Monday, November 30, 2020

Advent Meditations for Caregivers of Young Children

 Advent Meditations for Caregivers of Young Children

 ‘Mother’ by Mikulas Galanda

This hurried time of year can be very overwhelming for children and adults alike. Those of us who wish to bring true peace and awareness into this very special time leading up to Christmas Day can spend this next month looking inward and carving out moments of meditation, consciousness and reverence. 

These weekly meditations are just for you, the caregiver.  You work so very hard to give so much to your families, your students and those you care for, but in order to be the type of caregiver you wish to be it is very important to care for yourself as well. 

These Caregiver Meditations can be done after you light your Advent candle each Sunday and revisited throughout the week. 

Week One, Advent

Be hopeful.

“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear.  If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”  - Thich Nhat Hanh

A hopeful ray of light is always waiting for you to follow. It is found within the silence of our darkest moments. It can be seen shining through all of our worries, concerns and insecurities. As we are ‘waiting’ these four weeks of advent, we can feel the hope growing inside of us in anticipation of new possibilities for ourselves and for our world. What wishes do you have for yourself and for your life? Are you appreciating the blessings you already have? How can you be the change you want to see in this world?

Week Two, Advent

Be peace.

 “Remain calm, serene, always in command of yourself.  You will then find out how easy it is to get along.”  - Paramahansa Yogananda

It is very easy to be at peace with yourself and others when things are going well. It is much more difficult to keep a peaceful attitude when life gets difficult, others disappoint you or cause you strife. You will find that when you lose your sense of peace within yourself or with others, it is because you have given up control to external events or individuals. When you are able to let the emotion pass but hold on tightly to your connection and commitment to peace within yourself, you will be able to remain centered throughout any situation. 

This type of self-control takes discipline and practice. Begin by noticing when agitation is building up within you and catching it with a deep breath and positive mantra. Find a word that will remind you to stay in control of your reactions and hold on to peace. Say it to yourself or out loud and recommit yourself to being in command of yourself. Speak when necessary and from a place of love and see how your new approach changes the situation. Most importantly, breathe. Breathing is the key to connect our physical beings to peace.

Week Three, Advent

Be joyful.

“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence.  To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.”  - Pearl Buck (1892 – 1973), The Joy of Children, 1964

Caring for our homes and our family is one of the most important duties in the world. When we create joy and peace within our own surroundings, our work can then extend outward into the rest of the world.

Each moment you share yourself with a child, you feed their soul. Each time you show reverence for the sanctity of the home and family, you teach a lesson to the world about what is truly important in this life.

Having respect and reverence for even the most mundane parts of your job is the secret to finding true joy in your work. You are helping to create a more peaceful planet with each task you do. Your work is truly sacred.

Week Four, Advent

Be love.

 “If I could put it simply, I would say that I believe there's a force of love and logic in the world, a force of love and logic behind the universe. And I believe in the poetic genius of a creator who would choose to express such unfathomable power as a child born in "straw poverty"; i.e., the story of Christ makes sense to me.”  - Bono

When our actions come purely from love, we remain grounded and rooted to our true source. We are love. This week stay firmly rooted in love with your responses, actions and decision making whenever possible. This can be quite challenging as we can often let our emotions and our mind take over. 

Many of us have an image that we hold within us of the love we want to receive from others. That image may have been with us since we were quite young. We may hold this picture of who the love of our life will be, who our children will be, and how we will be loved by those people in our lives. We may have imagined, or still do imagine, the day when this love that we find will come into our lives the right way and make us ‘whole’.

And because of this beautiful dream we have for ourselves, we can often be filled with resentment and worry when the people in our lives are not meeting our love expectations that we have placed on them. 

What we fail to remember is that we do not need anyone to make us ‘whole’. We already are. Nothing else is needed because love is what you are made of. 

When we let go of what we think our love should be… we are able to learn that the most wonderful part of loving another person is to be able to fully and completely love ourselves first.



We wish you deep peace and hope during this beautiful time of reflection and love.  Give yourself the gift of these special moments just for you.  


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Little Acorn Story

This story is from our First Grade Curriculum. Keep a few little acorns nearby and one special one as you tell the children this story.  For an added effect, have a small potted plant or symbol for the oak tree nearby to show at the end.  

Thank you all for being our very own “little acorns” this year!

It was a little acorn that hung on the bough of a tree. It had a tender green cup and a beautifully carved saucer to hold it. The mother oak fed it with sweet sap every day, the birds sang good-night songs above it, and the wind rocked it gently to and fro. The oak leaves made a soft green shade above it, so the sun could not shine too warm on its green cover, and it was as happy as an acorn could be. 

    There were many other acorns on the tree, and I am sure the mother often whispered loving words to all her babies. 

    The summer days were so bright and pleasant that the acorn never thought of anything but sunshine and an occasional shower to wash the dust off the leaves. 

    But you know that summer ends and the autumn days come. The green cup of the acorn turned to a brown cup, and it was well that it grew stiffer and harder, for the cold winds began to blow. 

    The leaves turned from green to golden brown, and some of them were whisked away by the rough wind. The little acorn began to grow uneasy. 

    "Isn't life all summer?" it said.  "No," whispered the mother oak, "the cold days come and the leaves must go and the acorns too. I must soon lose my babies."  "Oh! I could never leave this kind bough," said the frightened acorn. "I should be lost and forgotten if I were to fall." 

    So it tried to cling all the closer to its bough; but at last it was alone there. The leaves were blown away, and some of them had made a blanket for the brown acorns lying on the ground. 

    One night the tree whispered this message to the lonely acorn: "This tree is only your home for a time. This is not your true life. Your brown shell is only the cover for a living plant, which can never be set free until the hard shell drops away, and that can never happen until you are buried in the ground and wait for the spring to call you into life. So let go, little acorn, and fall to the ground, and some day you will wake to a new and glorious life." The acorn listened and believed, for was not the tree its sheltering mother?  

    So it bade her farewell, and, loosing its hold, dropped to the ground. Then, indeed, it seemed as if the acorn were lost. That night a high wind blew and covered it deep under a heap of oak leaves. The next day a cold rain washed the leaves closer together, and trickling streams from the hillside swept some earth over them. The acorn was buried. "But I shall wake again," it said, and so it fell asleep. It might have been cold; but the frost fairies wove a soft, white snow blanket to cover it, and so it was kept warm. 

    If you had walked through the woods that winter, you would have said the acorn was gone, but then you could not have seen the life slumbering within the brown cover. But spring came and called to all the sleeping things underground to waken and come forth. The acorn heard and tried to move, but the brown shell held it fast. Some raindrops trickled through the ground to moisten the shell, and one day the pushing life within was set free. The brown shell was of no more use and was lost in the ground, but the young plant was to live. It heard voices calling it upward. It must arise. "A new and glorious life," the mother oak had said. 

    "I must arise," the acorn said, and up the living plant came, up to the world of sunshine and beauty. It looked around. There was the same green moss in the woods, the same singing brook.  "And I shall live and grow," it said. 

    "Yes," called the mother oak, "you are now an oak tree. This is your real life." 

    And the tiny oak tree was glad and tried to stretch higher towards the sun. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Apples Lessons for Homeschooling or Afterschooling

I work extremely hard to make sure that my curriculum is created with mixed aged groups and siblings in mind. For this reason, the Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade program follow similar themes when possible and incorporate many activities that can be done together as a family. I really hope this helps my customers as I know firsthand how very difficult it can be raising multiple children while working in any capacity at home - and homeschooling and parenting COUNT as work! 

This past month one of our themes was Apples, Patience. Not only are there fun activities for the children included but I also focused on the caregiver. There is a meditation on patience as well as a caregiver focus on trying to do more activities that require you to slow down, take your time, and be patient. 

Here are a few fun things you can try at home like we did! 

Make Apple Birdfeeders

Supplies Needed:

Apples

Spoon or Knife

Package of Gelatin or Peanut Butter

Birdseed

Baking Sheet 

Twine or String

Yarn Needle

 

Using the instructions on your gelatin packet, boil the water and when gelatin is dissolved mix the birdseed into this mixture. Alternatively, mix peanut butter and birdseed together.

 

Cut your apples in half. Using a spoon or knife, hollow the center out. Place your apple halves on a baking sheet and carefully fill the insides with your birdseed mixture. 


Use a yarn needle to thread twine or yarn through the back of your apple to the front for hanging outside for the birds to enjoy. Allow to cool in refrigerator for two hours.  

Dissect an Apple

Begin by looking at the apple together as a whole. What does it look like? What color is it? What shape? Can you find the stem? 

 

Next, carefully peel some of the skin off the apple. What does it look like underneath? Does the skin taste differently that the inside does? 

 

Cut the apple in half. Let children do this on their own, but with supervision. What do you see inside? Go back to the songs of this week and sing the Treasure Box song again. Do you see the seeds inside? Taste the apple. 

 

Take out some of the seeds. Talk about how inside that tiny seed is the recipe for growing a big apple tree. All it needs is water and sunshine and to be planted deep in the ground.  

It takes a very long time for an apple tree to grow from a tiny seed in the ground.  Have you ever had to wait your turn for something?  Was it hard for you to wait? 

Play Apple Math Hide & Seek

Supplies Needed:

Construction Paper

Scissors 

Marker  

Have the children cut out apple shapes from construction paper. Paper cutting is a big part of our curriculum and helps children with their fine motor skills. On each apple write a math equation. On other apples in a pile, have the answers. Tell your children they will be going on an apple hide and seek game. Hide all of the apples when they are not looking in one room. When they find an apple, they must go back to their pile of answers and pull out the correct one. 

I hope you enjoy these fun lessons have a better idea of what Little Acorn Learning is all about.

With love,

Eileen

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Autumn Lantern Making




As promised to my Facebook and IG community, here is the tutorial for these very pretty Autumn Lanterns that we made at our home for Martinmas. These are very fun to make and come out so beautiful. We also did these in our New England Lifeways training and each and every student's lantern came out so unique.

Supplies Needed:

Different Colored Tissue Paper
Balloons
Old Paint Brushes
Glue
Jar
Water
Leaves (optional)

Blow up balloon and tie. 
Place balloon in a bowl or on top of a wide mug, jar or cup to work. 
Mix glue with 1 part water in a separate container. 


Working carefully, paint glue mixture onto individual strips and pieces of tissue paper. You will be covering only half of your balloon, leaving the top half with knot open to make a bowl shaped lantern.  Be sure to glue the underside of each strip of tissue as well as the top and keep layering and layering until you have a nice design that will be thick enough to stand firm after drying.


Experiment with different designs, transparency ideas or even consider gluing autumn leaves to your lantern.  

 When completed, place your wet balloon lantern on top of the same cup or bowl to dry overnight.  In the  morning pop your balloon and carefully pull out and away from your lantern.

We stapled star string for a handle. You can also punch holes on either side and tie with string or make a handle out of wire. If you decide to use real candles, please be very careful as the tissue paper can catch on fire. We chose to use battery operated votives and it was just perfect.

Please share your photos with us on our Facebook Page

If you like this activity, be sure to check out our other publications for more inspiration.


Enjoy!  
xoxo

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Gift of A Simple Holiday this Year

    

    Watching our child’s eyes light up with excitement during the holiday season is one of the many joys of parenthood. With our love, each year, many of us go to the ends of the earth, wait in long lines for hours, and spend more than our budget permits in an attempt to create a magical experience for our children. 

    More often than not, we return from our shopping trip overwhelmed and over budget. And when the holiday arrives, we are understandably disappointed to see our carefully found treasures thrown into a pile of accumulated things while our children move on to open the next package.

    Not long ago, the holiday season was a simple time of family traditions, gratitude, and gift-giving from the heart. The magic and beauty of the season did not come from how much one could receive but from how much one could give. 

    Decorating was beautiful and modest with candles and branches of evergreens draping the doorway. Family and friends would gather together, bringing along homemade treats and small gifts of appreciation.

    Most gifts were made by hand and simple. Mothers would knit sweaters for their children and fathers would search local shops for the perfect gift.  Children would receive much less but appreciate much more.  A new set of blocks, a special doll, or a set of books would be cherished for years to come.

    Toys were natural and open-ended, leaving room for hours of imagination and free play. They did not blink, flash, need batteries, or keep children indoors for most of their day.

    How, in a world that is much different now, do we recapture the truth and surround our children with warmth, simplicity, and peace this holiday season?

 The Benefit of Natural Toys

    Toys of today are much different than the basic and sturdy toys of our past. Some of the components that are added to products made with PVC plastics have been linked to cancer and other serious ailments. Certain plastics are known to contain toxic chemicals which have negative impacts on human health. Children are particularly vulnerable to these toxic chemicals since their body systems and organs are still developing. Their bodies are small, so what may be a small dose for an adult may be a big dose with big effects for a child. Young children are also at greater risk since they often insert plastic objects into their mouths. Baby bottles, sippy cups, teething rings, and toys are often made with phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA). (see "Eco Healthy Childcare" In Plastics & Plastic Toys by UC Davis Health https://health.ucdavis.edu/)

    With the very safety of our children’s playthings in question, many parents are choosing to buy natural toys and products for their children. But safety is not the only benefit of items made from natural materials such as wood, cotton, silk, or wool.

    Children, like sponges, absorb their environment and the world around them. The quality and essence of the things that we surround our children with can have a direct effect on their behavior, health, and ability to learn. Holding something beautiful that is made from the earth has tremendous positive psychological effects on human beings. 

    In fact, natural materials teach children correctly about the world around them. When a child picks up a rock that is made of plastic, it feels light and weightless. In nature, rocks are heavy and solid.

    Toys that do not require batteries invite open-ended play. This type of play sparks children’s creativity and requires them to finish the story on their own. Many electronic toys have a predetermined ending, leaving little room for imagination causing the child to lose interest quickly.

    More often than not, loud toys over-stimulate young children.  Blinking lights, loud sounds, and so much stimuli muffles the child’s ability to hear his or her imagination speak. We must quiet the noise in order to allow our children to listen to the true magic that is within.

    Equally important is the fact that natural toys are better for the environment. Plastic can sit in landfills for hundreds of years and is not biodegradable. 

    If you have a skill such as sewing, knitting, or woodworking, consider making your child something special this year. Not only does this send a message of love, but it also teaches patience. The time spent on creating something from hand is a wonderful way to show your children the benefit of working toward a goal.

Quality over Quantity

    Let us keep in mind that it is not only the quality of the gifts we give this year but also the quantity. How much is really enough?

    Before holiday shopping, take a good look around your home. How loved are your child’s belongings? Gifts lose their value when children are surrounded by so many things. It is unfair of us to expect a child to cherish a new toy when they are surrounded by so many of them.

    When deciding to purchase an item for your child, be selective and ask yourself the following questions: What purpose will the toy have? Does your child already have this type of item? Does it engage all five senses and encourage imagination? It is much better to offer fewer, higher quality toys that your child will get more use out of than an abundance of toys that will go unappreciated. 

    This is a wonderful opportunity for parents to teach children the lesson of giving this holiday season. This year, many children around the world won’t even have a holiday meal, let alone presents. Talk to your child about this and then spend a day sorting through items that are no longer cherished or age-appropriate to donate to others. If the charity only accepts new toys, considering selling your items and donating the money earned to a worthy cause.

Simplify and Reduce Stress

    Much as young children take in the aesthetics of their environment, they also absorb the feelings and emotions of their caregivers. We must be mindful of the message we are sending to them during the holidays and throughout the year. Here are a few ideas on how to limit stress and create a more peaceful celebration for yourself and your children:

-      Create beautiful traditions with your children. String popcorn, make ornaments, or go caroling. Allow even the youngest child to assist with preparing the holiday meal, setting the table, or baking cookies. 

-      Demonstrate kindness. Send cards or gifts to a nursing home, adopt a needy family, or write letters to those who may be alone this holiday season. Children can add so much to the lives of others who have so little. 

-      Consider shopping online for many of your gifts this year. It is not only a safer option this year but it is also a wonderful way to save gas and reduce your stress by avoiding busy stores and shopping malls. 

Above all, let us remember that true happiness cannot be wrapped and placed under a tree. When we teach our children this, we have already given them the greatest gift.

Eileen is a work-at-home mother and the owner of Little Acorn Learning http://www.littleacornlearning.com 
She writes and publishes homeschool curriculum inspired by the Waldorf philosophy of education and sells wooden toys, knitting and crochet supplies, natural art supplies, and holisitc books for parents and children. Be sure to sign up for the Little Acorn Learning monthly newsletter on the website full of free lessons, crafts, ideas, recipes, and more or visit the much loved Little Acorn Learning blog.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Tree of Thanks and Gratitude Caregiver Meditation

Tree of Thanks

Supplies Needed: 

Vase

Branches

Construction Paper

Scissors

String

Hole Punch

Crayon or Marker

This is a favorite tradition among so many of our "Little Acorn Learners"! 

Place branches that you find with the children outdoors into a vase.  The branches should be large enough and have smaller branches to hang your Leaves of Gratitude on.  When you have completed, place your tree in your nature place.  You may wish to label your vase ‘Tree of Thanks’.

Next, cut leaf shapes out of various colored construction paper.  Punch a hole in each leaf and have children help you tie string to each one for hanging.  Make enough leaves to use until it is time to put Autumn behind and prepare your Winter nature place.

Each day, beginning with today, ask each person that enters your home to write one thing they are thankful for on a leaf and hang it on the tree.  For young children, they can draw a picture on a leaf or you can write the word for them.  Putting the person’s name and date on the back of the leaf is a good idea for future reference.  Extra leaves and a marker can be left in a basket near your tree.

When it is time to take your tree down, consider saving the leaves of this year to reflect upon years ahead.  You can even paste them into your nature notebooks or make a special scrapbook.  If you are a daycare provider, you can create a book out of each child’s leaves this season and send them home for parents to see.

Caregiver Meditation:  Gratitude

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ― Melody Beattie

How often do you look at your life and all of the things in it with gratitude?  Often, we find ourselves focusing on how things could be better in our lives or on what we are lacking rather than the good that is surrounding us.  What an amazing purpose you have in this world!  It is no mistake that these little souls have been placed gently in your care.  They were led to you for guidance.  You are here to show them all the beauty and good the world has to offer.  You were chosen to be their guide.  Be grateful for this wonderful responsibility and remind yourself daily how special the work you do truly is.