Exploring the Four Elements: Water

Elements Stackers 1Recently I’ve become intrigued with role that the four elements play in Waldorf education. Like many families, we  have the Grimms Spiel & Holz four elements stackers. We also have some framed postcards of “elements fairies”. I’ve also known of some Waldorf homeschoolers who put elemental pieces on their nature table, based on a four-week cycle. I don’t quite understand how they know which week is which, so I just try to include items that represent the four elements at all times.Element Postcards 2

What I didn’t know, and am still far from truly understanding is why Waldorf educators place so much emphasis on the four elements. After doing some research, I’ve concluded that the elements’ role in Waldorf education comes largely from anthroposophy, which I’ve promised not to spend too much time blogging about, and which I’m just in the infancy of my understanding of. Still, I feel compelled to post a quote from an interesting post:

In Steiner’s anthroposophical world-view, the whole world is a macrocosmic reflection of the human microcosm. From this perspective, each of man’s four bodies finds its echo in an “element” of nature. Thus, the physical body is of the nature of earth, the etheric body of the nature of water, the astral body of the nature of air and the ego is akin to fire. In terms of the “kingdoms of nature,” we share our physical body with the mineral kingdom, our etheric body with the plant world, and our astral body with the animals. The ego is shared with no other kingdom: only the human being carries this “divine spark” into earthly life. –

Schwartz Eugene. Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education: The Kindergarten Years [Internet]. Version 1. millennialchild. 2009 Mar 16. Available from: http://millennialchild.wordpress.com/article/anthroposophy-and-waldorf-education-the-110mw7eus832b-9/.

From a less “mumbo jumbo” point of view, each of the four temperaments is associated with one of the elements, with the melancholic temperament being associated with the element of air, the phlegmatic with water, the sanguine with air, and the choleric with fire. Furthermore, the four temperaments are associated with the various stages of human development, with childhood being associated with sanguine, adolescence associated with choleric, adulthood associated with melancholic, and old age with phlegmatic.With all of this in mind, I decided to purchase the book, Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. I was adequately forewarned by an Amazon reviewer that this book might be a bit out of my element (har, har, aren’t I so punny?), but I decided to give it a try anyway. When it arrived, sure enough, I could not begin to imagine doing most of the projects in the book, which required a lot of woodworking and craftsmanship skills. So I set the book aside for awhile. Then, I was recently browsing A Toy Garden’s website and I realized that they carry many of the toys covered in the book, either in kit or pre-built format, from a variety of boats and boat building kits, to a wind car building kit, to tops, to a climbing bear, to a hot air roundabout, to a whirly gig, and more. The cost of these products range from $5-$15-ish dollars, so are quite reasonably priced, if you don’t go overboard and order them all (no, I am not an affiliate for them). There are two major projects in the book that are not carried at A Toy Garden, the first being a marble maze, which we already own as I consider it an essential to own anyway, and the second is a waterwheel, which I’d love to make, but would probably cut off a finger if in the process of doing so. Other than that, most of the other projects in the book are doable for me, such as making pinwheels, kites, paper airplanes, etc.Playing With the Elements 2-3Ironically, Dora wanted to explore water first. I say “ironically”, because neither of us was even thinking about summer at the time and because Dora is terrified of water and currently I am trying really hard to find some sort of swim lesson arrangement that meets her needs (none of my other children were afraid of water, so this is all new to me). We had a nice water-exploration set up in our backyard, with a giant metal tub full of water (why I even own such a large metal tub is beyond me, but it did come in handy!). Then, over the weekend, Dora fell into the tub, soaking herself, and we had to put it back in storage, due to her subsequent refusal to go into the backyard again if it was out. So I am not sure how much more we will do with exploring water. So we may be moving onto another element very soon.Playing With the Elements 3-3So, if you’ve made it past all of my anthroposophical woo-woo-ness and are still reading this, what is your take on the role that the four elements play in Waldorf education? And how do you incorporate the four elements into your child’s life?

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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.

