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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Catching Snowflakes

Christmas is past, and with our two sons, it was a wonderful time to reflect on the Christ child and enjoy gift-giving.  The spirit will linger and our decorations will remain for the week.  What could be better?  SNOW... and it is coming our way.

I remember as a child walking home from school on cold winter days in our little town of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho watching huge snowflakes fall from a crisp white sky.  I would slowly meander and frequently stop to look skyward, catching flakes on my tongue and blinking away flakes that landed on my lashes.

As I type, it has begun to swirl outdoors, promising several inches.  Inside we watch and wait.  We are waiting for the afternoon when there will be several inches and we will break out the snowpants and sleds and the special dark cloth.  Yes, you read right. The Special Dark Cloth.

I keep an 8 inches by 11 inches cloth swatch specifically for snowy days so we can catch snowflakes and see them up close.  All you have to do is pick a dark fabric, we use navy blue cotton, and a piece of cardboard to set the cloth on so it will stay flat.  Five minutes before you go out, set the cloth outside so it can reach the outdoor temperature, otherwise the flakes will melt when they hit the cloth.

Once you are ready to go out let you little ones hold the cloth on the cardboard letting snow fall on the cloth.  After 30 seconds, go under shelter and look up close.  Among the clumps of flakes, you should see some individual snow crystals.


A wonderful books to learn about snowflakes and see them up close.
The beautiful enlarged photographs of snow crystals in this book put it at the top of my winter science reading list. It explores the science of snowflakes showing how they are formed and the different kinds of crystals. The authors, Jon Nelson and Mark Cassino, created a blog for the book where you will find photos, illustrations, videos, and a teacher's guide. Snowflake study is a wonderful way to use science to explore the beauty and order of creation. 

May you have time this week to enjoy nature and the beauty it holds.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Waldorf School Winter Faire

A few weeks ago we attended the Susquehanna Waldorf School's Winter Festival where we found...

The winter nature table welcomes all at the main entrance

School hallways cheery and bright

A little shop for children to purchase gifts for friends and family

Fun games and prizes for children.

The upper grades made special tree decorations

Sweet needle felted hedgehog ornaments

Ornaments that encouraged our wanderlust

Made by an 8th grade student

A tree decorated by the parents who made colorful paper ornaments


A shop with tempting toys for girls...
and boys of all ages.
Instruments waiting for little hands to make music
And a very happy boy enjoying the open-ended playground.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Copywork - I Heard the Bells...

I want to share quickly what we are doing for copywork right now.  We started copying and discussing the poem last Thursday.   Little did we know how appropriate it would be for events to follow.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th'unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
'There is no peace on earth, ' I said
'For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.'

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.'

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

May you have peace, hope, and joy this Christmas season.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will.

In the past, I have written about our homeschool adventure and how we tend to use the Charlotte Mason method and incorporate Waldorf techniques.  One of the many things I like about the Mason method is the idea of incorporating character development into our homeschool days. After all we are shaping our children’s minds, wills, emotions, and beliefs.  One of the fundamentals to developing one's character is the student motto:

"I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will."

Ambleside Online explains the motto in this way:

I Am . . . a child of God, a gift to my parents and my country. I'm a person of great value because God made me.
I Can . . . do all things through Christ who strengthens me. God has made me able to do everything required of me.
I Ought . . . to do my duty to obey God, to submit to my parents and everyone in authority over me, to be of service to others, and to keep myself healthy with proper food and rest so my body is ready to serve.
I Will . . . resolve to keep a watch over my thoughts and choose what's right even if it's not what I want.

In leading my sons toward the motto, I tell them outright what my expectations are, expose them to things (art, literature, poetry, music, etc.) that will encourage noble thoughts, and teach them of real people, past and present, who have lived out I am, I can, I ought, I will.  Ultimately, my goal is that they will apply what they have observed to their own life.

 In our homeschool days, I have introduced "I am" by teaching my boys that they have a role to fulfill in both our family and the world at large, and that they are dearly loved.  We continue to work through "I can" by presenting academic and life skilsl challenges as something that they can accomplish although it may seem to take a long time and possibly be a struggle to master.  In our history lessons, we saw that people of the past, such as David and Joan of Arc, lived out "I am" and "I can" and did great things because of it.

Here is where some Waldorf ideas/techniques come in.  I also use the festivals and folk tales to encourage the boys to think about "I am" and "I can". For example, during Michaelmas, we talked about Saint George slaying the dragon.  In the story we read, Saint George and the Dragon, we saw that he did not question if it was his duty to protect Una nor did he say he could not do it.  I also try to model all four aspects in our daily life and guide the boys to do the same, usually without referring to the motto directly, but just in a "This is who God means for us to be" way.

We recently began to focus on "I Ought" and "I Will."  We began with a poem study.

How Doth the Little Busy Bee
by Isaac Watts

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

How skillfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labors hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labor or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.

We also read about a busy squirrel who keeps his focus on preparing for the upcoming winter although many animals invite him to distraction in one of our favorite Nancy Tafuri books:

For Aidan, who is seven years old, we are reading Robin Hood for his narration exercise, a simple telling back in his own words what he has heard.  This allows him to absorb the good deeds of Robin Hood and express in his own words what he remembers and admires in the story.  Inevitably, Aidan applies the deeds to himself and acts out the story in his play time.  Aidan is also a Wolf Cub in Boy Scouts, where there is a natural focus on the responsibility of each boy to his family and community.

It will be interesting to see how incorporating "I am, I can, I ought, I will" continues to guide our homeschool adventure. What a difference these eight words can make in our lives.

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