Children benefit from taking a little break from playing indoor and getting the fresh air. This break function well right before they go back inside to start cleaning and having a group circle time. They are able to breath deeply and expand their lung and relax their body and mind. It does not have to be a long time, maybe 5-10 minutes. This time is combined with “Nature Potty”.
The first week of preschool was filled with laughter and some tears. We are happy to be learning together. On the first walk, Rachel found a Monarch caterpillar, but unfortunately crawled away and we could not find it. We will look again.
Blog entry from last year November.
We had a few birthdays in a row in November. Birthdays stories are told at the end of the day replacing the regular story. The wooden rainbow flower shaped pieces are laid over a rainbow silkie. The story usually includes four-legged furry animals, feathered birds, ocean animals, insects, plant kingdom, and a guide or an angel. Small wooden figures representing each group are placed on wooden flowers as I tell the story. The story begins with all the creatures anticipating the arrival of the baby. The guide leads the way for the baby to come to the loving hands of the parents. Time of the day, weather, the phase of the moon, who were present at birth give the picture of the baby's arrival. The story talks about the seasons as the earth goes around the sun. One year passes and the child turns one. One like one earth, one sun. I light one candle. We talk about the child's activities then. Then we recognize the following year, the child turns two. Two like two eyes, two hands, two legs. I light the second candle. The story keeps going until we come to the age that the child is turning. Usually, the child's parent that joined us will tell remarks and significant events of the past year and/or the birth. We wonder what wonderful things the new year will bring to the child. We sing happy birthday to the child and the child happily blows out the candles. No presents, but sometimes small treats are shared by the child's family.
Since there were so many November birthdays, I told the story of Father Birthday from a book Gateways by Wynstones Press. This story is about an old man who lived alone who remembered that tomorrow on his birthday, he has no one to celebrate it with. It sounds like a sad story, but the ending shows the same old man with a contented warm heart. When he wakes up in the morning, he finds an egg and a candle on his bedside table. He starts the woodfire to preheat the oven to bake his birthday cake. "It must have been Father Birthday who came to me this morning", he says and he breaks a piece of cake to place it on the heath.
This is another post I was not able to publish last year.
Our Lantern Walk and Martinmas was held right in the preschool neighborhood. Carrie and Matthew hosted it as this being the last year for their daughter to attend the Children's Garden. We enjoy visiting their garden every Friday for a walk, but to be there in the evening was very special.
Once again, we had a wonderful story of St. Martin by Sherry Lovett. Children listened very carefully about the caring and compassionate act of a person whose faith carried him for the rest of his life.
Then we sang "Down With Darkness Up With Light", "Glimmer Lantern, Glimmer" and "Red and Yellow, Green and Blue". We were ready to light our handmade lanterns. Each one had a beautiful soft glow.
We went to a few houses in the neighborhood to sing songs. They were all very happy that we stopped by. We sang songs along the way up the hill and down again. Everyone managed to keep the lantern safe.
The fresh bread was pulled out of the oven and warm soup and other items of food were shared after the Lantern Walk. They provided good nourishment. Outside in the garden, the lanterns made beautiful luminaries and Matthew played a hand drum that played mystical music into the dark evening. The campfire kept folks warm and families visited with each other under the starry sky until it was time to say good night.
These are some old pictures from last year. My website was hacked and was not able to publish a blog entry. Now I can.
One of the unique features of the Children's Garden is in the mixed aged program. We have one-year-old through 5 years old children in one group. The most preschool program divides up groups by age. One year old will be in the classroom with children up to two years old or maybe three. Three to five maybe together if lucky. Lucy Lodge who birthed the Children's Garden decided the age limit and it has always stayed the same. We try not to have too many one-year-old at the same time. One year old turns the classroom to a family room. When we have one year old, the two years old children suddenly become capable of helping themselves. Most children try hard to take care of the little one who is not talking or sometimes not walking yet. The older children use their senses to work around the little one. The caring and thoughtfulness naturally come out of the child.
We have had R join us for visits in November and December. Children brought cup and napkin at snack time for R and even set up the chair so that R can sit in front of the teacher and be helped by the teacher during the snack time. During the walk, other children made sure that R's hat was not covering his eyes.
I am thankful for the mixed age program because it gives real needs and reasons. When I gave R early snack and explained to other children his stomach is smaller and he needs to eat more often, no one said, "I want to eat too". When children understand what we do make sense, they are willing to cooperate. I admire this kind of maturity for even two years old children.
