Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Finishing Up Our Spelling & Grammar Block

There is a lot being written right now about Structured Word Inquiry (SWI). If you are interested, here is a recent blog post from my colleague, Dvora Kravitz, MA, AET ET/P: Good-Bye Phonics, Hello Structured Word Inquiry.

After our introduction last week, we continued exploring SWI and adding the concepts to our Main Lesson Books. We will have SWI as a weekly Special subject for the rest of the year. Our next Main Lesson will be a Math topic.

Monday, October 22

  • watch the video The true story of 'true' by Gina Cooke
  • look carefully at how a dictionary entry in etymonline is organized; review that a word can actually be more than one part of speech, depending on how it is used in a sentence
  • use the Online Etymology Dictionary to explore < tree > and < true >
  • use the Online Etymology Dictionary to find a list of all of the modern words which come from the ancient Proto-Indo-European root *deru-
  • look at the words on the list which students are familiar with such as truce, trust, shelter, tar, and durability
  • explain what a dendrite is; show a picture of a neuron with dendrites from Children and Brain Development: What We Know About How Children Learn and read the information about brain development from "Brain Structure" and "Connections Among Brain Cells"
  • give students time to create a rough draft of Etymology for their MLBs
  • create watercolor resist artwork of a neural network using oil pastels

Tuesday, October 23

  • look deeper into Morphology (the bits and pieces that make up words) and compare it to Orthography (spelling)
  • consider examples of early understanding of morphemes from language constructions in toddler speech
      Zac at age 2:

      this [car] is so 'race-y'

      the goblin is running because something is 'pit-pat-ing'

  • review that prefixes and suffixes can be added to a base multiple times, morphing the meaning (and even the part of speech), but the base stays in the word construction every time
  • write the words < prefix > and < suffix > on the board and consider what base might be shared by the two of them; identify the base
    < fix >; list additional words which use this base, which is one of the steps in determining whether a string of letters is truly a base

  • look at the base < fix > and list possible definitions on the board (mend, put together, build, connect, create)
  • use the Online Etymology Dictionary to explore < prefix > and discover that < fix > has a Latin root figere which means "fasten," which was very close to our list of possible definitions, and that
    < pre > means "before"
  • use the Online Etymology Dictionary to explore < suffix > and discover that the the Latin suffigere comes from figere plus an assimilated form of sub, meaning "under"; review other words which have < sub > as a prefix and what they mean
  • continue with Haunted House of Speech to review Grammar symbols

Thursday, October 25

  • define < Halloween > (step 1 in SWI)
  • practice word sums by constructing possible word sums for
    < Halloween > (step 2 in SWI) and write them on the board in a list

    For each word sum volunteered by students they had to spell it out letter by letter and tell me which part they thought was the base.

    For analyzing word sums (before we go to look the answer up in etymonline), you can test whether a string of letters is a base by listing other words that can be built using that base. You can also test whether it is a likely base for the word you are investigating by thinking of what that base means and then considering whether the word < Halloween > carries a sense which is similar to that definition.

  • write the word sum for < Samhain > on the board
  • read information on Halloween / All Saint's Day / All Soul's Day / Samhain from pages 148-149 of All Year Round by Ann Druitt, et al.
  • explain that the second base in this word, < evening >, has been abbreviated (in fact, the name of the holiday used to be spelled
    < Hallowe'en > to make this contraction of the word more clear)
  • use the Online Etymology Dictionary (step 3 in SWI ) to explore
    < Samhain > and its meaning from Old Irish of "summer's end"
    (the first day of Winter was also New Year's Day in the ancient Celtic tradition and this evening festival celebrated that time which was neither last year nor next year; the tissue between our world and the afterlife was also at its thinnest and the two worlds intermingled)
  • look up the dates of Dia de los Muertos (November 1 and 2)
  • review that < Halloween > is made up of two free bases which actually makes it a compound word; explain that another word built from the base < hallow > is < hallowed > as in "hallowed ground"
  • decorate pumpkins either by painting them or carving them to contribute to the Pumpkin Glow night-time hike on Friday night

