Well, we know it’s spring because the bloodroot has come and gone and trillium speckles the slopes. Violets are dotting the grasses, their heart shaped leaves beckoning us to take a nibble. The leaves always taste cooling to me and wet, while the flowers have a peppery bite to them. And the sight of them lifts my spirits up, up toward the sky. The children went on a walk this morning to look for morels and came back with a basket of violet flowers instead. We usually make violet syrup with such gatherings when violet’s are out in hearty profusion, which is good for coughs, colds, and headaches though it goes pretty fast in our house as a soothing, sweet tasting syrup. We use this process and these proportions:
To every one cup of violet blossoms, 1 cup of boiling water
Pack the violet blossoms in a jar and top with the boiling water. Infuse overnight. Strain the blossoms and put the tea in a pot. Boil for ten minutes. Turn off the heat and add 1 cup of honey per cup of liquid. Mix well, cool, pour into jars and store.
This year I followed the same proportions to infuse the blossoms but instead of straining them, I put the blossoms and tea into a blender along with the honey and made a smooth slurry. This has been bottled and put in the fridge . . . . a tablespoon mixed with a cup of cold water and a squeeze of lemon is very refreshing, though I intend to blend more violets into this ‘base’ over the season, play with it and see how thick will it get . . ..
For now we shall nibble on violets in the field and once the lilacs bloom, from under their branches where they grow clustered in the cool, damp earth and grow right on up into the heat of summer when they get covered by bishops weed for the rest of the season and the remaining leaves become a bit too dry for our tastes . . . . perhaps the bunnies like them then? If you set out to make some, keep our furry friends in mind, leave them lots behind!
A lady we know has fallen ill and not only has she been unable to work for a month, but is having difficulty finding a doctor who will perform the surgery she needs. She’s got an appointment scheduled for December and in the meantime is in a lot of pain. We know her through the local foods coop that we shop at; a place that we love. She runs the register there, packs our boxes and orders produce, and answers all the children’s questions with a smile and a giving spirit. We love her, as do the people she works with, who are preparing her meal’s daily in the coop’s cafe kitchen.
Recently the coop’s manager sent out a letter to the membership updating them as to her condition, and putting out a call for a little help for her from everyone . . . . . could be food, money, a prayer, a ride, a card, whatever. She gets paid on a daily basis, and since she’s taken all her sick leave/vacation and is now on open, unpaid sick leave, the manager was concerned as to how she would pay her bills and keep up with her living expenses until she can get back to work.
So we had a discussion about all this and the children wanted to know just how come it was taking her so long to find a doctor who would heal her? Little Man was picturing her walking up to a doctor, in pain and anguish, asking if the doctor would please help her, and just how could the doctor say no?? I wondered at this too, I mean what does it cost us to help one another out? Seems to me that one only gains by doing so. Money is so material, and comes and goes but relationships come and grow and grow instead.
As we were having our discussion, and it so happens that we can’t contribute financially, we were talking about what we could do. Make her cards, paper flowers, things to cheer her up, etc. the children began pondering what we could sell to make money that we could give her . . . . . this involved everything from their toys, to furniture, to books, to basically emptying out our house, and finally they had an idea: we could bake cookies and sell them, and give her that money! We all agreed upon this as something we could do, as our money gets turned into a well stocked pantry that can be turned into food and back into the needed dollars this way. We spent a morning together baking chocolate chip, molasses, and peanut butter cookies alongside of apple pie bars, all the ingredients we already had in our well stocked pantry. It was really fun, and when done we wrapped them in up, all 4 dozen treats.
Down the mountain there is a corner store that sells gas, bbq, hot dogs, guns, bullets, beer, and other sundries. It gets a lot of traffic around here. Locals and hunters hang out in the parking lot chatting, loggers and anglers sit at the picnic table telling tall tales and then some, and the owner, Rodger, lets folks keep a tab. It’s kind of like the food coop, with a slightly different flavor, a community all the same. To his parking lot the treats went, along with Laughing Fox, Little Man, Girl, and Stormy. We’d called down to the store and asked if we could sell cookies in his parking lot, and he said, “Sure come on down.”
