Lesson Plans: November 2013

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November?? How did that happen?? Below you will find our last formal blocks of the semester, although I don’t know how this is even possible. Time. Flies.

Vincent, 11 3/4 years old, Grade 6: Vincent will begin geology this month. We will take the subject from whole to parts by first studying the composition of the entire earth, then take a look at mountains/mountain ranges and finally examine different types of rocks. I have chosen not to do a Waldorf main lesson book for this block, but rather, Vincent will be completing a lapbook. (It is this one from Hands of a Child.) I have a few different artistic projects, some field trips and quite a bit of poetry that will add some Waldorf flair, but the lapbook feels like a load off my shoulders. (Plus, Vincent loves stuff like that!) If there is time, I would also like to study salt, which coincidentally is the only rock we eat. I have heard great things about Mark Kurlansky’s book, Salt and I have wanted to read it for a while now. Depending on Vincent’s interest level, I think we will either listen to the adult audio book version or just read Kurlansky’s children’s adaptation, The Story of Salt. (You can see my collection of resources, links and ideas for grade 6 here. I think of it as a gathering space of inspiration that I update frequently. I’m never, ever going to use half of what’s there, but it is good to draw from.)

Jude, 8 years old, Grade 2: Jude will be finishing up two animal fables that we did not get to in September, and then move onto a three-week form drawing block centered around the Uncle Remus Tales. I did a block of form drawing and fairy tales last year that worked well, and I am hoping for a repeat. We have read a picture book version of Uncle Remus during storytime some time ago, but for this block I will be using the Julius Lester edition which seems to be the gold standard. Jude finished his knitted sheep (“Mutton”) and will be moving on to a knitted rabbit. I found this pattern that makes a rabbit from just a garter stitched square. And although I don’t think this adorable little bunny captures any of the mischievous spirit of Br’er Rabbit, the point is to just keep those needles clicking. (You can see my collection of resources, links and ideas for grade 2 here.)

Sheila: Let me preface everything in this little section by saying that Carrie Dendtler is my dear friend. I know her personally and she has been instrumental in my journey to homeschool with Waldorf. I love her blog, The Parenting Passageway, and was reminded what a treasure trove of information it is when I recently spent a lot of time printing a bunch of archived posts for reference. This gem about Science in Waldorf Homeschooling was extremely helpful to me as I continue to try to wrap my head around science from a Waldorf perspective. I also did a bunch of research into Carrie’s thoughts on Second Grade. Why I didn’t do that this summer is beyond explanation. Better late than never, I guess. Anyway, if you are teaching Second Grade (or any grade for that matter) you want to make use of her deep knowledge and practical suggestions. Thanks Carrie!!

Grade 2: Animal Fables Block

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This block was delightfully fun – especially because lots of stuffed animals kept showing up for school. I kept the energy high and the fables short. For Jude, making a main lesson book is his favorite part of school, so we typically keep to the tell a story/draw a picture/write a summary sentence routine. Usually this repetition serves him, but somewhere toward the end of the block, school was becoming difficult. One particular day, I came into the schoolroom to find Jude laying on the floor, telling me I was giving him SO MUCH work. I rolled my eyes and bit my tongue to keep from saying one of my favorite lines, “Cry me a river!” and thought about how to shake things up. (Any other mothers of phlegmatic children laughing right now??!!) We somehow made it through that lesson and the next day, we did school at the kitchen table by making a huge mural to illustrate the fable “Foolish Words”. This is a Jataka tale that has hundreds of animals running through the jungle shouting “Earthquake!” because one nervous rabbit heard a coconut fall out of a tree. Instead of drawing all the different kinds of animals, we deconstructed this little coloring book. After coloring the animals, we cut them out in silhouette and glued them to the simple background Jude had drawn. This was lots of fun, finished out the week and got us back on track.

We had one resounding success with retelling the story, which for the most part is a non-starter with my little guy. Usually I am met with “I don’t know.” “I don’t remember.” or my favorite “What story?” I have pretty much given up on this area for now, because I am trusting that the stories are in there, working their magic on his little soul. After hearing “The Tortoise and The Hare”, I summarized the story in 8 sentences. I printed these out, cut them into strips and mixed them up in a hat. Jude picked them out of the hat, arranged them in the correct order and read them back to me. These sentences then became our prompts for the reader we are making for this fable. I will detail that project in another post sometime soon.

Resources:

  • Animal Fables, Donna Simmons – I basically followed the order of the fables and took a lot of ideas for our projects directly from this guide.
  • Teaching Fables, Live Education – This had some great insight into the 8 year old and why they need to hear lots and lots of fables.

Projects:

  • Modeled mice out of beeswax “The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse”

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  • Created a reader based on “The Tortoise and the Hare” – We are continuing to work on this project which will include eight drawings and eight summary sentences that tell the whole story of the race between the tortoise and the hare. Jude’s MLB for this is HUGE, measuring 18 x 24. His figures are small, but he does fill the entire double-page spread with color. His writing is nice and large and legible.
  • Modeled lions out of beeswax “The Lion and The Mouse” (We reused our beeswax mice from earlier in the block.) This is the first time we used two different colored beeswax to add details. And even though Vincent said mine looked like “a house cat in a bonnet,” I think they turned out great!

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  • Created a main lesson book with drawings and story titles

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  • Made a mural “Foolish Words”

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  • Colored and cut out a bunny mask “Rabbit’s Money Crop”
  • Made stick puppets “The Wise Goat” (wolves and goat)
  • Knitted a lamb “The Wolf and The Lamb”

Extras we didn’t get to:

I hope to do these sometime throughout the year.

Lesson Plans: October 2013

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Our impromptu week at the beach has altered our lessons slightly. I never put vacations into my planning schedule, as we are not advance planners in that regard. Usually, I just pick up where we left off, but this time I’ve decided to cut and condense instead. We are ready to wrap up our current blocks and move on. So move on we shall. October is a busy month with a Michaelmas celebration, several shows at the downtown theatre, a camping trip, a visit from the NJ grandparents plus all the regular scout meetings, penny whistle lessons and whatnots we’ve got going on. Here’s what we are up to:

Vincent, 11 1/2 years old, grade 6: Vincent is still working his way through Rome, and while he is enjoying the material, he is not as enthusiastic as he was about Greece. In our remaining two weeks, we will be studying the historical Jesus and the fall of the Empire. After Rome we will move onto some math. I had originally slated geology for this month, but when I looked at our calendar, I knew we needed a block that wouldn’t suffer from the choppiness of all our extra activities. Math to the rescue!! We will be using the Key to workbooks for learning percentages and this book from Simply Charlotte Mason to begin business math. Vincent’s independent work will continue with handwriting practice and also exploring Latin roots with this workbook from the Critical Thinking Company.

Jude, 8 years old, grade 2: Jude has loved hearing the animal fables, drawing pictures in his main lesson book and bringing a menagerie of puppets to his desk everyday. We will finish this block tomorrow and then move on to our first math block. This block will be a review of the four processes, a bit of daily mental math and an introduction to place value. In addition to Eric Fairman’s A Path of Discovery and Donna Simmons’ Mathematics Grade 2, we are using this little gem from The Toymaker: The Mysterious Math Carnival. We will also embrace the season and incorporate a little nature study as we move into autumn. I have several books and stories that we always read at this time of year, plus the mandatory leaf and acorn crafts that we all love. I am also hoping to dye some yarn one day soon, if for no other reason than to clean out the bags of onion skins I have been saving for longer than I am willing to admit. (Ok, it’s been two years. That’s a lot of onions.)

Sheila: I think I actually started to twitch when I flipped the calendar page yesterday. I loathe having a chock-a-block schedule, but that is what this month is shaping up to be. At times, I can be really narrow-minded in my thinking of what constitutes “school”. “Learning” happens at the desks in that beautiful school room, whose color I agonized over and is evidenced by all the drawings and summaries I so painstakingly planned this summer. Yes? Yes? YES???!!! (Please tell me you are ruefully chuckling with me and not hysterically laughing at me.) My lesson this month will be to take one day at a time and delight in whatever that particular day brings. Taking a day (or two or more!) away from the desks each week will hopefully rejuvenate the spirit, stretch the mind and fill the heart. Maybe the boys will get something out of it too . . . Here’s to the bounty of autumn! May our harvests be full to overflowing.

School Day Rhythm: 2013

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We are still fine tuning our rhythm, but below you will find an approximation of our daily schedule. For the most part, Jude’s day has pretty much stayed the same from last year, but Vincent’s has changed substantially. Up until now, all Vincent’s schoolwork was contained within our main lesson time. This year (grade 6), he is responsible for a variety of independent work in math, handwriting, spelling and additional assignments related to our current main lesson block. He also needs to keep track of his penny whistle practice, independent reading/handwork progress and any achievements/work related to Boy Scouts.  This is all compiled by him during the week and turned into me on Fridays at noon. It has been a process that has stretched him in regard to deadlines, time management, and meeting expectations. For me, it has brought up issues with setting expectations, holding boundaries and sharing responsibilities. I’m sure it will be a year fits and starts in regard to personal growth for the both of us.

“Extras” like form drawing, penny whistle practice, poetic recitation and concentrated movement exercises are still being worked into our day. I am finding I like doing these activities individually with the boys at the beginning of their main lessons. We have not gotten everything integrated into our weekly rhythm yet, but I am trying to at least do form drawing once a week. We are beginning the year with circles, squares, triangles and rectangles. These are called “standing forms” in grades 1/2 and “freehand geometry” in grades 5/6. Currently we are drawing the forms on Mondays (circles and squares so far this year), but I also have plans to model them out of beeswax and paint them with watercolors. (Donna Simmons has some really good information about painting the forms in her book Mathematics Grade 2.)

Below you can see how this shakes out. (Times are approximate.)

Monday

  • [9:15ish] Vincent Main Lesson (On Mondays, this will include form drawing, a math lesson for the week, 10 vocabulary/spelling words from the upcoming week’s reading and finally new material.)
  • GO (Get Outside)
  • [11:00ish] Jude Main Lesson (On Mondays this will include form drawing.)
  • Vincent does his independent work during this time. This includes math practice based on the week’s lesson, handwriting practice and any other ML work he needs to finish.
  • [12:30 most days] Lunch
  • Free Time/Play Time
  • DEAR (Drop Everything And Read – or handwork)
  • [4:30 – 5:30pm] Penny Whistle Lessons in Town
  • Drive-Thru Dinner (as in I go through a drive-thru for dinner . . . even the Cowboy Boot Contessa has limits!)
  • [6:00pm] Jude Cub Scouts (3 out of 4 Mondays)
  • Night Routine
  • [9:00pm] Bedtime

Tuesday

  • Vincent Main Lesson
  • GO (Get Outside)
  • Jude Main Lesson / Vincent Independent Work
  • Lunch
  • Free Time/Play Time
  • DEAR (Drop Everything And Read – or handwork)
  • Free Time/Play Time
  • Dinner Prep
  • [5:30pm] Early Dinner
  • [7 – 8pm] Vincent Boy Scouts
  • Night Routine
  • [9:15pm] Bedtime

Wednesday and Thursday

  • Vincent Main Lesson
  • GO (Get Outside)
  • Jude Main Lesson / Vincent Independent Work
  • Lunch
  • Free Time/Play Time
  • DEAR (Drop Everything And Read – or handwork)
  • Free Time/Play Time
  • Dinner Prep
  • [6:00pm] Dinner
  • Play Time with Dad
  • Night Routine
  • [8:45pm] Bedtime

Friday

  • Baking Day
  • Vincent’s Independent Work Due at Noon!
  • Lunch
  • Free Time/Play Time
  • DEAR (Drop Everything And Read)
  • Free Time/Play Time
  • Dinner Prep
  • Dinner
  • Play Time with Dad
  • Night Routine
  • Bedtime

Bird Block

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Inspired by Alison Manzer’s guidance in this post, we started our school year with a two-week block on birds. My goal was to study something fun together while getting back into a school day rhythm. We began each day by going outside and quietly listening to the birds outside our back door. We would then venture off to one of the surrounding hayfields to observe birds flying and perching. We cleaned and filled our bird feeders. We studied nests, feathers and eggs. We read picture books on the couch, drew feathers at our desks and painted birds in the sky at the kitchen table. I kept the activity level high and the lessons relatively short. Binoculars were a big hit (Thanks G’Buddy!!) – scouting out nests in trees, looking at birds in flight and if I’m being completely honest, identifying the make and model of cars driving by on the main road. Although this was a short burst of a block, I’m hoping to continue studying birds throughout the year.

Resources:

  • Albert, Donna Joe Napoli
  • An Egg is Quiet, Diana Aston
  • The Boy who Drew Birds, Jacqueline Davies and Melissa Sweet
  • Angelo, David Macaulay
  • Birds at Home, Marguerite Henry (I purchased this book at a book sale because of the striking cover. However, when I noticed the author, I gave the book a deeper look. It is lovely beyond words. Scientific, yes, but so full of lively, life-giving pictorial images. I have been trying to find a similar book on animals to accompany Jude’s fables this year to no avail. Any suggestions? Alison?? Mama??)
  • Birds of America, John James Audubon

Activities:

  • Gathered bird nests, feathers and eggs.
  • Painted color studies of birds in the sky. (The challenge was not work with form but to use two colors and not have them touch.)

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  • Drew feathers.

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  • Modeled beeswax into eggs, turned the eggs into birds, and then the birds back into eggs (I did this at a Waldorf workshop about 3 years ago and still remember the experience. Modeling the bird from the egg and then back again is a powerful metaphor.)
  • Listened to bird calls on cd and out in nature.
  • Made nests out of yarn using these directions. Ours were only mildly successful; maybe we didn’t let them dry long enough before popping the balloons.
  • Created a cool mobile with these fun printouts from the Toymaker.
  • Took a field trip to a local bird sanctuary.