Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Topaz and The Flight Into Egypt

Another varied lot. :-) First, Natalie is much better. I am not a big fan of antibiotics but they are doing the trick against the strep. Today was their Tuesday evening Pizza Night with their dad and I went around doing errands. One was my annual trip to Borders to stock up on calendars. I just love love love a fresh calendar. I always feel so organized, thinking about how everything will fit in its little slot. I really indulged this year and got seven. One is a Witches' Datebook which has lots of cool information about what the moons and astrological signs are doing, when to plant and when to harvest and etc., and includes a color to wear each day. I got it in part for the recipes and information about different holidays which I don't celebrate but want to learn more about. The color thing is just a bonus. Tomorrow is Topaz by the way, so I looked up Topaz on Google to get an idea of the color and found this lovely link from Katz Glass Design so I am passing it along.

Epiphany is coming up faster than ever this year (I guess Natalie being sick has sucked away all my sense of time) so for Sunday School I have to get organized. I used the star stories from Stories for the Festivals of the Year Told for Children by Irene Johanson to explain each king's journey and why he chose his gifts (I just LOVE those stories) but this year I also want to go deeper into What Happened Next. In Matthew 2:14 they mention Joseph's flight into Egypt because the three kings conveyed the message of the Savior's birth to Herod and he had a huge number of Jewish babies killed (parallel to the story of Moses). Magic Wool:
Creative Activites with Natural Sheep's Wool
by Dagmar Schmidt and Freya Jaffke has a wool "painting" for this scene on page 42 and I would like my Sunday School children to make it with me. Painting with dry wool is something that is new to them and I think they will enjoy it.

By the way, I looked back over my Animal Architects unit (there is more than just building shelter -- there is trapping prey) and found that Abel's Island by William Steig is the recommended read-aloud to accompany it. So I will do that and then move on to maybe The Wizard of Oz. I have lots of books in mind for this class, including The Secret Garden, Heidi, The Best Bad Thing, and Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. We'll have to see what moves me as we go along.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Brussells Sprouts and Strep

No, they're not related. :-) I'm just thinking about all the stuff I have to write about. Today in the grocery store we found B. Sprouts growing on the stalk! I've always tried to explain to my kids how they grow but with little luck. However the grocery store had great honking stalks which had just been whacked off at the bottom and the little sprouts were still hanging on to the sides. Adorable. The cashier looked at me like I was nuts but I was so excited to buy it and bring it home. Right now Leah and Rebecca are disassembling it and putting the sprouts in a bag.

To back up, things here have been exciting. Natalie began throwing up yesterday and was sporting a fever of around 102.7 for most of the weekend. However, in a hang-on-to-the-edge-of-your-seats twist yesterday afternoon it shot up to 104.5 and she began to have visual hallucinations. It freaked me out. She was sitting next to me and I was applying cool compresses to her forehead when she suddenly said, Mommy, the ceiling fan is turning pink and purple. And I said put on your coat. We are going to the hospital. While at CMH she came back with a positive strep test. Apparently strep can cause a very high fever and the vomiting is from the fever coming and going suddenly. Today while we were at the pediatrician he tested her temp and it was 104.9 whereupon I really freaked out. I didn't show it but I was so upset and worried. Then we went to the grocery store to get her prescription and were shopping for things like clear soups etc while we waited and Natalie asked me if she could have some orange juice and my eyes just welled up with tears and I choked up and said, "you can have whatever you want sweetheart." Because you just want to turn the world upside down and do whatever it takes to make them feel better, you know?

Anyway, so the younger two and I are making pizza with tomatoes and mozz. cheese and broccoli for dinner and Natalie'll be dining on things like applesauce and crackers. I did let her buy whatever she wanted and we will wait until she feels better to try some of them.

In school news I am getting my Montessori Lower Elem. teacher certification. However, I have the school's blessing when it comes to blending Mont. and Waldorf so here goes! It will be a great school year. Here is our schedule (this may be helpful to homeschoolers as well) for the three blocks of the day.

8:30 am - 10 am

10 am - 11:30 am

1:30 pm - 3 pm

This is three 1 1/2 hour blocks. If you know Waldorf you know that Heart is painting, foreign language, music, etc. For Handwork the school director would like me to teach my class to knit so that's where we'll begin.

The class is a combined class and so children who aren't getting their main lesson can be moving around using the Montessori materials in a self directed way. I want to honor the strengths of the Montessori method (and the materials are lovely) but also bring in some of my own talents and the benefits of Waldorf!

