Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mashenka and the Bear

Our story this week was Mashenka and the Bear which proved to be a new favorite. The children loved it and showed renewed excitement each and every day the tale was told. The text of the story is below. I adlib much of the story; adding details which may be pertinent to daily life or current situations. (I always feel like cheering when I hear a child exclaim quietly during the story, "Just like me!!") 

The props I used were found within our home and/or borrowed from our church nursery. You don't need many details or expensive puppets to make a story come to life!

~Mashenka and the Bear~

Once upon a time there was a girl called Mashenka who lived with her mother and father in a small
house at the edge of a deep, dark forest. They were poor but happy. One day, Mashenka persuaded
her mother to allow her to go and pick blueberries with her friends in the forest.
“Stay with your friends and keep your wits about you,” her mother warned. 'There are bears in the
forest.' While picking fruit, Mashenka strayed. Suddenly, a huge black bear was standing before her.
He picked Mashenka up and started to run while all Mashenka's friends fled. They ran to Mashenka’s
parents’ house and told them she had been snatched away by a huge bear. Mashenka’s mother and
father wept, thinking they would never see her again.

The bear took Mashenka deep into the forest, finally climbing a hill to his house. He pushed open the
door and put Mashenka down by the fire. 'You can come and live with me now,” he said. “I could do
with the company. My bear cubs have all left home and I’m lonely. So don’t you think of running
away.” The bear set about getting Mashenka some food and lovely soft moss for her to sleep on.
Mashenka cried, knowing her parents would be beside themselves with worry and she missed them
terribly. Days passed, and while the bear did everything he could to make Mashenka happy,
Mashenka kept talking about her own parents and was always sad.

Finally, the bear had a good idea. He wouldn’t let Mashenka go, but suggested that he visit
Mashenka's parents, to let them know that she was alright. “I'll bake them some pies,” said
Mashenka. “Go and get me the ingredients.” After the bear had returned with the ingredients,
Mashenka made the pies and the bear had a rest. While the bear was gone, Mashenka got a
broomstick, an old curtain, a chewed up football and a large handkerchief and made a figure that
looked quite like a little girl.

 She climbed up onto the roof and left it there. When she had finished
making the pies, Mashenka put them into a basket and climbed in with them, putting a cloth over the
top to conceal herself.
The bear came back, smelled the pies, picked up the basket, swung it over his shoulder and walked
off into the forest in the direction of Mashenka’s village to let her parents know that she was fine. He
was surprised at how heavy the basket was. He walked for about an hour before sitting down to rest
on a log. “I'll have a little seat and a little pie to eat,” he sighed. From the basket, Mashenka threw
out her voice. “I see you! I see you! I see you! Don't you dare have a seat nor a little pie eat.” The
bear looked up and saw the figure on top of her house on the hill. “It's Mashenka,” he thought.
“She’s watching me!” The bear didn’t dare eat a pie but carried on his way for some time before
sitting down on a rock. “I'll have a little seat and a little pie to eat,” he sighed. From the basket,
Mashenka threw out her voice. “I see you! I see you! I see you! Don't you dare have a seat and a little
pie to eat.” Again, the bear looked up and saw the figure on top of her house. “It's Mashenka,” he
thought. “She really does have an eagle eye.”

Again the bear got up and didn't stop until he reached Mashenka's house. It was now night time and
the dogs began barking furiously when they smelled the bear. They woke everyone up and terrified
the bear who fled with the dogs yapping at his heels, leaving the basket. Mashenka was happily
reunited with her family.
A few days later the bear returned and knocked on the door. Mashenka’s family wanted her to hide
but Mashenka spoke to him from the safety of her bedroom window. “You tricked me,” said the bear
sadly. “But I forgive you. I know that you love your mother and father very much.” The bear told
Mashenka that he was lonely and was going to leave the forest. “Take this,” he said as he left, tossing
up a purse.”You have more need of this than me.” Mashenka opened the purse and found it full of
gold. Mashenka and her family bought a big house and lived happily ever after, often thinking of the
sad bear who had been such a help to them in the

I hope you'll enjoy weaving this tale for your loved ones!

More scenes from our week and a few thoughts...

A long morning outside and some warm milk to follow

The Lenten Garden is starting to slowly come alive...
Some soft green moss appeared this week...

Buds on the nature table..

Thank you everyone for your wise input on my hitting situation with W.
There are a few things I should clarify...
A commenter mentioned :
"I mean, as it is now, when he hits somebody he not only gets you all to himself, but the other kids are barred from the scene by the child gate, he gets special little jobs to do, and he even gets his picture taken!"
Good point. And it has me thinking.
I do feel that when W hits (and he did a lot of that today) that he needs to be removed from the situation and scene. Something was too much for him, something made him upset, something triggered an impulse. I remove him for his sake and also for the sake of the other children involved. Bringing him into the kitchen with me with the gate closed is a way for me to remove him without punishing...but it sometimes doesn't work in theory or practice. Sometimes I start to feel angry with him for hitting another child for seemingly no reason. Sometimes I think of how peaceful it might be without his presence. Sometimes I just want him to *stop* stop this behavior which has me frustrated. I watch his reaction when he hits and the other child begins to cry or gets upset. He looks surprised. He stands and stares. He looks at me to see what it is that I am going to do.
The "special jobs" are not intended to be special. They are a way for him to become occupied with something else. I don't give him a lot of attention when this is happening nor do I say many words. I try to engross myself in work, but again, this sometimes doesn't happen.

