Sunday, October 30, 2011

Knitting Bag

I made this little knitting bag for Yoav's birthday (along with the tool belt).  He picked the colors without knowing what I was making and I love how it turned out!

I used this tutorial.  There's a little pocket inside for accessories.  I think I'll put one of my stitch counters in the pocket for him.  I'll give it to him with his needles and yarn inside.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Teaching the Letters

So, we're almost through our first week of the first Language Arts block (tomorrow is watercolor painting).  In some ways, I've been looking toward this week for years - trying to keep the world from getting in our way of teaching the letters and reading in the "Waldorf Way" - I am one of a small handful of mothers who never sang the alphabet song (and have even been known to ask friends to sing different songs if that one comes up LOL); I've kept the pens out of reach and told Yoav that I would write the words to his stories even when he was asking for me to show him how; I've avoided telling him the names of the letters until I could do it in this special Waldorf way.

That time has finally come!

The resources I used for planning this block are:
* Marsha Johnson's Fairy Tales Block - available free via the WaldorfHomeEducators Yahoo group - I cannot say enough good things about Marsha's materials.  They are the best I've seen, even as compared to pay-for curriculum guides I've purchased and/or reviewed.
* Eric Fairman's "P"Path of Discovery for First Grade" - invaluable, especially for the price!
* Audrey McAllen's "Teaching Children Handwriting"

This week we learned the letters B and V.  Such a fun week - I love that he is so utterly teachable - he oohs and aahs every step of the way, loves hearing me tell stories, carefully draws his drawings and letters, loves to knit and keeps his knitting next to the couch so he can add a row or two each day (and has been learning math from the knitting -this week telling me that two 2s is 4; two 4s is 8; two 8s is 16 and two 16s is 32 - he's doing 16 stitches per row and I'm pretty sure he figured out two 16s from the knitting as I can't think of another way to figure it out).  I'm SO glad I found homeschooling and Waldorf in particular (since he seems so well-suited to this method) so I can help him retain that love of learning.

On Monday, I told the Grimm's Fairy Tale "Rose Red and Snow White".  I read it to myself once a day since Thursday to remember it well enough to be able to tell the story (versus reading it, which is frowned upon in Waldorf).  I also read the meaning of the story in Wilkinson's "The Interpretation of Fairy Tales".  Wilkinson is adamant that the story teller understand the meaning of the Tale in order that the child will pick up on the hidden meaning.

On Tuesday, we recalled the story (the two of us together) and I revealed my chalkboard drawing of the story (the poorly-drawn brown animal on the ground is a bear and the one in the tree is a vulture):

Then (on Tuesday), I pulled off the playsilk to reveal the drawing.  Yoav's whole face lit up when he saw the drawing and told me that he didn't know I could draw so well :)  He then drew his drawing based on mine - even though he is very confident with his drawing, he understood that the idea was to copy mine as closely as possible.  He stood up a few times and got close to my drawing to see how I had drawn things and I redrew the trees for him because he said he loved them and didn't know how to draw them the way I did.  It was amazing to me that he retained the hidden letters in his (see below - the B and V).

On Wednesday (today), I told the story again with his help ("recall", which he doesn't like and which I'll write about later).  I then revealed the two hidden letters - the B and V, said the sounds (I did not say they are called B and V, just called them by their sounds 'buh' and 'vuh') and showed him by drawing over the letters with chalk and then with my fingers in the air how to draw them.  I'm using the writing method described in Audrey McAllen's "Teaching Children Handwriting".  She shows how to write each letter - the B is obvious, but she says to write a V by first starting at the top left, going down to the bottom, then lifting up the pen/crayon and starting back at the top right and drawing down to the middle again.

Next Yoav drew the letters.  Since we did two letters this week I folded the paper in half for him to draw both on one page.  Some people do not introduce every letter in this way (in Path of Discovery, Fairman says you can leave some that the children will "take on authority", but since Yoav really doesn't know any of the letters yet, I want to introduce most of them in this way.)  I drew the letters next to Yoav - we used the thick side of a block crayon to draw the borders, then drew the letters with the short side of a block crayon, first in one color and then in a second color on top, then used a block crayon to fill in the rest of the white on the page.  I then asked him to think of six words (because he's six and is full of love of the number six right now) that start with each letter.  He enjoyed this and thought of bath, bed, bear, bus, and bee for B (I said the first one to get us started); V is harder and he added the word vitamin (which I hadn't thought of last night when I was thinking of alliterative verses!) to my selection of void, vapor, vanish...

Our Morning Activity on Wednesday was Word Games, so we spent the time doing alliterative versus ("The big black bee bit the big brown bear and the big brown bear bled blood."), etc.  Then for each letter, we played a "game" of taking turns adding a word to a story that starts with the given letter.  So, for B, we went back and forth adding to our story, which went something like this:  "A boy at the bus stop help a balloon and blew bubbles and he got on the bus with a bunny and a bear and ..."  He enjoyed this and even asked Jeremy later to "play" with him :)

On Thursday, we brought a long rope outside and made the letters and walked them as we said, "vuh, vuh, vuh - violin, viola, voila, vitamin, van, etc." and then the same with the letter B.  Yoav enjoyed this -he made the letters himself.  

