Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Thoughts about Spelling

I'll be tutoring a child for Spelling this summer and I am so excited!

I started pulling resources off my shelf and giving some thought to the subject, and the relationships between oral language, written language (writing, reading, spelling), movement, art, form drawing / penmanship, child development, learning difficulties, and authentic contexts for writing.

Some resources are traditional, many are Waldorf, one is Montessori. Here is my booklist so far:

Take Time: Movement Exercises for Parents, Teachers and Therapists of Children with Difficulties in Speaking, Reading, Writing and Spelling
by Mary Nash-Wortham and Jean Hunt

Phonic Rhyme Time: A Unique Collection of Phonic Rhymes for Precise Practice in Speaking, Reading and Writing
by Mary Nash-Wortham

Tutoring Is Caring: You Can Help Someone to Read
by Aline D. Wolf

Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom: How to Reach and Teach All Learners
by Diane Heacox

Looking Forward: Games, rhymes, and exercises to help children develop their learning abilities
by Molly von Heider

Audrey E. McAllen

The Extra Lesson. Movement, Drawing and Painting Exercises to Help Children with Difficulties in Writing, Reading and Arithmetic

Sleep: An Unobserved Element in Education

Reading Children's Drawings The Person, House and Tree Motifs

Working with Anxious, Nervous, and Depressed Children: A Spiritual Perspective to Guide Parents
by Henning Kohler

Difficult Children: There Is No Such Thing
by Henning Kohler

Megawords: Multisyllabic Words for Reading, Spelling, and Vocabulary
set 5

On Reading & Writing: Towards a Phenomenology and Pathology of Literacy
by Karl Konig

Soul Development Through Handwriting: The Waldorf Approach to the Vimala Alphabet
by Jennifer Crebbin

Writing for a Change: Boosting Literacy and Learning Through Social Action

Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners
by Ron Ritchhart et al.

Developmental Insights: Discussions between doctors and teachers
edited by David S. Mitchell
available FREE from the Online Waldorf Library

Resource Teacher's Developmental Exercise Manual
Waldorf Resource Teacher Training Program
published by Association for a Healing Education

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Flour in the Sensory Table

A few days ago we had our final "outdoor art on the easel" (for which I brought window crayons) and "outdoor sensory table" on the playground.

Last week it was huge armfuls of lambs ear in the sensory table and then paints at the easel, with the children using the lambs ear leaves as their brushes.

This week I brought four different kinds of flour for the sensory table. You can also just use any large bin or container, of course. And, if I were doing this activity again, I would do it with four small bins and then also have one large one. I had visions of the children feeling the four kinds of flour and comparing their textures. White all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cake flour, and soy flour. But my preschool crowd had so much more fun pouring the flour out of the bags! They LOVED the pouring process, then joyfully mixed all the flours together, then carried handfuls of it to the mud puddles on the playground and stirred it in with sticks, then brought the mud puddle water TO the sensory table and created an enormous batch of PASTE. Then they continued to mix more and more water in to see how the paste texture changed. Then we hosed them all down and made a big river running through the playground which all the parents stepped in unexpectedly when they came to pick up their little ones. Oh well. It was A-W-E-S-O-M-E fun. And that's what Extra Clothing bags are for, right?

Window Crayons are expensive but they last and last. I have three sets and they are still going strong... and this has been ten years now.

In other news, Natalie and I are heading to the hardware store to get pulleys and weights for her Simple Machines portion of the Physics block... this is our last section... and we are buying the ingredients for Zac's birthday party menu. I looked up baby sign language for rabbit and horse because I'm getting more and more curious about animal signs. We took Zac someplace recently and he saw his first fish tank and I'm thinking, I should find out the sign for fish so I can sign it while I'm showing the baby this new animal. Then when we went to my therapeutic riding, I am thinking, oh, I must learn "horse." So we are adding new words to his vocabulary all the time.

Zac had his InfantSEE exam on Friday. This is a free nationwide developmental screening exam for babies ages 6-12 months that helps catch early problems. Then I taught my first Handwork for Homeschoolers session; so fun! I'm planning a story and three activities each time. We did

Pelle's New Suit by Elsa Beskow

This first session was a lesson on natural fibers (particularly silk and wool), dyeing a silk (which will serve as an ocean setting later for fish puppets), and wet felting a bar of soap.

