Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Week: Preparing for Easter - Tufty Cones!

Well, this has been another week of virus'! One of the twins is down with a fever and my main computer picked up a nasty, nasty virus which might require a trip to the repair shop. So, not only do I have to blog on my 10 year old laptop which has seen much betters days (it's not only super slow, but also survived having a heavy plant dropped on it which broke the screen. Miraculously, the computer survived and served me well, but had to be hooked up to a monitor and is no longer really a laptop)...also, my nice camera software is too intense for my weak *laptop* so my pictures will be a bit lacking, but this is such an important week and we wanted to share some of our preparations :D So my posts will be a bit short...

Today is 5 days until Easter Sunday, so we prepared our Tufty Cones. To do this, your pine cones must be opened already (dry them out) and then place a bit of water in a dish of some kind, add some moss to soak it up a bit. Place your pine cones in the water/moss. Sprinkle some grass seeds into the openings of the cones and with the moisture, the cones will shut, sealing in the grass seeds. While the cones begin to soak up the water, the seeds are watered and voila! In 5 days, we should have some shoots! Keep the dish watered throughout the five days to keep the cones shut and place on your seasonal table to await the "birth" of the grasses. This is a nice natural way to bring a focus on the Resurrection.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Language Arts Block II: Vowels...Summary

We finally wrapped up our vowels block last week. It was only appropriate that we end with a review, topped off with an exercise in making bread shaped like each capital vowel...

The girls found other uses for their vowels...a bracelet (O)!

Hammering (with the "I") a horseshoe ("U")

We are also in the middle of reading "The Wise Enchanter" by Shelley Davidow. It is a journey through the alphabet about four children who must learn the 26 letters in order to stop the darkening ignorance and bring back wisdom and the words that have been forgotten...

To review, here are links to the lessons:
~ A can be found here...
~ E can be found here...
~ I and O can be found here...
~ U can be found here...

Books we used or found helpful (in no particular order) are:

~ Sixth Sense Language Ebook by Kristie Burns of Earthschooling
~ Living Alphabet (OR the revised version) Waldorf Alphabet Book by Famke Zonneveld
~ Among the Meadow People by Clara Dillingham Pierson
~ Among the Night People by Clara Dillinghma Pierson
~ Among the Forest People by Clara Dillingham Pierson
~ The Wise Enchanter by Shelley Davidow
~ Gwinna by Barbara Helen Berger
~ Unicorns by Usborne (this is just a lift the flap picture book with nice pictures - no story content so not an enhancing story, just a pretty book)

Many of the stories are available for free in the archives, so before purchasing, check and see if they are online! I also did tie in a lot of nature stories into this block. I'm running out of time in the school year and while I don't want to *cram* things in, I decided to weave some more elements into what we are doing this way!

Hope this helps your vowel block planning!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Language Arts Block II: Vowels... Letter U

Last week, we finished up our work on vowels. The first two days, we worked on "U"...

Spring has arrived and we've been enjoying wonderful March days. Usually March can get pretty chilly in Southern Cal, but this year has been rather temperate.

Armed with our basket of nuts, sunflower seeds, Nature Stories book and sidewalk chalks, we headed outside, excitedly discussing things that begin with the letter "U" or have a "U" in them as a main vowel. We brought our yoga mats outside and practiced some stretches and deep breathing. Then someone got an idea and whispered it to her a flash, the girls were gone and returned a moment later with their umbrellas, which have seen better days - lol! What is it about kids smashing their umbrellas?!?

The girls walked the five vowel forms outside, umbrellas in tow...

Then, they practiced creating the shape of the "U" with some nUts :D

The sun warmed us up and the girls lost their jackets and hung out near our trees while I read to them "First Signs of Spring" by Margaret Peckham, from her "Nature Stories" book.

They played outside for a bit and then came in for a snack and some stories. We continued with "Sixth Sense Language", our alphabet books, and dug out a beautiful "Unicorns" book by Usborne.

While I decided to draw an upside-down umbrella, they pleaded to draw unicorns in outline form and I caved. They've been so good about learning to shade with the block crayons, but it's so hard - really much harder than drawing outlines. But this time, I allowed it. They do get enough practice and they were so excited about drawing unicorns so I let them have at it while I read to them "The Musician" by the Brothers Grimm. (Can you spot the "bUck", "pUg", "sUn", and "skUnk" in their pictures, along with the Umbrella and Unicorns?)