Unrelated to the letters, our afternoon activity was to make walnut candles.  The directions are in "The Children's Year" by Stephanie Cooper.  First you open up walnuts and scoop out the flesh; then you heat beeswax using the double-boiler method (we used a metal measuring cup with beeswax placed into a pot of boiling water), pour the beeswax into the walnut shell and when it starts to harden a little, put a pre-waxed 1.5" wick into the center and you can hold it in place with matches as shown below.  It's SUCH a great activity - short, minimal mess, exciting to watch the beeswax soften and then harden in the new form and practical!  We made seven for Yoav's birthday coming up in a few days - we'll let them float in a bowl of water!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Yoav's Birthday

Yoav's birthday is coming up.  On the day of his birthday, we're going to go to his favorite restaurant with his cousins (who can't come to his birthday party because they go to school).  Then we're going to do his birthday party the Sunday after his birthday - he's inviting five friends and then with him and Elie, it'll be seven.  Waldorf recommends having the number of kids equal to the child's age, though I forget if it means including the child or not, but it's close enough and we're inviting the only friends he has (other than neighborhood kids) :)

I haven't figured everything out for the party yet, but I think I'm going to make boo-boo-bags (flax filled bean bags) to hide for a scavenger hunt like what we did last year, but I'll do a better job with the hiding - so that will be a combined game and playing in the forest, then I'll do some of the Circle games we've been doing this year that the kids love, I'll do a puppet show, cake and that's about it...

I just finished up his gift and wanted to share...  We're giving him tools (using the list of tools needed in "Carpentry for Children" by Lester Walker) and I made him a tool belt using this pattern.  I made it one inch longer and with canvas rather than thin fabric, since it will be for real tools rather than plastic ones.  It doesn't have to be so perfectly useful, I know he'll love wearing it either way - the kids in Walker's books are wearing their toolbelts in all the photos and I don't see any tools sticking out :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

First Chalkboard Drawing

I'm going to expose myself here, mostly for my own interest in seeing my growth.

This is my first chalkboard drawing - the brown figure on the ground is supposed to be a bear (the B will come out of the head and body) and the brown figure in the tree is supposed to be a vulture (the V will come out of the neck).

In addition to my drawing abilities, I realize that my chalkboard is also terrible - it is supposedly for school use, but the chalkboard paint is painted too thick with a brush and you can actually see the lines.  :(  I'll have to make a project of sanding and painting it myself or finding a better one.

I do like the chalk, though - I'm using the chalk called "Blackboard Chalk" sold here at Paper, Scissors, Stone.

They recently did a custom green lapboard for me, and now I see that they are offering green chalkboards on their site :)  Their chalkboards are really good - I got lap boards for the kids.

Starting Letters!

This week we're starting our first Language Arts Block - we'll be introducing letters via a three day rhythm of:  Day 1) telling a fairy tale; Day 2) drawing a chalkboard drawing of a part of the tale with one or two letters "hidden" in the drawing plus recall with Yoav of the story; Day 3) seeing the letters in the chalkboard drawing and drawing them in the Main Lesson Book.

This week we are starting with the letters B and V (both simple letters that only make one sound, versus letters we'll do later like G or C).  We're using the Grimm's Fairy Tale "Snow White and Rose Red".  I told the story today and Yoav L-O-V-E-D it.  When I finished he said he wanted to hear it again (I said we'd do it again tomorrow) and he said it was the best story he's ever heard ;)

Now tonight I have to draw a chalkboard drawing of a Bear and Vulture (in the story it's actually an eagle).

Overall, our days are going so well lately.  We seem to have found our groove (for the moment).  I've worked out a few of the early kinks (like putting the desks face-to-face instead of side-to-side and bringing a few toys for Elie into the school room).  The Power-to-Parent Neufeld class I'm taking here has helped a lot as well.  It is giving me confidence to deal with difficult moments we have with sibling squabbles or Yoav's frustration that I didn't have before.

Meanwhile, I think both due to a combination of parenting changes learned through my Neufeld studies and simple growing up, Yoav is so easy to teach.  When he sees a drawing paper on his desk, he says, "Are we doing something certain or whatever I want?"  If I say something certain, he's totally happy with that and follows along.  Today we did a Form Drawing at the start of Main Lesson.  I told a story of a bird who found a worm in the garden and flew up to the roof and then when she finished, flew back down again (from Marsha Johnson's Form Drawing book).

