Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Australia Report

Leah is putting together a backboard about Australia for her World Tour presentation to her class. This is something that the Kindergarten does each year. Natalie was in Kindergarten for 2 years and presented Japan and Sweden. Now, because my brother and his wife and my three nephews moved to Australia a few weeks ago, our family is learning all about a new country!

Here is what she has so far:

The Australia flag which she colored in (I found a nice flag outline at the Australian government website:

The words to the Australian National Anthem

A page of National Symbols she drew showing the colors (green and gold), the gemstone (opal), the floral emblem (the golden wattle), and the capital (Canberra)

A picture she drew of things which come from Australia:
wool, wheat, sugar, apples, gold, silver, pearls

A picture she drew showing Spring here and Autumn in Australia

A pictures she drew showing Day here and Night in Australia
(one of our resource books recommends to see the current time in Australia)

A picture showing that Australia is about the same size as the United States of America (which I traced from the World Book Encyclopedia)

A picture she drew of plants from Australia (we also got this information from the World Book)

Three pictures she drew of animals from Australia: yellow-tailed black cockatoo, eastern grey kangaroo, red-necked wallaby
(from an EXCELLENT book called Wallaby Creekby Joyce Ann Powzyk)

A map of Major Australian Rivers which we printed from Enchanted Learning and then Leah colored over it to show areas of Rain Forest, Eucalyptus Forest, Woodland and Desert -- we got this information from the Wallaby Creek book

A picture she drew in the style of Aboriginal cave paintings
(Global Art: Activities, Projects, and Inventions from Around the Worldby MaryAnn Kohl has a great activity for this: "Dreamtime Painting" p.141)

Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the Worldwith the page flagged that tells the Aboriginal Australians tradition for a tooth that falls out

A vial of eucalyptus essential oil

A skein of Australian merino wool
(Did you know that there are more sheep than people in Australia??? 100 million more, to be exact.)

Because Rebecca is sick and we can't go out to purchase a backboard, she is writing all her information on sheets of paper and then we can glue it on Monday evening.

Still to come:

The Anzac Cookie recipe from, my absolute favorite cooking blog and I was amazed to find Heidi's recipe as one of the top Google searches for ANZAC

Picture books from Australia:
The Singing Snake, an Australian Aboriginal folktale

Pete the Sheep-Sheep

Maple Syrup Candy

Last night I told the girls about the scene that I always remembered from Little House in the Big Woodswhere they pour maple syrup out on the snow and it hardens to form candy. So the girls begged me to let them try it. We have plenty of fresh clean snow outside (my mom never let me do this when I was a girl because the dirt was always too close to the surface of the snow) so today I gave the girls a little creamer of syrup and they went outside. Natalie reported that it didn't harden all the way but was still tasty.

We are going to finish our current read aloud Monday night so it's time for a new one. The girls are begging to finish the Narnia series but I think we may go with Laura Ingalls Wilder instead.

Here's a good book about how maple syrup is made:

Seasonal Haiku Exercise

One of the necessary elements of a haiku is that it must contain a seasonal reference. This can be obvious or subtle but it is always present. One exercise that we did in the classroom that was HUGELY successful involved the Elemental Silks from Nova Natural. I sat the class in a circle, laid out the three Elemental Silks so that they formed a rainbow from purple to blue to green to yellow to orange to red, and read four haiku, one at a time. The class was completely silent and entranced. After each haiku, people quietly raised their hands and pointed to the color which best matched the mood of the poem (in their opinion) and what season they thought that corresponded to. It was magical.

Here is an example:

Crescent moon --
bent to the shape of
the cold.

These new silks are by Fairy Cove (my absolute favorite dyer of silks) and they are stunning. If you are in the market for a silk canopy (108 inches long x 54 inches wide), I recommend these! They are available in three colorways. Fire, Water, Earth.

Maryland's Own Dinosaur Alley

When I was traveling last summer I found a part of Utah and Colorado called the Dinosaur Diamond. But here in Maryland (and the District of Columbia) we have our very own dinosaur fossil sites! In fact, one of the first three dinosaur fossils ever reported in the United States was unearthed in Dinosaur Alley in 1858. Here's a link to a cool Washington Post "Road Trip" article from September 9, 2007.

