Monday, December 13, 2010

Fairy doors and Winter Wonderland...

Last week the little girls and I went to a fairy tea at a local bookstore/coffee shop. We drank tea, ate biscuits (when you have them with tea, you call them biscuits not cookies), read fairy stories, and saw a very funny magic show. It was very fun, but would have been more fun with friends. We will be sure to bring friends next time.

On the way back to our car, a shopkeeper told us about these little fairy doors all over downtown. Here is one we found.

And now, after much anticipation, we have snow! Lots of it! Of course, since we are homeschoolers, I can't make the boys walk uphill both ways to school in the snow like I had to, but they did walk uphill in the snow to go sledding on Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why Quakers don't celebrate Hannukah

To conclude our Hannukah study last night, the boys and I planned on making latkes. Since I had forgotten (what with sick kids in the house and all) to light our menorah the past few days, yesterday afternoon I thought I'd light it to get the candles all lined up how they are supposed to be. Thing is, I forgot about it and the whole thing went up in flames!

So then we have our traditional type meal we have when we decorate our Christmas tree: cheeses, meats, vegetarian meats, crackers (Corn Thins actually), and lox. I serve the latkes with this. Since the Explorer won't eat lox and barely touches cheese I let him choose his meat earlier that day in the grocery. True to form, he chose ham. It didn't dawn on me, the whole ham is not kosher thing, until after we ate. Not that I was going for kosher, but it still seems sort of wrong somehow to serve ham with latkes the same evening after you set fire to a menorah.

We did play dreidel, only without the gambling aspect.

So, it was a sort of Hannukah study that would be unrecognizable to any truly devout Jewish family. But we still learned a lot and had fun.

(And the advent wreath still stands!)

Friday, December 3, 2010

my friend is giving away something!

My friend is hosting a giveaway on her blog. It's a lovely blog, it is. I have enjoyed it for years and frequently (as you can probably tell if you read both) "borrow" ideas from her.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent and Hannukah (and some learning room pics)

I know that I promised long ago a post on our new educational methods. Basically we've moved from and eclectic classical lite to a Steiner inspired / Waldorf approach.

Now, before you start asking questions, let me tell you that I'm not qualified to answer them. Basically I'm not an anthoposophist by any means, but Steiner's educational methods seem to work well with our family dynamics. I don't have the time or energy to explain it all right now so I'm going to assume that you, my beloved handful of readers (ok so two that I know of) either are familiar with Waldorf methods or have googled Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf education.

But next year, well, I'm going with a pre made curriculum, still going to stay on with the Waldorf method for sure as we all seem to enjoy it and the children seem to be really thriving, but I'm tired of coming up with everything on my own.

So, with that in mind, I'm going to share what we've been doing this week. For years I've been a member of an email group (via yahoo) called Waldorf Home Educators. The list owner, the lovely Mrs. M, is a Waldorf teacher who loves Waldorf philosophy so much that she shares her wildly creative lesson plans and musings for free with those of us on the list. Can't thank her enough for that! She recently posted lesson plans for a four week block called "December 2010 Stories of Light" It's lovely, really it is. We started this week learning about Hanukkah. Now, as this block is geared for grades 2 to 3 I had to kind of ramp it up a bit for the Artist. So tomorrow he will be writing a detailed report about Hanukkah. We have other bits we do every day as well as all of this, you know your regular reading, 'riting, and 'rithmitic. As well as whatever interesting thing we happen upon.Here is a picture of the menorah that the Explorer made. Tonight at dinner we said a little poem and lit the first candle. I'm not sure if the center one is supposed to stay lit or not. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

Here is a photo of our chalkboard. Ideally I'd like a real honest to goodness blackboard but as I can't find one in my price range (ahem, as close to free as possible), these adhesive blocks of chalkboard material will have to do. Below and above are the cursive handwriting alphabet I put up just this week. We (the boys and I) are all learning a new kind of cursive. I thought it might be good to learn together and sort of help each other along and it's been great. The Artist has been able to write and read cursive for quite some time now but prefers to write print. The Explorer has been begging to learn cursive since last school year and the Artist decided he'd give it another go if we all did it together. We've not learned all the alphabet yet (I had to consult the book for the wall chart) but we are enjoying learning together. I think the boys like that I have to practice, too. Also, you'll notice that the letters are in purple just like the chalkboard. The poem on the chalkboard was written by the Explorer and I wrote it up on the board in both cursive and print so that he can decide which "font" to use tomorrow when he copies it onto the "good paper" we will make his "Stories of Light" main lesson book from.

