Sunday, October 20, 2013

Wise Old Owl Crafting

The wise old owl sat on the oak
The more he heard, the less he spoke
The less he spoke, the more he heard
Why aren't we more like that wise bird?
These are very easy to make. The only thing I did was hot glue the wood disk to the base of the pinecone and the kids did the rest! Watering down your glue and using paint brushes for it helped get in all the pinecone crevices. We also had toothpicks on hand to stuff the fluff in.

I highly recommend all of these owl books for ages 3-6!

We've had a fun week here in the Kleemann household! Despite more tummy bugs and still some job stress, things keep on going. I find during these more uncertain times that sticking to our family rhythm helps keep stress down and promotes peace. At least it does for me. I also find that when I am more at peace, so are the children. So it's a win-win! 

We're getting close to the end of October, so we're about to switch our monthly animal from owls to bats. Since Halloween is this month the kids asked to do an extra spooky animal. I was happy to comply and we settled on bats, however I did gently remind them that bats aren't really spooky at all! 

Primarily this week we focused on Owls during circle time, versus pumpkins and trees. I read and told lots of owl stories (I have had them all month in our school book bin, but this was the first time I introduced them to circle time).  Our crafts this week were also owl themed. I have been trying to use more 'found' materials in our crafts, so owl pinecones fit in perfectly. The kids then were able to use their owls during circle time to help act out our littlest owl play and an owl paid a visit to Sylvie from "Pumpkin Moonshine"- our monthly book. 

We also made toilet paper roll owls and of course carved - or drilled- an owl pumpkin! I was pretty proud of how our pumpkin turned out. It was a neat way to combine both of our monthly themes. (If you're new or curious about how we homeschool and use monthly themes as well as project based learning- there posts here, here, and here might help fill you in a bit!)

Since the beginning of the month, we have visited the Virginia Living Museum 2 times a week to go observe their Eastern Screech Owl and write about him in our main lesson book. For circle time this month we have a Screech Owl puppet too (the kids named him 'Woodsy') so Woodsy tags along on these trips too. 

I will be back in this place tomorrow for the other half to this post. We also took a special field trip to go see some more owls up close and personal. I can't wait to share!

If you want to see more owl and pumpkin crafty goodness, I have 2 Pinterest boards dedicated to them here and here. I use Pinterest a lot to help me organize homeschool ideas, project based learning plans, and themes. They might be helpful for you too, so feel free to use them. I am happy to share.

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! 

To trace the outline on I used a toothpick and poked small holes into the outline. Then I drilled! 
Miss B thought she was hot stuff climbing up to the big table and making her own craft!
Do you have any owl crafts of your own? Please comment and share for the rest of us to see!


Monday, October 14, 2013

Family Time :: The Peninsula Fine Arts Center (& Why Art Matters)

Mister J and I had some Mommy one on one time the other Saturday. Our wonderful local Arts Center, PFAC, has free weekends once a month so I had pre-planned on going.

PFAC has rotating themed exhibits. The one we saw was "Aquatic" which was perfect for Jonas since he is such an ocean and shark lover. Then in the back of the center the have their "Hands on Art" kids center.

It is chock full of art books, manipulatives, art games, art puzzles, craft materials (that you're free to use), and more.

As you can see from above we made full use of all of their goodies. Jonas is a block and puzzle lover so he gravitated toward those first. Then he spied the art supplies and was off. He pulled out various pieces and decided he'd make a dinosaur puppet. All on his own. No prompting. I love how they just stock lots of open ended materials and let the kids decide what to make.

I also loved it because I could just be one on one with him. My older kids have to share me a lot because of Miss B. Which is fine and is just the life stage we're in but I still try to make a point to have Mommy dates.

Another reason why I enjoyed this trip so much was that Jonas got to be totally immersed in art. His creativity was unhindered. There was no agenda. He was able to freely express himself and had multiple mediums to do so.

I've been reading and researching a bit more on child development and more specifically differences between boys and girls.

In particular earlier on boys tend to be weaker when it comes to fine motor skills, which seems be related to how boy's parietal lobes process sensitive tactile data. At times this can deter them from certain art mediums. Boys also learn best experientially at a young age due to the amount of grey matter boys have in their brains which makes their brains less able to multitask. Having lots of manipulatives out and keeping verbal instructions to a minimum are best. (Gurian 124)

So with that in mind art matters quite a bit. No only does it encourage boys to use fine motor skills in fun and engaging ways, which then helps build up their parietal lobe, but it also allows them to learn experientially and hands on. I think most importantly is that- for both boys and girls- art is a whole brain activity, like music. All hemispheres are being stimulated when kids are allowed to make art in an open ended environment with minimal direction. Plus since our brain is a muscle, when little ones are using all of it- their brains are getting a workout, in a good way.

So all in all it was a great day. We had fun. We slowed down and enjoyed one another. Moreover Jonas got to do something he loves and that consequently gave his little brain a  workout, and he didn't even know it!

If you're ever in Newport News, check out PFAC! Admission is cheap and it's worth it just on the money you'll save on art supplies. Plus there's a gorgeous park and trail nearby and a neat wooden playground right next door.

Ps: Linking up this week with my dear friend Nicole at Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm and Craft On!
Love & Light,

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Apple Traditions

This year was our 4th year going apple picking and our 3rd year picking at Carter Mountain. The first two years that we picked there, we went with my best friend Anya and her kiddos. Ironically both times we went one of us was pregnant. Yeah we're just kinda crazy like that. We did co-op together for 2 years as well. She moved this past summer to Northern VA- so she's about 2 1/2 hours away. Which just bites, but it could be worse. My other best friend Courtney lives in NY, which is even harder. Gah. But I digress. While I had a great time picking, needless to say, I missed my friends.

I wanted to pick sooner in the month but the apples took longer to ripen this year. So we ended our month of September with apple picking. It was nice to go and have the kids spouting off what they learned about apples or tellings stories about them. At one point Deirdre was convinced that she saw September and heard Mrs. Brambley sing- from our monthly book "Christopher's Harvest Time". 

Jonas was no nonsense about picking. I think he ate close to 5 while we were there and then 2 more on the way home. That boy loves his fruit. Brynna on the other was in food heaven. She just kept gobbling up the apples happily. She immediately knew what we were doing and was more than happy to help pick and add to mama's basket, as well as sneak a few out! Deirdre was more fastidious. She wanted to save her apples for pie, candy apples, and applesauce. God bless her. She takes preserving our food seriously and worries about how much we'll have for the winter, ha! 

Not that I don't. My goal has always been for the past few years when we go picking is to save as much as we can so we don't have to buy fruit out of season. I'd love to get to the point where we can pick all of our fruit but we're not there yet. We blew through our frozen cherries, strawberries and blackberries- even though I picked more than I ever have this past year. We have one big bag of frozen peaches left. We also have only 2 of the dozen jars of strawberry preserves left thanks to my sweet husband who I think has a jam addition. I mean who puts jam in their drinks?? Gah! That's what i get for cutting out juice. Oh and the blueberries didn't even last a month! Jonas broke into the freezer one night and polished off almost half a bag. 

But we should have lots of apple goodies to help us through. We've already made apple pie, apple, pancakes, apple cobbler, and candy apple slices. The rest I have hidden for applesauce and butter! Both of which I make totally in my crockpot! 

So how do you all make your applesauce or butter? Do you have Fall traditions each year? If so what are they? I'd love to know and share! Also I'd love to hear any nighttime photos tips you all might have. My nighttime photos alway looks so yuck!

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! 

Until next time,

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,