This time of year we celebrate the Harvest and Michaelmas. We hear and tell stories about Saint Michael helping the people of the village tame the dragon. Saint Michael is a symbol of good triumphing over evil, courage over cowardice. The celebration of this holiday teaches the importance of facing fears and strengthening resolve. The most important thing to keep in mind is that we all face difficulties in life, both external and internal, and somehow we must find the courage and strength to prevail.
The school my son goes to (and where I've taught both Handwork and Kindergarten), Mountain Sage Community School, is a public charter inspired by Waldorf Education so while we do not bring christianity into our festivals, we do celebrate the deep meaning of this time of year. Visit our website to hear the Dragon Pageant written by the amazing Aleah Black (recorded last year in the midst of not being at school together) and listen to songs sung by our wonderful music teacher Sharon Docherty. You will also find offerings from other special teachers to make star crowns, harvest soup, a dragon, dragon bread and more.
Below is a story I wrote about a little mouse named Arnold who must call upon his own courage and bravery. I hope you enjoy it. And see the tutorial for Mama's Marigold Dye Bath in the next post!
share with friends and download and print - for personal use only please :)
visit the storytelling page to download and print the story-starters to continue telling this Tale OR download the Spanish and French versions (titled September). Happy Autumn!
Find cheesecloth or something else to strain the dye from the flowers with. Another fabric or a mesh strainer will work. There may be some pieces of flowers if you use a metal strainer. Arnold's mom doesn't like that so she makes sure she has cheesecloth on hand. Arnold likes to use cheesecloth because it has the word cheese in it and well, he is a mouse after all.
Let's pretend that you are just beginning your storytelling journey. Maybe you have not had a lot of practice making up stories yet. Maybe you tried and your mind went totally blank. Maybe you even began to make up a story but you felt that it wasn't "good enough" so you stopped. First, confidence is the biggest hinderance we have when it comes to storytelling. Our children will love the stories we tell! Sometimes it is less the actual content and more that we are totally present when we are making up a story. Twelve Little Tales was created to help parents and caregivers become storytellers, so part of the content is given to you and will make it much easier to get started.
One of your first steps can be to imagine a storyteller. What does the storyteller look like to you? A wise grandmother or grandfather? A person from a different culture? Someone with glasses or a beautiful shawl? Imagine this person and then try to embody them. This may be easy for you - or you may need a physical prop. Find the perfect rocking chair or stool, or maybe that shawl that you never wear but will be exactly right to bring out the storyteller within you.
The second step is to light a candle or sing a song (or both) signifying that it is now story time. Whether it is nighttime or daytime it is nice to surround your storytelling with ritual. I have recorded a storytelling song below. I don't know who wrote it so if you do please let me know! This is a song that many Waldorf teachers sing at the beginning of story time. After the song the children and I always say "Where was it, where was it not? When was it, when was it not?" And then I begin.
The third thing is to begin telling your story. You may tell the simplest story that you know by heart, or you may wish to learn a new one prior to beginning. Or you can use these Twelve Little Tales story starters as part of the process. The tales do involve some reading just to get everyone started in the land or adventure of the month, but the 12 prompt cards are all open ended, each ending with a ... Sometimes the cards end mid-sentence and sometimes not. What you will do is continue from the prompt. The starter story is how we are introduced to the characters this month, where they live and a basic storyline to work with. Next there are twelve story starter prompt cards. Each is an offshoot of the original story. A child may choose one or you may wish to. You may want to read them in advance to let the stories begin to brew in you.
The VERY MOST IMPORTANT THING is to look at your child or children and notice that they are looking at you with wide eyed wonder, waiting for what you will say next. Don't let that intimidate you! Just keep going and feel the energy that is begin created in this magical experience of storytelling for it really is magic.
Please ask me any questions you may have along the way and let me know what your initial experiences with storytelling have been and how they have progressed.
I am by no means a professional singer :) here is the song that I like to sing for story time.
The Lantern Walk is my favorite festival. I love the songs, the little lights in the night, the stories of giving and selflessness. This year, while we are doing so many things differently our Lantern Walks may look different too. But we can still make lanterns and sing our songs and give to others. This is the time for coat drives and food drives, donating to shelters and food banks.
This month's Tale introduces us to Lottie, who will be having wonderful Lantern Walk ! I can't wait to enjoy this month adventuring with her with my 10 year old. Please share with me your children's creative writing pages - I LOVE to see what they come up with. It reminds us that storytelling truly is magic. Something created from the ether, from our individual experiences and with each story-starter card there are infinite ways a story can be continued and it will be different for everyone. The unlimited possibilities is a magic that consistently thrills me.
This time of year taking our inside lights into the darkness of winter is so important. We will want to help each other remember that nobody is alone and we are all in this life together.
Our school, where my son goes to 4th grade and where I used to teach (and am still on the festival committee ;), has a lovely Lantern Walk page. Please visit it to hear some songs and see different ways to make lanterns. Our very wonderful teachers have a lot of beauty to offer. And ask me questions if you have them! Because our school is currently all virtual we will be creating our own little lantern walks in our neighborhoods and communities. It will be different but ever so lovely all the while. Visit Mountain Sage Lantern Walk. I would love to hear what your favorite lantern song is and which sort of lantern you are making this year. Let me know in the comments below!
And while it will certainly be different this holiday season, hopefully we can somewhat revel in the simplicity of this year. Hopefully we can support our local businesses as much as possible so they can still be here when things are back to normal again. Consider ordering from your favorite business - those you can't imagine not having anymore! Order online or get gift cards for future gatherings, classes, yoga or goods.
You will always find a second Tale (see below) in your digital account (please let me know if you don't have one yet!) also translated into Spanish and French - and sometimes Dutch and German as well.
This is the strangest time most of us have ever experienced - and definitely the strangest collective experience any one of us has had together with the entire world.
I hope you are all healthy and well and finding rhythm and balance in this new way of life. I know that everyone is having a different experience right now depending on where we live, if we know people who are ill or are compromised in a way that creates more fear. But any one who is here in the land of Twelve Little Tales has a child in their life to protect and offer magic to and that is why we are here today.
Many of the subscribers to Twelve Little Tales are already homeschool families and now here we all are at home with our kids. I send my nine year old to a wonderful Charter school inspired by Waldorf education. I worked there as a handwork and then Kindergarten teacher for several years and love our school for my son, our family and our community. Our teachers are doing an amazing job with online learning. The funniest moment yet was how our music teacher was out in her yard teaching us Waltzing Matilda and her goats came up and snatched her music right off her stand! We laughed and laughed.
I feel, as many of you do as well I'm sure, that the most important thing as we learn how to do things in new ways is to give our children the safest - emotional and physically - space to be children. Online learning is not easy for everyone - my child has very little attention span for this so we are taking lots of breaks and I'm trying to do my work when he is occupied with something or at nighttime. It can be pretty chaotic to have everyone at home when some people are used to leaving the house every day - but coming back to storytelling, even a little two minute tale - even with a nine year old who sometimes thinks these things are for littler kids - can bring us back to peace and calm.
This April story is about the magic of spring. Spring is a time when there is magic everywhere we look, listen and smell. There is so much to be grateful for and so many stories to tell. One of the most wonderful things we can do for our kids right now is to focus on the beautiful, seasonal experiences that are happening right outside our door. Even opening the window in the morning brings the new sounds of many birds to our ears. Tiny buds are appearing on trees and little shoots reach up toward the sun from beneath the ground.
As we know storytelling is a perfect way to process difficult times in ways that make big things a little easier to digest. I didn't write a story having to do with a global pandemic. My son does not have a lot of anxiety (the nine year old at least - I also have a 24 year old daughter who is experiencing a lot of anxiety, as we all are, about the current state of affairs), but I do know that some of our younger children are having a lot of anxiety at this time. The best conversations that I'm having with my son regarding what is happening right now are about how so many people are working to help others - even more so than usual. There are a lot of stories that can and will come from this aspect of what we are seeing all over the world.
Please let me know if you need help with how we might tell stories during this time or if you have some great ideas that you'd like to share. We can all add thoughts in the comments below and help each other with our ideas and inspiration.
Even if you are not a subscriber you can find an April story right here. Feel free to share as storytelling is like a healing salve we can all use right now.
Sending love to all of you.
Homeschool storytelling and creative writing
Hello homeschooling families!
Have you been looking for ways to add storytelling to your day? Twelve Little Tales has just what you need.
Many of Twelve Little Tales subscribers are homeschoolers using these magical story-starters for story-time and with older children as creative writing prompts (see photos below).
Every month a new Tale arrives with approximately 1100 words and a whole new story line plus beautiful illustrations to inspire and guide you on your month of storytelling adventures.
The open ended cards allow for imagination to flow and for one to creatively incorporate content specific to the temperament of your children and the subjects that are being studied in your current curriculum.
Please read an excerpt from the upcoming March Tale about two new friends.
"The moonlit hillside beckons to her as she wakes and peers out her window. Just as she had each night before she hears the song in her dreamtime that pulls her gently from sleep into waking. The landscape is cold and frozen, everything within sight as still as still can be. The moon is so bright that she can see almost as if it were daytime. She waits for him to appear, knowing that soon he will lumber over the top of the hill and wait patiently for her to join him. And here he comes now, her friend, so large with his paws making prints on the frosty ground. She goes to meet him. The music is coming from the trees. Who is singing? She does not know. All she knows is dancing with the bear is the most wonderful thing in all the world..."
The story goes on to talk more about the girl and her daily life, about the joys of very early spring and many other wonder-filled ideas that you will take to continue telling your own stories - with lots of help! Find a free winter story sample to try here
Children are amazing storytellers!
You will find that when given small prompts the children's imaginations run wild and they will come up with wonderful stories filled with adventure.
For adults, storytelling can sometimes be difficult in the beginning.
When I first started telling stories to my young daughter I had wonderful intentions but couldn't think of a thing to say! I didn't have a lot of confidence nor could I form ideas that seemed "good enough". Now I know that anything that I made up would have delighted my child to no end. But, I know that others have the same experience that I did. This is part of the reason I created Twelve Little Tales, so that I could help others with story-starters and ideas each month. The content is simple, timeless and based in nature and seasonal wonder and leaves room for all of your ideas and creativity.
See below for more photos and words from happy homeschool storytellers!
How to tell a story - storytelling with children
Storytelling 101- tip number one
Storytelling with children - start with simple, familiar things
Ok, maybe you don’t take your tea on a mushroom BUT I bet you can talk about tea. How it was a little bit hot when whoever was drinking it took the first sip or how the steam rose up in the shape of a...(what shape would it be in your story?) or how it was chilly out and (insert tea drinker) warmed his or her hands around the tea cup. Maybe there was a little snack with the tea and maybe someone had gotten up very early, just like the baker, and made the special treat and maybe the treat or snack is something you made recently in your home as well.
The actual prompt card from the October Tale with this image says this: Sitting around mushroom and toadstool tables they took their tea. The tea is made of flower petals and spices from the lands of summer and even further away than that. It reminded little summer gnome, for a minute, of home, but she was having so much fun... This conjures many images, doesn’t it? But if you start with what you know - simple, familiar things - you will find yourself weaving a Tale with magic and adventure in no time. It doesn’t have to be long, each card doesn’t have to be a whole story - but it can be if that’s what happens. There are an infinite number of possibilities that can come with each Tale. Yours will be perfect.
As I work on my own self in terms of releasing old patterns, letting go of guilt, trauma, shame and learning how to create new ways to be in my life I always come back to storytelling. I'm reading a book right now, recommended by a dear friend, called "What's in the Way is the Way" by Mary O'Malley. In every page of the book I am finding little keys to unlock parts of myself. I honestly read half a page every evening and let myself work on it while I sleep. One of the major pieces of wisdom in this book is the concept of "the Storyteller". This is the part inside each of us that makes up stories all day long about all kinds of real life things. Much of the time they are stories that feed on our insecurities and fear. Obviously some people have more of this happening than others, but I'm pretty sure it's more normal than not!
These are just as make believe as the stories we tell our children at story-time - BUT - we just so happen to believe these stories we are telling ourselves. Stories about our bodies, about our relationships, about how other's feel and think about us, about our self worth etc.
As I think about Twelve Little Tales and learning storytelling in this simple and light way along with our children, I think "maybe the better we are at making up stories on purpose the better our inner storyteller will become at telling beautiful, life affirming, self affirming stories to ourselves and about ourselves too..."
What do you think?
Do you use Twelve Little Tales and sometimes get stuck after reading one of the prompt cards? I hear from many storytellers that these prompts are helping inspire the stories to come but I also know that some of us struggle a bit (me included when I was first starting to make up stories! :) Lets talk more about telling stories using this card 😊
How to tell a story
Create a storytelling space with props, songs and ritual...
Do you wonder how to tell a story? How to begin? First, set up the space!
Is there a place in your home that feels like the perfect spot to set up a storytelling area? It can be a permanent space but it doesn't need to be. Sometimes creating a space where the storytelling happens and then putting it back to normal again - simply - is a perfect way to make story time even more special. When I have my little playgroup over on Mondays I move some furniture aside and set out a pretty little rug. I have a special shawl that I put on and a candle that I light - after calling the fire fairies and while I am singing the storytelling song (listen to the song at the end of this blog post). Then the mood has been set and I go right in to telling my story. "Where was it, where was it not. When was it, when was it not?" I say slowly and softly to create the mood and to gather the children in even further. By now there is a sense of expectation in the air and a stillness of sorts around us. The magic is beginning.
Are your children competing with your phone for your attention?
Do you ever feel like your kids are competing with your phone for your attention? Many kids do. Indeed, more than half of today’s kids feel their parents spend too much time on their phones. And believe it or not, a significant number of parents agree.
What’s the big deal? Well, the journal Child Development suggests that our mobile phone behavior can have huge impacts on our children’s behavior. Children who feel overlooked by technology-focused parents are more prone to whining, sulking, frustration, and tantrums. And it’s not only behavior that’s impacted, but development as well.
What can we do?
Lantern Walk or Martinmas Celebration
Lantern Walk or Martinmas, as it may be called in Waldorf Schools, is simply wonderful - the stories, the songs, the community. Create a celebration of your own.
This month you may want to recall your experiences with Lantern Walk or Martinmas celebrations when telling your stories.
If you haven't experienced this for yourself yet there is a chance that a Waldorf school in your community is celebrating this month and would invite you to join in if you inquire.
OR, if you have a homeschool group or an early childhood program you can make your own Lantern Walk! Simply find a nice spot with a path and set up some luminaries to create a path to walk along (it is very simple - just brown paper bags, sand and tea lights or battery operated tea lights), learn the songs, tell a story- see this link for a very nice story of St. Martin - and of course, make lanterns and you will have everything you need.
I’m pretty certain I’m taking refuge in the art and stories from my Tales - kind of escaping in my creating. I can’t even begin to fathom the pain, suffering and struggle people are experiencing from just what’s happened in the past month whether a natural disaster or people with guns. One thing I do know though, is that stories can help us talk about things with children in a way that they can grasp and process. Hopefully we keep our littles away from the news but they hear things and are very perceptive and intuitive people. Adding part of our reality to a story where the characters experience something hard and get through it can be very healing.
Another thing to remember is when you are creating a story and leave the imagery to the child, they will only imagine what is within their own personal boundaries. Maybe something is a little scary, but only as scary as they can handle. Give them an image of something scary and it can be way more than they are able to deal with or process. Does that make sense?
Most of the time storytelling is a delightful, light-filled experience. Sometimes it brings us into the dark and guides us back out with a safe, strong hand. Be courageous with your storytelling, use magic and give the children - and yourself - the belief that everything will be ok 💛
✨ Little bird found a sheltered spot to rest. His wings had grown tired during his flight from his cozy nest on his way to his dear friend squirrel's tree. The wind was ever so strong today and had blown him far off course. He looked around and found he didn't know where he was. He looked for some familiar sign, but found none. He looked for someone to ask, but saw no one. Little bird began to feel a little bit nervous. Then he remembered what his mama had always told him. "If you ever feel frightened, singing a song will help." So little bird began to sing and sure enough he felt a little bit better. He noticed the warm glowing feeling in his heart that he always felt when he sang and pretty soon he didn't feel nervous at all. Just then he noticed three little mice sitting just below his perch. They looked up at him with smiling faces seeming to be enjoying his song. Little bird finished his tune, smiled as the mice clapped for joy and asked them if they could help him find his way. "Of course!" replied the mice all at once....
...foods and drink including freshly pressed apple cider. The little autumn sprites have decorated today with twinkle lights and a large fire in the pit. There are veggies roasting that can be smelled from way down the mountainside, and a bell is ringing, calling the gnomes and their human friends up to the feast they will be sharing this evening. Suddenly, from far above near the stars, the dragon flies, breathing a large stream of fire. Everyone looks up and basks in the majesty of the magnificent beast...
As she begins to weave the Tale the flies come in a bit closer so as not to miss a word. "Deep within the earth the creatures are preparing for one of the busiest times of the year. The crimson and gold paint has been mixed in jars so the leaf sprites can paint the all the leaves in the land before settling into their winter homes. They will each take a jar and brush and in the earliest morning between the time when the night and day creatures are awake and asleep, they carefully paint each leaf the colors of autumn. Always singing, the song they sing helps the leaf know just what to do next. In the spring as they paint buds they call to the leaves to come out and play. Now, in fall, they tell the leaves to let go of the branch they have been holding onto all the summer long. "Let go" they sing. "Let go and fall, drifting, drifting, drifting down to the ground." The leaves are excited for a new adventure and fall happily, along with all their friends to the soft ground below. The worms and beetles welcome them and sing the leaves a lullaby so they fall fast asleep for the winter long. They will dream of a magical journey where the whispers of the sprites carry them into the ground and through the roots of the trees and plants where they will live for the wintertime until the spring when they will respond to the sprites' song and come out again in the buds welcoming the warmth and joy after their amazing trip.
The Tales one can tell are infinite in their possibilities. You can tell a Tale catering to your younger child or tell a Tale with your older child. From this card you may want talk about the actuality of what happens during the winter when the plants from above nourish the plants down below for the winter-long until the spring to come. You may want to just tell about the little homes that the sprites live in underground with their spiderweb blankets and their firefly lights. You may want to tell about the parties that the sprites have to celebrate the changing seasons or about the time when a child followed a sprite and was quick enough to grab onto his tiny shoe falling down into the little portal, becoming small himself and having the adventure of a lifetime (before being returned safely after what seemed like months, but was really only moments later - as usually happens to humans when transported into lands of magical beings). You may wish to talk more about what the flies do after the story - Where do they live? What do they talk about? What will they do for the wintertime?
Have fun. Happy September!
One of the most amazing books I have read is called Storytelling with Children by Nancy Mellon. Her book is full of wisdom and she is a true master of storytelling. Click here to see her site.
Here is a quote from her book about setting the space for your storytelling with quiet and breath..
The quiet rhythms of our breathing immediately reach children, and the child within all of us. As we settle down to tell a child a story and prepare to say the opening words, each complete breath is heaven to children.
This process of becoming storytellers is just as amazing for us as it is for the children. It opens up a whole new world of imagination and connection that can nourish our souls. And we haven't even begun to tell the story yet! I would love to hear how you create your storytelling space and how it has felt for you from when you first began, or how it feels now as a more experienced teller of tales. Please feel free to share in the comment section below.
When beginning your journey to find the storyteller within you there are many things you can do to inspire this part of you to emerge into the world with confidence. Many people find that storytelling does not come easy at first. I know about this first hand because a while back my mind would totally blank when I tried to make up a stories and anything I thought of didn't seem good enough. This was before I understood how to let the story come to me and that anything that did come was going to delight the children.
One of the tools you can use to begin is to find a prop.
Begin by imagining a storyteller. What do you think of when you think storyteller? Close your eyes and find an image or feeling of a person or maybe the space a storyteller sits in. What sort of prop can you find that will help you bring this to life? A hat, shawl, rocking chair, a certain sort of light or atmosphere. Maybe a spritz of essential oil, lavender water to dip the hands in or settling everyone in with tea first. A song is also a wonderful way to begin story time. You can choose any song, or a different one each time to set the mood of the story you will be telling. Maybe a seasonal song.
Look below for the song I sing before we begin our story. I do not know who the author of this song is. If you know, please tell me and I will give credit. Forgive that I just recorded this with my iPhone and please take it with the love I'm sending it with :)
I would love to hear the ways that you have found the storyteller in you! Just like the infinite amount of stories there are, there are so many ways to become inspired. Next time we will talk more about what I mean when I say to let the story come to you or through you.
Elsie, Blue and Bunny Roo. Their room is at the tippety top of the tall house. They have been finding the sweetest little treasures all over the place. Tiny rocks with golden rings around them, beans with blue stars, paper clips with itsy bitsy notes attached..
When we start reading and telling the August Tale, my son will start finding similar little treasures around our home too. He's going to love it.
I learned so much while researching for the July Tale! Did you know that 90% of bees are solitary and don't live in hives? Did you know that fewer than 5% of insects are harmful to crops and so blanket pesticides are killing many potentially beneficial insects? Did you know that pollinators include bats, flies, ants, butterflies, moths, birds, some mammals and more? There are lots of websites talking about pollinators. I would recommend looking at a couple. There will be things there that will amaze you :) Happy July!
Searching and searching, the girl _________ has been looking high and low for her missing geese. Where could they be? The starling has already gone to tell the boy, who's name is _________. He will find her and then help her find her little friends. He packs a little snack of _________ before heading out. Several animals including the _________, the __________ and the _________ come with the boy to see if they can help too. Meanwhile the geese have found shelter at the house of the lovely red-headed girl ________. She has fed them grain and is singing to them. She sings songs of __________ and faraway lands...
Five fat peas in a pea pod pressed (children hold hand in a fist) One grew, two grew, so did all the rest. (put thumb and fingers up one by one) They grew and grew (raise hand in the air very slowly) And did not stop, Until one day The pod went POP! (children clap hands together) I did not creat this rhyme and I don't know who did - but I did make the peas
Print it out at home! It is very exciting to be able to offer Twelve Little Tales for use on the device and/or for download to print yourself. You will receive 3 high quality files to download and print - the Starter Tale, 12 little tale prompt cards (1 of 2 pages shown here being cut into separate cards). This option is only $7/month OR for $11/month get the digital/download PLUS postcards and stickers in the mail! For a free try featuring the April Tale go to main menu or store and follow instructions. A great way to bring some more magic into your home/school/vacation no matter where you are.
Time for spring cleaning! These I made for a dear friend. Both these pattern are fun, and easy too. I can do a lot of things, but I am not a master knitter :) So finding patterns that look this complex, yet aren't, makes me feel pretty good. Basic cotton yarn, size 7 needles and amazing color combination you could choose - what more could you ask for?
Now to make some homemade cleaning products- more after I have found success!
The pattern for the cloth on the right is from here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ballband-dishcloth
The pattern for the cloth on the left is from here: http://home.comcast.net/~hakuchodesigns/Circle_Cloth.pdf
Twelve Little Tales is a project to spread the art of storytelling far and wide.