Friday, February 27, 2009

Worms, math, and treehouses

Busy week! This week I presented the earthworm, straight out of Klocek's book, Drawing from the Book of Nature. It's still much too cold to go digging for actual worms here, but as avid gardeners, we're no strangers to the amazing, little creatures.

Worms segued very easily into a lesson on fractions when we read that if you cut them in half, they die. But if you only cut off the the hind third, they don't die. Sunburst has been hungry for new math problems, and instead of waiting to present this as a block, I just jumped right in with some ideas from Dorothy Harrar's math book.

Sunburst told me she hated fractions, so we started out with some sentences about fractions being good things and a story illustrating the truth of those sentences: Sunburst gets on the bus with an apple. Her hungry friends get on the bus, and the apple gets shared and cut each turn, until eventually there are sixteen slices - one for each child. Last to get on the bus is an old man who is starving. The kids all decide to share their slices with this old man, so that in the end, he has the entire apple.

And then we did some very simple fraction work to build the foundation.

I also backtracked through Dorothy Harrar's math book and brought forth a lesson from the second grade section-- it seemed more like a fractions story than a multiplication story.

Moonshine did a little math herself, sort of. While Sunburst was busy at work on her fractions tree, Moonshine wanted to draw a little tree of her own. This tree multiplied itself into a dozen treehouses, each one designed with specific friends in mind. When Moonshine gets an idea there is no stopping her.

And what of Kitty Bill? He got in on the drawing fun, too. Sometimes he likes to do that. Other times, like today, he just steals off with a pair of scissors and cuts everything in sight. Of course we prefer it when he draws pictures instead.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Remembering Autumn

Harvesting walnuts in France.

Watching everything turn to gold.

Loading up on winter squash.

Jelly making-- with wine grapes.

Enjoying the organ grinders at the Autumn fair.

Nature table in Autumn.

Moonlit walks along the Rhine.

Harbor seals

While I was hoping for two, so far we're only managing one animal per week for this block. I'm really proud of Sunburst's seals, and we both sort of laughed at how much trouble I'm having with the breathing tones. She's doing a much better job of it than I am.

Here's my progression. I like my first attempt better than my others, though it's mostly done with lines. My second one looks like a steamroller hit him, and the third (done with breathing tones) is nature gone wrong, sort of a seal-groundhog hybrid. Maybe it would have better luck at predicting the coming of spring.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How did Steiner know?

A couple of months ago Sunburst went through this science-hungry phase of checking out nonfiction animal books from our tiny library. After reading three or four of them she asked me if she could write animal reports as part of her homeschooling.

I about fell over. How did Steiner know? It's times like this, when the Waldorf grades curriculum he designed meets up exactly with my daughter's interests and needs, that I have to sit back and truly acknowledge the genius of Rudolf Steiner.

So last week we began our fourth grade zoology block. I'm using Charles Kovacs's book, The Human Being and the Animal World, because I love the way he explains things. I also have a copy of Drawing from the Book of Nature, by Dennis Klocek, which is also superb. Both books start in different places though-- Kovacs starts with cuttlefish while Klocek starts with worms. It would probably have been smarter of me to follow Klocek and start with the easier drawings, but I got so excited about Kovacs's book that I jumped right in with cuttlefish.

Because Sunburst wanted to actually write her own report, we talked about outlines as being a list of things she might want to know the answer to. We took the list, arranged it in groupings, and then I sent her off to find the answers. It turns out we have ZERO English-language books about cuttlefish at our library, so thank goodness for the internet! I set her up with the wikipedia page and let her go to town, and it felt like a good, safe compromise. She came back with answers and wrote a pretty decent report.

The drawing is another thing altogether. While Sunburst is happy with her drawings, and that should really be the goal here, I still feel I need to spend more time working on Klocek's idea of this "breathing tone," or shaping without any noticeable edge. We do it with crayons, but I find the sharpness of pencils lend themselves toward lines much too easily. Also, it would be fantastic to observe these creatures in real life... but we live in a city. The reality is that if we want to observe anything we'll have to go to the zoo or watch videos. Between you and me, when the windchill is 21 degrees, I'd rather preview some Youtube videos than drag kids to the zoo.

I know. Waldorf purists are shaking in their shoes; I'm breaking all the rules.

I do that sometimes.

We drew our interpretations of the cuttlefish from Kovacs's book, and then made some sketches while we watched some Youtube. The colored drawing is what we came up with from watching the videos. I don't know what kind of cuttlefish it was, but it sure had longer tentacles than the one in the book. It was easy to become enamored of these little guys-- we were especially fond of the video that showed what appeared to be a mom and dad protecting a baby from the scary camera crew. It could have been a menage a tois for all I know, but it sure looked like a family to us.

Anyway, here's Sunburst's MLB entry. The drawings are pasted in from her sketchbook.

And here are my versions of the same drawings:

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