Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

We had such a wonderful Easter Sunday filled with love, family and good food.  I have been truly cherishing each and every moment I have with loved ones lately.  Ever since Sandy Hook happened, I have not let one moment slip by without gratitude.  I am so very lucky and have such a beautiful life.  I am so grateful.

The girls woke us up at 6 a.m. to see what the Easter Bunny left behind.  Just like each year before, he left a trail of eggs with clues in it all the way to their baskets.  The girls were taken up, down, outside and back before the last egg led them to their baskets in a cabinet in the garage.  I love watching their happiness and excitement.  It fills my heart.
We had a full house today and a fun Easter egg hunt outside for the girls before dinner.  I'm tired, full and thankful after tucking my girls into bed for the night.
I hope you all were able to spend time with those you love and cherish this special festival with your family.  

"Life is available only in the present moment.  If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply."  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, March 22, 2013

Coffee Cup Seed Starters

This activity is a sneak peek into our next release, the Late Spring Festivals ebook, which will be released early April 2013.  Enjoy!  

Coffee Cup Seed Starters

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.  Gardening is an instrument of grace."
– May Sarton

This is a very nice way to reuse those little coffee ground holders you may use with machines like the Keurig.  They are perfect for little hands or to send home as spring gifts with students or friends to later plant in their home gardens.


Used coffee grind cups like the ones used in Keurig machines

We tried to plant our seeds directly in the coffee grounds but did not have the best results but leaving some of the grounds on the bottom (like a tiny bit of compost), scooping the rest out and adding soil to fill before planting our seeds worked perfect. 

Carefully take the top off of each used coffee cup.  Scoop out three quarters of the coffee grounds and replace with potting soil.  Add a special seed in each cup for the children in your care. 

Cut strips of felt approximately 4.5” in length and 1.5” in width (trim as necessary to fit your cups).  Carefully glue the felt around your cup and trim. 

Water and keep in direct sun.  When seedlings are strong and tall, transplant into your outdoor garden or into a larger pot to continue growth and harvest.

Happy Birthday Dee!

19 years.  I was 19 years when I had you.  Now its been 19 more since that day.  The world is yours and I am so proud of you.  You will always be my baby, no matter how many birth celebrations pass us by.

Friday, March 15, 2013


We had such a fun experiment with this mushroom kit.  The mushrooms grow in recycled coffee grounds right on your windowsill in less than 10 days.  The process really amazed the girls and it was so much fun to watch and chart the progress.  
The mushrooms seemed kind of yuck to us at first and we weren't really sure that we wanted to eat them at all!
But as the days passed, we started getting excited about eventually being able to harvest the mushrooms and see what they taste like.  The process is nothing short of a miracle.  If you really think about all of the potential that is held within small seeds or, in this case, spores; it is truly amazing.  
 These types of activities really open my eyes and heart back up to the universe and the truth that I hold within that there is something greater than ourselves.  
When the time was right, each one of my girls took a turn snipping off our mushrooms right before I cooked dinner.  
I made a stir fry with a bunch of different veggies I had on hand and served it alongside of rice.  The mushrooms were delicious and there weren't hardly enough.  The girls were asking for more.  
I guess if children grow their own food, they eat it.  

When Brian's grandmother died, we found this vintage mushroom identification book in her home and were told we could have it.  This was a perfect time to really dig into it with the girls.  Mushrooms are beautiful and unique.  Some are very dangerous and some are delicious.
The best thing about the kit is that after one side grows you simply repeat the process for the other side to grow mushrooms too.  So, we are anxiously waiting for our second batch of homegrown oyster mushrooms to eat.

And the company will donate a free kit to a classroom of your choice if you post pictures to their facebook page of your growing mushrooms.  My hope is to pick a classroom that is underfunded and in need of some nature.

Have you ever grown your own mushrooms? 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

International Homeschool Fair

We took part in an International Fair that was held by Connecticut homeschoolers this past weekend.  This was a timely opportunity for us because Maia had been really sick last month (we are still unsure why but luckily all blood results seem ok) and she missed another International Fair she was scheduled to be involved in.  We worked hard on our display of Ireland and didn't want to miss the opportunity to share it with others.
Each child received a special passport and as they went to each display they were able to stamp their little book with each country's stamp.  
We learned a lot of very interesting facts about the world around us.  We even learned some cool things about America.  Did you know that a lot of the words we use today are Native American words?
 Our booth came out very nice and the girls put together a potato clock.  We are lucky to still have roots in Ireland and I had photos of myself as a girl when I went there with my Nanny.  My father also sent us some cool photos of Ireland from a trip he went on with other family members not too long ago.
 The creativity could not go unnoticed.  Each child knew such detail of the country they chose and there were wonderful international samples of food, clothing, toys and much more.
 One of the most enjoyable parts of the fair was a special scavenger hunt the organizers set up.  Each table had to give a few questions that the children had to dig around and find the answers to.  We found each one but it wasn't easy! 

I love exposing my daughters to new and unique foods.  I think it is really important that they not be afraid to try new things or expand their pallet.  Some things were a bit too sweet, some a bit too spicy...
We already love Indian food and now we also found a few new delicious recipes to try at home from all over the world.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Maple Syruping in Connecticut

We took a little field trip one Saturday afternoon with some friends to a maple syrup farm.  The event was free and very simple but it was cool to show the children how maple syrup is made and how much work goes into the process.  We were absolutely FREEZING and were very thankful for our woolens this particular day.  Connecticut is such a beautiful place to live but the winters can get very cold and it is important for us to remember to dress our children in layers because of the unexpected shifts we've been seeing in temperatures.
The trees had their buckets attached and were slowly dripping out the magical liquid from deep inside.  I kept thinking that there must be some sort of beautiful tale to be told about maple syruping... little busy gnomes in trees tapping away and guiding the flow of syrup.
Inside there was delicious maple candy and a man who was demonstrating how the evaporator worked and how the liquid was boiled down into syrup.  It is a very time consuming process but I love it so much.  I wanted to go right home and tap my own maple trees but soon realized that I'd need a little more prep time to do it right.  So, I hope to identify the correct trees and buy the supplies needed to tap syrup next year at Little Acorn.  I think the children will love it and it could be a really beautiful way to welcome spring.

As you can imagine, Native American Indians were the first maple syrup producers and I came across this beautiful old fable which has a moral that suits people in our day and age of over-consumption as well.  I hope you enjoy it:

An Abenaki Legend

Long ago, the Creator made and gave many gifts to man to help him during his life. The Creator made the lives of the Abenaki People very good, with plenty of food to gather, grow, and hunt. The Maple tree at that time was one of these very wonderful and special gifts from the Creator. The sap was as thick and sweet as honey. All you had to do was to break the end off of a branch and the syrup would flow out.
In these days Gluskabe would go from native village to village to keep an eye on the People for the Creator. One day Gluskabe came to an abandoned village. The village was in disrepair, the fields were over-grown, and the fires had gone cold. He wondered what had happened to the People.

He looked around and around, until he heard a strange sound. As he went towards the sound he could tell that it was the sound of many people moaning. The moaning did not sound like people in pain but more like the sound of contentment. As he got closer he saw a large stand of beautiful maple trees. As he got closer still he saw that all the people were lying on their backs under the trees with the end of a branch broken off and dripping maple syrup into their mouths.

The maple syrup had fattened them up so much and made them so lazy that they could barely move. Gluskabe told them to get up and go back to their village to re-kindle the fires and to repair the village. But the people did not listen. They told him that they were content to lie there and to enjoy the maple syrup.

When Gluskabe reported this to the Creator, it was decided that it was again time that man needed another lesson to understand the Creator's ways. The Creator instructed Gluskabe to fill the maple trees with water. So Gluskabe made a large bucket from birch bark and went to the river to get water. He added water, and added more water until the sap was that like water. Some say he added a measure of water for each day between moons, or nearly 30 times what it was as thick syrup. After a while the People began to get up because the sap was no longer so thick and sweet.

They asked Gluskabe "where has our sweet drink gone?" He told them that this is the way it will be from now on. Gluskabe told them that if they wanted the syrup again that they would have to work hard to get it. The sap would flow sweet only once a year before the new year of spring.

The People were shown that making syrup would take much work. Birch bark buckets would need to be made to collect the sap. Wood would be needed to be gathered to make fires to heat rocks, and the rocks would be needed to be put into the sap to boil the water out to make the thick sweet syrup that they once were so fond of. He also told them that they could get the sap for only a short time each year so that they would remember the error of their ways.

And so it is still to this day, each spring the Abenaki people remember Gluskabe's lesson in honoring Creator's gifts and work hard to gather the maple syrup they love so much. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nature Club - Food Cycles

-Jim Fowler

My winter Nature Club has come to an end and our last meeting was wonderful. The hardest part of teaching for me is letting go of the children when they leave my class.  This last meeting we learned about food cycles and the importance of ecosystems and ensuring our world is cared for in a way as to not disturb the ecosystems of living things to the best of our ability. 
 Each child made a special food cycle craft and added facts and drawings to their growing Nature Notebooks that we made the first day of our club.  My hope is that those notebooks follow them into the wilderness and the children continue to add to them even while not in class. 
 Outside time is the best time of all when we meet.  We are so relaxed and free to take our time and discover.  I do my best not to feel the need to plan out their discoveries or give them tasks to complete when we are outside.  I walk along side of them and let the day unfold as it is supposed to naturally without too much of a plan.  
 They always seem to find the most beautiful things, without any assistance from me...
These two sweet girls decided to build a nest for the birds with their own hands.  They worked for most part of the hour outside doing this together, cooperatively.  
 Then, our oldest put their new nest up in a tree for them.  They are hoping some birds take up residence.  
This experience was such a beautiful one for me.  I have decided to hold the class again in the spring and our town has asked if I would take over an outdoor camp this summer.  I've also had a lot of online requests for a curriculum on how to start your own Nature Club and I hope to work on that shortly and will keep you updated here and on the Little Acorn Learning Facebook Page when the program is completed.  

I think it is so wonderful that so many parents and teachers want to help foster a love of nature in our young people, especially in this very high-tech world we are living in.  It is an amazing feeling to be a part of such an important movement and I hope you will join us. 


Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Finamoon for winning a FREE Spring Festivals E-Book from Little Acorn Learning!  Thank you all so much for participating.  We hope you have a beautiful season with the children in your care.

Eileen & Sara

Blogger Finamoon said...
I am a fan of both Love in the Suburbs and Little Acorn Learning on Facebook (as Crystal Joy Abel) and shared on FB I would love to try the Irish Stew and Build a fairy house!! Thanks for the giveaway!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Welcome Charlotte!

We have a sweet new daycare baby to enjoy.  We are so excited to welcome Charlotte to Little Acorn Playgarden!
Her mommy was naturally very sad having to go back to work and anxious to leave her baby....but little Charlotte was so happy during the time she spent with us and she loves her new friends.  Our days are a bit more busy but they are joyful and the children really connect with one another.  It is beautiful to see the toddlers being gentle with the baby and the baby watches them so closely and laughs at little things that they do.
We will work hard to make sure Charlotte gets plenty of love, warmth and nurturing during her time here and hopefully that will give her mother the peace she needs during this time of transition.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

*New* Spring Festivals E-Book Giveaway!

We are SO excited to be able to announce the release of our newest publication in our festivals series, the Spring Festivals E-Book by Sara Wilson of Love in the Suburbs and myself.

We worked so very hard on this book in between managing our families, work and busy life schedules and it feels so wonderful to have the final product in hand.  We hope you enjoy it!

(over 160 pages big) packed full of 
Waldorf songs, stories, verses, 
crafting tutorials and much more to 
help you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, 
Spring Equinox, Ostara, and Easter 
with your children!
ONLY $24.99 !

Eileen Straiton, Little Acorn Learning
Sara Wilson, Love in the Suburbs

To celebrate, we are giving a FREE copy to the winners of the Little Acorn Learning March Photo Contest which ends this Friday, March 8th - be sure to go vote for your favorites.

But Sara and I would like to also offer our blog readers a chance to win the e-book for free!

So here's how to enter:

Be sure you are a fan of both Love in the Suburbs and Little Acorn Learning on Facebook.
  • Share our Spring Festivals E-Book link on your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account:
  • Come back here and let us know you did so in the comments section of this post- and also tell us which craft in our new e-book you look forward to trying out the most (for a complete index of activities see here).  
A random winner will be chosen Monday, March 11th here on the Little Acorn Learning blog so be sure to check back with us.  

Best of luck to you and Happy SPRING!