The Non-Eager Learner

Many families have children who are so smart and so eager to learn.  They talk early, they read early, they are full of interesting questions about the world around them.  They are easy to teach and really,  they practically teach themselves.

And then there are other children who are not so eager to learn.  And I find amongst this “category” there are different groups of children…There may be the type of child that may not be interested in much outside of their own bodies and when food will be served.  They do not display  much interest in those abstract letters on signs or in books, and are not too interested in writing or math.  These are the kind of children that want to eat their way through any kind of main lesson.   The second type of child I have observed are the children that are very dreamy children.   Perhaps they are living in a little world of their own and are not too interested in coming out of that.  We probably all knew very dreamy children growing up.  Maybe we were those children growing up ourselves.  They don’t seem to have a lot of questions about the world around them, at least on the surface.  Maybe they do inside but they don’t ask the questions outwardly, and don’t give too much of a reaction to the things you try to bring as a teacher.  

I think perhaps the third type of child, whom I would NOT consider a “non-eager” learner are the “do-ers”  who really have so much to do that they just cannot sit down to any sort of book work.  I think these children come along just fine, and homeschooling gives them the time and space to be who they are.  They often seem to come into their own in the later middle school and high school years.  I would like to talk about that group in another post.

The typical advice I see for this on the Internet and in talking to teachers about “non-eager learners”  is one of two avenues.  For children in school, the recommendation is to volunteer in the classroom, dialogue with the teacher, sit with the child for homework.  In the homeschooling camp, the advice more often seems to be expose your child to a lot of things, take note of what a child likes to DO and see if you can build off of that, and don’t worry about a “passion” until high school years.

I think any of these pieces in and of their own can be helpful, but as always LOOK at the child in front of you.  Here are a few of my ideas to ponder as well:

For tiny children, under the age of 7, you probably know what I am going to say.  The American school system has now changed to the extent of what I studied in second grade as a child is now the kindergarten.  I feel there is far too much “academic” head work in kindergarten and PreK right now.  In fact, there was a recent article in the Washington Post discussing how the emphasis on academic skills is at a great cost to the child in terms of social-emotional skills and the development of the bodily senses.  If your child is in school, look at grade placement closely.  At this point in time, I have to say older age for the grade is better because of the ridiculous work level. Also, look at rhythm and  routine – is your child getting energy out and having time for free play in the hours after school?  Can you look at alternative schooling situations that match development?

The flip side of this, I think is to establish a good RHYTHM of work.  If your child is in school and expected to do homework and such, this is important, but this is especially important in the homeschool environment for children under the age of 7.   Your child can weave in and out of your work in the Early Years, and absolutely have plenty of time for free creative play and outside play,  but they should not just wander all day long with no adult input if you intend to do some sort of grades schooling that involves sitting down and doing something that you help to direct.   There should be things that are theirs to do in the family, and they should be able to imitate what you are doing and want to join in.  Rhythm in the early years is the key to easier homeschooling in the grades, especially in the beginning grades when children are learning how to be more academic learners.

For children between the ages of 7 and 9 in the homeschool environment, I offer you the ideas of Rudolf Steiner in his lectures, (not  in the school form).  Ages 7 to 9 should still be a good amount of bodily movement – look and see where your child’s physical development really is.  Lack of core strength can really impede writing, for example, and also affect visual convergence and speech.  Look at your child.  Also, think about how much DOING you are asking for versus just sitting and doing something.  It may seem easier to have story, drawing, summary, but I feel this is not at all what Rudolf Steiner intended.   If children this age are able to sit for long periods and don’t want to move, I worry, quite frankly. 

The main challenges I hear from mothers of children this age is a complete disinterest in academic skills (practicing writing, reading,  etc); lack of memory for academic skills; inability to sit still for academic work. Sometimes learning challenges are apparent in this stage, and little things together can add up to a bigger picture of learning skills.  For example, for children who are non-eager learners, maybe reading and writing is difficult in any way or shape or form, but puzzles and mazes are also difficult, crafts are not welcomed, there is not an attention to a task such as cooking.  This could be something bigger than simply “not wanting to.”  If you are concerned about the possibility of learning disabilities or visual problems, I suggest you speak with your health care team.

