot of other fun things happened too.

(In looking for this image I found a fascinating website called Forecasting Sea Nettles by NOAA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Complete with a color coded map of the Chesapeake Bay's "Probable Sea Nettle Presence." Keeping it simple, I know from my childhood that they arrive like clockwork on the weekend of July 4th and don't go away for the rest of the summer!)

First, we made lemonade.

When I went to clean out my Sunday School classroom (I'm not teaching SS this year), I found a huge box of this lemonade mix which was leftover from our first year's service project of adopting a gorilla. I did this when we did Creation and Adam's duty to take care of the animals. We had a used book sale and sold lemonade as well as hand-dipped candles to raise the money for The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

After the lemonade we headed to the beach to hit the Tire Swing! The weeping willow next door to the "ballroom" weeping willow has a picnic bench and a tire swing under it and the girls were eager to check it out. After three rounds each on the swing the girls decided to go wading in the Bay. Wading quickly turned into fully clothed swimming. I warned them to check for jellyfish but they were too excited by the shallow warm water and the schools of fish that they kept seeing. By the way, I recently discovered that our local publication, the Bay Weekly, has a Tidelog feature! This lovely graphic saves me a lot of heartache of taking all the girls down to the beach just to discover that it's impossible to walk along the shore. I grew up on the Bay and have walked along the beach nearly every day of my childhood. How can I not have known such a wonder existed????

The Bay Weekly also has some useful articles, besides the community calendar of local events, the politics, restaurant reviews, and so on. I like the Gardening column quite a lot. This week the Master Gardener had a tip which I want to share with the world... assuming it's true. He has discovered an animal repellent which keeps deer, rabbits, raccoons, groundhogs, and even moose out of your garden. The name of this amazing product? Shotgun Repels-All. Oh, and it's organic.

Anyway, we planned yesterday's beach walk perfectly (4:30 pm) and the water was clear, calm, and enticing. Unfortunately Becca ended up with a jellyfish wrapped around her arm. She stopped splashing and singing and stood up, looking puzzled. She held her arm up and said, I got bit. (When it first stings you, it feels like a pinch. A few seconds later, it becomes PAIN all over.) By the time she got to me, she was howling. We quickly walked home and put meat tenderizer on the sting, patted it in, waited a few minutes, then went to the swimming pool. She felt fine by the evening.

We finished Misty of Chincoteaguelast night. The children were very excited. They haven't asked me what the new one is. Here's a hint:

Today is a quieter day. The only real thing on the agenda, besides playing downstairs, going to the beach and pool, and hitting the grocery store, is to make Refrigerator Pickles. This quick and easy recipe from Everyday Food magazineis one I tried years ago when Natalie and I were homeschooling for kindergarten. Our CSA keeps giving us cucumbers and my girls won't touch them. So pickles it is. You don't need any knowledge of canning to make this recipe, and it turns out a nice product. Years ago no one would eat them but now my girls are older and have a more sophisticated palate. At least, I hope so.

Here's the recipe:

Refrigerator Pickles

Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 40 minutes, plus chilling

Makes 3 quarts

* 2 pounds Kirby cucumbers, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal (about 8 cups)
* 1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, sliced 1 inch thick
* 2 celery stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal
* Coarse salt
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 cup cider vinegar
* 1 teaspoon celery seed
* 1 teaspoon mustard seed


1. In a colander set over a medium bowl, toss cucumbers, onion, and celery stalks with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Set aside to drain, 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. In a small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, celery seed, and mustard seed; stir until sugar is dissolved.
2. Divide cucumber mixture among clean jars or airtight containers, and pour vinegar mixture over. Refrigerate at least 8 hours (or up to 2 weeks).

From Everyday Food, July/August 2008

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Two Fun Games

Yesterday we ended up not needing the indoor games I had chosen for Rainy Day Boredom so today, which was sunny and bright, I took the children outside and taught them both games. These are both from the now out-of-print book Games to Play With the Very Young:

Poor Kitty

Where: Indoors or outdoors
How many players: 3 or more
Equipment: None

One player is chosen to be Kitty. The other players then sit in a circle with Kitty in the center. Kitty crawls around the circle. Every time Kitty stops in front of someone, that player must stroke Kitty's hair, look him or her in the face, and say, "Poor Kitty!" three times without smiling. Kitty, acting like a kitten, tries to make the player laugh or smile. If Kitty fails to do so, he or she moves on to the next player. The first person to laugh becomes the next kitty. Tickling is not allowed!