"Go Cruisin' Down Dinosaur Alley"

My favorite book of Paleontology Poetry is called Bone Poemsby Jeff Moss and is now, apparently, out of print. But you can view some of the pages of the book through Google Reader and, if you like it, used hardcover and paperback copies are available through

Microwave Cherry Jam

Yesterday I found a recipe online for Microwave Jam. Here's how it goes:

10 oz. pkg frozen sweet cherries, quartered
(I used Cascadian Farm organic; it's easier to cut them into quarters when they are still frozen, by the way, so don't bother to thaw them first)
OR 1 lb. fresh cherries, quartered - to make 2 cups

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 tsp butter

1/4 cup key lime juice

2 inch cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients -- except cinnamon stick -- in a 3 quart microwave safe bowl and microwave on High UNCOVERED for 15 minutes or until boiling. Boil ONLY 2 minutes.

Add cinnamon stick. Cool jam in fridge (mixture will thicken as it cools). Store in fridge or freeze for later use.

This was super simple and delicious! I had my doubts after I took it from the microwave and I figured, oh well, at least I have a nice cherry syrup. But it did thicken beautifully and my girls enjoyed it swirled into their hot oatmeal this morning.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Maple Baked Beans

We are stuck at the house because of a huge snowstorm here in Southern Maryland, so I am looking around my pantry for recipes I can make with just what's on hand.

Here was a hugely successful recipe I tried today for Maple Baked Beans. Absolutely delicious!!! I didn't have bacon or an onion so I added some chopped dried dates (I had 8 or 10 on hand) to the beans to help deepen the flavor profile. I also added a smidgeon of brown sugar to decrease the tanginess a bit. I admit I was suspicious of the amount of apple cider vinegar called for but the flavor is divine.

Leah and I have been working on her Australia report. Natalie and I made cookies (your classic Oatmeal Raspberry Bars but with strawberry jam). Becca is sick so she's napping. The two older girls, of course, went out to play in the snow this morning and had the necessary Hot Chocolate afterwards. :-)

What a quiet peaceful day.

Tomorrow, however, when the cupboard is a bit more bare, things may get exciting. We live within walking distance of a grocery store so we can always hike if need be.

A Simple Scarf Pattern

My next knitting project is going to be a new scarf for Natalie. I have one hank of a beautiful hand-dyed Chilean yarn which will be perfect. Here's a simple scarf pattern:

Cast on 30 stitches of a bulky wool yarn on thick needles.
Row 1: knit all stitches
Row 2: knit 2, purl 2, repeat to end of row

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until you run out of yarn or the scarf is the desired length. Cast off.

I am actually reducing this a bit because she's a child and her neck isn't as big. So I am using 22 stitches instead of 30. If you reduce it, make sure that the number of stitches you cast on is a double of an odd number so that the second row will end on 2 knit stitches and the pattern will work out correctly. In other words, if you reduce to 28 which is twice 14, the second row would end on 2 purl stitches. 22 is twice 11 so the second row will end on 2 knit stitches.

I'm using a Araucania's "Quellon" yarn in color 8. This is silver/lavender/berry/charcoal and will be lovely with Natalie's new berry colored jacket.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Moss Stitch

I just made my second set of knitted dishcloths using the cotton yarn I purchased. This time I made two in the Moss Stitch. This is a simple, attractive, nubby stitch that looks best when made in a simple yarn (i.e., not a variegated yarn) so that the texture is highlighted.

Here's how to do a British Moss Stitch:

Step 1
Cast on an even number of stitches.

Step 2
Knit one, purl one and repeat this pattern to the end of the row.

Step 3
Purl one stitch, then knit one and repeat to the end of the row. This is the second row.

Step 4
Repeat steps two and three until the desired length is obtained.

Step 5
Cast off using a moss stitch.

A Great Hanukkah Book

This is a bit off topic but I just found a little post-it note in my box of teacher things and wanted to record the idea. The Kindergarten teacher at our school recommended a Hanukkah book to me called The Chanukkah Guestby Eric Kimmel. She says it is fantastic (and her recommendations are always outstanding) so I plan to purchase a copy. I'm putting this note here to remind myself. She reads it to her class when they make latkes.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Greek Mythology and the Forms of Energy

I just found this really cool unit online through NEED; it would be perfect for a Waldorf 6th grade class. The concept is that Greek myths are used to introduce science experiments about various forms of energy (Prometheus - fire, Zeus - electricity, Echo - sound, Hermes - motion, etc.). The Greeks used their mythology to create explanations for the world around them. We now use Science to do the same. A very interesting idea!

The entire unit is available online in a FREE pdf including the structure of the unit and background information about Greek mythology but you are on your own to plan the actual Science experiments, based on what your resources are. I am interested in trying an adapted version of this in my own classroom since we are going to a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra program on the Science of Sound in February. If I do try the unit, I will post what science experiments we did.

I am writing my Poetry unit (we are the season of Spring right now) and will add it to the website in February when we complete it.

Wool Pets

I have to say that I LOVE the kits from which I purchased for our Sunday School class play (Noah and the Flood). They are beautifully packaged in little Chinese take-out containers, have 2 felting needles and all the necessary roving plus accessories like little glass seed beads for eyes, and have full color step-by-step printed instructions. The pig kit has 50 steps! That's how detailed they are. My students are in hog heaven (forgive the pun) making 2 of each animal and I am soooo looking forward to the play this year!


I just found out that Laurie Sharp (the owner of the above website) has written a book called Wool Pets and here it is:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The House at Pooh Corner

I was so thrilled today to find the complete text of A.A. Milne's The House at Pooh Corneravailable online for free!

And the first book, too!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Noah's Ark

Time to prepare for our Sunday School end of year class play! I use the Waldorf Old Testament Block materials for my lesson planning and I always use a Waldorf 3rd grade class play, which we do in May. This year I have a very small class so we are going to do Noah and the Flood, a play by Eugene Schwartz which is available online for FREE, and needle felt the animals 2 x 2. Here is my order from A Child's Dream Come True:

Needle Felting Kits
2 owls
2 elephants
2 hummingbirds
2 pigs
2 chickens
2 sheep
2 cats
2 hedgehogs
2 penguins
2 bunnies
2 bluebirds
2 ladybugs
2 bumblebees

This will give us PLENTY of roving and felting needles & will help my newbie felters feel confident. Sometimes directions are a good thing to have.

Plus, we need the Giant Rainbow Silk.

Total: $265.50
Not bad for a class play!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Poetry Unit

I am going to be putting together a Poetry unit for January (this is my adaptation of the 4 Seasons Science block I taught last year) and today I purchased the book I want to use to introduce it: Welcome, Preciousby Nikki Grimes. The language and the illustrations in this book are both outstanding. I bought this book as a new baby gift and then realized it would be perfect for introducing my unit. It is FULL of wonderful imagery.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Some Thoughts About Spelling

I know people have different philosophies about spelling (some people don't teach it at all, some use pre-made lists, some pull misspelled words from their child's writing, some ask their child what he/she would like to learn to spell) and I won't get into that here. Suffice it to say that I am sometimes a fan of the pre-made lists and I particularly like the lists and accompanying worksheets at (Spelling for Grades One, Two, Three, and Four). Plus, they're free!

Here is what we do:

Day One. I present the spelling words by having the group gather with their language journals, a colored pencil, and a regular pencil. I tell them to listen to the sounds and spell the word as best they can, and that I'll tell them at the end how to spell each word correctly. I read each word, say it in a sentence, and repeat the word again. At the end of the list, I have the children switch to their colored pencil. They are to mark the word with a checkmark if it is correct. If it is incorrect they write the proper spelling using the colored pencil. I don't grade the papers.

Day Two. The children write each word two times.

Day Three. The children write each word in a sentence.

Day Four. The children alphabetize their word lists (there is a worksheet for this, where you cut out and paste the words in ABC order).

Day Five. We play Spelling Games. There are worksheets for this or you can do your own. Making a word find for a friend to solve is fun (use graph paper with large squares to write the words -- spelled correctly of course -- and then fill in around them with random letters of the alphabet). You can also make your own word jumbles. In both cases, it's only fair to provide your friend with a list of the hidden or jumbled words spelled correctly. You can also write the words in secret code for your friend to decode. A = 1, B = 2, etc. Kids love making and swapping and solving these games and it is good spelling practice. We never do a graded post test, the idea is just to work with the words throughout the week to practice them.

Some people make a spelling journal with all the words they know how to spell. You can use an index card file for this or a 3 ring binder. I think the card file works better because if you want to be able to continually add the words in alphabetical order to the binder, you have to have each word on its own sheet of paper which seems like a waste of paper to me. Placing the cards in the card file at the end of the week is a nice routine and helps with more alphabetizing practice. You could always do the part of speech, a definition or example sentence, and a picture of the word on the card as well.