Little Acorn Learning

March 2010 Newsletter

March Featured Sponsor
Hip Mountain Mama
March Featured Sponsor
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Little Acorn Learning March Sponsors
 
 jump into a book buttonwarmth for childrenthe waldorf connection Exhale Blog
 warmth for children palumba rhythm of the home
In This Issue
Featured Sponsor
March Sponsors
Spring Childcare Menu
Advertise with Little Acorn
Full Moon of Spring
Cooking Irish Stew
Fingerplay: The Baby Seed
Fingerplay: The Leprechaun
Free Sample Week for March
Yoga for Kids : Tree Pose
Article: Using the Colors of the Day in a Practical Way
Article: Why we Do Handwork
Book Excerpt: Home Away From Home
Spring Childcare Menu
warmth for children
This menu is set up so as to use the daily grains specified by Rudolf Steiner and widely used in Waldorf Kindergartens and homes the world over.
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This month we will see the first full moon of the Spring season.  Native American tribes often called this moon the Full Worm Moon as the ground is no longer frozen and the earthworms soon reappear inviting the Spring birds to return.  Other variations among tribes include the Full Crow Moon, The Full Crust Moon and The Full Sap Moon. 
**Consider taking a Listening Walk during the evening of the full moon to listen to the nighttime sounds with your children.
~ Eileen Straiton, taken from March 2009 5 Day Guide
Irish Stew
 
Supplies Needed:

1-2 T Olive Oil
1 Lb Stew Beef, cut into 1" Pieces
6 Large Garlic Cloves, Minced
6 Cups Beef Stock
1 Cup Guinness Beer
1 Cup of Red Wine
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 Tablespoon Rapadura (whole sugar) or ½ T honey
1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme
1-2 Star Anise (optional)
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 Bay Leaves
1-2 Tablespoons Butter
3 Lbs Russet Potatoes, Peeled, Cut into 1/2" pieces
1 Large Onion Chopped
2 Cups ½" pieces Carrots
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to Taste
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Parsley

The Guinness beer and the red wine add a great flavor to this dish and all the alcohol will burn off during cooking.  If you are allergic to gluten omit beer and replace with beef broth.  Wine can also be replaced with beef broth if you choose.
 
Heat olive oil in heavy large pot (cast iron dutch oven is best)  Add beef and sauté until brown on all sides.
 
Add garlic and sauté 1 minute, making sure not to burn the garlic. Add beef stock, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, rapadura, thyme, Worcestershire sauce,  star anise (if using) and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
 
While the meat and stock is simmering, melt butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion and carrots. Sauté vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside until the beef stew in step one has simmered for one hour.
 
Add vegetables to beef stew. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 40 minutes.  Spoon off fat if there seems to be a lot. Add seasalt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve. 

 
This recipe was graciously provided by Tanya Carwyn.  Tanya is a Certified clinical Herbalist and Nutritionist and real food fanatic.  She lives with her two young daughters in Colorado. 
 
'The Baby Seed' - A Fingerplay
~Eileen Straiton
 
A baby seed fell from above and landed in my hand
(left palm up - right finger starting high and swirling down onto left palm)
 
It asked if I could tuck it in, deep down within the sand
(close left fingers over palm enclosing right finger inside)
 
Each morning on my way to school I stopped to say hello
(make walking motion with right hand and wave hello)
 
One day it popped its head out high and asked if it could go
(left hand open palm down - bring right finger up through bottom and out through left finger spaces)
 
I took a pot and dug it up and carried it along
(make cup with left hand and pretend to shovel with right)
 
And planted it in front of school and sung to it this song:
(pretend to pick up pot and move it and place it down to the side)
 
My little seed you spoke to me in words that have no sound
(place finger to lips to make 'quiet' gesture)
 
I heard your wish and cared for you and placed you in the ground
(cup ear with hand and tap ground or flat surface)
 
And now you've come to brighten up the lives of all who see
(motion arms up and around to symbolize 'sun')
 
The little seed that grew so strong into a great big tree
(outstretch arms with fingers hanging downward like a 'tree')
warmth for children
The Leprechaun
 
A leprechaun is small and green,
(Put hand to indicate a short leprechaun)

He hides where he cannot be seen
(Cover eyes)

But if you catch one on this day
(Shake finger),

He must give his gold away.
(jump up and down)
 
March Guides from Little Acorn Learning
 
We are now offering both a 3-day and 5-day program option for your natural learning experience! **The Books will be Emailed to You Within 48 Hours of Your Order!  
Please note that the files are sent to the email address listed in your PayPal Profile.
Free Sample Week for March!
 Grow Your Own Easter Basket Grass...
 
easter baskets 

This is an extra week that is not included in our regular March 5 Day program!  Add it on to the end of your month and enjoy!  xoxo 

Yoga for Kids : Tree Pose

 tree pose
The taps are in the maple trees. Tiny buds are beginning to form on the wispy ends of branches. The trees are waking up from their winter slumber. Celebrate the grace and beauty and many forms of the tree by practicing Tree Pose.
 
