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(photo credit t.lem0s)

We have been outdoors looking for signs of spring from the ground to the sky. We have visited the beaver pond on the main road, looked for the pair of geese that build their nest nearby, and listened for the peepers that inhabit the wetlands. We have heard more that we have seen—lots of birds have returned, the woodpeckers have made themselves known, and the chickadees have been wondering around on the front lawn where we have scattered bread. We have observed the wondrous colors that have returned and livened up the bland color scheme of late winter/early spring. The palette of yellow-green buds, red buds, and the white, purples, and golds of crocuses have come!

Thanks to Tony for the wonderful little nests that we made with recycled bags and blue construction paper. We filled them with eggs we had tie-dyed with masking tape and numerous dipping.. The warm weather has been a welcome relief from the damp cold of the season, and Mother Earth wakes up and surprises us as we too, emerge from our winter dormancy…

Books We Read:

Mongolia: Enchantment of the World by Allison Lassieur

Festivals of the World: Mongolia by Frederick Fisher

Cultures of the World: Mongolia by Pang Guek Cheng

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Day 44: March 19, 2010

The Spring Equinox is coming! We honored the sun’s return to our hemisphere with a celebration. We sang to Mother Earth and greeted her with a poem. We are grateful for many things, and friends shared that as we spoke in our circle.

We finished our chapter book entitled Key to the Treasure by Peggy Parrish.

“Greetings and Thanks” by the Onondaga Nation

Greetings and thanks to each other as people

To the earth, Mother of all, greetings and thanks

To all the waters, waterfalls and rain, rivers and oceans, greetings and thanks

To all the fishlife, greetings and thanks

The grains and greens, beans and berries, as one we send thanks to food plants

Medicine herbs of the world, and their keepers, greetings and thanks

To all animals and their teachings, greetings and thanks

The trees, for shelter and shade, fruit and beauty, greetings and thanks

To all birds, large and small, joyful greetings and thanks

And from the four diretions, the four winds, thank you for purifying the air

We breathe and giving us strength, greetings and thanks

The thunderers, our grandfathers in the sky.

We hear your voices, greetings and thanks

And the sun, for the lifht of a new day, and all the fires of life, greetings and thanks

To our oldest gradmother, the moon, leader of women all over the world

And the starts for their mystery, beauty and guidance, greetings and thanks

To our teachers from all times, reminding us of how to live in harmony,

greetings and thanks

And for all the gifts of creation, for all the love around us, greetings and thanks

And for that which is forgotten, we remember

We end out words, now our minds [and hearts] are one.

Our Song (originally from a Waldorf curriculum guide): Winter Good-bye! Winter Good-bye! You may no longer stay; springtime is on Her Way. Winter Good-bye! Winter Good-bye!


Day 43: March 16, 2010

We’ve worked on our roof for our gers, and we are figuring out how to construct them and play with them, as they can move from place to place. We learned that real life gers can weigh up to 550 lbs., and are carted from place to place by the animals that the Mongolian nomads rely on—llamas, horses, and oxen. We have viewed photos of Mongolian cities, and the gers’ presence as the nomads set up their homes in shantytowns in cities.  We have talked about what it must be like to carry all of our belongings everywhere we go, and how we would probably have much less that we do if we had to moved it every few months!

Storytelling continues in our makeshift ger that hangs from our classroom ceiling.


Day 42: March 12, 2010

Silas arrived late on Tuesday, March 9. All are happily recovering, and Sydney is ecstatic about being a Big Sister! Congratulations to All!

We continue our exploration of pattern blocks and combining the two to form other shapes. (Two squares equal a rectangle, two triangles equal a rhombus or diamond, two half circles become a full circle.) We’ve talked a little bit about angles and how some angles we see all the time. We have actually fit right angles into a corner, and have talked about them in terms of function in constructing solid, sturdy furniture and buildings.

We eagerly await the change of seasons. And we’ve been looking for signs of spring on our walks. Thus far, we have hears birds singing and brooks/rivers running. We have seen snow melting, examined small buds on trees, and are alert for the first new green coming up from under the snow.

We read The Snow Child by Freya Littledale about the circular nature of the seasons, and a child sent to mark the joys of winter and the welcome signs of spring. Our reading of Key to the Treasure continues with three clever siblings uncovering clues from a treasure hunt made for their ancestors back in the time of the Civil War.

We have begun making our portable model Mongolian homes (gers of the nomadic people) that we will be working on for the next few weeks. In place of lattice and thick felt, we are using popsickle sticks, twine, modeling clay (for “feet” or stantions) and light felt to construct our model-sized homes. Come check out our progess!

Day 41: March 9, 2010

Our travels in Mongolia continue. Today we found set up a ger (a nomadic shelter used by nomadic Mongolian people for shelter in all season).

(for more info click here)

and for a great picture click here

Ours. Of course, was a cotton canvas “tent” suspended from the ceiling. We had a fire going in the wood stove to take the chill out of the morning air, and the friends listened and participated in three stories. The first, a modified version of a Mongolian tale, is about the Silk Road—a route of trade that linked China and its high-quality silk to the cities of Europe.

The Silk Road came through Mongolia (find other countries) and influenced Mongolians’ way of life. The story is about a girl child that assists her father in making felt carpets and wall hangings. She sleeps on a special felt carpet that becomes her carpet of dreams. The girl, named Tenzin (her mother is Tibetian, and her child has a Tibetian name) awakens after a dream with an amethyst in her hand, and a dream about a friend she is supposed to find. This remarkable dream leads her on a journey of her own, and impacts the lives of her extended family. The second story is an exercise in “passing the story” about a little dragon who lives under a castle and expands his horizon by exploring one of three doors available to him. The friends love this exercise which we will continue throughout the year. The third story is “The Little Dragon” as told by Jay O’Callahan, master storyteller. (I am sure I will be telling this story again!) All of this happened under the cover of our ger to illustrate how nomadic Mongolians entertain each other with stories passed down for generations. (Each story teaches a lesson about respecting elders, valuing family, pitching in to make things work, and getting along with members of your family and community.)

We also worked on the letter “N” in our Peace Travelers Alphabet Book (nerpa, nasturtium, northern puffer, northern cardinal, Nelson Mandela.)

The last part of our day was spent reading Key to the Treasure, and working out the first clue presented in the book.

We all eagerly await news of Sydney’s baby brother making his entrance into the world!

Day 40: March 5, 2010

Our “travel” to Mongolia continues. Today we began our day with the book, Mongolia: Vanishing Cultures by Jan Reynolds. The lives of a nomadic Mongolian family is depicted through two children’s perspectives. The theme of being in connection to all of nature throughout the seasons comes through loud and clear. Work and nature are integral parts of life that become “the classroom” of the children.

Our pattern block work continues. We reviewed our shapes and concepts listed above, and built more complex patterns. We are working on the letter “L” in our PT Alphabet book (Lion, Love, Lilac, Love Birds, Leek, Lettuce, Lemon, and Lime). “L” is a “lift letter” (as is next week’s letter, “N”) because of how the tongue moves in its pronunciation.

Weather and snow height permitting, we plan on a hike, pretending to be Mongolian nomads. We will talk about how our lives would be different if we had to carry all our things with us.


Day 39: March 2, 2010

Today we began our journey to Mongolia with a scavenger hunt, and spoke of the facts that we collected on Tsagaan Sar, the White Moon holiday or the lunisolar new year. The White Moon holiday is celebrated two months after the first new moon following the winter solstice. (In 2009, White Moon fell on February 25, and in 2010, it will be on February 14.) Tsagaan Sar is one of the most important Mongolian holidays. Although it falls close to the Chinese New Year, it is more culturally related to the Tibetan New Year. It is a three-day festival to begin the year anew. There is a preparation time when homes and barns are cleaned and refreshed. Literally, Mongolians sweep out the old, and make room for the good luck that comes with a clean and tidy home and barn. Nomads still live in harmony with nature on many of the Mongolian plains. On Friday, we will “explore” the terrain with a book from a nomadic child’s point of view. It should make for an interesting discussion!

We began our exploration of shapes and continued with our theme of patterns using pattern blocks.  We talked about shapes that fit snugly inside of “corners” (literally using a corner to demonstrate a right angle): squares, rectangles and certain kinds of triangles. We examined the word “parallel” and explored the room looking for parallel lines: the rug, the two opposing (“across from each other”) side of the windows, shelves, the rungs of the fence around the woodstove, etc. We even got down on the floor and examined the bulkheads in the ceiling, and determined those lines were parallel.  Then we talked about how two or more shapes together can form other shapes. We put squares together and made rectangles, and used some pattern block handouts to “cover” the shapes and make new shapes. Please reinforce our shapes and patterns lessons with exploration in your own environments!

We began a new read aloud book, Key to the Treasure by Peggy Parish (of Amelia Bedelia fame.) It was a favorite book of mine way back in the 60s, and I was so happy to find it again. The story is about three siblings who spend the summer with their grandparents at the family “camp.” Several generations back, the children’s great, great grandfather went off to the Civil War and left the first clue with his wife. Mistakenly, the first clue is washed in an apron, and the “treasure” has been lost for generations, all but four Indian artifacts depicted in the great, great grandfather’s sketches left for his children (in addition to the clue that got washed). The four sketches hang in the present day camp, and the children of the present summer are determined to solve the mystery.