Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Book Review: Mia's Apple Tree

What a sweet and beautifully illustrated book this is by Nancy Jewel Poer. Mia's Apple Tree was inspired by the author's then three year old granddaughter who loved her special apple tree. What I so adored about this book was the depth hidden in pure simplicity. It encompasses a beautiful journey of life tied into the 4 elements, the seasons, Heaven and the Angels, stars, the soul-life before coming over the Rainbow Bridge to earth, and nature.

The story begins with a dreamy pull into the spiritual layers of life using the visual of the star you can see if you cut an apple sideways...

"Once upon a time there was a shiny red apple, and inside the apple was a star, and inside the star was a little brown seed, and inside the seed was a secret. The secret was a dream - a dream that someday the little seed would grow into an apple tree."

The seed is planted and cared for by the earth gnomes, the rain fairies (undines), the air fairies (sylphs), and the fire fairies as the seasons pass and the tree waits and waits to grow.

Next to the tree is a house where a Mommy & Daddy wait for their special *seed* to be born, their first child. We see the spirit of their little girl in heaven who is given a special reminder to look for the star in the heart of the apple to remind her of the beautiful stars in heaven.

The baby girl (Mia) comes down the Rainbow Bridge and into her parents awaiting arms and as she grows, she develops a love with the apple tree, playing near it, in it, singing joyfully. She remembers the stars in heaven when she sees the stars in the hearts of the apples.

The story of the tree parallels what is happening in Mia's house and as the family dreams sweet dreams, so does the apple tree, who now bears fruit. The book wraps up in a circular fashion, ending with virtually the same paragraph as it began with a powerful addition...and a reminder that life continues as it grows and grows and grows...

This book is simple enough for a very young child to enjoy. It makes a wonderful birthday read, as it encompasses the celebration of life, birth and the Rainbow Bridge. It also fit in beautifully with our block on the 4 Elements (Environmental Studies Block), so I am linking it to that, as well.

Mia's Apple Tree by Nancy Jewel Poer is a wonderful, short, sweet book that parents and children will appreciate. As I was reading it, my girls kept smiling widely. It is all love and no sorrow, sadness, trauma, or usual plot lines of stories so common today. I think it will really appeal to children who are very sensitive. It is not a long book, but has enough words that it probably would be ideal for ages 5+ (though very focused 4 year olds would probably sit through and love it, as well).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grade 1: Environmental Studies/Nature Block Summary on the Four Elements in our Surroundings/Oceanlife

Mother Earth

Mother Earth, Mother Earth, take our seed and give it birth.
Sister Rain, Sister Rain, shed they tears to swell the grain.
Father Sun, Gleam and glow, until the roots begin to grow.
Brother Wind, Breathe and blow then the blade green will grow
Earth and Sun, And wind and rain, turn to gold the living grain.

~ Eileen Hutchins

We wrapped up our Grade 1 Nature Block/Environmental Studies block on the Four Elements in relation to the world around us, choosing the ocean as our theme. Over the past four weeks, we broke down the four elements (earth, water, air, and fire) into a story I made up about a tiny harbor seal pup and her adventures. After the story concluded, we reviewed the Four Elements and drew a picture in our Main Lesson Books to reflect this.

I found a wonderful little story to conclude our block in the Margaret Peckham book, "Fairy Tales", which is geared toward Grade 1. The story is called, "The Little Boy and the Four Elements" and is about a little boy who, normally good natured, becomes possessive over a delicious red apple, refusing to share with anyone else, including the woodland animals. As a result, the Sun Fire Fairies, the Water Undines,the Air Sylphs, and the Little Earth Gnomes abandon him. In despair, he runs into the forest and gets lost, only to be captured by a giant who takes him home for the cook to fatten up. Eventually, the elemental friends return to his aid and save him from the mouth of the giant and he returns to his family and lives happily ever after. While I haven't enjoyed all of Margaret Peckham's tales (in her Nature Tales book) due to some language issues, we really enjoyed this story. Charley even requested it a second time an hour later, so I know it was sitting in her subconscious.

As a review and summary, here are the books/articles that we used in this block:

- "A Path of Discovery Volume One: Grade One" by Eric Fairman
- "Grade One and Two "Science" Curriculum" from Marsha Johnson's Files Section
- "A Journey Through Time in Verse and Rhyme" by Heather Thomas
- "Verses and Poems and Stories to Tell" by Dorothy Harrer
- "Fairy Tales" by Margaret Peckham
- Norse Fairytale "Why the Sea is Salt"
- "Jack and the Beanstalk" by Joseph Jacobs
- "Beyond the Beach Blanket: A Field Guide to Southern California Coastal Wildlife" by Marina Curtis Tidwell
- "The Return of the Sun King" by Christine Natale
- "Mia's Apple Tree" by Nancy Jewel Poer (see review for this book here)

Our four week science breakdown with my stories can be found here:

- Introduction to Environmental Studies block
- week 1: The Element of Earth
- week 2: The Element of Water
- week 3: The Element of Air
- week 4: The Element of Fire

Tomorrow for our Friday Book Review, I will review a book that goes along with the Four Elements! Until then, enjoy our Four Element layout (moss), water (water in a glass painting cup), air (feather in representation), and fire (candle)

ES Block I: Element of Fire


We, the bright red fiery flames
Crackle and roar, that nothing tames.
Sparks like shooting stars they fly
Helpers we are of sun on high.
With golden sword the cold we slay
And bring you warmth to cheer your stay.
We, the bright red fiery flames
Crackle and roar, that nothing tames.

