Monday, October 7, 2013

Bringing Nature In :: Part III :: Flora and Fauna

Linking up with my friend Nicole over at Frontier Dream's KCCO this week! 

This is the third part of a series that I started writing about this past summer. The first part, about bringing nature into your child's play and playroom, is going to make its way into the Autumn/Winter edition of Rhythm of the Home Magazine - so I apologize about not being able to view it right now due to publishing rights. The second part was on bringing nature into your child's bedroom, or more specifically how we did it on our little ones' rooms (which I now- four months into the new room- can attest to its benefits!). And finally, I am on to this third part about bringing flora and fauna into your home, for your child's sake and your own. 

Our grumpy box turtle named "Toodles"
There's quite a few ways that you can bring flora and fauna in. One of the first ways we did it was by getting a few little critters. If you're like me at first you might be a bit iffy about this. I was. But any good naturalist will tell you- as well as Richard Louv who wrote "Last Child In The Woods"- that to be closer to nature you have to study and observe it. You have to have a personal connection with it. And one of the rites of passage of childhood and first connections for children come when they bring little critter indoors for a bit to watch them. They learn about them and learn to love them. That love will last them a lifetime. It will spark an interest in them the continue to grow and grow. They will start to see more fauna outdoors than before once they start bringing in critters. Now let me say that we don't allow in dangerous critters. No spiders or anything that we can't identify. No large critters. But we have adopted and released a baby bunny, a duckling, a gosling, a few baby birds- not fledglings, turtles, tadpoles, frogs, toads, lizards, and a myriad of bugs and butterflies. 

Little Ribbit- our fire bellied toad
Currently we have a plestiodon- a skink with a blue tail, a itty bitty baby snapping turtle, and our permanent store bought pet toad- who eats live crickets so we also have a few dozen of those. We also have about 10-12 wood toads in our backyard and one grumpy box turtle who meanders about in my compost. Richard Louv related in his book how some of his earliest experiences with fauna shaped his love of nature inextricably later in life. He retells a funny story about saving turtles in the spring from being run over with his family in their pick-up and then keeping them all summer long in his backyard and then releasing them. 

Another way you can bring flora and fauna into your home is by keeping a nature tray or table. We keep a Waldorf nature table that reflects our month and season in the corner of our dining room. On it I have a small tray for our favorite bits of nature we collect. But now that the kids are older and we're learning about trees and their outdoor world in much more detail, lots of nature comes into the house. I need a place to put it all so we could touch it, identify it, draw it. 

Our nature table mini tray

So I opted for an old ruined roasting pan on a low bench next to our Atelier. The kids have corners for related pieces of nature that they find and divided up on their own. They love to just sit with this tray in their lap and their field guide in their hands trying to find which nut came from which tree. Does it look a little unkempt? Is it maybe an eyesore? Possibly. But the way I see it is that there is a finite time in my life that I will have 'eyesores' about. One day my house will be clean and consequently empty. I don't mind the clutter now, especially if the kids are relishing the experience and learning about their world. I am positive it will stay with them throughout theirs lives as it did with me. (So thanks Mom and Dad for buying me safety goggles and a hammer to cracks open rocks with!)

Nuts galore

Lastly this is another big one here for us. I love to grow our own food and garden. At every house I have lived at with a yard in the past 5 years, I have kept a garden- even when I still lived in an apartment/town house complex. That equals...4 gardens (as well as string of berry bushes). Also at the one place I lived at with no yard at all, I had a window herb garden! At first I wasn't used to gardening with kids. I remember in horror when a little toddler Deirdre (my oldest who is now almost 6) pulled up a tomato plant when I was weeding- she was trying to help! Kids love to garden. The gravitate to my garden. The love to eat the food they pick- even when they usually dislike it otherwise. It's crazy really. So making gardens kid friendly is a big deal for me. It makes my life easier and the kids have tons of fun. Plus all that yummy and beautiful goodness makes its way back into your home! It's another great way to bring nature in. 

Currently we're only growing broccoli and cabbage- as well as our herbs. The kids each have their own special garden in a box, all to themselves since it's part of their school work. They water it, weed it, prune it. and decorate it. I have my big garden with the bulk of our plants in it. But it is also kid friendly. I have a path through it that is wide to they can walk on it and not be too caught up in stepping on something. I use hay mulch in the garden so they can clearly see what's a plant or a weed. They can sit in it and explore- or just relax. Right now they have been using it to hunt for trolls. They think trolls like cabbage :)

I hope this gives you a few good ideas on how to bring more nature into your home. I cannot recommend Richard Louv's book enough. It's another one of those game changer books for me. It's right up there with Rahima Baldwin Dancy's, "You Are Your Child's First Teacher". Go read it! 

How do you already bring nature in? What critters do you have? How do you garden with the kids? I'd love to you, so please share! 