our word sums, with possible bases underlined

Friday, October 26

  • review the fundamental principles of Structured Word Inquiry; read Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth and discuss how it is connected to SWI
  • explore < structure > by listing other words with the base < struct > on the board, underlining the base each time; review that < struct > is a bound base because it cannot stand on its own as a word
  • define all of the words on our list; do Think / Pair / Share considering the question "what might < struct > mean?"
  • use the Online Etymology Dictionary to explore < structure >; conjecture that this word's deepest roots may have come from the action of piling hay into a haystack...
    • mid-15c., "action or process of building or construction;" 1610s, "that which is constructed, a building or edifice;" from Latin structura "a fitting together, adjustment; a building, mode of building;" figuratively, "arrangement, order," from structus, past participle of struere "to pile, place together, heap up; build, assemble, arrange, make by joining together," related to strues "heap," from PIE *streu-, extended form of root *stere- "to spread."

  • continue Script lessons from last week, reviewing and learning more of the emblem u letters (u, a, o, c, d, e)

Monday, October 29

  • review morphology; share one possible matrix for < struct >
  • add Word Sums to MLB, choosing between < prefix > and < suffix > lesson, < Halloween > and < Samhain > lesson, or < struct > lesson
  • review Grammar symbols with Grammar Symbol Nomenclature from Montessori Research & Development
  • present The Grammar Game from Mandala Classroom Resources as a follow up work

Tuesday, October 30

  • finish Haunted Houses of Speech; add Grammar Symbols to MLB, including words for each symbol from the child's completed HHS
  • add front & back covers and table of contents to the finished MLBs
  • take home our Haunted Houses just in time for Halloween!

We did a total of four two-page spreads for the Spelling & Grammar portion of this main lesson book. You can see the quick sketches of them which I did on the board. The first was the Four Questions of SWI; the second was Etymology; the third was Morphology; the fourth was Grammar Symbols.

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

Monday, October 29, 2018

Our Classroom Birthday Celebration ECE

There are very sweet Early Childhood celebrations in Waldorf and Montessori!

Since both influence our homeschool co-op classroom, we blend our favorite elements from each tradition and combine them to make something special!

from Waseca Biomes

from Nienhuis Montessori

from Nova Natural

Setting Up the Space
We began in the morning by placing a divider between the living room and dining room. At 9 am when the birthday child arrived, he got to come and choose his favorites of my collection of birthday ring ornaments, plus five brass candleholders and five hand-dipped beeswax candles. He carefully arranged them in the 12-hole cherry birthday ring on my dining room table.

Then we asked the other children not to peek until the birthday celebration began.

(Just a note if you're thinking of doing this. My teenagers love this tradition so much our family has had to also get the 16-hole birthday ring, which Natalie is set to outgrow at her next birthday! Luckily, these two rings can nest inside each other, allowing you to go up to age 28 if you really want to!)

We enjoyed our hour of morning indoor play time, as usual.

The Montessori Elements - The Celebration Sun & The Timeline
When his mother arrived at 10 am, Becca helped her set up the birthday treat in the kitchen. We lit the candles on the Birthday Ring and left it on the dining room table, then lit the candle in the center of the Celebration Sun and carried it to the living room for circle time.

Instead of our usual Circle Time routine, we had a special Birthday Circle.

In the Montessori tradition, the birthday child holds a small globe and walks around a sun to show the passing of time, year by year. As this is happening, the parent holds up a picture of the child at each age (birth, age 1, age 2, age 3, etc.) and the class can see it. Parents also talk about milestones (he got his first tooth, he took his first steps, etc.). I took pictures of the sample text which Waseca Biomes provided so you can get a sense of the story.

Everyone loved seeing the baby pictures of the birthday child and hearing about how he changed as he grew older! All of the older children in our homeschool co-op joined the little ones in listening to the family memories.

The Waldorf Elements - The Birthday Ring & The Songs
All of our songs were from The Singing Day book & CD set by Candy Verney.

To call everyone to come to the Birthday Circle, we sang "To You We Sing" (track 82 on The Singing Day CD).

    To You We Sing

    To you we sing
    And birthday greetings bring
    To celebrate your birth,
    An angel here on earth.

After we did the Montessori Celebration Sun and Timeline, I blew out the sun's candle so that we could all move around the room safely, and we slid across the room divider so that the children could see the beautifully decorated Waldorf Birthday Ring.

We sang "We Wish You a Happy Birthday" (track 84 on The Singing Day CD) as we walked into the dining room and gathered around the table. He blew out his candles and we clapped. When the birthday treat was passed out, we sang the traditional Happy Birthday song and then sang our usual mealtime blessing song, "Blessings on the Blossom" (track 23 on The Singing Day CD).

    We Wish You a Happy Birthday

    We wish you a happy birthday
    A joyful and happy birthday
    To you dear ___________
    We wish you a long, long life.

My gift to the birthday child was a full-length peacock feather. After our lovely snack we went outside to play for the rest of the morning!

It was just right. It felt like a real celebration, but it was not too long.

the birthday child chooses the ornaments 
(and the right number of candles) and arranges the birthday ring

time for the celebration to begin!

the Celebration Sun comes with suggestions for wording
(click on photo to enlarge)

siblings enjoying birthday cake
after he blew out all of his candles successfully

playing outside in beautiful Autumn weather

Happy Birthday!!!

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

Thursday, October 25, 2018

October - The Harvest Gift

Our story this week was again taken from the lovely anthology of stories contributed by Waldorf teachers across the United States, Tell Me a Story: Stories from the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America edited by Louise deForest.

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

Circle Time


  • "The Harvest Gift" from Tell Me a Story, page 68
  • Sunflower Seed activities
  • Egg in Vinegar science experiment

More activities around the idea of the Harvest this week. I had a sunflower head filled with ripe sunflower seeds and a long pair of tweezers so that the children could carefully pick them out. I also had some roasted salted seeds in shell which they could practice carefully cracking with their teeth and opening to get the seed from inside. The children also loved learning our new "Jump High, Jump Low" verse and walking on their hands as wheelbarrows while a friend held their feet. It was a perfect tie-in to our story about the Harvest basket. This story features a sweet little angora rabbit who gives her fur as a gift. I purchased some absolutely beautiful pure white angora fiber from Homestead Happenings's Etsy shop. We were delighted at its softness!

Eggs were also in our story's Harvest basket, contributed by the chickens, and so we looked at chicken eggs and compared them side by side with duck eggs. I peeled a bit of the duck egg shell back to reveal the intact membrane and we set up an experiment to dissolve the shells with vinegar to be able to see right into the eggs. It was amazing to see the bubbles rise from each shell as the vinegar began to work right away...


  • "The Harvest Gift" from Tell Me a Story, page 68
  • Sunflower Head still life paintings
  • Butter making

At the start of the morning I introduced an art project which the children could choose to do during their indoor play time. We again read Vincent's Colors by Vincent Van Gogh, this time looking for his sunflower painting. Then I showed them several of Van Gogh's paintings of sunflowers in a vase, and then of his cut sunflowers (Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings by Walther & Metzger, pages 476 - 477 and page 281). Zac had wanted a Van Gogh book to look at in his bedroom, so I got him Van Gogh: His Life & Works in 500 Images by Michael Howard from the library. He ran to get it, so excited that "his" book had a painting of cut sunflowers too (page 155).

With these in front of us, along with the sunflower head we had been examining yesterday, we did our own still life paintings of sunflowers. I set the sunflower seed-filled head on a lime green background and provided three colors: citron green, Naples yellow, and primary yellow. We also talked about the terms "still life," "landscape," and "self-portrait."

After all of the painting and playing was done and we had finished our Circle Time movement and story, we sat down for Snack. In our story the cow brings some of her milk to add to the Harvest basket for the farmer. We looked at milk and cream side by side, and I explained that they are mixed up together in the milk that comes out of the cow. At the grocery store they are sold separately. We talked about churning cream into butter, looking at the picture in Little House in the Big Woods (page 31) and reading Laura's description of the churning process (pages 31-32). We made our own butter using a pint of organic heavy cream and a large half gallon jar, taking turns shaking the jar as hard as we could, listening as it became silent (whipped cream) and then noisy again (butter floating in buttermilk). Then we tasted our fresh delicious butter on a piece of bread and drank some buttermilk.

