A Week of A

Last week, we began our journey through the alphabet.  Jackson is almost 6.5 and is about to lose both of his bottom front teeth.  His interest in learning to read and write letters has grown immensely over the past six months.  I wanted to slowly make our way through the alphabet and keep things light enough so Miss Izzy (at 3.5) could come along for the ride.  Jackson and Izzy are very creative and LOVE to draw, paint, craft and sculpt, so schoolwork absolutely must involve each and every one of those activities.  And the stories… how they adore stories, so I went a bit story crazy.  Izzy sits still during story time just mesmerized.  Jackson absolutely must be doing something else to keep his body busy during the story – he cannot sit still.  He builds with blocks.  He runs in circles.  He throws beanbags or balls.  He’ll even act out the story being told on occasion.  I embrace his movement because it allows him to hear the story.

I told the A verse from LMNOP and All the Letters A to Z daily and we drew the picture with the letter A.

We began the story of The Wise Enchanter.  All the kids fell in love with this story and cannot wait to hear the next chapter.  Jackson and I made a main lesson book like in the story.  I sewed up the pages and used a file folder cut to size for the cover.  It turned out beautifully and how it pleased Jackson!

I also told the story of Michael and Mrs. Applebee from Serendipity.  All the kids were pleased with this story too.  Izzy was delighted with the fairies and being about to color them.  Jackson and Alex identified with Michael.  They were intrigued by the botany aspect and enjoyed learning about the saints from the magical red book.  I’m pulled between making little felt saints like these and trying to make little flower fairies to go along with us on this journey.  Both would be too much.

I carried over some ideas from Letter of the Week and introduced a few other concepts: Squares, the number 1, and a nursery rhyme.   They already knew “Hey Diddle, Diddle” and confidently shouted it out each day with smiles on their faces.  We cut and glued a picture of all squares.  We found squares all over the house and on our nature walk (which did not go over well with the temperature being in the teens, but we did it anyway.)  We counted single items.  We played with playdough, and Jackson made all sorts of A’s of his own initiation.  We baked apple crisp and made A’s out of blocks and playsilks and any other medium we could find all week long.  Jackson asked to practice writing more, so I found some free print-outs and let him go.

And when they asked for yet another story, I pulled stories from EarthSchooling, Little Acorn, and these two free treasures that I found at Google books.

He has positively beamed all week long and couldn’t wait to show daddy his work at the end of each day.

Winding Up for Lessons

We went out of town with Daddy on business trip on Monday and Tuesday of this week.  It was lots of fun (mama got to go to IKEA) and the kids really enjoyed the hotel experience, but it delayed our start up date of starting in with lessons to next week.  I decided I needed the extra few days to do a bit more planning, catch up on harvesting and preserving, and get caught up on laundry and housework.

Since I had built up the idea of starting lessons, I decided to go ahead and wade into it by doing a few things and starting up with the main lessons next week.

For the Little Ones:

Circle Time Theme: Harvest and Preserving (and in all honesty, I made this all up from the top of my head 5 minutes prior to gathering everyone.)

  • We read the poem “Autumn” from A Journey through Time in Verse and Rhyme, page 171.
  • I told “The Giant Turnip” from Wynstones Press Autumn, page 67.
  • We’re having fun with circles this week.

Grapes, tomatoes, basil, beef jerky, oats, and wheat berries, oh my!  All of it getting harvested and/or preserved in some way and everyone is helping!

Picking Grapes

For Third Grade:

  • Form Drawing:  Circles Circles
  • Handwork: Knitting a coaster
  • Nature Study: Grapes
  • Grammar: Nouns
  • Math: Review (done in the car to and from our destination and in practical form around the kitchen)

And since Summer isn’t officially over yet and it warmed up a little bit today to remind us, we filled up the pool and went swimming!

Kindergarten

Interesting article about academic kindergarten.

Family has asked many times if Jackson will be starting kindergarten this year since he’ll be turning 5 in September.  Nope, I’m not.  He needs time to just be five!

And when he does start kindergarten, we’ll likely be taking our cues from Waldorf philosophy, and keep things active and playful.

Great Bookshop and Possible Solution!

I couldn’t turn my mind off last night.  I kept thinking about all this school planning for the old testament and other random needs of our family and just couldn’t get back to sleep at 3 am.  So I got up and turned on the computer while I ate a snack – I might as well do something while my mind is racing.  I looked at the the books again, the free online book, the books that I gathered at the library yesterday, and the other books recommended.  After a couple of hours, I felt drowsy again, said a quick prayer and fell asleep on the couch.

The kids were all up before 8, which meant I was up too regardless of how little sleep I got.  I took care of everyones’ needs and the it occurred to me that I should ask for help.  It’s hard for me to ask for help and takes me a long time to come to the realization that I might even need it, I’m trying to learn though.  I e-mailed the “contact us” link at Bob & Nancy’s Bookshop about the books in question, asking all those various questions that I posted about the other day.

Not more than 2 hours later, I received a response from Nancy answering all my questions!  Each Jacob Streit book about the Old Testament contains 15 or more stories, is around 125 pages and meant for the teacher to read and then re-tell it to the student.  Perfect!  That means at least 45 stories to spread out over the same time frame, allowing for a three-day main lesson plan with more wiggle room for baby, festivals, holidays, and other topics of interests that I’m hoping to cover.  I immediately felt a sense of peace.  I decided to take a leap of faith and order all three books in that moment.  I rationalized that if they didn’t work out for us, then I could sell them fairly easily on one of my yahoo groups and lose only $10 or so on the whole deal.  My sanity is worth that!

Not more than 2 hours after I placed the order, I got shipping confirmation!  They mailed out my books already!  I can’t recommend Bob & Nancy’s Bookshop enough for their great customer service and quick shipping!  Wow!  So if you find yourself needing any books on Waldorf education, resources for homeschooling, books by Steiner, please check them out!

Oh, and a couple of good introductory Waldorf books, available at Bob & Nancy’s, are:

Seven Times the Sun by Shea Darian

You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy

Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing Our Children from Birth to Seven by Barbara J. Patterson

Having Doubts

I’ve spent weeks planning.  I’ve taken frequent breaks in order to pray and meditate.  I’ve made list after list.  I’ve ordered some bare minimum supplies (still waiting on those to arrive) and have a wishlist for books that would make the year run smoother.  I have a library list of other books to use and several internet links to free resources.

And yet, I sit here doubting myself.  The backbone of our Old Testament block is Story of the Bible by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, available for free on mainlesson.com.  I honestly don’t know much about the OT and I’m really looking forward to learning along side Alex for this block, but I think I’ve over done it.  In my current plans, I split the OT part of the book into 4 stories per week, one for each day I plan to actively present lessons.  This means that our OT block will be taking up all of fall and most of winter to get through all 109 stories presented in the book.

Now that we’ve jumped into full fledge circle time and activities with the little ones and we’ll be adding in a full day of homeschooling co-op, I realize that 4 stories per week is too much.  Three would work out much better with our schedule, Monday, Wednesday, Friday.  But then that stretches the OT over the entire year if we read all of the stories and doesn’t leave time for our other block studies.  That doesn’t work.

I also feel like I scheduled too many weeks and didn’t leave us enough time to prepare and celebrate festivals and holidays, not to mention wiggle room for when baby is born.

So do I cut out certain stories?  Which ones?  Like I said, I’m not all that familiar with the OT, so I don’t know this story from that. Do I switch to a different book?

I’m thinking of turning to one of the two resources that ALGF recommends for the third-grade curriculum. The first is a series of three books (And There Was Light, Journey To the Promised Land, and We Will Build a Temple) from Jacob Streit, $47 before shipping.  I have no idea what these books contain though.  How many stories are covered?  Are they told in a way that Alex can relate to?  I already ruled out the other resource based on the description of only having 12 stories.  I don’t think that will be deep enough for Alex, but I could be wrong here too.

And then I keep getting directed in one way or another to other people’s plans and the Live Ed website and positively drooling over the examples of the lessons and contents of each and every book in the third grade curriculum.  It goes into detail about doing the wet-on-wet painting for the creation part of the story, adding a bit more to it for each of the six days of creation.  How cool does that sound!?  I want to be able to present it like this, but I’m clueless on how to do it without very explicit directions.

Why does Live Ed have to cost so freakin much!?  Why can’t I have $1300 (the poorest district budget according to a priest that spoke at our church last week, $3000 something was the average public school budget) to spend per child per year on schooling?

I still need to buy more books and supplies, but I’m trying to prioritize and figure out what I can put off to better accommodate our budget.  It’s not a fun process!

And all this is over one part of the entire year.  I haven’t planned our math blocks in great detail, just “penciled in.”  I don’t have any of our projects or paintings planned in detail.  I haven’t even touched religious studies that pertain to our faith.  Sigh.

So I guess what it comes down to is that I need to spend more time in prayer and rework my current plans.  That is why I worked the plans in a spreadsheet format so I could easily adjust it, so I guess that’s been the plan all along.

It seems like many of us homeschooling moms go through this period of doubt and maybe that’s part of the process too?  I’m betting that even if I had a bigger budget to buy all the supplies and books that I wanted for the school year and/or bought the Live Ed curriculum, there would still be doubts and things that I felt were missing or not quite the right fit for our family.  So maybe the doubt is a good thing and keeps us striving to do better?

Circle Time

I thought I would share what circle time looks like for us:

The kids and I gather together on the living room floor.  Nova, the dog, usually cuddles up next to Alex.  Jackson is usually a wiggle-worm and is up and down many times.

We start off with the Good Morning song that Alex learned back in North Carolina:

Good morning, good morning

How are you today?

Good morning, good morning!

It’s a happy day.

It’s time to sing: la, la, la!

It’s time to clap:  clap, clap, clap!

It’s time to dance: cha-cha-cha!

Time to make music: la, la, la, la, la!

Good morning, good morning!

How are you today?

Good morning, good morning!

It’s a happy day!

We discuss the day and the date, sometimes with a song, sometimes with a poem or two.

We talk about the weather and the season, again sometimes with a song or poem.

We review the chalkboard drawing for the weekly theme.  It’s almost always festival or nature related.

We do various fingerplays.  The itsy-bitsy spider, 5-little monkeys jumping on the bed, and where is thumbkin are favorites.

We jump up and sing the ABC song while jumping, skipping, hopping, or just being goofy.  We do jumping jacks while counting.  This will also turn into bean-bag tossing time for Alex to practice math.

We cuddle back up together on the floor for a story.  The little ones have been loving the nursery rhyme book and beg for it, so we haven’t branched out much yet.  It will evolve into a weekly story that I’ll read or tell aimed at the little ones.  Sometimes the kids will act out the story as I tell it or get out various silks and animals out for them to act it out.  Other times, they sit still enthralled with the story.

We say a prayer before closing circle time with ring-around-the-rosie.

Afterwards, we either go into our daily activity (baking, painting, playdough, drawing, or crafts) or the kids go outside and play for bit.

And in all honesty, circle time doesn’t usually happen until 10 am or so.  Time beforehand is spent with everyone waking up in their own time, eating breakfast, getting dressed and taking care of daily duties.  Circle time usually lasts 20-50 minutes, depending on the length of the story and how much the kids want to include.

Form Drawing Resources

As I’ve been planning for third grade, I’m finding that I know very little about the various techniques involved in parts of Waldorf education.  I’ve done a little research and added a few books to my wishlist and wanted to share my findings.

Millennial Child – There’s a great slideshow of various samples of form drawing for grades 1 to 4.  I printed them out and keep them in my form drawing 3-hole folder for each week’s form drawing inspiration.

A Journey Through Waldorf Homeschooling – Notes from a live webinar on Feb 6, 2009, from Melisa at A Little Garden Flower.  She sells the DVD with the complete video on her website, and I’m hoping to squeeze it into the budget soon.

Form Drawing For Beginners – A Christopherus book by Donna Simmons.  This one is on my wishlist too.

Do you have any resources, free or otherwise, that you use for form drawing?  Please share them in the comments!