Maureen

Labels: Anthroposophy, Four Elements, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–May 5

Mt Si 21Sunday – Having time to scan all of our books into Goodreads (as I keep accidentally buying the same books over and over, because I don’t know which books we own and which we don’t!).

Monday – Peanut butter filled pretzels (though my waistline indicates that I’ve been a bit too grateful for them)

Tuesday – Today was full of things to be thankful for, here are just a few!

  • The view of Mt. Si while we were shoe shopping
  • Roses right after it rains, I love the way the water collects amongst their petals
  • Mr. Mo taking care of the tent caterpillars on our apple tree after a long day of work (I am not too much of a bug wimp, but tent caterpillars kind of freak me out)

Rose After the Rain 9Wednesday – Gohan being able to work through a stumbling block he had encountered in math. He stuck to it and spent over an hour solving the problem, but insisted he wanted to figure it out and he did!

Thursday – chai, it really helps to soothe my soul during times of stress

Charlotte's Web 11Friday – watching Gohan in his year-end homeschool production of Charlotte’s Web

Saturday – Getting the yard work and weekend errands done, despite Gohan having another play production, so that we can take it easy tomorrow. It is so nice when Sundays really can be a “day of rest”.

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Maureen

Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Happy May Day

Happy May DayIn keeping with the Waldorf tradition of celebrating a full year of seasons, festivals, and holidays, we decided to celebrate May Day this year. We have never celebrated the holiday and I really didn’t know much about it. So I referred to my handy, dandy copy of Festivals Family and Food. I was quite surprised to learn that Victoria Sponge Cake was a traditional May Day treat, as my blogging buddy, The Adventurer at Life’s Adventures, just posted a recipe for Victoria Sponge Cake. The recipe was easy to make and the cake was delicious!Victoria Sponge CakeWe had also hoped to make May Day crowns out of tree branches, but just learned yesterday that we have a bit of a tent caterpillar infestation. Yuck!

I hope you all had a wonderful May Day!

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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.

Maureen

Labels: May Day
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Using a Worm Bin to Turn Ordinary Kitchen Scraps Into Awesome Compost

Worm BinYum! That picture sure helps to build up an appetite! This year, I wanted to start using our kitchen scraps to make compost for us instead of putting the scraps into our yard waste barrel to make compost for the city (and subsequently having to buy compost for our garden every year). I decided to use a worm bin, thinking worms would break down material faster and that we’d get more worms for our yard once we did have compost. The last time we tried this, we ended up attracting drain flies, though I later learned that this was because Tertia was tossing fruit remnants in the bin and not covering them. It was a very big issue for us, since our yard is so small that the bin has to be right by our patio door. This time, I did a lot more research before purchasing a system. I purchased  a Worm Factory 360 WF360B Worm Composter and Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm 1,000 Count Red Wiggler Live Composting Worms. We’ve had the setup going since January and not had any problem with odors or drain flies, though the summer heat will be the true test for this.

Dora has vacillated between fascination and repulsion in regards to the worms (as have I, if the truth be told). She has been very involved, however, with helping to “feed” and “water” the worms, as well as helping with layering the compost materials. Overall, the worms have been very low maintenance. Once we had all the trays full, we have just had to water them once a week.

Unfortunately, this system is just too small for our family of seven people and three pets, even when I expanded it as much as possible. I even added another thousand worms, but the worms can only eat so many banana skins and apple peels a week. So I recently ordered a traditional composter. Based on it’s design, I’m hoping it can hold more. At the very least, we’ll have two systems going, so we’ll get twice the compost. I’m really hoping that I never need to buy compost again, as the first seven years that we lived here, I spent hundreds of dollars a year trying to rebuild that natural ecosystem in our soil that the builders destroyed when they built our house (this is a problem with all new housing, between scraping off the top soil when they clear the land and compacting the soil when they drive their heavy machinery on the land, construction crews wreak havoc on soil).

What about you? Do you have a worm bin or compost pile? If so, is it near your door? Does it attract flies or smell? Do you know any other secrets to controlling odors and flies (other than covering all “greens” with “browns”)?

