Grade 5: Greek Mythology and History Block

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Starting with Greek mythology, moving into Greek history and ending with Alexander is really a stroke of brilliance on the part of the Waldorf curriculum. Vincent was absolutely enchanted by the myths of the Greek gods and heroes, but he kept wanting to know where the line of reality was drawn. Was the Trojan war real? Did the Argo really sail? How could the gods have fought with real men? I just let these questions linger and (once again!) found it fascinating how well the curriculum corresponds with child development. He didn’t ask these questions when we did any of the other mythologies – and there was plenty of opportunity: Norse, Indian, Babylonian, Persian, Egyptian. Just Greek . . . that Steiner . . . he knew a thing or two.

I’m so glad we waited until the very end of grade 5 to do this block for a couple of reasons. Ending the block (and the year) with the figure of Alexander the Great allowed us to review all the other cultures we studied this year. Vincent was very familiar with the geography, and was able to visualize the places Alexander conquered. He also had a sense of the Persians, the Babylonians, the Egyptians and the Indians as people before they were taken over by Alexander’s army. Donna Simmons stresses this concept when teaching history and I agree it is essential to have a sense of what came before the conquerors/explorers.

The other reason I am happy we waited until the end of the year is because Vincent and I are both tired of doing school. LOL. If we did Greece earlier in the year, I think we could have just gone on and on: more myths, more heroes, more history, more pita bread, more stuffed grape leaves . . . until we both ended up in a Dionysian stupor! We never watched the BBC movie, In the Footsteps of Alexander. The weather was just too beautiful to be inside watching TV. If we get a string of super hot or rainy days this summer, we may watch it then. If not, that’s okay. We have done enough. We are currently reading A Little History of the World by EH Gombrich and completing our timeline. Both activities are engaging and providing an excellent historical account of civilization up through Greece.

Resources:

  • Ancient Greece, Charles Kovacs (I used this book as our spine and loved it. Hands down, Kovacs is my favorite Waldorf resource for mythology and history.)
  • Mythology: Greek Gods, Heroes and Monsters, Candlewick Press (This is a popular mainstream book, but I found it to be a good supplement for Vincent to read on his own.)
  • D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths (I used this as a secondary spine and for Vincent’s independent reading. The drawings are inspirational.)
  • Voices of the Trojan War, Kate Hovey (Vincent read some of this on his own, but I’m putting it on our read aloud shelf for summer.)
  • Archimedes and the Door of Science, Jeanne Bendick (This is a Mama recommendation and will go on our read aloud shelf also.)
  • Famous Men of Greece, Poland and Haaren (Vincent read parts of this on his own. I also (accidentally) purchased the teacher’s guide. I found it a good resource and gave Vincent a quiz and a crossword puzzle. I ordered the same set for Rome next year.)
  • Alexander the Great, Demi (I was so happy to discover this author! The biography is visually stunning with the perfect amount of information. The map of Alexander’s conquest is excellent.)

Projects:

  • Created a visual representation of the Olympians – painting, drawing and modeling.
Zeus

Zeus

Hera

Hera

Hephaesteus

Hephaestus’ volcanic forge

Athena (Arachne)

Athena (Story of Arachne) (This was done by drawing the spider and the web with crayon and then painting over it.)

  • Worked with the Greek alphabet
  • Modeled Artemis and Apollo’s bows out of beeswax
  • Folded an origami peacock as a symbol of Hera

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  • Planned and cooked many Greek foods
  • Created a deck of playing cards based on Greek mythological and historical figures

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  • Worked with dictation, summarizing and copying information about Greece
  • Wrote a short summary on Athenian life from the first person point of view

Lesson Plans for May 2013

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This post is a part of Waldorf Wednesday. See all the links here.

The last blocks of the year! WooHoo! Yippee-yie-yay!! Happy dance, happy dance, happy, happy, happy dance!!! Here is what we are up to this month:

Vincent, 5th grader, 11 years old: Vincent will finish his Greek block by transitioning from Greek mythology to Greek history, again using Charles Kovacs’ wonderful book, Ancient Greece. Our study of Greece will finish with Alexander the Great and we plan to watch the 4 hour BBC production, In the Footsteps of Alexander. I am not much of a movie person and neither are my boys, but I think this will be a fun departure from our normal course of study. After the popcorn-fest, we will delve into A Little History of the World by EH Gombrich, reading up to the beginning of the Roman Empire. Our final project of grade 5 will be a timeline that I plan to have Vincent add to over the next couple of years. To say I have deliberated about how to do this timeline would be the understatement of the year. (I can see Tom rolling his eyes as he reads this.) However, I have made the decision to use these beautiful, hand-drawn figures from Homeschool in the Woods as our base. I will be modifying some of the early dates however, as they are based on a biblical view of creation. We will be coloring the figures with colored pencil, cutting them out and gluing them onto cardstock that I have printed using this free timeline maker. The completed pages will then put into plastic slip sheets and stored in a binder.

Jude, 1st grader, 7 1/2 years old: I have followed the Christopherus grade 1 syllabus pretty much block by block this entire year, but for some reason, I had absolutely nothing planned for Jude to do after April. When I realized my snafu, I looked at my grade 1 bookshelf and came across The Wise Enchanter by Shelley Davidow. We will be reading this lovely story and revisiting the alphabet, which is where we began back in September. Because Vincent will be doing something fun with his timeline, I am going to have Jude make an alphabet book using a set of Mother Goose postcards. There is one for every letter, and on the back I’m going to have him write a few words and draw a picture of something that starts with that letter. We will then bind the postcards into a book of sorts. Jude has also taken a fancy to Tiptoes Lightly, so we will be reading Eggs for the Hunting by Reg Down sporadically throughout these last few weeks of school as well.

Sheila: My brain shuts off around Memorial Day. As soon as the American flags start flying and the red, white and blue bunting appears, this year is officially over as far as I’m concerned. Of course we have loose ends to secure and testing needs to be done, but I feel like I can do this with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back. I give myself this little lull, because I know next year’s planning is right around the corner. And this year, the planning will be sooner rather than later. Due to a serendipitous alignment of the Waldorf homeschool planning stars, Jean Miller will be in town visiting her sister who happens to live a mere 45 minutes from me. Andrea and I are having a day-long planning session with her to hammer out next year together. I expect this to be a lot of fun and also very productive. I will still have a bunch of planning to accomplish, but I hope to have the big stuff out of the way, and spend my summer focusing on reading primary materials for grades 2 and 6 and also furthering my art and handwork skills. Crochet, anyone? (You can see the very beginning of my plans for grade 2 and grade 6 under “Planning” beneath my header. Right now, it is basically a list of resources organized per block.)

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Here’s a peek at what we were doing this time last year. (US Geography)

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Grade 5: Botany Block

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The first day of our Botany block was the perfect spring day: the air was chilly, but the sun was warm. All three of us worked together and turned over both garden beds. I was feeling *pretty* proud of myself for choosing the *perfect* month to study plants outside. Mother Nature, however, has a wicked sense of humor. The rest of the month was cold and windy and gave us more snow than we had all winter. I can tell you, studying plants indoors is not fun at all. We did do our reading, although I found the Charles Kovacs Botany book unengaging and The Mary Frances Garden Book dated and tedious. As I had planned on using both of these books as our spines, I was pleasantly surprised by two beautifully illustrated picture books I off-handedly checked out of the library: The Gift of a Tree by Alvin Tresselt and A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long.

The Gift of a Tree by Alvin Tresselt tells the story of the life cycle of a tree, concentrating on what happens after the tree dies. (Incidentally, it was first published under the title The Dead Tree in 1971. Oh, the 70s, what a wonderful decade to be born into.) The tree becomes home to a variety of animals and insects, eventually decomposing and becoming fertile soil that nourishes the next generation of oaks. This little story connected the dots of so much that we have studied in grade 5. Starting way back in September with Ancient India, I gave Vincent the symbol of a circle representing the ideas of life, death and rebirth. We have touched on that symbol throughout the year, but this book let us really explore the idea of reincarnation/resurrection/rebirth in almost every block. This was one of those serendipitous moments where I fall in love with the Waldorf curriculum all over again.

Resources:

  • The Gift of a Tree, Alvin Tresselt
  • Keepers of Life: Discovering Plants through Native American Stories and Earth Activities for Children, Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac
  • Seed, Leaf, Flower, Fruit, Maryjo Koch
  • A Seed is Sleepy, Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long
  • The Mary Frances Garden Book, Jane Eayre Fryer
  • Botany, Charles Kovacs

Projects:

  • Field Trip to the local botanical gardens
  • Bark Rubbings
  • Botanical scavenger hunt
  • Botanical mobile using items found on scavenger hunt
  • Kitchen seed exploration and collage of seeds found
  • Forced cherry branches inside

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For more posts about Botany, click the images below.

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Lesson Plans for April 2013

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Who am I to argue with T.S. Eliot, but with two separate weeks of spring break, April may be the kindest month. The first week in April we will be taking a break from main lessons, spending a day at the dentist, and (hopefully, fingers crossed, please, please, please) finish all the scouting requirements for this year. On Friday, Andrea and I leave for Hot-lanta to attend the Peach Cobblers’ Waldorf Curriculum Fair. I am really looking forward to this little getaway. The next three weeks will be spent completing our second to last block of the year – unbelievable, but true. The last week in April will find us all at the beach with both sets of grandparents, hopefully catching some rays and eating lots and lots of shrimp.

Vincent: 11 years old, 5th grader Vincent will begin the first half of our 6 week block on Greece that will focus on Greek mythology. This will segue into Greek History for the better part of May. We will be using both the D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths and also Ancient Greece by Charles Kovacs. I am interested in seeing if the Greek myths will captivate Vincent’s imagination as others have spoken about with their fifth graders. We will be drawing a map of Greece, memorizing, drawing and summarizing the 12 Olympians, summarizing the myths we read, and perhaps rewriting one. I hope to continue our form drawing practice with some Greek inspired designs. I’m sure Vincent is planning to research and make some traditional Greek foods. Bring on the spanakopita!!

Jude: 7 years old, 1st grader Jude will be completing his final math block of first grade, delving a little deeper into the four processes with some mental math and also a few written problems. We will also be concentrating on memorizing the 2s, 5s and 10s multiplication tables by tossing around our bean bags. (Jude is reading this over my shoulder as I type and just informed me, “I know all those!” So, I don’t know what we’ll be doing with Sir Smarty Pants! Ok, he’s gone.) There will be some fun fairy tales to illustrate these math concepts and keep them from becoming too abstract. I think I will also pull out our jar of wooden shapes and work on some tanagrams during main lesson time. Those things always make my head hurt, but maybe Jude will like them. I also plan to bust out our jump ropes and get both boys jumping outside.

Sheila: This feels like the sweet spot in the year. I can appreciate how much we have accomplished, yet I still have some stamina and enthusiasm left for the last couple of blocks. Contrast this to the previous two years of homeschooling with Waldorf where I can vividly remember wanting to scrap the remainder of the year and just start planning next year’s blocks. Because then I had a clean slate and could get it all right – whatever I thought that meant! I know everybody says this, but I am going to say it too. Coming to Waldorf late is a process that takes time. I may even go out on a limb here and say homeschooling with Waldorf – no matter when you come to it – is a process that takes time. If it speaks to you, if it feeds you, if you can catch glimpses of it changing you, your children and your family for the better, stick with it and give yourself that time. Listen to the whispers that speak to that part of you that resonated with Waldorf in the first place. Focus on that and ignore the rest for now. You will get there. I am so grateful for all that I have learned this year and I plan on recording it like I did for Year 1 and Year 2 of our journey.

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Here’s a look at what we were doing this time last year.

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Knitting with Boys

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This post is a part of Waldorf Wednesday. See all the links here.

Knitting is something I don’t have to remind my boys to do. They both pick up their projects at some point during the day – usually in the morning before school or during afternoon storytime. Somedays, when I feel as though we are accomplishing absolutely nothing, I can usually feel good about the knitting we have done. I find it so interesting how their different temperaments and personalities are reflected in their approaches.

Jude is a still-waters-run-deep, slow-and-steady-wins-the-race kinda kid. His favorite things to knit are little green squares. We have a lot of little green squares. If he is feeling particularly daring on a given day, he’ll cast on with a different color. He’ll knit about 3 rows with this renegade color, stop, undo his work, and return to his beloved green yarn. One day he told Tom about his experience with stripes. Tom asked him what colors he used. He gave him a look as if questioning his sanity and said, “Green. And another green.”

Vincent is a different kid and a different knitter. As with most everything, he is fast, fearless and expansive. He has read all the knitting books we own and most of the ones in our library system. If I have a question about something, I don’t bother looking it up. I just ask Vincent. I know if our stash of knitting needles is getting low to look in his handwork basket where I’ll find several sets attached to a variety of creations. My favorite project he has done this year is a toy he knitted for our music teacher’s cat. I am encouraging him to make a few to sell. They knit up quick (for him) and cats seem to love them.

I am some combination of the two of them – although truth be told, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t knit at all. My favorite thing to knit is pot holders – which come to think of it are really just big squares. I have also knitted a washcloth this year (another square, shown above.) Unlike Jude, I do like to experiment with color. Lately, I have pushed my skill set by learning to increase and decrease thanks to Vincent. I have completed several 3D animals from Barbara Dewey’s wonderful book, Waldorf Handwork for Homeschoolers Grades K – 4Their resemblance to anything found in nature, however, is open to interpretation.

Projects:

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Green Square #1

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Green Square #2 (could also be Alabama)

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Green Square – Striped

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Kite

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Cat Toy

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Chicken

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Sheep (or a sheep dog or a zebra if you ask Tom)

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Gnome

Our favorite knitting books:

  • Waldorf Handwork for Homeschoolers Grades K – 4, Barbara Dewey
  • Kids Knitting, Melanie Falick
  • Kids Knit!: Simple Steps to Nifty Projects, Sarah Bradberry
  • Kids Learn to Knit, Lucinda Guy and Francois Hall

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To read about the mini knitting block we did earlier this year, click the image below.

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