He did the Form:

and then during the free time between Main Lesson and Morning Activity, he drew a picture of the Form Drawing story:

Our Morning Activity was beeswax modeling in which I've seen a tremendous change this year.  I posted to WaldorfHomeEducators (the Yahoo group run by Marsha Johnson) on May 13 of this year about Yoav not wanting to learn from me or to do age-appropriate activities.  I wrote:
My 6.5yo son doesn't want to start easy to learn how to do things - hewants to do complicated things that are well beyond hisabilities/level.  As an example, he wants to be able to make a firetruck out of modeling wax.  He won't sit with me with a single colorof modeling wax and make simple things like a bird's egg or star.  IfI give him some red wax, he gets frustrated that he can't actuallymake a fire truck.
We did very little modeling up until this year because it was too frustrating for Yoav.  Now we do it every Monday for our Morning Activity.  Today, for our beeswax modeling time, Yoav was given brown modeling wax and I said we were making acorns.  No complaints, no request to make a fire truck LOL - he just got started warming his wax.  His is below on the right, mine is on the left:

And here they are on our Fall Nature Table:

Now I'm off to attempt my first blackboard drawing.  I'm full of low hopes :)  I need to spend time with my "Drawing with Block Crayons" book and also the "Blackboard Drawing" book.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


It's late and we're starting a big week tomorrow so this will be quick. Tomorrow we're starting our first Language Arts blocks (learning the letters!)  We're doing "Snow White and Rose Red" (Grimm's) to introduce the letters B and V.  Just read it for the fourth time and I'm hoping it's enough (I'm telling the story, not reading).  I'll be telling the story tomorrow, we draw a picture on Tuesday and then Wednesday, we'll "find" the letters in the picture and will write them and do verses and such.

We just finished up Sukkot here and I wanted to post a few photos of our Sukkah and the decorations.

Our Sukkah

Inside of the Sukkah 
Rainbow finger-crocheted chain
(this was Yoav's idea - it's just like paper chains, but instead of paper loops, he made finger crochet loops)

Dried apples - we strung these the day before Sukkot and they were crunchy and yummy by Sukkot end - it was a perfect place to hang them since it was out of direct sunlight.  
Flower crown (changed to garland) from Carol Petrash's "Earthways"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Learned to Knit!

Yoav learned to knit this week for our Handwork activity!  He's only been wanting to knit for, oh, four years now :)  He's been very patient all these years - as a toddler, he helped me wind balls of wool; at age four, he learned to finger crochet; at age five, he learned to finger knit and finally now, knitting!

I used this article and this one to help with the planning.

I used the verse on Lisa's blog (the first link), but it wasn't ideal for us.  The verse is:
In through the front door,
Run around the back,
Peek through the window,
Off jumps Jack!
Yoav kept inserting the right needle above the left needle, so I added "and into the basement" after the first line.  I guess with that adjustment the verse works.  Yoav certainly loved the last line - he laughed at that part for the first twenty or so stitches ;)

For anyone starting knitting with a little one, I highly recommend the book, "A First Book of Knitting for Children" by Bonnie Gosse and Jill Allerton.  In hindsight, I think their verse would have worked better for Yoav since it includes an image of going under the left needle in the first line:
Under the fence,
Catch the sheep,
Back we come,
Off we leap.
It includes verses for casting on, purling, undoing stitches and a few other things.  

For yarn, we used this chunky 4-ply 100% wool yarn, which is what we've been using for all of our finger crocheting/knitting.  Yoav was very lucky to get about ten skeins from his Safta last year for his birthday!  And he used needles he made last week using this tutorial!

In the video, when he asks when he can switch yarns, he means when can he learn how to change colors...


It was difficult for me to teach knitting - I had to bite my tongue quite a lot! Up until now, I really haven't done any "teaching" and nothing has been such a big leap as this (from finger knitting to needle knitting).  It can be hard for me to watch him "muck about" (Holt) and let the learning happen if it seems slow to me, especially if he's doing something wrong (like holding his finger over the "window") that's obvious to me but not to him.  I often wonder who's learning more in this homeschooling journey!

Happy Knitting!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011



We are working towards the introduction of knitting in a slow, Waldorf-style way :)  So far, we visited goats (I wanted him to see shearing, but couldn't figure out how to make that happen here, so far from the fabulous NYS Sheep and Wool Festival :( - he did see it there two years ago before we moved), then we carded wool and today we spun the wool.  Initially I thought we were in over our heads and maybe there is an easier method of spinning for children, but once I got Elie to sleep for a nap, we did it!

I started by showing Yoav how to do it myself, based on what I learned in this Youtube video; then we worked on him spinning the drop spindle with his left hand while I held the unspun wool; finally, he managed to do it all himself.  I was so excited I almost said "Good Job!", which hasn't happened yet, but this was the closest I've come :)  I think I was more excited than he was!!

We are going to make knitting needles on Craft Day and then next week we'll start learning to knit!!!  Yoav has been waiting and waiting to knit, asking on a regular basis when he'll get to learn to knit for well over a year.  I think his patience will be well rewarded, since he's much more ready now in terms of fine motor skills (and, probably more importantly, he's more patient and resilient!) than he was a year ago.