Also if you could please be thinking about my family and praying for us over the next few weeks, I'd be very grateful. A lot of changes are have happened at Craig's work and it's effected us quite a bit. So many things are uncertain. We all could use lots of wisdom, strength, and provision. 

PS: I am linking up with Linda at Natural Suburbia  Nicole S at Frontier Dreams, and Carrie at Crafty Moms Share. These are also some of my favorite blogs so hop over for a look! 

Love and Light,

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pumpkins, Owls, and Bats, Oh My!

A wise old owl lived in an Oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke, the more he heard
Why can't we be more like that wise old bird? 



Our October Nature Table- or as we do it- our nature shelf




Jonas' Mums are in full bloom


Happy October dear friends! I feel like an old record repeating myself but time really does fly. I am so thankful that I did my homeschooling planning a season at a time or I wouldn't know what to do with myself now that its' October. Just like with each month we have a big monthly theme and then a monthly animal- or two- and a quarterly nature theme.



This month our big theme is PUMPKINS! We'll be reading pumpkin stories, doing pumpkin crafts, and my favorite- baking up a storm with our pumpkins. We also will be learning about owls and bats. With Halloween as our big festival this month I thought it was only appropriate to talk about bats too!

We also are continuing on with our nature theme of trees and their leaves. So far we've identified all the trees in our neighborhood except for one. Ugh. Identifying trees can be tough. But so worth it. The kids now when we're driving around point out different trees that they recognize. But we aren't just learning the tree's names, we learn about the trees themselves. Like what animals like to eat beech nuts or what kinds of trees make good squirrel homes, or even what kinds of tree made the table we eat on? Or even, why are trees important? I swear we end up talking about trees and nature more than our theme most days, but that's a good thing I think! We read Gerda Muller's "Around the Oak" as a good anchor point to our tree learning.

Jonas is really into sharks right now

I have had a few questions posted from time to time on the blog about books and reading in relation to Waldorf. It also is the most common question I get emailed about. Part of the way we homeschool is by using books. I think that there is a lot of confusion surrounding when Waldorf formally teaches reading and the use of books before that age. I personally don't have a problem with having books around. We have a separate reading area where we keep all of our books, except for a select few (maybe 7) that I display in the playroom. That way, they are not overwhelmed by books and it doesn't impede their play, which is their most important 'work' at this age- before 7.

Our wise old owl and monthly books
I do however read lots of books to the kids during the day, especially around our seasonal themes. During circle time I only read a page from our current month from Elsa Beskow's "Around the Year" and from Gerda Muller's Seasonal books, with no words. I usually have the kids take turns telling their own stories about Muller's book to us in circle time. The rest of the time we sing our monthly songs, and say our verses. Once I week I read our monthly book, which is "Pumpkin Moonshine" for October. Then the rest of the week I tell different stories or do a puppet play based on our monthly book.
Our Gerda Muller Autumn book that the kids take turns reading to one another during circle time- It has no words. Next to it is a copy of our Autumn verse we're memorizing. I also knit up two new apples with Deirdre from the article we wrote together here for Rhythm of the Home magazine last year. 

It's simple and it works for us. At bedtime I usually read one or two stories and then end with a long made up story about "David the Gnome" which I have been telling nightly for over 3 years now- WOW! The I end with a song and prayers.

I am not sure if that answers any questions, but it does at least explain how we do school and circle time with books. I highly recommend "The Read Aloud Handbook" by Jim Trelease. It is not a Waldorf book but it is a very solid piece of good research and convicting stories about reading out loud to your kids and why it matters all the way up to high school. He also supports not formally teaching reading until age 6/7 or later. So he is indeed liked minded.



How do you or don't you use books at home? What are you doing this October? I'd love to know! 

PS: I am linking up with Linda at Natural Suburbia  Nicole S at Frontier Dreams, and Carrie at Crafty Moms Share. These are also some of my favorite blogs so hop over for a look! 

Love and Light,

Friday, September 20, 2013

Preparing Our Hearts for Michaelmas


 Oh Saint Michael, God's great knight...
Strong and pure and shining bright.
I'll be a knight of Michael, too...
And polish my crown to a golden hue.
I'll polish by sword so fine and bright,
And I will use it for the right.
Drive evil away, I will try
And protect those who are weaker than I.





We're beginning our transition here to our week of Michaelmas. I find it easier to spend a week on a festival rather than trying to pack it all into one day with littler ones. 

The week long anticipation build up to the actual festival day is very special to watch in the children. 
Michaelmas is a favorite festival of mine. Saint Michael holds special place in my heart. Around this time last year I was going through a very dark and rough spot. It felt as if evil were very near and present in my life. I spent much time in prayer thinking of Saint Michael and the victory that God had through him. 

Taking this week to think over all that God has done and how God can use us to fight evil, as he did through Michael, is very empowering not only for me but also the children. Yes the festival is fun. Yes play acting dragons, angels, and knights is a good time. But the message behind all of this means so much more. It seeps into their being through this fun, beauty, and repetition. Knowing God's love, his power, and that evil has already be defeated touches all of our hearts. 