If you feel there are no challenges, I think one way to approach this age group is two-fold:  working within the physical body and then short bursts of practice as you see your child respond to best.  Choose what you require to be written carefully, and know that in many children academic skills involving lots of writing may not blossom until later ages.  You can introduce, keep it short, be persistent,  circle round and build on things, but you are waiting for development to unfold.   Build great vocabulary and concepts through storytelling and wonderful stories.   Watch and observe your child, use the things your child enjoys within the context of the curriculum, read together, do real-life math and games and know that it really is sinking in.  Focus on doing, and short practice. 

For children between ages 10 and 14,  this should be when interest in the outside world and  academic skills are typically increasing.  For some children, this academic leap will be in fourth and fifth grade, for some children this will be in fifth and sixth grade (I am talking about a homeschooling environment, where we have more time and space to let things ride).  Usually by seventh and eighth grade, many things are evened out and there is a greater ability to start “true academic work” of writing, more examples of critical thinking and original work.   Again, always be on the lookout for any learning challenges that are impeding the way and have not yet been worked with. 

I personally  find the often quoted, “Everything evens out by fourth grade” to be a fallacy in homeschooling.  Many times, children are reading around fourth grade, but some do not read well or are  not really interested in that until age 12.  Sometimes math has sort of evened out, but many times children don’t seem to “get math” until they are 12 and more abstract reasoning has developed.  I myself didn’t develop good math skills until I was a junior in high school and suddenly it all clicked in a way where I really understand the why’s behind what I was doing.  I have no doubt that this was some sort of developmental window  that was personal to me.  So, the years between 10 and 14, and especially  between ages 10 and 12,  require a good amount of patience and persistence and observation of the child on the part of the homeschooling teacher.

For children ages 14 to 16, I feel things should really be coming together at this point.  I know many mothers have talked about the “hibernation” of children at this age, but I see many homeschooled teenagers at this point developing or at least trying on emerging passions and interests in real life and then developing the academic skills they need to support that.    Many academic checklists cite the grades 8-12 as a time of “emerging abstract skills”, so that means that every child could have a timetable that is individual to himself or herself within that time frame.  It may not all click in eighth grade, but it might click in tenth grade or eleventh grade. 

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding working with “non-eager” learners.

Many blessings,

Homeschooling is Taking All Day! What Do I Do?

This topic is going around Marsha Johnson’s Waldorf Home Educators Yahoo list, but it must be something in the air because one of my best friends and I have been having this conversation for weeks.  Apparently it is on the collective consciousness of the homeschooling community!

My schedule with having two out of my three children in the upper grades (which I consider grades 5-8) is quite different than it has been in the past.  Right now, it essentially boils down to the fact that I DO have to keep an eye on the clock.  I am torn about that, because part of homeschooling is the ability to sit and ponder and think and go “deeper” but if I do that with one child who takes four hours and  can only do that with me sitting right there, no one else gets what they need.  Also, because of our large age gaps, I cannot really combine much at this point.  Please see my back post about homeschooling the large family for some talk about combining in Waldorf homeschooling, because there are lots and lots of ways that you typically can combine!  There are broader age categories for things than typical in a Waldorf School!

Some mothers are masters at having all children working on main lessons at the same time in the same room.  I wish I could do that but I don’t seem to be able to do it;  my children can’t concentrate that way and neither can I.  So I don’t approach school  that way, but it can be a helpful approach for so many. Instead,  I approach it as what does that child  need from me directly, what can they do on their own and how do I encourage that (which also takes time and planning)  (and no, my oldest really wasn’t adept at this until sixth-seventh grade, my now fifth grader is a little more independent, and I have a feeling our third child will be the most independent worker of all – so LOOK at the temperaments and personalities of the children in front of you, and look carefully at how YOU are encouraging independent work from your child once they are past the nine year change), and what is essential in terms of building capacities for that particular child.

