Main Lessons

I recently had a question about main lessons-what are they/what does that mean? We are eclectic homeschoolers.  I would not call us unschoolers because my kiddos definitely follow “a plan,” but the plan is fairly open with some requirements.  Daily math, spelling and reading are requirements.  In addition to these subjects, we work through other interests and subjects in blocks.  Insert main lessons!

I use Melisa Nielsen’s Waldorf Essential’s program loosely.  I read the curriculum for each grade and each year.  Then I divide the subjects into blocks.  I really love the way Waldorf works with the developmental stage of the child.  Every child delves into age-appropriate worlds filled with history, lessons, science and folklore.

Each child has a main lesson book.  In the past, we used nice sketch books.  This year, we tried actual Waldorf main lesson books with one blank page and one lined page.  The books are very nice, but we all decided that we like the sketch books more.

So the steps we take are:

1. Read a story.

2. Discuss a creative avenue to depict the story

3. Draw a border around the page (this makes it less intimidating than having a blank page.  the border is also a terrific place to practice form drawings)

4. Create with either paints, pencils, crayons, sculpt or cook (if we do something that cannot be “put” into the book, then we take a picture of it and paste it into the book)

5. After at least 24 hours(this allows the story/information to sit with the child), we write out a summary of the story on the same page as the picture.  The summary also includes a good bit of discussion and how the story relates to each of us.  This is by far, my favorite part of Waldorf lessons.

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At the end of the year, the main lesson book serves as a terrific portfolio of the lessons.  I must say that I really cherish these books.  The kids love looking through their old books as well.  The main lessons comprise the majority of our homeschool time and energy besides being outside!

2014-2015 Year End Wrap Up: Grade 2

I enjoy writing this post each year.  I always feel that we could have accomplished more or that we should have worked more on an area until I take the time to reflect.  We had a fantastic year filled with many fun activities.  I will work through each grade over the next few posts.  Now onto the review of how grade two actually went!

My original goals for Parks:

Parks (second grade): 1) Read instructions independently 2)Reciprocity in discussions (he likes to take over the discussions) 3) journal 4)begin reading silently 5)work independently for 30 minutes 6)increase his independence with communicating his emotions and needs

Believe it or not,  Parks met all of my goals (note, that these are not his goals but mine.  He makes his own goals for the year and we discuss them).  He continues to struggle with reading endurance, however he did wonderfully with reading his activities/instructions which allowed him to work more independently than he has in the past (yes, I know he is only in second grade, but I need him to be comfortable with working by himself a little bit).  He also asks people questions and is doing very well with actually conversing with people instead of just talking to a person.  The fourth goal was just recently accomplished-sort of.  He continues to fight me on reading stories himself but he finally opened up to the idea of using Learning Ally to listen to audiobooks on his own.  He loves it!  Goal 6 was Parks’ biggest undertaking this year.  He works through a lot in his brain-ie, it never stops thinking!  He has worked very diligently this year to be aware of his emotions and what he needs.  He can take a break when he needs it and is able to walk away/verbalize when he begins feeling overwhelmed.

Onto curriculum.  I know this is what everyone wants to know about this time of the year.

Spelling: We started the year using Apples and Pears.  He began to complain almost instantly.  We worked through it for about two months and then took a break.  I noticed that he began taking interest in spelling words that he used in daily life correctly so I went with it.  We are now using All About Spelling in conjunction with the cursive Montessori movable alphabet.  So far, it is going well. He is also enjoying Spell Well as an independent workbook.

Math: Parks star year off with Teaching Textbooks level 3.  The work was a good fit but he did not enjoy doing math on the computer.  Thus, we made another switch (the lesson to be learned here is that there is not one curriculum that fits all-unfortunately).  We started out with going through the Life Of Fred Cats books until I found a good fit for him.  He ended up working through the Math Mammoth level 2.  Overall, he enjoyed Math Mammoth.  We did break out the Montessori bank game and beads throughout the year to have some manipulatives.

Grammar:  I know, I know-why is a second grader doing grammar?  Well, mainly because he enjoys it.  He chose to work on grammar first most days of the year.  Everyone used the appropriate level of Growing with Grammar.  We LOVED this series.  Overall, it was very easy to adapt.  Some days, Parks was ready and willing to write out the answers.  Other days, he wasn’t so he could simply cross out what was incorrect and write above the sentence (such as “rewrite the sentence using the correct usage of capital letters) or insert the appropriate punctuation.

Main Lessons:  We continue to love Waldorf Essentials.  For Parks’ main lesson blocks, he worked on maps, heroes, trickster stories, stories from the Buddha’s Apprentice and geology. During the main lessons, Parks worked on comprehension, narration, copy work and art.  The main lesson times are cherished as they are the most intimate part of schooling.  We have lots of discussions as we each work on our drawing, painting or sculpture together.

Enrichment:  We are a little over zealous in this area.  🙂  Parks took classes on physical science, chemistry, woodworking, orienteering, geocaching, drumming, horse back riding, gymnastics and art.  Of course, he participated in our weekly hiking adventures as well.

I am very pleased with where he ended up this year. Throughout the summer we will continue to work on a couple of activities such as spelling and reading.  I will give an update on those later as we just began three weeks ago on our new curriculum.

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Finding Passion: African Drumming

All three of my children live with music in their souls.  (I am not sure where they got this from because neither my husband nor I are musically inclined.)  No matter, our house fills with music daily – the radio, feet stomping a beat on the floor, singing or an instrument playing.    A friend of ours asked if we would be interested in learning more about African drumming-how quickly can we say, “YES!”

We began taking a class with some fellow friends/homeschoolers in March.  The class was only supposed to last 4 weeks but we are still going strong!  The instructor brings the drums to life!  He teaches the kids about the history of drumming and the importance of drums throughout history.  He teaches the kids how to feel the energy of the drums and how to use the drums to pass the energy from one person to the next.

This week, he explained how the drums are made.  He even had the kids stretch a new piece of goat hide over an old box drum so that they could learn how to make their own drums.  The best part of the drum circle for me is watching the kids go into a trance as they drum.  It is amazing to hear them come together to produce the music.  All you can do dance!

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Friday Morning Hikes

Friday Morning Hikes

I haven’t posted about our Friday morning hikes in a while.  We still hike most Friday mornings.  My kids look forward to these mornings as much as I do.  They are awesome, and this year we committed to them-rain, sleet, snow, sun, cold or hot.  My husband asked me this week if we actually learn anything on our Friday morning hike or if they are just for fun.  Well, both answers are correct!

For the kids, Friday morning hikes allow for exploration in the areas that they hike with their classes.  On Fridays, they explore freely.  For me, Friday morning hikes fill my cup!  I converse with my friends about history, herbs, life and so many topics.  Overall, we all learn something new EVERY single week!

This week, we hiked with our area nature preserve manager.  He is a walking nature encyclopedia.  I really enjoy hiking with him.  Today, we reviewed what poison ivy, plantain, and beech wood trees look like.  We also found a Fowler toad, a slippery salamander, a five striped salamander,  millipede, a cherry bug and hawk pellet (one of the amazing lessons learned today-how did we learn that we found a hawk pellet versus an owl pellet?  An owl pellet has a lot of bones in it, but the hawk pellet did not have any bones in it).

We also discovered a spider nest in a fern.  I love looking at ferns as I hike.  Today, I noticed that several of the ferns had been rolled up with web around them.  We plucked off one and investigated.  Inside of the “fern ball” we found a spider!  Fascinating hike today!  We learned so many new things that I am still trying wrap my head around them such as when the Fowler toad grabs an insect with its tongue it uses its eyes to bring the insect from its mouth down into its stomach!

I am so glad that we have continued with the hikes.  I was worried that the kids would get bored with them, but every week is a new adventure!

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Lessons Learned the Hardway: Fire

I have stubborn children-children that must learn some lessons on their own (I have no idea where they get it from).  Fortunately for us-up to this point in time, no one has seriously gotten harmed.  However, we have had some close calls already this year!

First up-Fire!  As many of you know, my oldest son lives for fire.  He wanted to be a fireman at the ripe old age of 2.  The feeling has intensified.  In fact, now he aspires to be a smoke jumper or an ER doctor.  He feels very confident around fire.  I am sure you have seen in previous posts pictures of him around the fire in our backyard.  He is always the first person to ask about making a fire whenever we are outside and it is a bit chilly or there are marshmallows in the house.

Recently, he and fire met for real.  We went to a friend’s house to go out for a hike.  Near their home, a controlled fire smoldered.  Of course, my fire-loving child desired to investigate further.  Cautiously, he went to look at the smoking pile. In one step, the ground under him shifted (most likely because it was recently on fire!) and his foot went down into a hole.  Luckily, he has excellent balance and he avoided a full body fall into the fire.

So we headed out on our hike.  He asked if we could stop for a second because he had something in his shoe.  Of course, we stopped while he took off his boot to shake it out.  Meanwhile, I notice a hole in his brand new socks.  I asked him if he knew what happened to his sock.  Of course, he had no idea but he did tell me the story above.  I immediately asked him to remove his sock so that we could look at his foot.

Second and third degree burn.

Second and third degree burn.

Uhm…yep.  No hike but a fun trip to the ER and a very important lesson learned.

Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve

Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve

We changed up our usual hiking spot this past Friday.  Instead of visiting Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, we headed southeast to Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve.  I have known about this park for a while and wanted to check it out.  We were lucky enough to have some friends join us, one of whom is a master naturalist.  Thus, we had a walking/talking historian and naturalist to educate us throughout our hike!

We knew as soon as we entered the park that our hike would be fun.  In the parking lot, we found coyote scat (I know that I normally take pictures of EVERYTHING, but I spared you this one).  The preserve hosts a bog and a wonderful pond which is where we ventured to first.  The bog was almost dry which allowed the kids to explore throughout the bog looking at animal prints and trying to find frog eggs.  Around the edge of the bog and at one end, we found evidence of beaver activity-LOTS of beaver activity!

Overall the paths were frozen.  The frozen ground preserved the amazing and abundant coyote prints!  The key feature of the Ribbon Walk Nature preserve is the beech tree.  The preserve serves as the home to hundreds of American Beech trees.  They are old and beautiful!  We learned that beech tree only grow in undisturbed land; thus, you know that the area is “old.”  We also learned about vinca major and vinca minor and how the slaves in the US used vinca to mark the graves of their family members.  Vinca is not native to the US but is an invasive species from the Mediterranean and northern Africa.

We only had a couple of hours to explore on this particular day.  However, we do plan to return with a picnic and some water shoes!

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No Curriculum Required

No Curriculum Required

Around here it is the time to look at curriculums, schools and plans for next year.  This time of year always gets me thinking.  Are we in a good spot?

Are the kids learning new information? how to learn?

Are the kids happy?

Are they engaged?

For the first time ever since I became the parent of school aged kids, I am content.  Yes, we are in a terrific spot.  We are not stuck on curriculum.  Life is learning.  When the kids are interested in something, they go with it.  They delve into the subject finding out all that they need.  They laugh daily. They argue daily.  They are learning so much more than information in books.  They are learning about being a good neighbor and citizen, nature, being a good friend, being a loving sibling, emotions, cooking, health, money, reading, math, and being a teacher.  They are engaged in life.  They plan.  They make goals.  All of the important information that they are learning comes from life.  No curriculum can teach all of this.

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