Monday, December 13, 2010

Exploring our world at 30 below

Dancing with the music and silks. Loud baby Mozart + play silks equal a really good time. The trick is mommy has to be playing too or for some reason it's no fun at all.

Right, okay. So there is plenty of ice outside it's -30...but at -30 we don't go outside. Even in full wool long john and parks its COLD. So instead we are freezing / thawing a bowel of water in the freezer. 
What happens when we put water in the freezer? Take it out? Pour new water into it? poke it with a spoon?

Rice and sand in a tray with various scooping devices and containers makes for a whole HOUR of self directed learning. Loch kept coming back to this every 45 minutes or so. Hiding 'treasures' in it to re-find them was the biggest hit.

Sorting lady bugs by size is really old hat but it is still fun. We also practice counting each sized bugs. I think he just likes the fact that they are red - his favorite color.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tricky cheap preschooling tips

See apple? See dry spaghetti noodles stuck in apple? every tried to stick dry spaghetti noodle into an apple? it's actually kind of hard. I'm not sure how this is 'school'....lets call it 'fine motor control' but it was totally fun.

Those paint chips in the paint section of home depot? Perfect for matching colors (grab two of each) for younger kids or for arranging by shade which is what Loch is doing here. I choose to grab red-pink, blue- light blue, & yellow - pale yellow to start with. As we becomes better at it I will add in non primary colors or other paint chips that include words such as 'tuscan' or 'beige'

Paper + crayons = letter practice! 
Color and print letters on paper, tape to the kitchen floor. We practiced letters by playing hopscotch & right leg E! Left hand D!

Piece of wood from old cut down tree makes perfect practice for nailing. This particular type of wood was a little hard so I had to start the nail but after that he got to nail it down. All sorts of fun. Who doesn't like hitting stuff?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sometimes you need a break...

   So it was happening.. Loch was being wild, loud, and disruptive. He fought anything that even seemed like school. Even the slightest 'school-y' question would erupt in arguments between us. It was time for a good long break. A good long break.

So I took a leap of faith and we did no official school work for 3 weeks. The homework fairy had the holidays off and we took the week before, during, & after 'off'.

Today was are first day back to the books and it went well. Mondays have always been our light days to  help get back into the groove after the chaotic weekends and today we talked about the sound the letter M makes, M words, and the number 8. We made a block tower, read some stories, and watched too much scooby do.
But there were no fighting, no arguments, no mommy pulling her hair out.

Take a deep breath and get back to business.

(and when I find my cord thingy I will make a post with some pictures.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Just the basics

I got an email today from simple homeschool about remembering the basics as a spine for your homeschooling. Everything else? It's gravy. I struggle as every homeschooler parent does with the "what if" question. 

  • What if we're not doing enough?
  • What if my children aren't being challanged enough?
  • What if they decide to go to public school one day and they learn that I have handicaped them both socially as well as academicly? 
  • What if they can't ever get a good job or go to collage?
  • What if I've ruined my kids by keeping them home?
  • What if....What if.....What if....

"The bare minimum a family should do is to surround your children with literature and to do math at least once a week."  ~Jena

"Education is not something which the teacher does, but a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being". ~Maria Montessori

So whats the minimum you need? What is 'enough'? Books to be sure. I don't think anyone would argue that having books (fiction & nonfiction) in your home is a good thing. It promotes literacy, it increases vocabulary and attention span, it prompts the imagination. 

After that? I vote...

Craft supplies! All things can be accomplished with craft supplies. (including math) It provides endless entertainment, puppets for stories, hopscotch makings, things to count and cardboard numbers.

Remember the basics, everything else is just gravy. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Preschool Main lesson books

Main Lesson books are something used in waldorf schools and provide a space for all the childrens best work as well as a living textbook made by the child themselves. Traditionally a waldorf preschooler would never have a main lesson book as they do no formal lesson work but I like having a place to keep 'samples' of his work throughout the year. It provides a good place to see progress over the years and it is a built in scrapbook.

First page of our lesson book. Letter A. sticks from the yard which Loch put into an A form and I helped glue down.

The #1. Represented by a painted 'sun' and a painted (and glittered) number one.

'Things of Summer' Objects collected on a walk and glued onto the paper with his crayon colored grass.

