Monthly Archives: March 2013

Gratitude Sunday–March 10

Sunday – The breath-taking sight of orbs of water caught in the stems of my bulbs that are starting to come up.

Monday – Dora asking me why vampires just can’t wear sunscreen if they want to go outside, after watching Hotel Transylvania (I know, I’m a bad Waldorf mommy for letting her watch that movie).

Tuesday – The toddler who climbed out of the pool, calmly walked over to the Jacuzzi, pulled down his swim trunks, and peed into to the Jacuzzi (which was closed for the day). It freaked out a lot of people, including the life guard, and technically it was gross, but I just found the whole incident hysterical. It really was a Kodak moment, except that none of us had cameras with us in the pool, of course.

Wednesday – The rain holding off just long enough for me to finish assembling two raised beds and Pinterest’s new features! You can embed pins in your post now!!!! Yea! I’m not actually sure that I’ll ever do that, but it sounds like it could be really useful.

Thursday – Knock-knock jokes told by four-year olds (note comic strip above as a reference)

Friday – My 8th grader getting up at a reasonable hour and finishing all of his bookwork in a reasonable amount of time without me having to say a word (and doing a good job on all of his work also!).

Saturday – 60 degrees and sunny! Need I say more?

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Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Homeschool Mother’s Journal–Amazing Spider Webs, Big Rocks, and Pompom Bunnies

Big Rock Park 3In my life this week… I saw my rheumatologist and she put me on a malaria drug. It will take 1-2 months to see if it works. Meanwhile, I’m really ready for spring. I’m not normally so gung-ho about spring, but this year, despite our mild winter, I am just ready to be done with it. I want to get our garden going and see how well our new non-genetically modified seeds do. Did you know that a lot of vegetable seeds are actually genetically modified? So many of us grow our own vegetables to avoid things like genetically modified vegetables, yet we end up growing our very own genetically modified vegetables! If you are interested in guaranteeing that your seeds are not genetically modified, you can check out this safe seed list from the Council for Responsible Genetics.Big Rock Park 1Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Today Dora and I went to a new park in our area with our friends. That is where we saw the spider web that I have pictured at the top of this post. I know it looks almost fake, but I promise its real, I even have witnesses! The photo above is of the kids climbing a giant rock. You can tell that Dora is my 5th, because not only did I let her climb the rock when it was wet and slippery, but I stood back and took photos of her climbing the rock. We did not go to the park to geocache, but as we were walking I saw a spot and said to my friend, “I bet there’s a geocache there!” So I went to check and sure enough, there was a geocache there! It was really weird, because there were tons of great places to hide a geocache at this park and I never have found a cache that I wasn’t specifically looking for. Big Rock Park 2In our homeschool this week… I tired to focus more on poetry and songs that had movement in them and Dora really responded well to them. She has adapted very well to our colored gnome days-of-the-week system and knows what our order the days/colors of the week go in and what happens on each day/color. She also has shown a sudden interest in Elsa Beskow books. We attempted a few craft projects this week. One was to make a pompom bunny. I read about this craft in several of my craft books and they all used cardboard circles to make the pompoms. We found this method to be incredibly confusing and frustrating. In fact, our pompom fell apart. So instead, I tried the method that I have seen all over Pinterest, of wrapping the yarn around your hand (I used this video tutorial for directions on how to do this). Dora loved having the yarn wrapped around her and it only took about five minutes to make each pompom. I then made some little felt ears and tied them to the pompoms. I contemplated giving the bunny some eyes and a nose, but couldn’t come up with a design I liked, plus Dora was driving me crazy with wanting to play with the bunny NOW.

Making a Pompom Bunny 1Making a Pompom Bunny 2Making a Pompom Bunny 3Making a Pompom Bunny 4

How about you? How was your week? What have you been up to? Has spring come to your neighborhood?

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Labels: Arts and Crafts, Nature Study, Spring, Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disorder, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Cleaning Beeswax Block Crayons

Clean Beeswax Crayons 1My post about using Stockmar’s beeswax block crayons last week started some discussion about the best way to clean the crayons. Up until then, I had been cleaning them by rubbing them on blank newsprint. Based on people’s comments, I decided to give a few other things a try. I tried rubbing the crayons clean with oil, glycerin, and liquid dish soap (I use a fairly natural brand of soap, J.R. Watkins Lemon Liquid Dish Soap, which I usually buy individual bottles of from Target’s “natural cleaners” section). I did not have any GooGone to experiment with, but that was also recommended by Annette from Seasons of Joy. It didn’t even occur to me to take a “before and after picture” of my personal set of primary colors, pictured above, because I had no idea what a difference cleaning the crayons would make. So I chose another two of our dirtiest crayons (Dora had already cleaned tons of the crayons by this point, so I was getting a bit desperate for dirty crayons to show you, she thought cleaning crayons was the most fun that she’d had in weeks!), and took “before and after” pictures of those. Cleaning these two crayons took about one minute. Can you believe the difference?!?!Clean Beeswax Crayons 2Clean Beeswax Crayons 3

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.