Handwork supplies can be so expensive, particularly if you're using the Waldorf method and focusing on natural materials, but it is an investment that is worth it. When you're just starting with felting (either wet or dry) I think that the NZ Corriedale Wool Roving -- 44 Colors in Box assortment from Weir Crafts is a great way to go and it comes in a nice storage box with a color key inside the lid. I relied on this for years, while augmenting it with several bins of wool which I bought on a Waldorf Supplies Yahoo group from a mama who needed to pare down her stash. So, if you want lots of wool, it doesn't hurt to just ask if anyone is willing to sell some!

The Ashford Child-Sized Hand Carders from A Child's Dream Come True are also something you'll use for years to come. You only need to buy them once. Every time you tell a story which involves shearing, carding, spinning, dyeing, weaving or knitting, you'll want to set out a basket of wool and the carders and just let the children sit in a quiet spot and card wool for hours. This is marvelous early childhood work and big kids love it too! If you want a gift idea for a kindergarten teacher in your life, this is a good one.

It's also good to stock up on rolled beeswax candle making kits every now and again.

I love to make rolled candles on the first day of first grade, when we introduce Form Drawing and the straight line and curve. You make the straight flat piece of beeswax into a cylinder candle. What could be more perfect than that? And then when each child in your classroom makes one, you then have a collection of candles to use all year when you read stories. Candle kits are also helpful to have when you get invited to a party and realize you don't have a gift to bring -- quick, make & decorate a candle! -- and for years we had the birthday children in our house roll little tiny birthday cake candles for their special day.

When I was a new Waldorf mama, I got my first candle kit on Amazon and it was

When I look at it now, it is with fond memories. I had a mom over to my house yesterday who was asking me how I learned all these crafts. I did NOT learn them growing up. I decided I wanted to do Waldorf with Natalie when she was three and I didn't know anything and was so intimidated! But I bought lots of craft kits from places like Hearthsong and Magic Cabin and Weir Crafts and A Child's Dream Come True and learned candle making and wet felting and so on that way, drove to the nearby Waldorf schools for workshops, spent a week in tears trying to teach myself to knit from a page of printed directions, and just did it a little bit at a time! I joined Waldorf groups and bought tons of handwork supplies and home items and curriculum books used from people. I read all I could. I know that my first early months and years weren't very Waldorf-y. But it takes time, right? So I've left my early lesson plans from that transition on the website for years because someone out there is going through the same thing and I think that honesty is encouraging and important. You don't have to be perfect. You just need to decide what you want to do and get started!

Practice Makes Progress

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Teacher's Report Card & Student Expo

Time to wrap up the school year!

The Teacher's Report Card / Student Evaluation of Teacher rubric can be a helpful tool and create some family conversation and reflection on the school year. I did this with my eighth grader and she scored me highest on "My teacher has high expectations for all students," "My teacher is prepared for class," "My teacher encourages everyone to participate," and "My teacher is enthusiastic about teaching."

Becca's school is preparing tonight for a large Expo of student work and my last school did this as well. This can be a good time for an Open House, advertising the school to the public, or just a celebration of the school year! And I 100% think that homeschoolers should do this too! It is nice to reflect on the year, set out all those Main Lesson Books, research reports, science experiments and demonstrations, art portfolios and other artifacts of your child's work, and have family and friends come by. If you are part of a homeschool co-op, let everyone bring their work to a central meeting place and exhibit space and celebrate and encourage one another!

We are starting a homeschool support group in the southern Illinois area and I will be posting how it goes as the project develops. Right now we have a SurveyMonkey survey for families who are interested, just to see what ages of children would potentially be involved, and we are preparing for an initial meeting with everyone.

Next week will be our final week of school and it draws ever nearer. Natalie is finishing Physics up with Static Electricity and Mechanics (Simple Machines), assembling her final Main Lesson Book, glazing and firing pottery pieces, sewing her puppetry apron, planting seeds, taking part in a research study at the university, and writing the final draft of her Famous Supreme Court Justices research paper (currently at 20 pages). She's also squeezing in as much creative writing as possible, Latin, math (her favorite subject), and time to play outside!

And, unable to keep from looking ahead at next year, I've already been considering live silkworms now that I found a mulberry tree...

What About the Sheep? A Comprehensive Guide to Ethical Yarns

I'd be very curious to hear from other homeschoolers how they wrap up the year and celebrate their achievements. Do you have an official "graduation" to the next grade level?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Simple Editing and Penmanship

Becca's 5th grade teacher does an activity which I think is pure genius. Every week she writes a sentence with spelling, capitalization, grammar, and punctuation mistakes and the students have to 1) find and fix all the mistakes, and 2) rewrite the sentence correctly in their best cursive handwriting.

This is so quick and simple and it works great. At home, in middle school, we have been doing it DAILY with the help of an old Instructional Fair workbook series Thematic oral language for daily use: Math, science, social studies, language arts, creative arts. There is a weekly topic (in our book it is owls, snakes, tigers, polar bears, etc.) and there is a sentence or two for each day. The sentences cover the topic from all different angles: language arts, science, social studies, math, and creative arts. For example, this is Week 35 for the sixth grade volume:

Week 35 - Seals, Sea Lions, and Walruses

Day One. Language Arts.
a. dad ive been studying seals and sea lions but why cant i tell the difference between the too of them
b. yes they do look alike but sea lions has longer flippers and are able to rotate them hind flippers dad answered

Day Two. Science.
a. me knowed everything on the science test mr english accept what a "pinniped" are
b. mr english replied sum animals has flippers which look like fins so theyre called pinnipeds or fin-footed

Day Three. Social Studies.
chuck lisa and barb seen some well-trained seals at the ringing brothers circus chuck telled us that scientists they think that seals can be learned to do tricks fairly easy cuz theyre as smart as cats and monkeys

Day Four. Math.
mail walruses can bee 12 foot long and way up to 3000 pounds even female walruses they can way over 1500 lbs said the guide at the shedd aquarium

Day Five. Creative Arts.
at the metropolitan museum of art in new york city ms smythe my art teacher seen a carving maked out of walrus tusk she feeled sad that hunters useta kill them animals just for their tusks

The teacher is given an answer key with weekly lists of the corrected sentences and the skills covered in each day's work. This Instructional Fair series of workbooks [authors, Sharon Altena and Jan Leik ; illustrator, Pat Biggs] from 1993 includes a volume for each grade 1 through 6.
v. 1. Grade 1 -- IF8401
v. 2. Grade 2 -- IF8402
v. 3. Grade 3 -- IF8403
v. 4. Grade 4 -- IF8404
v. 5. Grade 5 -- IF8405
v. 6. Grade 6. -- IF8406

Of course you could try to track down used copies, which would be easy and convenient, or you could simply create your own sentences! This is what Becca's teacher is doing, although she says it takes her a lot of effort to "write it wrong" when she's creating them.

Waldorf-wise, I would suggest this type of work for fourth grade and up.

Waldorf books for handwriting? The best is Teaching Children Handwriting by Audrey McAllen (which also includes how to teach the Capital Letters using the fairy tales). I also love the Form Drawing for Better Handwriting series (Volume 1 includes the entire series of second grade running forms in FD). And, lastly, I have Soul Development Through Handwriting: The Waldorf Approach to the Vimala Alphabet by Jennifer Crebbin.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

First Birthday Party

My little sweet pea is growing up! So what better theme for a First Birthday Party then celebrating fruits & veggies and having a summer picnic?

I love our Cherry Birthday Ring from Nova Natural and when the girls were little I always got ornaments each year which reflected the theme of their parties. Natalie's first birthday was teddy bears, so I got her

We've had parties like Ocean (this one featured the Seahorse birthday ring ornament, a family trip to the aquarium, and an ice cream cake molded in the shape of a sand castle and covered with graham cracker crumbs), Star, Ladybug, and Bunny... and seeing the ornaments each year when we unpack the birthday ring brings it all back. For Zac I'm thinking maybe the bumblebee:

I'd love nothing more than to get him the STUNNING Greater Pyramid Blocks

but I think that'll be a present-for-the-entire-family Christmas splurge.

The Greater Pyramid Wooden Block Set (Large)

Made by Grimm's, who believe creativity develops the imagination and free spirit
Set features 100 blocks ranging in height from 2.5" to 7.75"
Waldorf education-inspired
Each piece is handmade and hand sanded so there are no sharp edges or corners
Beautifully rich colors
Can be stored in its sturdy wooden tray

Basswood blocks colored with water based dyes and natural oils
Tray is made of basswood and beech plywood

This birthday I'm thinking about a toy that I used to have for my girls but gave it away when I thought I'd not be having any more children, the 11 Piece Rainbow Colored Stacker. And my mom is giving him the Grasper.

Ideas for food?

I saw a really cute recipe for Black Bean Hummus in Flower Pots which we HAVE to do.

I also have a few fresh (and easy) fruit & veggie-filled favorite recipes:

Watermelon, Orange, and Feta Salad

Salmon Nicoise Salad

Raw Kale Salad with Pomegranate and Toasted Walnuts

Pasta Shells with No-Cook Tomato Sauce

Blackberry and Ginger Trifle