Where: Pavement (we used the community basketball court)
How many players: 2 or more
Equipment: 1 piece of chalk

Using a piece of chalk, draw a "jellyroll" on the sidewalk and mark it off in sections of various sizes (this is illustrated on the cover). The game can be made harder or easier depending on the length of the jellyroll and the size of the sections. Each section or square should be big enough for one foot to fit inside without touching any lines. In turn, the players try to hop on one foot from one section to the next until they reach the center of the jellyroll ("home"). Players must step in each section without touching any lines. If a player steps on a line, he is out until his turn comes again. When a player succeeds in getting to "home," he may rest both feet (still without touching any lines) before attempting to hop back out of the jellyroll again. He may chose to switch feet before hopping out again.

When a player manages to get to the center and back again without any mistakes, he may mark his initials in any square he chooses. From then on, he may rest both feet in that square, but the other players must hop over it. The game is finished when all the sections of the jellyroll are filled with initials. The player who has the most squares with his initials in them is the winner.

~ ~ ~

My three girls loved both games. Kindy got to hop with two feet through the Jellyroll since hopping on one foot was too hard for her.

This may be a good place to share the link to my Homemade Art Supplies page on the website which includes the following recipe, plus others.

Sidewalk Chalk - from Family Fun magazine

Liberally coat the interior of a plastic Easter egg with petroleum jelly. Set upright in an empty egg carton. Add extra petroleum jelly around the seams. In a disposable cup mix 1/4 cup Plaster of Paris, 2 T cold water, and 2 T powdered tempera paint. Mix well with a plastic spoon. Spoon mixture into egg halves. Let stand for a few minutes. Snap egg halves together and briskly shake to combine. Let stand overnight before removing.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rainy Day AM

We went down to the basement and unpacked the puppets (the Magic Cabin animal puppets and three Waldorf-fashioned storyteller dolls from Mon Ange Dolls). The children also uncovered their basket of musical instruments so we unpacked those and put them away. I rearranged some furniture and bins and created a theatre space. When I came back downstairs after making lunch, they were happily creating a play complete with an usher, musical accompaniment, and a doll audience.

For lunch I made a light vegetable soup, using up the vegetables we had in the house. Today is our CSA pickup so it's time to use up what is left from last week's share! It ended up being carrots, leeks, potatoes, summer squash, and baby spinach. The soup cooled on the stove while we walked in a light rain up to the mailbox to check the mail, mail a letter, and stomp in every puddle we found along the way.

I didn't do this with the soup (because the children were playing so happily downstairs) but it would have been fun to do a homemade version of Stone Soup, where I play the traveler with my smooth stone handy (if you do this, be sure to either wash the stone in the dishwasher or boil it well in advance) and the children play the wary villagers who each end up contributing what they have. Natalie's class put on Stone Soup as their class play at the end of last year, so she probably also would have remembered the songs and could have taught them to her sisters. An idea for another rainy day...

The dessert after lunch (vegetable soup and bread) was nice thick slices of watermelon so I taught the children how to spit their watermelon seeds and compete to see who spit theirs the farthest. Usually this is done outside but I figured we could use the porch and still stay dry. Naptime is now and then, afterwards, I have some great ideas for indoor games. This evening we go to pick up our share from Farmer Jim. We have a lovely new CSA which gives us eggs and meat as well as vegetables. I really enjoy supporting local family farmers and this is a nice homeschooling family. It's fun for me to see the children playing "CSA pickup" during their playtime. They get out all the play kitchen foods and the little wooden fruits from Haba's Orchard Game and send each other out to "get the farm share" and bring it back home.

"No Swimming"

This falls under the category of "adorable things my children say." But I still have to share it! When we were visiting Lake Anne, Natalie asked me what would happen if someone fell off the boardwalk and into the water. And before I could answer, Leah pipes up and says, "The sign says 'No Swimming' so you aren't allowed to swim. So you'd have to drown."

Children are so literal!!!!

Catching Bullfrogs

Today it's raining and I'm not sure what we are going to do. Yesterday, though, was a ton of fun. Early in the morning we went down to the beach and the children engaged in various kinds of Beach Play. Trying to dam a stream to change its course. Running along the sand avoiding jellyfish. Splashing in waves. Peering at the cliff walls to see the fossil shells. Searching for sharks teeth. Lying in the sand and tracing each other. Finally, we discovered a gigantic weeping willow. The space under it must have been fully the size of my living room. The girls immediately decided it was a ballroom in a palace and the princess play began. One nice touch was that Natalie chose to explain the holes in the tree canopy, through which you could see the beach, by saying that they were the paintings which hung on the walls of her palace. Paintings of water and sand.