Labels: Block Crayons
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Getting Ready for Spring

Spring Nature Table 2Last week, we set up the spring nature/seasonal “table”, even though it’s not quite spring. It just seemed like the right time to do it, with St. Patrick’s Day and Easter both falling in the same month. Even the nature table seems to be bursting forth with abundance, compared to the winter nature table. One special purchase I made just for the nature table was for the green peridot, which I purchased from Our Planet’s Treasure. I really wanted a gem/mineral that was reasonably priced and seemed to me to represent spring. I cannot tell you how much Dora has played with those little gems (most of the pieces are smaller than beans). Most recently, we have taken to putting them into a little wooden “pot”, which we then put at the end of her wooden rainbow. We’ve been calling them “green gold”. She pretends that her farm animals eat the “green gold” and it then gives them various magical abilities.Our Backyard 1Today, Dora and I assembled two more raised beds for our vegetable garden. Mr. Mo has promised to fill them with soil, as that would be too much work for me, physically speaking. As you can see, our small urban (suburban???) yard is looking rather barren at the moment. I’ve put in as many raised beds as I can possibly fit, between the play system and the fact that half of our yard doesn’t get any sunlight, ever. That white thing in the one bed is Pumpkin Jack, who is decaying rapidly now. The rock wall still is looking rather ugly, as I continue to attempt to find a non-invasive plant species that will climb the wall and handle our many gray days in the fall-spring, but then not fry when the sun hits that wall full force in the summer (our neighbor next door who has shielded their wall with those giant evergreens is actually breaking the HOA rules as well as city rules, so that is not an option that we would pursue – not to mention, their evergreens are going to die one of these days, because I keep chopping off the roots when they grow into our yard, so that the some of the bushes are only anchored on one side – I feel mean to do that, but its either that or let their plant monstrosities suck up all of my plants’ nutrients). Our Backyard 2You can’t see them in that first photo, but right behind where I took that photo, we have a few dwarf fruit trees, which are looking sad and lonely right now, but they all have some tiny buds on them! We’re looking forward to getting a decent harvest of fresh peaches and apples from them this year (if we can attract some pollinators).Our Backyard 3The dirt bed in front of our rock wall is mostly used for Dora to plant lots and lots of flowers. As that is where rodents tend to come from, I don’t like to grow any food there, but I do have two blueberry bushes that I planted last fall. I thought the bushes had died, as we had a massive heat wave right after I planted them and they were completely shriveled up spikey, twiggy masses until just a couple of weeks ago. They still don’t look super impressive (to give you an idea of how small the bush is, those are tiny crocus plants in front of this bush). I imagine that we’ll be lucky just to get a cup of blueberries from both blueberry bushes this summer, but hopefully now that they have established a good root system, they’ll grow a lot bigger by next year.

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Labels: Gardening, Nature Study, Spring
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Teaching Yourself to Play the Choroi Quinta Pentatonic Flute

Learning to Play the Choroi Pentatonic FluteI want to start off this post by making it clear that I am not a professional musician in any way, shape or form, nor am I professionally trained Waldorf teacher. I am, however, trying my darndest to make sure that I have taught myself as many of the necessary Waldorfian skills as possible, before Dora enters first grade. With that, comes learning to play the pentatonic flute. Some Waldorf educators will tell you that a student recorder is just fine and I would say to them that it really depends on what you are hoping to gain from the experience. I played the recorder for years, while in elementary school, and the music quality of traditional student recorders just does not come close to that of the Choroi pentatonic flute. In addition, recorders have more complicated fingering, so I do not believe it is reasonable to expect your average first grader to play a recorder. Choroi Flute OilI’m also going to stick  my neck out here and say that you should….yes, I’m going to “should upon you”… buy the Quinta Pentatonic Flute and not the traditional Choroi flute. My reason for this is simply that it appears to me that Choroi is phasing the traditional flute out, so it may become difficult to find replacement tone blocks as time goes by. Not to mention, why would you want to deal with tone blocks that have to be replaced and can get lost in the first place? What even is a tone block? Who cares what a tone block is? I’m not a professionally trained musician, so maybe my ear is just not discerning enough, but I cannot imagine saying that the Quinta sounds anything less than 100% beautiful! The best price I have found the Quinta for is from A Toy Garden. It is currently $85, which is $22 cheaper than most other stores, but it is still nothing to sneeze at. It is worth the cost in my opinion, given the quality of the instrument, but once again, it depends what you are hoping to gain from the experience. If you decide to buy the Quinta, do order some flute oil while you are at it (you can use jojoba oil, and only jojoba oil, instead if you want), as you need the oil immediately (the flute comes with directions on how to oil your flute).