The next day, I read "The Skunks and the Ovenbird's Nest" from "Among the Night People" by Clara Dillingham Pierson. We also planted our sunflower seeds in a pot - the ones we planted last year never came up : (

And as a review, following Eric Fairman in his Path of Discovery: Volume I Grade I, we took a long time to read the story of "The Two Brothers" by the Brothers Grimm. This story can be stretched out over several days or even a couple of weeks. It's very long and several tales weaved into the main story.

Tomorrow, I'll share the wrap -up and hope to cover how we are celebrating this special Holy Week! No studies, but lots of focus on some great Easter stories and more egg preparation.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Book Review: Liputto

This week, we finished the story of "Liputto: Stories of Gnomes and Trolls" by Jakob Streit. Streit was a Waldorf teacher in Switzerland and wrote several magical books for children. His books have been translated from German.

"Liputto" is a story of a mountain flower-root gnome who helps the flowers to bloom by pulling sunlight down through the roots into the earth. After years of service, he earns his "roaming cap", which renders him invisible when worn so that he can explore the surface of the earth without being seen.

The book is broken up into 17 short chapters, which makes it an ideal bedtime read. It begins with four chapters on a character called the "Net Troll" who likes to capture things he sees in nature, such as butterflies, fish, frogs, etc. As a troll, he is very selfish and destructive and luckily the animals he captures are set free by friends of the forest. The Net Troll then disappears for several chapters, only to be brought back in the final few chapters as the antagonist of the story (along with another troll known as "Hook Troll").

This book is usually advised for Grade 1 children, though it is written much simpler than Streit's book "Puck the Gnome" is. To me, it seemed more appropriate for a younger audience than Puck did, but it does have some dark elements, in the vein of a typical fairytale. Liputto does get attacked by some bad trolls at one point and is healed with the help of some elves and the sap brought up from deep within the earth. Void of intense descriptions, the children were accepting of it without batting an eye. I think it is similar to fairy tale reads, in that we adults seem to struggle more with the darker elements than the children do as it speaks to them differently.

My girls thought the Net Troll was pretty silly in the beginning chapters. They weren't frightened at all by anything in the book. Their only complaint was that it just kind of ended without enough resolution. They wanted more confirmation that it ended as they had hoped.

Liputto is a loving gnome who helps all that he sees (flowers, birds, animals, and even human children who were in danger). He is entrusted with a special silver cup, given to him by a beautiful Water Fairy, which contains magical silver drops with which to heal and create goodness. The Water Fairy warns him to not let the silver cup fall into the hands of strangers as they could use it for bad things, rather than good.

Therefore, with silver cup in hand, Liputto journeys to the children and continues his adventures, helping them and spreading goodness. When he returns to gather more drops from the fairy, he discovers a crystal cavern which he is very drawn to. After filling the cup and being reminded to keep the cup safe, he returns to the crystal cavern and sets the cup down. Thereupon, it is snatched up by Net Troll and Hook Troll. Liputto is distraught.

The two trolls run wild with it and pollute an area, turning good magic into bad. Liputto must rescue the cup and bravely risks his life for it. After a good beating, he saves the cup and is restored to health thanks to a Tree Spirit and some elves. He dreams of restoring the cup back to silver and upon awakening, goes on his merry way.

The book is a mere 59 pages and has a few sepia illustrations which were illustrated by former waldorf student and artist, Susanne Alethea Mitchell.

Here are four of them...

Liputto working underground and earning his roaming cap.

Liputto reassuring two birds that he will be able to save their baby bird who fell from its nest.

Liputto receiving the silver cup from the Water Fairy.

Liputto being healed by the Tree Spirit and the Elves.

Overall, this was a really nice book for Grade 1 students. We weren't quite as enchanted with it as we were with "Puck the Gnome", but we did enjoy it. I wish we had read this one before Puck and would advise that since it is much simpler and in general, would do better with a younger audience. It could also be used earlier in the Grade 1 year, though it very much is a spring story.

Liputto's chapters did build upon each other, but were not reliant upon each other as the chapters in Puck's story were - meaning the chapters didn't leave you hanging and they didn't seem to always rely on the previous one, though sometimes they did. It reminded me a bit of the Tiptoes books in the way the chapters were arranged (sometimes continuing from the previous chapter and other times beginning completely new). The ending also just kind left us hanging a bit. The girls did want more so I know they did enjoy it.