Tenderfoot and I stayed at home and made some cards. When the others came back the treats were gone but they had $98.35!!! The treats weren’t priced, so when folks asked how much, Laughing Fox told them to give however much they wanted for however much they wanted, and told them a bit about what they were doing there. They were all so excited when they got back and filled with stories about all the new friends they’d made and the people they met, stories shared and Laughing Fox was marvelling at the experience he’d just had, all fueled and motivated by these children. Later more filtered in and we gathered around $200 for her.
It’s amazing what magic can happen when we share and have discussions that include our children, where there is space for them to contribute to the table as well, when we’re willing to act from their place of knowing, and to not only see but to be kindness in the world. It was an educational moment for us all here today, the day before Thanksgiving. We are thankful. Happy day to all of you out there.
The Norse Myths have been the subject of Tenderfoot’s study for the past eight weeks. Using D’Aulaires Book of Norse Myths, Favorite Norse Myths retold by Mary Pope Osborne, and Roy Wilkinson’s The Norse Stories and Their Significance, I was able to come up with an enriching and interesting lesson block.
The starting point was the telling of the Creation, beginning with Gunnungagap, Muspelheim, Niflheim, Ymir, Audumla, and the events that led to Odin, Vili, and Ve coming into being. Once this was told, Tenderfoot retold and wrote her understanding of the story. Nouns and verbs were underlined, and used as a springboard for writing sentences with attention to nouns and verbs. We moved on to the tale of Odin, Vili, and Ve’s rebellion against the giants and Ymir, ending with the Creation of the worlds that live in the roots of Yggdrasil. At this point the retelling and writing that Tenderfoot did was focused on tense:
Once there was nothing. There will be something. There is a spark called Muspelheim.
There was a spark. There will be something. It is an icy mist called Niflheim.
There was an icy mist. There will be something. It is water.
There was water. Something will climb out of the water. There is an ice cow called Audumla. There is a giant called Ymir.
She basically transferred the whole story in tense form, beginning with the Gunnungagap and ending with the Aesir ascending to Asgaard on the Bifrost, covering everything in between sentence by sentence using past, future, and present tense. It was quite a rythmic activity. We breathed out of this into discovering Yggdrasil’s inhabitants (the eagle, Nidhogg, Ratatsok, the sacred deer, and the three Norns) a bit more fully; everyone loved the imagery evoked by the squirrel running between Nidhogg and the eagle, carrying insults between the two. There was a lot of discussion about how this began . . . . who spoke the first insult and why did they? was it the squirrel himself who said something that inadvertently caused offense to one, so rather than take responsibility, he blamed the other, thus spurring the whole thing in the first place?
Wrapped up the Norse Myth origins with the three quests that establish Odin as All-Father. These were quite well received and immediately linked to one another . . . . oh yes, one would need to remember the runes in order to use them, and with wisdom one would know who to share them with and how, and of course poetry would come out of it, for with the memory and wisdom to understand both written and spoken words, speaking them persuasively and imaginatively makes sense!! Tenderfoot did a retelling of the quests and wrote about them, this time with attention to tidy handwriting, spellings, grammar, and arrangement of events, paragraphs, etc.
So we covered nouns, verbs, tense, grammar, spelling, handwriting, sentence order/structure, and more through the stories, which connected really well with what we were working on: creative forces, intentional use of one’s will, words and their use, both written and spoken. At the end of each week Tenderfoot copied a poem and drawing into her main lesson book, though she took many liberties in rendering them in her own way. During these eight weeks we also arranged twigs in runic form, and built a home for the Norns by a well that sits by Yggdrasil, which as everyone points out should not be above the Norns but below, since the worlds are in its roots and the Norns are at the base above Asgaard!! But we all know this and were unable to find a branch that could sit beneath the board, so a bit of artistic liberty was applied in the essence of creating 🙂
Seeing that Tenderfoot is able to do some original work within the format we’ve been using, I had her pick out her favorite stories from either D’Aulaires or Mary Pope Osborne’s Norse Myth books. She then translated them into main lesson book material. At some point the children wanted to know just whose stories are these anyway? Tenderfoot returned from the library armed with books on Vikings one day, so we did a study on the people of Midgaard to wrap up the lesson block. This wrap up covered the lives of the Norsemen, how they lived, what they did, and where they are in the world today, which led to more library books on Finland, Norway, and Sweden. So we segued into some geography.
