Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Hands, Heart, Head

We have finally found a rhythm that works for us for the middle school years. Hands, Heart, Head!

We have school Monday through Friday, with Wednesday as a 1/2 day. In the morning, it is breakfast and then we have independent work time from 9 am to noon. Yep! The girls get to choose what they want to work on and they work on it solo. They are required to be organized and record their work... so it's not a complete free for all. But this allows me to get the laundry started, since we use cloth diapers, and to spend time with my husband who doesn't leave for work until 12:30 pm. It also lets me review my lesson planning and do any final prep that's needed. I can also have breakfast and a shower and get dressed, instead of teaching school in my pajamas because I ran out of time.

At noon we have lunch together and they show me their plan books and fill me in on their choices. Some common choices are handwork (knitting, embroidery, sewing doll clothes, etc.), art (watercolor pencils are very trendy right now), cooking (yesterday Natalie made wonderful Blackberry-Oat Bran Muffins), playing outside and/or taking a nature walk, and reading a chapter book for pleasure. Every day the girls change the water in the bird bath, check the weather and temperature and note it on our kitchen calendar and color in the day's leaf on the weather tree from All Year Round, water the houseplants, check on the hydroponics system in the garage, and water any seedlings we are starting under the grow lights.

(Right now, we have a large flat shallow bin with 2 inch pots for catnip and cat grass, a large flat shallow bin with 3 inch pots for dill, basil, cilantro, and radicchio, three coffee cans with 3 inch pots for celery, and two five gallon buckets with 5 inch pots for asparagus. Lots of seeds are started including lettuce, radishes, carrots, and beets for the straw bale cold frame. We have had ups and downs with our hydroponics system but it's a learning process, as is everything, and we are still really enjoying the indoor gardening. Our sweet potato, pineapple, and mango plants are all still going along happily.)

If a girl hasn't finished something from the previous day, she can also use that morning as a make up work time. After lunch and dishes, we have teacher-directed school time from 1 pm to 4 pm, or so. The afternoon flows smoothly because they've had time to pursue their own interests unfettered and they are less resistant to my direction. We have our weekly poem, math practice, morning pages (creative writing time or a language lesson) and the main lesson. Depending on the day, we do Latin, form drawing, modeling or painting or drawing, and so on. It actually works out that we end up with Hands, then Heart, then Head!

Starting this week we are having Wednesdays as a half day. We are cleaning the house with our morning time. This is because I always seemed to wake up Thursday morning and the house which I spent all of Saturday & Sunday cleaning is back to being completely trashed. There's something special about Wednesdays that has to do with momentum... and I've been on the losing end of that momentum. I'm not sure what it is, but it sure felt like on Thursdays I was taking a walk of shame through my house, looking around in bewilderment and disbelief. We clean the rabbit bedding, wipe down the bathrooms, tidy up all the common areas, and the girls clean their bedrooms. I tackle the clutter I have created by spending all my time teaching or being with the children and ignoring my housework.

Today, of course, is a snow day here in Southern Illinois. Becca is home from school and my husband had to get up at 5:40 am to call in and see if he was required to come to work early. Which he was. We have a "Latin" activity which is watching the movie Gone with the Wind(yes, bellum is one of our vocabulary words this week; thus "antebellum" is the slender connecting thread between the Latin lesson and the film). Natalie and Leah actually needed a review of U.S. History between the colonial times and the Civil War and so I found something useful in the weekly freebies from Teachers Pay Teachers. It was a perfect fit. Guided Notes for Interactive Lecture - Review of U.S. History to the Civil War. It was a little lecture-y and fill-in-the-blank-y but it was so worthwhile. Some of the blanks the girls already knew and some they didn't. And thinking of Abraham Lincoln as a presidential candidate was completely a shock to them. It was definitely worth spending 30-45 minutes on to turn this from a movie into a history lesson... and I have to say that the lesson actually did help them quite a bit with understanding the events. Becca is too young for this movie so she didn't watch it.

I'm working on reconciling the "Natalie is going to public high school next year and the kids should have some standardized work" with the part of me that wants to just Waldorf it up all day long. I get the weekly email from TpT and try to incorporate one or two things that are well written. I'll share the ones I like. Not all of the lesson plans are, so caveat emptor. I am comfortable with a weekly independent Science experiment, another morning work time option, which I let them just attempt, observe, and form questions about. I don't make it a formal lesson. We did do the Identifying Variables Practice lesson together which was excellent. The 3 Hole Bottle Inquiry Experiment was last week's independent science. This week's will be the Density of a Candy Bar Lab. I had my husband bring me some Hershey miniatures from work for this but you can only do it with homogenous candy bars so I got to eat the ones with Krispies in them right off the bat. Isn't school great???

One last thought: Happily, this plan will continue to work for us as Zac gets older. Right now he is seven months old so he naps pretty frequently and isn't on a schedule. But when he gets older we can get him into a steady 1 pm - 4 pm afternoon nap time. This allows the girls to have predicability and consistency, knowing when I will be available to work on school with them. When he is toddling and in preschool I can do lots of fun activities in the morning with him and still do the more academic work with the older children in the afternoon while he rests.

This morning independence is a bit of a Montessori influence, to be honest. But it does work really well for this age group! If you want to see more pictures of our plan books I am happy to share. Just let me know.

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