Category Archives: Waldorf

Waldorf–Inspired Poetry, Song, and Movement Books for Preschool and Kindergarten

One thing that has proven extremely frustrating for me while pursuing information about Waldorf-inspired education, is the inability to see previews of Waldorf books before I order them. My library system carries very few of the books, so I can’t peruse them that way, unless I want to deal with an interlibrary loan, which may or may not get filled and even if it does get filled, usually takes months to receive. Then, many of the stores that sell Waldorf books have a “no refund” policy on books or charge restocking fees or only give store credit. So I’ve ended up purchasing several books that I have regretted. In an effort to help other people avoid the same pitfalls, I thought I would try to give you all the previews and information that the online Waldorf stores do not provide. I do want to note that many books were written many years ago, before computers were available, and had to be self-published. Also, some books were written by Waldorf pioneers, who have since passed on. I am going to be honest and tell you if the typography on such books leaves something to be desired, but I  mean no disrespect to the authors’ hard work.

Today I am only going to be discussing the books of songs and poetry, which often form the very foundation of a Waldorf-inspired preschool or kindergarten education. The three things that I have found most lacking in these books are good typography, indexes, and accompanying CD’s (I can read music, but I prefer, whenever possible, to listen to someone else sing a song before I sing it to Dora).

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Dancing As We Sing CoverLet Us Form a Ring CoverAcorn Hill Waldorf Kindergarten and Nursery has released two anthologies, which are distributed by The Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN)Dancing As We Sing and Let Us Form a Ring were written with the Waldorf teacher very much in mind and are more appropriate for larger groups of children than are available in most homeschools. They both provide a variety of seasonal and other circle plays and singing games. Each circle play/singing game is comprised of several poems and songs put together, tied by a theme. There are some movement directions provided for the teacher. It so happens that Dora and I are very good at improvising with circle games, so these work very well for us and I have a soft spot in my heart for these two books. At the same time, I must acknowledge that the print quality of these books is not great. The music and lyrics are handwritten and the poems are typed. The tables of contents leave much to be desired. There are no indexes. I am unable to find a copyright date or ISBN number for either book. Each is spiral bound, with a cardstock-like cover. The books are not illustrated. They measure 8.5” x 11” and are 70 pages each. Each book does have a companion CD available. These sample pages are from Let Us Form a Ring:Let Us Form a Ring 3Let Us Form a Ring 4 Go back to the top of the list of books

A Child’s Seasonal Treasury (ISBN #978-1-300-11492-5), by Betty Jones is a 2nd edition  book, with a 2012 copyright. It is a softback book, that measures 11” x 8.5”, and is 139 pages long. It has beautiful, color illustrations and very professional typography (a cheaper black and white version is also available). It has a complete table of contents, and “Subject and Title Index”, as well as an “Index of First Lines”.  The poems, songs, riddles, and activities are grouped by season (there is also one category for all year round) and then sub-categorized by “verses and poems”, “fingerplays and riddles”, etc. The crafts are good for inspiration, but I don’t consider the directions to be sufficient to consider this a craft book. The recipes are well-written. Unfortunately, there is no companion CD available, that I am aware of. Here are some sample pages from this book:A Child's Seasonal Treasury 1A Child's Seasonal Treasury 5 Go back to the top of the list of books

Clump-a-Dump and Snickle-Snack (ISBN #978-0-936132-23-5), by Johanne Russ, is a 8” x 5.5” booklet of 47 pages of songs. There is no companion CD offered. The copyright is from 1966. It has a complete table of contents and due to the nature of the book, an index is unnecessary. It is a black and white collection of pentatonic songs, with a couple of basic illustrations. The music and lyrics appear to be done by hand. While the lyrics are neatly done, the music is a bit hard on the eyes. Here is a sample page:Clump-A-Dump and Snickle-Snack Go back to the top of the list of books

A Day Full of Song (ISBN #978-0-9816159-7-4), is a book from The Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN). It has a 2009 copyright. It is spiral-bound, measures 8.5” x 7”, and is 64 pages long. It contains a collection of 42 original work songs in the mood of the fifth from a Waldorf kindergarten. It has a complete table of contents and due to the nature of the book, an index is unnecessary. A companion CD is available. The entire book is done in black and white, with some cute illustrations throughout. The music and lyrics, though very neatly done and easily legible, do appear to be done by hand. Here is a sample page:A Day Full of Song Go back to the top of the list of books

