Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fostering Block Play and Creating Waldorf Blocks


One of the things that first drew me to Waldorf Education were it's toys. I know I am not the only one either whose been drawn in this way. The beauty. The simplicity. The wonder. Ironically when I first discovered Waldorf,  I was in school finishing up my BA and Masters in Teaching! Waldorf Education had been mentioned in some of my courses, but it took a Nova Natural catalog from my friend Sarah L. to really begin a direction change. I also at the time had an almost 3 and 9 month old and felt a bit directionless in our home. Yes we had our faith. Yes we had a great parenting helpmate with Love and Logic. But something was missing. But again, I digress... Suffice to say, I am so thankful that Sarah gave me that catalog!

On the subject of toys, I continue to be reminded that less is really more. Now that we've been on our Waldorf journey for almost 3 years, we accumulated lots of lovely Waldorf fluff (fluff is a word that Melissa Nielsen of Waldorf Essentials uses to describe all the lovely enchanting toys and things that tends to draw us initially to Waldorf. While the 'fluff' is GREAT and oh so much fun, it is not the heart behind Steiner's work and educational philosophies). The fluff does points to the heart of Waldorf though, but it's important to not get too caught up in it and miss the true beauty of nurturing your children's head, heart, and hands. Ironically - or not so much- much of Waldorf's pedagogy (and why it really does work) was supported scientifically by what I was learning in my Teaching program. Whether it was or could be implemented in the public classroom is a whole different blog post and topic all together. I do however recommended the documentary "The American Teacher". It's great food for thought.

At any rate, that was a HUGE digression. As you can see I am digging reading Steiner, Melissa, and Rahima. But back to less is more. My kiddos are going through a neat block phase. They go through it from time to time but I was realizing that we don't have many blocks. Block play is a critical milestone in a baby and toddler's development. As they get older, the way in which they play with blocks as well as frequency significantly impacts their math skills later on in life- in a good way. Children who played with blocks often have significantly better math tests scores in 7th grade. I wonder if Steiner knew that? Ha! While I don't care so much about test scores, needless to say block play is important, fun, and super easy to encourage. 






Do you need more blocks? Do you live near a forest or a few trees? Well problem solved. Last week I went out and decided to make some Waldorf branch blocks. All you need are some nice dry branches, sand paper, a saw, rub on polyurethane, shellac or beeswax polish, and some elbow grease (LITERALLY if you are using a hand saw. Ouch!)




And here is my finished product!







Pretty nice, eh?

So next time you're tempted to buy more fluff check and see if you have any good blocks first. If not go make some. My kids helped me sand them and pick out the branch. 

Are your kids into blocks right now? What are their favorite blocks? What types of games do they play with them? Have you ever made blocks? Please comment and let me know- I am curious!

Until next time, 
Cheers!
-Nicole

Also Our $75 Nova Natural giveaway is still going on until 7/19!
Don't forget to enter!

Friday, June 14, 2013

World Oceans Week



We have been enjoying our weekly theme here over the past few days. My children are dolphin and shark enthusiasts. For Deirdre's fifth birthday this year she requested a dolphin party. My son Jonas soon after, of his own volition, decided next to trains, sharks are the coolest thing around. They have a pet dolphin and shark names 'bubbles' and 'toothy'. Most nights, along with their David the Gnome story, they ask me to make up one about the adventures Bubbles and Toothy go on together. It is really quite adorable. 

So for World Ocean's Week, we decided to focus on the oceans and their favorite friends, dolphins and sharks. Our local Living Museum has baby dogfish sharks at it, as well as bay touch tanks and aquariums. We headed there on Monday to explore, have circle time in their new learning garden, and eat lunch. 

Then we headed home and did our first pre-planned sensory play. At our home we do lots of sensory play every week with beeswax, play dough, our outdoor mud and sand tables, ect. I have been seeing lots online about sensory bins and thought I'd give it a try this week. So here is ours with a Waldorf twist- as well as our weekly nature table. 

During circle time we've been enjoying our summer rhyme and board book. Our book of the month for June is The Curious Fish by Elsa Beskow, which matches perfectly with our summer and ocean theme. This week we also are acting out and reading The Owl and the Pussycat By Edward Lear and Jan Brett. This edition in particular was one of my only books as a young child, so it's near and dear to my heart :) I added some picture of the books we use below if you'd like to find them yourself!





We're continuing to use our water blocks as our circle time props as well as our blue play silks and different ocean figures- like our Ostheimer mermaid and dolphin or wooden sharks. 

Enjoy and I hope you all have a lovely week celebrating the ocean!

Until next time, 
Love & Light
Nicole
















Thursday, June 6, 2013

Chippy the Cherry Gnome (and some cherry picking!)










This week the kids and I have been continuing our summer theme as well as beginning to talk about cherries. One thing that we love about this season is all the u-pick fruit. Last year we desperately tried to go pick cherries. However due to the frost, the season was only one week long. This year though, we made it up to the mountains just in time. I did not want to go home it was so gorgeous.

In order to make our circle time complete, I whipped up a felt cherry gnome. The kids promptly named him Chippy. I am not sure why but at any rate, it's his name now! 




I even got to make a cherry pie from scratch last night. Oh, how I love being close to where my food comes from. The store bought cherries to not hold a candle to the ones we picked. Let's just say I am a convert. Enjoy the photos of our crafts and Chippy. If you're in Virginia and would like to go pick cherries, then you can find the orchard here!






Also Our $75 Nova Natural giveaway is still going on until 7/19!
Don't forget to enter!
Until next time, 
Nicole

Please check out my blog hops tab, I am linking up with some amazing bloggers this week! 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Summer Circle Time




We're closing in on the end of the traditional school year. My son goes to speech therapy at our local elementary school and it is buzzing with testing and the end of the school year jitters.

For us however we really do schooling year round. After spending some time thinking about what to do this summer I finally realized that we'll just keep doing what we do every summer and every season.

Even before we began home-schooling somewhat formally this year- and as in formally I mean really just making what we have been doing official and being a bit more intentional- we always read books, went on outings, and did crafts geared around the seasons.

I can remember when I first began this blog back in summer 2009 how Deirdre was just old enough to do crafts and we tried our hand a pudding painting. We'd visit the library weekly and as we'd go in I'd ask, "what do you want to learn about this week?" We'd always leave with a stack of books on that subject she answered and that's what we'd do that week.

So as summer makes it's way towards us, we're continuing doing what we have always been doing. Living and learning as we go about our daily and weekly rhythm. The kids have become so used to circle time that I hardly can go without doing it every morning. We do a daily art activity and the books that we read in circle time are the same ones we read at bed. The song and verse we're learning over the next few weeks, is sung all through-out our day. Our play takes on the theme we're learning about. It just all flows so well together.

So I thought I'd share with you what our circle time looked like today. A week before the season changes, I begin telling the kids about what is coming as a way to transition. So today summer came to introduce herself. I introduced our summer verse, book, and song. We did a caterpillar finger play and read our poem about May for one of the last times before we did our calendar. Then to end our school day we packed a picnic and went to the lagoon- one of our favorite summer pastimes. Needless to say the kids are excited for summer.







 As I begin planning next year I will come back and share a bit of what we've done over the past 9 months. I hope it might serve as a encouragement to you if this is your first jaunt into home-schooling or Waldorf. Many things we idd were lovely and then there were things that did not quite fit. There was lots of unlearning I needed to do this year as well. My very type A public schooled and rigid brain had a HARD time trusting my heart on what was right for my children versus what the world around me was saying.


Also Our $75 Nova Natural giveaway is still going on until 7/19!
Don't forget to enter!





At any rate, I hope you're enjoying this lovely May day!

Until next time,
Nicole

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pure Play and Our Knitted Farm Mat



The Sun with loving light
Makes bright for me each day,
The soul with spirit power
Gives strength unto my limbs,
In sunlight shining clear
I revere, Oh God,
The strength of humankind,
Which Thou so graciously
Has planted in my soul,
That I with all my might,
May love to work and learn.
From Thee stream light and strength
To Thee rise love and thanks.
~ A Waldorf Morning Verse~



We've been busy here since our last post. Homeschooling is quite consuming, in a good way. Interesting I feel as if our days flow more easily now that we have a stronger rhythm. Even on days when I have no special crafts or stories to do, the children still crave our school rhythm. We also have gone totally TV free at home for the past 3 weeks. It has been a long time coming here. A gradual wean of sorts. While we've never been big on TV here, I have come to realize that we really have no need or place for it when it comes to the children. Apart from the occasional family movie night, they haven't watched a drop. A say this not as a combination for anyone who is not there yet or doesn't want to be there, rather as an encouragement to those whom want to reduce. It is possible. 

On that note however it means that we all have had more time. With that time I have used it to simplify our play space a bit and rework it. Since they kids are playing much more, it made sense. I also have been reading a lot more on how children learn and play- which inspired a few changes of my own. 

I reworked our playroom so that there was more open space to play in. We moved out our black play bench, play kitchen, and cleaning set. We set the kitchen and leaning supplies up in the dining room- near our own kitchen- so that they could be playing kitchen while I was cooking. They also can then easily clean up after their meals. I was worried at first that if I moved it out of the play stand, which they use primarily as their house, then it might hamper their house play. Rather, they just moved it. Now their house is under the table. We also set up our nature table in the dining room again after having it up high in the playroom. It did not work out well there since it was not as interactive. 






In place to the kitchen in the play stand, Craig and I made a play bookshelf. I have to say it was a super fun project- one of my first wood working ones. I have been admiring the palumba simple bookshelf for age. However the price was a bit high for me. Instead of $169, all it cost us was $40 in wood, stains, and brushes. It looks nice, right? On the book shelf we set up of gnomes house and all their furniture. 












In the now free corner we put the children's school table there. They kids love it so much more there. It is not as cramped. It's light and clear near the window. 





I moved the sling book case to where the table used to be and added our old rug. It's a nice little reading homeshcool corner. Many many times I have come in there now and have seen the kids laying down there skimming our books. 






In the far corner of the room we now have our baby doll corner, castle, and our new farm! We are farm people at heart. I have been skimping and saving up for the farm for years now. We also added a baby doll changing table. What really tipped the scale sin being able to add these treasures to our playroom was EBAY. I went through all our toys and purged. And then purged some more. And then went through the garage and even their old clothes. Not only were we able to get these goodies but we also were able to make a bunch more which went to other things (like bills!). 



















With it I finally sat down and finished our knitted farm mat. Back almost a year ago I participated in a knitted farm swap hosted by Carrie over at Crafty Moms Share. Those lovely squares sat and sat. I just did not know who to bring them all together. Some of the sizes ended up not being 12x12, while others were. So after playing young with it in my mind for a bit I decided I would just sew it together like a quilt. That's right, I used my machine. I joined up each row and then stitched them all together. Then I basted, backed, and binded them! I used the sweetest vintage flower fabric for the backing that make sit look like a field of flowers. I am so pleased with the finished product. (By the way I knitted the dark green cable fields- you can even tuck veggies and chicks into the cables!)

So that's our new playroom, dining room, and farm mat. It is really just the tip of the what we've been doing. More fluff and fun that substance. However I have been reading more Steiner and some other great books and my love of Waldorf has been deepening. If you haven't dug into Steiner yet but are intimidated. Please don't be! I promise to be back soon to share some of what I am learning.

Blessings and Light, 
Nicole