Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Vimala Alphabet

Today I was reorganizing my art supplies in preparation for the upcoming school year (paints and brushes are now in the laundry room, by the utility sink, which is where I want children washing them out... NOT in my bathroom and definitely not in my kitchen) and found a jar of Mod-Podge. Which got me to thinking about the old card table that I got from my Aunt Janet. It has a few rips in the faux woodgrain plastic-fabric covering on the top but otherwise is old, old fashioned, and sturdy as all get out. So I decided to do a collage on top of it. It's only ever used by kids playing card games or doing art or puzzles, so it doesn't need to be super-fancy. And if we ever had a fancy occasion it would be covered by a tablecloth anyway.

Next decision, where to find some images suitable for making a collage. I thought first about magazines but we don't have any that we want to rip up. Then I considered any picture books of which we have duplicates. Then I remembered a book which was in a Sonlight box, lo these many years ago, and which I never really liked but never got rid of.

The 20th-Century Children's Book Treasury:
Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud

This may look like a great book but it isn't.

Why? NOTHING against the original books in this collection. But when you take a picture book and turn it into a chapter book, the art work and the breaks in the storyline don't make sense. And all of those details were carefully chosen. It's a huge disservice to the original author and illustrators, not to mention that it completely ruins the story. Four pages of Good Night Moon crammed into one? No thank you. Where's the slow pause as you turn the page and it gets closer and closer to bedtime? Gone. This is like watching a movie which has been edited "pan and scan" as opposed to letterboxed. It's like someone else completely recut the whole movie. And it is not at all how the original was meant to be.

But the artwork is great in this book and so I kept it. Although I never once read it to my kids. And now that great artwork is going to be collaged onto my card table!

In other more homeschool-y news, I love my new purchase:

Animals, Pen, and Ink:
The Letters of our Alphabet and How We Write and Think!

I have owned

Soul Development Through Handwriting:
The Waldorf Approach to the Vimala Alphabet

since November 30, 2007, according to Amazon's little note to me at the top of the page, and I can tell you honestly that I never once got around to reading it. But this little book, although it looks childish, reads in a very friendly and inviting way and it sat on my dining room table for only a day before I picked it up and read the whole thing. And I'm very excited about teaching this method of handwriting to my children!

I didn't know this before but the Vimala Alphabet has a few things about it that are cool, besides the way that the letters are shaped and the soul quality that is developed by forming each one. For one thing, the Vimala Alphabet puts the letters in a different order. This is because they are grouped by families. It goes like this:

Aa Oo Dd Gg Qq Pp

Yy Uu Ww Vv

Mm Nn Hh

Ll Ee Ii Jj

Ff Rr Ss

Tt Kk Bb

Cc Xx


Obviously, I don't have the Vimala font in Blogger so forgive me for that. But you get the general idea.

This is also the only alphabet I've ever seen that gives you a choice of how to form certain letters. Really! There are two ways of doing a capital M, and both are right. Two ways of doing a capital N. Two lowercase e, two lowercase r, two lowercase t.

The letters are grouped in families as follows, based on their similarities:

The Family of Communication - a o d g q p

The Family of Learning and Evaluating - y u w v

The Family of Honoring and Expressing - m n h

The Family of Insight - l e i j

The Family of Creativity - f r s

The Family of Status - t k b

The Family of Trusting and Inner Authority - c x

The Grandfather Letter of Contentment - z

There are many things that are traditional, like the three zones, and having your paper slanted at an angle when you write (although she says that "There is no right or wrong way to hold the pen or pencil" which almost made me fall out of my chair).

Lastly, and most curious to me right now, is that "In this book you will discover Vimala's insights into how letters live in families, along with the meaning of the letters, and how to draw them. Her unique vision includes an animal representing each letter. Animals have certain characteristics that are unique to their own species. Vimala teaches us that each alphabet letter is like that too, with a personality or flavor all its own. It's fun to think about the animal whose traits seem to blend into a letter."

