Archive for September, 2008


Our day began with our morning circle lead by Leora. We read a book called PowWow: A Good Day to Dance by Jacqueline Dembar Greene. The book explained the summer powwows that many North American Indians attend to keep the old ways alive. We spoke of how native people are different from each other in that their customs and stories are unique. We spoke of how our government took their land away from them (“That was mean!” “That wasn’t nice!” “That’s not fair!” were the cries from the circle.), and that they come together to keep alive the old ways—to dance, pray, and care for each other and the earth. We spoke about community.

We will welcome Annika VonSchoeler-Ames (5 YO in January) to our learning community on Tuesday. We spoke of how to welcome a friend by introducing yourself, and inviting them to play along.

We lost power for three hours (from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) but managed to have a picnic snack in the entry room, and then went upstairs for our lessons. We worked with letter boards today and reviewed the signs and sounds for A, C, D, M, S, and T. The younger friends worked on decoding small words and we finished by reading two very short and sweet “Bob” books. (Thank you, Tony(a), for this resource!)

The older friends practiced their signs and sounds as well, and then read to each other for 15 minutes. We finished the lesson by the two older friends helping each other read the book, Spot Bakes a Cake.

After lunch, we read a story called “The Boy Who Lived with the Bears,” retold by Joseph Bruchac. We worked on our totem flags that were sent home today. These flags were a culminating project on a creative visualization that we did on the first day. Friends used creativity and many fine motor skills preparing a flag for themselves and each friend, tying ribbons onto their flags, and string them onto a hemp rope using a measurement ribbon. They seemed to be very proud of the process as well as the end product. Please display them proudly!

After finishing the totem flags, we worked on our play that we have been doing called “The Earth on the Turtle’s Back.” Friends are enjoying the process of dramatizing the action of the story.


Oversight: Our Big Home by Linda Glaser (We read this on Tuesday, September 23.



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Today we celebrated the Autumnal Equinox by making sparkling crowns, having a spirit walk, and then saying good-bye to summer, and hello to autumn. We all said good-bye to the long hot days, swimming in the lake, no school, being with our families a lot of the time, feeling the sun on our skin, playing in the river, catching fireflies, and warm nights. Then we sat and talked about what we love about the autumn.


They said:

*Raking up leaves and running from far away and jumping in them.

*Jumping in the leaves and hiding in them, and then jumping out!

*I like running and catching the leaves as they fall.

*I like going on long hikes and seeing the beautiful colors and picking up leaves to take home to my Mom and Dad.

*I like swinging on my swing in the barn.

*I like making wooden bowls.

*I like all the holidays: the Autumn Equinox, Halloween, and Thanksgiving, and all the fun things we do to celebrate.

During lunch, we read several Native American tales from a book called Feathers and Tails as retold by David Kherdian. We spoke of stories and how they can teach if we look for the lesson in each of them.

After lunch, we worked on finishing our totem flags so we will be able to assemble them on Friday.


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We followed our regular routine of morning play until 10 a.m., and then had a snack. We did our morning circle upstairs (above the garage) in my special study. We did this because I wanted to  set the stage for our beginning of “Peace Travelers,” as we discussed the concept of “peace,” and my study is decorated in such a way that denotes peace for me. There are pictures of special people, paintings of angels, my art supplies and photographs I have taken throughout the years. I wanted to find out how each of the friends thought about and spoke of peace.


Here are some of their responses:

– If someone dies, the person who dies know that the living person still loves them. That is peace….Someday, when I die, I want to know that people still love me.

– When my grandpa died, I was sad, but I knew that he really loved me. And I knew that he was alive, just somewhere else. 

– Peace means being very kind. You can look at someone’s eyes and they’re kind, and they have peace.

– Peace is when you really care about people, and you help them when they need it, or when they might be hurt.

– Peace is when someone comes up to you and sits next to you, and hugs you. That is peace.

 – Peace is just being quiet.

– Peace is being giving to other people. Sometimes just making stuff for them. It’s being kind to people that you don’t know.

 – Making capes and having spirit walks is peaceful.

 – When a baby wakes up and smiles a happy smile, and then the baby nurses. Both the mama and the baby feel peace.


After our discussion about peace, we read again “Earth on the Turtle’s Back” (An Onondaga story of creation as told by Joseph Bruchac in Keepers of the Earth.) We enacted the story, and will perform it at a later date.


At lunch we read When the Moon is Full by Penny Pollock and we spoke about the seasons and how Native peoples mark the time with what is going on around them. We discussed how we are all part of the great web of life, and looked at some paintings of Susan Seddon Boulet that depicts people and their totems.


We also began work on our totem flags that will become a series of small banners that each friend will contribute to, so that each will bring home a chain with all seven of our totems. We have practiced many fine motor skills by punching holes, using colored pencils and tying knots. The friends seem very happy about this project and proud of their work. It has also been nice to notice friends asking if they can help each other, and allowing help to given by each other.


Our final book of the day was My Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone and Christopher Corn.  We had fun trying to remember what was bought in each city around the world as a granny flies a magic carpet from place to place.




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Our day began with free play. Three stations were set up: blocks and dominoes, puzzles and matching games, and the kitchen. As friends arrived, they greeted each other and got right into the routine of free, unstructured time.

At 9:55, we tidied up, and began our morning circle with “Four Directions,” by Sarah Pirtle and our “Good Morning Ritual”. Afterwards, we talked about the jobs that we have to do, and then launched into our discussion of a new year of school. I asked the friends to think about the question, “What is different this year?” Friends began commenting on the physical space, and eventually launched into a discussion of the people that they miss. We shared our feelings and spoke of many of the good times that we shared in the woods, in the snow, and in the river. We looked at pictures of them from last year’s cape ceremonies (that hang framed on the wall). We also spoke of the jobs we have in our learning community, and how we will accomplish what we need to in order to respect our space, environment, and each other. We also used the talking orb, and answered the question, “What was fun about your summer?” We had our snack and read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. We talked about how sometimes everyone gets a little bit excited and nervous about new beginnings–teachers, too. We had a discussion about starting something new, and the changes that occur as the seasons come and go.


What was fun about your summer?

Zoe: I liked when I went to Red Gate Farm. I went into the lake even though it was cold outside. It was perfect and very fun. I had fun one day at the Farmer’s Market and everybody got a ride in a wheel barrel. 

Maia: I got to play with my friend, Kayla. She lives right up the driveway, and I get to watch her get on the school bus.

Jayden: I liked miniature golfing at Pirate’s Cove. We were in the White Mountains.

Sebastian: I liked when I went camping out in Vermont for four days, and I liked when I went Cape Cod, too.

Elias: I liked swimming in the ocean and boogie boarding. I like the shell driveway, and my grandpa has a golf cart, and I liked that, too.

Leora: I liked going on a horseback ride with my Papa in front, and Elias in the middle, and I was in the back. When we went up a hill, Elias had to hold on tight to my Papa, and I had to hold on tight to Elias.


We had our first spirit walk and learned a new song that we sing to the hills and sky from our mountain view. (This simple act was inspired by Sarah Pirtle, and we have continued the tradition.) Its tune is from the Nields Sisters’ HooteNanny “Hello Song.” Its words are:

“Good Morning Gaia

Our earth so green and blue

Thank you for your bounty

All things so good and true


Good morning Big Sky

The wind, the rain, our air

We will take good care of you

And show you that we care”


(We got a couple of “first day of school” photos, and some shots of our first spirit walk of the year. Check out our Flickr website by getting in touch with Tony(a) Lemos. 

After our spirit walk, we came inside quietly, and drew a picture of what we experienced and shared that with the group as everyone finished.

At lunch we read Possum’s Harvest Moon, and spoke about last year again, and how we did a play about possum’s party last year at the beginning of the year. We spoke of the Harvest Moon on the 15th, and how some friends saw its beautiful assent into the sky, and how some friends were already fast asleep! We spoke of the end of summer, and the beginning of the autumn. Friends played outside for about 35 minutes, and rediscovered our forsythia house and the play structure.

