Thursday, 30 April 2015

Four of the Best Books about Spring

So following on on the previous autumn and winter posts, here are our favourite spring books. A bit late but here none the less. As you may remember these are books that only come out the time of the season to which they're attached and tend to have something more or less obvious to do with said season. Rotating these books has given them a special place in our family's reading as we look forward to their coming and treasure their time on our coffee table. They encourage us to look again at the season we find ourselves in and the special things it has to offer us and for that I am deeply grateful.

Fruhling (Eva Maria Ott-Heidmann)

The beautiful watercolour paintings delight me everytime, they seem to capture the springing up of spring - flowers, leaves, birds and beasts. There are no words but so much to see on each page that we find a different story each time we open the book. The delicate depictions of spring also inspire us to try new things in our own paintings.

Rechenka's Eggs (Patricia Polacco)

A good friend of ours introduced us to this book and it's been a firm favourite ever since. Patricia Polacco's illustrations are exquisite and the simple tale of generosity and workmanship a classic. It always encourages us to get egg decorating for Easter.

Pelle's New Suit (Elsa Beskow)

We love Elsa Beskow books, the stories are magical and gentle and her illustrations beautiful and fresh. We have quite a few and as so many of them have seasonal themes they tend to be on rotation. Pelle's new suit is the product of so much generosity, hard work, fair trading and creativity that it is an inspiration to all of us to look for these things in our own lives. And I love that it enables my children to see the process of turning a beloved sheep's gift of wool into clothing from the shearing to the sewing.

A New Beginning (Wendy Pfeffer and Linda Bleck)

A book about how the spring equinox has been and continues to be celebrated throughout the world. My children love hearing about all the fun things people do to welcome the renewal of life that is the promise of spring. Reading this reminds and encourages us to create our own spring traditions and seize every opportunity to celebrate the beauty all around us.

What do you read in spring time and what do you do to celebrate this lovely season?

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Knights and Castles


This year our five year old has caught a popular passion amongst boys of his age for Knights and Castles, armour and swords. As both his sisters, elder and younger, have been easily convinced to join in with the charade we have been making all things medieval. The castle was first, we pored over books on the subject from the library before attacking our large supply of cardboard boxes and tubes and setting about building our very own chateau fort. 

The pictures show an unfinished version. In it's finished state (picture very soon I promise) the castle has a working drawbridge! It works with a nifty pulley system involving a screw, a wine cork and some string. This bit of engineering was supervised by my husband but the rest is truly their creation.

The shields we made one grey day when I needed something for them to do. They are made from cut up cardboard boxes with a cardboard loop attached at the back with glue and sellotape for extra sturdiness. They are decorated with a mixture of paint, ink stamps and drawings. While creating them we discussed and researched the symbolism of medieval heraldry and discussed the characteristics we would wish to possess and to present on our shields. Of course this was all over the head of our two year old and even a bit deep for Noah but Maya, nearly 9, really enjoyed exploring the different significances of animals. 

Swords are a tricky issue. I can't say I was keen to promote weaponry but it seems a fact of childhood that I cannot ignore that children love to create arms for themselves. Our choice has been to stick to hand crafted versions and we currently have an impressive bow and arrow, some cardboard daggers and various wooden sword attempts in differing degrees of completion.

All in all so far it has been great fun to watch this passion and interest being explored through books, films, fantasy play and creative endeavours. As with all autonomous learning it is hard to predict what each child will take away and remember from it but I do hope they'll keep a sense of the fun in learning and discovery that we have all shared.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Signs of Spring

I love the budding of life that suddenly appears around us as the earth wakes up from its more or less long winter sleep. I've been out searching for it in the garden and bringing it in whenever possible. Budding leaves and blossom branches on the table, tulips and daffodils by the door, spring fabrics... It is amazing how the world offers itself up to us and brings us joy at every turn if we let it. Mary Oliver says it so well in one of my very favourite poems Wild Geese:

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

A spell of wet weather has dried up here and we are all out in the garden as much as we can be, pruning, clearing, preparing and getting very excited about digging our new vegetable patches. Spring is a time of new beginnings, awakenings and promise and there's no where better than the garden to see how richly the inner work of winter pays off with the awakening hand of the warm sun. I hope you are all enjoying it too.