Now, I have a confession to make, not only did I play the recorder for several years, while in school, I also played the clarinet for a few years, and the Saxophone while in university, so I do have some woodwind instrument experience that most people don’t have. This has come in real handy for me in learning to play the Quinta, because I already knew how to tongue, tie, and slur, which I will explain later.Waldorf Teachers' Companion to the Pentatonic Flute 1I have bought many, many books (e-book and bound) that purport to teach you how to play the pentatonic flute, but there is only one book that I could, in good conscience, recommend. It is a spiral bound book (8×11”-ish), published by a small company called Promethean Press, and is entitled Waldorf Teachers’ Companion to the Pentatonic Flute, by John Cyril Miles. Unlike other flute instructional manuals, it is printed in a professional manner (some of the others are actually illegible photocopies of typing and/or handwriting). The Teachers’ Companion clearly shows you how to finger and hold your flute. It presents the notes in a logical order, but with the most difficult notes saved for last. Finally, it has a lovely selection of songs. There are two potential problems, however, that others might have with this book. The first problem is that the foreword is anthroposophian, which might make some people uncomfortable, but can be skipped completely without any negative consequences (you can simply start on page 7, where is says “Begin Here”). The second problem is that the book starts with the assumption that you know the fundamentals of reading music.


So, in case there are some of you out there who want to learn to play the pentatonic flute, but don’t know the fundamentals of reading music, I am going to attempt to teach you the basics. I’m going to beg forgiveness ahead of time for any and all mistakes I make or confusion I cause. I never, in my wildest dreams would have thought I’d ever be writing a music tutorial (I haven’t played any music in two decades and was never very serious at my best, Mr. Mo is the musician in our household). I feel strongly, however, that this is an area of weakness in the Waldorf community. There just appears to be a major dearth of good books for learning the pentatonic flute and this is the only book I feel is even acceptable, much less good.
Waldorf Teachers' Companion to the Pentatonic Flute 2
When reading music, you will read a staff, which are the five lines that run across the page and are shown below. The staff includes a symbol that tells you which clef you will be using. For our purposes, we will only be using the G clef. Next to that swirly, “S” thingy there may or may not be a fraction. If there is no fraction next to the clef, then the default fraction is 4/4, which means that there are four beats per measure. If the fraction was 3/4, there would be three beats per measure and so on. In the Teachers’ Companion, all the songs are in 4/4 time. In 4/4 time, a whole note lasts for four beats. A half note lasts half of that, or two beats. A quarter note lasts 1/4th of that, or one beat. An eighth note lasts 1/8th of a whole note, or 1/2 beat. A sixteenth note lasts for 1/16th of a whole note, or 1/4th beat. A 1/32nd note lasts for 1/32 of a whole note, or 1/8th of a beat (yes, that does get confusing, and remember that this is only for 4/4 time). For our purposes, I consider a beat to be the amount of time that it would take for you to tap your foot, which is why some musicians tap their foot while playing music. Sometimes the beats are faster or slower, but to just get yourself going, consider a typical foot tap to be one beat (I am well aware that any and all music experts who have read this post this far are currently experiencing apoplexies from my words, but please, just take a deep breath, remember I am writing this for total beginners, and roll with it).
clefs - Visual Dictionary Online
You read music from left to right. The note symbols look like the ones shown on the chart below. The book will show you what note to play, depending on where the note is located on the staff, vertically, but it doesn’t explain that a hollow circle is a whole note, that a hollow circle with a straight line coming up out of it is a half note, or that a black circle with a straight line coming out of it is a quarter note. The one symbol that this chart does not show and you need to know is called a dotted note. A dotted note is a note with a small dot next it (on the right side). The dot means that you increase the the length of the note by 1/2. So if you have a dotted half note, that means you would hold the note for the two beats for the half note and then an extra beat for the dot, for a total of 3 beats. If you have a dotted quarter note, you hold the note for one beat for the quarter note and an extra half beat for the dot, for a total of 1 1/2 beats. Once again, this assumes 4/4 time.
note symbols - Visual Dictionary Online
These are the symbols for rests, which are times that you don’t play any music. They last as long as their note counterparts.
rest symbols - Visual Dictionary Online
When you play a woodwind instrument, you tongue each note, unless the music tells you otherwise. To tongue a note on the Quinta, you basically tap the mouthpiece with your tongue. Your tongue stops and starts the air from going in and out of the instrument. So if the music shows 5 “D” notes in a row, you would tongue the mouthpiece 5 times, articulating each note independently. Sometimes, you will tie or slur notes together (the technical definition between a tie and a slur is not something you need to know right now, but you can read about it here). This means that you do not tongue between the notes, but will continue to blow for the duration of all the notes together, moving your fingers as applicable (i.e. a half note and a quarter would be held for 3 beats). The symbol for a tie is the same as for a slur and is shown below.
other signs - Visual Dictionary Online
Whoo! That is a lot more information than I thought I was going to need to give. Later, I will discuss the why’s and wherefores of the pentatonic scale.

