Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Week Three

Last week was week three for us with third grade. It feels slow to do one day of creation each day, but this slowness also gives each thought a grand weight that seems appropriate to the topic. We are learning the stories, painting, working with clay and writing parts of the story in cursive. To help with the cursive, we are doing lots of form drawing. The wonderful thing about working with the Old Testament creation stories is that it gives me a chance to delve into the archetypes that lie within each day of creation and try to bring the essence of the archetype in a way that meets Rowan in his imagination.

In the nature journal, Rowan is grasping the details of writing the full date and is developing the habit of checking the temperature each morning. We found a bee hive box on craig's list and are now learning about bees. The idea is to get bees in the spring and to spend time now learning about them. We have two books out from the library, one all about honeybees and another that is an easy reader about the bumblebee. This second book is helping Rowan to work on his reading fluency. Something in this book also led us to stop and focus on b d reversals, with lots of made up stories using the letter b. The nature journal has also become a place for Rowan to work on writing his own ideas and learning about proper paragraph construction.

Math has been easy and this is giving Rowan confidence. We are working to increase recall speed with some timed tests. Word problems are still time consuming, but once Rowan gets through the reading part, he can usually gather the information needed to solve the problems.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Week Two

It rained a little on Sunday and Monday and so our poem included the rain (The silver rain, the shining sun, the fields where scarlet poppies run...). After saying it together for a couple of days, Rowan had it memorized and I had him write it into his Garden and Nature Journal along with the date and temperature each day.

We began form drawing by moving forms (with our arms, feet, fingers in the air) and later drawing them. This warmed Rowan up to start cursive. He has really taken to cursive writing. He enjoys it and asks for more. I found a nice verse to say to get us ready to start our forms at. It starts out "Dip, dip, dip, my blue ship".

For our stories this week I began with a story of Lucifer and Michael. It worked well to move from the Native American creation stories last week with their dream-like quality into a story about a battle between angels. I felt that it was right to premise the Old Testament creation story with the idea that creation and destruction are both needed for balance in the universe. Lucifer falls from grace, but he is not eliminated altogether. This story introduces archetypes that will return again and again in other cultural tales and in modern literature as well.

Over the following two days we reviewed the Lucifer story and Rowan began writing a synopsis and I added to it with the first and second days of creation. Smaller pieces of writing came from those two days. We did paint each of these three scenes with wet-on-wet watercolors, one painting each day.

Our big field trip this week was to the county fair. Rowan had a couple of things entered and so it was great fun to show up and find out if his entries won (they did - one first place and one second place ribbon). We spent more time than ever before looking at all the entries in many categories (collections, photos, paintings, sculpture, vegetables, crafts, and, of course, legos). We ate a mediocre lunch and later had some delicious ice cream. On the way out we were sure to pick up some kettle corn, some saltwater taffy and some fudge to bring home and share. We did visit the petting animal barn and one larger barn with goats and cows, but everyone pooped out before we got to the pigs or the poultry. This was a sacrifice for me because I have a real fondness for chickens and I love to see the little bantam roosters crow!

Math right now is coming right out of the Saxon Homeschool Curriculum. Rowan is still working so much with reading that it is good to have easy math concepts for him to review while he struggles with reading the instructions on the worksheets. The math is also having him review the days of the week and months of the year, giving him lots of practice with writing the date and spelling those words. So far this year we have reviewed number patterns (counting by 10's and 100's forward and back), adding on 1 and 0, chart and graph formatting and reading and measurement in inches of both straight lines and rectangles. I am pleasantly surprised to find that Rowan's slow but steady progress with the violin (both playing and learning to read music) is helping him with math.

Finally after a full and fun week, we had our Friday group. This is a wonderful group of homeschool families each with one, two or three children, mixed ages who get together every friday for art projects, festival celebrations and play productions. This past week we celebrated Rosh Hashanah with a story, a trip to the creek with breadcrumbs in our pockets and a snack of apples and honey. This group is always a highlight of the week for everyone who is a part of it.

And so now I go off to prepare for week three.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What is learning anyway?

We had such an interesting day today. The first part started with oversleeping, but that was ok, because no one ended up being truly late for anything (my older two kids go to school and my husband has to go to work sometimes). Rowan and I had a nice, but short homeschooling session, reviewing our recent stories, doing some writing, reading and math work together. We also looked at photos from our summer trip to India. Rowan was very excited to show these photos to our Educational Specialist who was scheduled to arrive mid-morning. We are enrolled in a charter program designed for homeschool families and the technical start date of the school year contained our trip to India. We were preparing material to show some of the amazing things that were learned on the trip.

Now for the strange part. Our Educational Specialist (ES) arrives and immediately sets Rowan up on the computer to take a scantron test designed (so they say) to show how much he "knows"). Rowan is a slow reader and still feels most comfortable if he can read side by side with someone and ask for help with any tricky words. He has not done much academic work on the computer and has done very few activities that involve multiple choice answers. In other words, we are working with the Waldorf method! Rowan learns by doing things in the real world. Anyway, while Rowan plods along on the computer with no help, I sit in this meeting and show all the great stuff we have prepared. Turns out that next to none of it can be used because things learned outside the US don't count! So when Rowan learned that he could ask a guy in a small village to take a fresh coconut and chop it open for him and give him a straw to dring the milk and pay only 13 rupees for it and that 13 rupees is equal to 26 cents in the US, that is not math. When Rowan figured out how to play Monopoly and Sorry with kids from India, France, Britian and Italy, that did not count as learning. When Rowan learned all about the traditional way that people catch fish with intricate nets, wooden boats, levers and pulleys, that does not count for social studies. As you can see, I was very annoyed. Rowan finished his dull computer test, having guessed at most of the questions (his scores will probably show him as a kid who is way below average) and the ES said that next time she hopes she can talk to Rowan about the things he is learning in homeschooling. I felt that we had just wasted an hour of valuable homeschooling time.

Ah, but we did recover from that awful experience. We went on a little field trip as part of our farming and gardening block. I have a friend who has a cow. A single, spoiled cow who provides fresh milk for the family that owns her. She lives in a little suburban plot with plenty of room and a beautiful sprawling garden all around her. Rowan insisted that it was a mini-farm and he so wishes that we could have one too. We fed the cow pumpkins and apples and tasted apples and cheese made from the cow's milk. It was a fabulous visit. Rowan took in so much and learned so much, although none of it will translate into better performance on any multiple choice test. But I don't care, it was great!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Farming and Gardening Time

Today homeschooling went well. We had a nice review of our story of Sky Woman and we admired how well our watercolor paintings from yesterday turned out. Rowan spent some time writing down part of the story to go along with the painting. It is a goal of mine to have Rowan be able to write longer pieces more quickly. I do think cursive will help with that but for now he is still working in print.

Days of the week in English, Spanish and French made for a bit of fun, followed by some math work that involved calculating in weeks. The Saxon math curriculum I am using with Rowan seems a bit too easy right now, but I like the look of the incremental approach and I know things will get more challenging soon enough. Making garden and weather observations is a sweet time together as the autumn sun warms us. Violin lessons take us away from home in the middle of our schooling time, but it is well worth it. I find that much of the music work assists Rowan in his other subjects. Learning to read music and work on reading and playing at the same time has helped his out loud story reading gain some more fluency.

Tomorrow we get to meet a cow!

Monday, September 7, 2009

First Day of Third Grade

Ok, so I figured out what to do with the first day. Rather than begin with the Old Testament Creation, I told a Native American creation story. It was the story of Sky Woman who fell through a hole in the sky into the watery world below and was caught by two swans and lowered onto turtle's back. It had some similar elements to the Old Testament Story (first all was darkness, then came light, land formed and waters were separated, things began to grow, new animals and people came to this new earth world). I found that this story (and other Native American creation and flood stories that I will also tell) had a similar element to stories we worked with in 2nd grade (animal tales and fables) and will allow me to flow naturally into the Old Testament stories a little later on.

We began our school day as we always do with a verse and some movement to wake us up. Next we discussed what third grade will be like and how it will be similar to second grade in some ways but also different and a bit more difficult. Violin practice came next (I like to take care of this during our school time - otherwise I sometimes forget!). At the end of this little period, I told our story for the day and then we put out the candle and took a short break. Next we did some written work, some mental math and a calendar to review (days of the week, months of the year, how to write the date). I also introduced the Garden and Nature Journal and asked Rowan to write the date and the temperature on the first page. After another short break we had our Monday painting time, painting an image from our story. Later we will work with reading from an easy reader about a farm and math practice before we head off to play with friends.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Night Before Night Before

Getting ready to start teaching third grade. We will start on Monday. I know, Monday is Labor Day, but we have had such a relaxing summer I don't see why we need to wait one more day before beginning. Short weeks are always awkward, I like to begin on a Monday.

Following the Waldorf curriculum, I thought I would begin with Creation. This is third grade and that is what the guides all say to start with. Then I started really reading the first few Old Testament stories. Now I find I cannot get a handle on how to present any of it in a way that resonates within myself. I have taught fourth, fifth and sixth grade at home and never had any trouble with creation mythologies before. Somehow there was always a deep archetypal feeling in the stories, a sense of divine light filling the darkness within. But the Old Testament presents the story in such a way that I feel God as this guy playing with a felt story board, sticking the sun in the sky. And how is it that everyone came from Adam and Eve? And then there is the flood and only two of each creature was saved? We all know that incest does not produce the strongest of stock. I cannot yet get a handle on how to bring the image of God as the divinity in us all through these stories.

We will also start with farming and gardening, because we live in a great place for a fall garden. This is a subject I can truly get a handle on. This way we can do science with weather and soil and grains and bees. I have wanted to keep bees in the garden for years and it seems that the time is right, for me, for our curriculum and for our environment. The county fair will be here next week and we will visit farms to pick fruit and go to harvest festivals to listen to music and eat roasted corn and pick pumpkins.

So, the cursive letters are up, the main lesson books are prepared and now we have Sunday to polish the furniture and floors and then we will have the first day of school. I just need to reconcile my relationship to the Bible and I will be truly ready.