This grade (Grade 1) seems to be very into stories of gnomes - between this one, Puck the Gnome and the newer book "A Donsy of Gnomes" (we will be reviewing this one eventually, as well). The girls are delighting in the goodness of the gnomes - how they help, how they care for, how they heal. They are surely such good little forces that speak to our children in a special way.

"Liputto" was a wonderful addition to this year! We love Jakob Streit's books!

Monday, March 22, 2010

AMHC Phase I: Pentatonic Color and Sound Therapy

I have been meaning to post about this wonderful program for a while now, yet every time I sat down to do it, I would get intimidated, wondering *how* I could properly do it the justice it deserves as it truly encompasses so very much - how can I wrap it up into a neat little blog post, but I'll do my best...

I have heard it said before that in a Waldorf school, "Music is the thread that weaves the academic day together." In the early years, the child is exposed to singing and music through the mother, caregiver, or teacher. In Grade 1, introduction to the pentatonic instruments usually begins - via the pentatonic flute.

In Grade 1, the student receives two languages in a Waldorf school, usually Spanish and German. One of the best ways to teach a second language to a child is through song. As homeschoolers, teaching music and foreign language can seem very intimidating at times.

The AMHC Program, created by Naturopath Dr. Aurore Henze does just that - teaching pentatonic music and foreign language, with the added element of color and sound therapy woven effortless into the lessons. We are so enjoying this program! It encompasses songs in Spanish, German, and French...

Dr. Aurore Henze spent years studying and mastering alternative therapies. As a musician herself, it was only natural that she founded the AMHC and created a healing and holistic music program which encompasses color and sound therapy, along with foreign language and music appreciation and development. She is a waldorf inspired homeschooler to three lovely children. There is much to this program, though to implement it, all you really need is a few basic materials - mainly the book, some stickers, and a pentatonic instrument (glockenspiel, flute, or lyre are the ones she recommends) - though a complete list of recommended supplies is included in the book. Most waldorf inspired homeschooling parents will have block crayons and watercolor paints, etc.

The program is easily laid out with each note of the pentatonic scale being assigned a therapeutic color based on the scientific research of color and sound by Dr. Darius Dinshah, author of "Let there be Light".

Marking each note on the pentatonic glockenspiel (ours is an Auris from Sweden), the child can easily follow along with the sheet music, which is also color coded. They say the notes and then the colors as they play along.

And then they can sing the lyrics once the song is mastered.

We had purchased these maths blocks and they work very nicely with the program as manipulatives that the child can place alongside the notes to reinforce the colors and songs they are playing, as recommended in the program.

They can also be used for math or for free play and building.

While neither of the girls is receiving piano lessons just yet, they love to tinker around on the piano and Charley is beginning to make up her own simple songs. I do feel that as we make the connection from the notes of the glockenspiel, to the piano, to the pentatonic flute - there is a comfort and a confidence that is newly emerging. This program does a wonderful job of not intimidating the child and allowing them the pleasure of being able to *read* the music to play a song which sounds fantastic thanks to the perfect pentatonic scale.

While we made our way through the pages in the Phase I book, I got out a pentatonic flute book I picked up at the Steiner College Bookstore which I absolutely love called, "Waldorf Teachers' Companion to the Pentatonic Flute" by John Miles.

Using Dr. Aurore's color therapy suggestions, I made crayon marks under the notes to help us learn to play these songs with the glockenspiel.

And then we learned the song on our Choroi Pentatonic Flute.

So I love that this program can overlap with other songbooks so that it grows *endlessly* with the child (keep in mind that there are two additional phases!). While I admit that I have not done much research on color therapy, I have heard some rave reviews about it from the holistic community. Seeing how well my daughters are taking to it and the success that Dr. Aurore has had with her own children (including her son who was not only healed from a diagnosis of autism, but was the youngest American musician to be invited to study at Interlochen in 2005) I feel very positive about the merits of this program.

If you are a Lifetime Member of Kristie Burns' Earthschooling program, you can access Phase I, including a video showing Dr. Aurore and her talented children as they showcase the program. I think that the program is going to be offered soon via amazon, as well. It can be purchased here and I'm sure Dr. Aurore would be happy to answer any questions about it!