Begin with these (or similar) questions for the children:

Do you have a favorite tree?
Can you picture it in your mind's eye?
What does your tree look like?
What does it feel like?
Is it BIG and TALL like a towering White Pine or is it light and flowing like a Weeping Willow?
Does it have needles on it?
Or leaves?
Fruit?
Or flowers?

Shhh...don't tell us anything about your tree just yet.  Instead, let's use our bodies to show what our trees look like.
 
Help the children build the pose from the ground up.
Let's begin at the very bottom of our trees - the place where our tree connects with and reaches into the Earth. What is this place called? (The roots.)
Let's imagine the roots of our trees stretching out of our feet and growing into the Earth.
 
Some trees like very wet soil so they choose to live next to a river or in a marshy area. Others like dry, sandy soil and prefer to be high on a hill or on the edge of a sandy beach. Every tree has different needs and different gifts to share with the world. What kind of soil does your tree like?

Can you feel your roots stretching right out of the bottoms of your feet, reaching around in the soil and gathering nourishment to help you grow?
Now let's imagine our legs and our bodies are the trunks of our trees. Is the trunk of your tree straight and tall or is it winding and bumpy? Are there any holes in the trunk of your tree? If there are, perhaps an animal has made its home in the hole. Is your tree trunk home to any animals?

Remember...don't tell us anything about your tree just yet. (We'll do that later.) For now use your body to show us about your tree!
 
Now that we have our roots firmly planted into the Earth and our strong trunks growing out of our roots. What do our trees need next? (Branches. Leaves. Flowers. Etc.)
 
Think about your tree and the picture you made in your mind's eye. How do the branches of your tree look and feel? Wiggle your hands and arms and then let them move into the shape of your tree's branches.
Use your own words here to express things like: What beautiful trees I see. Tall ones. Short ones. Bumpy ones. Smooth ones.  Each one is unique and they are all so beautiful.
Let's all take three deep breaths together here in Tree Pose.
 
Optional Activity:
 
If your children would enjoy more physical challenge, you can invite them to lift one foot off the ground and balance on one leg in their Tree Pose. Then return that foot to the ground and balance on the opposite leg. You can also help them imagine a softly blowing breeze, and invite them to gently bend from side to side and move their trees in the breeze.
 
Follow-up:
 
Invite the children to express in words, painting, or drawing about their trees - where they live, what they look like, what animals live in or around them etc.
 
Erin Barrette Goodman is a yoga teacher, writer and mother of two in Southern Rhode Island. She is the founder of the RI Birth Network, which promotes empowered decision-making during the child-bearing years and the creator of Mamasté Mothers Circles, a monthly gathering at All That Matters in Wakefield, RI. She blogs at
exhale.return to center.  
Using the Colors of the Day in a Practical Way

From the first time I read about Steiner's Colors of the Day, I was in love with the idea. I believe that rhythm is important, especially for young children. I like to have routines in place to use as anchor points in the days and weeks.  As a mom who is balancing work, homeschooling, and family life I appreciate it when those aspects of our rhythm are simple and easy to implement. Adding color into our days meets all of those requirements.

The Colors of the Day are:
 
Monday - Purple
Tuesday - Red (in our house we include Pink)
Wednesday - Yellow
Thursday - Orange
Friday - Green
Saturday - Indigo blue
Sunday - White
 
I endeavor to weave the colors gently into the fabric of our days.  I am subtle about it. I do not announce "Hey, it is RED day"" and we don't dress in head to toe in only that day's color. However, I am mindful of the choices I make when setting out clothing, art supplies, setting the table, and going through out the general business of the day.

I like to keep it simple.  Little Acorn Learning's monthly guides and menus have been fantastic for this for our family because they  incorporate the colors of the day, as well as the grains of the day, in their routines.  It is very easy to just follow along with the guide each week and add color to our crafting, painting, coloring, and our meals.

Here are some other ways that we include the colors in our days:
 
setting the table with a tablecloth or cloth napkins in the color
using colored tableware
displaying a vase of flowers or a candle in the color
taking a walk outside and looking for the color in nature
serving fruit and/or vegetables in the color
we love smoothies in the colors of the day (yes, even green smoothies)
dressing in the colors each day
 
While initially I added the colors of the day to give us another layer to our rhythm, they have provided our family with other benefits, including the fact that my children learn their colors in a natural, gentle way. Observing the colors has given us another aspect of nature to appreciate as we search for the colors during our time outdoors. We discover different fruits and vegetables as we seek to include color into our diets.