In the meantime Little Man did lots and lots of consonant blends, eight weeks of blending, mixed in with form drawing and the telling of fables that work well with blends, like The Ant and The Grasshopper and The Crow and The Pitcher. We’d pick sets of blends . . . . br/bl, cr/cl/ch, dr, gr/gl, sp/sl/sh, etc . . . . . and spend a few days working with them. He’d think of words with those blends, write them, then read them and use them in sentences one day. Next day we’d read past work, see how many he could read back, write any more that he’d thought of then move to the next blend set. At the end of the week he’d enter a picture and words in his Main Lesson Book. Every two days or so we’d end with form drawing, either with chalk, crayon, or outside looking at leaves/finding forms, making them with sticks, or just hanging out, looking around, making observations, and enjoying some sun. This pattern seems to work for him, so we’re flowing with it.
As for Stormy and Little Bird, between paper flower making, needle felting, drawing, gathering leaves, dipping said leaves in melted wax, and relocating caterpillars, I’d say they’ve enjoyed their days at school too.
Drawing from last weeks lesson . . . . Little Spider’s First Web . . . . I put together an insect block for Tenderfoot. What I like about it is that it really connects us from the bottom, itty bittiest of beings, upward to ourselves eventually . . . . . demonstrates the connectivity of all things really well, in the way the insects function and serve not only themselves but the rest of the world too. From the honeybee that pollinates the plants while it gathers for itself, to the fly that turns over the decomposing materials for the earth. Loveliest of all is noticing how the bee and butterfly feed on purely liquid matter, like nectar, along with the hummingbird (ever notice how hopped up on sugar that hummer looks when its zipping about so fast on such tiny wings?) . . .. and even more interesting is how the honeybee can mix up the pollen with the nectar to make honey, which allows it to overwinter in its hive, unlike the butterfly that has to migrate. Much food for thought, so when we look at our very long grasses and see the clover, plantain, yarrow, and other flowers covered with bees, we understand how come mowing gets done very seldom around here, as it is with the ‘dead’ sunflower stalks and everything else going to seed around the garden . . . .
We spent the first few days of the week looking for butterflies, ants, crickets, bees, flies, spiders, and following them about to see where they go, what they do, how many different types are there, where they can be found, and so on. Lots of outside time observing, hunting, picking up, looking, and discussion. All the children participated in this and it was fun. Tenderfoot worked on entering each insect into her Main Lesson Book over the week, illustrating and writing some basic information about each one. The block was partly intended for her to work slowly at drawing and writing about a subject, more than anything else, as she’s usually in quite a rush to finish her work and these pages really ask for you to slow way down in order to get them done. Sort of like a foundation building idea, with insects as the theme flowing out of last week and what we have all around us, after all the foundation has to be practiced/built on something right? It took her a while to get into a slow flow, but she kept at it, surprising herself by what she can accomplish when working painstakingly at anything! And in the evening around the dinner table there have been some further discussions about what we’re noticing about the insect world . . . did you know a spider is not an insect? We were joined by crickets and grasshoppers at the table, Little Bird is great friends with them and they are brought in and taken out quite often, clinging to her fingertips with sticky feet.
As for Little Man, drawing on what’s around us again, I told him the story of Hummingbird and Heron, which resonated with us all since we’ve seen the heron’s gobble up the koi we stocked the pond with . . . they left a few. The story was what we worked through during the week, including writing words and sentences beginning with H (not exclusively H though), painting the story, acting out the story, telling another heron story and dramatizing it (this one was fun to portray, as the heron can be very proud and strutting, and you can add more fish than perch in different styles and sizes . . . we had minnows, spotted trout, bass, rainbow trout . . . basically what’s in the rivers around here), doing some form drawing with wool on felt, and ending by illustrating and writing a brief version in his Main Lesson Book.
Stormy and Little Bird have fallen into a rhythm of coloring, painting, swinging, playing games outside, needle felting, and doing their own “writing”. Our days have stretched to 10 – 2:30, and we have our lunch at the schoolhouse. We came up with a letter game that everyone plays in the afternoons, on rainy days this past week: first we wrote all the letters in Capitals on individual pieces of paper, taping them to the ground. Then each player draws an alphabet card from a deck (we use our pack of Quiddler cards but you could make your own) and goes to find it on the path . . . it’s fun to walk the path even if you know where the letters are . . . . once there the players stand on the letter and say as many words as they can think of with that letter, even doing the person behind or infront of them’s letter . . . . it’s a fun game and some surprising words come flying out 🙂 Stormy and Little Bird don’t now their letters yet, though Stormy can copy them and knows how they function in a book: making words to tell a story for instance, so she really enjoys hearing their sound and thinking of words with that sound, A . .. Anne, ant, apple, etc. and Little Bird digs the motions involved in hunting for the match.
The week began with our circle, which was interrupted by our dog Clover barking fiercely. By the creek were three bear hunting dogs (it’s chase season), and she promptly chased them all away 🙂 There was much excitement for a while!! The story for the week was Little Spider Weaves A Web, told on the first day. This rhythm seems to work really well, coming in from circle time to the telling of a story. Everyone is fresh and ready to listen, and the story sets the tone for the rest of the week. After the story was over Little Man spelt out the names of all the different people in the story: spider, bee, fly, ant, etc. with the wooden alphabets. Tenderfoot illustrated it and wrote a brief summary. Stormy made wax butterflies, then painted. Little Bird and I went outside to look for butterflies, crickets, spider webs, and ants. We found all, as well as mushrooms and even heard a bird singing. Came back in and cut strips of paper with which Tenderfoot did weaving, and the younger two girls used for gluing pictures of weavings. Little Man was ‘practicing’ his illustration, after which we got a small fire going and cooked eggs over it along with some corn.
Second day we had our circle, played a game of Oranges and Lemons, then inside where we recapped the story and had a lively discussion about all the people it features: where they live, what they eat, how they look, if they are many types of each one, what they do, how things would change if they weren’t around, and so on. Everyone engaged in this, after which Tenderfoot and Stormy made tissue paper flowers and Little Bird did more weaving-pictures with paper and glue. Little Man worked on his illustration in his Main Lesson Book. When we were done we went by the pond and scattered stale bread for the koi to eat. Clover hunted cicadas, she loves them!
Third day we looked for all the people from the story on the way to the schoolhouse, discussing what we were seeing along the way. After circle Tenderfoot and Little Man worked on forms, and Stormy decided she was going to see if she could copy the alphabet into her book (it’s tacked up on the wall) . . . . she could and she did and was pleased as punch even if she has no idea what they are! Little Man made some flowers after he was done form drawing, and Tenderfoot wrote about the different insects and what she knows about them. Went outside and looked for more forms, walked them, and scratched them into the flattened sawdust by the pond. Ate our lunch right there and played for a while . . . . jumping over logs and boards and hide and seek . . . . before heading home.
Fourth day began with circle, then inside where Little Man practiced forms on chalkboard. We had a discussion about ripples and boats as he worked, with the forms illustrating what he was saying about boats looking bigger close to land then getting smaller as they sailed further away. He then showed me what stones skipping on water look like, what the wind does to water, and what a rock thrown in does; it was quite fun. Stormy was needle felting the whole time and Tenderfoot was making forms on a board outside with pine needles, sticks, sawdust, and other materials. Little Bird was fluttering about between outside and inside. She and Stormy went back home after we had our lunch. Tenderfoot and I had a grand time saying tongue twisters out loud . . . . . six sick slick sycamore saplings and so on . . . while Little Man practiced handwriting in a penmanship book.
Wrapped up the week with Tenderfoot and Little Man entering the forms in their Form Drawing Books, handwriting and spelling practice for each of them, and a morning of outdoor games, rope jumping, and painting with Stormy and Little Bird. Then we offed and away to dig out potatoes.