After a while I suggested that we walk to Lake Anne. This was a different kind of watery world, the freshwater lake (more of a pond, really). The children were enchanted by the frogs, those who sat as still as glistening statues with golden eyes, and those who briskly hopped away like pebbles skipping over water when they sensed our approach. A great blue heron which we disturbed flew gracefully away. The children explored the water lilies and the duckweed and asked a hundred questions about the gigantic snapping turtles which live in the deep water. (For this reason there are posted No Swimming signs.) We walked along the boardwalk which reaches over the water and sat on the benches and looked at the frogs. Finally we crossed the boardwalk and walked around the other side of the lake. We discovered a HUGE bullfrog. This was nice because I had been telling the children that my little brother, their uncle, used to spend all his summer days catching bullfrogs at Lake Anne with his bare hands. He would come home muddy to his hips every day. Once he found a group of eggs and brought them home and hatched them, hoping they were frogs. They weren't -- we had pet salamanders instead. But it was nice for the girls to see a bullfrog after hearing all these stories. In fact, when we went up to the pool later, I was talking with a woman who knew my brother and I when we were little and she immediately started talking about how he always brought her frogs to look at!

It reminded me that I have a nature recording of a dusky serenade Great Smoky Mountain Frogs & Friends. I love this piece of "music", which is actually pure nature sounds with none of that annoying human created musical accompaniment. The description states, "This "Moonlight Serenade" was recorded deep in the Great Smoky Montains. It begins at dusk and continues 74 minutes into the night. The "sounds of the night" continually change as darkness descends upon the water."

I promised the children that we would go back up to Lake Anne at twilight to hear if our frogs also sang in the evening.

Today, though, it is raining. How can we follow such a wonderful day of walking and being in nature with a boring day of sitting around the house? Even if we are reading, it's bound to be dull. Maybe this is the day I look through the board game collection and we learn some new ones.

Or perhaps it's the perfect day for paper dolls... I used to keep all my Craft and Art books at the school but I've recently decided to bring them home since my girls are old enough to look through and decide on projects that they want to do. Maybe it'll be an Art and Craft Day. Wait, wait, it's coming to me now. Sock Puppets!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Curriculum Chart - Grades

I always like to pass along a Curriculum Chart link. Here's the one developed by the Cedar Valley Waldorf School. When writing up your overview for the state (if you have to turn in a curriculum plan to the state) this may be helpful. They had a teaching position open in the Kindergarten a while back. Looks like it's been filled. :-( I should have written to them! I would love to live and work in beautiful Squamish BC.

This sticky mid-Atlantic Maryland heat (and my recent trip to Montana/Wyoming) has got me thinking wistfully about cooler climes.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yellowstone National Park

A few weeks ago I put a Vacation Notice on the sign up page on my website and went to Yellowstone National Park. It was a very spur-of-the-moment vacation decision. I had a friend invite me to go so we went! Luckily this was in between the lady getting eaten by a grizzly bear and the escaped convicts using it as a hideout. We arrived, enjoyed, and returned safe and sound.

Last summer I had a marvelous three week road trip out West; this itinerary doesn't compare but I had a good time and wish to share it all the same.

Tuesday, August 3
We arrived in Bozeman MT around 12:30 pm and picked up our rental car.

Drove to Gardiner MT for lunch at a local spot, bought our map of Yellowstone NP, got my gifts for my daughters (I believe in getting all the shopping out of the way right at the beginning) -- lovely buffalo tallow soaps and hand lotions from The Prairie Soap Company. These smell wonderful and leave your skin SOOO soft!

We went through the famous Roosevelt Arch at the North entrance to Yellowstone National Park, and purchased the annual National Parks pass (my old one from the Grand Canyon having expired just three days before) for 80 bucks.

Hopped over the border into Wyoming and visited Yellowstone's famous Mammoth Hot Springs, then drove to our hotel (the lovely Bucks T-4 Lodge in Big Sky MT), checked in, and went to bed early.

Wednesday, August 4
Woke up and decided to go fly fishing! We hired a guide from Wild Trout Outfitters for a half day (4 hour) walk 'n' wade and enjoyed the lovely Gallatin River. The guy I was with had a lot of success. He must have caught a dozen fish. I hooked two rainbow trout but wasn't able to reel them in. However, since it was my first time ever fly fishing, I was still happy and I had a great time. It was catch and release, by the way.

