Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Listening Circle: Activity and FREE Cards

In our Nonviolent Communication lessons, we are working on Power 6: The Power to Listen. Wednesday's activity was extremely powerful and I wanted to share it. It's called The Listening Circle (page 140 of The No-Fault Classroom) and we used a deck of picture cards from The No-Fault Game.

I am here to tell you that this activity was amazing. The children did this with so much care, and they really opened up to each other. One child talked about being saved from a snake bite, another about the death of a pet. Remember that we have been practicing NVC for quite a while, and we started with scenarios from picture books so that the conversation wasn't getting too personal. Now they were ready to really dive in.

And during my turn I realized that it is such an incredible feeling to have people really listen to you. To have so many people, one after another, look at you and ask you what you need makes you feel like you really matter. When we did our debrief afterwards, one little boy described it as "magical" to "give the gift of caring" to other people.

The Listening Circle is part of strengthening Power 6 and we have spent a lot of time building our skills and leading up to this moment.

    Power 1 - The Power to Get to Calm Alert

    Power 2 - The Power to Know Your Needs

    Power 3 - The Power to Meet Needs

    Power 4 - The Power to Read Feelings

    Power 5 - The Power to Observe

    Power 6 - The Power to Listen

Each group sits in a circle on the floor or around a table. They spread out a deck of Needs Cards (yellow) in the space between them. Each card should be face up and everyone should be able to see and reach all of them. The Feelings Cards (red) are kept in a pile. The instructions are as follows:

    "Player One is to tell a short story of something that happened that brought up feelings, then select and lay down the Feeling Cards for the feelings that came up.

    Next, ask each student one at a time around the circle to take a turn guessing the need that was connected to the feelings. Ask them to both verbalize their guess (Were you needing ____________?) and also to pick up the corresponding Need Card from the center of the circle and place it in front of Player One.

    After each student in the circle has had a turn to guess a need, Player One responds by saying which needs were or are most important in the situation they shared. Player One can also pick up new Need Cards from the center pool.

    Play continues until each student has had a chance to tell their situation and have classmates guess their needs."

Allow five minutes for each child, so half an hour total for the group of 5. Thank you to Miss Lakota and Miss Flossie for coming to be extra adults!


When it was my turn, I gave the scenario of Zac not washing his dishes after his breakfast. Every day we have the same conversation about it, ie. why am I coming downstairs in the morning and finding dirty dishes on the kitchen table? I don't understand 1) why this is so difficult for him to do and 2) why it is bothering me so very much. I thought that having some clarity on why I was getting irritated would help us to have a new conversation about it, instead of repeating the same conversation over and over and over.

Zac is very on board with the NVC process and he did not mind this example being shared. It's an authentic frustration for us and bringing it to the group was actually trememdously helpful. I thought it might also be interesting for them to see a typical household situation from the parent point of view!

I laid down the Feelings Cards for tense, frustrated, and confused.

The children in my group took this scenario very seriously and listened with as much care as they did for one another. They laid down the following Needs Cards for what needs I might be having that were underneath those feelings. They were very insightful! They asked me

is your need to be able to trust that Zac will do what you ask?

do you have a need to be considered, to matter?
do you have a need for rest and relaxation?

is your need to be heard and understood?
is it learning and exploration, to discover why this keeps happening?
do you have a need to understand yourself and why this is aggravating you?

I hadn't even thought about Rest and Relaxation, but I decided that was probably the biggest need for me. I just didn't want to come downstairs and start my day and immediately have something added to my to-do list.

This listening process was so gentle and kind and the children really responded to it. They asked me if we could do it again and again!

If you want to do this activity at home, here is a set of FREE downloadable Feelings & Needs cards with the same images that we used in this exercise.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Observations vs. Thoughts

In our Nonviolent Communication lessons, we are working on Power 5: The Power to Observe (see The No-Fault Classroom / The Alien Lessons post).

We are training ourselves to make completely neutral observations... as opposed to thoughts, which also include judgments and interpretations. Beginning with observation is the first step in resolving a conflict using NVC.

Today's lesson was "Train Yourself to See & Hear Like a Video Camera." We watched a short clip and practiced making ONLY observations about what we saw and heard. Can you do it? It's harder than it sounds!

The children enjoyed this exercise so much that I told them we could play this game tomorrow as well.

