Guest Post: Using “A Donsy of Gnomes” In First Grade Homeschooling

My original post on the book “A Donsy of Gnomes” stirred quite a bit of interest!  You can read the original post here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/07/09/a-donsy-of-gnomes-7-gentle-gnome-stories/ .  One of my wonderful readers wrote in with her story of how she used “A Donsy of Gnomes” in her daughter’s first grade experience.  Thank you to my reader Kristen from Vermont for sharing with all of The Parenting Passageway’s readers!

Here is what Kristen wrote, and I hope it will spark some creative ideas for your own homeschooling experience:

At the end of my daughter’s first  grade year, I decided to incorporate Sieglinde De Francesca’s sweet book of gnome stories into our Nature Block.“How to Create a Spring Nature Block for Grades  1-3”.  I loved her ideas but being the busy mama that I am with a small farm  to ‘manage’ and two  young girls under my constant care, I couldn’t possibly figure out how to find time to write my own stories.  Here in northern Vermont, we have seven to eight months of winter and relative ‘rest time’ but once it warms up, we are like crazed squirrels running here and there trying to fit everything in before it snows again!  I learned an important lesson this first year of homeschooling:  don’t leave any planning for spring undone before spring arrives.   You will never find the time once it’s warm enough to venture outside again and enjoy longer stretches of fresh air and the warmth of the sun.

So, I cheated.  I’ve been telling Sieglinde’s stories all year, with needle felted characters for each story, and my daughters have enjoyed them immensely.  (In fact, when I told the last story of the book, which occurs in late spring, my girls cried and I had to reassure them that they’d hear the stories all over again beginning in late summer!)  My plan was to tell the last two stories over the course of a month and tweak each story just a wee bit, adding bits of natural history here and there.  For instance, when I was in graduate school studying forest ecology, I loved reading about microhabitats and the ‘pillows and cradles’ you often see on the forest floor in mature stands.  Why not have the gnomes enjoy a rollicking time running up and down that lumpy ground, just for fun?  I also love wildflowers, especially the ephemeral ones in spring that look really groovy, like Jack-in-the-pulpit.  So why not have a gnome take shelter beneath a Jack-in-the-pulpit “roof” during a quick rain shower?   And, since I’m a bit obsessed with birds, why not have the gnomes comment on some of the bird songs as they scampered through the woods during the story?

The rhythm of our weeks was simple and was basically the same as telling the fairy tales, except that we incorporated nature walks into our afternoons to look for pillows and cradles and Jack-in-the-pulpits and notice what birds were singing their springtime songs.   We kept a nature journal which included a picture of the story and a short summary.

I also drew my own picture for story and hung them below our blackboard.  On these, I wrote words that my daughter could learn to write in her MLB and then practice reading.  We also incorporated a game in Peggy Kaye’s wonderful book “Games For Reading”.  It involved writing a short sentence related to the story, cutting up the sentence into pieces so that the words or phrases were separated, and asking my daughter to put the pieces back together in the right order to make a logical sentence.

She had already seen most words on my drawing and written many of them in her main lesson book so this was not as difficult a task as I thought it might be.  She is having a hard time learning to read and is not the type of kid who will sit down and try to figure it out herself.  A late bloomer, perhaps, but a child who loves to hear and retell stories!

Overall, I think this block was a stunning success and for weeks afterward my girls played with the needle felted gnomes (and other animal characters from the stories that I needle felted).    They both attended a garden camp this summer and during one of their walks in the forest  they gleefully showed their friends how much fun it is to run up the pillows and down the cradles in the forest, just like little gnomes do!

Many blessings, and much love,

Carrie

The Simple Homeschool

I have been talking to more and more mothers regarding planning for the upcoming school year, and one theme has been recurring:  they want simple.

  • They want curriculums that take into account that most mothers are time-constrained, either by activities or by having multiple children.
  • They want to know that when they spend a lot of money on a curriculum, that the curriculum is planned out.  Most mothers seem to want a day by day plan.
  • They want ideas for the magical parts of homeschooling – movement, drawing, music, painting, modeling, and how to bring the academic ideas to life through these vehicles.
  • They do want academic progression
  • They want to know how to take their spiritual and religious life and help their children absorb that in an age- appropriate way in the home environment
  • But most of all, they want simple.

In some respects, many people homeschool, not because they want to make life harder or to stress themselves out with having more complex days, but because they wanted a slower pace of life that allowed for more time and more connection with their children.

I think simplicity can actually start in planning. Planning helps ensure that you are not doing too much, but yet that some of your bases, especially for those past the age of ten, are covered.  For example: Continue reading

“A Donsy Of Gnomes: 7 Gentle Gnome Stories”

This  182-paged book is one of my favorites for five and six  year olds for “school” but also for bedtime reading for almost any age.  My seven and a half year old and I just got done going through these stories at bedtime again, and they are so lovable.  The stories are seasonal and so sweet, and include imaginative ways to present the stories and how to re-tell the stories.

The stories include the gnomes of Limindoor Woods and the two human children who live nearby.  The seven stories are:   Pebble (whose father teaches him the family trade of being a crystal gardener); Brother Acorn (who keeps the world forested) (this story has a lot of repetition and is shorter so may be of delight to even younger children); Tommy Tomten (a winter tale about giving); Teasel and Tweed (this is a longer story and has a rescue element – not scary, but may be better for children a bit older); Gilly ( a springtime tale); Bracken (an adventuresome gnome); Mossy (a Midsummer story that references all the other stories and characters in the book).

The stories have some simple, beautiful ink drawings to accompany them that are lovely and could be a springboard toward your own creation of wet on wet painting moving pictures (where the characters you paint move through the scene).

There are also many “extras” in this book:  Continue reading

Gathering Love

I was thinking specifically about new parents, and parents of children in the age of birth through seven when I wrote my post “Gathering Grace” recently.

One thing I think about with the children aged seven through fourteen, who really are in the heart of childhood, is that they should be gathering love. Continue reading

Are You Raising A Potted Plant?

 

There should be warning signs for parents on every child in America:  “Warning!  This is not a potted plant!  This is a human being that needs sunshine, free play in nature and lots of movement throughout the entire lifespan!  Warning!”

 

Too often our children today are treated like potted plants. Sterile, not moving, in a pot, watching only one view because the inherent nature of the human being to move is essentially ignored by our predominate educational system, our medical system, and our society at large. 

 

Children of all ages, birth through twenty-one, need to MOVE.  Children birth through age seven should be developing their will, their doing.  Movement also is learning.  I have read research estimates that 80 percent of the brain is devoted to taking in sensory information and deciding what to do with that information.    Almost any long-time teacher will tell you that most children are kinesthetic learners. 

 

We know from current research that school aged children need at least three to four hours a day of true rough and tumble outside play. Heavy work benefits ALL children and ALL adults.  We are wired for it!

 

In a classroom setting, just having ten minute breaks to really move every two hours can completely increase learning.  According to a 2006 study in the journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, children with ADHD who take movement breaks for ten minutes every two hours show a 20 percent improvement in “on-task behavior.”

 

In Waldorf Education, we look at movement to be about a third of our learning time if possible.  We play movement games for math, we walk our forms before we draw them, we have eurythmy and Bothmer gymnastics in the Waldorf School setting, we include folk dancing in the curriculum for certain grades, we have drama and gardening.

 

You CAN do this at home and it will not complicate your homeschool, but enhance it!

 

Simple ways to start:

 

Finally, are you moving in your free time?  Are you cleaning, gardening, working? Hiking and biking and swimming and skating?  Or are you sitting down on your computer?  Just sayin’.  Smile

 

Happy Moving!

Carrie

Rhythm: Part Four

I talk to so many mothers who have children of multiple ages and who are very concerned as to  how to fit in multiple main lessons, or what to do with their children when their ages are spread out between the Early Years and the grades.  It can be daunting, and many veteran Waldorf homeschoolers say that you cannot schedule that many main lessons without going insane….but then how to do it?

Let’s start at the beginning.  If you have a first or second grader, and the rest of your children are under the age of 7, then life should be relatively easy.  You can often think in terms of outside time together, a circle for all, a story geared to the kindergartener, perhaps the main lesson for the first or second grader, nap and quiet time (and perhaps do something else for fifteen to twenty minutes with the first or second grader during quiet time),  the work of the day geared toward the kindergartener but including all, and finish with playing outside.   My friend Sheila has a lovely post about her rhythm with her fourth grader and her Early Years child here:  http://sureastheworld.com/2012/03/18/brass-tacks-my-homeschooling-day/

With two children involved in  main lesson work, I think it is still possible to either put them “together” if they are close in age…ie, a first grader and a second grader could both hear folk tales, but work on slightly different academic levels.  If the two children needing main lessons are further apart in age, then you may want to have separate main lesson times.  Then for other lessons, such as foreign language or handwork, you could combine the children but have them work at their own levels.    I think all of that is possible with only two children needing main lessons, even with younger children in tow.  I think this is the sort of thing you must jump in and try and switch around as needed.  It is daunting when I go to the homes of my homeschooling friends who are not using Waldorf methods and their homeschooling is a lot of workbooks, worksheets, independent reading textbooks, and videos.  Waldorf homeschooling is different, and sometimes only by doing it can we wrap our heads around how it will work for our family and what that will look like!

I will have a fifth grader, a second grader, and a two year old turning three in the fall.  I am planning my essential rhythm to look like this:  Continue reading

Late To Waldorf? Overwhelmed?

If you are coming in late to Waldorf homeschooling or feel overwhelmed and overrun by dogma, I have a solution for you!  Please read the lectures given by Rudolf Steiner compiled in “The Renewal of Education.”  This set of lectures, given to a group of Swiss public educators only eight months after the first Waldorf school formed, is so accessible. The foreword is written by a favorite Waldorf educator of mine, Eugene Schwartz, in which he compares and contrasts Waldorf Education to John Dewey and Maria Montessori’s work and sheds light on the hallmarks of Waldorf Education:  the self –renewal and self-development of the teacher, the balance that feeling provides in education, and the approach of Waldorf education to the holistic child.

Waldorf education approaches the child from four different avenues. Continue reading

First Grade Wet On Wet Painting For Saint David’s Day

Today is one of my favorite feast days:  The Feast of St. David of Wales!  There are many wonderful stories about Saint David.  I decided today to use an element from one of the many stories about St. David to bring wet on wet watercolor painting to our first grade daughter.

There seems to be a lot of confusion and mystery regarding wet on wet painting for those families new to Waldorf.  Watercolor painting, in and of itself, has been around for quite some time – think of brush painting from Asia, and the watercolors of the German Renaissance Master Albrecht Durer.   Waldorf Education has a beautiful of approaching watercolor painting for children in the kindergarten and the grades.

In first grade, we go through each color one at time by itself  (which is very beautiful and reverent….I mean, in this day of visual bombardment how often do we get to experience the pure beauty and joy of one color?), then two colors and then some first grade teachers will move into three colors.  Eric Fairman , Master Waldorf grades teacher, discusses the approach he took in his first grade Path of Discovery guide if you are looking for more information.  If you are looking for other resources to help you discover wet on wet painting, please do have a look at this back post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/02/resources-for-wet-on-wet-watercolor-painting/

So, today I had heavy watercolor paper soaking in a tray of water whilst I told some brief stories about St. David, including how he went into Wales to spread the message of the Gospel, how the monastery he founded was very simple where the monks pulled the ploughs for sowing the fields, how he and his monks ate no meat, and how St. David was called the “waterman” not only because he would only drink water but because he would often pray submerged up to his neck in cold water in those Welsh lakes.  I also talked about the miracle of the ground lifting him up so people could hear his message.

Then, to lead up to our painting, we ended with the story of  the battle between the Welsh and the invading Saxons. Legend has it that the Welsh were losing until St. David pointed out that the dress of the two sides was so similar they could not be told apart in battle. He suggested each of the Welsh put a leek in their hat or dress, and the Welsh went on to win the battle.  When a Welsh leek flowers, it looks like a daffodil, so we worked together to create the beautiful colors of the daffodil in our painting.

First we painted our whole page yellow.

(There was once a beautiful daffodil standing as bright as the sun itself.  The daffodil was so lovely that everything in God’s creation wanted to be close to this sunny, lovely daffodil.)

Even the sky moved closer in to see the daffodil, but dared not to get too close to touch the daffodil.  The sky did not want to mar the daffodil’s radiant springtime beauty!

(Paint blue creeping in at the edges, round and round on the page, circling in, until a patch of yellow daffodil is still present).

And all the sky, and all the meadow, rejoiced in the daffodil’s beautiful light.

(If you look carefully at this painting, you can see the darker blue on the outer border, green like meadow as the blue and yellow mixed, with a yellow center as a daffodil).

The main thing to wet on wet painting is to just get the supplies and paint! Paint yourself first and then bring it to your children!  They will thank you!

If you need more help, here are two free resources I suggest:

http://thewonderofchildhood.com/2011/06/wet-on-wet-watercolor-painting-set-up-2/  (multiple parts)

and this resource by Sarah Baldwin, with multiple parts:

Many blessings and joy!

Carrie

Lesson Planning: A Sample Form

In one post I shared my personal form for the rhythm of one of our days of the week, but I was recently thinking about a sample form or list that could help mothers plan their Grades One through Eight  homeschooling according to the eight pillars of artistic work of Waldorf Education that we have talked about in the past on this blog.  Academic subjects are taught through artistic work in Waldorf Education; this is an enlivening form of education for the child.

Please take this as a “I thought of this in quickly and you might be able to tweak it or use parts of  it or come up with something even better” kind of way, not as a definitive end product.  Smile

Anyway, this is what I was thinking: Continue reading

Children Who Dislike Everything

I was going through some papers this weekend and came across an article by Michael Howard that I had printed out called, “Educating the Feeling-will in the Kindergarten” and this quote just popped out at me:

“The defining characteristic of feeling will is the capacity to live deeply into the inner quality of something outside us, knowing and feeling it as if we are within it or it is within us. In the early childhood years a healthy child is naturally inclined to drink in the inner mood and qualities of places and persons.  It is one of the tragedies of our times that the ways of the world, including the life of the family and school, can dull rather than foster this natural soul attachment.  Tragically, many young children come to kindergarten with a sense-nerve disposition already strongly developed.  Their thinking has become prematurely intellectual and abstract, and their feeling life inclines toward strong personal like or dislike.”

I have been seeing so many tiny children yet with so many big opinions.  Have you been seeing this as well?  Continue reading