Autumn In The Classroom

The north wind came along one day, 
so strong and full of fun.
He called the leaves down from the trees 
and said “Run children run!”
They came in red and yellow dressed, 
in shaded green and brown
And all the short November day
he chased them ’round the town.
They ran together, 
They  ran alone
They hid behind a tree.
The north wind found them hiding there
and said “No stopping please”
But when he saw them tired out, all cuddled in a heap,
he gently sang “Goodnight my dears, and now it’s time to sleep.”
-R.J. Weston
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Autumn is in full swing here in our classroom. Leaf garlands and corn husk dolls adorn the windows, which showcase the vibrantly colored trees growing in our outside play space below. Children arrive bundled in coats in hats on these cool mountain mornings and shed them throughout the day.

 

Rhythm plays a most important role in Waldorf education, and that includes both a daily and seasonal rhythm. The “curriculum” involves bringing the outside world within our four walls- working with materials gleaned from nature and its seasons. So far this fall we’ve been apple picking, pressed apple cider, harvested and roasted sweet potatoes from our own garden, decorated pumpkins, collected leaves and preserved them in a beeswax dip, explored signs of autumn in the forest, talked of the preparations our animal friends are making for winter,  and enjoyed listening to stories and verses rooted in seasonal themes.

 

 

 

Our mid-morning snack also reflects the offerings of the season, and lately has included squash soup, roasted root vegetables, and all things apple. And as part of our daily rhythm, the children help with snack prep by peeling and chopping vegetables and fruits.

Below you’ll find a simple kid-friendly recipe for the roasted root vegetables we so often enjoy for snack during the cooler months:

 

Sweet potatoes

Yukon gold potatoes

Beets

Coconut or olive oil

Salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Scrub veggies and peel beets. The adult can slice the vegetables into 1/4 inch slices and allow the child to chop the slices into bite-size pieces with a chopper like this one. Toss veggie bits with oil until coated and spread onto a baking sheet. Season with salt to taste.

Bake at 450 for 30-40 minutes, removing to stir about halfway through. Allow veggies to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Bon appetit and happy fall!

 

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The Making of Bread

Part of our weekly rhythm revolves around making bread each week.

On Tuesdays, the children are invited to grind the wheat and the flax seed. On Wednesday, we bake the bread, and on Thursday, we eat our creation slathered with peanut butter and honey.

Last Wednesday, I worked in the classroom, and I had the opportunity to make bread with a couple of eager kiddos.  I wasn’t nearly as good at it as Ms. Katy, but I gave it my best shot.  The kids were quick to point out my (many) errors, which led us to a great discussion about mistakes…everybody makes them!  We talked about celebrating mistakes as a way to learn…and in the end, the bread still managed to turn out quite tastily.

Here’s our easy (and very forgiving) bread recipe…so it’s great to do with kids, or, in my case, well-intentioned, but mistake prone adults:

1 1/2 c. Warm water

3 tbsp. Oil

1/4 c. Honey

2 1/4 tsp yeast (or one packet)

2 2/3 c. Unbleached bread flour

1 1/3 c. Whole wheat flour

1/3 c. Milled flax seeds

2 1/2 tbsp. Flax seed (or however many the kids throw in)

1 1/3 tsp salt

Mix water, oil, honey and yeast in bowl and set aside. Mix remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour wet mixture into the well. Slowly mix until combined.

Kneed the dough in the bowl until it comes together.  It’s still a little sticky, but throw out a generous amount of flour on your kneeling surface, and it will be fine.  Divide it for the kids to kneed/play with/use it to make mountains and cars and sheep and pizzas until they’re bored. Discourage them from making shoes or hats…it’s hard to resist trying them on.  Reform it into a ball.

Let it rise for 1 hour. Flatten it into a rectagale-ish shape. Fold it in thirds and place it into a loaf pan. Let it rise again for 1 more hour. Bake it at 325 for 50-60 minutes.  It may look done before it is done.  It’s best if you stick an internal thermometer in it.  It should be between 190-200 degrees. By the way, we’ve WAY over baked it before and it was still okay.

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The Return of the Sun

“While we can’t stop the earth from turning, we can choose to experience each revolution so deeply and completely that even the dark becomes luminous.”

Starhawk, in The Spiral Dance

Noticing and celebrating the rhythms of each day and each season are central to the heart of Grow with Me. The days follow the same soothing rhythm. Each week follows a rhythm of grinding wheat and flax on Tuesday, making bread on Wednesday, and eating our creation on Thursday slathered in peanut butter and sticky honey. We spend time noticing the rhythms of the planet. In the fall and early winter, we notice that the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer, until that longest night of the year, the winter solstice, when the rhythm reverses itself.

Each year, somewhere around December 21st, we gather each year to celebrate the returning of the light.

Lead by our dear Ms. Katy, we create a spiral of evergreen boughs for our ceremony. When our ceremony begins, as families or individuals, we walk inward toward the heart of the spiral, where we light our candle and then retrace our steps, spiraling outward, leaving our lit candle somewhere along the way to light the way for others. Here’s Katy’s description of the event:

With reverence we will walk a spiral created by the boughs of the evergreen tree, a reminder that life too is nourished by darkness. Through the darkness, with unlit candle in hand, we will walk towards the flame burning at the spiral’s center. The winter solstice and the darkest days of the year offer a time to embrace contemplation, to look within. In reflection, we will walk the spiral, each step bringing us closer to our own inner flame. At the center of the spiral, you will light your own candle and return out from the center of the spiral, placing your candle along the spiral. Together, flame by flame, we will illuminate the darkness and welcome back the sun!

Afterwards, with hot apple cider and homemade treats, we celebrate the returning sun and our community. Yum and hurray! Happy Winter!

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Sassafras in the Forest

One day a month, Grow With Me moves school to the forest.  On Forest Days there is lots of time for exploring, building, playing, and (weather permitting) splashing!  Each Forest Day also includes a nature walk where Ms. Katy teaches us a bit about the amazing plants that call the forest home.

On our last Forest Day, we happened to run into a group of foragers who were generous enough to share a bit of sassafras root they harvested.  The delicious smell of the root inspired us to find our own golden sassafras tree with it’s three different kinds of leaves, and Ms. Katy told us a story about how the sassafras tree came to be.  It went something like this (apologies to Ms. Katy):

Long ago there was an old farmer and his wife who worked hard.  One cold winter day, the old farmer asked his wife to knit him something to keep his hands warm as he worked the fields.
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That night, as they sat in front of the fire, the wife knitted him a mitten without a thumb.  The next morning, the old man tried out his new hand warmers.  When he returned that night, he complimented his wife on how warm his hands stayed in his new creations, but he wondered if she could knit him something that would keep his hands warm and also let him use his thumbs.  
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The wife said, “Of course!” And that night as she sat in front of the fire, she knitted him a mitten with a thumb.
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The next morning, the old man tried out his new hand mittens.  When he returned that night, he complimented his wife on how warm his hands stayed and how he could use his thumbs, but he wondered if she could knit him something where he could use his thumbs and his fingers.  
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The wife said, “Of course!” And that night as she sat in front of the fire, she knitted him a mitten with two thumbs!  When the wife held it up, the husband and wife laughed at the creation.
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Then the wife knitted her husband a pair of gloves. His hands were toasty warm and when he got home in the evening, he declared them perfect in every way.  The wife laughed and hugged him and threw her three failed creations out the window.  
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The next spring, the husband and wife noticed that a tree was growing outside the window where they threw the mittens.  When they looked closely, they noticed that the tree had three different kinds of leaves that looked like all three of the wife’s mitten creations.  And that’s how the sassafras came to be.
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Summer Seed Camp

Join us for fun at our Summer Seed Camps!                                           
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July 19-22    Rainbows and Bubbles
Come chase bubbles and rainbows! We’ll spend the week making and exploring rainbows and bubbles, including making our own bubble juice, wands and rainbow catchers. We’ll spend lots of time outside blowing and chasing bubbles and running through the sprinkler too!

August 2-5   Summertime in the Garden
Inch by inch, row by row, come help our garden grow! Dig in the soil, plant seeds and harvest food from the garden to make yummy snacks each day. Our week will also include some old fashioned summertime fun like making ice-cream, blowing bubbles, and building homes for the garden fairies and gnomes.

Our camps are for children ages 3-6.5 and run Tuesday through Friday  from 9:30-1:30.  We meet at our classroom space at 954 Tunnel Road.  Camp includes stories, songs and crafts to go along with the week’s theme. We will also make and share a nutritious snack each day. Please send a packed lunch.

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The cost is $140 per week, due at registration.  If you are interested or desire more information, please fill out the contact form below.

Happy Halloween!

We love Halloween at Grow With Me! Not only is it fun to dress up, but it means that Autumn has settled in over our mountains and the ground is covered in leaves of many colors just waiting to be raked into a huge pile at the bottom of our slide. The last day of school before Halloween all the kids (and Ms. Katy!) dressed up in their costumes for the day. Everyone looked so great! Since it was Thursday, which is our painting day, everyone settled in at their places at the table. But, Ms. Katy had a surprise! As the children began to paint on their papers a special Halloween picture appeared! Our snack was in theme, too, with clementines made to look like pumpkins and each child was given a peeled banana half which they could decorate with little chocolate chips to make it look like a ghost. At the end of our day, Ms. Katy told the story about how the farmer decided to carve his pumpkin to scare off the hobgoblin from playing tricks on cows. It was a fun day filled with merriment and laughter. We hope your Halloween is just as joyous!

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Rosie the Apples, Crimson the Leaves

Today we went to the Long Branch Environmental Education Center in Leicester, NC, to pick apples and look for signs of Autumn. Many parents tagged along as well as several smaller siblings. It was a GORGEOUS day! Once we had all arrived, we gathered in front of the main building to have our morning snack which is our weekly loaf of bread made by the children earlier in the week. Afterwards we all headed up the hillside to the orchard where we gathered apples to take home and for making yummy snacks in the classroom next week. Paul, of LBEEC, met us under the trees just as we had filled our baskets and told us the local Native American story of how the mountains and valleys were made by the wings of the turkey vultures. Then Ms. Katy told us Susan Down‘s story of how apples got a star inside to house their seeds. Afterwards we sang apple songs while passing around yummy apple pieces which Ms. Katy cut up for everyone. While we were walking back down the hill to the picnic tables to eat lunch we came across a friendly black garden snake. We left him to bask in the sunshine while we ate our lunches and said goodbye. It was a great day and we look forward to going again next year!

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Crossing the Bridge

Today four of our students crossed the bridge on their way to begin Kindergarten next year. It was a bittersweet moment but our Ms. Katy made it so special by presenting each child with a small stone which she felt embodied their best properties. After the ceremony was over we all gathered outside and had a delicious potluck lunch with all of the families. The weather was beautiful and offered the perfect send off into summer. Until next fall, we wish you well!

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Benn Benn’s Birthday!

At Grow With Me we celebrate birthdays using the Waldorf tradition of telling the Rainbow Bridge Story. It is a very sweet ceremony and makes the birthday child feel extra special. Benn’s birthday is during the summer but asked if we could celebrate his birthday together in class before we end the school year. Of course Ms. Katy said YES! Happy birthday Benn Benn! We love you!

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May Day

We celebrated May Day this week with a traditional May pole dance, flower crowns and a picnic lunch. The children also painted coffee filters which were turned into clothespin butterflies and wrapped ribbons onto fairy sticks. Children and parents alike painted a canvas which will become our new classroom flag. It was a gorgeous day!

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