F for Feathers H for House - Loch lacks the fine motor control to be able to write, draw, or paint letters and numbers so instead we make use of our glue and craft items.

Michealmas dragon nature collage and a picture of Loch making orange playdough.

The number four represented by squares. This particular square collage is a robot, with a hulahoop.

Fall collage and painting

First 'lapbook' inspired to make a halloween lapbook. On the left is a candy matching game. Middle is a story kitty, story was verbally told to me and I wrote it down, on the right is a spider colored by Loch and I wrote in the answers he gave me about that spider. (Where he lives, what he eats, number of eyes/legs etc)

Friday, November 5, 2010

A lesson learned

Yesterday was the waldorf pre-k coop day and I learned a lesson I hope to try and remember.
Loch is 3 1/2 and has never ever ever liked circle time. He didn't like it at 8 months old and he doesn't like it now. This of course can make things like library story times or waldorf play groups.... challenging. I've tried to come to grips with it and I stand in the circle with the baby and Loch goes off and plays with sticks or what have you. The rule is that he can do pretty much whatever he wants as long as he doesn't interfere and disturb the people that DO want to participate in circle time.

Yesterday it was par for the course, them comes the walk around the field, Loch wants to go! (Yippeee!) Okay we get about 20 feet into or group walk, 'we' get distracted by a sign with a picture of a goose on it. I wait, I wait, I do the baby jiggle dance and try to urge Loch to catch up to the group. I take a breath.


No. Instead ' we' lay in the middle of the path and make snow angels.

Okay fine. Take a breath mama. That's okay. But after 15 minutes I'm cold and I want to go inside for craft and snack.

' we' want to lay in the snow forever. Begging, pleading, bribing, nothing works. A little lightbulb goes off in my head. I start singing 'The ants go marching one by one' and start marching down the path. At first? nothing. No response at all but the baby things it is hilarious so at least he's happy and interested. After marching down and back three or four times the boy child starts to wonder what is crazy mommy is doing... he stands up... he looks. he creeps up..... I make another turn and start down the path again.

"Wait Mommy! Wait for me!"

YAY! He is comming! he is even smiling while he does it! Wooooooooooo!

My lesson. Take a breath. Remember that his priorities are different from mine. Remember that when time isn't a factor, that when we don't 'have' to be anywhere to just relax. Let go. Try and enjoy the ride. And when in doubt start singing. If nothing else at least the baby thinks I'm funny.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Making the 'school' fit into your 'house'

A fairly normal looking living room. The scene of (sporadically) organized chaos. Some people have whole rooms dedicated to school, others have houses with some school stuff thrown in. Now traditional preschool waldorf says you don't need more then your real house with your real stuff but... Well we are all parents in the 21st century and we all feel pressured to make with the 'offical'. So how do we fit our school into our houses without it taking over our space?

Workboxes. For me I use this plastic drawer thing from Krogers.

Inside I put the daily 'school' activities. I use one box per year of age for preschool years. This particular day I have a magnifying glass, workbooks, a craft project, and some grass hopper puppets with a verse.

We, as many homeschoolers do, have books that have books that have books. Our books are on several shelves throughout our house. They are in storage containers, they are on the sofa, they are under the sofa. They are shoved into the space between the bed and the wall. The bottom shelf though in the living room are 'resource' books for general use. I figured if I put them out in the living room the children would 'discover' them. (Recently actually this has happen as Loch has discovered there are pictures/info of dinosaurs in the encyclopedias.

A set of Encyclopedia Britannica from my childhood, a newer Usborne Encyclopedia, dictionaries, and a few 'stuff to do when you're bored' books.

The painting board and 'hows the weather?' board I got from Funshine Express Thought they would be perfect for visually saying what the letter, color, and number for the week is. As well as practicing observation of daily weather patterns.

Black board has a drawing for this weeks theme. I'm a little ashamed to post this one, last weeks was fabulous and much more waldorf-y but that one disappeared into Neverwhere. I promise to atone by doing a post about blackboard drawing later.

The world map lives over the toy bins. Really it should be lower as the kids actually can't see it by themselves but... well.. it fits there and the baby can't eat it. Map was free from

Bullition board is over the dinning room table. Contents change weekly. Sometimes it's the theme for the week ,(here is Fire Saftly and hexagons) sometimes kids art.

Our nature table sits on the windowsill. It makes use of a very lovely space only about 3 inches wide so otherwise completely useless.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

If you could only have 6 books for your preschooler

Let us pretend you can only have 6 books for your preschooler. (It's okay, take a breath. We are only playing pretend here.)
What would you choose? Would you choose classics? Classic picture books? Books from your youth? Fairy tales? More 'academic' books?
Being a curriculum addict I have gone through a lot of preschool programs. I've bought a lot of them too. I've looked at everything from Anabaptist, Christian, Secular, Muslim, and Pagan recommendations for what to teach your children. At least for now I have chosen the 6 books I feel are MUST HAVES. - Okay well really Sonlight choose them but I'm seconding the motion. and I'll even tell you why.- see amazon widgit for links

  • 20th Century Children's Book Treasury

  • 44 stories in one book. Many classics like Goodnight Moon & Where The Wild Things Are. This book is being picked out again and again by my kids.

  • A First Book of Fairy Tales

  • All those fairy stories everyone should read in a young children friendly book.

  • Harper Collins Treasury of Picture Book Classics

  • Another book of books with only one stories overlapping with other treasury. Full page pictures.

  • Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm

  • An older book that continues about the animals from A year at Maple Hills Farm. My preschooler loves it. Can't get enough of this book. Has enough detail that new discovers can be made as your child gets older and more preceptive.

  • Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day?

  • What do fireman do? How do you build a road? In true Richard Scarry style gives fun overviews of many jobs in our world.

  • The Usborne Flip-Flap Body Book

  • Detailed book of the bodies functions but colorful and fun enough to capture the younger crowds attention. Children wont outgrow this book for several years.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Corn husk Dollies

So... despite every website or blog I came across explaining how one makes a corn husk dolly assuring me that any craft store will carry dried corn husks they in fact do not carry such a thing here in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Rather then give up my chosen craft for the coop Thursday Waldorf group I chugged along and bought 'fresh' corn at the grocery store. I striped and dried then re-wet this morning as it had dried to a brittle-y mess overnight. And today we made dolls! Not bad if I do say so myself. Now I found plenty of sites that have corn husk dolls using anywhere from 6-20 pieces of husk. Some had bonnets and bodices and were really works of art but alas as an Alaskan my ability to turn this foreign substance known as 'corn' into art is...lacking. So for a more younger crowed and newbie friendly version I give you a photo tutorial.

Start with 6 husks 4 larger ones and two smaller ones.

Place the four large ones together, these will form the head & body of your doll. Double knot some yarn or twine near the top.

Carefully peel the husks back over the knot you just made. You fillip in over onto itself.

This is what you get after you have turned it inside out.

Tie another double knot just under this so it forms the head.

take your two smaller pieces of husk and place them together and tie them at the ends. This makes your dolls arms and hands.

Separate the dolls body with two husks on each side and slide the arms you just made in.

Tie another knot of yarn just under the arms giving your doll a waist. Now if you are making a girl doll trim the husks and yarn as you desire and you're done! If making a 'boy' doll separate the bottom husks and tie off legs just like you did above with the arms.

Be prepared to also be asked to make airplanes or rocket ships! ;D

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Preschool - But what do i DO?

One of the most common questions on homeschool forums is what do I DO with my preschooler.
Well.... there are two main answers, There is the 'academics / three R's' and there is the 'better late then early' and there are several in-betweens but still what does one do with their 2/3/4 year old?

Okay so we have the basics. Let them help you cook, clean the house, pick out food for dinner, maybe sew a little. Read to them. ( and read to them, and read to them, and read to them...) Have them help around the house and be part of real life and play I think everyone reconizes the power of play these days and no one wants to deny children the wonder it is to be a child but aren't we missing something? Shouldn't there be more?

Well..... So besides the above go ahead and do a little more. If there is interest in workbook type activites go ahead and use them. - Kumon First Step Workbooks are nice once to try out. But many kids can't yet do workbook activities or don't like them. Now what?

Pick a theme.... moons, knights, fall, christmas, apples, choose something that works for the time of year you're in (well I suppose you could do butterflys in January but really, why?) and something your child has interest in. From there you can find any number of things to do for 'school.' Take Dragons. Bake bread and make it the shape of a dragon. Make / sew a dragon or knight constume and do some imaginative play. Count the number of princesses your dragon eats or the number of dragons your knight slays. READ books about dragons. Draw some pictures either from your play or the books you read together. Do a dragon craft activity..... Really the list goes on and on for any subject. If you have trouble thinking of things just type in -your subject here- + crafts into google and I promise you there will be more ideas then you ever thought of!
Little Acorn Learning has two sample weeks to give you a very good idea of how a weekly rhythm might go or consider buying a month or two of their program until you feel comfortable with doing preschool on your own. (Really I swear I don't own stock in them or anything I just love their curriculum. Best preschool program I have ever seen.)

Need more? start with a basic spine or outline of the things you want your child to learn or improve on for this year. Place in fun projects that help accomplish those things. I suggest 1 'school' activity per year of age but lets not forget that life is also school and sometimes teachable moments happen at non school times. The trick is to have the little list in your head so at least you feel like you did school.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Michaelmas 2010

Michaelmas! A poor amount of information seems to be out there about Michaelmas. Maybe it is out there but I can't find it so others who are new to waldorf probably can't either. According to wikipedia Michaelmas is a catholic festival celebrating the arch angle Michael throwing Lucifer out of heaven but now is only really celebrated by waldorf schools. :/ Really not all that helpful, thanks wikipedia. Michaelmas is also mixed with Saint George defeating the dragon which as a little more story found to it but gives no real ideas on how to celebrate this holiday. Many families are hesitant to make this a religious festival, either not being Christan or not wanting to focus so much on Satan with young (or even older) children. Others look to George and the dragon to represent good overcoming evil but how do you actually do that? Once a week we have a group of waldorf family's who gather for some fun group activities and so i have some wonderful Michaelmas photos to show to you! A quick overview of things that didn't get photos. Each clue had a treasure (a candle, a cape, a piece of colored glass, a felted ball 'shooting star', and a ball of dough to put on sticks and roast over the campfire.) We all tromped through the woods for about 30 mintues with 25 or so children until getting to our final destination where we feasted on Dragon Shaped Bread and the children played in the wonderful forts a previous group had made in the woods earlier that winter.

A Dragon marks the spot where we begin our quest. Capes made of golden light to keep us strong and bold.

Clues rest at each location leading us on our path. Treasures buried deep within, here a candle to light our way and help us see the truth.

A corn labyrinth we must walk to find treasures untold. A piece of glass for each to hold each piece is clear and cold.

A star marks our journey, felted balls are shooting stars. Make a wish and keep on journeying your clan is almost home.

Brave and true, Will I be. Each kind word, Sets me free. Each good deed, makes me strong. I will fight, for the right. I will con-, quer the wrong!

Fire burns but also heats our tired and cold feet. Take a rest and take a breath, our journeys at a end.

Hidden in the woods at our campfire spot, shelters made of sticks and twigs.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What we did this week

I've been reading a lot of montessori blogs which will show in our resent homeschool photos. There was been plenty of other things going on of course, lots of reading and cooking and all the good waldorf stuff but I was on a montessori kick this week so that's what you get. Next week should be good as tomorrow is michaelmas and we have been prepping for that all week. I hope to most some awesome photos and general waldorf-y goodness soon.

Loch doing HABA's Poch-Poch. Geometric shapes with holes, small nails, and a wooden hammer. Last year he needed help to put in the nails, hold them, and then he could hammer them down. This year no help necessary. He created a robot, a train, and a sail boat. (Well that's what he said they were anyway)

Nesting Sort & Stack. I like this beacuse you can sort it based on colors, (dark to lightist) size, (big - small OR tall - short) or you can nest/stack them inside each other or on top of each other. We played with this for a while as it's 'supposed to be used' and then we made a castle.

Shamelessly stolen from a montessori blog we had a plastic spider who was warping things in it's web. So using the ugly green yarn we wrapped several helpless animals practicing some fine motor control skills.

Pouring water! had several different containers we poured back and forth making only a moderately sized mess on the table.