Sunday, December 31, 2023

More Books for the In-Between Time

I have a special shelf in my chapter book area for the "in-between" books. These are books that look and feel like chapter books but they have large print and are still meant for beginning readers. Besides Spike: The Story of a Whitetail Deer (and series) and Picta the Painted Turtle (and series), here are the other titles I have on the lefthand side of that shelf:

On the righthand side of the shelf, I have books where the words are more difficult but there still aren't too many on a page and the print is still largish. The McBroom books also fall into this category.

Now that Zac is reading books on this shelf, I will probably be getting new ones. I'll keep this list up to date!

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Saturday, December 30, 2023

"See and Read" Series

I'm always on the lookout for excellent early reader book sets to invest in for our school. I've written before about The Magic Belt series for those kids who crave fantasy (and the progressively harder sets that come after that, which continue the adventures of Zak and Finn). For kids who prefer nonfiction, I love vintage Science I CAN READ / Nature I CAN READ books.

Now I have a new oldie-but-a-goodie series to add to the list!

Today Zac was reading Picta the Painted Turtle by Virginia Frances Voight -- which is the perfect level for him -- and I realized that the front of the book said "A SEE and READ Beginning to Read Book."

Aha! Time to track down the other titles in this 1960's series. Here's what I've found so far:

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Thursday, December 28, 2023

Roadside Geology Series

I absolutely love the Roadside Geology series! Waldorf does a main lesson block on Geology in grade 6, but I know that lots of families have children that are rockhounds early on... or sometimes you're just taking a long drive and wondering what you're looking at!

We have Geology Underfoot in Illinois by Raymond Wiggers and I refer to it often. In fact, it includes Tower Rock, and Zac and I took the opportunity while the Mississippi River was very low this week to walk out there. We went to the Missouri side, to Tower Rock Conservation Area in Frohna MO.

Amazing to see this ancient rock (Devonian Period, 400 MYA) so close. And Zac found a trilobite fossil in the layers of riverbed rock we were walking on!

#32 - A Fault-Seeking Expedition
Fountain Bluff to the Pine Hills Escarpment, Jackson County

Devil's Backbone Park and Tower Rock, Grand Tower IL

Inspiration Point Trail, Shawnee National Forest, Wolf Lake IL

Here are all of the books in the Roadside Geology series so far, in alphabetical order from Alabama to Wyoming. They are still adding titles:

AL Roadside Geology of Alabama - Steltenpohl & Steltenpohl
AK Roadside Geology of Alaska - Connor
AZ Roadside Geology of Arizona - Chronic
CA Roadside Geology of Northern and Central California - Alt & Hyndman
CA Roadside Geology of Southern California - Sylvester & Gans
CO Roadside Geology of Colorado - Williams & Chronic
CT Roadside Geology of Connecticut and Rhode Island - Skehan
DE Roadside Geology of Maryland, Delaware, and Washington D.C. - Means
FL Roadside Geology of Florida - Bryan, Scott & Means
GA Roadside Geology of Georgia - Gore & Witherspoon
HI Roadside Geology of Hawaii - Hazlett & Hyndman
ID Roadside Geology of Idaho - Alt & Hyndman
IL Geology Underfoot in Illinois - Wiggers
IN Roadside Geology of Indiana - Camp & Richardson
KS Roadside Geology of Kansas - Aber, Aber & Everhart
LA Roadside Geology of Louisiana - Spearing
ME Roadside Geology of Maine - Caldwell
MD Roadside Geology of Maryland, Delaware, and Washington D.C. - Means
MA Roadside Geology of Massachusetts - Skehan
MN Roadside Geology of Minnesota - Ojakangas
MS Roadside Geology of Mississippi - Galicki & Schmitz
MO Roadside Geology of Missouri - Spencer
MT Roadside Geology of Montana - Hyndman & Thomas
NE Roadside Geology of Nebraska - Maher, Engelmann & Shuster
NV Roadside Geology of Nevada - DeCourten & Biggar
NH Roadside Geology of Vermont and New Hampshire - Van Diver
NJ Roadside Geology of New Jersey - Harper
NM Roadside Geology of New Mexico - Chronic
NY Roadside Geology of New York - Van Diver
OH Roadside Geology of Ohio - Camp
OK Roadside Geology of Oklahoma - Suneson
OR Roadside Geology of Oregon - Miller
PA Roadside Geology of Pennsylvania - Van Diver
RI Roadside Geology of Connecticut and Rhode Island - Skehan
SD Roadside Geology of South Dakota - Gries
TN Roadside Geology of Tennessee - Davis
TX Roadside Geology of Texas - Spearing
UT Roadside Geology of Utah - Williams, Chronic & Chronic
VT Roadside Geology of Vermont and New Hampshire - Van Diver
VA Roadside Geology of Virginia - Frye
WA Roadside Geology of Washington - Alt & Hyndman
WV Roadside Geology of West Virginia - Lebold & Wilkinson
WI Roadside Geology of Wisconsin - Dott & Attig
WY Roadside Geology of Wyoming - Lageson & Spearing

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Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Yarn Shops in Southern Illinois

A friend and I are working on making a list of yarn shops in Southern Illinois. As I wrote before, I'd love to start buying only white yarn and having the children and I dye all of our colors ourselves.

