Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spinning Cocoons

We had a terrible tragedy in our neighborhood last week and I have found myself a bit untethered. I am distracted and cloudy feeling and find myself lost in thought all the time. It is certainly true that something like this helps bring things into perspective, count our blessings, avoid sweating about the small stuff. As I work to reconcile my own feelings and wrestle with my own faith during this dark time, I find myself also needing to guide, teach and protect my little guy, Rowan.

We are moving sweetly and steadily through a gardening block. This week was just right for my tender mood. We studied butterflies and other insects in the garden. I was lucky enough to receive a butterfly habitat and a little kit with live caterpillars a couple of weeks ago and this week they all miraculously spun themselves into chrysalis. Along with this we had poems, stories and books out from the library. I have a lovely copper ball and found an exercise in Audrey McAllen's The Extra Lesson that involves spiraling the ball around the body from the feet to the head with the imagery of spinning a cocoon and being safe inside. This felt like something concrete I could do with Rowan to help him feel safe even with the sadness and uncertainty that has gone on around us this past week.

Our painting last week was of spring butterflies and so this week I continued the spiral theme and we painted big blue and red spirals. After the copper ball exercise and painting the spirals, Rowan was able to write and read significantly faster and smoother than last week. I am not completely sure there is a connection, but it was a remarkable jump he had this week in his academic ability.
The very best part the gardening block is gardening! We garden all year every year here and Rowan has always been a great helper in the yard, but with this block, he took special pride in our little projects. We worked on mending some raised beds to keep the gophers out (hopefully!) and we pulled weeds, trimmed back the rosemary (again!) and transplanted 14 small cypress trees to a more suitable location on our property. Spring flowers are in full force right now and we soaked in the aromatic beauty and felt as busy and as happy as the bees all around us.

We found a crumbling dyer's mushroom in the garden when we were exploring for garden bugs and decided to have some fun with science and dye some wool felt with different plants and mordants. Rowan is becoming good at measurement and thermometer reading. This dying project was a chance for him to practice those skills in a very practical way.

Finally I pulled out the clay and worked with the methods presented by Hella Loewe in her book Basic Scupltural Modeling: Developing the Will by Working with Pure Forms in the First Three Grades. We began the series of exercises some time ago and it was quite challenging for Rowan to attain a smooth sphere without using the table to pound the clay. This time around, however, Rowan was much more able to work with the different forms with only the force of his palms. We worked through several forms: sphere, oval, egg, saddle. At the very end, Rowan quickly transformed his smooth saddle form into the head of a snake with large fangs! I agreed that he could let it dry like that and put my own sphere back into plastic for another day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring Garden

Our farming and gardening block is so much fun! One thing we just had to do to kick start the block was drop by the local feed and seed and pick up six new darling chicks. Once again, the broom closet is a little barn as we raise up our chicks to be big enough to move into the outside coop.

I found a nice poem to begin our gardening block with by A. Fairman in Wynstones: Spring

A little brown bulb went to sleep in the ground.
In his little brown nightie he slept very sound.
Old Winter he roared and raged overhead.
But the little brown bulb did not move in his bed.
But when Spring came tiptoeing over the lea,
With fingers to lips as soft as can be.The little brown bulb just lifted his head,
Slipped off his nightie and jumped out of bed!

Here is Rowan's rendition of the poem:

We started our formal lessons by reviewing the seasons and the months of the year. We sang the "Months Song" many times and worked out some creative charts. Thanks to Our Little Nature Nest blog, I also found this lovely book online called "Bobby of Cloverfield Farm" by Hellen Fuller Orton This story is simply a perfect accompaniment to our farming and gardening block.

This week, our painting theme was
"The Four Seasons Color Wheel".

Rowan's is on the left, mine on the right.

After our verse, poem, story period, Rowan cannot wait to get outside and actually garden every day! We have been focusing on the soil, getting it ready, checking different garden beds for soil that is too heavy or too sandy, turning the compost so it will be ready sooner, feeding our friendly worm bin and cleaning our the hen's big coop so that we can make use of their fine manure (after it sits a while and cools down!) We cheated a bit and used store-bought potting mix to start some early seeds (squash and cucumbers and lettuce). As we were weeding one bed, I decided to transplant a couple of the "weeds" we had pulled (an evening primrose and some foxgloves). I talked to Rowan about root division and the difference between plants grown from seed and those made from cuttings or division (I am keeping this in mind for a little math work later: division review). After we finish about an hour's worth of gardening, Rowan has plenty to write about in his daily gardening journal.After he finished his youth orchestra performance, Rowan came right home and burned his music! I was a little surprised at this, but now he is super focused on learning some new fiddle songs and it is amazing to see how much better he is at both reading music and picking up the rhythms! The orchestra experience, despite his nervousness, was so positive, I hope he will do it again. He has already said he is looking forward to Celtic Camp this summer (a fun local strings music camp focused on Celtic and other fiddle tunes - combined with climbing trees, swimming and running around in the woods).