Gesture Games for Spring and Summer (ISBN #978-0-972223-80-5) and Gesture Games for Autumn and Winter (ISBN #978-0-972223-89-8) are both written by Wilma Ellersiek. They are translated and edited versions from The Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN) and were published in 2005 and 2007, respectively. They are 8.5” x 11” softbound books with spiral ring covers and are about 140 pages each. They are printed in black and white, with illustrations showing the gestures. The text is professionally printed, but the music looks suspiciously like it may have been done by hand, though it is easily readable. Companion CD’s are available. They have complete table of contents and due to the nature of the books, indexes are unnecessary. Wilma Ellersiek has also written two other books of note. The first, Dancing Hand, Trotting Pony (ISBN #978-0-979623-28-8), is a collection of gesture games, songs, and movement games. Unfortunately there is no CD to accompany Dancing Hand, Trotting Pony. Giving Love, Bringing Joy (ISBN #978-0-979623-26-4) has an accompanying CD, but the book is comprised mostly of lullabies. Here are some sample pages from the Gesture Games for Spring and Summer book:Gesture Games of Spring and Summer 1Gesture Games of Spring and Summer 3 Go back to the top of the list of books

Golden Beetle Books publishes a series of four handbooks, entitled Lono & Coco Boato, Snowdrop and Ulba Bulba, Silver Story of Silver Stork, and The Flower Flamers and The Earthy Men. The books are 5.5” x 4” and are about 100 pages long. They are bound in pretty, shiny cardstock and tied closed with pretty ribbons. They are obviously self-published, though lovingly so (there is even some glitter on some pages!). They have some cute illustrations, but the photographs are of poor quality. Unfortunately, the print borders on the microscopic at times, so the books can be a real strain on the eyes (I do have 20/20 vision, BTW). They have table of contents, but no indexes. No companion CD’s are available. These books are greatly loved by many Waldorfians, so I hate to disparage them, but I have not brought myself to use them yet, simply because of the hard-to-read print. I would love to see someone professionally re-edit and reprint them as the stories are quite cute and the books exude a deep love for children. Here are a couple of double-page spread samples:Lono and Coco Boato 1Lono and Coco Boato 2 Go back to the top of the list of books

Let’s Dance and Sing (ISBN #978-0-936132-82-2), by Kundry Willwerth, is a spiral bound book, with a card stock-ish cover. It measures 8.5” x 11” and is 55 pages long. It contains 13 circle play/game types of arrangements with drama, music, and movement intertwined. It is has many beautiful and elaborate black and white illustrations. The music appears to be hand written, but most of the lyrics are a professional manner. There is a good table of contents and an index is unnecessary. The third printing copyright is from 2012.Let's Dance and Sing 1Let's Dance and Sing2 Go back to the top of the list of books

A Lifetime of Joy (ISBN #0-9722238-6-X) contains a collection of circle games, finger games, songs, verses, and puppet plays. It is a softbound book with a 2005 copyright. It measures 8.5” x 11” and is 113 pages long. The music and lyrics are handwritten, though easy to read. The rest of the book is professionally printed. The book contains a thorough table of contents, but no index. Here are some sample pages from the book:A Lifetime of Joy 1A Lifetime of Joy 3 Go back to the top of the list of books

Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures CoverMovement Journeys and Circle Adventures, like the Acorn Hill anthologies, was written with the Waldorf teacher very much in mind and is more appropriate for larger groups of children than are available in most homeschools. It provides a variety of seasonal and other circle plays and singing games. Each circle play/singing game is comprised of several poems and songs put together, tied by a theme. There are many movement directions provided for the teacher. As I mentioned previously, I have a soft spot in my heart for circle games, but once again, I must admit that this book is not the most professionally printed book in the world. It is more professionally printed than the Acorn Hill anthologies, however, with all of the music and lyrics printed in a professional manner. The table of contents is fairly thorough, but no index is provided. There is an accompanying CD. It is a comb-bound book, with a cardstock-ish cover. It has a 2006 copyright, but no ISBN number that I can find. There are no illustrations. The book measures 8.5” x 11” and is 113 pages long.Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures 1Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures 3 Go back to the top of the list of books

