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”.
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.
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.
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.
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
About 4 years ago, preschool enjoyed visiting a beaver working site. The beavers had built a dam across a creek about 10 feet long. We were not sure about their lodge, but it was so fun to visit and see the shavings around stumps where they had gnawed. C.E's parent informed me that there is a new beaver site by a nearby creek. Where the creek meets South Toe River you could see the trees marked by the work of beavers. How long did it take to cut down the trees? Where did they take the trees? There were many questions to answer. We also wonder if beavers would sharpen our coloring pencils.
Beavers are supposed to be active building dams in fall so that they can store their food under the lodge for the winter. Beavers eat the leaves, inner bark, and twigs of aspen (a favorite food), alder, birch, cottonwood, willow, and other deciduous trees. Beavers also eat shrubs, ferns, aquatic plants, grasses, and crops, including corn and beans.
On the same day C.E. brought the woodchips gnawed by beavers for Show and Tell, A. brought her tooth that she accidentally broke when she fell off a step stool. We passed around woodchips with beaver's toothmark and a human tooth that was white and had a long root. Bob Johnson in Celo said once he found a beaver tooth. I had to ask him if it were orange because C.E. and O.F. who have been studying about beavers informed me that a beaver tooth is orange due to high iron content. Bob said it was indeed orange, and it curved like a hook because beavers keep growing their teeth as it gets worn from using. How convenient if our teeth can keep growing as needed!
Very unfortunately, about three weeks ago, one of preschool assistant teachers, Peg fell and broke her wrist. Peg showed children her big cast that went all the way to her forearm to stabilize her wrist movement. We had to learn to hold Peg's hand very gently at circle time.
As it is introduced by Waldorf education during the first week of December I have been thinking about tooth and bones which are both minerals. For some reason, children started to play with shells at preschool too. When we do our footbath after a cold walk, we have a salt block (which is another familiar mineral) that Amanda gave us to rub back of our feet. How interesting that without any effort, the presence of minerals seem to surround the children already. We are thankful for the minerals on our planet which support and give us structures. Hopefully no more broken bones and teeth for a long time.
The leaves are green and apples are red They hang so high above our head Leave them alone til frosty weather And they will all come down together
From October through November, we sang apple songs. After some heavy frost, the apples were so much sweeter. It was time to make the applesauce.
The steam was still rising from the cooked apples, and the sweet smells of apples filled the air. A. helped assemble the applesauce maker on the table. We looked at all the interesting parts that had a particular purpose. The spring, the funnel, the "slide", the handle, the spiral piece, and the metal piece with lots of tiny holes.
After we put the pieces together, children were very curious how it was going to work. Plop! Went the cooked apples into the funnel. Crank! Went the handle round and round. Ooze! Went the applesauce squeezing through the tiny holes. Wee! Went the applesauce sliding down into the bowl. We took turns with different jobs. We sang "We are working as a family", and also the taking turn song. C.W. was spotted for dipping his finger into the bowl to taste (or just to feel the sauce).
After we finished making the sauce, we took apart the machine and washed the parts in a hot soapy water. Hand brushes were handy to get small bits of apples that got stuck in the tiny holes. A. handed me the handle and said, "Here Mari, I washed the hitch for you". She had gone on a camping trip recently for her mother's birthday. I thought "hitch" was a good name for a handle which moves the whole operation.
We served the applesauce at snack time and sent a little sample home for the families to enjoy.
On a beautiful autumn Thursday, we were on our usual walk. Children are so observant and often talk about the changes in fields and gardens. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by well-maintained gardens, and over the year, we can see full circles of planting to harvest, and harvest to rest, and rest to new planting.
Out in the field, children spotted Gardener Matt and children said a big hello. Matt was busily collecting something from the ground, but when he heard us, he stopped and invited us to come and join the sweet potato digging. Children were very excited to this opportunity to dig and look for the "treasures".
Matt told the children that they need to put them gently in the crate like they are real babies. Children followed Matt's instruction and carefully lowered the sweet potatoes with both hands.
When we were finished digging, we washed them under the garden water spouts. As the dirt got rinsed off, we could see the warm orange color of a sweet potato. Some children needed to wash them until every speck of dirt was rinsed off.
We laid them under the apple tree in a single layer to air dry. Matt told the children that they are not supposed to stay in the sun because they will turn poisonous.
We really enjoyed the spontaneous digging activities, and thankful for Matt and all the farmers in Celo for growing healthy food for the community.
On March 18th, we had a wonderful spring field trip to a sheep farm at Ben and Cedar's. We packed picnic lunch and children carried cup and napkins in a small sack. We took mostly Celo Community trails. All the walking children walked including Opal Claire and Ginger who were 1 year old. Forest rode on Mari's back.
Children were so excited to see the sheep on the hill. Farmer Ben McCann came to greet us. He invited older children to go in the shelter to meet the lambs. Each lamb had a name tag on his or her ear. "So we can tell them apart", Ben said. Lambs were so cute. They had curly fur and long tails. Their mothers Baaed intensely when lambs were separated from them. Ben told us that sheep like to be with each other. They don't like to be far away from the group. Children pet the lamb while Ben held one in his arms. Children watched the lambs eat corn in the trough. They were hungry. Ben let the lambs go back to their mother in the field. We watched them find their mother and nursed from her. Children loved Lulu the donkey who protect the sheep from predators. Lulu is a gentle and friendly donkey to children. She still had shaggy winter fur.