I know I promised some advent information and I will. I found this site and decided it might be nice to do a Jesse tree. I have fond memories of having a Jesse tree at church when I was little as well as fond memories of advent (both at church and at home) and so I decided this was the year I'd actually do it. (Ok, a few days late, but still I did it!) Now, Quakers don't tend to do a lot of these kind of rituals. Our services are quite simple, and I like it that way obviously otherwise I wouldn't call myself a Quaker. But this is home and I thought a bit of holiday focus was in order and it wouldn't hurt to brush up on our Bible literacy. I don't know that we will make all the ornaments as listed in the chart on the website, in fact I know for a fact a few of them I will skip, but still it's a nice tradition and we are "having fun playing with the pencils and filling out the forms on the bench." Plus there is a lovely lovely red twigged bush in our back garden / yard that made a lovely filling for a vase.You see a dove, a symbol for peace. We did those on Monday. Yesterday, Tuesday, I was feeling bad and so we did not very much and nothing on this project. Today we were really feeling creative and we did the apple (cardstock covered with bits of tissue paper) which symbolized the Garden of Eden story. Now, mind you, I'm no new earth creationist. But I find the whole apple and snake story riveting anyway. (And yes, it's totally possible to believe in both God and evolution. Really!) Then the rainbow symbolizes the promise God made to Noah after the Big Flood never to flood the earth again. (Noah and the Ark being hands down the Explorer's favorite Bible story, though he prefers the animal parts to the part about the rainbow.)

Now our advent wreath is only a wreath in the symbolic sense since there is no greenery involved and barely a hint of even a circular shape. As it happens most years round about the week after Thanksgiving, people like me who are-definitely-going-to-do-advent-this-year, find it hard to find the required pink and purple candles in the shops. So, I got a brilliant flash of insight (though to be honest, could be that I read this somewhere) to decoupage tissue paper onto clear glass votive candle holders and use them instead of a wreath. So that is what we did. The pack of tissue paper I bought at the dollar store did not come with purple so we layered red and blue. Also we are using tealights instead of votives. Now, granted, you don't get the cool uneven candles that you get with a real wreath with tapers, but it's less messy in the long run and we had fun with the glue. Also, turns out, if you give the tiny goddess some glue, a q-tip, and tissue paper, she will quietly occupy herself for hours. Seriously. This girl had some fun gluing today. She did the pink (of course) votive holder you see below as well as a giant apple of her own (not pictured).
Earlier this week we went to the dollar store (which is where I got the "silver" tray and the aforementioned tissue paper) and the Explorer found this grow your own crystal tree. Basically it's salt crystals that he grew. But it looked so festive in our window and was very fun to watch as we watched the snow come down for the first time since we arrived in Michigan. Here is a photo:

And since I know you are dying to see more, here is a blurry photo of the big alphabet display on the opposite wall of the purple chalkboard.

You may be wondering why there is no mention of Miss Mousie in this post. That would be because she has been sick all week. The tiny Goddess only today started feeling better. Miss Mousie on the other hand just kind of slept and cried and nursed. Basically lots of, "I want to hold you, Mama!" or "Please can I nurse, Mama? Please can I?" So pitiful. I finally gave her some ibuprofen this afternoon and she's been terrorizing her sister for the past hour so I reckon she is feeling better. I didn't give it earlier as she was just running such a low grade fever that I didn't want to interfere. I don't tend to medicate for fevers unless they are high or unless that person is prone to night terrors and sleepwalking when fevers hit, and in that case that kid never runs a fever on my watch!

Oh, would you look at this! We did do something educational on Tuesday!

And I'll leave you now to ponder how the mini fig got into the jello.

Happy Hanukkah, Nadolig Llawen, Feliz Navidad, and Buon Natale!