Monday, 4 May 2015

April 2015: Grade One Language Block (Letter B, Letter D, Letter P), and Easter Celebration

A summary of our month of learning…

Week 1

“School” Holidays & Easter
We finished off the last week of March and the last week of Term 1 with some handwork. We visited our friends' farm to watch the sheep being shorn in late summer, and they were kind enough to give us a fleece for our handwork. We collected the dirty fleece and spent a few days washing, cleaning, drying and combing the wool. 

We then attempted to restore the old family spinning wheel and had a bit of fun working out how to use it. We then moved on to Mr 4 learning how to lucet fork knit, and Mr 6 continuing with his lucet knitting project - making a skipping rope.
Preparing the fleece & Lucet knitting with yarn
Easter fell on the first weekend of April, so the rest of this week was spent in preparation for the Easter festival. We harvested various vegetables and fruit from the garden, and also used gumleaves to naturally dye blown eggs. Once dry, the result wasn’t as bright as we’d hoped, so the boys added some watercolour paints to brighten our Easter Tree.

Easter Activities...
TL: Making natural dyes from the garden
TR: Dyeing blown eggs
BL: Watercolour painting eggs
BR: Our Easter Tree
We met with our little homeschooling group during Easter week to bake hot cross buns and wet felt eggs, and to play of course. The rest of the Easter break we enjoyed spending time with family and friends, and spending special time as a family celebrating the Easter festival in our own way. 
Easter Activities...
TL: Baking HotCross Buns
TR: Wet felting Easter eggs
BL: Felt bunnies made for Easter
BR: Egg hunt!
We listened to Martin & Sylvia’s new SparkleStories audiobook series ‘Whole World Easter’, which gave perspectives on the experience of Easter in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, and explained in an age-appropriate way the Christian Easter story. 

The night before Easter, I told a version of the sweet little Australian-flavoured story ’The Real Story of the Easter Bunny’ by Reg Downs, having stitched a little felt fox and little felt kangaroo with pouch to help tell the story, but the highlight of course, was the Easter morning egg hunt in the Autumn fruit and vegetable garden! :)
Easter egg hunt in the Autumn garden!

Week 2

“School” Holidays
This week we continued to enjoy lots of time with Daddy who had taken an extra week after the Easter holidays to build Stage 2 of the house. The week was spent working together on the house, doing little wood working projects, extending the tree house cubby, playing with friends, and having 2 families stay over with us. 

On Friday, we attended the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra ‘Mini-Maestro’ performance which was one of the highlights of the week! They were particularly enamoured with the double bass.

On Sunday, the final day of Daddy’s leave, we took a family trip down south to Lune River to go gemstone hunting. We dropped in to Lunaris, the gemstone fossicking shop and information centre, and found them to be very friendly and helpful. Armed with map (found <here> for all of those who have asked for more information), a good idea of where and what to look for and buckets of enthusiasm, we headed off into the Coal Hill Fossicking Area. We spent a fabulous day walking around and digging up gemstones, and got quite a haul! Some really beautiful pieces of Lune River agate, fossilised wood, quartz crystals and some lovely little quartz geodes. Mr 6 was in his element!
Gemstone fossicking trip...
TL: Learning about agates at Lunaris
TR: Studying Autumn fungi
BL: Finding gemstones
BR: The collection!

Beginning the Grade One Language Block

We will be working to a 2-3 day language block rhythm, using the other days of the week to explore natural sciences and maths, visit the library, go to gymnastics and yoga club, and join our friends for a homeschool co-op day.

We will continue to use our Container Story from last month’s Form Drawing Block, to bring continuity to our letter learning phonics and writing journey. To accompany the Container Story, I hand stitched a little pouch for Mr 6 to collect “magic story tokens” in. The magic tokens are simple wooden letter discs which are given to him each week by the character who tells the weekly Main Lesson story. This has been a fabulous idea and worked really well. It is a lovely way of bring the letter to the story, to the blackboard drawing, and to the week’s learning. 
L: Mr 6’s little pouch
R: The “magic story tokens"

Introducing the Alphabet

Both boys know the ‘alphabet song’ so I feel that introducing the letters in alphabetical order isn’t as important, and after much thought, reading, and questioning, I settled on introducing the alphabet using a combination of form and phonics. I found Barbara Dewey’s little booklet ‘Waldorf Reading for Homeschoolers’ a really useful resource for ideas on how to introduce letters by sound, develop our own picture alphabet, and for stories and tongue twisters for each letter. I also drew inspiration from a number of Waldorf blogs, Pinterest and the Earthschooling Grade One curriculum. 

The order we will introduce the alphabet is as follows:

B, D, P, R (Straight + curved forms; Consonants with 1 sound)
L, F, T, J (Straight forms; Consonants with 1 sound)
M, N, V, W (Running forms; Consonants with 1 sound)
H, Z, K, X (Crossed forms; Consonants with 1-2 sounds)
Q, C, S, G (Curved forms; Consonants with 2-3 sounds)
Y (Vowel-like consonant with 3 sounds)

I debated whether or not to introduce lowercase letters alongside the uppercase letters, but a bit of reading and research helped me decide to just introduce uppercase during this first language block. It is easier to master the writing and we are able to focus more on the sound qualities of each letter. Once Mr 6 has mastered the uppercase letters, we will move on to the lowercase which I imagine by then, will be able to be covered in quite a short time. Handwriting Without Tears also recommends introducing letters this way, although they introduce the alphabet letters in a different order. 

Having said all of that, the “magic tokens” Mr 6 receives each week have the uppercase letter on one side and the lowercase letter on the reverse side, so he is exposed to both regularly. However, as he begins to write, we will just focus on perfecting the uppercase alphabet first before moving on to the lowercase, then to the cursive alphabet next year.
Learning to write in uppercase letters

Language Block Rhythm

I like the Waldorf idea of immersion in a focussed block of learning, and whilst we are going to use this as our main focus of the week, I am also going to try to bring in other areas and disciplines of learning within a theme for the week. The theme will revolve around the letter of the week, as well as elements drawn from the main lesson story. I feel this way our learning will cover broad areas and have a solid overarching theme and an interconnectedness. 

Language Block: Day One
On the first day, I draw a blackboard scene or character from our weekly language block story. I have chosen to do this in the morning while they are present, as I think it is helpful to have them see the drawing techniques employed and the development of the image. At this stage they do not know which letter we will focus on this week. 

We start our morning lesson with story time on the first day. I have the boys sit around the story scene I have set up, and begin with a continuation of the Container Story. This leads into the Main Lesson Language Block story. At the conclusion of the Main Lesson story, Mr 6 finds or is given the “magic token”, and both boys eagerly rush over to the blackboard to try to discover the hidden letter in the week’s picture. It’s really quite fun to see how excited they are! :)

I love Waldorf education’s multi-sensory approach to learning, and the language block is no different. We spend some time exploring the sound of the letter, and bring in some multi-sensory learning techniques, or sixth-sense language as it is described in the Earthschooling curriculum. We move, touch, feel, and manipulate objects as we learn our letters. We might do some gardening with the letter of the week, or some baking which is a lovely way to “smell” and “taste” the letter. We find the letter in our nature walk, or see how many words we can think of that begin with the letter. We also make up silly songs and tongue twisters beginning with letter of the week. 

In the afternoon, we will usually do some handwork, painting, free-drawing or modelling based on elements of the story. At bedtime, we use our 'ABC of Yoga for Kids’ cards to practise the letter of the week poses.
ABC of Yoga for Kids cards
Language Block: Day Two to Three
The following day/s, we continue with multi-sensory learning and start our morning lesson with an active circle time. We use a few verses and songs from our lovely seasonal Autumn Circle Time collection, and then move on to tongue twisters, letter rhymes and ABC Yoga letter poses. We have been pracising skipping each morning, jumping along in time to our letter rhymes and making up ball rolling/catching and bean bag games to accompany them. I’ve found the boys really respond well to learning with movement, plus it’s fun!

After Morning Circle, we:

~ Recall and retell the story (perhaps using drama or puppetry)
~ Imagine the letter with our eyes closed
~ Walk the letter with ropes laid out on the form
~ Use our bodies to create the letter
~ Draw the letter in the air, using both hands separately
~ Draw the letter on each other’s backs, using both hands
~ Practise the letter in a sandbox, then on a chalkboard

At this point, we bring the lesson drawing to the left-hand page of our Main Lesson Books. With a combination of block and stick crayons, I draw the picture-alphabet character from the story alongside the boys, so they can see the techniques I am using to draw and blending the colours while they draw a similar image. This is really fun and often leads to interesting discussions on art techniques. 

Finally on the right-hand page, we bring the letter itself to paper. We use a large triangular pencil for this as Mr 6’s pencil grip is good and being left-handed, using pencils means he doesn’t smudge his writing. We have a separate Main Lesson Book for letter practise, which Mr 6 often brings out just for fun.

The rest of the week is spent finishing off the Language Block activities, and then moving into some natural science learning. I’ve tried to tie this in with our story theme or our letter to add some cohesiveness to our week. We also use the rest of the week to socialise, attend homeschool groups, visit the library, go on excursions, and go to yoga club or gymnastics.

Week 3

Letter B
This week our Language Block adventure began and our little Container Story family continued on their way through the forest meeting a 'beautiful butterfly balancing on a bud'. This magical butterfly told the children the story of ‘Thumbelina and The Butterfly’, and introduced the letter of the week, the Letter B which we found in the butterfly’s wings. 
Story: ‘Thumbelina'

TL: Blackboard Drawing - B is for Butterfly
TC: Telling the story using props
TR: Finding the Letter B in the chalkboard drawing

ML: Wet-on-wet painting

Centre: Picture alphabet ‘B for Butterfly'
MR: Walking out the Letter B

BL: Baking butter biscuits with the Letter B

BC: Modelling the Letter B
BR: Needle-felting the Letter B on the alphabet bunting
Interestingly enough, Mr 6 told me that after first hearing the story during the day, he thinks about the letter that night in bed and then comes up with his own drawing for that letter, which he plans to draw on his small chalkboard each week. I thought this was quite fascinating, and certainly plays into Waldorf education’s idea of allowing a child to 'sleep into’ new material, a concept which was confirmed in <this> 2013 neuroscience study on how children’s brains transform subconsciously learned material into active knowledge during sleep. So I shall include Mr 6’s own letter drawing each week for as long as he continues to do it :)
B is for Beaver
Gardening with B
Another multi-sensory learning project we will do each week is to garden with the Letter of the Week in mind. We are avid followers of Permaculture, having set up a number of systems over the years. I love that the boys are curious about the garden and love to help with planting, harvesting and are full of ideas on how to implement Permaculture principles. I am really excited about bringing a strong Permaculture influence to our homeschooling learning. 

So this week, here are some of the things we planted with the Letter B...
Gardening with B…
TR: Brocoli & Brassicas
BL: Baby Broad Beans
BR: Bulbs for Spring
We finished off the week with the Huon Valley Roamer’s Landcare Bat Night. It was a fun, educational evening learning about the local bats and even spotting three of the species in our area. I think being able to use the ultrasonic ‘bat detectors’ was one of the highlights for the children!

Huon Valley Landcare Group Bat Night
L: Fascinating bats
TR: Learning about bat species in Southern Tasmania
BR: Using the ultrasonic Bat Detectors

Week 4

Letter D
This week we introduced the Letter D with the classic fairytale of ‘The Three Little Pigs’. We found the Letter D in the doors of the Little Pig’s houses.
Story: ‘The Three Little Pigs'

TL: Story drawing - D is for Door
TR: Telling the story using props

ML: Shadow puppet theatre retelling the story

Centre: Picture alphabet ‘D for Door'
MR: Letter D practise

BL: Walking out the Letter D

BC: Modelling the Letter D
BR: Needle-felting the Letter D
D is for Dormouse  
Delectable, delicious D-shaped doughnuts!
Gardening with D...
L: Digging potatoes
R: Planting Daffodils in pots and around the fruit trees
Birthday Celebration
The second half of this week was Mr 4’s birthday! He is now Mr 5! The change from 4 to 5 seems so huge to me. My little baby isn’t so little anymore! We spent a lovely day celebrating his birthday together and he had wonderful party on the weekend celebrating with his dearest friends. Special memories <3

“When I have said my evening prayer,
And my clothes are folded on my chair,
And mother switches off the light,
I'll still be four years old tonight.

But from the very break of day,
Before the children rise and play,
Before the darkness turns to gold,
Tomorrow, I'll be five years old.

Five kisses when I wake!
Five candles on my cake!

A goodnight kiss for the four year old
to send him to sleep and to dreaming,
And blessings to the five year old
who'll jump out of bed in the morning!”

Mr 5’s birthday ring
Mr 5’s birthday cake. A mumma cake decorating win! :D

Week 5

Letter P
This week I adapted a story from Susan Perrow’s wonderful book ‘Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour’. We used the story on p. 249 ‘Baby Bear Koala’ a therapeutic story for separation anxiety. I changed the baby koala to a baby possum, called Blossom Possum. Both boys just loved the story! I think using their own special teddies helped also :) Blossom Possum herself became the Letter P in our chalkboard drawing.  
Story: ‘Blossom Possum'

TL: Story Drawing P is for Possum
TC: Finding the P in Possum
TR: Telling the story with props

ML: Picture alphabet possum
Centre: Letter P practise
MR: Modelling the Letter P

BL: Walking out the Letter P
BC: Making the Letter P with our bodies
BR: Needle-felting the Letter P on our alphabet bunting
P is for Pelican
Gardening with P
Gardening with P...
TL: Planting purple Pansies
TR: Planted our potted Pineapple Guava
BL: Planted out our Passionfruit, poor thing!
BR: Planted a Pomegranate

Autumn Circle Time Collection

{ Autumn Circle Time Collection }

Opening (Action Song)
Good morning to the sun up in the sky,
Good morning to the birds as they fly on by.
Good mrning to the tree so straight and tall,
Good morning to the nest where echidna rests
Good morning everyone.

* * * * * * * *

Autumn (verse)
Come, said the wind to the leaves one day.
Over the meadow and we will play.
Put on your dresses of red and gold.
For summer is gone and the days grow cold.

* * * * * * * *

O Dandelion (Verse)
O Dandelion, yellow as gold, what do you do all day?
“I just wait here in the tall, green grass, ’till the children come to play.”
O Dandelion, yellow as gold, what do you do all night?
“I wait and wait, while the cool dew falls, and my hair grows long and white.”
And what do you do when your hair grows white, and the children come to play?
“They take me in their little hands, and blow my hair away!”

* * * * * * * *

Windy (Standing Action Song)
Like a leaf or a feather,
in the windy, windy, weather
We will whirl around and twirl around,
And all fall down together.

* * * * * * * *

Go Wind, Blow! (Verse)
Go wind, blow!
Push wind, swish!
Shake things, take things,
Make things fly!
Ring things, swing things
Fling things high.

Go wind, blow.
Push wind, whee!
No wind, no
Don’t push me!

* * * * * * * *

Autumn Showers (Action Song)
Autumn shower, Autumn rain
Wash the earth all clean again
Wash the earth all clean again

* * * * * * * *

Incy, Wincy Spider (Fingerplay Song)
Incy, wincy spider
Climbed up the waterspout
Down came the rain and washed the spider out!
Our came the sunshine to dry up all the rain,
So, Incy Wincy Spider climbed up the spout again.

* * * * * * * *

I love Autumn (Verse)
I love Autumn! 
Autumn is exciting.

It's apples and cider. 
It's an airborne spider.

It's pumpkins in bins. 
It's burrs on dog's chins.

It's wind blowing leaves.
 It's chilly red knees.

It's nuts on the ground. 
It's a crisp dry sound.

It's green leaves turning, 
and the smell of them burning.

It's clouds in the sky. 
It's Autumn, that's why...
I love Autumn.

* * * * * * * *

Wood Chopping (Standing Action Rhyme)
We are working, working hard!
Chopping firewood in the yard.
(Stomping feet moving around in a circle)

Hold the axe, grip it tight,
(Hold clenched hands together in front as if holding an axe)
Lift it up with all your might…
(lift “axe” above head)

Chopping, chopping, chop, chop, chop!
(Bring clenched hands down on each “chop”)
Merrily the pieces drop
(Clench both fists and roly-poly them round each other)

Now a bundle we shall tie
and put it in the shed to dry!

* * * * * * * *

If I were a Farmer (Standing Action Song)
If I were a farmer, a farmer, a farmer.
If I were a farmer, what would I do?
I would feed the hungry chickens/milk the cows each morning/pick the ripe red apples… etc.
That’s what I’d do!

* * * * * * * *

The Appleseeds (Verse)
My nice red rosy apple has a secret midst unseen;
You'd see if you could slip inside,
five rooms so neat and clean.

In each room there are hiding
two seeds so shining bright;
Asleep they are and dreaming
of  lovely warm sunlight.

And sometimes they are dreaming
of many things to be
How some day they'll be hanging
upon an apple tree!

* * * * * * * *

The Apple Tree (Fingerplay)
Here is a tree
With leaves so green.
(make leaves with fingers outstretched)

Here are the apples
That hang in-between.
(make fists)

When the wind blows
The apples will fall,

(falling motion with fists)
Here is the basket to gather them all.
(use one arm to form basket, the other arm to gather)

* * * * * * * *

Eat an Apple (Fingerplay)

Eat an apple.
(Bring right hand to mouth) 

Save the core. 
(Close right hand in fist) 

Plant the seeds, 
(Bend down touch hand to ground) 

And grow some more. 
(Extend both arms out) 

* * * * * * * *

Apples (Verse)
- Helen H. Moore 

Apples, apples, what a treat,
sweet and tart and good to eat.

Apples green and apples red,
hang from branches overhead,

and when they ripen, down they drop,
so we can taste our apple crop.

* * * * * * * *

Little Red Apple (Fingerplay)
- Marguerite Gode

A little red apple 
(form circle with hands)
Hung high in a tree. 
(lift ‘apple’ up high)

I looked up at it, 
(look up)
And it looked down at me.
(look down)

"Come down, please," I called.
(cup hands around mouth)
And what do you suppose?
(hands in a shrug)

That little red apple 
(form ‘apple’ up above head again)
Dropped right onto my nose! 
(point to nose)

* * * * * * * *

The Song of the Blackberry Fairy 

- by Cicely Mary Barker

My berries cluster black and thick

For rich and poor alike to pick.

I’ll tear your dress, and cling, and tease,

And scratch your hands
and arms and knees.

I’ll stain your fingers and your face

And then I’ll laugh at your disgrace.

But when the bramble-jelly’s made

You’ll find your trouble well repaid.

* * * * * * * *

Scarecrow (Action Song)
When all the cows were sleeping

And the sun had gone to bed

Up jumped the scarecrow

And this is what he said!

I'm a dingle, dangle scarecrow

With a flippy floppy hat

I can shake my hands like this

And shake my feet like that.

When all the hens were roosting

And the moon behind the cloud

Up jumped the scarecrow

And shouted very loud.

I'm a dingle, dangle scarecrow

When the dogs were in the kennels

And the doves were in the loft

Up jumped the scarecrow

And whispered very soft.

I'm a dingle, dangle scarecrow

* * * * * * * *

Pumpkin Seeds (poem)
One day I found two pumpkin seeds.

I planted one and pulled the weeds.

It sprouted roots and a big, long vine.

A pumpkin grew; I called it mine.

The pumpkin was quite round and fat.

(I really am quite proud of that.)

But there is something I'll admit

That has me worried just a bit.

I ate the other seed, you see.

Now will it grow inside of me?
(I'm so relieved since I have found

That pumpkins only grow in the ground!)

* * * * * * * *

Up The Tall White Candlestick 

(Action Rhyme)

Up the tall white candlestick 

(Make left arm into candlestick)

Crept little Mousie Brown

(Two fingers of right hand run up the candlestick)

Right up to the top but he couldn't get down!
(Fingers wiggle at top)

So he called to his Grandma

(Call through cupped hands)

Grandma! Grandma!

But Grandma was in town

So he curled himself into a ball

(curl right hand into a fist)
And rolled himself right down

(Clench both fists and roly-poly them round each other)

* * * * * * * *

Red In Autumn (Poem)
- Elizabeth Gould

Tippety-toes, the smallest elf
Sat on a mushroom by himself
Playing a little tinkling tune
Under the big round harvest moon
And this is the song that Tippety made
To sing to the little tune he played:

"Red are the hips
red are the haws,
red and gold are the leaves that fall
red are the poppies in the corn
red berries on the rowan tall
red is the big round harvest moon,
and red are my new little dancing shoon."

* * * * * * * *

Falling Leaves (Fingerplay)
Autumn leaves are falling down
Orange, yellow, red and brown.
(flutter fingers downward slowly)

If you listen, you’ll hear them say,
(cup hands around ears)
“Wintertime is on its way!”
(whispering, holding finger to mouth 'shhhh')

* * * * * * *

Jack Frost (poem)
- C.E. Pike

Look out! Look out!
Jack Frost is about!
He’s after our fingers and toes;
And all through the night,
The gay little sprite
Is working where nobody knows.

He’ll climb each tree, 
So nimble is he,
His silvery powder he’ll shake.
To windows he’ll creep
And while we’re asleep
Such wonderful pictures he’ll make.

Across the grass
He’ll merrily pass,
And change all its greenness to white.
Then home he will go 
And laugh ho, ho ho!
What fun I have had in the night.

* * * * * * *

Autumn (Closing Verse)
Yellow the bracken,
Golden the sheaves.
Rosy the apples,
Crimson the leaves.
Mist on the hillside,
Clouds grey and white.
Autumn, good morning!
Summer good night!

* * * * * * *