March always seems to be the beginning of the end of the school year. Just 3 blocks to go, then testing in June, then yippee!!! It also seems to be the beginning of the beginning of the next school year. I dragged my planning bins out of the attic last week and have started to fill them with resources for second (!) and sixth (!) grade. This is the collection phase. I have next year’s blocks on my radar, so if I see anything on the Used Curriculum yahoo group or anywhere else, it goes in the bins.
I remember when I first came to Waldorf and the internet chatter turned to planning for next year at about this time. I could not wrap my head around the concept. I was having a hard enough time just making it through the current year. But with three years under my belt now, it seems much more manageable and almost natural. I read a great quotation somewhere recently, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” I wish I had known such things back then. I could have saved myself a lot of grief.
While it may seem tantalizing to look ahead to next year, I try to solidly stay in the here and now. And right here, right now, we are going to be learning about plants. I’ve decided to combine main lessons this month: for Jude, this block will be called “Gardening” and for Vincent it will be called “Botany.” Pretty sneaky, huh? There will be a lot of overlap and collaborative work, but obviously, I will get much deeper and more technical with Vincent. Here’s an idea of what my plans look like:
Vincent: 11 years old, 5th grader We haven’t done any formal Botany this year, despite my best laid plans. I’ve decided to divide this block into 4 one-week mini-blocks. Week 1 will focus on plants in general; Week 2, seeds; Week 3, trees; and Week 4, flowering plants. In addition to traditional lessons in terminology and characteristics, we will be doing a lot of practical work, outside exploration and artistic interpretation. I love this sense of balance so intrinsic within Waldorf pedagogy. I am planning to compile something like a scrapbook for this block, rather than a regular main lesson book.We will be using The Mary Frances Garden Book by Jane Eayre Fryer for a read aloud during main lesson time, and also Seed, Leaf, Flower, Fruit by Maryjo Koch. This is a beautiful book I found at the library that has a nice blend of scientific facts, lovely quotations and gorgeous watercolor illustrations. I may or may not use Botany by Charles Kovacs. This volume has not resonated with me like his others have.
Jude: 7 years old, 1st grader Jude will be doing a lot of digging in the dirt, listening to stories, painting, drawing, modeling and handwork – really just a continuation of what we have done all year. I plan on reading A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long, The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle, The Gift of a Tree by Alvin Tresselt and because Easter is this month (March 31) I also want to read a few chapters from The Burgess Flower Book for Children by Thorton W. Burgess, narrated by none other than Sir Peter Rabbit himself. I hope both boys will have our garden beds ready for planting by the end of the month. We’ll see.
Sheila: I have admitted before in this space that I am not a gardener, so I think I may have been unconsciously avoiding this block. I am striving to teach out of my joy and find what energizes and inspires me with each and every block we do. I have had to dig deep on this one – pardon the pun, but it is apt. If you looked around our property, you would be under no illusion that anyone with a green thumb resided inside. We have 2 good-sized garden beds, a scraggly, struggling “orchard” of fruit trees, and in the spring and summer a bunch of plants and flowers in pots that when I remember to water them, look half-way decent. But if I take the act of gardening to a spiritual level, that is where I am able to find my joy. The potential of a seed, the tenacity of plants to grow, the symbiosis between the sun, the rain and the soil – I could go on and on, marveling at the sheer glorious wonder of it all. That is what I hope to impart to the boys. There is no unbelief: Whoever plants a seed beneath the sod and waits to see it push away the clod. He trusts in God. – Kate Douglas Wiggin
Look for links and the recipe of the month in subsequent posts.