Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I Have a Dream

We are spending the first two weeks of January on Ancient India. The second week will focus mainly on Buddhism and then I realized: that following Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King Day! So on Friday, January 13 we will talk about Dr. King and tie it in. He was also a person of peace.

There is a gorgeous picture book of his most famous speech:

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down is another excellent choice for this day and a good time for us to read this nominee for the MD Black-Eyed Susan Award.

Another amazing resource (but more suitable for oldest children) is The Children's March, a truly powerful film about the Civil Rights Movement.


I am currently writing and planning my Ancient Mythologies unit using Charles Kovacs' excellent book. I was searching online for children's books on Buddhism, to follow one of the legends from India, and found this great Listmania! List on Buddhism for Kids. I would also like to add these titles by Thich Nhat Hanh:

The teacher next door had her students all make meditation beads from polymer clay and they were gorgeous; I will have to ask her how they did it. In Montessori you always have a Peace table in the classroom, so we already have a Buddha statue set up with meditation beads. We also all have yoga mats at school so that we can practice yoga.

Fly Free!, a nominee for the Maryland Black-Eyed Susan award this year, is also a great choice for this topic.

And, luckily, we have a classmate who just returned from visiting her family in India who can come in and talk about what it is like to live there!

We are doing India, Persia, Babylon, and Egypt through Mythology. (We've already covered Greek Mythology -- began the year with it.) Then Greece and Rome transition into History, as is the Waldorf way.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ken Robinson & Maria Montessori

For one of my classes we had to watch this TED lecture by Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution. I thought it was magnificent and would recommend this short video to everyone. Although not specifically about Waldorf education, many of the quotes are strikingly relevant:

"Education, in a way, dislocates many people from their talents."

"Human resources, like natural resources, are often buried deep... you have to create circumstances where they show themselves."

"A 3 year old is not half a 6 year old."

"We have built our education system on the model of fast food... where everything is standardized... it's impoverishing our spirits and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies."

"Human talent is tremendously diverse."

"Human flourishing is not a mechanical process, it's an organic process."

"The reason so many people are opting out of education is because it doesn't feed their spirit."

Speaking of spirit, I was writing a paper for another class and looking up some quotes from Maria Montessori. I'm always struck by how much she talks about the spiritual world -- quite similar to Rudolf Steiner -- but those quotes aren't often shared by supporters of her method who have instead placed all their chips on the Early Academics portion of her philosophy. Here is some food for thought from Montessori:

on spirit
“Our goal is not so much the imparting of knowledge as the unveiling and developing of spiritual energy.”
- The Child in the Family :: The Clio Montessori Series, 1996 :: p. 63

“During this early period, education must be understood as a help to the unfolding of the child’s inborn psychic powers. This means that we cannot use the orthodox methods of teaching...”
- The Absorbent Mind :: Clio Press Limited, 1994 :: p. 4

“The child is truly a miraculous being, and this should be felt deeply by the educator.”
- The Absorbent Mind :: Clio Press Limited, 1994 :: p. 121

on imitation
”A child is an eager observer and is particularly attracted by the actions of the adults and wants to imitate them. In this regard an adult can have a kind of mission. He can be an inspiration for the child’s actions, a kind of open book wherein a child can learn how to direct his own movements. But an adult, if he is to afford proper guidance, must always be calm and act slowly so that the child who is watching him can clearly see his actions in all their particulars.”
- The Secret of Childhood :: Fides Publishers, 1966 :: p. 93

on toys
“But in those countries where the toy making industry is less advanced, you will find children with quite different tastes. They are also calmer, more sensible and happy. Their one idea is to take part in the activities going on about them.”
- The Absorbent Mind :: Clio Press Limited, 1994 :: p. 154

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pippi and the South Seas

Yay! I taught Leah how to purl. She ended up using some leftover pink yarn to make a scarf for her doll, Jane (a recent birthday present -- my girls have all asked for dolls this year -- yes, you never outgrow them). I always think of Pippi in the South Seaswhen I purl. The two needles coming toward each other (instead of "side by side like brothers") I think of as the sharks attacking. When you wrap the yarn around and push it away from you back through your loop, I think of the time when Pippi wrapped her arms around the shark's neck and threw it far out into the sea. Purl of course, is "pearls" that the children dove for.

Hey, it works for me!

I'm sure there's some kind of Waldorf verse for learning to purl but I don't know what it is.

Purl Every Row

My daughter Leah is in 2nd grade and wants to learn the purl stitch. In order to give her practice, I have been looking for simple patterns which use the purl stitch only. Then I realized -- duh! -- that if you purl every row you STILL have garter stitch.

This means that I can show her the following simple knitting patterns in The Children's Year: Seasonal Crafts and Clothes:

Duck and ducklings p.30
Knitted Easter chicken p.31
Chicken and cockerel p.32

Knitted gnome p.93
Cat p.95

Coathanger cover p.167
Needle case p.168

And for some more complicated patterns, try
  • Pull-up: scarf and hat all in one! p.79
  • Slippers - socks - baby bootees p.80
  • "Gnome's hat" p.84
  • Mittens p.92
  • Pig p.94
  • Finger Puppets p.97
  • Baby's rainbow ball p.110
  • Knitted doll p.160
  • Knitted gnome p.161

This is a great Waldorf book for patterns -- clothes, playthings, decorations for holidays -- I recommend it highly. The main difference between The Children's Year: Seasonal Crafts and Clothesand All Year Round, I find, is that All Year Round talks more about how to celebrate holidays and create family traditions. The Children's Year: Seasonal Crafts and Clothesjumps right into patterns, and gives you plenty of them! If you are looking to turn your home into a Waldorf kindergarten or a classroom for the Lower Grades... you have come to the right place. The Children's Year: Seasonal Crafts and Clothes, don't forget, even gives complete directions for making a Waldorf doll. You don't have to buy a special book for that.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


As a project for one of my grad classes I am doing a makeover of Eric Fairman's 8th grade Food and Nutrition unit (the assessment portion). When it's complete I will add it to the website. I am working on having more available for older grades.

Here's a great link to a food log that is simple enough for young kids.
Food Journal

I especially like that it gives you a place to check off each glass of water as you drink it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Elf Slippers

Natalie recently sewed herself some Elf Slippers for a school project (shown here in progress):

She used some wonderful plant dyed wool felt that we got years ago at one of Rahima's conferences, and put little jingle bells on the toes. We sewed non-slip shelf liner material to the bottom of them so that she wouldn't fall down walking on the wood floors.

The slippers are so cute and now her sisters want some!

The directions were in See and Sew: A Sewing Book for Childrenby Tina Davis.

Tina Davis wrote two other how-to books for kids:

They are all great! Natalie wants to make an egg cozy next...

Christmas Gift Time

Okay, so Thanksgiving is a nice time to sit down and make the plan for the homemade gifts this year. We usually spread it out because the process can take some time (last year the girls sewed a bunch of sachets). This year things look pretty simple: cat toys for the cats, dog treats for the dogs, and for our human gift recipients:

Crystal Snowflake ornaments

The teacher next door made this this year and it is so simple: 3 T Borax to 1 cup BOILING water. Mix up as many portions of this concoction as you need in a large glass canning jar or a craft-only large mixing bowl or other heat resistant container. Bend a wire pipe cleaner to form a simple snowflake, tie a piece of string to the pipe cleaner at one end and a pencil or dowel to the other end, and lie the pencil or dowel across the container of Borax/water so that the snowflake is completely submerged and leave it overnight. Voila! In the morning the water will be clear and large crystals will have grown all over the pipe cleaner frame. Simple.

So easy, fun, cheap!

How to Grow a Borax Crystal Snowflake

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ancient Mesopotamia

Beginning Ancient Civ; looking for recipes. Here are some links: - "Ancient Recipes" lesson plan - informational article

Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese and Peppered Honey - modern recipe

So happy that Dorothy Harrer's book Chapters from Ancient History is back in print! Perfect for the 5th grade year: Ancient India, Ancient Persia, Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt and on through Ancient Greece.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fun Algebra with Kids

Well... Halloween is usually the time that I introduce algebra a little bit. I tell the students that one number in our number sentence is wearing his Halloween costume (usually I draw a little ghostie). What we have to figure out is, what is the ghostie number?

For example: 3 + 7 = ghost + 2

This requires a clarification of what "=" actually means (an important prerequisite for algebra later on). A child who thinks = means "put the answer here" will say that the ghostie number is 10. 3 + 7 = 10. They will ignore the + 2 since they have no idea how to process it. One of the teachers in my evening class was saying that they have stopped using the word "equal" at her school and instead they say "is the same as." 3 + 7 IS THE SAME AS 8 + 2.

I wanted this to be a fun project for the kids so I am thinking about using rubber stamps to be the variables and making a book of Halloween math problems that they can take home. We will use a simple sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 card stock, so the book is sturdy. Lie a ruler down at the top edge of your paper (lay it landscape or portrait, whichever you prefer). Draw a line at the bottom edge of the ruler, remove the ruler, and cut the strip of paper you have traced off of your big sheet. You now have a slightly truncated original sheet and a strip of paper. Decide where on your big paper your math problem will go and lay the ruler down again across the paper in that spot. Trace the top edge and the bottom edge of the ruler (this is where the strip of paper will fit later). Now, write your math problem with the correct answers in all parts of the problem. Write it inside the lines you have traced and it's best if you write it big! You can make it as complicated or as simple as you want but there can only be one variable (one number which is hidden by a ghostie). Next, choose which number you are going to hide. Lay the short edge of the ruler on either side of this number and draw a line so that you have put this number in a little box. Fold your paper and cut out the left and right lines on either side of your number. It should have little slits on either side, so that the paper strip can be run through the large piece of paper, first covering and then revealing the hidden number. Thread your strip through the large piece of paper using the slits to align it over the number you wish to hide. Use a rubber stamp, or draw a picture if you prefer, to "hide" the number with his Halloween costume. Quiz a friend -- can they guess the hidden number? Pull aside the paper strip to find the correct answer. Add more problems to the sheet if you wish.

This will be a fun activity for the end of the day on Monday. And then for the rest of the week I can write ghostie problems on the board to start our day. But I want it to be a really concrete concept -- the idea that the variable is a hidden number which you want to figure out, in order to make the statement be true.

P.S. I just tried this concept out on Leah and she loved making it. It's nice that they have to think of a complete equation in advance and then decide what the variable will be -- so they are solving their own problems first before I ask them to solve one of mine. She carefully drew a little witch on her slip of paper to be the costume, but the nice thing about using rubber stamps as variables is that the children who want to keep doing more of this during the year can just get out the box of rubber stamps and make problems for a friend to solve. They can do this ad infinitum.

3 - flower = 0 + 2

flower = ?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Somebody Wanted But So

My daughter is doing her book report this weekend and she needed help figuring out what the "problem" was in her chapter book: Dancing Shoes. I thought back to a workshop I had gone to about reading strategies, and told her about SWBS statements. That's Somebody Wanted But So. It worked! It's a really nifty way to help students identify the problem in a book. Just fill in the blanks:

Somebody (that's the main character)

Wanted (what... what did they want?)

But (but... what was standing in their way?)

So (so... how did they respond? What happened because of the conflict?)

In this case, Rachel had promised her dying mother that she would make sure her adopted sister Hilary went to a proper ballet school. But the guardian who they go to live with runs an exhibition show troupe and, although it is dancing, Rachel doesn't feel like it's the proper sort of dancing. What's worse, Hilary seems to love high kicks and cartwheels and couldn't care less about toe shoes and ballet. So what is Rachel going to do?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Pudding

Our recipe for a Gluten free, Dairy free, Soy free Pumpkin Pudding turned out great. It was a huge success (7/8 children ate it and everyone who ate it came back for seconds) and super easy in the classroom. A whisk and a can opener and some measuring spoons are all you need. Each child can add an ingredient and whisk to his or her little heart's content and you don't have to worry about over mixing.

One tip about cooking with children: I finally discovered that it works best to have extra-long ties on the apron so that they can cross it in back and wrap it around their bellies and tie the bow in front. This way each child can put it on and take it off without help and pass it to the next friend. On cooking day, I write in my planbook what each child contributes as we go through the ingredients. That way I make sure no one is forgotten! Children have preferences, too, like one little boy who always likes to add the spices. He adores very strong smells. This week's recipe, which uses whole nutmeg and a mini grater to grind it fresh on the spot, was perfect for him!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Form Drawing - Autumn Leaves

We have been doing some forms from Form Drawing by Hans Niederhauser and Margaret Frohlich. These have turned out to be too complicated for my students (I teach a combined 1st and 2nd grade) so I am moving to anther resource. But since I found a picture book that was a perfect match for one of the forms (figure 3 on page 3), I just had to share it! And I promise that you will enjoy reading this book on its own, even without the form drawing.

The book is called The Little Yellow Leafby Carin Berger. It is beautiful (the illustrations are exquisite) and simple. My students were completely absorbed by this lovely picture book. When we were done, they all drew a collective breath and asked if they could nominate it for an award.

At the AWSNA conference over the weekend, we did an activity in freehand geometric drawing where we were given golden paper and yellow, red, and orange stick crayons. The participants were asked to draw a freehand circle. Then, without talking, we went from station to station, "greeted the circle that was in front of us," and went over it with our own crayons, trying to smooth out any bumps. Trying to make it better. This continued until we arrived back at our starting circle. It was lovely and very profound. What struck me most was how much the collaborative effort improved the circle AND how much doing a circle over and over helped me get better and I was then able to improve the circles of others. So I brought this activity to my class today. We used the candlelight colors and as a story I talked about the many festivals around the world that use candles as part of their celebration. Our school celebrates Halloween and the Latin American festival of the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) so we have been looking at similarities and differences between the two. And a look at candles and light is timely, too, Halloween-pumpkin-carving being our activity for tomorrow afternoon. All around the world, the festivals are about light and also about community -- just like our form. Even a birthday cake is an example of this.

If you want background information on festivals around the world that celebrate light, Celebrations Of Light : A Year of Holidays Around the Worldis a nice resource.