Ready? Here they are:

    A dolphin

    O hawk

    D dog

    G elk (wapiti)

    Q horse

    P porcupine

    Y peacock

    U owl

    W wolf

    V eagle

    M swan

    N chimpanzee

    H butterfly

    L whale

    E baby harp seal

    I lioness

    J bear

    F spider

    R silkworm

    S snake

    T tiger

    K deer

    B camel

    C white buffalo

    X goose

    Z pelican

    Th hummingbird

Update a few hours later:

* How to Decoupage: The 7 Steps to Perfect Mod Podging Every Time *

I am putting this here for your convenience...

(I didn't actually look it up until I messed up my first three pieces of paper and had to rip them off the table in haste. They were a wrinkled mess. Should have read a how-to article beforehand! Don't have a brayer but smoothing with a putty knife totally works.)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Montessori Materials Wishlist (Elementary)

These are all items that I had in my previous classroom at a Montessori school, which I miss and would like to save up for. Even if I just get the bare essentials and the things that I think are the very best Montessori has to offer, it will still cost me about $5000. Sometimes I miss the advantages of classroom teaching... especially in a well-stocked progressive school!

The very first thing I bought after I moved here was a Harrisville Designs 48 inch standing tapestry loom. I missed the one from my classroom so much!

Update: As you can see, I've worked hard to purchase many of these items over the years!! My current Montessori inventory and wishlist are below.

I've now begun to winnow down a bit and sell or donate some of our extra Montessori classroom materials. I'm extremely proud to support Gavin McCormack's efforts to build Montessori schools in remote areas of Nepal!

This list was updated April 24, 2023.

I joyfully use the Mathematics, Grammar, and Geography materials in my Waldorf classroom. I also present the Great Lessons when age-appropriate.


Michael Olaf

Hello Wood

Waseca Biomes

Great Extensions

Montessori Research and Development

ETC Montessori


Clocca Concepts

Azoka / Montessori Services

Mandala Classroom Resources

Mortensen Math (which I like best for Algebra)
can be ordered from Crewton Ramone, Anna Tarnowski, and Geoff White

I promise that this video will BLOW YOUR MIND.

Nienhuis Montessori - Primary & Elementary

Neinhuis Montessori - Enrichment - Toys for Life

      already purchased
      Turn Over list of item numbers (this material is extremely hard to find so I'm going to include a lot of information about it)

      329000 - Board Only

      329201 - Set 1

        form discrimination
        the shortest
        pattern discrimination
        shape completion
        filled-half filled-empty
        thick and thin
        left-right matching
        left-right matching
        relationship perception
        pattern and shape completion

      329401 - Set 2

        quantity matching
        what is missing?
        what remains?
        find the contents
        "less than" matching
        go togethers
        whose shoe is this?

      329601 - Set 3

        same object, different image
        positions of a cat
        geometric shapes
        fruit quantity
        shape discrimination
        posture matching
        animals and their young
        positive - negative

      329801 - Nature (instruction manual PDF)

        skin and hair
        which tail?
        the butterfly
        the egg
        the cobweb
        remove one
        the frog
        the bean

Handmade Montessori Materials

Some of the things I had access to at Tidewater I adored but they are so out of my reach, like the Geometric Hierarchy of Number, a material to scale from one unit to one million. And of course it is color-coded with the Montessori place value colors. We used it in a phenomenal, and spontaneous, lesson after the 2010 earthquake in Chile, showing how the Richter Scale is logarithmic. Laying the Wooden Hierarchical out as we talked about a size 1 earthquake, size 2, size 3, size 4, etc. really drove the point home how powerful that earthquake was! And having the Waseca Biomes of the World Mat out on the floor first, to see if the children could find Chile, and the This Dynamic Planet Map (we have the paper copy... it is much more dramatic to crawl around on it and find all the earthquakes than an online version) spread out afterwards... it was just wonderful.

Here's a very nice article on why Montessori math materials are so fantastic. Montessori materials can be tough, though, since the material is open-ended and hands-on but precisely workshopped to be mathematically exact and philosophically correct (I do NOT believe in DIY Mont. materials) and all the teaching comes from the presentation to the child (which must be done correctly) and then the child's subsequent hands-on exploration, you DON'T know how to use them without help. And now, with YouTube, you can get a lesson on how to do almost anything in Montessori without having to pay for expensive teacher training!

Theatre Camp Thursday

    I wrote all of our theatre games on a big piece of chart paper and we've been playing our favorites over and over!

    plus I introduced Honey Walk, Happy Place and Two Claps (I'm sorry... I just can't teach children a game called "Pass the Clap.")