I particularly loved one section where she compared Memorization to Comprehension in relation to Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, her teacher, who insisted upon true comprehension. In music, there are many children (including myself as a youngster) who could read music and play the piano, but I did not really *understand* it, as I can not sit down and create it with that ultimate trust and surrender to the true comprehension that is music. I love that in early Waldorf education, the child learns by ear, by imitation as s/he hears and sees the teacher/parent leading. This program encourages this through humming as the notes are learned - matching pitch and can be taken further with harmonies. The confidence it will build through the years can not be underestimated as within creation of any kind, comes true happiness and satisfaction. I believe this program strives for true music comprehension. There is much more to be said, but then I will be writing a novel - lol! If you have been looking for a program to enhance your music and foreign language studies, this just might be what you're looking for!

You can read more about Dr. Aurore and Color Therapy at her website here. Dr. Aurore's blog can be found here. She has also written a book called, "Beyond Natural Cures" which can be found here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Celebrating the Spring Equinox

The Magic Piper

There piped a piper in the wood
Strange music -- soft and sweet --
And all the little wild things
Came hurrying to his feet.

They sat around him on the grass,
Enchanted, unafraid,
And listened, as with shining eyes
Sweet melodies he made.

The wood grew green, and flowers sprang up,
The birds began to sing;
For the music it was magic,
And the piper's name was -- Spring!

~by E.L. Marsh

Today, we celebrate the Vernal Equinox as we welcome the spring. We started a tradition last year of planting our Lenten dish garden on the first day of spring.

This past week was not a fun one. Elena got a nasty stomach flu that lasted 50 hours so we're a bit behind, but will catch up this week.

All those eggs that Tony so painstakingly blew out were finally put to good use today!

In anticipation of Easter, we decided to paint some eggs with acrylic paints. We wanted to be able to keep these (and even hang them from a tree), so they were blown out first and then painted.

Some of them, we layed a base color on first and allowed it to dry. Other eggs were just painted in one sitting.

They dried in the sun and were ready for a second coat.

We just let them dry and will later thread them with yarn to hang from an egg tree. They can be sprayed with a light coat of hairspray to give them a shine and seal the paint for longer preservation or just left as is...

A happy birthday (on St. Patty's Day) to our now 12 year old corgimix, Farley! Doesn't he look so handsome!

And then we planted our Lenten Dish Garden...

We like to place a blooming branch in the dish. Last year, I ended up using some modeling clay to hold it in place. This year, I tried a piece of floral foam, held in with a bit of tacky glue. I think the clay worked a bit better so I'd recommend that if you have some available. Stick your branch in...

Layer your dirt and then some grass seeds. We like to put in a shell to serve as a little pond, so we place that down over the area it will rest so we don't grow grass underneath it...

One more layer of dirt...

Then give it a little soaking of water and be sure to mist it daily. The seeds should sprout within 5-7 days. We'll be adding to it as the days unfold...

To celebrate Lent and Easter, we placed ours on a purple silk (purple being the color of Lent) and with rocks, we built a *cave* to symbolize the tomb of Jesus. It will sit until Good Friday when we will place a rock over the front of it until Easter morning...

The Resurrection story is a bit too intense still at this tender age, but we like to bring some concrete elements of this most important Christian holiday to the forefront this way.

There are a few books I recommend for Christians celebrating this season with their children:

~ One is called, "Stories for the Festivals of the Year: Told for Children" by Irene Johanson. It contains stories for Easter, Ascension & Whitsun, St. Johnstide, Michaelmas, Christmas, the Epiphany, and Holy Week.

~ The second is "The Easter Story Book" collected by Ineke Verschuren. The nice thing about this book, as with Vershuren's other book, "The Christmas Story Book", is that the stories are marked for the appropriate age. Some of the tales are appropriate for children as young as 5 years old. It covers Holy Week, Easter, From Easter to Pentecost, Midsummer/Feast of St. John.

~ Finally, we've enjoyed "The Emperor's Vision and Other Christ Legends" by Selma Lagerlöf. This one can be used for Christmas, as well. It can also be found at Bob & Nancy's here.

Happy Spring to you all and enjoy the return of the light in the Northern Hemisphere!!!!