A Little Taste of The First Day of Fifth and Second Grade

WP_000110Folks all over have been posting about their first day of school.  As usual, I am late to the party. We started school three weeks ago in an effort to have some time off around the date we move into our new home.  Here in the Deep South, school tends to start in August, sometimes as early as the first of August, so we were in the company of many children we knew who had already been going to school for weeks!

Our first day of Fifth and Second grade was welcomed by the children, and the older girls insisted upon wearing matching outfits as their “uniform.”  We took a picture of the all the children by the front door.  Usually Daddy takes the children out for breakfast on the first day, but this year he was traveling, so we decided to jump in anyway.

I always start with a bit of review from the previous year, (or  begin with something that we didn’t finish!  LOL).  And I usually start with form drawing.  So, this year my second grader began with running forms.  Some of you may be familiar with a story by Donna Simmons in the Christopherus Form Drawing book that incorporates quite a few running forms for first grade (http://www.christopherushomeschool.com/Form-Drawing-For-Beginners-p/chr0007.htm), and I decided to start there since we didn’t use that particular story last year.

My second grader can have some challenges with spatial relationships, so we warmed up with quite a few exercises where I peeked at overall body dominance and hand-eye tracking, hand-eye-foot tracking and then moved into practicing these forms with chalk on the driveway, walking the forms with our eye on a fixed point facing various directions, drawing the forms on each other’s back and guessing what they were, drawing them in the air, drawing them on the blackboard and scrap paper and then finally placing them in our main lesson book.  We also began a review of math – numbers and counting, skip counting, Roman Numerals, all four math processes.  After running forms, we moved into the mirrored forms typical of second grade with some Trickster Tales from the Cherokee, found in this book: http://www.amazon.com/How-Rabbit-Tricked-Otter-Trickster/dp/0930407601/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346611672&sr=8-1&keywords=cherokee+trickster+tales

Our fifth grader started with some geometric forms found in the Christopherus Fourth and Fifth Grade syllabi ( http://www.christopherushomeschool.com/Fifth-Grade-Package-p/CHR1005.htm).   One of the first forms we tackled was the (not-so-simple) circle.  I garnered some grand inspiration from the book, “A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing The Universe” (http://www.amazon.com/Beginners-Guide-Constructing-Universe-Mathematical/dp/0060926716/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346458910&sr=8-1&keywords=beginner%27s+guide+to+constructing+the+universe).

We started with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson found in the above book:   “The eye is the first circle/The horizon which it found is the second/And throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end.”  So we looked at each other’s eyes, and we looked at the horizon.  What circular things did we see in each other and in the cosmos?

We read the book, “North Star:  St. Herman of Alaska”, as a read aloud for all of us, and looked carefully at the picture of the Northern Lights, such a circular pattern in the painting in the book, and such a grand representation of the cosmos.  We liked it so much we got out our paints and painted it.

Here is the book’s picture of the Northern Lights, and here is what we painted below.

We then looked back at the sky, and wondered at this idea that if we took the trajectories of the planets around the sun, the moon around the planets, the galaxies itself and tracked that around a fixed point, it would also look rather circular..There is a good picture in the “A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe” book…So we painted this (blue watercolor paint over the trajectories done in yellow beeswax crayon):

We dropped rocks into water to look for the dispersion of energy, which to our eye can look like a circle, and talked about other things we could find in nature that is circular.

All shapes are possible within the circle, and one person that came to mind was the great artist Giotto.  I pulled out this book and we looked at Giotto’s famous frescoes and then I told this story:

A long time ago in the country of Italy, a little boy was born to one of the village blacksmiths. As he grew it was apparent he had a certain light about him. He observed everything in great detail, and had such merry eyes and inquisitive countenance that made everyone in the village love him. His name was Giotto, and he helped his family by watching the sheep of the family amongst the rolling hills of the Italian countryside.

One thing Giotto loved to do was draw and paint the things he observed. He was a keen observer, and he could draw things in such a lifelike manner that it would make all the villagers stop and admire his talent. One day, the greatest Florentine painter Cimabue discovered Giotto drawing pictures of his sheep on a rock. They were so real, they looked like they could wander off the rock and start grazing right then and there! Cimabue was astounded, and asked Giotto’s father if he could take Giotto on as his apprentice.

Giotto went on to do such marvelous work and he kept his funny sense of humor and merriness. Once when Cimabue was absent from his workshop, Giotto painted such a lifelike fly on a painting that Cimabue was working on! When Cimabue returned to his workshop to pick up his paintbrush again, he saw the fly and kept trying to brush it off! Giotto broke into laughter and the two had a merry chuckle over the painted fly that was so lifelike Cimabue was convinced it was real!

As time went on, Giotto painted beautiful frescoes on the walls of many chapels throughout Italy and became known as the most important Italian painter of the 1300’s. But yet, when Pope Benedictus the XII contacted him and asked him to send a painting representative of his skill in order to come to Rome and paint for the Roman Catholic Church, Giotto only drew a beautiful and simple circle and sent that back by messenger to the Pope.

Why would the greatest artist in Italy do that?

So we talked about that, about what that perfect “O” really symbolized to mathematicians, artists and theologians alike – the prefectness of the circle, how all shapes can be accommodated within the circle, how the circle became the symbol of heaven and paradise.  We worked with drawing round circles freehand.  Ours were not nearly as perfect as Giotto’s!  After this, and over the next few weeks, we moved into other geometric shapes – the triangle, the quadrangle family- and then into lines, points, and rays.

And we off to the races in fifth and second grade!  We have since move into a block on Botany for our fifth grader and a Saints and Heroes block for our second grader, which I hope I get a chance to write about soon.

If you have posted your first day of school on your blog, I would love to read it.  Please leave a link below.  If you don’t have a blog but would like to share your first day with my readers, please leave a comment in the comment box!

Many blessings on a new school year,

Carrie

The Journey Of Softening Ourselves

I wrote a variation on this post for my homeschooling group list, but thought the topic was important enough to share, so here are some of my thoughts on this topic for my readers here at The Parenting Passageway…

Many of us are attracted to Waldorf Education because we ourselves are in need of healing, and also because we want our children to have childhoods that they do not have to recover from.  (Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I fear for our nation because I worry the next generation will be too busy healing from their own childhoods and their own troubles and will not be strong enough to tackle the problems of the “other” within their communities—if we can only take care of ourselves, how can we hope to help with issues of peace, justice, education and more?  Just an aside note and digression…)

Sometimes we come to Waldorf Education with things that have helped buffer us against the world in the past:  sharp words, quick and sarcastic wit, a “I will get them before they get me” kind of attitude,  our misguided attempts at communicating whilst still protecting our own woundedness from the possibility from any further assault….

And then we enter the world of Waldorf Education; this beautiful lazured land of natural toys, gorgeous handwork, learning how to live a practical life, how to bring things in at the right time for our children.  We work and strive toward rhythm:   toward having calm and steady days.

But there is more, and that piece is ourselves.  Rudolf Steiner wrote that children respond not just to our teaching, but to WHO we are.  Who we are is precious, and in order to see that, sometimes we have to strip away some of the rough exterior buffers we have built up over the years, because the very way we carry ourselves,  dress ourselves, speak to our children and to others matters distinctly.  We then can  notice things in the world of Waldorf Education and wonder… Continue reading

The Work of The Biography

 

One of the most important things Waldorf teachers do in their teacher training is to look at their own biographies.  It is a vital step, because children respond to not just WHAT we teach, but WHO we are.  This is true in parenting as well.

 

I am in my second year of Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy and the Arts, and we are doing some biography work.  It is very interesting, and I wanted to share some of the resources and exercises as we go along for those of you who are interested in this kind of work for your own personal development in teaching and parenting.

 

Many of you know that Rudolf Steiner looked at the human lifespan on earth as working in seven year cycles ( although he was not the only one who looked at the human lifespan through seven year cycles).  He saw the human being as a threefold human being, so when we look at biography we must consider the physical body, the soul (Bernard Lievegoed refers to this as the psyche in his book, “Phases:  The Spiritual Rhythms of Adult Life”  http://www.amazon.com/Phases-Spiritual-Rhythms-Adult-Life/dp/1855840561/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346523969&sr=8-1&keywords=phases+by+bernard+lievegoed) and the spirit (which, again Bernard Lievegoed refers to as the “biographical skeleton” in his book).

 

One of the first exercises we did in class was to take an index card and write one word or phrase that describes our physical body in the upper left hand corner and in the right hand corner we were to write down several “themes” that one could see at work in our life.  In the center of the index card, we had to make a list of important events in our life.  We had about five minutes to do this, so you could not sit and think for too long… (If you are going to do this, please grab an index card and do it before you read the next SPOILER part!!)

 

It was interesting to see how some people wrote down lots and lots from their childhood, and how some wrote almost nothing from their childhood but a lot from their adult life.  Some people put things in their biography like when they learned to ride a bike without training wheels and some put in their college degrees….

 

One of the major resources I like for understanding the human life span is Betty Staley’s, “Tapestries” – I went through this book chapter by chapter and you can see those posts here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/category/book-reviews/tapestries/

 

In our course we are referring to Bernard Lievegoed’s work, which I like, and also this book, which is out of print: “The Human Life” by George and Gisela O’Neil:  http://www.amazon.com/Human-Life-George-ONeil/dp/092997901X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346524057&sr=1-1&keywords=the+human+life+george+oneil

 

Food for thought this Labor Day weekend,

Carrie