Why I Only Want To Buy White Yarn

BUT I'd also like to support local businesses, so it would be lovely to get the white yarn from them. And that would allow me to learn about classes and other opportunities to be part of the fiber community. So far, here is my list. Let me know if you know of others!

    The Here and Now Shop
    319 S Main Street in Anna

    Knotted Gypsy Designs
    as found at Sassy Nana Gifts
    520 Makanda Road, Suite 1 in Makanda

    Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch
    1335 Hall Church Road in Makanda

    Southpass Beads and Fibers
    203 E Ash Street in Cobden

    The Yarn Shoppe
    105 N 16th Street in Herrin

Zac and Becca at Rolling Oak, Sep 2018

I'm also looking forward to joining Rebecca Desnos's Natural Dye Club in 2024. She has a wealth of practical hands-on experience (even dyes her own clothes and her children's) and her books are wonderful. Rebecca just sent out a coupon code for 50% off the first month of Natural Dye Club. Perfect timing!

Just enter the coupon code FRIENDS at checkout to join for £7.50. You can cancel anytime. This coupon code expires on Saturday Dec 30 at 8pm GMT.

Botanical Colour at Your Fingertips
Botanical Dyes on Wood
Grow Your Own Colour

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

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Homemade 2024 Calendars - Local Foods

We had a wonderful time making the 2024 calendars and I hope all the families really enjoy looking through them! Here are some notes for this year's calendar theme, "Local Foods, Farmed and Foraged." The children did all the seasonal artwork themselves, and wrote all the calendar numbers.

Zac, age 3, picking lavender at Shawnee Hills Lavender

front cover - 2024

    background - cardstock or scrapbook paper in color of child's choice

    artwork -
    use stencils to stencil 2024, color in numbers with colored pencils OR write 2024 in bubble letters and cut out, glue onto background paper

Jan - acorns

    background - white construction paper

    story - read Miss Suzy by Miriam Young

    artwork -
    go outside to collect acorns and oak leaves, colored pencil drawing of oak tree and acorns

Feb - maple syrup

Mar - morel mushrooms

Apr - fiddlehead ferns

    background - green decorative scrapbook paper

    story - read Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman

    artwork -
    look at picture of fiddlehead ferns, green marker spirals

May - strawberries

Jun - lavender

Jul - watermelon

Aug - okra

Sep - black walnuts

Oct - pumpkin

Nov - shagbark hickory syrup

Dec - cattails

back cover - child's hand

    trace hand, write child's name and age inside outline of their hand

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Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Favorite Jokes for Christmas Crackers

This year Zac and I are embarking on a brand-new holiday tradition: making homemade Christmas crackers!

Some videos that helped me when I was learning how:

If you -- like I -- were taught to save EVERYTHING as a child, you'll be happy to know that this is a lovely use of long bits of extra wrapping paper!

First we bought the snaps and tissue paper hats.

Next we went to HomeGoods to buy fancy individually wrapped candies. Then it was time to write up some jokes! This post goes well with Jokes for Reluctant Readers and Jokes for Reluctant Readers: Valentine Edition.

Here are some jokes that are especially suitable for putting in a Christmas cracker:

    Who hides in the bakery at Christmas?
    A mince spy.

    How much did Santa pay for his sleigh?
    Nothing. It was on the house.

    What goes, "Oh, oh, oh"?
    Santa walking backwards.

    Why can't Christmas trees knit?
    Because they lose their needles.

    What do you get if you cross an apple with a Christmas tree?
    A pineapple.

    What was the snowman doing in the vegetable patch?
    Picking his nose.

    What falls at the North Pole but never gets hurt?

    What do you call an old snowman?

    What do you call a penguin in the Sahara desert?

    Where do snowmen keep their money?
    In the snowbank.

    Where do snowmen go to dance?

    How did Mary and Joseph know Jesus's weight when he was born?
    They had a weigh in a manger.

    How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizzas?
    Deep pan, crisp and even.