It all leads well into our next big festival Martinmas and giving them a heart for others as Saint Martin had for the beggar. Michaelmas bids us to stand firm in God's victory over evil and Martinmas bids us to extend that victory in spirit to those who cannot do so for themselves. 

So needless to say, we're excited for the 29th and the coming months of other festivals!

How do you all celebrate Michaelmas? Or do you focus rather on the Harvest Moon? I'm interested to hear all your stories!

Linking up with Crafty Moms Share and Natural Suburbia and Nicole at Frontier Dreams this week! 

Until next time,

Thursday, September 19, 2013

In the Woods









"The mountains are calling and I must go." 
- John Muir

Craig and I were very blessed this week to be gifted 3 days away solo in the mountains on the Shenandoah River near Luray, Virginia. 

Obviously we had a great time. We hiked. We fished. We read. We swam. We talked. We slept- a lot! 

When we first got to the cabin I threw open all the windows to breathe in the fresh mountain air- much to his chagrin. It really does smell different I exclaimed! 
And it does. 

My soul feels refreshed. I wanted to go get the kids and bring them back to the cabin and just never leave, but alas that's not in the cards just yet. 

On the trip I finally finished reading "Last Child in the Wood" by Richard Louv. It was an appropriate place to finish the book surrounded by nature. I cried a few times while reading it and- no it wasn't sappy fiction.  

I cried because the realization poured over me that many children don't get to experience nature the way I do and did as a child and as an adult. And well that just breaks my heart. My tears were tears of mourning. I mourn for them something they might never know that they're missing. The peace. The beauty. The glory of our natural world. 

...

Well let's suffice to say that the book is game changer for me. I'll be back in this place later to share more about what I learned form the book. In the meantime, go get a copy and read it yourself! Seriously! 

PS: Tomorrow is the last day of the Ostheimer giveaway!

Blessings, 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Apple Crafting









We are now 3 weeks into our new school year. We're still focusing on apples, squirrels/chipmunks, and Autumn over here. And boy is it fun!!

Each week I try to make 1 big craft and then smaller ones each day. Our smaller ones might including painting, modeling beeswax, baking bread, or  paper crafts. A big one is more involved, costs a bit more, and last longer. 

Our first week we made an apple print burlap banner. We cut open our apples, talked about the star, cut the burlap, made our prints, and then sewing and glued the banner. 

The second week we made wooden play apples. We learning that apples only really come in 3 colors or a combination of them. We learned about Johnny Appleseed. And then we painted our own apples and made them felt leaves with real stems. 

This week we'll be making apples pot to hold treasures- or treats. I will be back later on to show them to you. 

Thankfully it is also starting to look like Fall here. Some leaves are falling and beginning to change. It is less humid and a tad cooler. Our science unit this season is on trees. I personally am sick of not knowing what kind of tree I am looking at for the most part when I am out on a walk. So I thought Autumn is a good time to learn the tree in our neighborhood and we could do it together. We bought a Fandex Family Field Guides: Trees to help us. It is a GREAT tool for kids. I like field guides but it is hard for them to use at this age. The fandex is easy and they love it. Deirdre is always taking it out to play in case she finds fallen leaves to identify which tree they came from! 

Ah be still my little heart!

PS: Linking up with Linda at http://www.naturalsuburbia.com/  and Nicole at Frontier Dreams this week! 

Until next time, 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Creating Our Waldorf & Reggio Inspired Atelier









From time to time, I pick up a book that really really resonates with me. Playful Learning by Mariah Bruel is one of those books. I read it cover to cover in a day. I was so inspired by it that I decided to re-do our dining room so that the kids would have a better learning and creating space apart from their playroom. 

I used to have all of their art supplies out in the playroom but we kept having accidents with them. The dining room is more central and therefore it is easy for them to be more self directed yet closer to me, when they want to create and do while I am about my mommy work- ie chasing Brynna.

The dining room is now I bit more cluttered but I like it. It's more colorful and fun. It was like Christmas day at our house when I unveiled the atelier. Both kids, 3 and 5, sat for house coloring, painting, stamping, cutting, gluing...

Everything has its own place too so when crafting is done, they themselves put it up and clean up. It really is true that if you buy them nice things and show them respect, they will reflect it back to you and treat their toys and art supplies with respect too. 

There are still more little tweaks that I'd like to make to the room. I'd love to replace the plastic shelves with nicer ones. I'd like to add more field guides and binoculars to our nature area. But it will come to us when it is supposed to. Bit by bit. 

Until then, I am happy with our atelier. The kids are ecstatic. And we are learning so much together and having lots of fun too. 

Linking up with Nicole at Frontier Dreams this week as well as Crafty Moms Share and Natural Suburbia! 

Until next time, 
xoxo