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


  1. Such a wonderful post!!!
    I was just wondering where you got your crayon holder from? If you made it? It's lovely!

    1. Hi Lucy, thanks for you comment :) A friend actually made this crayon holder for us. It’s beautiful isn’t it? <3

      Are you in Australia? I have a contact who makes them here and could pass on her details :)

    2. It's so so beautiful!!
      I'm in the UK :( I can imagine shipping would be a fair bit for such a beautiful piece!
      I've not seen anything like it before!
      My son's crayons are in a crayon roll which is beautiful, but I think it would be great to have them in a stand where they may get more use being out and seen!

  2. where didi you get the crayons wood box ? its is amazing, I would like to have one.

    1. Hi there :) A friend actually made this crayon holder for us. If you are in Australia, I have a contact who makes them here and could pass on her details to you. Hope that helps.

    2. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to know more about the beeswax crayon holder, please! <3

    3. Hi Heidi, I'd love to talk with your friend about the crayon holder. Can you pass the details or contact info to me? Thanks!

    4. Loving your version of the crayon holders Jennifer <3

      I can't seem to add active links in comments, but anyone in the US interested in a similar product can find them in Jennifer's gorgeous Esty store 'From Jennifer'.

    5. Hello, are you in the US? :)
      Jennifer has started making and selling a similar version in her Etsy store. You can find them at 'From Jennifer'
      Heidi x

  3. Hi Heidi, I love your blog! Could you pass on your friends details to me for the crayon holder? I have friends in Australia who could bring one over to me. Thank you so much! :-)

    1. Are you in the US, Lara?
      Jennifer has started making and selling a similar version in her Etsy store. You can find them here:
      Heidi x

    2. Hmm links don't seem to work in comments. If you search for her Easy story 'From Jennifer' you'll find them there.