    The Christmas sweater I got last year kept picking up static electricity. So I took it back and exchanged it for another one -- free of charge.

    A gingerbread man went to the doctor's office complaining of a sore knee. "A sore knee?" the doctor said. "Have you tried icing it?"

    I got a universal remote for Christmas. This changes everything.

    I bought my mom a fridge for Christmas. I can't wait to see her face light up whens she opens it.

    I have this incredible ability to predict what's inside a wrapped present. It's a gift.

You can also buy lovely printable Christmas cracker jokes on Etsy. I like the red set and green set (three pages of jokes in each set). $7.94 well spent!

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

Friday, December 15, 2023


One of the things I want to do over the holiday is to go back and watch the links to recorded workshops I signed up for but wasn't able to attend in person. I love the offerings from They have several online professional development opportunities each year (register here).

I so appreciate their work, educating and supporting public school teachers and sharing the value of PLAY at school.

Playworks Game Library - hundreds of game ideas for free
searchable by group size / ages / equipment needed / time

I just found out that the recordings are all available online for free as well!

2022-2023 webinar series

October 6, 2022: 5 Ways to Have a Great Recess
December 7, 2022: 3 Questions to Ask About Your Indoor Recess
February 1, 2023: Getting Groups Engaged Through Play
April 5, 2023: The ABCs of Empowering Youth

2023-2024 webinar series

October 25, 2023: Playground Mapping 101
December 13, 2023: Playing Across Age Groups
February 14, 2024: Resolving Conflicts Through Play (6:30 p.m. ET)
April 17, 2024: Ability Inclusion on the Playground (6:30 p.m. ET)

Love these Waldorf play resources from Kim John Payne!

Waldorf Games Handbook for the Early Years:
Games to Play and Sing with Children Aged 3–7

Games Children Play II:
Games to Develop Social Skills, Teamwork, Balance, and Coordination

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less
to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

If I had the time to complete another Waldorf teacher certification, it would definitely be training in Spacial Dynamics®. It would be so fun to be a Waldorf Games teacher. And I love that Waldorf calls it that instead of "P.E."!

Let the Games Begin!
Waldorf Today

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Tuesday, December 12, 2023

How to Put on a Play in 11 Days

The time between Autumn Break and Winter Break is always a busy one, filled with planning and preparations for our annual Class Play! This year's theme was "Stories from Mongolia." Here is how we organized our time:

WEEK ONE - build background knowledge

WEEK TWO - hold play planning meetings, make decisions

    Day Four - Dec 4

    Day Five - Dec 5

    Day Six - Dec 6

      make final decisions about casting

      read My Little Round House by Bolormaa Baasansuren

      read chapter 7 of The Eagle Huntress

    Day Seven - Dec 7

      read Metropolis: Ten Cities, Ten Centuries by Albert Lorenz

        "A Mongol Tent City, 13th Century"

        pp.14-15, The Enormous Empire
        pp.16-17, A Movable City
        pp.18-19, Life in a Mongol City

      read chapter 8 of The Eagle Huntress

      PM - make clothing decisions

      LL - Camel / Colored Snake - brown

      KEL - Deer / Colored Snake - brown & white

      CLH - Khan's Soldier / Colored Snake - red & black

      GZ - Khan's Soldier / Colored Snake - red & black

      AR - White Horse / Colored Snake - white

      LR - Suho the Fiddle-Player / Colored Snake - grey & brown

      ZCS - Yak / Hunter-Boy - brown & black

      WT - Yak / Suho grandmother - brown & black

      JT - Yak / Peasant - brown & black

      KA - Khan / Sir Tiger - gold & orange

      AZ - Princess Ling, Khan daughter / Sir Tiger - gold

      JF - Khan's Soldier / Dragon Master - red & green

      EF - White Snake, Dragon Master daughter / Peasant - white

      look through sets from previous plays to see which ones we can reuse in this story, make list of sheets to be painted

        Sets from previous years which we can reuse for this:

        Mount Olympus from Ancient Greece - Hunter-Boy

        Volcano from Hawai'i - Hunter-Boy

        Cave from Hawai'i - Hunter-Boy

        Rushing River from Hawai'i - The Camel & the Deer

        New sets to paint this year for the Horse-head Fiddle:

        king size yellow flannel sheet for Grasslands with Ger

        full size white percale sheet for Palace

        Order of sets (house left to house right):

