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Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent - a time of Reverence, Love and Joy

Tomorrow is the beginning of our countdown to Christmas.  In addition to the Lego Advent Calendar given to the boys by my sister-in-law, we will use the Advent calendar from last year.  (One my mother made for my sister and I.) Like last year, the boys will have tiny treasures, ornaments to place on the felt Christmas tree, and words of encouragement in each little pocket. 
This year we are adding daily activities that will encourage us to have a spirit of Reverence, Love, and Joy.  I look forward to seeing their reaction as they find out what exciting activity awaits them each day! I'm thinking on some days, there will be squeals of joy and jumping up and down involved.  I got the idea from Joy at We're an Art Family where she keeps a beautiful, inspiring blog.
Some of the activities are specific to our location, but many can be done in families throughout the world.  Over the next few weeks, I will post links to the events and tutorials sharing how to do the crafts in the list.

Our countdown to Christmas activities.
We will also have an Advent wreath.  It is rather untraditional, with elements of nature that we enjoy.  We plan on using it to teach our boys that the wreath is a symbol of God's everlasting love and preparing our hearts for Christmas.  In the first week, we will light one candle in the evening at the dinner table and talk about how that candle represents Hope.  Over the next 3 weeks we will light the second candle (Preparation), third candle (Joy), and the fourth candle (Love).  On Christmas Eve, I will bring out a special candle, the unity candle from our wedding 12 years ago, and we will talk about the pure gift of the Christ child - the Light of the World.

Tomorrow will be a wonderful day! 
A day of new traditions.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ongoing thanks and our little handcraft

Thanksgiving day is past, but in our family, the sense of closeness stays strong with back-to-back birthdays for five days straight, ending tomorrow with my husband's birthday.  So our Thanksgiving decorations are still up and our hearts are warm with gratitude for each family member celebrated

While my sons are thankful that there have been few homeschool lessons over the past few days, I am thankful for the time we have together because of homeschooling.  One of the aspects of a Charlotte Mason education that I am implementing in our lessons is handwork.  Handwork is not making throw-away crafts, but taking time to make things that are useful. For our Thanksgiving feast, we made napkin rings that also serve as place cards. We will use them over and over again.

We cut a paper towel ring in to three inch pieces, glued on yarn, then watercolor leaves.  It was an easy project that I am sure we will do again in a few weeks for Christmas, replacing the leaves with fir trees or stars.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Late Autumn Nature Table

There was a time when our nature table was set with found treasures that filled the pockets of preschool and toddler boys after leisurely strolls.  Now that we are homeschooling, our nature table continues to change with the season and displays found treasures, but also reflects what we are learning in our lessons.

 Gone are the flowers and seashells of the summer nature table. Now, in late autumn, we have leaves and pebbles from nature study walks, half nuts used for counting, knights from our math stories, a felt bear out of his den preparing for a long hibernation, and a watercolor lantern lit for Martinmas.  Over the next few weeks, who knows what will find its way to the table.  Some gathered acorns?  A special feather? We never know what  will strike our fancy.  At any moment, a sweet child may come bringing a treasure imploring, "Mama, this has to go on the nature table!"  But one thing we know for sure...

Soon Jack Frost will arrive and our table will change again.

I've linked to the Magic Onion. Check it out for more inspiration.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Martinmas and November Verses

As the light recedes and the night grows long, I once again feel our family turning to the comforts of home in ways that we do not in the summer and early autumn.  After the children play outdoors, they come in seeking warmth and nourishment for both body and soul, running up to me to tell me of their adventures, asking for a hug and snack.

While I want my children to feel free to meet their needs, I want to also teach them that they have a responsibility to consider others even before themselves. Martinmas is a wonderful time to do this. Although we do not commemorate all the traditional festivals under the Waldorf spectrum, we do celebrate Michaelmas - when we learn to face our "dragons", and Martinmas - when we learn to let our light shine to others.

In a nutshell, Martinmas marks the burial of St Martin of Tours (316-397 AD). Martin is known for his compassionate gesture of sharing his cloak with a beggar and other acts of selflessness. The festival is the middle point between Michaelmas and Christmas and a time to reflect on what dragons (fears, poor habits, etc.) have been slain, consider how we may take our new self and be a light in a dark world, and look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ.
Our chalkboard drawing for the week.
Shane's drawing of a lantern walk.

While my boys are too young to really grasp some of the darker aspects of this world, they are old enough to understand there is good (light) and bad ( dark) in the world and that they are charged with being good.  At this stage, I am to help them keep the light shining by filtering what influences enter their world (media, news, toys, etc.), introducing  them to deeper spiritual concepts (grace, gratitude, faith, etc.), and modeling these aspects in my own life.

In the Waldorf tradition, we made paper-mache lanterns, which the boys will carry on our night time walks this week as we discuss what it means to be a light in the world.

The lanterns are easy to make.  All you need is a balloon,
glue, a paint brush, and tissue paper.

Mix one part glue to one part water and paint the balloon
with  the glue mixture adding layers of pieces of tissue
paper as you go.

Make sure the lantern has at least 2 layers of tissue paper
all around and add more for the bottom so it will be strong
enough to hold the candle. Leave a few inches open at the top
Let it dry for a few hours.

When it is dry, pop the balloon and the balloon will pull
away from the tissue paper.  Cut a hole at the top large
enough to insert a candle.  Poke holes on opposite sides
and tie on a long string.  (If it is short, little ones may find their hand too close to the flame for comfort.)

Ready for an evening lantern walk with
a little boy who thinks making faces
is funny :)


During the last few weeks of November, I have found some verses we will use in our homeschool days for contemplation, copywork, and memorization:

"How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn thanksgiving at an early age. Thanksgiving opens the doors.  It changes a child's personality.  A child is resentful, negative—or thankful. Thankful children want to give, they radiate happiness, they draw people."-   Sir John Templeton

"A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air."-   Eric Sloane

"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn."-   Elizabeth Lawrence

"How silently they tumble down
And come to rest upon the ground
To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done,
Colors gleaming in the sun.
At other times, they wildly fly
Until they nearly reach the sky.
Twisting, turning through the air
Till all the trees stand stark and bare.
Exhausted, drop to earth below
To wait, like children, for the snow." 

-   Elsie N. Brady, Leaves

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

~John Muir

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