Monday, January 31, 2011

Circle

My friend Y inspired me to try again with Circle.  I'm thankful to her for the push!

This morning we went outside briefly until it started pouring.  When we got inside, I started singing my standard Circle transition song (Come Follow).  Elie started up with, "No songs!"  So then I switched mid-song to "Sally Go Round the Sun" to try to change the energy.  He still said "No songs" but it wasn't quite as intense.  I managed to do the opening movement (Good Morning Dear Earth, etc) fairly quickly, but got through it with Yoav interested and Elie somewhat pulling at my arms :)  Then onto the movement exercises (Galloping ponies and a turning one, both from Donna Simmons' "Joyful Movement") which the kids both participated in and enjoyed!  When we got to the fingerplays, Elie lost interest, but had moved beyond the initial counterwill and I was able to nurse him while I did the fingerplays with Yoav.  I was glad to see that Yoav was able to do the candles one, because Donna says that if a 6+ child *cannot* do it well, he/she needs a lot of finger work in preparation for knitting in First Grade.

I'm going to push through with the formal Circle.  There's something so beautiful about a formal Circle, even though some people say it seems awkward in the home.  I don't think Elie is so much opposed to Circle as he is just oppositional LOL.  I'll save my thoughts (and recent successes) with that for a future post...

Next we transitioned to Story.  I did the pentatonic intro from Nancy Foster's "Let Us Join a Ring" again and told the story (continuing with Grimm's "Frog King").  For the closing, I used a pentatonic song I found in Ruth Ker's "You're Not the Boss of Me".  The songs go very well together - they both mention sailing in a silver boat - the closing one doesn't say who wrote it, but it could well be that they're both part of the same longer song.  For my purposes, they're beautiful and the kids look so amazed as I play the songs on the pentatonic xylophone.

For the Story, Yoav looked equally enraptured today as he was each day last week.  I'm going to keep telling this same story until he seems tired of it.

Rest of the day was pretty smooth and basic.  We didn't go outside in the afternoon because it was stormy, but the kids did pretty well color and playing with chairs and such - their standard play... 

I've been reading the Ruth Ker book voraciously at night, still trying to get a handle on this Six Year Change that Yoav is going through.  I've noticed that the second Yoav finds himself in between activities and not quite knowing what to do with himself, he starts bothering Elie.  A suggestion I read yesterday in the book is to try to get the child to do some "real work" when he starts to feel unsettled and just a bit of this will then allow him to go back to playing calmly.  For the most part, I've had a hard time transitioning Yoav to "real work" from a state of unrest, I think in part because his favorite "real work" is cooking and I can't instantly have a cooking set up to do with him.  I recently got some polishing cloths on Etsy for polishing silver without polish and he really enjoys this *and* it is pretty much instantaneous set-up, so I used this (successfully) twice today.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cleaning Day

Today was cleaning day.  Elie woke up sick with a low fever, so we skipped our time outside which threw off our morning.  I laid on the couch with Elie while Yoav asked me a hundred times what he could do - he's deep in the middle of the Six Year Change!

After lunch, we did a semi-quiet time - Elie and I fell asleep on the couch while Yoav drew. 

Then with my nap energy, I started cleaning - Elie helped me with the windows; I cleaned the kitchen cabinets; Yoav started cleaning the playroom, but got sidetracked with playing :) 

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After dinner, we did some cooking.  The kids helped me cut veggies for what turned out to be a delicious broccoli/potato soup!  I couldn't believe how proficient Elie has become with a knife - notice his lovely diced potatoes!  Everyone who comes over is shocked to see how good Yoav's kitchen knife-skills are, but Elie is right behind him!  Yoav was quite proud of Elie and seemed to have a new-found respect for him ;)  All credit for my children's knife-skills goes to Jane Liedloff, author of "The Continuum Concept"!

