Thursday, November 29, 2012

Moving in circles

Some of my favorite circles!

Today was the last day of homeschooling in the old house.

Tomorrow is moving day.  If you've been following our adventures in England, you know that this is a big deal.  The house we're in now seemed so pretty from the viewing, but after we moved in we quickly got a crash course in the dreaded rising damp.

This damp house has been the source of so much stress for me.  It's an old house, and moisture is not only rising from the ground, it's creeping in through the walls because of poorly constructed gutters, and creeping in through the roof because of, well, too much rain and poor construction.  Flat roofs belong in the desert, not in England!

For the better part of the last month I have been cleaning mold off all the wooden toys in the house, off all the wooden furniture, off picture frames and nature tables.  I have been cleaning it off windows and walls, ceilings and floors.  It's more than disgusting.  It's heartbreaking and it's wrong!

So moving day is finally here!  I'm so thrilled to be leaving this house behind, but I am still wary.  I have no idea if the new house will be any better.  Surely, it can't be any worse.  Other English people have assured me that most houses here do not have such problems, and I hope they are right!  When you move to a new country, you just never know what "normal" is supposed to look like.

So tomorrow we will embark on a new adventure.  Perhaps a less than perfect one, but hopefully much better than this.  There really is no perfect when it comes to homes*... or well, anything, is there?  Life isn't perfect.  Homeschooling is certainly not perfect.  Not even circles are perfect.

How fitting that part of today's homeschooling involved talking about our perceived perfections in the natural world and the reality of their imperfections.  To ice the cake of imperfection, we spent some time calculating the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, a.k.a. pi.

Sunburst and I have been playing with irrational numbers quite a bit lately, and she is completely undaunted.  In the last couple of years her love of all things mathematical has really bloomed, and I am absolutely thrilled.  Having a 13yo girl who excels in and is excited about mathematical processes is something I consider one of the greater successes of our homeschooling.

As a bit of fun, Sunburst got to enjoy Vi Hart's hysterically funny and smart math video on irrational numbers and the Pythagorean Theorem.

I've been admiring Vi Hart's math videos for quite some time, and I plan to show each one of them to the kids as they come up in our lessons.  Not only are they wonderfully clever, but they're done by a female who so obviously embodies the passion for mathematics that I want to instill in all my children.  The underlying message is clear: Girls can (and DO) excel at math.  It's an imperative message to give our daughters, but I think sharing this message with our sons is equally important.

  *Gaudi's Casa Batllo in Barcelona seems pretty perfect to me.  When I think circles, I can't help but envision the front rooms of Casa Batllo, one of my most favorite buildings on earth.  Can't we just live there? (smile)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Grade 3: Creation paintings

A couple of months ago I made a promise to Cathy, who leaves some of the nicest comments, that I would show some of our Grade 3 work on the blog.  It has taken me longer than I anticipated to go through the books and get pictures taken, but I hope they're helpful.

I'd like to start with our work from the Old Testament, specifically the Creation.

When I originally did this block with Sunburst several years ago, I didn't have any images to go on, just this vague idea that one should paint it.  There weren't as many beautiful resources then, so it was really a work of labor (and love!) to bring a pictorial quality to the days of Creation.

Nowadays, I can think of at least three resources that have examples for this work: Thomas Wildgruber's Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools, Elizabeth Auer's Creative Pathways, and the Grade 3 files at Millennial Child.  I had recently purchased a German copy of Wildgruber's book when I brought this lesson to Moonshine, so it was kind of neat to finally see what kinds of paintings one "should" do for this lesson. --- These are not those paintings.

Of course being the kind of homeschooling parent I am, as I presented each new day of creation, I showed Moonshine both Sunburst's image and the one from the book and let her choose.  Most of the time she was drawn to the ones I had created for Sunburst, but other times she had her own ideas about what she wanted to paint.  Of course she did!

I used the wonderful telling of the creation from Jakob Streit's And There Was Light.  I absolutely adored this book, and the girls did, too.  The accompanying writing came from their own summaries, something I think homeschooling allows us to encourage from them at an early age.  Most of them are different, but with a few, Moonshine fell in love with the words her sister used to summarize it, and Sunburst was happy to share her words.

In looking back over their work as a whole, I think it's a good example of not only how one child can inspire another, but how things can change from one child to another, even in the homeschool setting.  Each child is different and has something new to bring to the table, so why shouldn't the homeschooling reflect that?!

In the beginning:


Day One:


Day Two:

Day Three:

Day Four:

Day Five:

Day Six:

None of the resources I listed at the beginning of this post have images for day seven.  Coincidentally, Sunburst and I didn't do a painting for this day either because it was the day of rest, but Moonshine insisted on it.  So we brainstormed and came up with the following painting, and BOTH girls then wanted to paint it for their books.

Day Seven:




Both girls are so proud of this work.  It really speaks to the beauty and magic of Grade Three, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

One, the Sun!

One, the sun!

The Quality of Numbers main lesson block is perhaps my most favorite part of teaching Grade One.  As for Kitty Bill, I think it's his favorite homeschooling lesson yet.

I know I've shared a bit about my alphabet story in the past, but I don't know that I've ever shared my story for the Quality of Numbers main lesson.  I wrote the basic idea out for a friend a few years ago.  Like everything else, it changes each time I teach it, but it's nice to have it written down to refer back to for story ideas.  And as far as stories go, this one is pretty wild.

For starters, there is an enchanted cave that can only be opened by solving riddles.  I borrowed the opening idea and the riddles from Eric Fairman's Pathway to Discovery (Grade One).  Inside the cave is a dragon, but luckily it's a friendly dragon who is under an enchantment.  He can't fly or leave the cave until someone solves the riddle of the twelve tunnels.

Since it's a continuation of our alphabet story, our three traveling characters are up for any adventure.  To help the dragon break the enchantment, our travelers must explore the twelve passages in the cave and bring back "treasure" from each one.  Each journey into a particular passage is fraught with interesting discoveries... passages that wind in circles or fork into separate directions.  Sometimes they are very dark or smelly or impossibly small.  Sometimes only the main character, the one my child identifies with the most, is the only one who can fit in a certain passage.  I vary it widely to keep it interesting and entertaining, because above all, I want math to start out as being a grand, entertaining adventure.

As we journey together we discover something at the end of each tunnel.  I then enlist my child's help in working out what the treasure is (and what it signifies) based on what the characters find, and they make suggestions as how to "capture" the treasure to bring it back to the dragon.  My one caveat was the treasure MUST correspond with the number of the tunnel.  Naturally, we converse about what each number signifies and we look to find other representations of each number in the world around us.  Sometimes these representations come out within the story itself, and other times I ask the question, "What else can you think of?"  It really helps us embody the spirit of each number and its place in the world.  When we make a relationship with the numbers they become truths that live inside of us.

With each discovery we draw two pages in the main lesson book.  We draw the treasure in each tunnel, and then we draw the number-- with straight lines or sticks (Roman numerals) and then in Arabic numerals.  We spend a bit of time practicing to make sure we get the numbers right.

Kitty Bill knows that as we travel down each tunnel that leads away from the dragon, we're looking for something that embodies the number of the tunnel.  The beauty of this block is that it grounds the number in whatever is found, and thus gives the number a picture quality that brings it to life.

Here's what our characters found in the tunnels:
1 - The sun reflected in a pool of water  (One, the Sun!)

2 - Nothing! .... but ah, upon closer inspection there is a reflection of the two child characters, who began the adventure as extreme opposites and have grown into friends... (Two, Me and You!)

Two, me and you!

3 - A pile of garbage (which is always good for a laugh!)... an old shoe, a holey mitten, something unrecognizable and gooey.... and eventually a picture of a mother, father, and baby (Three, Family)

Three, family!

4 - At the end of a very dark tunnel, high above on a ledge... something icy, wet and cold; something soft and sweetly scented; something dry and crumbly; something small, round and juicy OR small and smooth with a bit of grit inside.  This one is a bit tricky depending on the child.  Kitty Bill wasn't quite sure, so I sent his characters falling through a trapdoor where they landed in the snow and had a snowball fight.  When they got too cold, they made their way out of this new tunnel where the temperature kept changing, as did what was under their feet.  Eventually he figured it out.  (Seasons Four)

Four Seasons

5 - This tunnel leads out to the night sky, filled with stars - they can't bring a star back, but finally one character realizes he/she has five points like a star.

Kitty Bill can't wait to find out what's in the next tunnel.  What about you?

If you would like to hear the rest of the story, be sure to leave me a comment.  If enough people are interested I will post the rest of the story as we go along.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Autumn: beauty and botany

Autumn has been dragging its crimson and golden feet this year.  The colors have been gorgeous for an entire month, and I have been awestruck, mostly without camera in hand.

Moonshine and I started her botany study this month.  There is no more perfect a time to begin botany than in the autumn when the mushrooms just can't help but burst from the ground at every turn.  This is especially true in England.  For some of us, the mushrooms want to also grow inside the house... but I digress.

Botany is perfect for ten and eleven-year-olds.  At a time when they're turning inward again, feeling a bit off-balance, plant study turns their attention outward to the growth of nature around them.  It's almost as if you can hear them saying, "Hey, I'm not the only thing that's growing around here."

My resource books for this block include Charles Kovacs' Botany, Gerbert Grohmann's The Living World of Plants, Comstock's The Handbook of Nature Study, and Klocek's Drawing from the Book of Nature.  What I love about both Kovacs and Grohmann's books is that they both approach plant growth in parallel with a child's growth.  In my opinion, Kovacs is the better story-teller, but they are both giving the message that growth and knowledge go hand in hand.  Embrace them.  Be proud of how far you've come!

It's exactly what children at this age need to hear.

Moonshine went for a little walk in the garden to look for mushrooms.  Even I was surprised at how many different kinds she found!

We harvested five kinds and tried to do some spore prints on the back steps.  The wind had other ideas, and both mushrooms and paper were scattered in all directions within an hour.  The wind came up so fierce that afternoon that it cracked our eucalyptus tree in half.

We'll try it again in a couple of weeks when we have a nice sheltered place from the weather.  For now though, it's fun just to look.  Isn't the purple mushroom stunning?


Her heart is really into this lesson, and already her main lesson book is turning out beautifully.

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