        1 - Grasslands with Ger
        2 - River
        3 - Hunter Boy's Mountain
        4 - Cave
        5 - Dragon Master's Palace / Khan's Palace

      brainstorm list of possible props to make

WEEK THREE - make costumes/props/sets, rehearse & perform

    Day Eight - Dec 11

      AM - collect costume components (Camel/Deer antlers, Khan outfit, Sir Tiger mask & orange sheet, Dragon Master cape)

      make additional pieces for costumes as needed (colorful snake masks, white snake headpiece, white horse headpiece, yak headpieces & chinpieces, Khan crown, Dragon Master staff)

      read chapters 9, 10 & 11 of The Eagle Huntress

      PM - Rehearsal @ Church

      tour of church, set up sets, do initial walk-through, make decisions about blocking and special effects

    Day Nine - Dec 12

      AM - Rehearsal @ Church

      walk through the play once again without dialogue, let children decide if they want to have speaking or non-speaking parts, walk through the play again with child-chosen dialogue

      read chapter 12 of The Eagle Huntress

      PM - finish all costume pieces, paint Palace sheet, make decisions on props, make additional props as needed

    Day Ten - Dec 13

      AM - make Pony Reins and Horse-head Fiddle, finish Grasslands with Ger sheet

      finish The Eagle Huntress

      PM - Rehearsal @ Church

      rehearsal with costumes, props, sets, special effects & dialogue

    Day Eleven - Dec 14

      walk to church

      set up

      dress rehearsal



      final touches

      parents arrive

      play performance

      tear down

THANK YOU to Cody, Destinee, and Bridget for leading the play rehearsals and helping backstage, and to Jayme for making the authentic Suutei Tsai for the reception. The children did an incredible job making all of their costumes, sets, and props, and they worked diligently to learn their roles so that we could bring these legends to life. I hope you enjoyed the show!

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

Saturday, December 2, 2023

The No-Fault Game

We have LOVED using The No-Fault Classroom so far and will be focusing on it a lot in December, as the children work together to collaboratively plan and put on our annual Class Play. That's a lot of social-emotional learning!

I wrote up all the details here: The No-Fault Classroom / The Alien Lessons.

The No-Fault Classroom:
Tools to Resolve Conflict & Foster Relationship Intelligence

by Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson

Thank you to Ms. Destinee for letting me know that The No-Fault Classroom book now has an accompanying No-Fault Game which you can get for at home. The website is

There are lots of free resources on the site as well, which you could print off if your child simply wants to draw another IOS Power Panel for at home use.

FREE downloads:

Check your office supplies stash. You can also easily make up your own Feelings, Needs, and Choices Cards if you have some old print-your-own perforated business cards lying around. These cards are a great size!

Choice Cards are white. Need Cards have a yellow border, and Feeling Cards have a border of red / pink. Simply punch out the cards, write the words you want on each card, and have your child draw pictures and color the borders.

Marshall Rosenberg's work on Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is truly life changing. I hope you enjoy having this resource for your family!

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Art History - Yves Klein

In my Art History 2023-2024 blog post, I decided December would be Yves Klein. Here are some resources and my planning notes:

Yves Klein
1928 - 1962


A Sound, Then Silence (Try Not to Breathe)
The New York Times - Sep 17, 2013

Who Is Yves Klein?
Tate Kids

Unit 8: 1962–1974
Lesson Five: Performance into Art

Oxford Art Online

I Was a Nude Model for a Half Hour. Revelatory? Actually, Yes.
The New York Times - May 24, 2024
“Sculpture Tactile”

Yves Klein’s Leap Into the Blue (With Living Paintbrushes)
The New York Times - May 16, 2024

Yves Klein – Anthropometries | TateShots

Yves Klein - On Fire
Tornabuoni Art

ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s (PDF)

    New Definitions of Painting
    Everyday Materials

Yves Klein and His Use of Blue: How These 5 Facts Made Him Famous

week of Dec 3:

week of Dec 10:


      Wreck This Art
      draw on watercolor paper with water-soluble markers and then put your drawing out in the rain to see what happens!

      (I suggest setting a timer and going to check on the artwork at 10 minute intervals so it doesn't completely disappear)

week of Jan 1:

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Sunday, November 26, 2023

Photos - Shelters & Roman Numerals week 2

Week 10 for us was the week that began on November 6th. Here are some blog posts that may be helpful for background information:

We continued to read Charlotte's Web by E.B. White at lunchtime.

The Bongos had a special Sundial field trip to Anna IL on Monday, Nov 6. Many thanks to Neth for showing us the amazing projects he has built!

This week we finished up our Art History lessons on Louise Bourgeois; her sculpture Maman was wonderful for 8 in the Quality of Numbers block. We also incorporated Art with our cut paper Square Numbers collage for 9, and our Skin Tone Painting lesson for 10. I so enjoy watching Cassie Stephens' video teaching children to paint their skin tone! We used only black, white, red, and yellow paint, just as described in The Colors of Us by Karen Katz.