Monday Jan 22

    Green Acres, season 1, episode 2 (6:12-7:37)
    available on Amazon Prime
    from "Are we always going to come in the house this way?"
    to "I'll fix it... whatever it is."

Tuesday Jan 23

    Reading Rainbow, "Owen" episode (8:42-10:09)
    available on Amazon Prime
    from "This is my Super Duper X-ray Shield!"
    to "Thank you, LeVar."

We are doing these NVC lessons alongside learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (as part of our Jan/Feb artist study of Faith Ringgold). It's very powerful for the children to see how nonviolent protests can be impactful. We have learned about the Memphis Sanitation Strike in Tennessee, the Greensboro Sit-In in North Carolina, and the Children's March in Alabama.

Let the Children March
by Monica Clark-Robinson

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

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Fourth Great Lesson - Extensions

It is so much fun to teach the Story of Written Language (in Montessori schools, this is called the Fourth Great Lesson and is done every year with children ages 6-9). The essential components are the story of written English, since this is what we use in school. These include cave paintings, Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs, the alphabet (Sinaitic, Phoenician, Greek, Roman), illuminated manuscripts, and the printing press.

I've kept track of all the stories I used this year:
2024 Story of Written Language - Books & Activities

There are so many wonderful things you can bring in as extensions here. Here are some of the books I have on the shelf that would work beautifully:

Chinese - The Cloudmakers by James Rumford (a lovely book about papermaking with hemp), My Little Chinese Book of Words

Arabic - The Monster in the Alphabet by James Rumford, The Day of Ahmed's Secret by Florence Parry Heide, Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad by James Rumford, Pandora's Box by Henriette Barkow

Cherokee - Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing by James Rumford, The Apple Tree by Sandy Tharp-Thee

Braille - Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant, DK Braille: Animals, DK Braille: On the Move, DK Braille: It Can't Be True! Incredible Tactile Comparisons, Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

I also have a Rubik's Tactile Cube
(something I don't have, but want: Rubber Stamps for the Braille Alphabet)

This was the first year I realized I had several books in Arabic. At the back of The Monster in the Alphabet, Rumford shows the Phoenician alphabet with its "most famous offspring," which are English, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic.

I never knew that the Arabic alphabet was a relative of the Phoenician one!

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

Friday, January 12, 2024

This Week in Papermaking

Right now the older children are doing a block on the Story of Written Language and the younger children are doing a block on the Capital Letters.

Know what goes with both topics? Papermaking!

On Tuesday, we read The Rainbow Goblins by Ul de Rico (V is for Valley, Z is for Zig Zag) and tore up seven different colors of construction paper and added in some plain white paper from the recycling bin. Papermaking is recycling, after all! That night I soaked each color's scraps in plenty of water.

On Wednesday, each child got the chance to make a piece of paper using the ultra-easy cookie cutter method.

The Cookie Cutter Method

    several thick bath towels (3 or 4)

    dish towel with a smooth weave


    bowl and spoon

    cookie cutter

    cookie drying rack

    note: use OLD kitchen items that are no longer used to prepare food

1) Tear and soak your paper scraps overnight, as described.

2) Put the paper scraps into the blender, along with as much of the soaking water as is needed to blend them smoothly. Blend briefly to make pulp (it will look like a paper smoothie). Pour the pulp into the bowl.

3) Fold the bath towels and stack them to make a thick tower. Smooth the dish towel across the top (if you try to make paper directly on the bath towel stack it will stick in the loops of the texture and not release properly).

4) Place the cookie cutter of your choice on the dish towel.

5) Spoon the pulp into the cookie cutter, filling all the curves and corners of the shape but not making your piece of paper too thick.

6) Press the pulp down hard very hard with your fingers, pushing as much water as you can into your bath towel stack. Remove the cookie cutter.

7) Lift the dish towel with the piece of paper on it and carry it over to the drying rack. If you are only making one piece of paper, you can place the entire dish towel on the rack overnight. If you'd like to make another piece of paper, turn the dish towel upside down onto your cookie drying rack. Slowly peel back the fabric so that the piece of paper is lying on the rack.

yellow hedgehog, orange oak leaf, blue flower

rainbow-striped snowman!

I love the cookie cutter method! We've used it for years, including making plantable paper by stirring seeds into the paper pulp after the blender stage. In 2009 we did yellow star ornaments and in 2017 we did red hearts for valentines. Every holiday is made better with the gift of handmade paper!

You're in my heart all the "thyme."

Papermaking ties in beautifully with the Story of Written Language. We looked at dried Egyptian papyrus reeds and felt a sheet of papyrus paper. We also read The Cloudmakers by James Rumford and learned about the Chinese invention of paper made with hemp. I showed examples of other paper making materials as well, including cotton rags and elephant dung.

We also love to do papermaking as part of the Capital Letters block, specifically for G is for Goose. On Thursday, the Bobcats read Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming, which has amazing poured pulp illustrations. Each of them then made their own poured pulp artwork of G is for Goose (spooning different colors of pulp to make a picture, and using a mold and deckle as opposed to a cookie cutter) which will be their MLB illustration for the letter G. We also read Petunia by Roger Duvoisin, which is so much fun and led us to F is for Firecrackers!

the sturdy plastic mold & deckle I've been using with kids for years

seven beautiful colors of paper pulp!

don't forget to just enjoy touching the pulp as a sensory experience
it is wonderfully soft

pro tip: you can freeze unused pulp and thaw it for later

some of our adorable geese after they are dry

the illustrations always stain the couch sheets (backwards, of course)

I think they look so cute! I love to look back at my pile of couch sheets and see all the geese we've made over the years

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

Silent Movies

When I was a child I eagerly collected all 14 titles in the Oz series. Each year I would proudly walk into the little bookshop in Carbondale, my Christmas money in my hand, and buy two or three books until I finally had them all!

Now the bindings on my old Del Rey editions are starting to break, so I will probably repurchase the set in 100th anniversary editions:

My mom sewed my Halloween costumes for me and I still have two from that time. One year I was Glinda the Good in red satin with beaded collar and cuffs. The next year I was Ozma of Oz, and it was my favorite Halloween costume of all time. She made me a beautiful pale green tulle dress with a golden headband (it is still the star of our dress-up bin).

Today I unexpectedly discovered that there are several silent films from the world of Oz. Turns out that the Oz Film Manufacturing Company -- founded by L. Frank Baum and making silent movies he wrote and produced -- was an independent film studio from 1914 to 1915. It made only a few pictures before it was absorbed by Metro Pictures, later evolving into Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer.

I am really thrilled because I often want examples of silent movies to show to my U.S. History students who cannot imagine such a thing, and I never have time to track any down. Now this one just fell into my lap! I usually recommend that they watch Singin' in the Rain to get an idea of how talkies changed everything, but that was made in the 50's to show life in the 20's.

Here are the movies I want to remember for next time this comes up:

I had no idea, until I started researching this, that there was a 1910 silent film version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (13 minutes) AND a 1925 silent film version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1 hour 11 minutes, available at Amazon Prime for $4.09). Did everyone know about this but me?

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

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

How to Sew Up a Cross-stitch Pincushion

In Waldorf grade 4, the Handwork theme is cross-stitch. Unlike purchased counted cross-stitch patterns and kits, Waldorf children create their own symmetrical designs. You can do one line of symmetry, two, or even four!

plant-dyed silk embroidery floss

plant-dyed wool felt

Of course, children can also create patterns of their own design, like this adorable chicken!

Important Note:
Waldorf teachers buy a special size of Aida cloth for children: 6 count.

After you've cross-stiched the pincushion top, sew on a piece of sturdy wool felt backing using this stitch:

make a stitch in the Aida cloth from one hole into the next

put the needle into the BACK of the felt

come out on the front of the felt, then go back into the same hole
in the Aida cloth before heading to the left again

We like to stuff our pincushions with natural fiber yarn odds-and-ends that are leftover from knitting projects. They are perfect for this! I also like to insert a square of cardstock in the base before stuffing it (to keep needles from traveling through, sticking out the bottom, and poking the children).

In my Handwork teacher training in July 2021, we also made 4 1/2 x 7 inch sewing kits out of wool felt with a cross-stitch cover (and sweet felt pockets designed for all the different little items). I decided to make a toiletry kit instead! It has a nail file, clippers, tweezers, and a pocket for a small comb.

A few ambitious teachers created very large cross-stitch journal covers. They're wonderful.

Here are some beautiful pictures I would like to share from that training:

Nicole placed gems on a board to help us visualize the lines of symmetry