We continued this week with our last element, that of fire. In the final installment of our story of "Sunshine the Harbor Seal", after Sunshine was whisked away into the air by an enormous eagle, they were chased vehemently by Sid the Seagull. Below them, in the water, Walter the Walrus swam as fast as he could, praying that Sid would be able to save Sunshine.

Sid flew faster than he ever had before in his life, as the eagle soared upwards, aiming for her nest in the cliffs of the mountains. Sunshine flew closer and closer to the sun, feeling its warmth. Her sides ached as the eagle's talons clutched her tightly and soon Sunshine realized that part of the warmth she was feeling was from her own wounds.

Suddenly, a small white object flashed before her eyes - it was Sid! He bravely knocked into the flying eagle who, startled and stunned, released her grip on the harbor seal and soon Sunshine felt herself falling, falling, falling down toward the ocean below. Luckily, Sunshine knew that when she dove into the water, she should do so face down and she shot straight into the ocean, leaving Sid tailing behind her.

Sunshine hit the ocean with a sharp thud and found herself sinking to the bottom of the sea, her wounded sides aching. She softly landed on the ocean floor, not too far from the shoreline, so she really wasn't all that deep. When the water settled, she was able to see that she was sitting directly in front of a beautiful shell, the likes of which she had never seen before. There were starfish attached to the rocky base and a funny looking scallop shot toward her and began to speak.

The scallop welcomed Sunshine and told her not to fear, that she had found the magic stone which had the power to heal her wounds. Sunshine knew this was the very magic stone that Walter had been searching for! She gazed forward and the shell slowly opened to reveal a gold sparkly jewel stone, which immediately shot forth a burst of warm, bright, healing light. She could feel the warmth of the light like a fire around her as her wounds tingled, burned and quickly healed. A moment later, Walter arrived on the scene and witnessed the end of the healing. The shell quickly shut tight and Walter swam to Sunshine, marveling at her healed body. They were so joyful to see each other again.

Walter told Sunshine that Sid was just fine and waiting for them on shore and the Scallop told both Water and Sunshine that the healing stone had to stay where it was, but could be used to heal animals who needed it.

The two swam back to Sid and Sandy the Sandpiper and they all lived happily ever after for many, many long years. The End.

The girls drew a picture in their Main Lesson Books centered around our story of Sunshine the Harbor Seal. We talked a little about friction and the heat of healing.

We acted out the story with our beeswax figures and the shells we had found on our trips to the ocean, along with a beautiful gem we purchased at Burminco Rocks and Minerals Shop in Monrovia, CA.

Using Dorothy Harrer's story, "The Rainbow" from her book "Verses and Poems and Stories to Tell", I told the girls the story of the Great King Sun and how he taught the Rain Fairies and the Sun Fairies how to work together to help the little Plant Children grow and how the first Rainbow emerged.

Another wonderful story to share is by the incredibly talented author, Christine Natale who wrote the St. Nicholas stories. She has an enchanting story called "The Return of the Sun King" which can be found at the bottom of this blog post here. It ties in beautifully with the fire element!

I will be back to wrap up the rest of this block, as we did a little bit more today on it. But for now, this encompasses most of our work this week on the element of fire. Lots of candles burning and some good snuggling around the fireplace during our evening reading sessions.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ES Block I: Element of Air


We are the winds that weep and wail
Blow a breeze and swell the sail
And wear a cloak of wonder rare
Of silver, gold and stars that stare.
And joy we spin in every fold.
Our gift on earth for you to hold.
We are the winds that weep and wail
Blow a breeze and swell the sail.

My apologies for neglecting my blog this past week, but I've been working hard on other things as of late. I wanted to quickly pop on and share a little bit of what we did last week with our Environmental Studies block on the 4 Elements. Last week, we covered "air".

That was a bit challenging, but I continued the story of Sunshine the Harbor Seal, who by now was getting a bit bigger and able to venture into the ocean for longer periods of time as her amount of blubber increased. She was swimming in the sea with Walter the Walrus when they swam to a small island not far from the shore where Sunshine was born. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge eagle flew toward them and snatched little Sunshine from the shore, flying her over the ocean and toward the cliffs beyond. In a panic, Walter reared his ancient head and barked the loudest howl he could, which was heard by Sid the Seagull, who immediately took flight after Sunshine and the eagle...

They flew over a sailing ship which was being pushed by the breeze of the wind and the onlookers pointed toward the strange site above them. They watched as a moment later, a scrawny seagull flew with all its might after the eagle and the baby seal...