So, right now I essentially start with a walk for everyone (which I had given up for a long time and have now come back to it), but I keep it short.  By 8:45 our fifth grader and I are doing our main lesson.  Our eighth grader is doing independent work (piano practice, outside distance learning Spanish class homework)  and then working with her younger brother.  At 10:15, I work with our littlest member and our oldest does her independent math work and our fifth grader rests and reads independently for school. (In the past our older children did circle time with our youngest, but not this year.  We may go back to that next year).   At 11:00 I start with our eighth grader and our fifth grader can finish any work needed and then play with her little brother.  We eat lunch at 12:30 and rest.  We come back a few afternoons a week for handwork with a read-aloud, and a few one on one times for special subjects for both older child – for our eighth grader this happens to be World Geography and in the spring it will be Civics and for our fifth grader it is extra lesson activities and math.  On those days, school does go “long”, but I expect that with an eighth grader in the house!   Also, three days a week I work an extra forty-five minutes in  with our eighth grader on math that “would be in a block” and/or Life Skills.  Know the homeschool laws in your state; are there requirements for hours a day or year to be completed?

I think the key to having less full days with younger children in the early grades is 1- to make sure you really get through the “main lesson” part  early on in the day , if having it done early works for you.   2 – do not schedule your home school like a Waldorf School with too many different periods and such – you are one person and will have to be “on” for all those different lessons – remember,  homeschooling is and should and will be different than a school environment 3 – be prepared so you can be efficient – have your drawings done ahead of time, but also draw with your child, know what you are teaching, know what your child really needs and is the essential for that child at that time 4 – remember that for homeschooling to work long-term you have GOT to take care of YOURSELF and the family in terms of meals, rest, exercise and so forth – so resting after lunch, having time during the week to do what YOU as a person  outside of being a mother and homeschool teacher need to do is VITALLY important! and 5 – remember what pieces of “real life” in your real home nurturing schedule are developing capacities – cooking is so much math; playing games can also be logic and math and reading; writing grocery lists and thank you cards are developing skills – start thinking outside of the school box and finally 6 –  yes, you may need to keep an eye on the clock.   Some families are content to go all day, but many have other things to do either for other children in the family or for the home, etc.  The rhythm of school has to work for all of the family in order to be sustainable.

Please do share your experiences.  Help your fellow homeschooling mothers!


Adjusting to Middle School

In the United States, many eleven and twelve year olds are off to grades sixth through eighth at a separate school from elementary school.  This is called middle school, and children in grade six and their parents have told me over and over that this is such a big adjustment for them. 

I  had dinner with four little sixth grade girls the other night who attend three separate schools in different counties.   I asked them what made middle school so different.  They responded, “Well, having a locker!” Switching classes from teacher to teacher is also quite different than being with one teacher as is the case in most elementary schools.

Forgetfulness and lack of organization is the main thing parents seem to complain about.  That, and the amount of homework their middle schooler has!  The first year (sixth grade) seems to be the absolute hardest adjustment for most families.

Some helpful suggestions include helping your child have ONE place to write down all assignment and due dates – a master list or a master calendar.  The parent also keeps a calendar at home as well with important dates and when things are due to help along.  Having a consistent time and place to do homework is very important as well – rhythm and routine is everything.  The hours that a middle schooler has to spend at home may be quite short, considering that in many areas of the United States the middle schoolers go to school later but also come home later, like 4:45 or 5 P.M., and they are likely to be tired, so efficiency with homework is key.

The other thing that parents have shared with me is that they really had to look at the amount of time they were investing in outside activities because homework really needed to come first.  The homework only increases throughout the high school years, so this evaluation is a good  yearly practice to get into.    I know high schoolers in my neighborhood who are routinely spending almost all of their day on Sunday doing homework in  order to get ready for the school week, plus doing homework every night during the week, especially if they are in AP classes or in “gifted” classes.   Forming good habits in the middle school years is important for the future!

