Thursday, November 30, 2017

#1 Introducing The Human Body with The Great River

Our new main lesson block is The Human Body.

    In Waldorf, Human Anatomy & Physiology is done in grades 7 & 8.

    In Montessori, this is called The Great River, is presented initially as The Sixth Great Lesson and, like all of the Great Lessons, is presented three years in a row in a mixed age 6-9 year old classroom (grades 1, 2, and 3).

    We are using the Montessori Great River analogy and nomenclature from ETC Montessori, but we are creating Waldorf main lesson books.

    I am doing this in a mixed age class in my homeschool co-op, ages 7 to 13.

Day One Story
To start us on our journey, Becca presented the Montessori Third Great Lesson (How Humans Came to Be).

She set out the Human Evolution timeline cards from Clocca Concepts, as well as the six skulls traced from Michelle Breyer's Early Humans book and the four 1/2 gallon jars partially filled with rice we've made to accompany them and to show the increasing size of the human brain.

For every skull she read us some facts about how those early humans lived and what their new accomplishments were as they evolved.

    Ape Skull

    Australopithecus Skull
    and jar of rice (500 mL)

    Homo Habilis Skull
    and jar of rice (800 mL)

    Homo Erectus Skull
    and jar of rice (1000 mL)

    Neandertal Skull

    Cro-Magnon and Modern Human Skull
    and jar of rice (1500 mL)

It is really nice to trace these skulls on tracing paper so that you can overlay them and see how the shape of the skull changes with the enlargement of the frontal lobe.

The Human Evolution cards from Clocca Concepts are well worth buying!!! I received them as a free gift and couldn't be happier. They are much more comprehensive than any other material I've found for kids on this subject, and include an illustration of each hominid above the scientific name -- as well as a map of where the fossils were found -- on the front of the card; plus the full scientific classification of each hominid -- from Kingdom Animalia all the way down to Genus and Species -- and a long paragraph of information on the back of each card.

This set includes

    7 million years ago - Sahelanthropus tchadensis

    6.2 million years ago - Orrorin tugenensis

    5.8 million years ago - Ardipithecus kadabba

    4.4 million years ago - Ardipithecus ramidus

    4.2 million years ago - Australopithecus anamensis

    3.9 million years ago - Australopithecus afarensis

    3.3 million years ago - Australopithecus africanus

    2.7 million years ago - Paranthropus aethiopicus

    2.5 million years ago - Australopithecus garhi

    2.4 million years ago - Homo habilis

    2.3 million years ago - Paranthropus boisei

    1.95 million years ago - Australopithecus sediba

    1.9 million years ago - Homo rudolfensis

    1.89 million years ago - Homo erectus

    1.8 million years ago - Paranthropus robustus

    700 thousand years ago - Homo heidelbergensis

    200 thousand years ago - Homo neanderthalensis

    200 thousand years ago - Homo sapiens

    95 thousand years ago - Homo foresiensis

Day One Exploration
We ended Day One by playing the "Hunters and Gatherers Simulation Game" from the Homo Erecus section of the Early Humans book. This game is always a favorite in my classes!

Day Two Review & Exploration
We started of course by recalling what we had done on Day One. Then Becca read Norman Bate's When Cave Men Painted, a story which took us to Homo Sapien (Cro-Magnon) times in the Upper Paleolithic, about 17,300 years ago. This book is out of print but well worth tracking down!

We then did the virtual tour of the caves at Lascaux and looked for the cave painting which we had seen in the story. The children were amazed to see it... right there on the walls of the real cave! This is dramatic because it is shown at the very end of the long tour through the twisting tunnels. You're thinking you missed it when BAM! It's right in front of you as clear as day. They've changed this video slightly and I preferred the old version, but it's still good stuff and worth showing to a class.

Main Lesson Book
Students then worked on their drafts of their summaries and illustrations. So that people wouldn't be tearing their hair out trying to accurately sketch a hominid, I made a few suggestions of what could be quick and easy for the illustration side:

    choose one of the Human Evolution cards and make a page of Fast Facts about the hominid you've picked

    trace one of the skulls from the Early Humans book and glue it in your MLB with glue dots

    make a cave painting using charcoal or earth tone chalk pastels

    draw and label the four rice jars showing the growing intelligence of early humans

    think back to the Hunters & Gatherers Simulation Game and make a menu of foods that early humans would eat

Day Two Story
I first laid out a long piece of doubled finger knitting I made with Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton Yarn (641 TRUE RED).

I presented the story The Nation of the Great River (download as free PDF). The students close their eyes while they listen to the story, so it's a little different from the other Great Lessons.

After we were done, and I made sure that everyone understood that the Nation was their body, the many inhabitants were their cells, and the Great River was their blood, I laid out buildings from the Grimm's Building Blocks Set along the river. The first and largest was the Castle, where the President (brain) and his Cabinet (nervous system) live. I own the full ETC Montessori set (mute chart and pieces, control chart) but only cut out the building names and the piece which shows the five senses. I found it very effective to lay out different colored buildings with the name beside them (The Department of Nutrition, The Maintenance Department, etc) and have students guess which system of the body each department represented.

Then I told them we would be starting with The Transportation Department, which is the Great River itself... the Circulatory System.

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Recipes from the Ocean

My Ecology group is studying the Ocean and preparing for a big Expo / Museum Walk on December 21st.

(If you come into my house and there's pompom yarn meant to resemble seaweed hanging from the ceiling as you first walk in, and a large Coral Reef sculpture made of dyed coffee filters going up in the living room, that would be why. Each room is becoming one of the Ocean Zones. The Living Room is the Sunlight Zone; the Dining Room is the Twilight Zone; the Kitchen is the Midnight Zone; the Library is the Abyss; the Crawlspace is the Trench.)

Anyway, as part of our lessons, we looked at An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed and I brought in sea vegetables for the children to taste.

  • Dulse Palmaria palmata (Atlantic Ocean)
  • Nori Pyropia yezoensis (Pacific Ocean)
  • Wakame Undaria pinnatifida (Pacific Ocean)
  • Kombu Laminaria japonica (Pacific Ocean)

Then... we had seaweed in my house to use up! My children and I tried four recipes last week and they were all yummy! Here were the four:

We have all kind of cool things happening in our Ocean study, so if you are interested, please check out my notes on the website! But I don't want to give away too much here, so that I don't spoil the Expo for the parents who will be attending.

Now that my children have had a lot of new tastes, we are doing a week of favorites. Sometimes I am in the mood to look up new recipes and sometimes I just want to grab something from the binder of recipes we printed out, wrote all over, and saved to make again! So here is our menu of Tried & True for this week:

I just noticed how many of these recipes are lovely comfy Autumn soups! Looks like we will be baking a lot of breads to go alongside. I can't wait!

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Non-Eurocentric Age of Exploration Books

The discovery of gunpowder and the invention of the printing press heralded the end of the European Middle Ages (also called the Dark Ages), and the next step was the Age of Exploration, our most recent main lesson block.

I immediately was faced with a key question. How do you cover this next stage in European history without being overly Eurocentric?

Here are some books I recommend to help students have a more balanced wordwide view of this time period, including names of explorers I never studied in school (like Ibn Battuta and Zheng He) as well as a more honest view of how the Europeans treated the people they met as they explored.

Begin the block with the Kubla Khan book.

Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything

by Kathleen Krull

The Great Voyages of Zheng He

by Demi

Morning Girl

by Michael Dorris

Animals Christopher Columbus Saw: An Adventure in the New World

by Sandra Markle

The Sad Night: The Story of an Aztec Victory and a Spanish Loss

by Sally Schofer Mathews

for this one it is particularly helpful to create a tableau in the classroom, to help students understand the events of the retreat

The Baldwin Project at has many books available online for free which you can use for this block, including chapters from Historical Tales: Spanish American by Charles Morris. I do recommend this book if you want to study a few of the European explorers in depth, particularly if you want to compare the attitude of the Spanish conquistadors with Zheng He. Which we did, ultimately adding a Venn diagram to our main lesson books!

Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) also has some wonderful non-Eurocentric lesson plans, including Ibn Battuta and Mansa Musa. I highly recommend their site!

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Enjoying Autumn

Today we are starting the transition from Autumn to Winter. Our family celebrates, and opens gifts on, St. Nicholas Day which is December 6th. That means it is time for the Wrapped Advent Calendar! Before getting out and wrapping our Christmas & Winter books in lovely wrapping paper and assembling them in a basket so that my youngest child can choose one to unwrap and read every night in the countdown to St. Nick's arrival, we did one last Autumn puppetry. This was "Autumn Bear" from Suzanne Down's book of Autumn Tales. It's quite nice to have a snowflake silk handy for this, since it's a story to transition from Autumn into Winter. You can use felt finger puppets, beeswax animals, needlefelted wool animals, or wooden animals. You can also substitute other woodland animals for the Raven, Raccoon, Rabbit, Deer, Owl, and Fox.

The bear wanders around the animals in the circle, rumble bumble, and they all dash away to their separate parts of the forest. He climbs up the path through the woods to his warm cave and curls up snug, while the first snow begins to fall.

Older children who can sit through a long story might like Linda Kroll's beautifully illustrated Winter, Awake!

As we wrap books and change out the Nature table display, I want to do a quick blog post of some of my favorite family moments from this Autumn. I blog here with many hats on... lead classroom teacher in my co-op... student in Waldorf teacher training... homeschool curriculum consultant... and, last but not least, Mom.

I recently realized that not only do I have four children, but each one of them was born in a different season of the year!  My November daughter is the Autumn child.  My January daughter is the Winter child.  My March daughter is the Spring child.  And my son Zac was born on Memorial Day weekend so I'm counting him as the Summer child!  

Each season we have a wonderful chance to sit down together as a family and celebrate the passing of time.

Here is my family (three teenagers and a two and a half year old) celebrating Autumn in many ways this year: 

 visiting the pumpkin farm
and admiring colors and textures

going on a hay ride

hammering plants to see if they will make a print

collecting black walnuts to make homemade ink

and pokeberries
Zac DID NOT help collect the pokeberries!

taking a wonderful walk in the park at dusk to see the jack-o-lantern display

walking the pumpkin trail again as the sun goes down

giving Zac an assortment of colors and a wine cork to use as a stamp to decorate his little pumpkin

hanging out with a big sister

what could be more fun than this!?

a bowl of acorn squash seeds

and some rubber snakes...

fabulous sensory play!

a nature hike on a beautiful day

finding a box turtle in some leaves

why NOT wear your elephant costume to church?

ready for trick-or-treating
with a sister's lipstick kiss on his forehead

the many beautiful colors in our yard

I hope your family had a wonderful Autumn as well.

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!