From a practical standpoint, the concept of dressing with the colors has simplified getting the children dressed each day, organizing their wardrobes, and streamlined our clothing purchase decisions. The laundry is easier to sort now and I have found that I am actually spending less time on the chore each week now that our clothing is simplified.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how you can incorporate color into your daily lives.  For our family, this has been a fun addition to our rhythm and one that have been well worth the minimal effort it takes to be mindful about adding color into our lives.

Kara Fleck
editor, Simple Kids
Uncomplicated Parenting in a Complex World
Why We Do Handwork
 
As a yoga teacher, one of the biggest statements I hear made is "I can't do yoga, I'm not flexible" . What I get stumped on though, is that is the whole point of yoga, to become flexible.
 
Handwork can be looked at in much the same way. Many moms and dads believe that because they may not have the experience of working with knitting, crocheting, painting, drawing, woodworking, etc. that they are not qualified or capable of teaching handwork to their children. The whole point of teaching our children is to give them new skills, new ways of looking at their world, and if that means that we learn together, well I think that might even be more fun.
 
One wonderful thing that I have found is that children love to learn right along side their parents. The idea of finger knitting with my mom would have thrilled me, and when I learned to embroider, my then 5 year old son was right there learning at the same pace.
 
handwork1
 
In Waldorf education, handwork is not just a way to pass the time, but more of a way to ensure that the intellectual needs of our children are being met. Waldorf puts the strongest emphasis on handwork than any other pedagogical system. Rudolf Steiner believed that knitting, felting, beeswax modeling and other forms of handwork should be learned even before a child is taught to read and write.
 
Eugene Spitzer states, in his article Discover Waldorf Education: Knitting and Intellectual Development,  that  "Recent neurological research tends to confirm that mobility and dexterity in the fine motor muscles, especially in the hand, may stimulate cellular development in the brain, and so strengthen the physical foundation of thinking. "
 
handwork2
 
The idea here becomes that handwork strengthens the development of fine motor skills, and becomes a foundation for building strong intellectual capacities. Of course, one cannot deny that  along with the intellectual development, children who are exposed to the world of art and handwork also stand a greater chance for imaginative and creative development as well.
Steiner also believed, and stressed greatly, that children who used handwork in their daily lives were much more connected to the world around them, and understood themselves to be unique creatures within that world. For instance, if you put five children in a room, and gave each of them the same ball of red yarn, and a set of knitting needles, each child is bound to create something different than the others in the room. Children learn their uniqueness through their experiences, and handwork gives them a true sense of their individuality.
Finally, handwork helps connect children to the process of the things that they come into contact with daily.

In Waldorf education, children are encouraged, when beginning the process of finger knitting for instance, to visit a sheep farm, pet the sheep, watch the sheep being sheared, wash and card wool, and watch it being spun into yarn. To fully understand how things are created is something that children of the past few generations have severely lacked, and being disconnected from the process of creation means that children do not feel connection with what they are wearing, eating, buying, and therefore become less concerned with the how of life, and more concerned with the how much.

Handwork in Waldorf education is a main part of how children are taught, and how they learn. Simple activities can have large impacts, and I believe that it is a main draw for my so many of us who feel comfortable and in tune with the Waldorf philosophy.

In the coming months, I will explore the benefits and techniques for different types of handwork, from the very young, up to the older grades - for both child and adult.

For now, just simply picking up a set of buttons, and letting your little one sort them by color, shape or type, or allowing them to braid, toss or wind yarn is good enough. The basics - the beginning - is the only place to start. 
 
Heather Fontenot is a mother of two two boys living on the front range of Northern Colorado. She is a freelance writer and artist who co-edits the online family magazine, Rhythm of The Home Heather homeschools her children in the Waldorf tradition, and focuses on the connection between nature and art. Heather also writes the blog, Shivaya Naturals where she chronicles her life as a mother, artist, and gluten free baker.

 
Little Acorn Learning is truly grateful to both Cynthia Aldinger and Mary O'Connell for providing this excerpt from the book Home Away From Home: LifeWays Care of Children and Families by Cynthia Aldinger and Mary O'Connell, available by early summer 2010.  This book may be ordered directly from LifeWays North America, 403 Piney Oak Dr., Norman, OK  73072 or at ck.aldinger@sbcglobal.net.
 
heart and soul 
Outdoor Environments

 
            Just recently I came across a blog called Free Range Kids and was inspired by the writing of this young woman who recognizes the importance of children playing outside without the feeling of constant supervision or adult-guided play. In licensed childcare, of course, we must establish safe outdoor play environments and we may find ourselves needing to put on our children's advocate hats. The first center in which I worked was able to license our backyard tree as a piece of climbing equipment. We were required to put wood chips beneath it, but that felt like a small compromise in order to preserve our children's right to climb trees.
 