    Two Claps, as I re-named it, was great for communication and team building and Happy Place was fantastic for calming the group down before I reviewed our final to-do lists for individual and team projects for today.



    final draft of the play programmes, which we will decorate tomorrow

    final to-do lists for individual and team projects

    full walk-through with music to determine blocking and make final decisions on sets -- this went GREAT and I kept pausing the CD and literally jumping up and down and clapping my hands! I wasn't the only one. We were all so happy at how well this play is turning out!

    *** SPOILER ***

    If you are a parent of one of my campers and you don't want to know what happens in this play, stop reading now.

    We will be lining the front walkway to my house with the cardboard farm animals, and the children playing the collie dog and Grandfather (and our pet rabbit, starring in the "rabbit" role on the farm) will greet parents and grandparents as they arrive and pass out the programmes, with cover art and personal notes from their own child.

    Yes, each family gets customized programmes created by their child(ren). I typed up all the general information but left plenty of room for a personal note and each child tomorrow will make several for his/her family and write a sweet note and draw the cover art.

    Then when all parents are seated in the living room, the collie will do a quick costume change into Peter while Grandfather greets the audience and sings his song about the dangers in the woods and his fears for Peter.

    It is not a complicated set. The audience is sitting in my living room, on the sofas, looking at the large chalkboard which has a tree drawn on it. There's a stone wall, a gate, a stump in the meadow, a few stools and a coffee table (these are supposed to be parts of the tree and serve as limb-pieces which we can sit on), and a down comforter on the floor (the pond). They can't see into my kitchen, which is around the corner, and serves as Peter's house and the backstage area. The stairs in the kitchen provide a resting spot for people who are backstage.

    When the play begins, Peter will come through the gate (a folding wooden accordion-style clothes dryer, lying on its side) and walk around the living room. The bird will perch on a stool, stage LEFT, next to the large chalkboard we have, which will have the tree drawn on it. In that way, she will be "in" the tree. The tree takes up one entire side of the living room. It actually is a barrier between the living room and the dining room and so it also conveniently hides the reception food, all set up on the dining room table.

    The duck will come waddling in through the gate, having been hanging out "backstage" on the stairs in my kitchen, and swim happily in the blue down comforter "lake" on the floor. The bird will fly down, quarrel with the duck, and then I (the cat) will creep out, dressed all in black and wearing Zac in a black baby sling on my belly to be my baby cat, and try to catch the bird.

    She will fly back up to her stool. Grandfather will fetch Peter and take him back through the gate into the "house," ie. my kitchen.

    The wolf, who has been hiding behind the living room sofa all this time will scare the audience to death by creeping out between them.

    I will jump up onto the coffee table which is adjacent to the blackboard, stage RIGHT, and thus part of the tree. This was a happy moment for me, when we were all just jumping up onto furniture which was handy but I realized that the bird and I, by being on either side of the chalkboard, were actually doing just what the story said and not being too close to each other.

    The duck will leap off of the blue comforter and begin to run around it, with the wolf chasing her in circles. The wolf will "eat" the duck by catching her right by the space between the two sofas and when the wolf leaps on the duck and covers her with her shaggy brown wolf cape, the duck will slip between the two sofas and hang out in the wolf's previous hiding spot. The wolf will slink back and forth in front of the chalkboard/tree looking at the bird and me.

    Then Peter will come to the gate, see what's happening, go back into the house/my kitchen and grab his rope, then slip along in front of the tapestry loom (which is our stone wall) and climb up onto a kitchen stepstool to be in the tree, stage LEFT. Another happy moment! The stepstool he is on happens to be by the one the bird is on, and so he is easily able to ask the bird to fly down and distract the wolf. It's like my house was made to be the set for this play!

    While the wolf is distracted by the bird and looking stage RIGHT, and can't see what Peter is up to, Peter will stand on his stepstool and slowly lower down the lasso. Naturally, he catches her!

    The audience will stay in their seats but pretend to be the hunters coming out of the woods when they hear their music.

    When it is time for the ending procession, Peter and the wolf (the duck will slip past the rocking chair out of her hiding place behind the living room furniture and crawl alongside the wolf as if she were in his belly), the audience members/hunters, the cat and Grandfather, and the bird will all walk together out of our front door and towards the yard which is the Zoo.

    Then I will slip off my cat mask and become the zookeeper. The duck will slip off her duck mask and cape and become the ticket seller. We will stop the parents in the front yard and distract them by making them buy tickets to the zoo, and I will be taking care of the baby elephant, ie. changing Zac into his baby elephant costume. The other children will be quickly changing into their zoo animal costumes.

    When they are ready they will stand by their exhibit signs in the yard and the parents can go around and visit them and tell them how amazing and wonderful they are!

    Then we will go back into the house and around to behind the chalkboard where my dining room table is, all covered with yummy reception food. Parents can pick up their child immediately afterwards or hang out and play theatre games with us until the end of camp.


  • finishing painting sky and grass around cardboard farm animals
  • cutting out cardboard lion mask -- for all of these masks I had them sketch and paint, and then I cut out around the mask with a box cutter when the paint was dry
  • drawing and painting the paper collie mask
  • painting signs for zoo exhibits -- Monkeys, Tiger, Lion, Elephant, Wolf -- plus a sign for Zoo admission and a sign which reads Monkey Show in 5 minutes
  • placing zoo exhibit signs in the lawn and setting up a small table for ticket sales
  • finishing the sewing of feathers on the cardinal costumer/sweater dress
  • cutting out duck feather-shapes from different shades of yellow wool felt and gluing them onto the mask
  • cutting the eyes out of the bird mask and gluing on the last red feathers
  • sewing coffee ball-dyed cotton balls onto the shaggy wolf cape
  • drawing and painting tree branches to attach to the chalkboard and the living room walls
  • moving furniture in the living room to create the stage
  • painting the final few invitations for family members
  • Today I did NOT have to go to the craft store! My only task was to print out the programmes and fold them into thirds, and to paint the stone wall and prop it up in front of our tapestry loom. And so I took Zac to his very first baseball game... Hooray! We saw the Miners.

    Today's cost: $0.00. Total cost: $37.92.

    I am NOT including the cost of any of our food as a "camp" cost, since these ingredients can be used to make other recipes for my own personal use. Also, I had many craft supplies already, such as fabric dye. That helped to keep it inexpensive.

Tomorrow's plan:

  • make zoo tickets, set them up at the little table outside
  • decorate programmes with cover art and personal notes to family members inside
  • assemble tree -- draw on chalkboard, add branches to chalkboard and to wall, place stuffed owl in branches and stuffed hedgehogs at base of tree
  • place zoo stuffed animals in locations around the yard, by their signs
  • place meadow stuffed animals in location under the tree
  • put Zac's pack 'n' play in the yard in his elephant habitat
  • make reception food: fresh fruit platter (grapes, bananas, local blackberries), baked local nectarines, black bean brownies, strawberry banana coconut smoothies
  • set up reception table
  • cut holes and add string to wolf mask, bird mask, collie mask
  • stuff socks with wool batting and attach to monkeys
  • face paint monkeys and cats
  • full dress rehearsal

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Theatre Camp Wednesday

    Group Stop, Minefield, Wink Murder, Categories, Gibberish, Two Sticks, Yes... Let's!

    plus Guard the Fire, which Anna taught us. This is a fun game! You take two sticks and cross them in front of one child, who sits on the floor blindfolded. That child must guard the fire with his/her hands (but is not allowed to actually touch the sticks). All the other children crouch at the starting line and try to sneak up and steal the sticks without being sensed and tapped. If the guard taps you, you must return to the starting line. Whoever successfully steals the sticks becomes the new guard.


    Today we were gluten-free and baked gf roll-and-cut sugar cookies. I used Grandmommy's vintage "deck of cards" shaped cookie cutters. Heart, Spade, Club, Diamond. I can imagine her making plates of these cookies to serve at bridge parties. It was fun to make cookies at the very table, in the very kitchen, with the very stove, where we always rolled and decorated Christmas cookies when I was a child!


    final to-do lists and the countdown to dress rehearsal tomorrow!

    plus, planning the menu for the reception & making parent/grandparent invitations with watercolor notecards and watercolor pencils


  • drawing and painting a cardboard cow
  • gluing cotton to the cardboard sheep
  • painting the cardboard lion mask
  • composing lyrics and creating a song for Grandfather to sing before the play starts, warning Peter of the dangers in the woods
  • continuing to decorate the living room windows with window crayons to look like we are in a forest
  • laying down a light blue king size down comforter to be our lake, moving the coffee table out of the way
  • creating the duck costume/cape (I'm a big fan of simple capes as costumes)
  • drawing and painting duck mask out of a brown paper bag, attaching and painting the bill
  • gluing dyed coffee balls to the wolf mask
  • gluing red feathers to the cardinal mask
  • beginning to sew red feathers on the cardinal costume/sweater dress
  • Today I went to the craft store after camp and got the supplies on the list I was handed. That was blue paint and green paint. You may have noticed that I'm going to the store daily to get new paint colors. This is deliberate! Instead of buying a bunch of paint and handing it to the kids and saying, here, guys, have at it... I wanted them to focus on the planning process. Let me think about what I want to create; let me think about what we have on hand and what I need; let me make a written shopping list. Because they haven't thought things through, they have to wait until I've gone back to the store. This (gentle) real-life-lesson is supposed to make them more focused and aware, instead of expecting craft supplies to fall from the sky. Love and Logic says that you should give kids lots of chances to make small mistakes and learn from them. You then react matter-of-factly and with empathy. I haven't had any paint emergencies so far, and the kids are doing well with huddling up, checking in, looking at our to-do lists, and participating in the planning process.

    Today's cost: $6.50. Total cost so far: $37.92.

Tomorrow's plan: more acting games, testing the last two recipes for the reception menu (Vegan Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies & Vegan Coconut Smoothie), last details in designing/sewing/painting/decorating costumes/ masks/sets, walk-through and blocking decisions, dress rehearsal (hopefully) in the afternoon

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Theatre Camp Tuesday



    Today we were gluten-free and baked gf chocolate surprise cupcakes with chocolate frosting on top and marshmallows hidden inside


    to-do lists!


    Today was a HUGE creating day!

  • drawing and painting a cardboard pig, two sheep, and a tiger
  • drawing our huge cardboard tree
  • decorating the living room windows with window crayons to look like we are in a forest
  • drawing a cardboard lion mask
  • finger knitting yarn pieces for the lion's mane
  • dyeing an old sheet bright yellow for the duck costume fabric
  • draping an old sheet to be a wolf costume/cape, cutting jagged slits to make it shaggy, dyeing it chestnut brown
  • drawing and painting cardboard wolf mask
  • dyeing cotton balls with instant coffee crystals for the wolf mask
  • deciding on a long red sweater to be the base of the cardinal costume -- we are sewing feathers on it tomorrow
  • drawing and painting cardboard cardinal mask
  • drawing and painting cardboard cardinal beak
  • So I have dyed sheets hanging from my clothesline in the rain, newspaper and painting projects strewn all over my garage floor, a cookie sheet of wet coffee-soaked cotton balls sitting on top of my dehumidifier, and an enormous pile of corrugated cardboard stacked in my living room. :-)

    Today I went to the craft store after camp and got the supplies on the list I was handed. That was yellow paint and orange paint for the lion mask, and red feathers for the cardinal costume and mask.

    Today's cost: $15.17. Total cost so far: $31.42.

Tomorrow's plan: more acting games, baking gf sugar cookies, finishing designing/sewing/painting/decorating costumes and masks, making final to-do lists of materials to buy and costume pieces & props to bring from home, making final decisions about the huge tree - the gate - the lake, choosing reception menu, decorating invitations for the families (Friday @ 2 pm)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Theatre Camp: Peter and the Wolf

Our few-times-a-week sessions of Handwork for Homeschoolers grew into Art & Handwork by student request, and then progressed to a week-long Art & Handwork day camp by parent request, which developed into Theatre Camp at MY request, because a week of art and handwork from 9 am to 4:30 pm with no over-arching theme would just drive me crazy.

Thus... Peter and the Wolf!

Thank you to both Sergei Prokofiev and David Bowie for allowing us to frame this week completely stress-free, with all of the stage directions and narration being provided for us, as a fun hands-on exploration of everything that makes being creative and acting out a story FUN!

Here is a list of our games, planning activities, and today's recipe. We decided early-on in the planning stages that making a daily recipe was a must. Turns out kids don't often get a chance to cook with their parents anymore and so this was high on the children's wish list of fun things to do. Today's recipe had to be gluten-free and vegan, which allowed us to focus on fresh seasonal produce: PEACHES!




    listen to Peter and the Wolf, brainstorm, choose parts, sketch costumes and sets, make supply lists, divvy up the set design tasks

    We listened to the story quietly, then each child acted out his/her first and second choice of parts to play. The other children had to watch carefully and guess which character was being acted out. After seeing what everyone wanted, we figured out who would be what in the main story.

    I then asked for other ideas and I found out that lots of children wanted to add barnyard animals and zoo animals to the story.

    We ended up deciding that the introduction to the story would be at Grandfather and Peter's farm, where a collie would greet our audience members as they arrived and pass out the programs. We also decided that the audience members would be the hunters. They don't do anything but come out of the woods at the end and join the procession. The procession of children and parents will take us outside to the yard, where we will take the wolf to the zoo and all of the children who want to be zoo animals will do ultra-quick costume changes and become Tigers, Lions, Elephants, and Monkeys. Zac will be an elephant because we already have a baby elephant Halloween costume and he will sit in his playpen, which happens to be decorated with wild animals. The children noticed that, and were delighted with their idea! Zac and I are also going to be playing the cat(s) so it looks like cat ears and face paint whiskers are in his future as well.


    After camp ended I went to the cardboard dumpsters behind the co-op and the hardware store and stocked up on a HUGE amount of corrugated cardboard. From what I understand, people want to draw, paint, and cut out sheep, horses, cows, pigs, etc for the initial farmyard scenery. They also want to paint a barn. We are also making signs for the zoo animals, and a huge tree for the indoor scenery. We decided that since Peter, the cat, and the bird all have to sit in the tree, it makes the most sense to turn our dining room table into the tree and then everyone can just perch on a chair!

    This evening I got the cardboard, then bought paint in the colors on the supply list I was handed (white, black, brown, red, pink) and wandered around the house and got a large pile of brown paper grocery bags, some plain white sheets to be costume-fabric and some iDye for natural fibers, and a few sweaters in costume-y colors (yellow duck, orange tiger, red bird). Total cost so far: $16.25.

Tomorrow's plan: more acting games, baking chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, dyeing fabric, starting paper-mache masks, painting cardboard for the sets, using window crayons to decorate the living room and dining room windows to look like a forest of trees, and deciding whether we want to go so far as to have real tree branches tied to the chalkboard and chairs. I did just happen to trim some low-hanging tree branches...

Friday's performance will be a blast. We are using a free Doodle Poll to figure out what time on Friday all the parents can make it. The perfect time is very important. I hope each child in the camp will have an adult in the audience.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Setting up Homeschool Co-ops

I'm supporting a homeschool consulting client who is putting together a Waldorf preschool co-op in MD two days a week. They are doing Monday ("Bread Day") 9 am to 3 pm, and Thursday ("Soup Day") 9 am to noon.

Here is the draft schedule we came up with:

Her booklist can be found in a previous post on my blog.

I am also in the process of setting up a Waldorf homeschool co-op myself in IL. We are looking at Monday and Friday from 9 am to 3 pm, Tuesday and Thursday from noon - 3 pm, and Wednesday as a full day at Dayempur Farm.

Monday 9 am - 3 pm
Tuesday noon - 3 pm
Wednesday Farm Day
Thursday noon - 3 pm
Friday 9 am - 3 pm

For children who need Extra Lesson work, Tuesday and Thursday mornings are set aside for that one-on-one.

I went to visit the farm on Wednesday to have a tour and interview the farm staff. There were beautiful heritage turkey toms strutting, chickens running free and milling around Zac's stroller, baby chicks, rows and rows of vegetables, apple trees laden with fruit, greenhouses, fishing ponds, and lots of friendly adults and children enjoying the farm experience. They have projects in sustainable building like a straw bale house and solar showers, and a beautiful herb garden filled with medicinal herbs. Their herbal salve is famous around our farmer's markets!