Broccoli Potato Soup

Ingredients:
5 potatoes, peeled and quartered
Head of broccoli
1-2 cloves garlic
1 leek (or onion), chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 cups water
2 tsp salt
dash of thyme and sage
pepper to taste
olive oil

Directions:
1.  Sautee leek in olive oil until it starts to get soft.  Add zucchini.  Continue to sautee until leek is translucent.  Add garlic and continue to sautee for one minute.
2.  Add three cups of water, carrot, broccoli, potatoes and spices/herbs.  Bring to a boil and simmer until all veggies are soft.
3.  Use immersion blender to blend until soup.
4.  Watch your three-year old devour two big bowlfuls ;)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Circle Flop

So, today's Circle was a total failure.  Elie's counterwill went into high gear as soon as he heard me sing the Circle transition song (Come Follow).  Oh, well.  I gave up and we were able to do some little movement games - hopping/moving around like various animals and I did some fingerplays with Elie later in the day.  I have a few 4"x6" cards with my transition songs hung around the house - I'm going to add a few more verses that I can use to make it easier for me to do more song/movement throughout the day.  I'm giving up on Circle for this season (I know it seems like I didn't try very hard, but this is the same thing that happened before we went on break so I've already tried to work with it and failed).  I'll try again in the fall - maybe when Elie is a little older he'll be more open to it.

The Fairy Tale, though, WAS a success again.  For that I'm thankful.  Again, both kids came running when they heard me play the Mother of the Fairy Tale song on pentatonic xylophone.  And both kids sat quietly and listened to the whole Tale.  Yoav seemed just as amazed by the story as he was yesterday.  He literally was mouth-ajar, hanging on every word from beginning to end.

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For craft, we dyed playsilks.  We did it the super easy way, sans microwave (since we don't have one).  First, I put the silks (which are from Dharma Trading) in boiling water with a splash of vinegar for thirty minutes.  Then, we heated a pot of water to almost boiling, added a bit of vinegar (to help the color set) and the Kool-aid (which must be the sugar-free variety), stirred and checked the color to be sure we liked it.  Then we put in a silk and swished it around with a wooden spoon (our standard dyeing spoon - it gets stained so don't use one you cook with) until we were happy with the color on the silk (obviously leave in longer for the silk to soak up more color, less for a lighter color).  Then we took out the silk and put it in a bowl of cold water and swished some until the color seemed to stop bleeding out, then into a second cold water bowl to be sure it wasn't bleeding out anymore.  Then hung to dry.  We only made three, but I'm eager to try a few more - they came out much less artificial-color-looking than I expected.  I actually like the colors better than some of the purchased silks I've gotten and have since given away.  We have a few silks we dyed with plant dyes, but that's a much longer process and you can't do as many different colors (or at least I can't LOL).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Back in our Rhythm

We started back into our rhythm today and I'm SO happy with how the day went.  We had a one month break, so I've had a lot of time to think and plan, but beyond that, I think the kids were so happy to be back to the rhythm again - they were SO receptive to everything!  I even got applause after one of the finger plays and after the fairy tale (more on those to come)!  Yoav was asking a few days ago when we were going to start again with "our days", so I know he was eager to start.

I kept the rhythm the same as I was doing in the fall.  The basic day was:
Up / make bed / dress
Breakfast
Nature Walk
Circle
Story
Play / Mama handwork
Snack
Nap / Quiet Time
Activity
Creative Play
Dinner Prep
Dinner
Bed Prep / Bed

The Nature walk ended up being on bikes, but Yoav stopped a few times to collect sticks and rocks for me to carry home.  Donna Simmons (Christopherus) recommends that the Morning Walk be a *walk* rather than on bikes, but my kids love their bikes so much, it's almost impossible to get them to be outside without the bikes.  Yoav will sometimes do a Nature *Walk*, but Elie does not go outside without his bike - he even rode his bike into the forest a few times until he decided it was too hard and he started laying it by the path on days we play in the forest.  Again, given that we weren't going particularly fast (I was walking) and Yoav was obviously looking at nature, since he gave me a few items to collect, it seemed fine to me.  And has the added benefit of getting their heartrates moving, which is something that Beth Sutton of Enki feels is very important at the start of the day.