We then washed our hand with soap and water, and settled by a patch of yellow daffodils for our picnic snack. Children were hungry too after a good hike. Theo's grandfather helped fill the water and made sure every one got a good drink of water. After good visit, good food, and good diaper changes, we were ready to head back to preschool.
We said good bye to the sheep, Lulu, and thank you to Ben for the wonderful visit. We picked up our stroller to carry Ginger and Opal Claire and took Hannah Branch Rd. back to preschool. Everyone was content and happy to play in the playground until pick up time arrived.
It was nice to have Tilman and his mother join the field trip. I want to thank preschool's dedicated volunteers, Peg Chamberlain and Barb Perrin. We could not have done this trip without them.
We have been watching outdoor landscape turn from winter to spring. We are also noticing there is outdoor constructions starting to take place around preschool. Pablo Cope dug trenches along Meeting House Lane and Chimney Ridge Rd. We sat and watched him control the back hoe. He allowed all the children to sit on the seat of the tractor and hold the steering wheel. On another walk, we stopped to watch the concrete mixer truck pass on Hannah Branch Rd. The driver was very friendly, and when he saw us on side of the road, he stopped the truck and got out of the truck to greet the children. Children asked questions to the driver. We found out that his name was Wayne. Children learned about the steps and handle just to climb into the cab of the truck. "Cab" was a new vocabulary for the day. The driver showed the children the panels (another new vocab) on the driver seat which showed different meters of the truck. Last thing children got to do was to pull the leather rope to honk the horn! It was so loud!
We are enjoying the neat birdhouse and colorful violet hanging baskets that Annelise's grandparents donated to the preschool. We thoroughly enjoyed their visit at preschool.
After being together over half of the year, children have gotten to know each other well. They really know strength and challenges of each other. We celebrate everyone's growths and welcoming discoveries. New friendships are forming between children. Each interaction signifies something of their relationship and careful support is given by the teachers. May all our friendship come to bloom this spring.
Old man winter came out today, and said, "I am going to make this a very cold day!" We had more snow! We are getting good at putting on snow pants and woolen layers to keep us warm from head to toes. We found many footprints that belong to animals that live in the woods. Snow reveals their activities even though most of the time we don't get to see them.
Children loved sliding down the snowy bank by the bridge to Meema and Peepa's. Vera tried to cover little creek that ran under the snow and ice with more snow. The snow kept dissolving into the creek.
One day Cosmo and Vera made snow chair. It had arm rest and was very comfortable. Ginger liked the snow man "toe man". We enjoyed the nice warm foot bath afterwards.
Most of the time, children are ready to go outside no matter how cold. It takes a little extra time when it is sub freezing temperature, but fresh air is so important to preschool children, so we always go outside. I love watching them explore the woods. Dryden is going through the woods. Up over the roots and down under the branches. Will this way connect to where Cosmo and Opal are? I see Annelise and Rachel laying down on the pine needle carpet looking into above. Are there clouds moving? Branches swaying in the wind? Children found snow on the stump to draw names and pictures. After a while I ask, "Are we ready to go?" When given a permission to go, children run through the path like a wind. In Japanese, we say kodomowa kazenoko meaning "children of the wind".
Preschool welcomed three new children in January 2015. Meladee is three years old, and she enjoys arts and crafts, clay projects (she calls "play dough"), playing and organizing in the kitchen, train tracks, and recently she has been really enjoying climbing trees during a walk. Meladee is Theo's cousin. They both get a little intimidated with cold weather. Dorothy was joking, "I blame it on Philippino blood". Meladee is so calm and peaceful when she is working on projects. She and Vera made a beautiful picture by cutting and pasting catalog and calendar pictures. Meladee's hands are very nimble. She likes to peel fruits- oranges and grapes (I have only seen Japanese people peeling grapes). Outside, she likes to peel open acorns to see the inside. Meladee has a cute laugh when she is having fun. It is so cute that secretively I go out of my way just to hear her laugh. Welcome Meladee and her family, Dhessceree and Ramel!
With the natural world starting to go into dormant period, we are also thinking about sleep and rest. We sing "The Horses are Fast Asleep" and "Where All the Froggies When the North Wind Blows?" During the morning play, children are using all sorts of things- bookshelf, blanket and cushions to create their cozy den. One of them always turns off the room light to go to "sleep". We read together "Sleep Like a Tiger" by Mary Logue (who also write mystery novels I found out). In the story, a little girl refuses to go to sleep and parents work with her saying, "You don't have to go to sleep. But you have to put on your pajamas" etc. Great parenting tips are shared. The girl imagine how all the animals sleep. Tigers are big sleepers because they have to be strong! Thanks for introducing me to this great book Polly and Ginger. Routines, comfort, diet, and daytime activities all seem to be influencing children's sleep. Speaking of which, it is way passed my bedtime! Good night and sleep tight! Zzzzz...