Our special subjects will be Art, Handwork, Philosophy, Agriculture (obviously), Yoga, and American Sign Language.

Monday and Friday from 9 am to 9:30 am will be Yoga.

Monday after Yoga will be Philosophy and Friday after Yoga will be Art.

ASL will be Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Clearly, in order to have a consistent main lesson time, it needs to be Mon/Tue/Thu/Fri afternoons. Yes, afternoons. I absolutely believe in Hands / Heart / Head and I think that movement and play and free choice should start your day. And the academics should come after you feel refreshed and are ready to be peaceful and do work that is a little quieter. Not that Waldorf doesn't infuse movement and art into everything!

All in all, we are super excited for the upcoming school year!

My schedule of blocks has been revised from what I posted a while back (2016-17 School Year Blocks). My oldest daughter will be starting high school this fall. She is fourteen. My middle daughter is in 7th grade and has decided to try public school. So my youngest daughter will be homeschooling with me, as well as the children in our co-op. So my range of grades is more like 1st/2nd/3rd and 6th/7th. Here are my current main lesson block notes:

Block One: Math I

Form Drawing

Quality of Numbers

The Story of Geometry

Block Two: Cultural I

Aesop's Fables


Ancient Mythologies: India, Persia, Babylon, Egypt

Block Three: Language I


Old Testament I

Block Four: Science I

4 Seasons



Block Five: Math II

4 Processes

Baking: Time, Temperature, Weight, Volume

Block Six: Cultural II

Native American Legends

Middle Ages

Block Seven: Language II


Old Testament II

Block Eight: Science II

Nature Study / Thornton Burgess



Block Nine: Math III


Column Algorithms

Business Math: Fractions, Decimals, Percents, Ratios, Graphing

Block Ten: Cultural III

Biomes of the World

Fundamental Needs of Man

Local History & Geography

Block Eleven: Language III

Creative Writing

Old Testament III

Block Twelve: Science III



Geology, Astronomy, Chemistry, and Local History & Geography are the blocks that will be new to me this year. I'm very excited!

I already have a few things, like Teaching Geography by Roy Wilkinson, and

Don't forget to check out the amazing collection of Waldorf books available as a free download in PDF form at the Online Waldorf Library, including

Chemistry Reader: An Orientation to Developing Chemistry Instruction in Waldorf Schools by Dr. Dirk Rohde, for grades 7 - 12

Some possible resources to buy:

Geology and Astronomy

by Charles Kovacs

Geology Underfoot in Illinois

by Raymond Wiggers

Southern Illinois: An Illustrated History

by Bill Nunes

The Wonders of Waldorf Chemistry

by David Mitchell

Photographic Card Deck of the Elements

by Theodore Gray

Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe

by Theodore Gray

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Learning about Ratios with "Star Soup"

The recipe for hummingbird nectar

So, some quick updates on what's new with us.

Handwork for Homeschoolers is still going on, and has been a big success. Today we had a "make up" day where we make up projects people missed. On those days, I don't choose a picture book or set up new lessons. We listen to a musical story and I get out supplies for projects we've done in past sessions and everyone decides what they are most interested in. Today it was Peter and the Wolf (we like the narration by David Bowie) for our story, and the activities were making hummingbird nectar, wet felted geodes, and some free sewing time where one child designed and sewed a layered fabric flower brooch with a button center and another child designed and sewed a trapeze swing short-sleeved dress for her stuffed monkey. Of course we had snack and played too!

I love hummingbird nectar as a simple lesson in ratios (Hands-On Math!: Ready-To-Use Games & Activities for Grades 4-8 is great for ratios and proportions and, in fact, all kinds of math lessons) but I've never thought of using blocks before to share the recipe. We have a bunch of colorful wooden stars from Star Stack-Up, a board game that Hearthsong made but apparently doesn't sell anymore, and so I explained what a ratio was visually. One part : four parts. The girls had never seen any math relationship written that way. And when I used the word "part," they didn't know what I meant. Even though I explained that the unit of measurement could be anything from a spoonful to a pound, as long as you had four of water to one of sugar, you were keeping the recipe correct, it didn't really click until they saw the blocks. In fact, when we measured out the ingredients, I laid the blocks down on the kitchen table instead of a written recipe.