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Maureen

Labels: Gardening
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–April 28

Tulip 4Sunday – Having a surprisingly relaxing and productive day after a rough morning. We even had time for me to cook split pea soup and cornbread for dinner. Yum!

Monday – A twofer day!

  • Secunda unexpectedly taking Dora out to the park and for a picnic for a couple of hours, giving me the gift of “me” time.
  • Tertia helping me solve the hair problem that I was having with my troll doll.

Tuesday – Dora’s rousing (and hysterical) rendition of Old McDonald Had a Farm!

Wednesday – Dora’s supposedly perplexed expression when I came into the backyard to find that in my one minute absence to retrieve her sunglasses, she had soaked herself and the house with the hose. She quickly dropped the hose and looked at me as if to say, “Gosh, I wonder how everything got so wet?” Rose Bud 2Thursday – Working in the garden with Dora, enjoying a lovely, mild spring day, planting roses while she studied the life and times of “Wormy the worm”. She later built a memorial for Wormy, who did not die, but went off to pursue darker and danker pastures, leaving Dora with only the memories of the good times they had.

Friday – Gohan watching Dora for an hour for me to take a badly needed nap.

Saturday – Mr. Mo being able to mow the lawn, which was really, really long, right before the downpour started.Icelandic Poppy 1

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Maureen

Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Window Transparencies

Window Transparencies 26Last week, we decided to play with kite paper some more and made window transparencies. We used large sheets of kite paper, which are harder to find, though Palumba carries them (I’m not sure where I bought mine, but I only purchased one sheet of each color, so it was much cheaper). I’ve also read on other blogs that people have used tissue paper to do these. Dora found this activity to be extremely frustrating. Were I to do it again, I would cut out a variety of shapes ahead of time for her to use. She really had trouble grasping the idea of how shapes would go across the frame, so she’d cut giant pieces of paper and then not understand that she needed to trim the paper or she’d cut tiny pieces of paper and not be able to understand how to attach them to the frame, leaving gaps. So we ended up cutting the project short, with a much simpler design than I had hoped to do. To make the one that we did finish, I cut out a frame from black cardstock (I just made a random design).Window Transparencies 3We then glued a piece of blue kite paper on the back of the frame for the background. I later read that it is best to start with a clear or light colored piece of paper. I will admit, that we had some trouble with trying to blend yellow and blue kite paper to yield green, so I would probably use a light colored paper for the background next time.Window Transparencies 15We then glued on shapes to the back of the blue kite paper to make our design. This is where things fell apart, so we rushed the process. I would have liked to experiment with layering a bit more, but maybe next time….Window Transparencies 20To attach the window transparency to our window, we used double-sided tape. I really like window transparencies and am looking forward to being able to create more elaborate designs.

If you’d like to see some other designs, which I have pinned on Pinterest, be sure to check out my Pinterest board.

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Maureen

Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Good Spring Books for Young Children

I created a new page with our favorite books for spring and Easter on it, but thought I’d share the spring books as a post also, for those of you who read my blog via readers, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

What are your family’s favorite spring reads?

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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.

Maureen

Labels: Literature, Spring
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–April 21

Vase of Daffodils - 7Sunday – Reading the comics for the first time in years and years!

Monday – Grateful that everyone in my family is safe and accounted for. Feeling deep sorrow for all those who cannot say the same on this truly horrific day.

Tuesday – Cutting the last of the daffodils for one final vase for the house. Their sweet fragrance fills the whole downstairs.

Viola 24

Wednesday – Violas, now that I figured out that the slugs won’t gobble them up if they are in planters!

Thursday – “2-for-1” sales on outdoor containers! Score!

Friday – I am very grateful that the Boston Marathon suspects are no longer at large.

Saturday – Mr. Mo bringing a nice warm chai to me before I even got out of bed.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Maureen

Labels: Gardening, Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Making Window Stars

Window Star 18Last week, I was going to tell a story to Dora that involved star flowers. So I thought it would be fun to make some window stars. I’d never made window stars before. The only thing that challenged me was my own mentality that paper folding crafts should stay together by themselves, as with origami. It really bugged my OCD-ish senses to use glue and tape! Otherwise, the process was pretty straightforward. I used this video from Sarah from Bella Luna Toys to get us going.

To make a basic window star, start with a piece of Kite Paper. Fold the paper in half length-wise and width-wise. Then open the paper back up.Window Star 1Bring the corners in to the center lines, like this.Window Star 2Fold two of the sides towards the middle like I did in the photo below (I only show one side folded, so that you can see the difference, but you would fold both sides).Window Star 3You will end up with a kite-like shape. Fold eight of these shapes and then join them with a little bit of glue (that dries clear), applied to the center line, as seen below.  When you come to the last “kite” you will need to tuck it under the first “kite” so that it layers properly.Window Star 4You will end up with an eight-pointed star that looks something like the star in the picture at the top of this post. You can attach your stars to your window using small pieces of double-sided taper. I then decided to experiment and made an extra fold for each star point. I ended up with some rhombas-like shapes.Window Star 5This small adjustment meant that I needed 16 star points for my star! Window stars are a great way to learn about geometry by the way. I messed up a little on this star, in that my folds don’t all go the same way. This did not become apparent until I hung the star on our window and I could see the gaps in the inner shadowy circle. With window stars, the inner shapes that are made by overlapping pieces of paper are almost as important as the outer shape, so I will need to pay more attention to that the next time we try this.Window Star 7

If you are interested in trying to make window stars and want to take things a bit farther, there are two good books that can provide ideas and inspiration. They are both available through Amazon. If you know of any other good sources for window star designs, please mention them in the comments below. I am totally in love with making these and though Dora can’t fold the paper quite right yet, she loves helping to pick out the color schemes.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

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.

Maureen

Labels: Arts and Crafts, Paper Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Yarn Along–Sunday Sweater

I’ve been totally bitten by the knitting bug! I’ve been learning lots from fellow knitters and various knitting blogs. As I’ve integrated more into the knitting community (as a stalker, not as a contributor of knowledge,  mind you), I’ve decided to start joining the weekly Yarn Along link up with Ginny at Small Things. The link up’s description is:

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr.

After my success with the knitted horse, I had thought that I might move on to something a little more complicated, like, oh I don’t know, a hat or a scarf! Dora, however, had other ideas. She happened to see me reading Nicole’s post about the Sunday Sweaters that she made for her daughters and Dora begged me to make the same sweater as Nicole’s older daughter is wearing. Dora wanted the same EXACT yarn and everything. Yarn Along 4-17-8So I am now knitting my 2nd real project ever, a sweater. So far it is going fairly well, though I’m not very far into it. I had to restart once already, because my “center pull” ball of yarn that I wound “jammed” and no more yarn would come out. In the process of trying to “unjam” it, I ended up tangling it and making a big ‘ol mess of everything. I then wound the yarn without a center pull, for fear of repeating this incident, but it is driving me crazy having the yarn roll all over the place. So I need to bite the bullet and learn how to roll a center pull ball of yarn. I’m also new to the whole Ravelry thing, but I am attempting to post notes for this project, which include the yarn color and sweater pattern link.I’m currently working my way through two books, plus the latest edition of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. I’m slowly, but surely, trying to absorb a portion of the information from Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book. I personally think this a book that would benefit every knitter (or at least every beginning knitter). It is a very large book that covers types of yarns, various ways to cast on and bind off, increasing, decreasing, types of stitches, reading patterns, etc. It also has a few patterns at the back of the book. In all honesty, when I am first learning a stitch, I usually turn to The Knit Witch over at YouTube, but this book is easier to reference when I just need to jog my memory.I also just started reading Painting in Waldorf Education. The book looks promising, but I’ve not gotten far enough into it to say more than that. I hope it is helpful, as we are really struggling with watercolor painting here and thus far, I’ve yet to find a book that is much help.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

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.

Maureen

Labels: Good Reads for Moms, Knitting, Yarn Along
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff