Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ushering in the New Year with a Little Help from the Wee Folk

Earth's Nuptials

Twelve days and thirteen nights in all the year
Most holy! Earth is shrouded in a sleep;
Trees sentinel above her, vigil keep.

Their fallen leaves gold tinted once, new sere
With times decaying, wrap her round a'near
To shield her in a covering warm and deep.

And living things within the woodland creep
All silently, that none may see or hear,

Yet through the very breath of life may seem
Suspended in the days and nights of dream --

High festival adorns this hallowed tide,
The starry sphere bends to embrace the Bride,
So greet we now the Harbinger of Birth,
The cosmic marriage of the Heavens and Earth.
~ Ann Ellerton

At dusk today, on the Eve of the New Year, we thought about our blessings of the year past and of what we strive for in the year to come. We set up a special space to honor this night with the help of all things unseen.

We wrote our wishes on tiny pieces of paper, one for each member of our family and placed them upon some small stumps. On top we placed a votive candle and Tony lit them while we watched in silent reverence.

Once the candles were lit, we formed a circle and held hands. We prayed together, asking for blessings in the New Year as we offered up our wishes.

The girls then placed some treats for the woodland folk that we made today (vegan cup cakes with some sprinkles). We set up three sets of tables with little stools for them.

And then we waited for the sun to set.

The girls thought this was a marvelous door (or portal) to the world of the wee-folk, imagining the little fairies and elves who might come through tonight to retrieve our wishes and enjoy the treats we left for them on New Year's Eve.

As the sun set for the last time in 2009, we enjoyed watching the dancing candles.

The girls then blew out the votives and replaced them with small rocks so that our wishes wouldn't blow away before the woodland folk had a chance to retrieve them to help us meet our goals for the coming year.

Wishing you many blessings in 2010, including health, happiness, miracles, and much love...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Legend of Old Befana for the Epiphany

The Befana comes
by night
with her shoes all
tattered and torn.

She comes dressed in
a Roman way
Long life to
the Befana!

Tomie dePaola fans are sure to have read this book. It's a fun way to celebrate the Epiphany. Children of Italian descent should be familiar with this tale of the grumpy Old Befana who lives alone and cares not for visitors. She takes great pains to sweep her house and bakes wonderful breads, but focuses on those tasks so intensely that when the Three Kings come looking for the Christ Child, she has no time to follow them to the Christmas miracle. Shortly afterwards, she realizes her mistake and decides to go after them, baking breads and sweets for the baby. She can not resist one last big sweep on her modest home and walkway before she heads out into the night, but by then, the Magi are gone and she struggles to find her way. Just as she exhausts herself, the angels appear and with a breath, sweep her up into the air on her search.

La Befana rides through the night on her broom, searching for the Christ Child to this day. She climbs down the chimneys and leaves sweets and books for the good little Italian children, while the naughty little children only find onions, garlic and coal waiting for them. She brings her broom to sweep the homes for all the mothers.

You can peruse the first several pages of Tomie dePaola's book here.

Of course, there are many variations of the story of La Befana. But for a wonderful week long festive celebration incorporating this Italian Legend, here is a fun site. There is an Italian coloring book here, along with poems and fun activities to enjoy with your children.

Viva La Befana!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Grade 1: Summary of Capital Letters Language Arts Block

Here is the order of the capital letters we did, along with a link to the stories that weren't my own. Before we began our Capital Letters block, we did two weeks of form drawing in preparation. See week one here and week two here:

BG stands for Brothers Grimm

M - "Simeli Mountain" by BG
V - "Valley of the Violets" by me
S - "The White Snake" by BG
T - "The Three Little Men in the Wood" by BG
W - "The Fisherman and His Wife" by BG
C - "Cat and Mouse in Partnership" by BG
F - "The Lambkin and the Little Fish" by BG
H - "The Hut in the Forest" by BG
J - "The Water of Life" by BG
B - "The Willow-Wren and the Bear" by BG
G - "The Golden Goose" by BG
K - "King Thrushbeard" by BG
R - "Rumpelstiltskin" by BG
L - "Louise Ladybug Looks for Friends" by me
D - "Saint George and the Dragon" by Margaret Hodges
N - "The Nail" by BG
P - "The Pink" by BG
Q - "The Queen Bee" by BG
X - "The Fox and the Horse" by BG
Y - "The Young Giant" by BG
Z - "How the Zebra Got His Stripes" Tales from the African Bushmen

We incorporated "6th Sense Language - Teaching the Alphabet Waldorf Style and Beyond" from Kristie Burns' Earthschooling program and it was not only fun, but it added so much to the girls learning and retention.

If you would like to see our drawings and more detailed posts on these lessons, you may find them as follows:
post #1 - M, V, S, T
post #2 - W, C, F, H, J
post #3 - B, G, K, R, L, D
post #4 - N, P, Q, X, Y, Z

Have fun with your Language Arts Blocks!

Grade 1: Rest of Language Arts Block Pictures

I apologize there is such a jump between the time I posted the last set of our Language Arts block and now. In between, we had a long trip, the swine flu, and lots of fun festivals that overtook these posts.

Anyway, I wanted to share the last of our Capital Letters LA Block pictures from a few months ago. We did incorporate 6th Sense Language by using the various senses, but I neglected to take pictures of everything. But here is what I have:

N - "The Nail" by Brothers Grimm

I should note that Charley wanted to draw three Newfoundland Pups in the shape of an "N" instead of a nail, so that's what those are :D

Our next letter was "P" and in Preparation, we arranged the Pine Cone and Pepper Pot dolls we made on our seasonal table...And Elena tried to draw a Poodle in the shape of a "P".

P - "The Pink" by the Brother's Grimm

For Q, I drew both a Queen and a Quail. The quail was Charley's idea and I imitated her and added the quail to the bottom of my drawing. The girls just wanted to draw quails and not queens...

Q - "The Queen Bee" by the Brothers Grimm

X - "The Fox and the Horse" by the Brothers Grimm

Y - "The Young Giant" by the Brothers Grimm

Z - "How the Zebra Got His Stripes" Tales from the African Bushman

We are moving on to a Maths block next week and then will come back to Language Arts to learn our vowels, but I hope that this helped see some examples of our Waldorf work in this block. There are many other stories that can be used instead of the ones I listed. That is what I so love about homeschooling ~ that it can be tailored to each individual child!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Night...

Softly, softly through the darkness
Snow is falling.
Sharply, sharply in the meadows
Lambs are calling.
Coldly, coldly all around me
Winds are blowing.
Brightly, brightly up above me
Stars are glowing.

~ B.T. Milne

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Smells of Christmas: Gingerbread & Holiday Playdough

Well, we were a little late this year in our tradition of making a gingerbread house from scratch, but we managed to get it done over the course of two days. If you make a no-bake house, it can certainly be done in one day, but from scratch, give yourself two days so that the icing can completely harden over the basic structure overnight before you weigh it down with decorations. Put the roof on before you go off to bed, as well!

The next morning, the girls decorated - made a complete mess, but had so much fun!

This year, we tried our hand at making a star tree using a kit we bought from Magic Cabin a few years ago, which I no longer see on their site. They currently have it at amazon here. If you can find several sizes of star cookie cut-outs, though, you can easily make this with your children without this particular kit. This makes a nice gift for the holidays and can certainly be enjoyed on many levels...mmmmmmm...Just use a basic sugar cookie recipe and be sure to use icing to secure each star on the layer, turning them slightly as you add to the tree.

For those who don't wish to go through all the trouble of baking and the length of time it takes, Martha Stewart has some pictures of wonderful no-bake houses that can be found here.

And if you want to skip this all together and move right onto hands on fun for the kids complete with the smells of Christmas, then check out this wonderful article by a health conscious Denver area momma on making holiday play dough that smells like candy canes or gingerbread! I love the all natural touches she added to the presentation of this fun dough. It can make a wonderful gift from the kids to their cousins or friends - or even each other and how lovely your house will smell as the kids form warm holiday memories with this fun activity!

Happy holidays and dreams of gingerbread and candy canes!