So I wrote a bit about the use of saints to teach letters in a Waldorf-style for mothers who had asked this question about how to work in Waldorf elements of teaching with a predominantly Roman Catholic/Orthodox focus.
Now I would like to share a bit about what personally I did when my oldest was in first grade. Perhaps it will spark some ideas for you and your summer planning!
My oldest was a fluent reader prior to when she turned seven and started first grade. And by fluent I mean she could read whatever she wanted, so beyond Frog and Toad and all that…People freak out about a situation like this frequently on Waldorf boards and forums, because they don’t realize that the content of Waldorf first grade so speaks to the soul of a seven-year old and the academic skill level can be adjusted up or down. Also, early readers frequently need the balancing and harmonizing Waldorf first grade provides.
At that time, I really liked the “Along The Alphabet Path” that Elizabeth Foss created (see link at end of this post). I loved Saints, I loved the flower fairies, but I also liked that archetypal imagery of the fairy tales. What was a homeschooling mother to do?
Create her own story, of course, in a three day rhythm.
Here are examples from my story (PS, the Saint book I used was the original one Elizabeth used before she switched to a different Saints book. I used “Letters From Heaven: An Illuminated Alphabet” by Susan Kelly vonMedicus. There are essentially poems to go with each Saint for each letter of the alphabet).
The Beginning: (we started with Circle Time and alliterative verses for the letters A and B)
“Once upon a time there was a little girl named Lily who lived with her mother and father and her little sister Tess in a far away Kingdom. Today, Lily was very excited – Lily had turned 7 just a few weeks earlier, and in her family, once you were 7 you started training in order to be able to wear a crown…You see, Lily’s mother and father were the Queen and King, and Lily was a princess. But there was no crown to be worn until one was seven.
The King and Queen called Lily into their chambers and told her, “You are now 7, which is a very important age. You will be the Keeper of Knowledge and you will be learning all kinds of things to help you be a kind, compassionate Princess for all the people in our land.
We have a special task for you to complete before you can be crowned. You will travel with the wisest woman in our land to meet 26 of our most loyal fairy subjects. You will learn much about our world and we are proud of you as you undertake this task. We wish you much luck.” And they kissed her.
Lily could hardly believe her ears! What an adventure to be had! 7 is such an exciting age, she thought, and she wanted to be the very best princess she could be and learn a lot. She looked up with her eyes full of wonder and who should she find standing there but Queen Bluebell, the Queen of all the fairies.
“It is time, my dear, to come with me to start your very special task,” Queen Bluebell said. Lily’s eyes shone and then she grew sad. “I will miss my little sister so much,” said Lily to her mother and father and Queen Bluebell.
Queen Bluebell smiled, “And she shall miss you. Please go say goodbye to your little sister and then we shall start our journey.”
Lily ran outside to give her little sister Tess a big hug. She loved Tess so much. Tess looked up at Lily and said, “Take this, and if ever you are scared or lonely, look at this and think of me.” She pressed a tiny sack that fit inside her hand into Lily’s hand. “I shall be happy to see you return once your journey is over, and see you crowned as a princess!”
And so Queen Bluebell and Lily started off on a pathway that went through the Palace Gardens — there were many beautiful flowers there. Lily wondered if that was where they were stopping, but Queen Bluebell continued on, toward a large meadow in front of the woods that surrounded the castle…
“Princess Lily, I would like you to meet a friend of mine – This is the Bugle Flower Fairy.” And there, standing before Lily and Queen Bluebell was a small clump of herbs with purple flowers growing in the shade.
“Umm, excuse me, Queen Bluebell? I do not see a friend anywhere,’” whispered Lily politely. Suddenly, up from the clump of purple flowers rose a tiny purple fairy, a boy with a small purple bugle tucked into his waistcoat.
“Queen Bluebell and Princess Lily,” said the boy, bowing. “Let me be the first to welcome you to your journey. May luck and peace be with you.” Lily fingered the small sack Tess had given to her.
“And every good journey should have a song and story to begin by. “ and he settled himself on the ground cross legged and began to sing the song that all Bugle Flower Fairies sing This is from the Flower Fairy Alphabet Book, this is not original by me!):
“At the edge of the woodland
Where good fairies dwell,
Stands, on the look-out
A brave sentinel.
At the call of his bugle
Out the elves run,
Ready for anything,
Danger, or fun,
Hunting, or warfare,
By moonshine or sun.
With bluebells and campions
The woodlands are gay,
Where bronzy-leaved Bugle
Keeps watch night and day. (A Flower Fairy Alphabet, page 165)
And then he said, “Now you shall have your story as well!”
“Once upon a time (Tell story of Snow White and Rose)
** So, there were other things on “DAY ONE” to do in school, but that was essentially the Main Lesson Story.
Re-visit Snow white and Rose Red with child helping tell it in parts, dress up and dramatize it. Practice writing “B”s in words – BEAR, BED, BET, BEAT, BABY etc. on chalkboard. Draw a picture of a bear and the “B” hidden within the shape of the Bear.
Write a simple sentence on the board such as “The bear was brown.’” and such and have child copy. A poem about a bear to orally recite would be nice here as well. (TYPICALLY, we would only do artistic work here and do a summary of the story or saint for the third day, but I feel it can be a bit different whilst learning letters).
We baked because it was baking day for my kindergartener and we made B’s with the dough
Recite poem from yesterday, go over b words and read sentences with “B”. Re tell Snow White and Rose Red with silk marionettes
Skip the first two pages of the Main Lesson book and on the second page of two page spread, design border with bugle flowers. On a golden path with stars between the letters, practice writing a line of big B and little friend b’s , think of words from yesterday and add new words that begin with “b” and write on blackboard or sheet of paper.
(Further along in grade, this would be time to draw the picture and if you have an already fluent reader and writer, the child could already be writing short summaries. You are the teacher, you assess and decide and execute your plan for that particular child.)
Wed – toward end of lesson: new story – Have ANGEL puppet ready!!
The fairy was very proud of himself for being the first loyal subject to tell a story to the Queen and the Princess. He was puffed up with pride! He put his bugle to his lips, but as he went to blow, suddenly a great light illuminated the area and an Angel, a messenger from God appeared. The Bugle Fairy bowed so low that the point of pointed hat touched the ground.
“AAAH,” said Lily, who was amazed at the sight of the angel. The light was brilliant and wonderful.
The angle unrolled a scroll and from the scroll he read, “There has been a heavenly decree that Princess Lily shall hear the story of Saint Brendan for the letter “B”
(Story of Saint Brendan) Use drawing of Saint Brendan with a B for the sail. There is also a verse that goes with this story from “Letters From Heaven”, recite together and can be left on the board to look at next week and perhaps write in Poetry Main Lesson Book.
When the Angel was finished with the story, he pulled a beautiful Apple Blossom from his robe and handed it to Lily. It had a golden stem! Lily was again amazed and said “AAAHHH.” Then the angel was gone.
Lily wiped a tear away from her eye. “Those are wonderful stories! Especially Snow-white and rose-red, who were never to be parted…and the Bravery of Saint Brendan! How I wish to be brave as well!” Lily had a lump in her throat as she missed her sister, but as she looked down she saw a bugle-flower in her hand and brightened.
“I will collect a whole bouquet of flowers for my sister” Queen Bluebell patted her on the arm. “I feel amazed at all I have seen! An angel of God!” (Have paper flower with gold chenille stem ready to press in main lesson book)
And she and Queen Bluebell went a little further on…
In Main Lesson book, on first two skipped pages, draw picture of an Angel with Big A and little friend a in one corner and on opposite page, write a sentence to caption the angel picture….. think of A words, write on board, think of sentences with a, such as: Lily was amazed to see an angel.
Look at b spread on next two pages and be excited and proud.
**Carrie’s note: Okay, so there were other things for school on this day, but that was much of the main lesson story.
I know a bit more about the three-day rhythm now, and I am not certain this is the best way to divide this up, but it gives you an idea of how to start and create something for your own family. I have another child coming up to first grade not this coming fall,but next fall, and I am planning on writing her her own story – probably something involving animals and Saints and the fairy tales, unless she falls in love with flower fairies by then..:)
Also, this probably would be WAY too much for many children, too many tangents of flower fairies and saints and fairy tales, but for a quiet-already-reading- at a high level little girl, it was well-received, and well-loved.
Don’t you all want to know what happened, and how it ended? LOL.
Thank you to Elizabeth Foss, whose “Along the Alphabet Path” became an inspiration for me to write my own. Please visit Elizabeth here: http://elizabethfoss.com/ and see her other Learning Ideas at Serendipity. Readers looking for a direct link to The Alphabet Path, can find it here: http://ebeth.typepad.com/serendipity/along-the-alphabet-path-1.html