In the middle of the week, we had a well check appointment with our pediatrician in Santa Monica, so we headed in the morning and met with our wonderful Dr. Jay (I forgot my camera so had to use my phone so sorry for the graininess)!

The girls took their favorite toys with them - Sadie and Lily the Rabbits made by Linda from Mamma4earth. I know I mention her often, but my girls really love her knitted animals! These two bunnies are getting to see the world...and drive in some cool wooden dump trucks!

Then we drove down PCH to Malibu. They were filming something there so there was hardly any street parking, but the beach was relatively empty. The girls were excited to see some pelicans in the distance, chomping on fish and then gathering their large wings to skim the surface of the ocean once more. They also got a chance to watch various sandpipers (a few different species) and they attempted to get close to these odd birds, as they darted to and from the shoreline.

We love the beach, can you tell?!? :D

OK and not sure what's going on with this sexy pose here - especially from a girl who doesn't watch tv! They kept telling me in the doctor's office that they have no idea who "Hannah Montana" is, after hearing their almost 8 year old cousin talk of her!

Back to the lessons: We focused a lot on birds in our story (sandpiper, seagull and eagle). I told them a story from Dorothy Harrer's book, "Verses and Poems and Stories to Tell" which was called, "The Stag, the Lion, and the Eagle". A few days later, I read "The Prince of Butterflies" to them, also from Dorothy Harrer's book.

We visited our local nature center, which doesn't have any eagles, but has a beautiful red tailed hawk that they rescued and are rehabilitating. We were fortunate enough to see it hanging out with one of the handlers.

We talked a bit about the wind and watched it blow through the trees for a while and that was about it! This week, we are working on the last element and trying to wrap this block up. I really wished we had a kite for this section of the block as we had lots of wind last week and that would have been wonderful!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Book Review: Little Angel's Journey

Little Angel's Journey is a sweet book meant to be shared in celebration of a child's birthday. It was written by Dzvinka Hayda who created this version of the traditional birthday story told in Waldorf schools throughout the world.

The book begins with Little Angel who plays with her golden ball in Heaven. While chasing the ball, the angel peers down over the clouds and spots the Earth below. This intrigues the Little Angel who seeks an explanation from Great Angel. The seed is planted. Little Angel grows ever more interested in the Earth and sees a loving couple who needs a baby and is told by Great Angel that soon the time will come.

Little Angel waits through three seasons (autumn, winter, and spring) and it is finally time! Great angel takes Little Angel by the hand and they walk to the Twinkling Stars, who gift Little Angel with wonder. Then they walk to Radiant Sun who gifts Little Angel with love, and finally to Silvery Moon who gifts Little Angel with kindness.

At last, Great Angel wraps Little Angel in a soft, celestial blanket and cradles the small one in her arms as they slide down the Rainbow Bridge. Little Angels falls asleep to the beautiful sounds of lullabies and awakens as a tiny baby in the arms of his/her new mother and father (the same couple Little Angel had spotted before). The name is bestowed on Little Angel (fill in your child's name).

Great Angel returns to Heaven and hangs Little Angel's wings on Silvery Moon to await her return one day...

What a sweet book this is! Lovely for birthday's and welcoming new siblings.

The illustrations are dreamy and yet focused. It received a Moonbeam Award and is very much deserved. The price is a bit high even though it is a lovely hardcover book, (but it seems that many Waldorf books are often priced higher as they tend not to be mass produced). The book is very well put together and the illustrations are really gorgeous. It has a very soothing feel to it and I can see it being well loved as a traditional book shared every year on that special birthday. Definitely a keeper!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

7th Year Birthday Memories

My babies have turned 7! These are some highlights of their birthday weekend...the night before their birthday, I read to them the lovely story called, "Little Angel's Journey" by Dzvinka Hayda (book review coming Friday)! Then it was sweet dreams...until tomorrow...

On the morning of the 15th, they placed the pink baby girls, holding the Valentine's Day hearts coming down the Rainbow Bridge!

On Valentine's Day, we took them to one of their favorite places - The Gentle Barn. It is a beautiful facility that rescues abused farm animals and gives them sanctuary for the rest of their days. It is run entirely by volunteers and on donations from the public. The animals are so loving and sweet. You can brush them, feed them, hug them and it feels oh-so-good to know that these gorgeous animals are so loved (finally)...some are blind and many bear scars of their abuse, but they are gentle and have learned to trust again...There are over 100 animals here and these are but a few pictures of our day...

The next morning, the girls started opening some presents...

Here are some highlights...the sewing baskets were inspired by the tutorial link I saw on Our Little Nature Nest. Grandma brought her sewing machine down and we were hard at work making them. It was fun to fill them with crafting supplies and the girls loved them!

Hand-dipped birthday candles we made in December for their cake...

Corgi dogs made by Zooloonaturals' etsy shop...

Tiny gnomes made by Zooloonaturals. Gnome homes purchased through Nova Natural which are handmade by artist Bill Bluhm.

Dog house hand made by Holzkram and Ostheimer dogs purchased through The Wooden Wagon.

Some lovely books!

And two happy sisters!