The children noticed the beautiful color of the fresh butter, a special color which Van Gogh also talks about. They asked me about its slightly bumpy texture, and so I explained that butter is shaped in a mold before we buy it from the grocery store. We read again from the Laura Ingalls Wilder chapter where she describes Ma molding the butter (pages 32-33).


  • "The Harvest Gift" from Tell Me a Story, page 68
  • Honey and Honeycomb tasting

Today I retold "The Harvest Gift" using wooden figures: the little rabbit, the busy hen, the black & white spotted mama cow and sweet baby calf, the industrious bees and their tidy hives, and the joyful farmer bending over to discover the gifts. I used one of the little rainbow nesting bowls to represent the Harvest basket. We are so fortunate that our circle time quilt is covered in sunflowers. As the bees buzzed all around on the cloth, the children really felt like they were visiting sunflowers... just like in our story!

At Snack we had a real feast. That feeling of the generosity of the Harvest must really be in the air! To go along with our story, we tasted some honey (and some honeycomb) on bread.

And, of course, today was Stone Soup day. Here was our list of group contributions to the Stone Soup this week:

icicle radish
summer squash
delicata squash

We also got to taste some raw cauliflower and compare it to the cooked.

Thank you to the moms, dads, and grandparents who offer us so much support each week!

It is wonderful to have extra pairs of hands for special projects like Stone Soup, for lessons, and for play together. I appreciate it so much! I know that the children also feel the expanded circle of love and caring. Today we were also blessed by donations of several extra sweets for the children to enjoy: cookies and a pie.

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Calendar Making for Third Grade

DO NOT read this post if you are the parent of a student in the Grades program in our homeschool co-op!

PLEASE DO NOT read this post because it will ruin a surprise your darling child is carefully planning for you!

Even if you are feeling ultra-tempted, please refrain from reading any more!

If you are, however, any other homeschooling parent, please do read this post because I think you will find it very helpful. And it's somewhat time sensitive so I don't think I can wait to post it until the end of December.

The Maths of Practical Life: Time, Temperature, Weight & Volume

This is a classic Waldorf Third Grade main lesson block and it is one of my favorite math blocks to teach. I love how much hands-on stuff there is to do! One of my favorite projects, besides Baking, is to have the children make their own calendars for the upcoming year, which they can then give as gifts. We are doing this math block in November so that the calendars will be ready for gift-giving, and the start of the new year, in December.

It is a lot of work for children to write every month name, every day of the week name, and all of the numbers for each month, so allow plenty of time for this project. I really like blank scrapbooking calendars and I always buy the same brand, Karen Foster Design. I like that they include 13 month pages, which means that you can do December of the current year as well as all twelve months of the upcoming year. That way the person who you give the gift to can hang it up on his/her wall right away, which is an extra bonus!

They also have all the branding on the front cover, which is covered by the artwork, so there are no logos anywhere else; only your child's work shows. Lastly, I'm so pleased that they give you six week rows for each month, which means that in a month with six weeks, your child can write in every day easily and clearly. It's so confusing to a young child when you're suddenly asking them to write 24 / 31 on a Sunday every once in a while.

Here's my 2016 blog post of notes of projects, and photographs, from the last time we did this: Notes on Homemade Calendar Activity.

Finding seasonal artwork is always a fun project and I love Pinterest for this. Here is my plan for the artwork for each month (and accompanying stories). Using scrapbook calendars means that you need to do all of the artwork on 12 x 12 paper. Use watercolor paper trimmed from a 12 x 18 inch pad or just do the artwork on 12 x 12 cardstock. I try to avoid chalk or oil pastels as much as possible, since they will smear on the number page opposite the artwork unless you spray them very well.

Front Cover

December 2018

January 2019

February 2019

March 2019

April 2019

May 2019

June 2019

July 2019

August 2019

September 2019

October 2019

November 2019

December 2019

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

Monday, October 22, 2018

Thornton Burgess

I mostly write about what we're doing in the homeschool co-op classroom, but some posts here are just about my family... and this is one of them!