After lunch, we began our first phase of “Peace Travelers,” a program that Tony(a) and I are developing that is designed to teach positive social skills, conflict resolution, and the understanding of many cultures around the world. Each friend will receive a “World Citizen” passport that will document our “journey” through eight countries beginning here in America with our own indigenous people. The countries that follow are: India (Oct.), Mexico (Nov.), Sweden (Dec.), Australia (Jan.), Tibet (Feb.), Japan (Mar.), Bolivia or Peru (April), and Kenya (May). (If you have stories, craft projects, or ideas about various celebrations in terms of the cultures mentioned, please let us know! Thanks!) We will explore one culture a month through festivals, storytelling, food, crafts, housing, and transportation. Reading, writing, math, art projects, and music will be integrated into the Peace Travelers curriculum.

We read two afternoon stories. The first, MoonFlute by Audrey Wood was about a girl who takes a journey in her dreamtime and visits with the moon and animals in various venues (the hills and valleys near her town, the ocean, and the jungle). We discussed flying journeys and visits with animals which was our introduction to our second afternoon story entitled “Earth on the Turtle’s Back” (An Onondaga story of creation as told by Joseph Bruchac in Keepers of the Earth.)

We talked how people make stories to speak of their lives and pass that knowledge along to the children and then, their children.

We spoke of totem animals, and later we did I took them on a guided visualization (after they were all tuckered out near the end of our day). The visualization was used to have them identify an animal that feels special to them, and we will have “totem time” throughout the year, and compose a “research book” filled with art and facts about their special totem animal.

The visualization went something like this (accompanied by the “beating heart” made by a drum. Thanks for the idea, Tony(a)!):

“Picture yourself under the canopy of a large tree. The sunlight is shining down on your body and you feel warm and cozy. You open your eyes and you see that are in large golden meadow and you stand up and look around. You notice that far off in the distance you can see and hear the big, beautiful, blue ocean, and you can feel the sandy soil beneath your feet. You look around and see a path that will take you down near the water. You walk slowly and quietly through the woods. You open your eyes and ears all around you and hear the sound of birds overhead, and hear the chatter of all the creatures that live in the forest. As you arrive on the beach, you notice the ocean’s rolling waves, and the small waves that wash over your feet. You feel happy and peaceful as you look across the ocean’s surface and see fish, dolphin, and whales. You look out over the waves and back to the path from which you came. You listen to all the sounds and take in all the colors around you. Slowly, you go back up the path to the beautiful tree where you began your journey. You sit quietly and think about the animal that has come to greet you and offered you a gift.

When you are ready, you can open your eyes and come back to this room, and we will share our special totem animal.”


The animals that spoke to friends are:


Zoe: dolphin

Sebastian: turtle

Leora: horse

Maia: deer

Elias: river otter

Jayden: turkey


At the day’s end, we sang our good-bye song that you heard a couple times last year. I wrote the music to the words from the Tibetan prayer that we learned from book, Tenzin’s Deer. We gathered our things and got in the car very smoothly and were down the hill by 3:05. (The scheduled time is 3:15, but I wanted to be sure I was there for Liam’s bus!) A reminder to be sure to take all your child’s items from the trunk! Thanks!


Our ending song from Tenzin’s Deer is:


May no harm come to us

May we love each other well

May we be kind to all the people of the earth


“May no harm come to us

May we love each other well

May we be kind to all the creatures of the earth.”


We will also sing “See Ya Later Alligator” from Lui Collins’ Kids’ Jam program that goes as follows:


“See ya later alligator

Bye-Bye Fly

After awhile crocodile

Time to say goodbye

Toodaloo Kangaroo

Chau Meow

Adios nanny goat

Goodbye for now

Bye-bye (name), Bye-bye (name), Bye-bye (name)

Bye, Bye, bye.”



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Peace Travelers is a twice-weekly home school program that highlights multicultural studies, geography, and social skill development through “travel” around the world. Children, ages 4-9, receive a passport and explore a country and cultures through festivals, storytelling, food, crafts, housing, and transportation. Reading, writing, and mathematics are integrated throughout the curriculum.


The cost for the program is $35.00 daily for a ten week semester program. Semester commitment required.


Call Kate O’Shea at 413 369-4700 for more information and application. First semester program begins Tuesday, September 16 and runs through December 19. (Second semester begins Tuesday, January 6, 2009.)



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