Sunday, 14 August 2016

June 2016: Second Grade Language Arts Block 1: 'Saints & Heroes'

Softly, softly, through the darkness
Snow is falling.

Meekly, meekly in the meadows
Lambs are calling.

Coldly, coldly all around me
Winds are blowing.

Brightly, brightly up above me
Stars are glowing.

Our Weekly & Daily Rhythm 

A few thoughts...

Planning Our Rhythm
I was asked recently how we organise our weekly and daily rhythm, so I thought I'd post a little bit about it. This 3 day rhythm refers to our Language Arts Block rhythm. Our Math Block rhythm looks a little different, but I'll blog about that in a later post.

I found this article <The Seven Lively Arts> really helpful when planing our weekly schedule, and this article, <Head, Heart, Hands: Daily Rhythms and Educating The Whole Child> was useful when planning each individual day. 

- 'Head (Thinking)' - academic based activities are scheduled in the morning, when Mr Grade 2 is most alert and able to concentrate.

- 'Heart (Feeling)' - activities which 'nurture' the soul, such as painting, drawing, music and nature studies are often done either mid to late morning, when the boys need a break from thinking activities, concentration and mental alertness. 

- 'Hands (Willing)' - activities such as handwork, sewing, modelling, knitting, gardening, building, baking are also often scheduled in the afternoon when a child's natural inclination and energy is to 'do'. 

When planing a 3 day rhythm, I try to look ahead and make sure Head, Heart and Hands learning is covered over the course of the 3 days and in each day, and I try to alternate between the Seven Lively Arts mentioned in the article linked above so that we regularly get to practise them all. Many of the curriculum/pedagogical stories I read at bedtime or at during morning tea or lunch, just to minimise "sitting still" time, or to use that time more wisely 😉  

The boys both have alternating morning and afternoon chores, which they do each day except Sunday. They are simple chores but helpful to keep the household ticking over, especially as now I have my hands full with the baby 😊 and I believe it is important for every family member to participate in meaningful work to help keep the home life running smoothly.

Our rhythm does change and evolve over time to meet our needs. It changes as the seasons change. We find ourselves relaxing our rhythm as the warm Summer approaches and we are spending more time outside in the food garden or socially with friends. Generally speaking though I like to keep a regular 3 day 'schooling' rhythm on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Just in the last few weeks I have started meeting Mr Kindy's need for a little more 'work' as he prepares to move to Grade 1. It will be interesting to see how our rhythm will change next year when I have a toddler, a First Grader and a Third Grader at home! 

In my reading, which I post here so *I * can come back to it later! ;) I came across a few articles on how to homeschool multiple ages:
- <Homeschooling Children In Multiple Grades> has some great tips for working out a multiple grade rhythm
- <Homeschooling Multiple Children with Waldorf> is another article I'll revisit later in the year. 

6 Year-Old Kindy/Prep
We've kept things pretty traditionally Waldorf-Steiner in the early years, so before Grade 1 there is no expectation on any academic work as such. Mr 6 year-old Kindy (known as Prep here in Tasmania) does Circle Time, Arts, and Handwork with his older brother. I hold a little early childhood story space for him each Monday after Circle Time, which Mr Grade 2 loves to be present for too. Recently he has began to paint or draw from the Kindy story. Mr Kindy usually chooses to join in with Form Drawing. I try to combine as much of this work as possible. 

Mr Kindy also generally likes joins in with his older brother's science and social studies but there is no expectation on him to join us here, he just chooses to do so. He often likes to "write up his work" in his own MLB too, and that is fine. Still, I feel no pressure with his learning or progress - if he were still enrolled in the local Steiner school it's all play based until Grade 1.

Second Grade
Mr Grade 2 has Morning Lesson on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, generally starting at about 9am, after breakfast and chores. We focus on either a Language Arts or a Math Main Lesson block alternating each month, and then other subjects - Science, Social Studies, Art, Handwork, Music, Form Drawing we do each week. 

I try to have the Main Lesson work finished in the morning before lunch, so that the afternoon is mostly free for free-play or self-directed projects. I do like to include a short, fun hands-on science/social studies/handwork project, on some afternoons, or gardening/excursions etc. We usually fit in a nature walk and I have an afternoon rest with the baby while the boys do quiet play or look at picture books.

Our daily rhythm is stuck above our work table for my benefit! 
So practically we follow a 'Head, Heart and Hands 3 day rhythm', which on our current LA Block looks something like:

- Grade 2 story at bedtime.

Monday  (Head/Thinking focus)
Morning Circle

Main Lesson Kindy: 
- I tell K story (using puppetry)
- Baking 

Main Lesson G2: 
- Form Drawing (introduce new form using the wonderful <Creative Form Drawing> book). Kindy boy often does FD with us.
- Word/Families Phonics work (using <Letterland Phonics Teacher's Guide>)
- Practise Reading
- Creative Writing
- Grade 2 story recall and write the story paragraph in his MLB. 

Afternoon (both children):
- Music lesson recorder (using <Living Music from the Heart>)
- Nature walk
- Free Play

Tuesday (Heart/Feeling focus)
Circle Time

Main Lesson G2:
- Form Drawing (practise form)
- Read/copy/complete the story paragraph he wrote yesterday in MLB
- G2 painting/drawing from story in MLB

Main Lesson Kindy:
- Recall K story together and painting/drawing from this story 

Afternoon (both children):
Science or social studies 
- Nature story/Nature walk 
- Nature journaling (MLB drawing/painting) 
- Science or Social Studies project relating to G2 weekly theme

Wednesday (Hands/Willing focus)
Circle Time

Main Lesson G2:
- Form Drawing (complete form)
- Handwork or some form of creative 'retelling' of the story ie modelling/sewing/puppet show etc
- Regular handwork - knitting with needles

Main Lesson Kindy:
- Handwork/craft from K story if he wishes
- Regular handwork - finger-knitting or Lucet fork knitting

Afternoon (both children):
Science or social studies continued
- 'Hands on' type project or experiment 
- Next term we start Ninja Dojo

- Swimming lessons 

- Library/field trip/excursion/social outing, 
- Or if at home, complete any outstanding work, or self directed project/play.

- Steiner homeschool group

- Social outing,
- Or if at home, complete outstanding work, or self directed project/play.

So I hope that is of some use to others who are planning on working to a 3 day home-school rhythm :)

Now back to the blog post for the month of June... <3

Week 1

Snippets from our week...

We spent the first week of June bonding, resting and revelling in getting to know our brand new family member. We were very blessed with lots of lovely visitors, lots of thoughtful gifts, and had our fridge and freezer stocked with delicious meals. We are totally besotted by her <3

The boys spent lots of time playing with Daddy, who was able to take a few weeks of paternity leave from work. He took the boys to Homeschool Group and to swimming lessons, and life started to find a new normal rhythm, albeit a slightly more sleep deprived one. We were also also to have an official 'finishing Grade 1' party for Mr 7, which was lots of fun. He had been looking forward to running through the paper banner for months!

Mr Grade 2''s June calendar entry - a drawing of baby in her sleeping bag

Week 2

Snippets from our week...

As I had an extra pair of hands around the house for a few more weeks, I decided to ease Mr Grade 2 gently into some Second Grade work earlier than I had planned to, as I know once paternity leave is used up, I'll be a lot busier at home. I had spent some time planning out Mr Grade 2's Second Grade schedule over the last few weeks, knowing that we will be flexible with our schedule and expectations over the coming months. Some good info on planning Second Grade can be found <here>.

I planned to begin Second Grade with a Language Arts 'Celtic Saints & Heroes' Block, which I was particularly excited about. In Waldorf-Steiner Second Grade, Saints and Heroes from cultures around the world are studied as part of the Language Arts curriculum. Studying the inspiring stories of saints and heroes provides a contrast to the trickster tales and fables, which are also an important part of the LA program, illustrating the duality of human behaviour. For this block, I drew from a mixture of mostly Christopherus and Oak Meadow, as well as free online resources. 

Week 2 Main Lesson - Grade 2

I'd highly recommend the book 'The Names Upon the Harp'
for those interested in the mythological cycles of Ireland.

Fionn MacCool
We started off with our first Irish hero of the 'Saints & Heroes' block, Fionn MacCumhill. We read from the Christopherus Second Grade curriculum book 'Finn MacCool and The Salmon of Knowledge', a version of which can be found <here>

Crayon resist watercolour paintings - Fionn & The Salmon of Knowledge
Mr Grade 2's MLB: Fionn & The Salmon of Knowledge
We really enjoyed another tale of
Fionn MacCool from this picture book

Week 2 Social Studies
We started our Social Studies work reading an Irish story, 'A Fair Exchange', from the Second Grade Oak Meadow curriculum. We then discussed the lives of pagan Celts and painted a pagan Celtic wheel of the year, learning a little about the festivals and seasonal events that marked the turning of the year. 

Mr Grade 2's Celtic Wheel of the Year
Mr Kindy's Celtic Wheel of the Year
Mr Grade 2's free hand map of the UK and Ireland.

Week 3

Snippets from our week...

Week 3 Main Lesson - Grade 2

Fionn & Oisin

We continued the tales of Fenian Mythological Cycle with the story of 'Fionn & The Enchanted Deer' a tale of Fionn's lover Sabah, a beautiful woman enchanted into the form of a deer, and the birth of their child Oisin. A version of this story can be found <here>.

Mr Grade 2's MLB: Fionn and The Enchanted Deer
The boys loved reading the Fenian Cycle, and we spent many evenings reading on through the tales listening to the adventures of the Fianna, the hero warriors of Ireland and of 'Oisin & The Land of Youth' a story of Oisin's adventures with Niamh of the Golden Hair in Tir Na nOg and of his death on his return to Ireland, a version of this story can be found <here>. The version we read had him meeting St Patrick at the end of his life, which was very fitting for our plan for the following week.

We have been reading from this book at bedtime
- a great mix of Irish hero legends and fairytales

Week 3 Social Studies
In our stories we heard about Ogham stones, ancient Celtic standing stones on which a linear form of script can often be found - known as Ogham. We learned that ogham stones generally have someone's name written on them, but the reason still is unclear. The writing reads from the ground upwards, starting at the 'roots' of the standing stone. Fascinating! We  then used modelling clay to make our own Ogham stones into which we wrote our names in Ogham script.

TL & TR: Mr Kindy's MLB and clay modelling
BL & BR: Mr Second Grade's modelling and MLB
Ogham stones finished! Mr Kindy's on the left and Mr Grade 2's on the right

Week 3 Creative Writing

Mr Kindy's Creative Writing

Week 3 Artwork & Handwork & Music
Wet-on-wet watercolour painting
Beeswax modelling during story time can keep fidgety fingers busy! 
Mr Grade 2's pentatonic recorder MLB lesson

Week 3 Other Happenings...
At our Steiner Playgroup this week we began work on paper-mache tissue paper lanterns for the local mid-Winter lantern festival which was to be held the following weekend. The lantern festival theme was 'Under the Sea' this year. Mr Second Grade decided to make a crab and Mr Kindy a puffer fish.

Mr Second Grade's crab lantern
Mr Kindy's Pufferfish lantern

We met for a second time on the weekend to finish and decorate a group sea dragon lantern that one of the very clever father's in the group had made. 

Work on the group Sea Dragon lantern
MOFO Mid-Winter Festival
On Sunday, we visited the Dark MOFO Winter Feast on the Hobart Waterfront. It was a beautiful clear Winter's night and we enjoyed the local produce, street performances and the company of friends.

Winter Feast

Week 4

Snippets from our week...

Week 4 Main Lesson - Grade 2

St Patrick of Ireland (c. 387 - 461 AD)
Following on from the tale of Oisin, we studied the life of St Patrick. The life and adventures of St Patrick the boys know and love well. What young boy doesn't like a good pirate story? :) Stories of St Patrick can be found <here> and <here>. 

St Patrick 

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

Taken from 'St Patrick's Breastplate' prayer

Mr Second Grade's MLB
We enjoyed stories about St Patrick's life and work from this picture book.

St Brigid of Kildare (c. 451 – 525 AD)
Following chronologically from St Patrick, we studied St Brigid, whose mother was said to have been baptised by St Patrick himself. We used a story of St Brigid from the Oak Meadow curriculum, but a similar versions can be found <here> and <here>, as well as the story 'St Bridget and The King's Wolf', which can be found <here>. 

We also read the beautifully illustrated book 'Brigid's Cloak: An Ancient Irish Story' by Bryce Milligan which can be found <here>.

Crayon-resist watercolour painting

May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell
Bless every fireside every wall and door
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof
Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy
Bless every foot that walks its portals through
May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.

St Bridget's Blessing

Mr Second Grade's MLB and a St Brigid's cross made from reeds

In handwork this week, we made St Brigid's crosses from reeds we collected on our property. Instructions for how to make them can be found <here>.

Week 4 Word Families/Phonics
This week we started on our new phonics program, <Letterland>, to supplement our Language Arts blocks. At the recommendation of friends, I have chosen to take a departure from our usual Waldorf-Steiner curriculum resources, and use the Letterland system. It is a story and character based language system and I know will bring a lot of enjoyment to learning the word families, blends and diagraphs. 

We started this week with the consonant blend 'SH'. In this blend, Harry Hat Man is saying "Sh!"to Sammy Snake who is hissing his sound "sass" very loudly. Together the sound is "Sh".

Mr Second Grade's MLB

Week 4 Other Happenings...
On the weekend we went to the local mid-Winter lantern festival with our homeschool group. It was a wonderful evening and the lanterns were inspiring as always!

Winter Solstice Lantern Parade
Winter Solstice Lantern Parade

Week 5

Snippets from our week...

Week 5 Main Lesson - Grade 2

St Columcille of Iona (c. 521 - 597)
This week we began by learning about the life and work of St Columcille, the third chief saint of Ireland beside St Patrick and St Brigid. The Oak Meadow curriculum has a lovely story of St Columba's life and travels. A similar story can also be found <here>. St Columcille's (or Columba) monastery on the remote Scottish island of Iona was the only centre of literacy in the Dark Ages. He was known as a man of letters, having written many hymns, prayers and poems and transcribed at least 300 books. On afternoon this week, we watched the BBC documentary 'How The Celts Saved Britain' which follows the life and work of St Patrick and, in part two, St Columba in post-Roman Britain. 

Mr Second Grade's MLB

Delightful to me to be on an island hill, on the crest of a rock, 
that I  might often watch the quiet sea;  

That I might watch the heavy waves above the bright water, 
as they chant music to their Father everlastingly.

That I might watch it's smooth, bright-bordered shore, no gloomy pastime, 
that I might hear the cry of the strange birds, a pleasing sound;

That I might hear the murmur of the long waves against the rocks, 
that I might hear the sound of the sea, like mourning beside a grave;

That I might watch the splendid flocks of birds over the well-watered sea, 
that I might see its mighty whales, the greatest wonder.

That I might watch its ebb and flood in their course, that my name should be--
it is a secret that I tell--"he who turned his back upon Ireland;"

St Columba's Poem

In handwork this week, we made our own quills from feathers we had collected on nature walks. It was very easy and lots of fun. We then followed instructions to make our own inks, as well as using calligraphy inks I had in my art supplies. Instructions for feather quill making can be found <here>.

Mr Second Grade received a pocket knife for his 7th birthday and is always excited to have projects to use it!
Feather quill caligraphy
In addition to our ink and quill making, we made our own paper this week. It turned out a bit chunky for writing on, but the boys enjoyed the process of making paper. 

Chunky paper making :D
Paper drying

We also read this lovely story about the
process of making illuminated manuscripts

St Brendan (c. 484 - 577)

Finally, this week we learned about the fantastical journey and strange adventures of St Brendan the Navigator, who navigated across unknowns seas by using the stars in the heavens. The boys absolutely loved these tales and begged to be told them over and over again. A long version of St Brendan's journey can be found <here>, and a lovely little paper-cut animated story made by the children of Craigbrack and Eglinton Primary Schools can be found <here>.

Help me to journey beyond the familiar
and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.

Taken from the 'Prayer of St Brendan the Voyager'

Mr Kindy's painting 'St Brendan and the Whale'
Mr Second Grade's crayon-resist painting 'St Brendan and the Whale'
Mr Second Grade's MLB 'St Brendan and the Whale'

Week 5 Word Families/Phonics
Using the <Letterland Phonics Program>, this week we heard a story about the digraph 'CH' and  recalled some words beginning with this digraph. In this story, Harry Hat Man's hairy hat makes Clever Cat sneeze "ch" when she stands next to him. We also learned about the blend '-tch'.


  1. What is your daily schedule? You do so many amazing and creative do you fit it all in?

    1. Hi Jen, thanks for your kind words :) I've included a bit about of weekly and daily schedule in the latest blog post for you. Hope that helps.