We also discussed what it would be like if it was one part water : four parts sugar, and they were able to imagine how that would be MUCH different.

I think it would be great to use the colorful stars to make "star soup" and practice this some more. Let them write any "star soup" recipe they want -- let's say 1 blue : 2 green : 1 red -- and then make one batch of "soup" by putting the appropriate stars in a basket. Then have them double it or triple it and keep the relationship between the colors correct.

In non-math-teaching-news, Zac and I have been taking long leisurely walks every evening when it cools off. I found the best insect repellant for kids. It's a cream and easy to apply, it smells great, and it not only repels bugs it helps heal the skin. Zac's welts from previous bites went right away.

We love their after sun balm too.

Zac is in developmental therapy and speech therapy, for a 30% expressive and receptive delay, but he is making great strides and we are fortunate to be in an area that has so much support for early intervention. FREE at-home early intervention with therapists that come to you, no less. He's gaining milestones all the time. It's fun to take him new places and see his reaction. We went to Castle Park and I got the sweetest shot of him playing peek-a-boo behind a tree.

It was hilarious, though, since this park is an art park and has tons of amazing statues, but he mainly ignored the statues and instead he watched the children playing and the animals nearby. And he spent a lot of time trying to pick up tree roots, thinking they were sticks. When he's older he will appreciate how amazing the multi-level castle playground structure is (complete with several hidden passages) and all of the fantastic art up in the trees and the dragons you can climb on, etc...

Hmmm... a rock

Ooooh, a stick!

(A squirrel, checking out our dropped strawberry-apple puffs)



Yeah, this dragon's not cool at all

What are those kids up to?

I'm outta here

A bench! Awesome!

Now this is really fun!

Next week we are doing a week-long Art/Handwork/Theatre camp where we will be putting on a play of "Peter and the Wolf." I'm so excited about doing it this way. So, there's no stress involved since the children don't have to learn any lines. David Bowie will take care of all that for us, not to mention Prokofiev. They can just focus on bringing the story to life through costumes, sets, additional music, dance, puppetry, masks, and so on. Whatever we come up with! We are cooking every day and putting on a reception at Friday's performance. We will be making hand-drawn programs. Everything artistic and hands-on and FUN that has to do with drama. I have seven kids and seven parts, so what could be more perfect than that? I can't wait to do a bunch of my theater workshop ideas with these kids. One of the workshops I went to years ago at Barbara Dewey's was a homeschool Art & Drama weekend and I still have my notes from all of the drama warm-up activities each morning. I remember Misty fondly!!!

I've completed my needle felting course, started my art of storytelling course, and am still working on the introduction to Anthroposophy. I love the online Waldorf teacher training program through the Sophia Institute. And I'll be traveling to take a watercolor painting class with Gail McManus, which I am super-excited about and have been wanting to take for years!

My garden has fallen behind since I don't have my husband to help keep me motivated and consistent. He loved loved loved going out to that garden every day to see what new was growing and ripening. But the heirloom tomatoes from Mother's Day are still going strong, there's a yellow squash which I started from seed that survived and has thrived, and the rhubarb is enormous. (So is the lamb's ear and the assorted collection of weeds... but I am participating in a research study on why people grow their own food in backyard gardens and she will be coming out to interview me, and help in the garden, every two weeks. So that should provide some incentive and much needed manpower!) I miss my prolific garden from last year. But I never did get my straw bales, since I don't have a truck right now, and that de-railed me quite a bit. Plus the emotional aspect of missing my husband. And now I know that the best thing to do if you want a straw bale garden is order them in the fall, put them in place, let them stand all winter and get conditioned, flip them over in the spring and plant right into that moist decaying mushroom-y loveliness.

Also in my mind as the fall approaches is my wish list of Montessori materials I want to buy. There are things I miss from my old classroom and would love to have, to supplement what we have at home for school. (The first thing I missed, immediately after moving to Illinois, was my classroom tapestry loom. And Adam got it for me for my very first Christmas here.)

My heart is with Waldorf for sure but there's no denying the value of Montessori math, grammar, and geography materials. And I need to narrow down my list of must-haves and create a budget. I will post it once I have created it. Also, I plan to photograph and post all of last year's main lesson books before a new school year begins!!!!!