Naturally You Can Sing publishes song books that were arranged and sung by Mary Thienes-Schunemann. Each book has a an accompanying CD included. The book I refer to the most is Sing a Song of Seasons (ISBN #978-097083970-1). The books measure 8.5” x 11” and are spiral bound with stiff, semi-laminated-like, covers. The copyrights vary with each book, but are from the early 2000’s. Each book is about 60 pages long. The printing is very professional and the book includes adorable black and white drawings. The books have complete table of contents and some have an alphabetical-order list of the songs in the back of the book. Here is a sample page from Sing a Song of Seasons:Sing a Song of Seasons Go back to the top of the list of books

Pentatonic Songs, by Elisabeth Lebret is a 38 page, 8.5” x 5.5” booklet of pentatonic songs. There is no companion CD offered. It has a 1985 copyright. It has a complete table of contents and due to the nature of the book, an index is unnecessary. It is a black and white collection of pentatonic songs, with a couple of basic illustrations. The lyrics were typed and the music appears to be done by hand. Unfortunately, the print quality seems more like the pages were photocopied, so overall, the book can be a strain on the eyes. Here is a sample page:Pentatonic Songs Go back to the top of the list of books

****The Singing Year (ISBN #978-1-903458-39-6), by Candy Verney is a very thorough song book that includes a CD. Were I to have to choose one, and only one, book from this list, this book would be it. The songs are grouped by season, with an extra section devoted to “Anytime”. It is a black and white, softbound book with a 2006 copyright. It measures 8” x 10” and is 136 pages long. It has a thorough table of contents and an index of first lines. It is very professionally printed, with a scattering of illustrations throughout the book. The end of each section of the book contains a small nature study and seasonal craft section. Here are some sample pages from this book:The Singing Year 1The Singing Year 2 Go back to the top of the list of books

Wynstone Press offers a 6 book set of poetry, songs, and stories. Four of the books are seasonal books. The books are softback and measure 8.5” x 6”. They all have original copyrights from 1978, with various revisions and final reprints in 2010 (except Gateways, which, at least for my copy, was reprinted in 2005). The books are all black and white, with professional typography, and no illustrations. They have good table of contents, which are in alphabetical order, rather than page order, so are kind of like indexes??? Though I do have one Seasonal Songs collection CD from Wynstones School, it does not appear to correlate whatsoever with the books.

Spring (ISBN #978-0-946206-46-9) – 88 pages longSummer (ISBN #978-0-946206-47-6) – 112 pages longAutumn (ISBN #978-0-946206-48-3) – 88 pages longWinter (ISBN #978-0-946206-49-0) – 96 pages longSpindrift (ISBN #978-0-946206-50-6) is the largest of the books, at 224 pages, and contains a very general collection of songs, poems, and stories.Gateways (ISBN #978-0-946206-51-3) is 96 pages long and offers songs and poems about mornings, evenings, and fairytales (not the full fairytale). Here is a sample two-page spread from the Spring book:Spring Go back to the top of the list of books

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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: Circle Time, Kindergarten, Language Arts, Music, Poetry, Preschool, Waldorf
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

Coloring With Stockmar Block Crayons

Chickadee Block Crayon DrawingBeeswax block crayons are an art medium that is fairly unique to Waldorf education, and to the best of my knowledge, Stockmar is the only company that makes beeswax block crayons. When I first looked into Waldorf education fifteen years ago, or so, I went to homeschool curriculum fair, where a lovely lady convinced me to purchase a very expensive set of Stockmar Beeswax Block Crayons. I came home and set them out for the kids to use and three years later, they had barely been touched. I decided then and there that they had to be one of the stupidest art mediums ever invented by mankind.When I decided to use a Waldorf-inspired style of homeschooling with Dora, it was with great trepidation that I contemplated using block crayons again. It seemed, however, that using block crayons and the accompanying Waldorf style of drawing were absolutely essential to a Waldorf education. Since this time around, I had the internet at my disposal, I did some more research. The first thing that convinced my heart to soften towards block crayons was when I purchased Coloring With Block Crayons, by Sieglinde De Francesca. Then I purchased a video of a lecture that Sieglinde had given and I actually began to contemplate liking block crayons. When I finally found Sieglinde’s professionally made 3 DVD set (there is also a book/DVD bundle), I suddenly found that block crayons were my favorite art medium!Stockmar Block CrayonsThe first thing I learned that we had been doing wrong all those years ago, was not breaking in our crayons. This means that you don’t want the sharp edges, but you want to rub the crayons on paper until they are more rounded, otherwise, the lines are too sharp (note in the photo above, the crayon on the left is much more rounded and smooth than the almost new crayon on the right). Another error I was making, was not cleaning my crayons. I’m still working on finding a storage solution so that our crayons don’t rub against each other, but even when just coloring with crayons, they will get bits of other colors on them and I need to clean them by either using the scraper that Stockmar includes or by rubbing them clean on paper (I gather that there are other methods of cleaning the crayons, but none that I have tried). Finally, I learned that when coloring with block crayons, one is aiming for more of an impressionistic style, without fine details and definition. At the top of this post is a drawing of a chickadee that I made today. I drew it in about 15 minutes. The colors are a bit “different” because ideally, one only wants to use the primary colors with young children. I actually allow Dora to use all the colors that we have, as that was what she was already used to, but I try to set a good example. I also outlined the bird too forcefully for a true Waldorf drawing, but given that I had never actually tried block crayons in a proper manner, until 6 weeks ago and that I have only had about 5 twenty-minute drawing sessions since watching the DVD’s and reading the book, I’d say that the drawing came out pretty good and gives a good idea of the potential of block crayons.

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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: Arts and Crafts, Block Crayons, Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Spring Gnomes

Spring GnomesI’ve completely finished making our monthly gnomes and am now moving on to new projects! For our spring monthly gnomes, I used a pattern from Making Peg Dolls, by Margaret Bloom.

Here is what the hat looks like from the back and above.

Spring Gnomes Back View

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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: Arts and Crafts, Gnomes, Peg Dolls, Rhythm, Spring, Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Our Winter Monthly Gnomes

Winter GnomesI’m finishing up the monthly gnomes that Dora asked me to make. As I mentioned previously, I opted to design different head attire for the gnomes, based on each season. Here are our winter gnomes for December, January, and February. I made knitted hats for these little guys, using this pattern from Anna Branford. It was fairly easy, especially given that I am a novice knitter that hadn’t done any knitting in almost a decade. It did take a couple of tries to get the hats the right size, since our peg dolls are a different size than the ones she used. I also learned that it is possible to invent knitting stitches that will actually create something, just with a completely different texture. I always thought that if I knit or purled incorrectly, my knitting wouldn’t stay together, but with me having to switch back and forth between knitting and purling, I somehow started doing both stitches completely incorrectly. So I ended up with a hat that fit right and was shaped right, but had a completely different texture from the other two hats. I was very confused for a while!

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Labels: Arts and Crafts, Gnomes, Knitting, Peg Dolls, Rhythm, Waldorf, Winter
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Our Waldorf Rhythm, Or Lack There Of…

Justin12In the fall of 1994, we had just moved to Washington, Primo had just turned three, and I had finally sought out services for his speech delays (our previous pediatrician in California had been vehemently opposed to our seeking services). Primo was diagnosed with a Language Processing Disorder. Autism was never even thought about. Overall, his behavior was good, but there were times when he would he’d go off into his own little world or just become irrationally angry. Though the speech therapist ensured me that this was caused by his frustration with people not being able to understand him, I wasn’t so sure. I noticed that he really liked to have things stay the same. For instance, when summer came, he really fought switching to shorts and short-sleeved shirts. I began to notice that he was much happier when he had a predictable routine and when he knew exactly what was going to happen when. Fortunately, he was a very early reader, so I was able to establish and intricate calendar system with stickers and colored markers, so he knew what was going to happen to who and where and when every day. We very rarely waivered from that calendar. I also started keeping a very predictable routine, each and every day. He became so calm and enjoyable, it was like day and night. A Chaotic PlayroomOver the years, Primo lost the need for such extreme structure (yes that is what our playroom did look like some days when I had four kids aged 2-9, though obviously this must have been a bit extreme as I named the photo “chaotic playroom”), though he still, to this day, has problems with things being rearranged or changed much. Still, with five children, of various ages and stages, I have been hard-pressed to stick to any routine. Then I began looking into Waldorf for Dora and the one thing that has been emphasized over and over again in my studies is that children need rhythm in their day. In all honesty, I like daily rhythm, myself.Ladybug Girl Costume 2As I set about trying to establish a rhythm to our day, I needed to take into account that Dora turns into a really, really, really, grouchy ladybug in the evenings. In addition, with my health issues, my energy deteriorates as the day goes on, such that by the afternoon, I no longer have the energy to do my household chores. So I am left with two conflicting agendas in the morning, I either do my household chores while Dora and I are still rested and then do “circle time” with Dora, or I do “circle time” with Dora and then do my chores. The problem lies in that, more often than not, something interrupts us and whichever is the second task, gets pushed to the wayside and is left until the afternoon to do. Kubota Gardens 1I’m working on trying to find balance and prioritizing, but I suspect that things will continue to be a bit out of equilibrium until the summer, as we just have too many commitments that occur in the middle of the day (we are homeschoolers, after all). I have decided that next year, we will not do anything in the middle of the day, except for our once-a-week co-op.Marymoor Park 10At this point in time, these are the routines that I have been able to establish:

  • Our days-of-the-week and weather gnomes – Dora doesn’t know the names of the days of the week, but she sure knows the colors and she sure knows her weather gnomes! If I don’t get to it early enough, she has been known to set out the appropriate gnomes herself.
  • Circle time occurs every weekday, preferably before lunch, and includes a few songs, poems, finger plays, and/or action rhymes, followed by reading a book that ties into our theme of the week. The same songs, poems, finger plays, and/or action rhymes are repeated daily for one week.
  • Ideally, we get some sort of “outdoors time” in every day, but it is hard during these short winter days
  • My “yoga time”  occurs in the afternoon and involves Dora lighting a candle for me to do 20 minutes of uninterrupted yoga/stretching. Sometimes she joins me, sometimes she doesn’t. My “yoga” also happens to include 15 minutes of Choroi flute practice, which I consider to be my “mental yoga”.
  • We do one “enrichment” activity a day (in addition to our “circle time”) – painting, drawing, baking, crafting, or modeling. These extras occur on set days, so that Dora knows what to expect. For instance, Mondays are “painting days”.
  • We have one outside activity most days. For instance, Mondays are “music class day” and Thursdays are usually “field trip day”.
  • Dora’s evening routine has gotten pretty set in stone and this has really helped with her sleep habits.

Finger KnittingI would love to say that I always do chores before or after circle time and that I always go over Gohan’s bookwork in the early afternoon, but our days are highly unpredictable. My three grown children through wrenches into my system at times, I have far too many doctor appointments to work around, a cat will crawl in one of our laps and refuse to leave (or more likely throw up a hairball on my just-mopped floor), Gohan will suddenly decide he needs me to drive him somewhere, we’ll have guests in town, we might have play or symphony tickets, etc. None of these are things that I want to give up. I had a large family, mostly because I wanted a family that was always “present”, in a house that was never empty, where there was always someone to talk to, where there was a constant hustle and a bustle, where my kids always knew they belonged and never felt lonely in their own home. I have achieved this and have never regretted it, even for a minute, but it does have it’s drawbacks, at times. Trying to Do School Work With a Cat in His Lap 1One day, when it is only Gohan, Dora, and I in the house every day, I’ll have plenty of time to focus on a daily rhythm,, until then, I can say that we have achieved a weekly rhythm, which is what I am going to have to be content with for the time being. Waldorf Style Doll House

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Labels: Rhythm, Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Working With Modeling Wax

Beeswax Carrot

Modeling wax is a popular material in Waldorf schools. I have tried several times over the years to work with the material and have never been successful before. I’ve tried following a variety of helps and hints, such as floating the wax in warm water, to soften the wax, all to no avail. So, it was with a slight sense of dread, that I ordered a set of modeling wax for Dora. This time around, however, we actually got the hang of it! What I determined is that I had needed to work with smaller pieces. When I had read that one should work with small pieces of wax, I was still thinking in play dough terms. I have found that when Dora or I work with a piece that is no larger than a pea, we can easily warm up the wax and shape it as we wish. If we want to work with a larger piece of wax, we simply warm up several small pieces and then work them together.

Beeswax Berries 2

Even when properly softened, working with modeling wax requires more manual dexterity than working with clay or play dough does. So, though Dora really enjoys working with the wax, I have not tried introducing her to anything too complicated. What she enjoys making the most, is little pieces of food for her various wooden animals and doll house dolls. She’s made “berries” of every color and even made some “dragon berries’, which it ends up are multi-colored and quite large. She has also made “corn” for her chickens. I have just begun helping her to make some slightly more complicated shapes, such as “bananas” for her fairies and “carrots” for her rabbits.

Beeswax Chicken Feed

What about you? Have you done any work with modeling wax? If so, do you have any posts that you would be willing to share a link to in the comments section? Or if you know of any other good sites or resources for working with  modeling wax, could you please leave a comment about it? Thus far, the Waldorf books about modeling that I have found are a bit too heavy on the esoteric side and a bit too light on the practical-application side for my taste. Modeling wax can be purchased from most Waldorf craft retailers, but in the event that you want to know what set we are using, it is Stockmar Modeling Beeswax. There is at least one other major brand and one Etsy retailer that I know of, who also make colored modeling beeswax. It is expensive, but it never dries out and lasts a very long time. Please note, this is not the same wax that we used to decorate our pillar candles with, which is decorating wax and has a different texture.

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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: Arts and Crafts, Beeswax, Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Our Winter Nature Table

Winter Nature Table - 1

Our winter nature table/shelf underwent several transformations this season, but I’m really happy with the end result. Dora is clearly happy with it also, as she loves to have her toy horse, “Charlie”, play all over it. I had to move our nature guides to another bookshelf to make room for our day-of-the-week and weather gnomes. So now our nature table/shelf is really a seasonal table/shelf.

Winter Nature Table - 2

I purchased several Waldorf inspired postcards for the shelf and our playroom, which I just am in love with.

Winter Nature Table - 3This postcard holder is also a tea light holder. Dora is allowed to light this candle, with my assistance, at the beginning of our yoga session. I light the candle at this point in time for multiple reasons. Firstly, I am trying to bring particular attention to this point in the day as being more of a spiritual period of time for us. Secondly, I am kind of using it as bribery to get Dora to participate, by which I actually mean that she allows me to do 20 minutes of yoga, during which she might come in and out of the yoga area and perhaps do a couple of forms herself. Lastly, I use it as a sort of timer for letting her know that this is semi-uninterrupted time for me. She gets to blow out the candle when I am done with my yoga. I also have snuck in my flute practice, which I call “mental yoga” (I’m teaching myself to play the Choroi Quinta Pentatonic Flute so that I can teach Dora to play when she gets a bit older). I have told her that if she ever blows out the candle before I tell her that she can, we will not be able to have the candle anymore for that week. It is a bit hard for her to resist the temptation to blow out the candle, but she so enjoys being able to light the candle, she has not blown out the candle early once.

Winter Nature Table 4

We also have some winter-themed wooden toys on the shelf…

Winter Nature Table 5

… and a winter fairy, as well as many items from nature and a set of seasonal puzzles. I tried experimenting with using play silks on the shelf, but Dora kept wanting to play with the silks I set out and I was really stressed out that our cats would find the silks and shred them to pieces, as they do with just about anything that they can get their teeth or claws on.

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Labels: Nature Study, Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Decorating Pillar Candles

Using Decorative Beeswax on Pillar Candles 2

I find this time of year to be a bit depressing. Those of us in the northern hemisphere are still having some of the shortest days of the year, yet we have stored away all that remains of the various “festivals of lights”, which make dark and dreary December so joyful. So I thought that Dora and I could focus on making a bit more of our own light to help get us through the next two months of winter doldrums and cabin fever. The first project I chose for us to do was to decorate some pillar candles with Stockmar decorating wax. Having worked with Stockmar modeling wax quite a bit, I did not think to look up how to do this project. The wax was much stiffer and thinner than the modeling wax, so I got the impression that we should use punches, our nails, and knives to cut out shapes, which we pressed on to our candles. Dora and I made the candle above together, which Dora designed and I cut out the wax for. The design is of Dora and I in a boat at nighttime. Dora wants it to be known to everyone that she is actually the larger person in the boat. I’m sure Freud would have a jolly day psychoanalyzing that one, but I opted to smile and say “sounds good to me!”.