So the way I usually recommend to homeschoolers to set up the year is Alan Whitehead's way (although an artificial constraint it helps to give variety and structure to your year). The MLBs go in the following order:

September - Language Arts
October - Mathematics
November - Social Studies

January - Science
February - Language Arts
March - Mathematics
April - Social Studies
May - Science

This is tweaked a bit; he actually does 3 week MLBs and gets in three sessions of each subject. But I find that a month is an easier way to think of it. I take out December completely since it is full of holidays to study and handwork projects to complete and travel and baking and so on, all of which has educational value and I don't see that there's any way to also add in a subject to study.

So for January we are heading into a Science month. My younger kids will be doing the Four Seasons, which will include (this is stretched quite a bit from what pure Waldorf would do for this block) a look at how the Earth rotates and how the Cosmos was formed and how it moves, writing seasonal poetry -- including introducing Noun, Verb, Adjective and Adverb grammar work and using it in our poems, making a calendar of the year to come and decorating it each month with a poem and seasonal watercolor painting.

The older group will be doing Animal Homes which is a 2nd grade MLB I wrote a while ago and will shortly be adding to the website under the subscription side. We will look at homes of the following animals: bird, beaver, spider, honeybee, prairie dog and ant lion. I will integrate (again, more content than trad. Waldorf) into this simple machines (lever, pulley, wheel), the animal life and biome of our region, natural resources of our area, hibernation and migration, and modeling work. I look forward to introducing this group to modeling beeswax! Look to Arthur Auer's book for wonderful modeling ideas for all ages.

The two topics should blend back and forth beautifully and I am looking forward to this month.

I also want to do The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as our read aloud book, and begin each child on a personal journal which they can write and draw in at the close of each day for reflection time.

Gotta go -- Natalie's fever is at 104.9 again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


An added note: Most people say to wash soapmaking stuff by hand. If you take all those quart Pyrex containers that you used while melting your soap in the microwave and put them in the dishwasher, the foam will come pouring out onto your kitchen floor. My dog went and laid down in it, thinking it was a towel.

Really, it will look like intergalactic ooze is coming to take over your home.

Or, alternatively, like you decided white shag carpet would be the best flooring in your new kitchen.

Or just like a bizarre kind of very low very wide very white and very fuzzy dog has taken up residence. Believe me, it's not worth it.

(Unless, of course, you have decided that the fastest and easiest way to wash your kitchen floor is to let the ooze just keep on oozing and then swipe down the tile with it.)

Lazy lazy.

Candles and Soaps

Today was a big giftmaking extravaganza here at the house. Yesterday was housecleaning, which needed quite desperately to get done, and today we got cracking on the candles and soaps. I did a lovely red and white striped layered affair in a loaf pan (takes several hours since you have to wait for each layer to cool) that I got from Martha S. I added red dye to the clear soap chunks and peppermint oil to the white soap chunks and scored each layer before pouring the next one. Then after you take it out of the loaf pan (ha ha) you slice it and wrap as Peppermint Striped Soaps.

We also added some honey and oats to some white soap and made Honey Oatmeal Soups which we poured into seashell molds. I got a kit with some cool soapmaking stuff in it from Michael's (couldn't resist...) and one of the things was tiny cookie cutters. You can also find these in the cake decorating aisle as fondant cutters BTW. What you do with these is you dye and pour a thinnish layer of soap into a regular rectangular mold. When it is cool you pop it out, cut out the shapes with your cutters, lay the shapes face down in an empty soap mold and then pour a different color soap all around it. When it is dry you have a soap with an embedded decorative motif. Very cute. We did little red hearts in white square soaps.

Next for the candle dipping which was the same old same old regular routine. I'm pretty confident with this craft by this time in my teaching career. My two littlest girls hadn't done it before. The 4 year old cut out early and I finished hers but the 5 and 6 year old girls stayed for the long haul. This was the first time I used the "sticks" with notches for the wick so that you dip two at a time instead of just one. One wick is easier for the younger children. Use a piece of masking tape at the end they hold with their name and voila -- easy as pie. The double candles are lovely and more suitable for gifts. In this case the piece of masking tape goes on the wooden holder and if you stick it across the wick where it crosses the wood it doubles as a handy way to hold the wick in place while they're sitting on the sofa playing with it, waiting for the wax to finish melting.

Always always melt your wax over indirect heat. Wax chunks in a Juicy Juice can (label removed) in a pan of water set to gently simmer is my preferred way. Then I take the wax can and pan off the stove, keep the can in the hot water to retain the heat, and set it in the candle dipping location. Today I put it on the kitchen stool. On the floor in front of the stool I laid the towel. This towel is already full of wax drips from previous projects. Don't put a towel like that in the washer and dryer, the wax in it can catch on fire. I just let it dry naturally and fold it up and set it on my box of craft supplies marked "candlemaking." So the rule was that only one person at a time could stand on the towel. Everyone else is in line behind. You can't move forward onto the towel if someone is still on it. This prevents shoving and knocking over a pot of hot water and a can of wax. You dip then stand on the towel until your candle is no longer dripping. Then you take a stroll around the kitchen and get in the back of the line. Meanwhile, the next person steps up to the towel and the stool. As you walk past a counter you can tap the bottom of your candle on it to flatten it. You can also lay the candle down and roll it somewhat gently but with firm even pressure so that it gets a shiny and smooth exterior. Overall the drips on the kitchen floor were kept to a minimum; worked pretty well. Then I stood two kitchen chairs back to back with some space between to hang the wooden pieces and candles to dry.

Today the girls are with their dad from 3 to 7 for Pizza Night and I get to -- finally -- wrap some gifts!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

4 Links

Cleaning up my computer. :-) Here are 4 pages that I want to share.

1st. Chicago Waldorf School teacher blogs. The one I linked to was 4th grade but there are others. Great way to see how others approach a MLB!

2nd. Finally there's a book out that teaches you how to do lazure painting. Enjoy! And if you try it, let me know how it works out.

3rd. Some experiments with soil saturation and runoff. As you can tell, we are still doing a lot of Earth Science.

4th. Hot Chocolate Cones. Our gift to the students this year.

Speaking of Christmas, I am having a terrible time with this season. I have my kids all taken care of but had somehow forgotten that adults exchange gifts too. Now that I have a job I have coworkers. And I have family and friends! What am I going to give all these people????

Hope everyone is have a very merry whatever they are celebrating. We did St. Lucia on Friday and we are doing Hanukkah tomorrow. Thursday we are doing Solstice. I think we were going to do Diwali but it got mislaid.

Monday, December 8, 2008

G. H. Mortar

Here is the recipe we used for our Gingerbread House mortar. I wanted to pass it along.

2 boxes of powdered sugar (1 lb. each)
4 tablespoons egg white powder
12 tablespoons water OR 2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Since we're supposed to be talking about land and waterforms and also the history of MD still I am going to have the children create a gigantic relief map of the state with the remaining candy. We have Coastal Plains, the Piedmont Plateau, and the Appalachian Mountains. We have rivers, the Chesapeake Bay, and Chincoteage and Assateague Islands. It should be a lot of fun!

Today we read a wonderful book that I want to share. Our read aloud has been The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad by Thornton Burgess, to help the children learn more about our classroom toads in the habitat. But this book was shared by a fellow teacher who found it at the public library and the children ADORED it. It is called A Million Dots by Andrew Clements. It is amazing! You actually see a million dots throughout the course of the book (when was the last time you saw a million of something in the course of one day) and throughout he gives benchmark numbers and gives fun trivia facts to accompany the number. We were amazed when we found out that over 600,000 pieces of mail are delivered by the USPS in one day. There was another one about how many cars are taken to the junkyard in 16 days but I won't tell you what it is... you have to read the book to find out. I highly recommend this one for your classroom, homeschool classroom, or for a holiday gift if you have a mathematical-minded child.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Clothespins on a Ruler

So, here I am back with some teaching ideas. Sorry for the delay -- I got pneumonia and then was in the ER for tearing an ab muscle during a coughing fit and have had to rest in bed for several days. But tomorrow I will be back in the classroom! We are doing our gingerbread houses which I am then going to use to introduce area and perimeter. We also have a parent who is a biologist coming in to do a lab with the children about germs. We'll be growing germs in petri dishes for four days, comparing the dishes with fingerprints from unwashed hands vs. the dishes with fingerprints from hands that were washed and then cleansed with antibacterial hand sanitizer. She also wants to have the children swab some places in the classroom where they think germs might be growing. That should be really interesting. Tuesday afternoon I'm going to some training at The Kennedy Center in DC. Then Wednesday is an Open House where parents can visit the classroom.

I recently read some ideas about strengthening the hand muscles in children with poor handwriting. One which I am going to introduce tomorrow is clothespin work. I am using the Scrabble tiles (100) to write one letter on each clothespin with a Sharpie and then have the children arrange them on the blank side of a ruler to form words. We can then do sentences on a yardstick if it catches on. I can think of lots of ways to use this -- practicing spelling words from dictation, word games where I think of a word and mix up the letters and they have to unscramble it to come up with the answer (or they can try to trick me, or a partner), or the game where you have a big word and have to make as many small words as possible from it. I think it will appeal to my kids who are just starting to read "cat" as much as the higher ones.

Here is the Scrabble tile distribution. The clothespins that I got came in a box of 100 which made it easy.

A - 9
B - 2
C - 2
D - 4
E - 12
F - 2
G - 3
H - 2
I - 9
J - 1
K - 1
L - 4
M - 2
N - 6
O - 8
P - 2
Q - 1
R - 6
S - 4
T - 6
U - 4
V - 2
W - 2
X - 1
Y - 2
Z - 1
blank - 2