I try my hardest to be unobtrusive with the camera while photographing the children. You won't see many group photos or "smile" photographs; I try to catch them when they're not looking. I don't make a show over the camera or point it out in any way. When I took W's photograph in the kitchen that day, I don't think he even noticed, but then again...he probably did. Children pick up on everything, whether we seem to know it or not.
I  take all of your comments and recommendations to heart and I thank all of you.
In the end, I have to remind myself to truly see W and any child who is struggling with a situation for what they are....a child. Someone very new to this world and just beginning to figure it out. A child who is hitting or throwing a tantrum is doing so because they don't know how to express whatever frustration or anger it is that they're feeling. They need something from us. They are real emotions. Instead of us becoming angry and letting that anger show (through thought, word, or deed..they're all the same) we need to instead see them for what they really are. A little boy who is tired/hungry/in pain...or overstimulated...or missing his mama.
....or, as I noticed this morning....cutting 2 molars.



  1. I think it is admirable that W copes as well as he does with being so little, sharing his home with so many visitors, and most of all sharing his mama. My kids are 8 and 4, and much as I wanted to provide in home care for children from a steiner perspective, in the end we knew it was asking for trouble - not so much from the 4yo but from the 8yo, a boy who is very possessive of me. W is so little and really is a trooper, but I think from his unconscious point of view, he is currently gaining when he hits. One of my children showed long term challenging behaviour and I was very sympathetic to the causes, but ended up needing to get more hardline, because my other strategies were acting as a reward. It is so complicated...ah they keep us thinking, don't they?

  2. Just curious, why is that you tell a new story each week? In Waldorf one usually tells a story for a whole month with young children - for depth, rhythm, repetition, etc. It may make it easier for you, too, in terms of planning to not have to prepare a new story each week.

    1. I am more related wih the montessori method than the waldorf one. But I love both. i didnt know the waldorf method tells a single story for the whole month. don't the kids get bored? don't they lose interest?
      Maybe if you change certain things from the story you will still get the attention from the kids.
      It is just my opinion as a teacher and mom.

    2. This idea of boredom comes from the adult mind. If the child is allowed from a very young age to explore with depth, then they won't require change, change, change. It is the adult who says, here's this new toy, this new book, oh look at that and then that and then that, let's do this now that...rather then just allowing the child to be at his or her own pace with a few simple things. It is also suggested in Waldorf that children read the same few picture books for a whole season. If we guide our children towards depth, they will develop it and continually see new things and discover creative ways of playing and doing and being, not to mention the magic therein. If you keep introducing new, new, new then you create consumptive hunger and therefore a lack of satisfaction. It takes real mindfulness on the part of the adult to look at how we encourage boredom and the desire for new and more in the child.

  3. I think some people that doesn't really understand all the hard work you do to keep all these children happy and also your own son.
    do some of your readers pretend you to "punish" W everytime he "hits"...please how old is he again?8, 12,15?
    When you work on an enviroment full of children you need to keep the calm,the serenity and use comunication for the safety of everyone.
    I agree on putting W out of the room whenever he uses his hands on the wrong way, sooner or later he will adjust better and be more helpful with you. nO worries! This is so normal. Yes people it is!
    Some children hit,some others are shy, some others cry a lot for mommy, some others are happy no matter what and some others just don't mind about the world at the moment.

    Little W has a lot on his plate, sharing mommy with other kids most days of the week,dealing with other parents picking up and dropping off ther kids on his house,sharing his stuff with these friends....not easy at all bUT the good thing is that when he goes thru this process of adjusting, you will be surprise how good he will handle situations like this and he is developing great social skills and the best of all ALWAYS NEXT TO MOMMY!

    HE is such a lucky child.
    God bless you my friend and bless all the work you put in your job, your son and your home.

  4. Thank you for sharing that story, I loved it! I can't wait to tell it to my son and my nephews. I just found your blog and have enjoyed reading through it, so I just wanted to say hello!

  5. Becca, I can share from my experience as a mom with my own young child in the group in our home. One of the hardest parts of caring for other peoples children in my home was when my son was there. It was tough to be there for my son giving him what he needed of me as well as really being there for the other children. I think it is a very hard balance to make. I felt the huge responsibility of the trust given to me by parents of the other children and in hindsight asked a good deal of my own child to cope with that experience of having to share his mom and his space. Our own children need so much of us and children left without their parents do too. At the WECAN conference the keynote speakers said that children under three each need an adult's arm available all the time. I applaud you for the conscious awareness you bring to the behavior which is rooted in need rather that good/bad. Bright blessing on your work! Happy Spring.

  6. I do feel like the situation with W will sort itself out and that you should keep following your mommy instincts as you know him better than any of us could...
    I have especially come back by to say thank you for sharing the story of Mashenka and the Bear with us. My children ask for it every night at bedtime and like you I add details as I tell it. By the way, did you know that the bear later remarries and becomes the father in the three bears story and that Goldilocks is the daughter of Mashenka?
    My children felt so bad for the bear and didn't want him to keep being lonely so they decided that this is the case. It's made the story that much longer as I now have to interweave the two! :)


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