Using Decorative Beeswax on Pillar Candles 1

After we made these candles and I had a moment to do some follow up research and assess what went well and what went not-so-well with this craft project, I learned that the candle decorating wax can be manipulated more like the modeling wax than I realized. It can be cut and punched, but we probably should have warmed the wax a bit more, before trying to apply it to the pillars, so that it would have blended in a bit more. I also saw in the book, Crafts Through the Year, where people actually used knitting needles and other pointed objects to blend the wax in to the pillar, such that it ends up looking like the candle had been painted (the approach is much like needle felting). They even managed to have the wax color fade in and out, which I found to be very impressive. I definitely want to try this project again, as does Dora.

Unexpectedly, Dora has gotten the most joy from lighting these candles and roasting marshmallows over them to make s’mores (with adult supervision, of course). Our fireplace uses natural gas and has a glass screen in front of it, we have no fire pit, and never go camping, so this was actually her first experience with roasting marshmallows. Some of our older kids/young adults even got in on the marshmallow-roasting action! Really, who can resist roasted marshmallows (except for those of us who were missed out because we weren’t home when the action was going on – no I’m not bitter at all, just because I haven’t had a real s’more in years and years, why would I be bitter?!?!).

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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: Arts and Crafts, Beeswax, Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Days of the Week in Gnomeville

Gnomes - Days of the Week

With Waldorf education, one usually does not start any academic work until the child is in first grade and/or at least 6 1/2. So though I wanted to continue doing daily weather/nature journaling with Dora, I decided that I needed to change my approach in order to be in better synch with Waldorf philosophy. Firstly, I decided not to focus on the month, date, or year at all. Secondly, I decided that we would start using gnomes to represent the days of the week. Each gnome is painted in the color that Rudolf Steiner associated with each day of the week:

Monday – Purple

Tuesday – Red

Wednesday – Yellow

Thursday – Orange

Friday – Green

Saturday – Blue

Sunday – White

Steiner also associated a planet and grain with each day of the week. All of these associations have to do with anthroposophy, but it just so happens that it also makes for a great way for children to remember the days of the week and to enforce the rhythm of your week. Dora is much more likely to remember that our “purple” day means that she will have music class and we will be doing painting at home, than she will remember that “Monday”, which is a very abstract concept for this age, is music class and painting day. I do start off each day by saying something like, “Today is purple day, which is Monday, and the day that we….”.

Gnomes - Weather

Originally, I had planned to purchase a set of “Days of the Week” gnomes, but the I only found one set that I really liked, which was at Wild Faerie Caps, and was sold out. She did, however, have a set of weather gnomes in stock and it was love at first sight for me! I was very excited to include the weather gnomes, as this meant that Dora and I could continue to review the weather and the days of the week together. I tried to wait to see if Wild Faerie Caps would add some “Days of the Week” gnomes to her shop, but finally decided that if I was going to introduce the gnomes at the beginning of the new year, I needed to take matters into my own hands. So, I ordered some blank wooden peg people and made my own gnomes, trying to make them as much like the ones at Wild Faerie Caps, so that they would match the weather gnomes. I ended up making some of my water colors much too dark, so they are a bit intense, but given that I have never done any wood burning or made a gnome before, I thought that came out rather nicely.


Dora has responded very enthusiastically to the gnomes. So enthusiastically, in fact, that we had to get out all of the seasonal/nature table pieces and set up our own “Gnomeville” (Dora came up with the name). All of the gnomes were sent to live with their appropriate seasonal trees, mushrooms, stackers, etc., except for poor “Stormy”. Stormy is the purple gnome with the lightning bolt. Dora is not a fan of Stormy and was all for exiling Stormy. I finally convinced her that he could live in the mountains, which far away from everything else, and which she begrudgingly agreed to.

Dora also felt that “Rainbowy” should be set out on our nature table for the day, even though it was pouring rain outside. She kept running to the window and insisting that the sun was peeping out and making rainbows, I just wasn’t fast enough to see them. We finally agreed to set out “Rainbowy” as the “weather we would “like” to be having” and “Rainy” as the weather we were actually having. I am pretty sure she was just humoring me when she agreed to this though. Then today, she decided that Stormy should stand for “cold” instead, his new and highly original name being “Coldy”. So now Coldy is allowed to join in gnome activities and is no longer shunned by the other gnomes and everyone is happy in Gnomeville (except those hatless gnomes in the background, which Dora made and are “mean” gnomes who go around wreaking havoc and generally being obnoxious).

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Labels: Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff