Monday, November 30, 2009

Grade 4, Week 13 ~ A New Month, A New Block

(Okay, so the new month starts tomorrow; our blocks are following calendar months plus or minus a day or two here and there.)

We are feeling refreshed after a week off; it was long enough that the boys felt the freedom of the break without breaking down at the change in rhythm. Today they met the morning with enthusiasm and a total lack of complaint.

Our main lesson block this month is Local Geography. Measurement is in the sleep phase and we are reawakening division with remainders and Roman Numerals. Parts of speech have moved into continuing practice for mastery.

We began our block with drawing the compass rose. Reading maps is part of local geography and the compass rose can be a beautiful thing. As a plus, we finally used our (drafting) compasses to make circles; J-Baby has been wanting to know how they work for a couple of months now.

One thing I am enjoying about following the Waldorf curriculum is approaching subjects at a time when they make the most sense for the child. My boys love maps and have made their own for quite some time now. We never seem to come to a subject completely cold; the boys are eager for focused learning on subjects that they already have experience with.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What I Learned ...

It is unwise to load your children into the car the day after a stimulating Thanksgiving holiday and expect them to behave for 6 hours in the car (3 hours each way) in order to visit your grandmother at an assisted living facility, especially if she isn't feeling well and doesn't really feel up to interacting with them.

By the time we were in the car heading home I was alternating between deep anger and absolute despair. My grandma doesn't want to be there, I don't want her to be there, and right now I can't do anything about it. She needs far more care that we could give her at home; my dad even suggested that it was too soon for her to leave the skilled nursing facility where she has been since her stroke last August.

The anger ... I was embarrassed by J-Baby. He whined, he complained, he flopped his body around, he pouted, and pretty much did everything he could to show how unhappy he was with the situation. I am certain that in part he was picking up Grandma's unhappy energy and reflecting it back to all of us, but at that moment I was just angry that he would be so rude to someone that I know he loves.

It takes a very strong person to go against what everyone else expects, including yourself, in order to put the needs of your child first. At ages 9 and 10 I even expect my boys to at times submit their needs for the good of the family. On the right day this visit could have worked, but not on a day when J-Baby was so depleted. I remember the thrill of Thanksgiving and the gathering of family at our home; I worked myself to the point of vomiting each year before we ever sat down for the meal.

My goal for the next several months is to really work at making our home life and out-of-the home life match the developmental needs of the boys. As horrible as yesterday was it was a lesson that I needed to be taught; pushing children past their limits is unpleasant for everyone, children included.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

With Joyful Gratitude

Today we express our deepest gratitude ...

... for all of humankind, past and present, for sharing the journey of humanity with us.

... for the loved ones who share our lives.

... for the farmers and others who work to bring us the bounty of food we enjoy daily.

... for those who work to keep us safe.

... for those who bring us art, music, and craft.

... for nature and all it's beauty and bounty.

... for joy and sorrow, and the ability to feel them.

... for everything.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What I Am Trying to Teach Today

We have hosted Thanksgiving all of 3 times in our married/adult life. Once was as vegetarians in 1994 and I am pretty sure it doesn't count as we didn't roast a turkey (or serve any meat at all). We hosted a very big meal in 2007; my mother had recently died and family and friends gathered here. I did everything from scratch, from Grand Marnier orange-cranberry sauce to a gluten-free apple-bacon-cornbread dressing that was perhaps the peak of my holiday cooking career. We roasted our first turkey and we almost set the oven on fire because we used so much butter. I swore I would never cook Thanksgiving dinner again.

Of course, I did; last year we had my father, my mother-in-law, and my sister-in-law join us for a small feast. The turkey turned out perfectly; indeed the entire meal was delicious. But once again the stress in our home was palpable for days and I repeated my vow not to do it ever again, a vow that I was destined to break. It seems that not cooking simply isn't an option. We have become the anchor in an extended family adrift in brokenness and dysfunction.

I don't handle stress well. That is perhaps an understatement ~ I turn into a raging mess of emotions, fly off the handle repeatedly, get very angry, and contemplate deserting my family to live alone in a small apartment with a dog and a laptop. It's completely surreal; I don't feel or think or act like myself. I think I must be allergic to cortisol, that wonderful stress hormone. Every part of my temperament is magnified and I go from quirky to insane. Trying to hold it in just shifts the effects to my physical body.

If I can't keep my vow not to cook, perhaps I can make a new one: to not get stressed out and become a different person on Thanksgiving. To model the calm that I want my children to feel. To keep it simple (or as simple as I can in a house where one person prefers mashed potatoes and gravy and the other prefers a praline sweet-potato casserole and I have to make both), to do what I can ahead to limit the stress of cooking on the big day, and to forgive myself any imperfections that arise.

Everyday is a day that our children are learning, whether we are presenting main lesson material or not. Indeed, how we live our lives is the biggest main lesson of all. I want my children to see that having people into our home to share a meal with us is a gift, and I can't pass that message on if all they see is the stress that I let build up because I am trying to live up to someone else's idea of perfect. So every time I feel the stress building I am going to stop and remind myself that it can be simple, it doesn't have to be perfect, and that being calm and enjoying the process is as important as the product.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This and That

It's been a rather uneventful day here at the Living Oak Academy (yes, that is our school name). The boys have enjoyed a game of Risk, went mountain biking with Papa and Big Dog, and have shot several rounds of hoops. They discovered that the local radio station has begun playing holiday music and I have heard Feliz Navidad at least twice, including upon waking. There has been lots of reading and Lego building, but all at an easy pace.

I was a bit slow myself, finalizing my Thanksgiving grocery list (we did most of it last night), checking over the finances, reading, and knitting, plus keeping up on housework and laundry. We had a couple of errands to do and I really didn't want to go out ~ I hate shopping on good days and the craziness that fills the stores in the days leading up to Thanksgiving are almost more than I can take. On the one hand I wanted to leave the boys home so that they could escape the chaos, and on the other I wanted to take them with me so that I didn't have to face it alone. I was very tempted to leave it all until Papa comes home, but needed to do a thrift store drop-off (me and a thousand other people, apparently).

The dread that fills me when I contemplate leaving the secure cocoon of my home for the traffic and noise of my errands makes me really stop and think what effect it has on my children. They held up well today, although they got squirrelly at the grocery store, which is par for the course with them when the store is crowded and we need to stay in a single file line.

T-Guy is very helpful when we run errands and truly enjoys going. J-Baby hates going and I can't say I blame him. When the boys were younger I made every effort to not take the boys into stores, and even now I do try to limit how often they go. Target and the like are the absolute worst stores for them, although I think J-Baby ranks Costco as his all-time least favorite store. I heartily agree with him; I wouldn't go to Costco if it wasn't saving me significant money on groceries right now.

We made it through today, and the plus was weighing our apples, onions, yams, and celery (it is priced by the unit but J-Baby wanted to weigh it anyway). The produce section wasn't nearly as crowded as the rest of the store and we weren't in anyone's way; very few people use the scales.

The boys are looking forward to watching NOVA this evening; it is going to be about dreams and J-Baby says he has wanted to know about dreams for a long time. I guess our PBS station decided not to carry it in the usual time slot, as it wasn't on.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Taking the Week Off ...

I still be posting, but we aren't doing focused lesson work this week. The boys are so excited, LOL!

Today we took three rocks that they found while hiking over the weekend, put them in individual glass bowls, and poured vinegar over them. J-Baby thought he had found limestone but T-Guy insisted it wasn't, hence putting it to the acid test. Limestone is so alkaline that it reacts with the acidic vinegar and bubbles away. Sure enough, we have one bubbling rock and two that aren't (quartz and granite).

We bought a new Lego book second hand, LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT: The Mayan Adventure (Technology in Action). Papa opened the package and left the book on the big desk in the family/learning room, and by the time I got up this morning T-Guy had read the first two chapters and was ready to start building.

I need this week off to orchestrate Thanksgiving and to plan our next block, Local Geography. I feel quite prepared to do this in terms of knowing our local geography, but need to do some reading as to how to approach it artistically.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What Do You Mean By Enki/Waldorf?

I get asked this question often; I was actually asked again last night. I'm never exactly sure how to answer it (I know I have tried on the blog in the past). I'm fairly certain that most people aren't interested in the philosophy, so I tend to explain the what and how and see if the questions progress into why.

I often just refer to us as Waldorf homeschoolers, although in reality we follow a more Enki model. I find that most people have never heard of Enki but may have some familiarity with Waldorf. However, we are not anthroposophists. Enki appealed to me from the beginning because it integrated several fantastic models into a new form of education with a different philosophy. Enki brings in developmental-immersion mastery, skills practice, multicultural studies, and a strong focus on sensory integration.

