Archive for February, 2008

Thanks to a delayed opening, Liam and I were able to make fresh dumplings (more like whole wheat clazones) filled with yummy vegies for February 7th, and we ate them for luck for our upcoming year. We read Tenzin’s Deer by Barbara Soros (Thank you Tony) about a boy who nurses a deer back to health by listening to his dreams, the voice of the deer, and his own heart. We have echoed the prayers we learned in this book, and will continue to do so. They are: “May no harm come to us. May we love each other well. May we be kind to all the creatures of the earth.” Today we did an abbreviated spirit walk against the backdrop of the magical snow covered trees and mountains, and we uttered the prayers as we walked quietly into the splendorous, glistening world. Blessed be this learning community.Usually with a delay, we stick to the basics of our day, and have art projects, outside time, our circles (with reading aloud) and our eating times and that’s that. The snow has been magical up here (with no wind and the snow outlining all the amazing trees) and we’ve spend time building snow structures, sledding, and reading about snow. Our book entitled Snowflake Bentley of Jericho, VT has been a favorite.An aside of graditude: Thank you to all who have really pitched in with cleaning and helping, especially on Fridays. I know that all of us have busy, overscheduled lives although we really try not to, and we appreciate all you do for us. Thank, too, to those of you who check in with me about my life. If I had my way, MVEC would be all I did, but college life has its perks as well, and I am doing both. It has been crazy and wonderful, but stressful. Doing this for the first time and all the planning it takes can be overwhelming, but I am grateful to my co-teacher Marcelle, and all in the community who really assist in “picking up the slack.”Blessed be!


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With the upcoming Lunar New Year (This year, the Chinese New Year and the Tibetan New Year fall on the same day, February 7: The year of the rat.), we have been reading stories about dragons (friendly and a sign of good luck in Chinese culture) and the customs associated with the New Year. This is, literally, one of the biggest celebrations in the Asian world. Folks travel far and wide to be with their families and sweep out the old year and welcome in the new with special food, fireworks, and age old customs. (It holds the importance of our Thanksgiving in terms of being with those we love.)We have also begun our Chinese lanterns, and will began planning some of the special things we will do to celebrate the new lunar year. We have also begun planning for Valentines Day—a day to celebrate friendship in our learning community.

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Week 6 (January 22-25)

 Happy 7th Birthday to Liam!  Our writer’s workshop continues with the older friends telling stories to each other.  There are lots of components to a story, so they have dictated them to me on my laptop, and then we’ll spend time listening to each others’ stories. Each friend listens after their story while we ask questions for clarification or make comments about what we like about the story. We then use these questions and comments to improve our stories.We have used dominoes in math to also get to sums up to twelve. The older friends have had fun recognizing sums and being able to call them out as they come up. Marcelle and the younger friends are working on shapes and how to recognize them. For example, she has made lots of different kinds of triangles and the friends will be able to count sides and recognize them as such although they look different from one another.

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Week 4 (January 8-11)

Sledding This week has been spent getting back into the routine of our learning community. Most days we split up into similar age groups for a period of time, and engage in “lessons.” For the older students we usually read aloud and work with reading and writing or play games that have to do with learning math. Manipulatives are always a big part of lessons, and we’ve begun using both dice and dominoes to figure out additions problems. Any games that you have that reinforce adding and subtracting through use with dice and counting are wonderful ways of practicing together.The younger students engage in similar play with manipulatives and build, count, and play with identifying shapes, numbers, and colors. With all the students, we are working on collaboration, and learning to do our best as individuals as well as being a part of a community.Many games and projects are engaged in as teams, and friends learn to negotiate and work together as they learn and play. In math, we have started to play a game we call “The Bean Game.” All you need is a pair of dice, beans that are small enough (uncooked) that you can hold ten of them in your hand, and a cup or bowl for holding the beans that are given to “the pot.” It is a progressive game with “rounds” to it. The object of the game is get rid of all your beans first. In the meanwhile, it’s important to try and keep track of who has the fewest beans without letting anyone know how many you have in your hand…The most important thing in this game is learning sums up to twelve, and each friend has a turn rolling the dice and saying the sum out load.Round 1: Every time a one is rolled, one bean from your hand goes into the pot. Every time a six is rolled, you give one bean away to someone else.*If any doubles are rolled, you put two beans in the pot, and you roll again. If it is a double one, you give two beans to the pot. If double sixes are rolled, you give two beans away—you can give one to a player or a two, AND two go into the pot.Round 2: Same as above, AND if you roll a one and a two, it’s “acey-ducey.” Three beans are placed in the pot, and you get to roll again. Also, if you roll a 5+3, the person who goes next loses a turn.Round 3: Same as above, AND if you roll a nine or an eleven, you have to take one bean from the pot. (With 6 + 5 or 6+3, you take one bean from the pot, and you give one to someone else.)Round 4: Same as above, AND if you roll any combination of seven, you get to give put three in the pot. (Remember if you roll a 6+1, you get to give one away plus put one in the pot, plus the bonus three.Round 5: Same as above, AND you give one bean to the person on your right, and one bean to the person on your left.The most important part of this game is saying the sums aloud. If the player gets the sum wrong, coach them by going to the die with the most dots (For instance, six + three), and count 7, 8, 9 for the other three. (This is a shortcut so they don’t have to count all the dots each time!) Important Note: The way that you win is to NOT have any beans available to give away on your turn. So if at the end of your turn you have no beans, you do NOT win. You must wait to roll again, and have the opportunity to give away a bean and not have one.

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Week 3 (December 18-21)

Winter SolsticeOur last week before break has been spent in celebration of the holidays ahead. We have been busy at work in our Winter Workshop finishing gifts for family members and friends. Our projects included felting, making angels and fairies (Thanks Lauren!), watercoloring and decorating bookmarks, and making gift wrap and gift tags with stamps. We also made and decorated solstice suns to wear at our celebrations. (Thank you to Tony Lemos who hand made felt solstice crowns for all of the friends. We did look festive!)We have been reading and practicing The Mitten by Jan Brett in which many animals of the forest decide to take up temporary residence in a sturdy white mitten. It was fun to practice and put on this wonderful performance.Our solstice celebration marks the beginning of longer days and more light. May we all remember to recognize the splendor of this amazing planet, the beauty and connection in the community in which we live, and the joy and wonder of our children as we celebrate the seasons.Happy 4th Birthday to Jayden! (December 18) Our Solstice Celebration began with: The Servant CandleFrom a reading by Judy Bressler of the Klezmer conservatory Band adapted by Monique Bourgeois

A candle along is a small thing.

But one candle can light another–

and see how its own light increases

as it gives its flame to another.


Light is the power to chase away the darkness.

Throughout history, darkness has tried to smother the light.

But always in the end it fails.

For always, somewhere in the world, the light remains,

ready to burn its brightest where it is darkest.


And every free people in the world has remained free

by resisting those who would extinguish this light in people’s hearts—

the light of freedom, of truth, of love.


We who seek



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Week 2 (December 11-14)

Cuisinaire RodsThis week we spent loads of time with books and many hours in our winter workshop. Sledding has also been an integral part of our play, and we’ve developed systems for keeping friends safe as we work and play together.Older friends in math began unix cubes. We’ve been working with “doubles,” building towers of 1 + 1, 2+2. etc., all the way to double tens. Another way of rehearsing with your child is to ask them questions like, “What’s the closest double to 4+5 (go down to 4+4)? How much is that? Okay, now add 1….I use the phrase, “We are learning to think like mathematicians,” trying to get them to think about how they think (metacognition). I’m also tuned into their strengths in terms of learning style. For those friends just getting practice in writing, sometimes auditory is the way to go. Thinking a problem through, using manipulatives, and then writing the number sentence is a huge process. Just using the experiential is interesting (with whatever is around—kitchen spoons, fingers, marbles, etc.) and paying attention to how they think and process. don’t be afraid to ask, “How did you figure that out?, “ and see what they come up with.Our regular reading of *Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones (Thanks Tony!) is almost completed, and we’re continuing our winter holiday themes with books about magic and and light.This week we read I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Holly and Douglas Hobbie (Conway’s own, with beautiful illustration of “Woodcock Pocket,” AKA Conway), An Elf for Christmas and Christmas Magic by Michael Garland, Winter Waits by Lynn Plourde, Redbird at Rockefeller Center by Peter Maloney, and The Story of the Snow Children by Sibylle von Olfers. We’ve been sharing what we like best about these short winter days—snow, hot chocolate, winter faeries and solstice elves, lighting the candles, latkes, opening presents!Our crafts this week have included spray and brush watercolors, cutting, gluing and assembling figures of many types (Thank you Lauren for the sweet clothespin people!), rolling the wool into balls and other shapes for felting later in the season (Thanks again to the Abend Family!), and snowflakes out of tissue paper (Thanks to Marcelle for the cool way of folding the tissue paper and the delicate and beautiful snowflakes all the friends have made.). Sorry we can’t be more specific about exactly what we’re making, but some of these gifts are specifically for you, Moms and Dads, so all I can say is “You’ll see!”Again thanks to the continued assistance of all the parents who come in to “bless our space”–a reframing of cleaning inspired by Lui Collins—each week. We so appreciate the assistance you provide. Also thanks for break on Friday afternoon so I can record our going-ons. It is much appreciated!

