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Archive for November, 2008

This year I’m making more ornaments that are all-natural and more aligned with the Waldorf philosophy which I follow in part when I homeschool my daughters.

Some of the ornaments I am keeping for the Christmas tree and the girls to enjoy. Others I am giving as gifts, swapping, or selling. My Etsy shop has some ornaments that are available.

Why do I spend the time and create natural Christmas ornaments? Why do I make natural toys? I found an interesting article about the philosophy behind Waldorf-inspired toys that sums up how I feel about natural toys and decorations.

Generally, Waldorf toys are:

Made of natural materials. Waldorf toys have simplicity of design. Constructed of wood, fabrics, beeswax, or items from nature, children fill in the blanks with their own minds. Children enjoy the smell, the sight, and the texture of these toys.

Open-ended and unstructured. Children do not need to be taught how to play with Waldorf toys. Playtime is kept unstructured. Children are led in play by their own minds and thought processes. Toys are meant to inspire children’s imagination, not to stifle or limit their creativity.

Multi-purpose and versatile. Toys in Waldorf homes grow with the child. Consider blocks as an example. Babies play with the blocks by banging them together and exploring them with their senses. Young toddlers delight in stacking the blocks in a tower and knocking them over. Older preschoolers use their imagination to create buildings or design patterns from the shapes. These toys offer a longevity of use and duality of play.

Lacking of commercialism. Unlike the common result of modern children’s toys, the Waldorf philosophy emphasizes that less is more. Parents are discouraged from rushing out and “buying it all.” The belief that with just a few quality toys, children will naturally push their imaginations to create greater meaning and purpose.

These four reasons are plenty of reasons for creating a Christmas tree filled with Waldorf-inspired natural Christmas ornaments, and I’m excited to see my daughters’ reactions as they enjoy these new ornaments on the tree this year.

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Had this idea in my “Thanksgiving” folder for some time now. The girls are older and thought this might be a fun activity for them to do this year.

Sophia took a sugar cookie and frosted the top with chocolate frosting. On top of that, she placed seven pieces of candy corn (for the feathers).

In the middle of the cookie, she placed two drops of frosting on which she placed Skittles. She topped each with a tiny amount of frosting for the pupils. (It’s all in the details, I guess.)

With orange decorator gel, she drew on a beak and legs.

She and Olivia did this during the weekly homeschool Home Ec class I teach. All the girls enjoyed this activity. It’s fun…easy…and gives kids a sense of satisfaction of being able to decorate a cookie.

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One of the goals I have set for homeschooling is to provide the girls with practical, hands-on lessons in which they can develop life-long skills. Sewing is one of those skills.

Olivia, who is homeschooled at the Kindergarten level, is sewing a scarf by using the blanketstitch along the side. This will create a pocket on one side.

After sewing both pockets, she will sew on two buttons for the pockets and make buttonholes.

She wants to add flowers with button centers on her scarf (3 on each side above the pocket), and she has them lined up and ready to go.

Next to her is her needlebook that is in the shape of a house. She embroidered this earlier in the semester.

Sewing is a great activity for children, especially when they can make something functional. It improves hand-eye coordination. It teaches patience and persistence.

Olivia is proud of her scarf. She has worn it each day, and tells people she made it. Clearly, she has a sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well done.

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Christmas Pickle
Originally uploaded by Pictures by Ann

The Christmas Pickle is a pickle-shaped ornament hidden in the tree. The child who finds it first on Christmas morning receives an extra present.

While the Christmas pickle is believed to be a German custom, it is fairly unknown in Germany but widely spread across the United States.

This pickle is 3 1/2 inches. Compared to the other pickles, this would be relatively easy to find. It would be good for a young child’s introduction to the Christmas Pickle tradition.

It’s also a nice alternative to the glass pickles that are so fragile and easily broken by young hands.

This one is made from 100% wool felt, and hand-embroidered using straight stitches and blanketstitching. It is stuffed with wool from sheep I raised.

The first pickle went on sale in my Etsy shop today, and the rest will be available during the week.

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Not a typical lunch I would make for the girls, but this one tied into a homeschool unit study on the ocean and ocean life after reading the book “Dolphins at Daybreak” (part of the Magic Treehouse series).

The hotdogs were cut into 8 parts at the end with about an inch or so uncut at the top to represent an octopus.

When the hotdogs are put in hot, boiling water the arms shrivel up a bit. They thought this was pretty cool to watch.

The octopus hotdogs sit on a bed of macaroni and cheese (for Olivia) and rice (for Sophia because she has a dairy allergy).

I enjoy bringing books to life for the girls, and one way to do that is through food. As they watched their lunch cooking on the stove, they shared some information they remembered hearing about octopuses (or octopi…whichever form you prefer using) and the ocean. Good…now I know they were listening to what I was reading.

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Each year the girls eagerly look forward to filling box of goodies for Operation Christmas Child (OCC).

According to the OCC website, “Operation Christmas Child brings joy and hope to children in desperate situations around the world through gift-filled shoe boxes.”

The girls went to Target and I helped them purchase items to fill two shoe boxes – one for each girl. Once they were at home, they sorted through the items and divided them according to which box they were going to go into.

Sophia and Olivia were so happy to be able to assemble the boxes this year. It is one way that they can give and make a difference in the lives of children who may not otherwise have gifts this Christmas.

Community service is a hands-on activity that I enjoy integrating into homeschooling. It is a simple way for the girls to share their gifts or time with others.

As the girls get older, it is so inspiring to watch their giving spirits develop and continue to impact people locally and throughout the world.

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Taught a Home Ec class to homeschool girls that was focused on Thanksgiving. The two main activities in class were making a Thankful Tree and decorating it with leaves cut from construction paper. Each of the leaves had something for which the child was thankful.

The second activity was a “Fruits of the Spirit Cornucopia.” I read about this in a book called “Homespun Memories for the Heart” by Karen Ehman, and modified it for the class.

Gave each of the girls a recipe to make a pastry cornucopia at home. Inside and around the baked cornucopia, you can put fruits and vegetables.

I read the following two sentences to the girls: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (This is from Galatians 5:22-23).

Whatever your spiritual beliefs are…these are good character qualities to possess.

So, I set a table with a display of fruits, vegetables, and grains as well as two books about Thanksgiving.

One by one I named the item I was holding and what the item represented (e.g., love, joy).

(Obviously, the idea I found below can be modified to fit one’s beliefs and/or a traditional classroom setting, but I want to share it as I found it so people can use what they feel comfortable with):

1) Love GRAPES (can be shared)
2) Joy ORANGES (juicy and joyfully delicious)
3) Peace PEARS (peace takes a pair)
4) Patience PUMPKIN (waiting for pumpkins to grow, the pumpkin pie to bake, and Thanksgiving)
5) Kindness INDIAN CORN (the Native Americans shared their corn with the Pilgrims)
6) Goodness SQUASH (squash out all hatred and bad things…and you’re left with the good)
7) Faithfulness WHEAT (God faithfully provides the Bread of Life)
8) Gentleness or Meekness GOURDS (excavated gourd shell used as a dipper to serve others)
9) Self-Control APPLES (Adam and Eve in the Garden)

As I picked up each fruit or bread, I divided and shared it with the girls so they had a snack and could eat what they were learning.

Reviewed at the end what each fruit, vegetable, or grain represented.

The girls really enjoyed this lesson and snack. They thought the squash was funny…and couldn’t get enough of the grapes.

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