We're rogue Enki homeschoolers, as I chose not to continue with the Enki main group. I think that is one reason I shy away from referring to us as Enki. There weren't many materials available for grade 4 and I found that I wasn't utilizing the phone discussion group. As I have the Grade 1 - 6 Teaching Guide (no longer available) I felt confident that I had sufficient guidance to go it alone. Honestly, this year I just couldn't justify spending the funds on what was available for grade 4. I do at times feel a little lost without the support of a community of peers going through grade 4 with me.

The basics of how are different from mainstream educational practices; block teaching is something that most people haven't heard of, although many of them see the inherent benefit in it once it is explained. An art-based approach is also unusual outside of Waldorf schools. When I explain the three-fold cycle I often get blank stares; I know people can understand it but I'm not very good at explaining it.

For our grade 4 work (have I mentioned how peaceful and right it feels to have returned to our Enki/Waldorf roots?) our subject content is chosen to mirror the developmental stage of the grade 4 child. In grade 4 we study mythology (Norse and Egyptian are what we have chosen this year), fractions, long division, local geography and history, and animals, as well as continuing work in music, art, movement, etc.

When I say Enki/Waldorf I mean that we are following a block lesson model along with developmental-immersion mastery, an arts-approach, and curriculum content chosen for the developmental stage of the child (rather than their skill level). I mean that we are respecting the unfolding nature of the child and not pushing them forward nor holding them back. Our goal is far more than just academic education; it is life education.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Grade 4, Week 12, Day 5 ~ Friday Free Day

I am truly having a Friday Free Day today; the boys and Papa have headed out for an all-guys weekend camping trip with my father-in-law, brother-in-law, and his partner. They'll be at Anza Borrego State Park exploring the desert. One thing I love about where we live is our access to so many different ecological areas ~ desert, coastal, and mountain. Within an hour's drive we can be listening to the ocean, inhaling the scent of pine and fir, or spotting bighorn sheep (borregos) as they climb rocky hills.

Many homeschoolers I know, and parents in general, try to cram their children's lives with as many activities as they possibly can, as if the children must be completely filled by the time they reach adulthood. There are weekly field trips, museum visits, amusement park classes, art classes, music lessons, dance, sports, and more. Some homeschoolers spend so much time in the car going places that they call themselves carschoolers.

Papa and I have chosen to live more simply and allow our children the time and space they need to unfold themselves. It wasn't always like this; we crammed the days full when they were younger, camping at least once a month, going to Disneyland regularly, signing them up for Kindermusik classes and little kid baseball. It wasn't nurturing any of us; the boys were wound up and I was exhausted all the time. So now the camping trips and other activities are spaced out, punctuating rather than dominating our lives. Time after time a field trip opportunity or class is brought to my attention and I have to stop and say, no, that isn't something we need to do. Indeed, we probably need not to do it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

grade 4, Week 12, Day 4 ~ Creating Their Own Soundtrack

We don't start our focused lessons at a specific time every morning; the morning unfolds and as I listen and observe I choose when to get started. Each morning the boys joyfully engage in play; I have always thought that they needed to reconnect after the separation that is sleep. At some point in their play the energy will change and the boys will sound less satisfied ~ the moment to grab them is when I hear the the very first, faint rumblings of discontent.

Today they spent a good hour in play, sunk deeply into it and obviously nourished by it. Usually their morning play is some sort of building ~ Lego and/or Keva. As I cast on for a knit hat I heard them singing Build, Build, Clap over and over again. Sometimes they would add a bit of verse about what they were doing. Singing while they play is something they have done since they were little. I like to think of it as them composing a soundtrack for their lives.

I feel ready to end the measurement block. We've introduced the concepts of measurement in terms of distance/size, volume (liquid and dry), and mass ~ now it is time for the concepts to sleep.

Free Reading
Concepts Awakened: Parts of Speech
Main Lesson: Measurement
Afternoon Lesson: Gardening (Soil Science)
Other Subjects: Social Studies (A History of US), Typing (Mavis Beacon), Multiplication Tables (Timez Attack), and P.E. (Wii Fit Plus)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Grade 4, Week 12, Day 3 ~ Ounces Are Oh So Confusing

Tons make sense; there are 2000 pounds in a ton. The boys are even perceptive enough to understand that the idiom That weighs a ton! means that something is heavy, not that it necessarily weighs 2000 pounds.

But ounces? Color the boys slightly confused. The train of thought goes like this: There are 16 ounces in a pound. A cup has 8 ounces. That means a cup weighs half a pound. Except it might not ~ fluid ounces and ounces as a measurement of weight are not the same thing.

8 fluid ounces of water will weigh 8 ounces, as will other liquids of the same density. 8 fluid ounces of honey weighs 12 ounces. Honey is sold by weight most of the time; I learned a long time ago that 24 ounces of honey by weight will fit into a container that holds 16 fluid ounces.

The word ounce comes from uncia, meaning 1/12, as an ounce was 1/12 of a Roman pound. But an ounce is only 1/16 of avoirdupois pound, which is the pound we use in the United States customary system.

I can't think of any way to teach this other than rote memorization. I didn't come up with a clever story and didn't find one in the various Waldorf materials I have.

Continuing Practice: Subtraction with Regrouping
Free Reading
Concepts Awakened: Adjectives
Main Lesson: Measurement
Afternoon Lesson: Gardening
Other Subjects: Social Studies (A History of US)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Grade 4, Week 12, Day 2 ~ Weight and Mass

I made the effort last night to organize the boys' practice work and to clean off our learning table. The family/living room is slowly coming back into order, but I am in no rush as I want to declutter, simplify, and organize as I go.

We're measuring weight this week. More accurately, we're measuring mass, a distinction that Papa wants me to point out. Unlike the other measurement work we've done the boys aren't familiar with much more than pounds as a unit of measurement. Since we've yet to explore very much in terms of the metric system we will only be reviewing pounds, ounces, and tons (specifically the short ton).

Continuing Practice: Addition with Regrouping
Free Reading
Concepts Awakened: Verb Tenses
Main Lesson: Measurement
Afternoon Lesson: Gardening
Other Subjects: Social Studies (A History of US), P.E. (mountain biking), and Science (Nova on PBS)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Grade 4, Week 12, Day 1 ~ Mellow Monday

We had a mostly unschooling day today, managing to fit in social studies, guitar practice, free reading, and drawing. Saturday morning I started tearing apart the family/learning room and it is still fairly messy. I hadn't filled the boys binders (Binders? More on those later!) or planned the main lesson work.

It is amazing how relaxed I feel about our home learning now, despite the fact that we have returned to rhythm and focused lessons. I'm not worried about anything; I trust that the boys will learn what they want and need to know when it is best for them. I bring them lessons and concepts but like the proverbial horse and its water, I can't make them learn, so I'm not actually trying. I know that seeds are being planted and that our home life is one that will nurture those seeds well.

The decluttering and simplification of the family/learning room will have long-reaching positive benefits and I believe it is worth the loss of a focused day here and there.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Grade 4, Week 11, Day 5 ~ Friday Free Day

One thing I love about Friday is that it has the potential to be a less stressful day. It would be even less stressful is we packed for our park day the night before; we should work on that.

This morning wasn't as stress-free as I would have liked; I was still trying to put the family/learning room back in order. I won't complain about having housecleaners but it does make it hard to tackle a really big decluttering and simplifying project.

It was cold at the park. It's going to get colder, and when it does I will take appropriate clothing! I did have a pocket hand warmer with me so I could warm my fingers and then knit.

There wasn't really anything special about park day today. We like hanging out with friends but the kids seemed a bit off kilter or disconnected. J-Baby was having a little spat with one of his friends and asked to go home early which is quite uncharacteristic for him. They worked it out though. T-Guy played some but mostly hung out with the adults ~ I took the opportunity to comb the tangles out of his hair.

The magic came later. One of my favorite rituals that we started when the boys were little is lighting candles before Papa comes home; it's something we only do when it is dark early. The boys were playing out front; I lit the candles on the mantle and settled down with some shawl knitting. When they came in J-Baby asked if he could light the candles in the fireplace and he did a careful job of it! I decided not to hover or tell him what to do and he was fine; I'm rather proud of myself when I can step back and let him do something that I wasn't allowed to do as a child because it would be dangerous.

Candles lit I started singing nursery rhymes, Mary Thienes-Schunemann style. T-Guy joined in a bit but I know that at this point the songs are more for the mood and for myself than a chance for family singing ~ they'd rather sing the Beatles. The boys decided to weave while I knit and we had a cozy half hour before Papa arrived home. It was a little oasis of peace at the end of our Friday.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Grade 4, Week 11, Day 4 ~ Transitional Thursday

I have the family/learning room torn apart; it's part of an effort to simplify things but oh! it makes such a big mess in the process! I had to clear the desk so that the boys could do their lesson work today.

I was talking to a friend about how we approach teaching math at home. She said that she had tried several different math curricula but that she always comes back to teaching it in her own way. I told her that I follow the Waldorf guidelines for when to teach each subject, and that I try to bring in a math story and go from whole to parts, but that I too pretty much wing it. It makes sense to me; we can only teach what we know, so it would follow that we can only teach how we know it.

Anyway, it's working for us. Today we pulled out our Cuisinaire rods and our Miquon Math Lab materials and delved a little deeper into measurement. I would have never thought to use the rods to represent cups, pints, quarts, etc. but it was brilliant! It's far less wet messy than using water and measuring cups.

Continuing Practice: Subtraction with Regrouping
Assigned Reading: Indian Legends
Concepts Awakened: Punctuation
Main Lesson: Measurement
Afternoon Lesson: Gardening
Other Subjects: Independent (Free) Reading and Social Studies (A History of US)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Grade 4, Week 11, Day 3 ~ A Slow Start

Difficult mornings are so ... difficult. I slept in; I am having such a hard time getting a good night's sleep. When I did wander out to the kitchen (right after J-Baby) I immediately had to referee an argument over leftover muffins. The boys were pokey about doing their chores and T-Guy had obviously skipped combing his hair for a couple of days as it took 20 minutes to remove all of the tangles. I want to support his decision to have long hair but it is so hard when he won't care for it.

J-Baby didn't want to journal. After weeks of him writing one short sentence and doing a 30 second line drawing in his old journal I decided to transition the boys to writing more and not drawing pictures. Well, today J-Baby was very unhappy to not be drawing; I think in reality he just doesn't like writing the amount that is now required of him. J-Baby is so ... J-Baby. He will fight any changes for at least a month and even once he settles in he will occasionally have an outburst about how much he hates something. However, in true J-Baby fashion he forgot that he was unhappy about 30 seconds into his journaling.

We didn't do our main lesson in the morning; I wanted the boys to do more hands-on work and we were rather rushed because of the slow, difficult morning. We are mostly working liquid and dry measurement as the boys help me cook.

Continuing Practice: Addition with Regrouping (I am really seeing the results of consistent daily math practice)
Assigned Reading: Indian Legends
Concepts Awakened: Adjectives
Main Lesson: Measurement
Skills Practice: Typing Lesson and Multiplication Tables
Afternoon Lesson: Gardening (preparation for planting)
Other Subjects: Independent (Free) Reading and Social Studies (A History of US)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Grade 4, Week 11, Day 2 ~ Liquid Measurement

We are still getting into the swing of things over here; I am making certain that morning chores are done before we go on our walk and begin our lessons. This means that we are often not getting to our lesson work before 10 a.m., and the main lesson might not start until 11 a.m. as J-Baby is still quite slow at his journaling. T-Guy races ahead and finds himself with a lot of time to fill while he waits. It also means that we've not yet worked in all of the extra lessons but I do feel satisfied with what we are accomplishing. A lot of time less really is more.

Today we talked about liquid measurement, something the boys have a pretty good grip on already. Well, except for pints, but most people I know have to stop and think about what a pint is. This afternoon we put our lesson into practice while preparing maple baked beans for dinner and we'll make cornbread muffins when the beans are finished (they cook for 3 hours in the oven).

The boys were slightly disappointed that we couldn't plant today, but we had to add more soil and continue to water it. Indeed, the boys didn't water yesterday and they witnessed firsthand the drying out of the first inch or so of soil. Our daytime temperatures have been in the low 80s, but now we are expecting a drop into the upper 60s for several days which isn't exactly ideal for germination.

Continuing Practice: Subtraction with Regrouping
Assigned Reading: Indian Legends
Concepts Awakened: Verb Tenses
Main Lesson: Measurement
Afternoon Lesson: Gardening (adding yet more soil to the beds and watering in preparation for planting)
Other Subjects: Independent (Free) Reading, Social Studies (A History of US), and Science (Nova on PBS)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Grade 4, Week 11, Day 1 ~ A Spectacular Day

I'm still tweaking things around here; one thing I wanted to add back into our morning was a morning walk. It used to be a big part of our rhythm, but fell off when we were unschooling. This past spring we were walking the dogs every morning, but that had a different purpose.

This morning we headed out after our morning chores. The Big Dog was chomping at the bit; he settled down once he realized that this was going to be a leisurely walk. We just went around the block, but that takes about 15 minutes if we're strolling and stopping occasionally. We spotted a hawk overhead, then a Western Scrub Jay, and we could hear a crow. Careful listening helped us find it perched high at the top of a Coast Redwood (a little south for a redwood ~ these were planted here). We of course heard the tweets and chirps of many small birds.

Coming home we ran into a problem; J-Baby had decided to use one of the brand new pencils I ordered from Paper Scissors Stone and it was nowhere to be found. I only ordered 2, as I wanted to try them out, and well, I wasn't exactly the picture of a happy mom. I helped look for about 5 minutes and then decided to detach myself from it as the boys were going to have to sift through their room (note to self: they really need help decluttering and simplifying in there).

Pencil recovered, we embarked on our morning lessons. We really didn't get very far; after morning chores and the walk, then the pencil hunt, there wasn't time for much more than journalling. T-Guy did do his math practice and his parts of speech work.

For our afternoon lesson we headed to the local garden center, stopping by the library and pharmacy first. We needed more soil/compost and the boys picked out some started vegetables as well as some vegetable and flower seeds.

It is hard to describe how beautiful a day it was and I wish I had taken my camera out with me. We drove up into the mountains to Oak Glen for apple cider doughnuts (I packed gluten free doughnuts for J-Baby). In the morning I had noticed how very clear it was; the nearby mountains were crisp and we were seeing the distant hills and mountains in layer after layer. Up in apple country we added the beauty of trees turning vibrant oranges and reds, something we don't see in profusion down here in the valley.

There is no point listing what we did today formally. The biggest task was coming up with a journal entry longer than one sentence and that didn't begin with I like. We did a lot of nature observation and had our field trip to the garden center and Oak Glen.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Grade 4, Week 10, Day 5 ~ Friday Free Day

Our Friday free day is a day off from focused/rhythmic learning but it isn't a day off from life. The boys have simple chores to do each morning and on Fridays they must thoroughly tidy their room. They must fill their water bottles, gather together the things that they want to take to the park, and make sure the park blanket is in the car. While on the surface these things may not seem as important as arithmetic and reading they do serve a useful purpose. In the case of doing chores, the boys learn that they must pitch in and do their share so that our home environment is pleasant to be in and so that our Big Dog is cared for. Readying themselves to go to the park teaches them how to plan and prepare.

What our Friday held:

Park preparation
Lots of free play at the park!
An evening walk to listen to live music downtown
A History of US

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Grade 4, Week 10, Day 4 ~ Simplicity in Action

Have I mentioned how much I love the return to the method of teaching in blocks? My brain is no longer trying to juggle so many different things; there is the main lesson subject, the subject we are reawakening, and the subject they are practicing for mastery, as well as the skills they are practicing. Of course, there is the subject that is sleeping, but I don't have to think about it at all. There is art and music, but they also happen naturally so I don't fret if we don't get to something.

Continuing Practice: Subtraction with Regrouping
Assigned Reading: Indian Legends
Concepts Awakened: Singular and Plural Nouns
Main Lesson: Measurement
Skills Practice: Typing Lesson and Multiplication Tables
Afternoon Lesson: Gardening (watering the soil in preparation for planting)
Other Subjects: Independent (Free) Reading and Social Studies (A History of US)

Presence and Workboxes

One result of our return to a more traditional Enki/Waldorf format is that we don't really need the workboxes. They have been a great way to organize the daily learning materials, but Enki and Waldorf education are both based on the presence of the teacher, or in the case of homeschooling, parent. As I brought my full presence back to our home learning I found that the boxes seemed rather superfluous. It makes sense; I never needed them before when we were using Waldorf and Enki methods. Now that I am no longer trying to teach 4 - 5 different subjects each week I can hold the main lesson in my mind.

Our focused work has a rhythmic flow: journaling, practice work, assigned reading, reawakening concepts, main lesson, skills practice and/or physical education. We then break for lunch and quiet time before beginning our afternoon lesson.

I am choosing to be present with the boys even when they are doing practice work than could be done without me. I am in the room, writing in my own journal or doing handwork, available to answer any questions. I am making a conscious choice not to be cooking, baking, or doing other chores in another part of the house. Writing, reading, drawing, or knitting are all things that I can do in the family room and can put down easily when there is a question or when it is time to reawaken concepts or present the main lesson.

There must be balance, of course. One of my goals this year is to give the boys more independence and responsibility when it comes to their learning, and I certainly do not want to take all of that back onto myself. I want to participate in their learning with them, and to guide them, but I don't want to pull the train by myself. The workboxes have served to organize the work that the boys are responsible for on their own, such as assigned reading and practice work. They are working beautifully for this, but it may be that we can move to a weekly binder system and reclaim some of our bookshelf space.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Grade 4, Week 10, Day 3 ~ Hands On Measuring

Today the boys gathered 10 items from around the house, measured them, and wrote the results in their ML books. This was the practical application of measurement rather than the arithmetic involved, but it was a fun activity.

We had a playdate this afternoon which was very fun; it also gave the boys the necessary motivation to get going on their lesson work before 10 a.m.

Main Lesson: Measurement
Afternoon Lesson: Gardening (watering the soil in preparation for planting)
Physical Education: Wii Fit Plus
Skills Practice: Typing Lesson and Multiplication Tables
Continuing Practice: Addition with Regrouping
Concepts Awakened: Singular and Plural Nouns
Other Subjects: Reading and Social Studies (A History of US)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Grade 4, Week 10, Day 2 ~ Linear Measurement

Once again I am finding it very easy to bring the vocabulary of a subject to the boys when they have already been solidly grounded in the concepts. In this case, it is the basics of linear measurement. In grade 4 we are learning about inches, feet, and yards; to my surprise (and delight) the boys already know how many inches are in a foot, and how many feet are in a yard. Knowing these, they could easily tell me how many inches are in half a foot, or a foot and a half, as well as how many inches are in a yard.

I didn't have a container story for our main lesson today; A Little Garden Flower suggests basing the linear measurement lesson on the building of Noah's ark, which didn't appeal to me. Instead, I decided to relate the linear measurement to our garden plots. I had the boys measure the garden boxes and then make drawings using a scale of 1:12. There was room for creativity as they designed boxes the way they might want them to be and drew in their plantings.

Main Lesson: Measurement
Afternoon Lesson: Gardening
Physical Education: Wii Fit Plus
Continuing Practice: Subtraction with Regrouping
Concepts Awakened: Adjectives
Other Subjects: Reading and Social Studies (A History of US)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Grade 4, Week 10, Day 1 ~ Commence Measurement Block

Measurement is a block that is traditionally done in grade 3; however, since we haven't studied it formally I decided to bring it into our grade 4 year.

We began our main lesson this morning with what I call a brainstorm board. I took a large 18" X 24" sheet of paper and attached it to a slightly larger clip board and wrote Measurement across the top. I then asked the boys to come up with various things we measure; they offered length, width, height, weight, volume, speed/velocity (something we won't get into during this block), and time. Together we came up with money, distance, mass (a better term than weight), and temperature. This poster is put up on the family room wall for reference during the block.

I did the brainstorm board because we unschooled most of grade 3 and because the boys have already gone through the developmental phase of being very interested in measurement. It helps me see how much they already know and thus gives me a starting place for the block rather than assuming that all of the material is brand new.

I also asked the boys to tell me various units of measurement (inches, cups, miles, hours, etc.) and sent them to find several instruments of measurement in the house. They brought me measuring cups and spoons, a ruler and yardstick, a scale, a clock, and a tape measure. They really enjoyed finding these items; it gave them an opportunity to think creatively and to move around.

Our afternoon lesson for this block is gardening. Eventually the plan is to bring in measurement as hands-on learning, but for today we did some weeding and added compost to our garden beds. (It occurs to me that most people probably don't live where they can garden year round.)

Main Lesson: Measurement
Afternoon Lesson: Gardening
Skills Practice: Typing and Multiplication Tables
Continuing Practice: Addition with Regrouping
Concepts Awakened: Adjectives
Other Subjects: Reading and Social Studies (A History of US)