We headed to the local Lone Peak Brewery for a pint and some lunch and got some advice from a friendly local on hikes nearby. We ended up spending four hours hiking the Beehive Basin Upper Trail which was a dream come true for wildflowers in bloom. It was hilarious. Every time I realized I was ahead of Bruce I would turn around and he'd be on his hands and knees photographing a columbine or some such thing. We also saw an elk and a mama and baby moose (not too close).

Dinner at the Lodge (I had pheasant) and another early bedtime.

Thursday, August 5

Last day in the West and we need to make it count!!! We decided early on to devote an entire day to Yellowstone even through there were other tempting things to do (horseback riding, whitewater rafting). It's a good thing we did. We drove the Grand Loop and it took 11 hours and 45 minutes. This is without doing any of the hikes. We saw a black bear way up close to the car, snuffling along and eating berries. Lots of bison, lots of elk. Both close enough to spit on if you were that stupid. Many people were getting out of their cars and getting closer for photo ops. I stayed in. People get killed every year trying to ride the bison, if you can believe that. No grizzlies. We did see a coyote right at the end but it had mange so we definitely kept our distance from that one too. We also saw whooping cranes and some other birds. No frogs. No turtles. Hmmm....

We did do Old Faithful, but it was at about 7:15 in the evening so the crowds were way down. (We came in the West entrance and headed left to go around the Grand Loop.) I have to admit, as tourist-y as it is, that geyser is absolutely amazing! It was worth seeing. My absolute favorite of the natural features was the Midway Geyser Basin. I loved the Grand Prismatic. You get used to the thermal areas, even seeing bison walking along the fragile ground. All the signs that caution humans to not step off the walkways for fear of death by burning, and here's a two thousand pound animal munching nonchalantly on some vegetation. I think the Dragon's Mouth and Mud Volcano features were super creepy. You swear the dragon's mouth is the entrance to a witch's cave, or there's some evil creature about to be born. It is the freakiest thing I've ever seen: pits of boiling mud. It took me nearly half the day to stop being afraid of the "evil" that I felt everywhere we went that was a thermal feature. There's just something about hissing steam crawling out of the ground around you that makes you afraid. At least, it did affect me that way. By the end I was able to intellectually realize that we simply were close to a crack in the earth's surface and therefore a lot of heat was coming out. An awesome experience!

Back to the lodge for dinner (this time I had the elk) and our bottle of wild elderberry mead which we got at the gift shop in Yellowstone. I had a huckleberry mojito at Buck's T-4 the night before, trying to enjoy the local flavors. Wild berries are a big deal out there.

Friday, August 6
Up at 4 am to catch our flight back. Bleagh.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Form Drawing for Better Handwriting

Last year I used the introductory form drawing book by Live Education! as my text.

This year I am switching to the two-volume Form Drawing for Better Handwriting series, available at Bob & Nancy's Bookshop.

I have added my notes for the stories I wish to use (there are 25 forms in Volume 1) to the website. The booklist is viewable by everyone but you must have a subscription to download the notes and see what specific story I recommend for each form and why (it looks like a frog hopping, etc.) Enjoy getting ready for a new school year!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Developmental Insights

I'm reading a marvelous book called Developmental Insights: Discussions between Doctors and Teachers, edited by David Mitchell.

In the very first essay, which is about the Heart, there is a quote from Novalis which really resonated with me and I'd like to share it.

"The heart is the key to the world and to life. We are in this helpless state in order to love and be beholden to others. Being imperfect we are open to others, and it is openness to the influence of others which is the purpose."

I just finished reading Their Eyes Were Watching Godby Zora Neale Hurston and this quote reminded me so much of something she says in the novel. Janie is sitting by the deathbed of her second husband, Jody, and she is confronting him about how he always bullied her during the course of their marriage. In fact, he steamrolled right over everybody in the town.

"And now you got tuh die tuh find out dat you got tuh pacify somebody besides yo'self if you wants any love and any sympathy in this world. You ain't tried tuh pacify nobody but yo'self. Too busy listening tuh yo' own big voice."

The novel tells the story of a very strong woman through three marriages and her own developing sense of self. I think it's interesting the things that I am reading about the purpose of life. Why we're here... that age-old question. Some things I have read make it sound like you have to strive to be independent, strong, and self-sufficient and then you'll have done well for yourself. Then there's another point of view: that the true path is through humility and openness to others. Being vulnerable is the only real strength. I wonder whether Janie was stronger during her second marriage where she simply became subservient to her husband, or during her third marriage where she opened herself up and enjoyed every bit of fun and love that Tea Cake, her new husband, gave her. In the end she shoots Tea Cake at point blank range because he contracted rabies trying to save her from a mad dog and he is coming after her with a gun, his mind turned to madness by the disease. The jury ruled that she did it as an act of love.