            In establishing backyard environments, consider the possibility of bushes, trees or even a small building structure in which the children can sense that clubhousefeeling of closeness. Included below is a list of other ideas to inspire creative outdoor environments and experiences.
 
            Fortunately there is a growing body of research upholding the awareness that children tend to thrive in nature. Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods has re-awakened this awareness to the extent that spending time in nature is now considered therapeutic activity for children with a variety of challenges. My own experience with children exposed to screen time (television, video games, computers) is that nature can help to heal the negative impact the screen time has on them. It requires a commitment on the part of the adults, however, to be sure the nature experiences are available to the children in their care and that there is at least a 2:1 or even a 3:1 ratio of nature time to screen time (e.g., two or three hours of nature time to one hour of screen time).
 
If a child gets home from school at 3:30 p.m. and is going to be in bed by 7:30 p.m. and have an hour devoted to eating and preparing for sleep, that leaves about three hours in the afternoon. This tells me that it is probably best to leave any screen time to the weekends when there is more time to offer the therapeutic nature time to counterbalance it. If a family has Friday night movie night, for example, and the children are allowed two hours of other screen time over the weekend, they would want to be sure the children had at least ten hours of nature time also. That could look like an hour of outdoor playtime each week day and five hours of outdoor playtime over the weekend.
 
            I discovered this ratio when I was a kindergarten teacher and had wonderful conversations with a father of three children for whom I was their teacher. In a warm and friendly manner, we would banter back and forth regarding my desire for his children to have less exposure to television and movies and his retort to look at his children and see how balanced they were. How could I argue with him when they were indeed three of the most peaceful children in my kindergarten over the years. One thing I noticed was that, rather than screen time ramping them up and making them hyperactive (what I usually noticed in children), his children tended to be more lethargic and tired after they experienced screen time. Still, they were basically very happy, balanced children. After puzzling over this for months, I realized that these children spent a large amount of time with their father in nature - hiking, boating, and working in the garden. Taking note of this, I starting noticing this with other children and was delighted when Louv came out with his book corroborating the healing effects of nature.
 
            In the meantime, even the American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents not to expose children under two to screen time, and there is a growing recognition that it is best for all children, especially those under seven, to have limited exposure. Interesting, isn't it, that in this section on nature, we ended up considering screen time! I think that is because we are seeing less and less children outside - with the exception of organized sports - due to the fact that they are inside on computers and in front of televisions. Our resolution in LifeWays homes and centers is not to have any screen time.
 
            Children in our LifeWays settings go outside every day with few exceptions. Mary O'Connell tells of one day when their licensing specialist visited on a snowy day in Milwaukee and was surprised to find all of the children at the center outside playing. He was very pleased yet admitted that this was the only center he had visited that day in which the children had gone outside.
 
            Why is nature experience so important? If we revisit our awareness that young children learn through sensory experience and the ability to move their bodies, there are few places that provide such a variety of experience as natural environments. The more they are allowed to do their climbing, slithering, rolling, shouting, running, tunneling, hiding, digging, and exploring in nature, the more we are free to create really  homelike indoor environments rather than curricular-driven indoor play gyms.
 
            Another valuable outdoor experience is the neighborhood walk, where the children can get a feel for the life of the neighborhood - Mrs. A's lovely garden, Mr. B's new sidewalk, Ms. C's dog who always comes out to greet and meet. I love a photograph I have where Mary and the children in her home program were on a neighborhood walk. The photo was taken by a school crossing guard who had come to know them because of the regularity of their walks. He had become an extension of their childcare family. Being outside, being in nature, has a way of helping us feel more expansive, not only to wonders and glories of the natural world, but also to one another.
 
            One further word on the outdoor environments is a word of encouragement to seek places, whenever possible, that are not overly cultivated. Louv has indicated that the wilder or greener the space, the more therapeutic it is for children. From backyard to playground to forest, the level of health-restoring properties increases proportionally to the level of uncultivated nature. Finding such places is not always possible, particularly if you are in the city. In that case, it might be worthwhile to consider having an area in the yard that has tall grasses and wildflowers, for example, or some areas where the children can feel they are hidden away, even though the caregivers know at all times where they are. 
 
            There is no truer science curriculum for young children than giving them the opportunity to experience and explore. It is not about offering theory and facts to what it is that they observe. Is it about leaving them free in the experience that nature speaks to them. In this way, when they grow older, their sense of wonder as a child can metamorphosis into a sense of responsibility and interest in world around them. Rachel Carson, the mother of the environmental movement and author of Silent Spring wrote: 
 
 ~
If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.
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