The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
our ten fingers (10 / X)

Other picture books we read for the Quality of Number block included Seven Blind Mice retold by Ed Young (7 / VII), Spiders Spin Webs by Yvonne Winer (8 / VIII), and Pezzettino by Leo Lionni (9 / IX).

In the Shelters block, we read My Great-Grandmother's Gourd by Cristina Kessler and learned about the amazing and easily hollowed out baobab tree. It is used in Africa to store water during the rainy season and as a shelter. We also read about modern day cave dwellings, and the children created a list of interview questions to ask my mother (who has visited one in Italy).

"Islands of Wonder: The Baobab Tree"

We also continued to do Word Study daily using Study Booklet #2 from the The High Frequency Word Project curriculum by Rebecca Loveless and Fiona Hamilton. Each day I would write a word on the board using the International Phonetic Alphabet and the children would try to figure out what it was. Then we would look at the story of that word from Old English to today. This week's words were < be >, < am >, < are >, and < were >.

Here are some photos from week 10:

three families which wound themselves together to create the great tree
"to be"

a special field trip for the Bongos to wrap up their Clocks & Calendars block

with this amazing sundial, you stand on the correct rock in the garden and your shadow points to the time

note that during each month of the year you must stand on a different stone
to account for the sun being lower or higher in the sky as the seasons progress, as this is a change which would affect your shadow

Neth did all the math for this and it's amazing!

Daylight Savings Time just ended yesterday so this is the perfect day for a Clock field trip

he explained that during Daylight Savings, you have to adjust your readings and add an hour to the stone your shadow points to

he also explained the math needed to build the awning the perfect size so that the sunlight DOES NOT come in the wall of windows in the summer (when the sun is higher in the sky) but DOES come in the wall of windows in the winter (when the sun is lower in the sky)

the children try to guess what color the floor of the room is painted so that the sun room is perfectly warm in the winter as the sunlight streams in

we go inside to check... it's painted black!

the children are amazed that this room is often uncomfortably warm in the middle of winter, just from the sunlight coming in and being captured

we get home to wonderful sidewalk chalk Roman numerals from the Bobcats' practice session

in Circle Time this month the Bobcats have lots of fun big movement verses from The Breathing Circle by Nell Smyth

"Looking Through the Garden Gate," p.94
"Rolling Seals," p.92
"Bear Has a Snout," p.93
"Galloping Horses," p.75

we are also learning and singing the skip counts of 2 and 3

Waldorf Skip Counting Songs

once children are 8, they write their main lesson book rough drafts in "best guess spelling" and then meet with me to get an edit

here I explain the word sum for < said >

say + ed (this is the suffix to mark a verb as past tense)
you can't have three vowels in a row in English, so it becomes say + d
the < y > toggles to an < i >, so it becomes said

the beautiful wet-on-wet circular rainbow paintings from earlier in the year

we painted these as part of Piet Mondrian and learning about Primary Colors
(they were painted using only yellow, red, and blue)

now we use them as the illustration for 6 / XI in the Roman Numerals MLBs

adding the Sundial Field Trip to the Clocks & Calendars MLBs and publishing them (all MLBs go home at the end of the year in the Portfolio Boxes)

making wire spider sculptures for Louise Bourgeois (and 8 / VIII)

Race to the Treasure

Elapsed Time Task Cards

looking at our book of spider poetry

adding 8 / VIII to the MLB

adding wigwam & longhouse to the MLB

there's something very special about the number nine!

the beautiful Square Number art made for me by a previous class

adding 9 / IX to the MLB

cut paper collages are a great use for my collection of scrapbook papers!
the children loved choosing colors and patterns

painting your own beautiful skin tone

matching the Rune Stones to unlock the secret door in the mountain (matching the corresponding Hindu-Arabic and Roman Numerals)

the Great White Bear opens the door in the mountain for them because they have solved the challenge of the Rune Stones

Calendula and Plantain follow the shy little mole into the Land of Numeria

they wander down the path, seeing sparkling gems on all sides, and finally come face to face with the Gnome King

their adventures will continue in our second Math Block of the Year:
the Math Gnomes!

in the Waldorf Math Gnomes block, all four operations (+, -, x, ÷) are introduced to the children, each as a character who acts in a certain way

in Science Club this week, the engineering challege is Balloon Powered Cars!

a little lamb sits by

I get out all four of my bins of "Cool Stuff for Building Projects"

they are sorted into Wood, Metal, Cardboard, and Plastic & Foam

team planning meetings

a decoupage project inspired by Corita Kent in Saturday Art & Handwork

a kitten is born!

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