Saturday, May 29, 2010

Language Arts Block III: Lower Case Letters...Summary

For our last Language Arts Block, I had originally planned a fairytale block, but the girls were ready to cement their lower case learning, so we switched gears and I presented the lower case letters to them in a short two week block that was combined with our last nature studies block (which is actually four weeks long - two weeks with lower case letters and two weeks with form drawing review), as indicated in Eric Fairman's POD Volume I: Grade I book. In each post, I cover the books we used.

Week One can be found here.
Week Two can be found here.

Language Arts Block III: Lower Case Letters & Nature Stories (con't)...

Please Send Help And Soldiers!

Marsha Johnson has a very short document on teaching lower case letters in her files section (located in Curriculum/Grade 1 and Grade 2).

She has a wonderful story about a king who is engaging in a battle that they are quickly losing. He needs more soldiers, so he orders his scribe to chisel a message into a tablet. Not using vowels or lower case letters, what the scribe chisels is "PLSSNDHLPNDSLDRS". Of course, the people in the village can not figure out what the message means and misinterpret, until they finally figure it out. They send help in the nick of time and the battle is won!

Afterwards, the King decides they need to figure out a better way to communicate and henceforth, writing on scrolls and lower case letters (and vowels) are invented!

So after telling the story to the girls, I got a large roll of easel paper out and wrote giant letters with them watching - first the capital and then the lower case right next to it. When we were done, we took the scroll outside and unrolled it on the grass.

The girls would start at one end, read each letter and then once she got to the end, she'd run back to the start again!

They then rolled it up and tied the scroll with a finger knit chain.

I then wrote out more of the letters on more easel paper and gave them paints and a brush so they could practice the letters. We broke the alphabet up to three days worth, as suggested by Mrs. M, and practiced each day writing with different mediums.

Done at last with this scroll!

We did some handwork, making some fleece shirts
for our stuffed animals...

Day 2 of the alphabet project consisted of writing the letters with our sandscapes - using stones, sticks, noses, toes, acorns, etc...both in capitals and lower case...

After the lesson, I read them a lovely, lovely story by Mrs. Alfred Gatty called, "The Butterfly's Children". I got my version from "Wholesome Childhood", but found another lovely version here. It is about a butterfly who, realizing she is about to expire, asks a lowly caterpillar to care for her butterfly babies. Both assume they will be born as butterflies and when the butterfly dies, the caterpillar panics, seeking out the wisdom of a lark who tells her that the eggs will hatch caterpillars! And furthermore, she will one day be a butterfly herself! She doesn't believe him - sure enough, they are born as such and she learns a wonderful lesson about faith! The ending is really touching (I won't give it away here)...

The story was actually perfect timing as we are participating in the "Little Flowers Girls' Club" which is for Catholic girls who learn about the Saints and their virtues. I'm really thrilled that this also plays in beautifully with our Grade 2 focus next year, which is on Saints and Heroes (and Fables)! Anyway, last month we learned about St. Catherine of Siena and her virtue was faith! (will blog pictures of the club in the future) - but the story was wonderful! Don't ya love it when things naturally fall into place as such :D

We then drew pictures in our MLB's and wrote a short summary...

Day three, we worked the alphabet with our lap chalkboards. We would start at the beginning, to repractice, and then continue on to Z!

Our nature story on Day 3 was from Margaret Peckham's "Nature Stories" book, called "The Butterfly". It's a sweet story about a butterfly who hatches one spring day. The Sun Fairies help dry his wings and he searches for someone else to play with. He mistakes a toadstool for a butterfly and meets a grumpy gnome and then flies to some flowers, thinking they might be butterflies and he drinks their nectar. Finally, giving up hope, he hears another exclaim, "Here I am, I will play with you."

And doubting that, he sees the Sun Fairies drying the wings of a beautiful butterfly and they fly happily away together.

We are now off on a nature hunt this weekend, in search of butterfly eggs, chrysalises, caterpillars, and butterflies!

We will begin our last formal June lessons next week by incorporating form drawing and nature studies to wrap up our year!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Book Review: Around the Oak

This week, I wanted to review this gorgeous book by the famed Gerda Muller, called "Around the Oak". Muller is the author of the gorgeous pictorial seasonal series found here.

"Around the Oak" is a story about two cousins (Caroline and Ben) who go to visit their cousin, Nick, who lives in the middle of a lush forest. His father, a forest ranger, and Aunt Vera, inspire the children to venture into the forest to learn all about life there. The story takes place over four seasons and centers around a very old, special oak tree.

It begins in the Fall (making this book a wonderful seasonal read each school year)...

The children hike to the giant oak, climb the tree and discover wildlife there. Realizing this, they decide to make a shelter on the ground to observe the wildlife unseen.

They notice the changes that take place day to day and learn to pick chanterelles. They plant trees and immerse themselves in the realm of nature, learning through observation and direct participation.

The children return in Winter and cross country ski to visit their beloved Oak. They encounter some screech owls who are nesting in the tree, as well as observe a marten chasing a squirrel.

The children find Uncle Hank, the forest ranger, with a tree doctor, analyzing the trees and identifying the sick ones that will be cut down. They learn that pollution makes trees sick through acid rain.

In the Spring, the cousins return on their spring vacation and are overwhelmed by the budding flowers and trees. They note the acorns and chestnuts (fruits) that develop from flowers. They take an evening walk with Uncle Hank in search of wildlife and observe several in their natural habitat. They learn to respect nature and keep a respectful distance from the wild animals. At the Oak, they spot badger tracks and sit very still, being rewarded by a couple of animals who come to the watering hole to drink (a fox and a family of deer).

Ben comes home last and showcases his nature collection, complete with classifications.

In late summer, the children return for another visit and notice the early change of some of the leaves. They discuss the cycle of life of the oak tree.

They decide to give their Oak Tree a 300 year old b-day party!

After this, the story pretty much ends and Muller provides various tidbits of information about how sunlight helps trees grow, gaging the age of a tree, tiny insects, birds, leaves...


and animals...

The story ends on the birthday page with Caroline singing softly to the tree...

"Happy birthday, dear oak tree...
I hope you live another hundred

This book is currently out of print, but might be found in your local library or can be purchased used. After checking it out a couple of years ago, I decided it was one we wanted on our shelves and found a nice used copy. I like to read it to the girls seasonally. As a reviewer mentioned, the story alone would probably not hold as much interest for the children, but is actually used as a vehicle to take children along the journey of learning about nature from a book - certainly not as profound or everlasting as learning directly from nature, but a nice place to start or revisit after those nature hikes. Since we're wrapping up our combined lower case letters/nature studies block II, I thought it befitting to review this book today!

The illustrations are gorgeous, as seen above and very captivating! This is a nice book to go through for inspiration and for reinforcing knowledge most of your little ones probably already know :D though their hands on exploration!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Waldorf Eye

A lovely focus of Waldorf schooling:
Beheld in the eye of nature...

Yesterday, we wrapped up the girls last art class with one of the local homeschooling groups to which we belong. The girls have been taking from Jerry since they were 4, initially since it was the only class they were *old enough* to take through the group, but then it became a nice way to socialize with other little friends, a wonderful and compassionate instructor, and another way to incorporate art into our curriculum.

After class, we headed outside, as per usual, to play in the local park next to the building...

Elena had some much needed introspective swinging, while Charley went to work with her imagination, creating a beautiful fairy forest with fallen branches from the large oak above the park. As I sat and watched her, I realized how wonderfully nurturing and nature centered our Waldorf schooling has been. All those baskets of nuts, twigs, rocks, shells, silks, wool, sand, and other natural goodies have kept the girls focused on the beauty of simple things and how to create *something* out of *nothing*. I'm very happy with our Waldorf journey...

Dig! Dig! Dig! Rake just so.
Plant the seeds, watch them grow.
Chop! Chop! Chop! Pull out weeds.
Warm rain and sun, my garden needs.
Up! Up! Up! Green stems climb.
Open wide, it's blossom time!
~ Wynstone's "Spring"

Monday, May 24, 2010

Vasquez Rocks Hike

Things are winding down this school year and we took some time to visit Vasquez Rocks for a short hike, which also ties into our Environmental Studies block. This area has been used as a background set for many films and the interesting rock formations prompted us to check it out. It was really beautiful and I was excited to see that they have an Easter sunrise service every year that must be amazing as they reenact the Resurrection among these stunning rock formations. Maybe next year we can attend.

Here are some highlight pictures of our time spent here. We hope to come back with Daddy so he can help keep an eye on our young rock climbers :D

I'd recommend a trip here for any So Cal residents that enjoy hiking and learning about the local bandit for whom this area was named:

"In 1874 Tiburcio Vasquez, one of
California’s most notorious bandits,
used these rocks to elude
capture by law enforcement."

This geological area is now knows as
"Vasquez Rocks"...