Developmental Insights is a book I would recommend if you're looking to learn more about anthroposophy. It is a series of lectures given in 1989 at a conference between Waldorf teachers and anthroposophical physicians. Many of Steiner's ideas are explained and put into context in a lovely way. I'm finding it very helpful as summer reading before the school year begins.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Planning the Art Curriculum

This year I want to do a focus on the Great Masters, one afternoon per week, one Artist per month. This is in addition to the regular art lessons (watercolor painting, beeswax modeling, puppetry, calligraphy, clay modeling, papermaking/moving pictures, watercolor pencils, and batik).

I'm using MaryAnn Kohl's wonderful book Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters

She has the book divided into four main periods in history so we'll do one period in Sep/Oct, one in Nov/Dec, one in Jan/Feb, and one in Mar/Apr. (May will be completely devoted to our Storytelling Festival) Michelangelo is a natural choice for September's Old Testament Stories block, for example. I've also been to the Sistine Chapel so I can't wait to share my experiences. Degas's sculpture is a perfect tie-in to puppetry and dry felting later on. Georgia O'Keefe is wonderful for Farming & Gardening. I love these connections!!! (I recommend planning your school year blocks before you pick your artists.) Here is my rough idea of our school year:

Chapter 1: Long, Long Ago
Renaissance & Post-Renaissance

September - Michelangelo
October - Audubon

Chapter 2: Sunny & Free
Impressionists & Post-Impressionists

November - Degas
December - Van Gogh

Chapter 3: Wild & Wacky
Expressionists, Abstract, Abstract-Expressionists, Cubists, Dadaists & Surrealists

January - Klee
February - Picasso

Chapter 4: Art Today Everyway
Pop, Op, Folk, Modern, Cartoonists, Photojournalists & Children's Book Illustrators

March - O'Keeffe
April - Ringgold

I'd like to also use some of her ideas from Chapter 5 throughout the year.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Papermaking Workshop

I've been asked to lead a papermaking craft this Wednesday with a group of children. My mother lent me her new papermaking book, Papermaking with Plants: Creative Recipes and Projects Using Herbs, Flowers, Grasses, and Leavesby Helen Heibert.

I've done papermaking many times, including using plant fibers which we collected ourselves (corn husks, as part of the 3rd grade Farming & Gardening block), and so I know a lot about various ways of doing things. I enjoyed a simple suggestion in Helen Heibert's book, though, about making a low cost kid-friendly mould and deckle. She recommends using a pair of plastic berry baskets or deli salad containers!

You cut a hole in the bottom of both containers, leaving a small margin for stability. Then glue four foam strips around the outside of one container to frame your hole. The thickness of the foam will affect the thickness of the sheet of paper that is made. Cut a piece of stiff window screen that will fit securely inside but cover the hole in the bottom of the second container. This does not get fastened to the container because you have to be able to lift the screen out with the pulp on it in order to couch it. Simple and each child can make their own, if an adult cuts the holes first, and write their name on it and take it home and keep it!!!

We are using regular white paper torn up and soaked overnight. This is an intro so I'm not going to gather plant materials, plus I don't like boiling them with washing soda when there are kids around since the fumes are harmful. (Don't do this inside -- I use a hot plate outside and always keep a fire extinguisher right by it.) I'm literally using whatever white paper is in my recycling bin. It's the last craft of the summer so there's no budget for purchasing cotton linters. Usually linters work better and they result in stronger paper.

We'll dye our paper pulp with watercolor paints if the children would like to experiment with that. Beware: this will permanently stain the towels you have laid down for this project.

We'll do a combination of working with moulds & deckles and trying the cookie cutter shape method which I used to make handmade paper ornaments last Christmas. I have a set of alphabet cookie cutters so each child can make little papers in the shape of their initials, or even spell their own name!

I will have dried rose petals available for people who want to sprinkle in a little extra pizazz. I also might have some flower seeds remaining which I can also offer to the children.

We don't have a blender to destroy for this, so I'm going to tear up the paper and soak it overnight in a large bowl in the fridge. Then, so that the children feel like they've helped to prepare the paper, I will give them plastic liter bottles to pour their pulp into and shake it vigorously. This is also the step where they can personalize by adding color or other decorative materials. I think the main things I will need are plastic cafeteria trays and masking tape and a Sharpie to label each child's work station. Also, plenty of old towels! If it's a nice day, we will be able to work outside which is always nice.

If you're getting into papermaking, here's another wonderful recommendation: