Tuesday, 13 May 2014

May 2014: Mother’s Day & Adventures in Finger Knitting

Monday 5th May - Sunday 11th May

We have snuggled into our own little nest this week, after such an outward week. School term holidays ended and while many of Mousey Brown’s (5) friends trundled off to begin Term 2, we endeavoured to pick up some rhythm again in our home. We’d drifted away from our rhythm over the school holiday Easter break and our days did feel a little more disconnected, so it’s been nice to establish some rhythm and regularity again. I must admit though, I do have to make an effort to gently shape our days with rhythm. Some days it falls into place easily, and other days are here and there. I do notice a difference in the boys when our days are more predictable. It certainly seems to hold them and provide them with a comforting sense of calm.

So, we’ve spent most of this week at home: playing, reading, cooking, learning, imagining, creating, snuggling, digging holes to China, you know the usual stuff...

{ Festivals & Celebrations }

We celebrated Mothers Day on Sunday. A sleep in, breakfast in bed made by my two boys (with a little help from Daddy), followed by the delivery of sweet, if somewhat earnestly crumpled, handmade cards and a few small gifts. 

Later in the day, we ventured out into the brisk Autumn sunshine to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens to play in the Autumn leaves. We wandered off the beaten track, rolled down hillsides, jumped into piles of leaves, listened to the fallen leaves swish and crunch underfoot, and savoured their sweet, musty, earthy smell. Ah I love Autumn! As we wandered, we collected little treasures found beneath the trees - beautiful leaves, acorns, pine cones, nuts, seeds and berries. Even a possum-nibbled fig found its way into our basket! It was a magical day.

{ Language, Literature, & Literacy }

We resumed < Waldorf Essentials > stories this week, and this term as Little Deer is now aged 4 and seems to have recently made quite a few signs of readiness, I’ve started telling the boys each their own story each morning. Mousey Brown (5) is enjoying stories from the age 5-6 curriculum and Little Deer (4) stories from age 4-5 curriculum. Little Deer is particularly chuffed to have ‘his own’ story each day. I alter the original stories a little, renaming the central character after the boys and adding a little Australian flavour. The boys just love to join in, acting out the adventures using their own Waldorf dolls and farmyard animals. 

This week we introduced Conrad the duck with the broken wing to our story ‘family'. He features in Mousey Brown's stories over the next few weeks.

We have been incorporating a more organised circle time back into our mornings, and adding a new verse each week. Here is this week’s new verse, coinciding with our first frost of the season.

Jack Frost
By C.E. Pike

Look out! Look out!
Jack Frost is about!
He’s after our fingers and toes;
And all through the night,
The gay little sprite
Is working where nobody knows.

He’ll climb each tree, 
So nimble is he,
His silvery powder he’ll shake.
To windows he’ll creep
And while we’re asleep
Such wonderful pictures he’ll make.

Across the grass
He’ll merrily pass,
And change all its greenness to white.
Then home he will go 
And laugh ho, ho ho!
What fun I have had in the night.


Lots of reading as usual this week. Alphabet books have been favoured, and a trip to the local Steiner school library meant lots of new seasonal picture books and chapter books, as well as some crafty inspiration for me :) As well as finishing up Little House On The Prairie, here are a few of the favourites we’ve read (and re-read) this week:

The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter
A Redwall Winter’s Tale by Brian Jacques

We have been using modelling beeswax to illustrate story characters this week as part of our hands-on literacy learning. We listened carefully to the detailed description of this river elf, and then Mousey Brown and I set to work on our versions of the story character. 

My river elf.
Mousey Brown’s (5) river elf.

Learning to read and write are important skills, but how do we know when children are ready? 

In my education related reading and research this week, I came across two excellent articles on reading readiness. The first is by developmental and behavioural paediatrician Dr. Susan Johnson, 'Teaching Our Children To Write, Read and Spell’ which asserts that children should be only taught to write, read, and spell when their neurological pathways for writing, reading, and spelling have fully formed. Dr Johnson writes:

"Our preschools and kindergartens need to fill their curriculums with play consisting of lots of sensory integration activities that will strengthen fine motor movements, visual motor abilities, listening skills, balance, muscle tone, proprioception, as well as strengthen children's social and emotional skills and most importantly, strengthen their imaginative and picture making capacities by promoting play, using puppets and marionettes to visually act out stories for the children to see, and by telling children lots of stories and reading them lots of books.

Similarly, the second article ‘Is Your Child Ready To Read? A Checklist’ by Marcy Axness, gives practical ways to foster a child’s reading readiness by incorporating: 

Physical movements, such as:
  • Skipping (cross-lateral)
  • Hopping
  • Rolling down hills
  • Playing catch with a ball
  • Jumping rope
  • Running
  • Walking
  • Clapping games
  • Circle games

Fine motor activities to strengthen important neural pathways, such as:
  • Fine motor activities to strengthen important neural pathways, such as:
  • Cutting with scissors
  • Digging in the garden
  • Kneading dough (play or bread!)
  • Pulling weeds
  • Painting
  • Beading
  • Drawing
  • String games (e.g., Jacob’s Ladder)
  • Sewing
  • Finger crochet/knitting

{ Handwork & Artwork }

Little Deer (4) learnt to finger knit this week, using the rhyme and story we previously used when Mousey Brown (5) first started. He picked it up very quickly and easily. As we finger-knit, we rhymed together:
Here is the sheep
And here is the gate,
Watch him jump over,
and follow his mate.

It’s certainly not the most beautiful rhyme we have written, but it’s easy to remember and tied in nicely with a sweet little finger knitting story I found. Here is the version I told below. Have a length of yarn handy while telling the story, and demonstrate as you tell it.

There was once an old shepherd, who had a large, lively flock of sheep. Every morning he would take the flock of sheep up the mountainside to a beautiful green meadow where the sheep would eat the delicious sweet grass. 

But each day, when it came time to make the long journey up the mountain, the old shepherd would struggle to keep the whole flock of young, spirited sheep together. Some would run away to nibble clover, some to play under the shady trees, and others would wander off among the pretty mountain flowers. The poor shepherd wanted to keep them all together for their safety, and he was too old to chase after them. So he thought and thought about what he could do to keep all the sheep together and lead them to the meadow safely. 

At last, he had an idea! The old shepherd carefully built a little gate [make a slip knot in the yarn at this point in the story]. He told each sheep to stand ready, and then, with the gate in front of them [at this point, place the long 'tail' of yarn over the same index finger, in front of the first loop], he showed the sheep how to jump over the gate to the other side [take back loop, pull it over the front piece of yarn and right off the finger, and then draw tight - not too tight though!].

The shepherd was delighted to see that as each sheep jumped over the gate to the other side, they were happy to stand one behind the other [show the children how the 'sheep' line up on the other side]. In this way, the sheep were gathered for their journey much more quickly. And so, from that day forward, the old shepherd never had to chase his wayward sheep again, and they all went easily and contentedly together to that sweet green meadow every day.
(Original story by K. Manchip)

There is also a YouTube video < here >, which demonstrates how to do the finger knitting with a version of the story. 

So why is finger knitting part of Waldorf early childhood education, and why is it important? 

It is much more than simply crafting. Learning disabilities specialist Jean A. Ayres writes that “Praxis, or the ability to program a motor act, shows a close relation to reading skills, even though reading would appear to be only distantly related to goal-directed movement of the body.” Citing the research of Strauss and Werner, she notes that “Children with finger agnosia [awkwardness and lack of control] made more errors on a test of arithmetical ability than did children without finger agnosia.” 

When a child’s brain is still developing, knitting is a wonderful activity to assist development. Their fingers need to convey lots of information about the position and tension of the yarn, and the muscles of the fingers need to become capable of very fine, controlled movement. Knitting develops fine motor skills, crosses back and forth from the left side of the body to the right, improving brain mid-line connections. Knitting involves memory, concentration, logic, pattern recognition and finally a positive sense of achievement.

Little Deer (4) is very proud of his finger knitting and decided he was going to finger knit a strap for his ukelele :) and now that Mousey Brown (5) has mastered one finger knitting, we are going to try multiple finger knitting soon. Should be fun! < Here > are some other fun finger knitting projects we’d like to try.

{ Hands-on Science }

Fascinated by magnets this week and equally fascinated by learning that animals such as whales, dolphins, sea turtles and birds use the Earth’s magnetic field to help them navigate on their long journeys, Mousey Brown (5) has been exploring hands on science.

 { In The Kitchen }

Stone Soup. We missed contributing to Stone Soup a few weeks ago at the Natural Learners Co-op Lantern Festival (they kindly shared the soup with us however!) but both boys were keen to make their own Stone Soup this week. So we did! 

After we prepared the soup together, added the stone, and as the delicious smells began to fill the house, we sat together and watched this lovely version of the < Stone Soup > story. I shall be adding this book by Jon J Muth to our list of books I’d like to purchase for our home library. The illustrations and story telling are delightful, and the theme of giving and community is so important.

The story even generated a whole afternoon of ‘Stone Soup’ play using the play kitchen toys :)

{ In The Garden & In Nature }

Sunny, mild days and cool, frosty nights. Mousey Brown (5) and Little Deer (4) planted snow peas and green peas at the base of the old corn stalks, in an experiment to see if they will use them as a climbing support. The rocket, carrots, onions, broad beans and Asian greens planted over the last few weeks have germinated, and there is a new green ‘carpet’ covering the earth. Broad beans are just poking their heads out of the soil.

Tomatoes plants have all been pulled up and the remaining fruit are hanging to ripen in the shed. 

Beds are being prepared for the fruit trees to go in soon. Compost has been turned and spread. Chooks are being moved through the beds in their ‘chicken tractor’ to clean up the garden before the next plantings. 

Junipers are looking well and new green growth tips are coming on. 

And that was our week! Hoping your Mothers Day was blessed also ~ Heidi x

Follow our adventures on < Facebook >, on < Pinterest >, & on < Instagram >

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