Sunday, September 25, 2016

Week Five Homeschool Co-op

Week Five of the homeschool co-op has ended and we are suddenly two-thirds of the way through our Cultural blocks! Next up will be Science.

To review, in week 1 of Aesop's Fables, we did "The Milkmaid," "The North Wind and the Sun," and "The Crow in the Pitcher." In week 2 we covered "The Fox and the Grapes," "The Ant and the Grasshopper," and "The Bear and the Bees."

In addition to the shadow puppetry, we enjoyed the block beeswax crayon drawing lesson for "The Crow and the Pitcher" which is in Teaching with the Fables: A Holistic Approach by Sieglinde de Francesca. This is an AWESOME book and if you want just one book for the Fables block, this is definitely it! It's easy enough to find free versions of Aesop's fables online, since they are all in the public domain, but this book will tell you HOW to present them and gives a wide variety of concrete suggestions for working with the stories.

In fact, Sieglinde de Francesca writes in the back of her book Teaching with the Fables the following very good advice for all elementary and middle school ages:

"You will find, no matter what subject you are teaching, that there are basic elements to creating a truly holistic lesson plan for the whole child. These include:

  • Teaching to the head, heart, and hand
  • Creating an organic rhythm in the lesson
  • Conveying a sense of reverence for the material
  • Including some form of ritual in the lesson
  • Reviewing work from the previous lesson
  • Introducing at least one new thing with each lesson
  • Rendering the material in an artistic medium
Discover ways to apply these elements to the lessons you teach and you will see how alive they become, making teaching and learning a joy. Do be creative and above all, have fun!"

Teaching with the Fables: A Holistic Approach
Teaching with the Fables as: Extended Tale, Poem, Illustration, Play, Puppet Show & Natural Science Lesson

We followed "The Fox and the Grapes" with acting it out using our bodies
(a wooden baby toy up the dogwood tree playing the part of the grapes), and by sewing red fox finger puppets out of pure wool felt for puppetry.

Spiel und Holz
wooden baby rattle toy, handmade in Germany

a great resource from my puppetry teacher, Suzanne Down!
available at her website,
Juniper Tree School of Puppetry Arts

we used her wolf pattern in red felt for our foxes

100% pure wool felt assortment, a must have from Magic Cabin

We followed "The Ant and the Grasshopper" (version by Amy Lowry Poole) with modeling ants out of modeling beeswax -- paying special attention to the three parts of their bodies: head, thorax, abdomen -- and then drawing ants with white chalk on black paper as she did in her illustrations, as negative space. This was hard! But it was an enjoyable challenge.

I LOVE her illustration style and am baffled that her books are out of print. On the plus side, this makes it easy to get them for a very low price!

modeling beeswax, a material which requires patience

Next week we will be recalling and following up on "The Bear and the Bees," including creating a poem with two voices, a la Paul Fleischman.

In Ancient Mythology, we have come to the end of Ancient India. Next week we will move on to Ancient Persia and Ancient Mesopotamia. We will be hearing about such famous legends as Zarathustra and Gilgamesh! To recall, in our first week we did "Manu and Atlantis," "King Sangara's Horse," "Baghiri and the River Ganges," and "Indra, the Warrior God." In week two we did "The Fisherman's Catch," "The Hermit and the Elephant," "Rama and Hanuman," and "Buddha, the Enlightened One." These are all from the collection by Charles Kovacs, the only essential book you need for this block.

Ancient Mythologies: India, Persia, Babylon, Egypt

We have other subjects besides our main lessons, of course! Yoga, spending Wednesday on the Farm, ASL, the first Spanish lesson, finishing our read aloud story, Philosophy (introducing our new philosopher, Lao-Tzu), a lesson on prepositions, a lesson on reading the clock and introduction of our clock stamp for follow up practice, alphabetizing all of our chapter books by author's last name, multiplication and subtraction mental math in circle time, and animal research for our reports!

Worldwide Endangered Animals List

Worldwide Endangered Plants List

Full List of Both Animals and Plants

For my older students, last week included spelling words (for one child), practice with compass drawings, and thought-provoking math puzzles! I really like Jamie York's book Making Math Meaningful: Fun with Puzzles, Games, and More! Grades 4 to 12

To give you a sense of the fourth grade puzzles, we did page 6 of the book. And here is what they were asked to solve:

    Halfway Between

    a) What number is halfway between 15 and 21?
    b) What number is halfway between 32 and 42?
    c) What number is halfway between 45 and 61?
    d) What number is halfway between 420 and 480?
    e) What number is halfway between 740 and 770?

    Products, Sums, and Differences

    a) Find two numbers that multiply to 36 and...

      add to 13.
      add to 15.
      add to 37.

    b) Find two numbers that multiply to 24 and...

      subtract to 10.
      subtract to 2.

    c) Find two numbers that multiply to 48 and...

      add to 14.
      add to 16.
      add to 26.

    d) Find two numbers that multiply to 40 and...

      subtract to 3.
      subtract to 18.

    e) Find two numbers that multiply to 100 and...

      add to 52.
      add to 25.

    Missing-Digit Arithmetic
    Fill in the missing digits, indicated by a ?
    (please know that these are written and solved vertically)

    a) 4?8 + ?6? = ?220
    b) ?7 x 5? = 94 + ???0 = ????
    c) ?3 x 5? = 3?2 + ??50 = ??8?

You really need to understand long multiplication and place value to solve these! It was an excellent challenge. I was so happy to hear one boy say, while working on these math puzzles, "Ideas are blooming in my brain." :-)

Jamie York is awesome and I highly recommend his books AND his website, which has lots of free resources on it.

Last but definitely not least, I wanted to say a great big THANK YOU to two families! Thank you to the family who donated two beautiful marionettes from England as well as a number of lovely chapter books for our collection, and to the family who made our brand new watercolor painting boards for us! I've ordered our Arches watercolor paper and can't wait for it to arrive!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A List of Great Inventors

While my older group is doing Physics as their next main lesson block, my younger group will be doing Great Inventors. I picked Great Inventors instead of Saints and Virtuous People, a more common Waldorf block, because I know the purpose behind doing a block on virtuous people. It's to provide children with a set of role models that will touch their hearts deeply.

In this case, I'm creating a block for three learners who do NOT like to take risks. I'm creating a block for three students who assume that learning means knowing it in a flash... getting it right off the bat... no mistakes in their rough drafts... not needing to ask any follow up questions to a lesson... never having to raise your hand during a discussion. This is NOT learning! Learning is trying, failing, trying, failing, trying, failing, trying again. Learning is pushing back, taking charge, monitoring what you know and what you don't, figuring out where to find the answers to your question, finding out that you have new questions, asking, arguing, collaborating. Learning is boundless curiosity and hard work and determination. Learning is perseverance and being OK with making mistakes. Learning is taking the time to think about what you're discovering. Learning is wanting more.

In order to have several good conversations about what learning looks like, a block on famous inventors is a great place to start! It takes the pressure off, preventing students from thinking our conversations are hidden lectures directed towards them. And so I am drafting a list of inventors, trials and errors, happy accidents, and profound discoveries to include in this block:

School Library Journal put together their own list of Inventors, Innovators, and Inspirers | Great Picture Book Biographies.

I also was, through a lucky coincidence, just today reading the September 2011 issue of National Geographic when I came across an article called "If We Only Had Wings: The Daring Dream of Personal Flight," detailing the timeline of inventions pursuing this oh-so-common dream. If you have any other suggestions, please share via a comment. I would love to hear them!!!

A wonderful read-aloud story during this block would be The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, the Newbery Honor book by Jacqueline Kelly which takes place in 1899.

Some other possibilities, if one wanted to expand the topic slightly:

Mary Anning and The Sea Dragon

Mary Anning by Jeannine Atkins
1799 - 1847

The Fossil Girl:
Mary Anning's Dinosaur Discovery

Mary Anning by Catherine Brighton
1799 - 1847

Stone Girl Bone Girl:
The Story of Mary Anning

Mary Anning by Laurence Anholt
1799 - 1847

What's the Matter with Albert?
A Story of Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein by Frieda Wishinsky
1879 - 1955

Odd Boy Out:
Young Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein by Dan Brown
1879 - 1955

On a Beam of Light:
A Story of Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne
1879 - 1955

The Boy Who Loved Math:
The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos

Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman
1913 - 1996

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea:
Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor

Marie Tharp by Robert Burleigh
1920 - 2006

Star Stuff:
Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos

Carl Sagan by Stephanie Roth Sisson
1934 - 1996

The Soda Bottle School: A True Story of Recycling, Teamwork, and One Crazy Idea

Fernando Jose and Seño Laura Kutner
by Laura Kutner and Suzanne Slade