I often talk to one year old and send messages to the children who are watching and listening to me. It helps with the transition time and also when there is conflict. It is a little sneaky way, but sometimes things are better not said directly to a child with eye contact that diminishes their confidence while building guilt and shame. Softened messages are received with much appreciation by tender souls.
The mixed aged program naturally encourages both older and younger children to offer their best. It makes everyone to be aware of how we continue to grow our body and understanding, and it helps everyone to strive for the higher self.
We don't usually do a staff birthday story, but when the children found out that it was Rachel's birthday, they all asked to have the birthday story. It was at the end of a wonderful autumn day. The children all gathered in the story circle. When Rachel finished cleaning the classroom and came outside, they all sat quietly and waited for the story.
Rachel's spirit longed to live on the beautiful earth, and when she was finally ready, she was guided by her angel over the rainbow bridge safely to the arms of her mother and father. Oh, how glad her parents were to see her little hands and beautiful eyes. They planted all their wishes and dreams. The story also talked about all the earthly creatures anticipating Rachel's arrival. The flower whispered to the insect friend how it couldn't wait to have Rachel admire the colors of the delicate petals. The insect flew to tell the horses and other four-legged animals how it was excited about Rachel and her curiosity about the insects (that day Rachel dissected a chrysalis that had turned brown). And so on the whisper spread to the bird of feathers who flew to the river to bring the news. Then the river carried the news to the ocean and to the ocean inhabitants. They were all looking forward to a sweet encounter with Rachel. The story continues on with Rachel's journey around the sun. As she travels longer, she gains more skill and knowledge as well as a deepening of her soul and her understanding of the souls of others.
This story reminds us to that we are connected with everything around us in a very intimate way. Our wonder in nature goes at least two ways. The natural world is reaching out to us as much as we reach out to it.
Children at The Children's Garden seem to take this story to heart. They know insects and other creepy crawlers are living their own lives while we live ours. In special occasions, we get to interact with them. They know that the wind whispers and sunshine smiles on us on a cold walk outside. They know the mother oak tree drops many acorns which dig their red slippery roots in spring in hope to start a new life. We share the space and time with the natural world as it does with us. We share and respond to the natural world as we grow.
The children were engaged in the story and they gave sweet blessings to Rachel on her birthday.
We were delighted to find Monarch Butterfly caterpillars at Becky's Garden. Every year Becky saves the milkweed that comes up in her garden and all around her studio. Ryan spotted colorful yellow-black-white striped caterpillars munching on the milkweed. We carefully collected them and took back to the preschool building. The caterpillar turned into chrysalis within 4 days. The chrysalis hung from the container lid which kept the fresh milkweed plant, but the "button" where the top of the chrysalis attaches to the lid was different from ones I have seen in the past. It was loosely attached and instead of being attached directly, it was hanging from a silk thread. I was little worried about the silk thread breaking, but it never did.
The next 2 weeks and a half, children observed the chrysalis color turn from beautiful light green to the color of the Monarch Butterfly. The change happened slowly but every day it became more and more obvious that the butterfly was getting formed inside the chrysalis. We had picture books and magazine pictures to learn what to expect. Children enjoyed looking through the magnifying glass, singing songs about Monarch Butterflies, playing with a butterfly finger puppet, and painting butterflies. We learned how to tell the sex of the butterfly. Each one predicted whether the butterfly was going to be a girl or a boy.
On Friday, October 6, it was a warm autumn day. We played around all morning waiting for the butterfly to emerge from the chrysalis. We decided to not go on a walk. We carefully moved the chrysalis to the playground so we could keep checking on it, but the butterfly took its own time and did not emerge. Children all wished a good journey to the butterfly and went home after the pickup time.
In the evening at 6 pm, I returned to the quiet playground and found that the chrysalis was empty. I scanned around the nearby bushes but did not see any butterfly. "I missed it," I thought, but the next moment I saw big bright orange wings spread wide as if to say, "I am still here!". The butterfly was on the tip on the seedpod of the milkweed plant which was stuck in the container that the chrysalis was on. It had already had the full length of the wings and wings were not droopy indicating that it has been more than an hour. The wings looked still slightly damp and the butterfly was "exercising" and perhaps drying the wings. It was such a treat to be able to stare at the details it at arm's length. It is simply amazing how beautiful and perfect a creature can look. I wish the children were able to see the final stage of this magical transformation of the Monarch Butterfly.
What a wonderful gathering of neighbors and family we had for the Harvest Festival! We were blessed with pleasant autumnal weather. All morning, children and teachers cut the vegetables and stirred the steaming pot. There was onion, garlic, swiss chard, kale, rainbow corn, beets, tiny eggplant, pepper, red cabbage, purple green beans, butternut squash, and carrot. We added the beans that we shelled as well as mushrooms that we harvested carefully the day before. Thyme and basil added aroma and the homemade miso was stirred in at the end for taste.
While the soup was cooling, we had a lovely circle to sing an autumn song as well as play the children's favorite game of Duck Duck Goose. We introduced our names, and neighbors were given special thanks for sharing their garden that children can explore throughout the seasons. It is so wonderful to see the faces of families and the neighbors who were connected with the children. I imagine the children often talk about the neighbors who they met on our walk to the family members. Harvest Festival gives a chance for us to be acquainted with each other in the beginning of the school year.
Speaking of the new school year, so much has happened in the preschool community already. One whole human being was born to one of the families. We admired the two weeks old baby that joined us on a special day.
We enjoyed the Harvest Soup and wonderful dishes that families brought. One young adult guest that joined us was from Florida who after Hurricane Irma was able to purchase enough gasoline to drive to North Carolina. We send our thoughts to those affected by the hurricane. I felt humble just to be able to enjoy the ordinary day.
Wishing everyone a wonderful autumn and closing with Harvest Blessings:
The earth who gives to us this food The sun who makes it ripe and good The sun above and the earth below To you our loving thanks we show
It has been delightful to have the all outdoor June program. Lead teachers have planned the rhythms of the day beautifully. Activities such as painting, clay modeling, river rock collecting for the rock garden are among few of the activities that children enjoyed. Snack time out in a child-sized picnic table with a cheerful tablecloth while listening to the bird songs fill our heart with joy (and fill our lungs with fresh air!). Cups and napkins are washed and dried in the sun for the next day. The simplicity and community living go hand in hand. There are usually eager volunteers to help push the cart to the building to get the water tank filled daily. We often have the opportunity to meet creatures close-up in June. Red efts and garter snakes, caterpillars and fire ants. Children buried a dead mole and dug it up again.
We are taking care of three ducklings. Children are very curious to how the ducklings behave to a stimulus. We have found out: Ducklings do not play with a ball or leaf boat. They do eat a dead spider.
Children had a chance to make new friends and meet new assistants that came during June program. We look forward to celebrating the summer with Summer Pixie Party on Friday, June 23.
Our misty rain turned to gentle rain today. There are so many nature blessings on the rainy May walk. Children put on their rain suits, jackets, and boots and asked, "Is it time to go?" At the waiting rocks, children played "Simon Said" game. Today, O was the Simon. I whispered words into her ear. O said, "Go to the waiting tree". Everyone ran to the waiting tree!
G showed me Tulip tree flower. My botany friend, Morgan Hincks, said that Tulip poplar is not a poplar at all. I found out that it actually belongs to a magnolia family. The large green/orange flower was so impressive. Surprisingly, all intact to have fallen from such a tall tree. Later the petals turned into a boat and a bed for a fairy.
That was not all the flowers we saw today. The woodland path was sprinkled with delicate Mountain Laurel flowers. Children collected, I threaded them on a thin twig for a decoration or made one into a fairy's umbrella or held it upside down like a lantern (unopened ones). I thought the collections of flowers may be threaded to make a beautiful nature neckless tomorrow.
On Meema and Peepa's driveway, we were met by the intoxicating sweet fragrance of Japanese Honey Suckles. We collected a few and suck the nectar. Meema said I can make a graduation crown out of those. Wouldn't it be beautiful?
The cheerful daisies were open in the rain. I asked children not to pick them for they flower much longer with their roots in the ground. Children counted to see how many of them were open instead.
This morning, we had a surprise bunny visit. J's father, Alex said that there were bunnies at their home and their nest was destroyed. Alex said bunnies are getting used to being bottle fed. The gray bunnies were very little, but they already had nice fur and even a small fluff for the tail. Children took turns holding them close to their body to keep them warm.
Just last Thursday, Ryan brought two little ducklings he hatched with an incubator. I think they were a few days old. You could still identify the remains of the egg tooth when they broke the shells to come out. We learned to use gentle hands to softly hold the ducklings. They nuzzled children's shirt looking for things to eat. Ryan gave some ground grains of some sort and we watched the ducklings use their yellow beak to eat.
How so interesting that bunnies hopped and ducklings waddled when they were only born merely days ago. Human babies take almost a year before they can walk. In a sense, we are brought prematurely to the world. We develop slowly.
After we said goodbye to the bunnies, we washed our hands and enjoyed the painting day. One of the children painted a bunny. At the end of the day when the bookmobile came, one of the children wanted a bunny book. I realized how children's mind are so alive making connections to make sense of this world.
We had 10 happy children ready to go on the Lady Slipper Walk and some of their parents, grandparents, and friends were able to join us.
We took our time stopping for everyone to catch up and pointing at flame azaleas and giant ferns growing.
We stopped to have our snack of sandwiches and fruits and a drink of water. We remembered to sing the blessing before the snack was over. Everyone went on "nature potty" and the nappies were tended for the younger ones. We had one last stop before viewing the flowers. I told a story of the magical slippers that helped a young child to find her way home. This child was a kind-hearted child that earlier had given up her own slippers to the forest friend, rabbit, who had hurt feet. The message of the story also included that we must not pick the "slippers" so that in case some fairies got lost, they can wear the magic slippers to find their way home just like the little girl in the story.
We finally got to view the beautiful lady slippers. Pink ones were many in number while yellow ones were scarce. Children recognized the unique flowers and excited to show the teachers and friends. The mid-morning sun was filtering through the trees reaching all the way to shine on the flowers. We managed to not pick any or step on them by accident. Thank you children.
It was all downhill on the way back. Most children ran along the trails through the woods happy and satisfied. We even got to the soccer field where we were supposed to meet the parents an hour earlier than the pickup time. We decided to change the plan to meet the parents back at the preschool. Children walked tirelessly, that is all except for the two 2 year olds. They needed a little break here and there to be carried by the teachers. 1-year old E was mostly carried as we went a little faster than his pace.
Safely back in the playground, everyone whose legs were exposed got a thorough wash with tecnu, soap and water to prevent them from getting poison ivy. We checked children for ticks.
Another day to celebrate. Thank you to everyone for the lovely day.
It was wonderful to be hosted by R's parents house in the quiet dead end of the road known as Silver Cove. We listened to the story of St. Martin by Sherry Lovett while the sun was casting the pink rays as it set. We sang a few songs. A wanted to sing "Down with Darkness Up with Light". We also sang St. Martin's song. We started our lantern walk through the path into the woods which went around the silver cove pond. We sang This Little Light of Mine, and Walk in the Light (from Quaker Hymnal) which is not a song we sang at preschool, but it seemed fit at the moment.
When we came around to the opposite side of the pond, the moon has risen and was reflecting on the pond ever so quietly and beautifully. Matthew helped the children go on a dock. We continued on with more songs, "Through the Street of The Town". We heard some Arthur Morgan School students walking. We sang "Red and Yellow Green and Blue, Come and join us please, please do!".
Back at the Meadow House, the cozy picnic table was lit up with lanterns we made. Sadie had made butternut pumpkin soup and potato soup all I am sure made with local ingredients. She has also made delicious bread sticks and pizza as well. Mari's soup had pigs meat from Matt Riley/ Camp Celo. Matt was excited to know that I was making the soup with the neck bones. The children sure remember the pigs and now we get to thank the pigs as we eat the soup. The evening got colder and colder as the moon rose higher in the sky, but the sweet company of old and young children and loving parents sharing the food made the evening so special that nobody seemed to mind the cold at all. Sending you all the strength through the darkness. Thank you for the beautiful evening.
Down with Darkness Up with Light
Down with darkness, up with light
Up with sunshine, down with night
Each of us is one small light
But together we shine bright
Go away darkest blackest night
Go away, give way to light.
Children worked hard to cut, tear, crush, grate, transfer, pour, and stir to make the Harvest Soup. It had some special greens that Ryan dried and milled. It had miso that Mari made. It had mushrooms that we gathered on our walk. It had all the vegetables that children brought. It had love of all the hands made the soup.
We were blessed with a beautiful day for the community of neighbors and families to gather at 11:30 am. We had a circle to introduced ourselves. We sang "Summer Good Bye" and welcomed the autumn. We played "Catch the tail" game which was simply pairing up and taking turns with catching the tail. Grandparents, mothers, and fathers played with children. We were thankful for the delicious soup and wonderful side dish and bread that folks brought to share.
There were enough Harvest Soup to take home for family members who were not able to come. We wish you all a happy autumn!
We thrive in nature, and I just learned that actually nature thrives in the presence of us. We are fortunate to meet woodland creatures on our outdoor time. This snake was found on our walk on Friday walk. It was enjoying the sunshine. Children's eyes had to be adjusted to the scene since it was camouflaged well in the brown leaves. The snake went under the log pile home just like it said in the story The Gruffalo.
C made very nice cakes. When I asked, "where is the oven?" She looked around and found a perfect oven under the easel. A. wanted to use the heart shaped pan next so we decided to take a picture of the bakings.
F looked intensely inside the blue cup and said, "...pider!" We moved the little spider together to a safe place outside the sandbox. We sang "Itsy Bitsy Spider" together.
J and E worked together to play the "construction". There were a lot of sound effects. The "workers" had to stop and go to the story time and it was time to go home afterward. They will be back to work again soon.
Rachel, A and O were snuggled up playing a game. The younger ones saw it and smiled. It is true that the smiles are contagious.
The same day O slipped on a hill. The younger children came to show sympathy. Almost every day, we have someone cry for some reason. It is how they were cared for that matters more than the pain itself.
Run, jump, skip, crawl... The children need all the movement to grow their healthy body!
We had lovely visitors. We hope that L will join us at preschool soon. O pointed out the caterpillar that she spotted on a tree. I had to look hard to isolate it from the surrounding bark.
F. found a little toad on a stump. We said hello to the toad. F. wanted to hold the toad. With an assistance, he held it carefully close to the ground. We saw the same one the next day. Children almost expected to see it again on the following day but did not find it.
After the long summer break, the preschool started on August 30th. The children, parents and staff members seemed all happy to be back. We had a smooth transition back to the preschool for the most part. There are a few new children learning the preschool environment.
We are happy to have our new assistant teacher, Hadasah Micheals. Hadasah shares her deep love of nature with children. Hadasah and Mari had a quiet moment in the morning to prepare for the children and our day.
We are continuing our routine of the hand washing as the first thing as children enter the preschool. Parents and children wash hands together as they transition into the morning activities.
Preschool volunteer, Barb Perrin, brought baby bunnies one morning. Children loved petting the soft fur and learned to hold them with care. Children took turns holding the sweet bunnies. I saw some of them giving kisses.
R. is really into reading the fish book. The illustration is very lively and colorful. He really enjoys the colors and pointing out Mama and the baby ones.
We are really happy that all of us are here and to learn from each other.
The healthy social life is found when in the mirror of each human soul. The whole community finds its reflection, and when in the community, the virtue of each one is living. ~Rudolf Steiner
We were given a beautiful morning to work on the playground. We were productive with spreading the mulch around the playground. We put a fresh coat of paint on the tower structure. We worked on the fence and tightened up some areas that were damaged by a fallen tree. We tried to rabbit proof the fence so we can have our bunnies visit the playground. We even mulched the path to the playground. We took down the old picnic table and brought in wooden crates that can be used as playing structure. Parents and children worked together. We are so grateful for your participation!
We gathered around for the family orientation afterwards with some healthy snacks to munch on. Some parents expressed their excitement in starting back the school year while new parents expressed a bit of anxiety with transitioning into the new routine. We went over some "Policy and Procedure" and yearly calendar events.
We have 10 families and 6 staff members this year. Looking forward to spending quality time with all the children. Thank you so much for your participation. We are off to the great start!
Special thanks to Isak Pertee for a huge load of woodchips!
Our potluck was delicious and eating together really made us feel like a big family.
We had a lovely shadow puppet of "Bird Tree" read by O.T.'s grandmother, Nancy. It was so perfect because the story was about a boy visiting a grandmother in the countryside. We love the way the grandmother explained about how wild animals have families just like people. The older siblings of preschoolers presented a wonderful puppeteering. They came out to bow at the end.
We moved upstairs to have our evergreen spiral ceremony. Starting from older children, each one was called to walk on a golden star path holding an unlit candle. The meaning is to find the inner light, our own gift that we share with the world. The path is windy towards the center where the light is lit. Then a child will find a star to lay the candle light on and walk out the second half of the path, the journey. After all the children finished walking, the room was filled with light. It gave a picture of how much light they bring to the world.
On the golden star path walking little children travel far. Bring to us the light of heaven brighter than brightest star.
We are so thankful for our children, parents that are raising the children, and all the loving hands that surround them all. Happy Winter!