I started singing the Circle transition song after the bikes were put away.  I was getting counterwill from Elie everytime I sang the song late last season, so we stopped doing Circle for a bit and I just tried to do some finger plays and verses during the day (which Donna Simmons says is fine to do and, for many people, feels more natural).  Somehow, for me, though, I really love a formal Circle when it goes well.  When we were doing it daily and the kids were enjoying it last season, it was fantastic.  We all had fun with it.  Today, it was as good as it's ever been.  The kids sat together and watched and I did each one a few times and they'd try to do it themselves the second or third time.  Both looked awed and amazed the whole time and, as I said before, I got applause after one finger play - it was the one about ten little candles standing in a row from Donna Simmon's "Joyful Movement".  It's very similar to these versions.

So the Circle was:
  • Transition / Call - Come Follow (old song by John Hilton):
Come, follow, follow, follow,
Follow, follow, follow me.
Whither shall I follow, follow, follow,
Whither shall I follow, follow thee.
To the greenwood, to the greenwood,
To the greenwood, greenwood tree.
  • Standard Waldorf opening verse:
Good morning, dear earth.
Good morning, dear sun.
Good morning, dear rocks,
And the flowers, every one.
Good morning, dear beasts,
And the birds in the trees.
Good morning to you,
And good morning to me.
  • Movement:  Turning (from Donna Simmons' "Joyful Movement")
  • Movement:  Gallop Away (from Donna Simmons' "Joyful Movement" - kids LOVED this one)
  • Finger play (this we've done before):  A nest is a home for a robin, A hive is a home for a bee, A hole is a home for a rabbit, And a house is a home for me!
  • Finger play:  Ten Little Candles (words similar to these variations)
  • Closing (standard Waldorf closing): Birds in the air, Stones in the land, Fishes in the water, I'm in G-d's hands.

After Circle, we came inside and took off our shoes and then I quickly set up our storytime area.  I put the kids small chairs next to eachother facing where I'd tell the story a few feet away, and put the pentatonic xylophone and words to my new Fairy Tale song.  Then I sat and started playing the song ("Mother of the Fairy Tale" by Nancy Foster, found in her book "Let us form a Ring").  The kids did a double take when they heard the beautiful song and came to their seats without me saying a word.  I will be using this song as the opening for all Fairy Tales.  This was our first official Fairy Tale.  I have done a few others (Louse and Flea and a variation of Star Money), but we are officially moving from Folk Tales to Fairy Tales for a bit.  Waldorf recommends Fairy Tales starting at age 5 (just a few of the Tales) and many more at 6+.  I've been uncomfortable with Fairy Tales, but just read Roy Wilkinson's "The Interpretation of Fairy Tales" and now will read and understand the meaning of the Tales before I tell them and his book helped me to see that the stories really do nourish kids' souls because of the deeper meanings.  It's very interesting to me.  This week we're doing "Frog King".  This is my first "told" Fairy Tale, which, for me, seem a bit harder to learn than Folk Tales.  Steiner stressed the importance of telling a tale versus reading from a book.  For us, it's even more important, because Elie has some sort of mind block against me reading books (he's ok with Jeremy reading to him), so I don't have a choice if I want to do Story while he's awake :)  I did better than I thought I would with the telling.  I told it fairly slowly and thought a little in advance of where I was so I felt confident in the wording.  Both kids were mesmerized by the entire story!  I was surprised Elie was able to sit through it all, since it seemed long compared to other told tales I've done, but he look interested through the end.

The rest of the day was pretty basic.  We had lunch, I managed a bit of quiet time by taking Elie up to cuddle while Yoav stayed downstairs drawing.

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Our activity was wet-on-wet watercolor.  I think we've hit an age hurdle with Elie, because he's now able to do this without making a mess and splashing the paint on the floor.  I put an apron on him (Yoav had dressed him in playsilks while I was getting ready) but he didn't even get any paint on the apron.

Then play / dinner / bed.

I'm hoping the enthusiasm will last.  Yoav was in such good spirits all day and both kids fell asleep easily.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tu B'Shevat

Yes, I'm still here.  Been hibernating!  From blogland, anyway.  We travelled to the States for three weeks and then we had a week of jetlag (still dealing with it) and Elie's been sick for over a week with fever and nausea :(  So the whole thing has been very trying and exhausting.  Finally (hopefully) getting back into our rhythm tomorrow.  We're doing "Frog King" as story for the week - a Grimm's Fairy Tale from the Pantheon book and I have a new block of songs for Circle.  Actually I still need to learn the tune for my Fairy Tales intro song and review the story so this will be VERY quick!

I want to post the story I used for Tu B'Shevat last week so I have it on hand for next year.  I modified this Chabad story.  My modified versions (a few minor modifications and the major modification of removing the “moral” of the story at the end.)

The New Year for the Trees
A Tu B'Shvat Story


Once upon a time there lived a poor melamed, a Hebrew teacher, in a small village in Poland. He had his daily troubles with the farmer boys who were his students. For they would rather roam the countryside than study.

All through the summer the melamed had plenty of time for himself. The Jewish farmers needed their children to help in the fields, and his pupils would always prefer mowing corn or loading hay to learning Hebrew. That was summer. But now it was winter, and a heavy fall of snow covered every inch of the ground upon which the poor melamed walked. Yet this was his day off. For it was Tu B’shvat the fifteenth day of the month of Shvat.

This day is the New Year of the tree world. Our melamed, too, thought of the meaning of Tu B’shvat, as he left the village and walked towards a nearby forest. He knew very little about trees and nature.  For he had hardly ever left his study and his beloved books. The
melamed was wondering in what manner the trees celebrated their “Rosh Hashana.” Were they budding and putting on their coat of green, or was there any other form of celebrating New Year of which he did not know?

When he reached the forest, he was deeply disappointed to find the trees and bushes covered with thick coats of crystal-white snow. “Who knows,” he pondered, “perhaps they were talleitim like pious Jews on their High Holidays!” Just then a strong wind blew through the treetops, and the sounds of the swaying branches sounded like the whispering of devout prayers. The melamed stood quietly amidst the noise of the windy forest, as fervent melodies passed through his head.

Again he asked himself: What kind of a New Year do the trees celebrate?

Suddenly, the entire scene was transformed. The melamed was able to see through the glittering, sparkling snow, as if the bark was made of pure, transparent glass. From the marrow of each little branch, tender sprouts pushed closer to the surface; yet they were careful not to go too far. It was still too cold for them to face the harsh world beyond
the casing of the branches. But within, life was stirring, and the beginnings of new, strong branches were marking time until the Master of the trees and bushes would bring them.

The melamed eagerly watched the full beauty of this tender spectacle.  His strained eyes had never looked beyond the bark of oaks and birches and the poplars that lined the streets of his village. He had never dreamt of life and sprouting twigs deep within the trunks of those trees. Now he saw and understood that they, too, were individuals, each one in his own right and own way of life; each one with his proper soul and living spirit. The New Year of Trees was no longer meaningless to him.

A sudden gust of wind sprayed millions of fine snow-stars into the crisp air, and the melamed’s eyes were closed as by a curtain.  When he was able to see again, the wondrous scene had disappeared. Only the slender fir-trees swayed back and forth. Yet the man who returned home to the village was no longer the same poor melamed. Poor were only the clothes that covered his thin body. Poor was only the little hut that served him as a shelter. Yet, deep within him budded spirited life, the blossoms of a hopeful future.