I would love to hear from you if your child has transitioned into middle school.  What advice would you have for other parents beginning the sixth grade year to make it a smoother year?

Many blessings,

Still Waters Run Deep: The Fourteen Year Old

Yesterday  was my daughter’s fourteenth birthday party.  She had a fun day celebrating on the beach with her friends and their families.  So, in honor of the  now fourteen-year-old in our house, today’s post is all about the  fourteen year old.

The Gesell Institute describes the fourteen-year-old as “a time of verve, vigor, energy and excitement…Boundless energy combines with optimistic enthusiasm and goodwill to encourage boy or girl to attempt almost anything.”

The plans may outnumber the number of hours in a day, but a fourteen-year-old wants life on the full side.  At least, this is how the Gesell Institute describes it. However, I often find this stage can be different than the Gesell Institute describes– many mothers have described this period to me often as a waiting, a patience and a trusting in seeing their child almost in a cocoon where the surface looks more still than what the Gesell Institute describes –> this post describes this in boys, but I have seen this in girls as well.  So I think there can be a lot of energy for the things the fourteen-year-old is interested in, it can be a time of blossoming, but I think it can also be a time where the waters look so still and mirroring but underneath the surface things are running deeply.   Deeply felt.

Where this most deeply comes out is in relationship to the family.  Fourteen-year-olds can be quite critical of their parents, their family.  It is very personal, and not just against “the rules” (although it can be that too!) but against the personality traits or appearance of family members.  The character flaws of the adults in the house are pointed out, as if the parent and the fourteen-year-old are still so tied together that anything a parent does that is deemed “embarrassing” counts against the teenager.  It is common for parents to feel as if they are doing everything for a demanding teen, and receiving no gratitude at all.  The Gesell Institute mentions that a teenager of this age is at his or her best with friends.   And, most fourteen-year-olds really want to “fit in” with their peers.  They also tend to be friendly and outgoing with adults outside of the family, but busy and in a rush to get to the next thing.  Fourteen-year-olds, in general, have more humor, more give and take and are more open than thirteen-year-olds. 

Fourteen thrives best on a varied program and most especially enjoys extracurricular activities and clubs – athletic, scientific, dramatic, musical.”  I think this is especially important for homeschooling families to consider – many homeschoolers talk about activities for small children or “preteens” but honestly, it is the teenagers who really need connections and activity more than ever to keep homeschooling successful. 

Most girls are done growing by the end of this year height-wise and maturity features now approximate more of young adulthood.   Very few girls have not menstruated by their fourteenth year.  They may be interested in the more complex areas involving reproduction – contraception, and what happens when things don’t work out in carrying a pregnancy to full-term. and even more complex topics.    Many boys have an extremely rapid increase in height at fourteen.  Boys’ bodies become more heavily muscled, deepening of the voice is more noticeable. Fourteen is an age when many girls are good at taking care of their own personal hygiene, but boys often do not do a good job and need to be reminded to wash with soap and use shampoo.  Most fourteen-year-olds have an increased sense of responsibility toward taking care of their clothes and rooms.

Fourteen is not as “edgy” as thirteen.  Thirteen may be full of withdrawal and touchiness, but fourteen is full of life and fun.  That being said, there is still moodiness, irritability, tiny issues that become huge, and they can go completely out of bounds in trying to overschedule themselves and their social lives.  There can be violent anger or very distressed emotions, but these outbursts are generally far apart.  They cannot view these outbursts from an adult point of view so they may know they are critical or sarcastic or other things, but really can’t do much about it or see it much past that.   Happy moods outnumber the sad moods, but annoyance or moodiness is there. Outbursts against siblings can be rather explosive. There really is no hiding of emotions for most fourteen-year-olds and this most often seems to run to irritability, anger, annoyance.   Fourteen year olds are not as vulnerable as a thirteen year old;  they can “strike back” over something they perceive as unfair or be nonchalant, or take things as a joke and laugh them off.  Fourteen-year-olds can take this new maturity and enjoy competition.  They like to compete at this age. 

Ames, Ilg and Baker write in their book, “Your Ten-To Fourteen-Year-Old” that, “By now, the most intensely inwardizing work of Thirteen has pretty much been accomplished.  The reflective process, the living with oneself, the thinking about oneself which characterizes Thirteen are all a bit like an active hibernation process.  Then comes the time when the inner biological clock is turning, and the time for emergence into the sun arrives.  And that time in many is fourteen.”  They are ready to do something outside of themselves and be absorbed in that.  They start to learn how to adapt to the limits of the outside world, and how to make choices.  Fourteen is an age where many adolescents feel good about themselves. 

Many blessings,

Talking About Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Those of you who have followed this blog for some time and have read my back posts on healthy sexuality, know that I am one for just layering in conversations about things over time.  For example, I feel fortunate that over the years I have been involved in breastfeeding counseling and have always worked with families and new babies.  Because of this, we have had many conversations around this very practical life experience, seen up close and personal and discussed what new babies and new parents need.  Now that our oldest daughter is a teenager, it has been easy to layer in candid conversations about healthy sexuality as we go. And, I think in order to talk about healthy sexuality, we need to talk about ourselves, how we perceive ourselves, and about addiction and the use of alcohol and drugs. 

The conversations doesn’t mean nothing will ever happen.  There are  absolutely no guarantees in raising children into adulthood; all you can do is be open and warm and provide information and share experiences.  People often act as if homeschooling is protective; I don’t view homeschooling that way.  Homeschoolers are open to the same sorts of things that go on everywhere. Homeschoolers live life just like everyone else. 

If you have experienced alcohol or drug addiction, or grew up with that, of course you will want to think ahead regarding how much you want to share and at what age you want your children to be to share it…But it is great to start thinking about that when your children are small (and on the flip side, it is never too late to have the conversation).  You may save your child’s life and your child’s family.  Addictions break families.

Addiction issues run in my family and I have been very upfront in layering in conversations over the years about the results of addiction to alcohol and drugs.   You can read a little about the role of genetics in addiction  here.   I want my older children to know the real risks of alcohol and drug addiction  just as they should know about the other medical  and mental health issues that people in our family have experienced.  I view alcohol and drug addiction as a medical problem, not something to be hid and not talked about. 

Something that  has also really prompted my conversation with my older children  as well is the information to be found in the book, “A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults” by Jensen, MD.    One thing the author points out is that “teenagers get addicted to every substance faster than adults, and once addicted have much greater difficulty ridding themselves of the habit – and not just in their teen years but throughout the rest of their lives.” (page 117).  In other words, because teenaged brains are neuroanatomically primed for learning and are more “plastic”, they are also more prone to addictions than a mature adult.

I am sure I have mentioned this book  before on my blog because I love it, so please do look it up.   Here are a few interesting comments from that book regarding tobacco and alcohol:


  • Sleep deprivation in teens can lead to increased cigarette use. 
  • Cigarette smoking can “cause a variety of cognitive and behavioral problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and memory loss, and it has been associated with lower IQ in smoking teenagers.” (page 115). 
  • A single cigarette has more than four thousand chemicals and substances in it. 
  • Ninety percent of smokers begin before the age of eighteen. 
  • The more teens smoke, the more the pre-frontal cortex of the brain is affected, and poor decision-making occurs.  Some studies show that after just a few cigarettes, the adolescent brain begins to create new nicotine receptors – essentially remodeling itself so it is harder to stop smoking.


  • When teens drink alcohol, they tend to drink four or five drinks in one session.  The definition of binge drinking  is considered when one consumes more than four or five drinks in a two hour period.  Studies show that binge drinking typically begins around the age of thirteen and then peaks between ages eighteen to twenty-two. 
  • The teenaged brain has less GABA receptors than the adult brain and handles some of the sedative aspects of drinking better than adults – which unfortunately means greater physiological tolerance of drinking which can result in an incentive to drink more.  Because drinking is social, and because studies have shown that teens frequently underestimate the amount of alcohol those around them are drinking, the combination can be deadly.
  • There are also terrible long-term consequences to alcohol in the teenaged brain, including attention deficit,  depression, memory problems, and reduction in goal-oriented behavior.  The damage is actually worse for girls’ brains than boys’.  Alcohol abuse shrinks the size of the hippocampus and also blocks the glutamate receptors the brain needs to build new synapses.     The hippocampus is where short-term memories are turned into long-term memories.  Many teens and young adults experience blackouts when they drink; young women may be at greater risk for memory impairment from alcohol.  Researchers are not totally sure why this may be yet.  
  • Children and adolescents who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to  develop alcohol dependence later in life than those who begin drinking at the legal drinking age of twenty –one (United States).

I don’t really have the room here to go into the neuroanatomic changes caused by marijuana, Ecstasy, cocaine and other drugs on the adolescent brain, but I just leave this post with a reminder of the  general signs of drug abuse:  withdrawal, dramatic changes in appetite or sleeping habits, excess irritability, lack of personal hygiene, speech that is too rapid or too slow, bloodshot eyes, consistent cough, irregularities in the eye pupils or eye movements, change in group of friends. 

Keep watchful, and please talk to your children. Conversations about these topics should be natural, normal,warm, open,  and layered in over time with your children.  Always keep in mind that the biology of the brain of a teenager makes addiction much more difficult than even in adults.   These conversations – sexuality, addiction, dealing with stress, challenges such as depression and anxiety or other difficult behaviors that many times actually begin in adolescence –  deserve loving, kind parental conversations, action, boundaries, connections in the community, assistance.  These topics are really just part of being human and adolescents deserve our time and attention to be there for these challenges.  There are many things we can shy away from as parents, or  areas where we don’t feel we excel, but these topics deserve our attempt.


Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will–Week Eight

Chapter Three of Stephen Spitalny’s “Connecting With Young Children:  Educating the Will” is all about the senses as gateways to relating; how sensory impressions are a link between ourselves and the world around us.  The sense impressions or information that we receive lead to a response in our thinking, feeling or willing.  Young children have willing forces and imitative forces, but they do not think or feel about something in relation to a sense experience in the way that an adult does. 

The author asserts that young children are in the process of forming their physical bodies and that the things young children experience leads to a “soul response pattern”.  The young child before the age of seven is solely a sense organ, and the moods, thoughts and feelings of the adults around them and their experiences lead to formative qualities in the child himself or herself.  Therefore, part of Waldorf Education is to have the adult understand the role we play in shaping the health of the young child. 

There are at least twelve senses worked with in Waldorf Education; I have written many back posts on these senses.  These senses are the Sense of Touch, the Sense of Life (general feeling of well-being), the Sense of Self Movement, the Sense of Balance as the Lower (and Foundational Senses).  The Sense of Smell, the Sense of Taste, the Sense of Sight and the Sense of Warmth are the middle senses where the human being brings some of the world into his or herself and becomes aware of a relationship to the world.  The Sense of Hearing, the Sense of the Word (Speech), the Idea or Concept of the Other, the Sense of the Ego of the Other are the upper senses.  Empathy is seen as based on sensing the other. 

The author writes on page 57, “ Attention to the development of the senses in young human beings is at the core of an education attempting to renew culture and create a fertile ground for human connecting. These twelve senses are the doorways to relating the self to the body, the self to the world around and the self to other human beings.”

Hope you are still reading along,


Weeks One and Two of Fifth and Eighth Grade

Hard to believe we are finishing up the second week of school.  After eight years of homeschooling the grades, and I guess more  years if you count in the last kindergarten year, I have come to a few conclusions regarding scheduling that could be helpful to other parents:

1.  Schedule your school year and have your blocks cover LESS time than the weeks of school you have available.  For instance, if you have 35 weeks for school, plan blocks for 32  weeks.  This way, you can take advantage of being a homeschooler and go visit places around you, go to neighborhood farms, or whatever it is in your area that you would like to visit and do during the school year and  not feel guilty about “losing days”.  This is not as big an issue in grades 1-5, as these experiences work into the curriculum and there is less “bookwork”,   but I think it does become more of an issue in the upper grades.

2.  Schedule your starting date carefully.  For quite a while when my oldest was little, we always started after Labor Day.  Then I adjusted and started when the children in our neighborhood were starting .  This year, our start date was around then.  One child in the grades was enthusiastic to go back and the other child was decidedly not.  So, you may not make everyone happy, but I feel like this year we could have started a few weeks after we actually did.

Six Year Old Kindergarten – It is so much fun having a little kindergartner in the house!  We have worked with the stories of St. Herman of Alaska, St. Mary and this coming week St. Aidan as part of our family religious life.  We have had a very long circle with foot plays, fingerplays,, and songs based upon the them of the garden, especially sunflowers and insects.  I have taken the story of “Hans and the Beautiful Flower” and modified it for our season and geographic area and told it with silk marionettes, with wooden figures, and without props.   We have baked, painted, made seasonal crafts, and modeled with beeswax.  Kindergarteners,, at least mine, are such willing helpers around the house too, so all the cleaning and sweeping is part of our daily lives and tasks.  Our little guy is just naturally counting forwards and backwards as part of life, and picking out letters and sounds by himself.  So, I think when we get to first grade next fall it will be a fun year.  I already have an idea for a theme for first grade circulating in my head!  Other than that,  he is busy playing and being active.

Fifth Grade –  We started this year with a good, solid rhythm.  We have two opening verses, several tongue twisters and then math games with either bean bags, a ball or copper rods, along with a botany verse and sometimes a tie-in with grammar.  Then we normally review math, cursive writing and/or some spelling, and have a brief break for a read-aloud .  These past few weeks we have read Holling C. Holling’s “Tree in the Trail” and “Paddle to the Sea” and got acquainted  with maps of the United States… Then we have a little verse for  beginning our main lesson and we have been diving into botany.  Our first week of botany felt a little unsettled and rather lukewarm, but this second week focusing on fungi and moving into algae has been very good.  We had a mushroom hunt and  have been doing drawing, wet on wet painting, and clay modeling of mushrooms.  We have practiced quite a bit of shaded drawing.  Next week we have a field trip planned to a local garden, and I hope to keep things active the rest of this block.  I have more to say on this block since it is our second time through the material, and I hope to write a post on this topic. 

Eighth Grade – Our eighth grader was not ready to go back to school, so rather an unenthusiastic first week…although the work itself has been fine.  Our eighth grader really enjoys geometry and geometric constructions, but I am still really thinking about this Platonic Solids block.  One of the main pieces of this block that I learned in a workshop from our local Waldorf School is the transformation in clay from one Platonic Solid to another.  Both my daughter and I found this rather daunting and difficult.  Constructing these solids  through the construction of paper nets and making models was more successful, and I think working with dowels and  beeswax would be another way to approach this, although neither of these approaches has the fluidity of transforming one solid to another.  We tied each element into one of the elemental forces (air, wind, water, fire and finally the cosmic force) and into where it generally appears in nature, but it all still felt rather flat to me.  The resources we used  including “Making Math Meaningful”; “Mathematics in Nature, Space and Time” and the little book “Platonic Solids” by Sutton, plus my notes and experiences from the workshop I attended. We moved into Loci toward the end of this week – constructing curves from straight lines, such as the Parabola, etc.  “Making Math Meaningful” was helpful in this endeavor, although sometimes I find their instructions less than clear for non-mathematician me.

We have also been reviewing math, doing vocabulary, and reading “Across Five Aprils” and digging into literary analysis of this book.  We have also spent some extra time discussing some life skills – great conversation skills and personal finance.  I had grand plans to do World Geography for two afternoons a week to tie all the geography we have been doing since fifth grade together, but that hasn’t come together.  I will see if we can get that started next week.

We have been doing some handwork in the afternoons, and busy in general with horses, 4H, and swimming.

Hope you all have had a good start to your school year!