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We have begun our discussion of the change of seasons, and Monday’s snow was perfectly timed for the beginning of the winter semester. We are reading stories from Caitlin Matthew’s While the Bear Sleeps, a collection of stories about the various holidays that are celebrated during this time of shortened days and long nights. Friends have been enjoying 45 minutes to an hour of outdoor time, mostly spent sledding and playing pretend games in the rolling snowy meadow or in the faerie circle where we will have our Winter Solstice Bonfire.We have begun our “Winter Workshop,” a chance for children to make a variety of projects each afternoon, that can be given to parents, siblings, and friends for the Holidays. The friends are excited about giving, and this is our intent—to assist them in getting jazzed up about giving, and the anticipation of waiting to present these gifts to beloved folks in their lives.This week we read a couple of stories with sharing, light, and magic as central themes. “Schnitzle, Schnootzle, and Schnotzle” is a story from Scandanavia about three brothers who receive a magical visit from a small stranger who shares his fortune with a father barely “making it.” The three brothers are kind to the stranger who can be, at times, a bit bossy and selfish, and they are rewarded for showing him, at least, a warm bed and dying fire on a cold Midwinter’s night. We read the story of Hannukah, entitled “A Great Miracle Happened Here” (Matthew’s book) and celebrated the 4th night of Hannakah as we lit the candles, sang our prayer, and made potato latkes (Thank you to Joanie, and Auntie “Di” of the Schwartz-Gorenstein Mishbookah). One of our youngest friends, Zoe, took a ride on the “Polar Express” in New Hampshire and we celebrated her joy with the book of the same name by Chris von Alsberg.The older friends (We’re working on naming groups so we don’t have to use age as a separating factor—so hang in there!) are continuing to work with Cuisennaire rods and learn the reversibility principle of mathematics with addition, subtraction, and fact families. You can practice with them by asking them to name three numbers (say 1, 6, and 7) and then write out for them equations that use those numbers in different orders. Review addition, subtraction, and equal signs. Play games with dice and have them add numbers to together or subtract smaller from larger. Any fun rehearsal is wonderful! (Unlike the “good old days,” doing a process to learn, along with adequate rehearsal, is more fun than memorization (although at times this is necessary), so any play you can do so they can rehearse “the basics” is much welcomed. Eventually, these “process-based” rehearsals assist in the having facts go in and stay in!) Language Arts entails beginning pair reading, making words with letter manipulatives, and reading in pairs.January marks the beginning of our writer’s workshop where all students will have a chance to tell or write stories, and illustrate them. We’ll have times in the semester when you’ll be invited to a publication party and we’ll read our stories aloud. Authors will ask for suggestions and comments from the audience. This week, our younger friends had a delicious science lesson in the kitchen and made banana bread. We also did nursery rhymes, some with a winter theme—“The North Wind Will Blow, “The Crooked Man,” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Younger friends also worked with blocks and building, and spend time making environments and villages, sometimes individually, and sometimes in pairs. It is wonderful to see the opportunities for growth involved in working together and communicating when the “kinks” come up.On this note, I would like to mention that one of our friends, Alouette Bateau, left our collaborative to return to regular public school. Although there were several discussions, I was caught off guard about her sudden departure with very short notice. I bring this up because I believe it is important to have difficult discussions if there are some sort of “issues” in regard to our learning community. It is absolutely important for all of us to be involved in the discussions around our beginnings, and our ongoing growth as a community. Marcelle and I are doing our best to plan and implement curriculum that benefits all of us and that delivers what we discussed last summer—the basics of community building and academics that are fun, challenging, and emphasize working together. We are also dealing with the realities of doing it all for the first time on a meager budget. We welcome your input, your observations, and suggestions for growing, in these our intitial stages. Thank you for all the hard work from all of our parents. Your creativity, energy, and elbow grease are all appreciated. Again, I invite you to call and have a discussion with us if you feel strongly about something we are or are NOT doing. We appreciate sharing the responsibility and joy of our ongoing program. Thanks!

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