If I actually managed to convey this information correctly and you work through the Teachers’ Companion, Promethean Press also publishes another book of folksongs that have been adapted for the pentatonic flute by John C. Miles.

Folksongs for the Pentatonic Flute

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Labels: Music, Pentatonic Flute, Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–March 3, 2013

Helping Me Do the Weekly Menu 1
You wouldn’t kick out a dog that was giving you the full puppy-dog-eye treatment, would you?
Helping Me Do the Weekly Menu 2
You don’t mind if I just lay in your lap a little, do you?

I’ve been dealing with a lot lately and allowing myself to feel sorry for myself, as a result. I find that whether or not things are going well for me, feeling sorry for myself only makes me feel worse. I’ve begun to feel pretty low lately and clearly a change was needed, but I was having trouble figuring out how to make that change. So when I stumbled on this Gratitude Sunday linkup over at Wooly Moss Roots, I thought it would be a good thing for me to try. My goal is to list at least one thing a day that I am grateful for. This week, I found myself noticing the positive more, as I was specifically looking for something to feel grateful for. Then, at night, when I wrote down that day’s gratitude, I’d find myself smiling over whatever it was. Over the week, I began to notice a definite improvement in my overall outlook, so hopefully this is something I will stick to.

  • Sunday – Mr. Mo being so helpful with cleaning out the garage. Not only was he helpful, but he was so understanding and supportive about my actual, physical  and psychological need to be able to get at my gardening supplies without reaching over a bunch of junk, even if he doesn’t understand my love of gardening.
  • Monday – The sound of a chickadee chirping so cheerfully from our tree as we were heading out for the day.
  • Tuesday – Saltwater pools. My sinuses can no longer tolerate the heavily chlorinated standard pools, I couldn’t believe how pleasant swimming in a saltwater pool could be – it didn’t bother my sinuses at all!
  • Wednesday – Good friends who make me feel ten times better just by being in their presence, even if it is just for a few minutes of chatting while we change out car seats and our children badger us the entire time.
  • Thursday – (Today was a twofer)
    • Having a husband who not only offered, without me even hinting a little bit, to cut some cardboard for me, for some craft projects, a job I despise, largely because I invariably end up with a cardboard/paper cut, but who did it in very timely manner, despite a hectic works schedule (without needing to be reminded even!).
    • Opening the latest issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine to find one of my all-time favorite series as the first story – a Julius Katz mystery, written by Dave Zeltserman. It’s a series that combines just the right amount of levity and sleuthing for my tastes and exactly what the doctor ordered when I need to wind down.
  • Friday – A kid-friendly chocolate cake recipe that left Dora feeling very proud of her cooking abilities!
  • Saturday – All the help I got while doing the weekly menu and grocery list. This might seem like sarcasm on my part, as the “help” was anything, but help. It was just the right amount of cuteness and silliness to alleviate the tension I was feeling from dealing with our mail-order pharmacy. Dora had started playing a game on Mr. Mo’s computer and Mr. Mo needed to shower, so I thought I’d work on the meal plan in his office while she played on the computer. None of the pets is supposed to be in his office, but he left the door open on his way out. I’d been working on the meal plan for about two minutes, before the “help” began. The photos in this post tell the rest of the story (they were taken with my phone, so please excuse the quality).
Helping Me Do the Weekly Menu 3
I think you forgot to plan something for this day.
Helping Me Do the Weekly Menu 4
What’s all the excitement about? What’s going on over here and why wasn’t I invited?
Helping Me Do the Weekly Menu 5
Here Mom, I’ll help you with the cat.
Helping Me Do the Weekly Menu 6
Now, I’ll help you with the dog Mom.
Helping Me Do the Weekly Menu 7
Oh heck, you know what they say, “If you can’t beat them, join them!”

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Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff