Archive for April, 2012

Little Free Library chez Saathoff

April 23, 2012

I first read about the Little Free Libraries in a Star Tribune article.  Since then I’ve also heard about them in a story on NPR, which has a bit wider reach.

From the moment I read about them I was hooked.  We needed one of those.  But without the tools or the know-how, I sent my father a link to the plans and asked if he’d be willing to put it together and then we could paint it.  This was about the time he decided I needed a circular saw.  So, I went to it.

The first layer was thick plywood, covered with several layers of poly to keep it rainproof.  The plans recommend using recycled materials, so I found some old shingles in the garage and old fence pickets.  I cut those down and created the exterior to the library.

Above you can see our homemade “Little Free Library” sign.  After we registered with the organization, they sent us an official sign that says “Charter  #0907.”  We both felt it had a bit too much text on it – too busy – so I cut off the bottom, and now it looks quite nice.

We had a couple neighbors come by just to say “thank you.”  Several neighbors have told us what a good idea they thought it was.  It’s the most fun for me to come home from work and see what’s changed inside – what’s been taken or returned or what new books have appeared.  When things get thin, we can easily replenish the contents from a nearby thrift store with a steady supply of good books.

My next plan is to grow some Boston Ivy at the bottom of the post to grow up on three of the sides.  I don’t know a thing about growing vines, but from what I’ve read they don’t take much effort.

Happy reading!

~Eric

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Toys, Waldorf, Montessori

April 18, 2012

 

I know Elizabeth has been reading recently about Waldorf education, which is a little interesting since I am currently a Montessori educator.  I, myself, have read very little about Waldorf education, but there are some things that I find to be very different about them.

In Montessori education one of the important factors for young children is to make everything real.  If the children are just developing their minds and coming to understand the world around them, they have no need for fantasy.  The new world that they are exploring is fantastic enough.  Instead of using a fake broom, they want to use a real broom and to sweep like they see the adults doing.  A large chunk of the Montessori education for young children is involved with “practical life” – teaching the children how to do real, practical things in life (for a variety of reasons).  For a short while I was convinced to take out all of the fantasty books from Basil’s library – anything with talking animals – in exchange for non-fiction books that explained real parts of the world or realistic / historical fiction types of books.

My shallow understanding of Waldorf is that it is the opposite – that children are encouraged to use their imaginations a lot and to do a lot of fantasy or make-believe play.  Montessori children do not “play” but rather “work.”  Children choose different works, and imaginative play has little to no place in the learning environment.  The “work” is productive, constructive activity that continues their natural ( = ideal, perfect) development (to adulthood).

Having raised Basil now for nearly 3 years, my mind has changed a bit.  He does want to do what he sees his mama and papa doing, and I still want to provide him a real broom, fork, etc.  But he also loves pretending, and he knows he’s pretending.  He says “I’m pretending” when I tell him the toy chimpanzee is not a polar bear.  His pro-yiayia loves seeing him pretend to do church when he comes over on Sundays.  In a way he is going through the motions of a Montessori “work” and repeating what he’s seen, but in another way he is doing imaginative play – which is more like Waldorf.  We simply can’t get him the materials to truly do the Eucharist at home…

In the Montessori classroom there are really no “toys.”  Our home is not a Montessori classroom, nor should it be.  We do have toys, and here is where the Waldorf ideas really seem to hit home for me.  One website I saw summed up the idea like this:

  • Is it beautiful?
  • Does it feel good?
  • Does it leave room for the imagination?
  • Will it inspire creative play?
  • Is it open-ended? (That is, is there more than one way to play with it?)

These questions do guide our choice of toys.  A quick conclusion from the questions is that most of the plastic, commercial toys today are automatically out.  They are too specific in use, they are not beautiful, and they are made to be disposable yet are not biodegradable -> which is really the opposite of what we want to teach him about how to use resources.

It’s a bit difficult to really rule out all plastic things, such as his toilet, and at this point it would seem nearly impossible for us to do this as adults in our own environment.  Still, as much as possible this is something we agree on and seems to not be in dispute between Montessori and Waldorf educators.  Montessorians might heavily disagree regarding the shape and use of the toys – but not in their materials or construction.  Montessori materials are nearly always made of glass, metal, or wood.

Another aspect of all of this is to consider the disposable nature of many toys offered today and the quantity of toys we have in the house.  We decided a little while back to do a rotation of toys – putting some in the closet and bringing them back out when the current toys on the shelf were no longer of interest.  One problem with this scenario is that our closet is only so large!  We’ve begun running out of space to put the ones we want to take off the shelf.

The quality of toys can have a direct effect on the quantity of toys in these ways: Quality toys are likely higher in price, so you buy fewer (this one is hard because we are penny pinchers!).  Quality toys should be more open ended, so you need fewer because you can do more with less.  Quality toys should be made of better materials and last longer, so they need fewer replacements.

Here are some other articles I recently read regarding toys, plastics, etc:

MotherSpirit Article: Toys
Top 3 Reasons Why Mothers Should Get Rid of Plastic
Easy Ways to Reduce Plastics at Home
Waldorf Toys: Choosing the Best Educational Toys For Your Children <- Source of above quote
Too Many Toys <- a very interesting article about someone who was going to work for Hasbro

~Eric

A Fair Monday

April 2, 2012

Happy Monday everyone.  And by “everyone”, I mean all those who read this blog.  I really should say “Happy Monday Basil Fans!”  And since you are all Basil fans, here’s an update on what he’s been up to this fair Monday.

After breakfast Basil got busy making some honey wheat bread.  He was an eager kneader.

After covering the dough to rise Basil was not so keen on letting it rest.  To avoid further poking and prodding we went downstairs to other duties.

Oh yes.  Laundry time!  Basil is rather fascinated with the washer.  Conveniently, our washer will continue agitating the clothes with the lid open, so we can watch the show.  (He didn’t fall in.)

A quick train stop since we were downstairs already.

And then to check on the bread.  I was nursing Macrina and trusting that the dough was not being pulverized.

The dough was safe.  But Dagmar the Duck tends to get hungry at the same times as Macrina.  So Dagmar got to nurse too.  And we all enjoyed reading “Sammy Salami” and “The Noisy House”.

               Then a bit of gluing.

And it was time to bake the bread!  I didn’t get pictures of that.  But it was followed by more food production on the earlier end of the process.  Basil planted lettuce seeds.  Carrots went in too, but they were mighty tiny seeds so I avoided having a helper.  But he did man the watering can to give our seeds a good sprinkling.Serious planting was followed by serious digging around in the dirt.  Which is a lot of work.  So we had lunch and it was such a fair Monday that we ate outside and got to exchange pleasantries with our neighbor Linda.  Squirrels keep stealing her lettuce.  We’re hoping ours doesn’t go the same route.

Tasting the fruits of his earlier labor.

Then there were a couple stories and an attempt at a nap.  It seems daytime sleep is a thing of the past for Basil.  Unless we’re in the car.  Then he’ll still fall asleep, if he’s really tired.  It’s hard to tell how much he needs it.  For now the rest hour isn’t going anywhere, that’s for sure.

Then Basil loaded and unloaded his garbage truck many many times.  I think the contents were diaper ointment and little finger puppets.  I couldn’t tell what the storyline was for the game.  This was at the same time as insisting on listening to the same song about Paris not being built in one day FOURTEEN times.  He calls it “The Ice Cream Song”.  I don’t get it.  But it is (thankfully!) a pleasant little ditty.

Then playdough.  We discussed “play” vs “real” dough since he experienced both today.  Toothpicks were added to the playdough tool arsenal today.  Very cool.

Playdough starting losing its allure about the same time dinner was done.  Basil wanted to keep playing inside, but I vetoed his plan on account of the weather.  It was far too nice out.

A bike ride all the way around the block.  With a stop to pat the bunny.  Among other stops, of course.

To the playground!

Most of the time was actually spent pulling the pulley by a jump rope someone left tied to it.  It makes a nice ding sound when it hits the end of the track.  He also nervously watched the other family that was there playing. 

Then it was back home for playtime with Papa, dinner, more stories and bedtime.

Wait… you’re a Macrina fan too?  You may be wondering where the younger sibling was during all the day’s excitement.  Macrina was surely along for the ride!  She practiced her sitting (she’s got it down, unaided (!)  but she’s only rolled over a couple times), giggled at Basil, and made goofy fake cough sounds in very conversational ways.  It’s pretty amazing how much Macrina is amused by Basil’s antics already, she really loves watching him.  She especially lights up when he comes downstairs after naptime.  The only thing better is when Papa comes home.  The lack of object permanence seems to make it an especially amazing experience everyday.  Macrina remains a most pleasant (the most ?) pleasant baby.  Last night she woke up in the middle of the night to kick her feet and smile at me.  I don’t wish the timing to be a habit, but it was heart warming.  Even in the middle of the night.

Both Macrina and I have a cold so it wasn’t really the best day for pictures.  But I did get a few good ones.

I guess watching the laundry work was… shocking?

Observing the kneading seems like it must have been a more pleasant view:

Tummy time in the kitchen is a usual perch.  It was dry and warm enough outside that Macrina got to play on the ground for the first time instead of being in arms in the out of doors.  She seemed a lot more excited about it than she appears in the pictures.

  And the usual hideouts.  

Here’s to a fair Tuesday!  (With fewer photographs.)

*Here’s the bread recipe.  It’s pretty tasty and VERY fast.  Swift enough for a 2.5 year old attention span!  I’m hoping to try adjusting the type-of-flour ratio and the honey.  http://prayingwithmyfeet.blogspot.com/2012/03/bread-for-presanctified-liturgy.htm  *