This weekend was packed full of fabulous Autumn family events.

On Saturday we went to the library for a children's music program and then a Spanish class. Then Becca and Zac and I headed to the Fort Massac Encampment. We came home to Natalie making us a delicious Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto with Parmesan and Pepitas.

On Sunday the children went to church and I headed to St. Louis for my Foundations Study group. We are reading How to Know Higher Worlds by Rudolf Steiner and More Radiant Than the Sun: A Handbook for Working with Steiner's Meditations and Exercises by Gertrude Reif Hughes.

Natalie and Becca had a host of fun activities to do with Zac in the afternoon, from making a new Indian corn necklace, to taking the seeds out of a sunflower head with long tweezers, to painting a pumpkin for entry in our public library's pumpkin contest. Zac got a tall very bumpy orange pumpkin and they painted it to look like one of the "wild things" from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Becca decorated one too. Hers was a small white pumpkin and she decorated it to look like Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, complete with long roving orange hair and a needle-felted hat.

This afternoon Becca is looking at my new children's cookbooks by Mollie Katzen and Zac is very happily playing in the sensory bin, which is filled with dried black and red beans and Indian corn.

And I am shopping for more books! Zac has been getting the Tiptoes Lightly books by Reg Down as his bedtime chapter books ever since he turned three. The chapters are just a page or two long, so they have been a wonderful introduction. Here's the complete list of all of them, which I gathered into a blog post when I was getting organized in May. Now it is October and we are almost done with them and I'm getting organized again. This time we are heading into the world of Thornton Burgess. I have some vintage texts which will be more for grade 4 Zoology (The Burgess Animal Book for Children, The Burgess Bird Book for Children) but he wrote plenty of littler chapter books. If you haven't read them yet, first grade or second grade is a perfect age. No doubt we will be reading them again then too.

I fondly remember my mother reading me Old Mother West Wind and hearing the adventures of the Merry Little Breezes and all the animals. I would have given anything to have had more of those books on our shelves! Now Dover Children's Thrift Classics has paperbacks which are only $3 or $4.

*UPDATE* May 26, 2019
I purchased all of the books below back in Oct 2018 when I first put this post together. Zac is four now and they are just perfect bedtime stories for him, a chapter a night. Today I sat down and arranged my pile of books to be in order of publication, so I'm revising the list below to be in the correct order.

#1 - Old Mother West Wind


#2 - Mother West Wind's Children


#3 - Mother West Wind's Animal Friends


#4 - Mother West Wind's Neighbors


#5 - Reddy Fox


#6 - Johnny Chuck


#7 - Peter Cottontail


#8 - Unc' Billy Possum


#9 - Mr. Mocker


#10 - Jerry Muskrat


#11 - Danny Meadow Mouse


#12 - Grandfather Frog


#13 - Chatterer the Red Squirrel


#14 - Sammy Jay


#15 - Buster Bear


#16 - Old Mr. Toad


#17 - Prickly Porky


#18 - Old Man Coyote


#19 - Paddy the Beaver


#20 - Poor Mrs. Quack


#21 - Bobby Raccoon


#22 - Jimmy Skunk


#23 - Bob White


#24 - Old Mr. Buzzard


#25 - Happy Jack


#26 - Mrs. Peter Rabbit


#27 - Bowser the Hound


#28 - Old Granny Fox


#29 - Lightfoot the Deer


#30 - Blacky the Crow


#31 - Whitefoot the Wood Mouse


#32 - Buster Bear's Twins


#33 - Billy Mink


At the end of Billy Mink, he writes,

    "... Little Joe Otter says that he spends more time in the Smiling Pool than Billy Mink does, and that therefore he should have a book in this series. So the next volume will be Little Joe Otter."

So, I know that Little Joe Otter comes next. That book is out of print, so I got my copy used on eBay. I also know that Longlegs the Heron must come later as well... But I'm happy that so many titles of this series are in print! Plus, now that I know that the Burgess Flower Book for Children exists, I will definitely have to look at it later on for grade 5 Botany.

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