Friday, August 31, 2012

A prayer for you this morning

Sorry for the QUIET lately. We are down to only six days to work with as far as "to-dos" related to our trip. I'm one busy lady these days.

But, I came across this prayer this morning and thought I would share it here. It is so applicable to the busy life of a mom, whether working or at home. I thought at least one of you might need to hear it today.

I will give credit where credit is due ~ I found this on Elizabeth Foss's blog and the prayer itself is by St. John Kronstadt.


O Lord, grant that with Your peace I may greet all that this day is to bring.

Grant me grace to surrender myself completely to Your Holy Will.

In every hour of this day instruct me and guide me in all things.

Teach me to accept tranquilly whatever tidings I may receive during this day, in the firm belief that Your Holy Will governs all. 

Govern my thoughts and feelings in all that I do and say.

When unforeseen things occur, let me not forget that all is sent by You.

Teach me to behave sincerely and reasonably toward everyone, so that I may bring confusion and sorrow to no one.

Bestow on me, O Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day and to bear my part in its events.

Guide my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to suffer, to forgive and to love.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Second Grade

I thought I would share some of my notes on Second Grade. I am still not 100% sure on the implementation of all of this, but I do have a pretty good understanding of what is important for Second Grade. Keep in mind that this is my understanding, which means that I have naturally focused more on some things and left other things out.

In my education on this year, I have done quite a few things. I've read through the Christopherus Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers, both in the Second Grade portions and in the Subject by Subject portions. I've read through Melisa Nielsen's A Journey Through Waldorf Homeschooling Second Grade. I've listened to a two hour podcast on the Gnomes Home Radio.

I have a bit of an advantage because the Hippie has already gone through Second Grade, but I did have to spend some time thinking about this child. All of that aside, let me share with you my understanding of the Second Grade and what it means in this house. If you are new to the ideas of a Waldorf Education, I suggest you do some research. I don't have time in this post to break it all down for you and I'd love for you to know what I'm talking about.

The skills that are important to me at this age are pretty basic ~ learn to read and build fluency with reading, basic handwriting (which will be practiced via Charlotte Mason style copywork in this house) and basic math. That is really all that matters at this age as far as skills. Grammar and spelling and composition will come with time, but are not my focus just yet.

My second grader can read, but needs practice. I'm planning to do a "100 Book Challenge" with her like I did with the Hippie at this age. My hope is that it will build confidence and fluency and somewhere along the way she will take off. My second grader can do basic math in her head (and really hasn't had a formal math lesson yet), but we want to deepen and broaden that knowledge this year. My second grader can write, but certainly needs practice. I plan to pull short sentences from our Second Grade stories this year for her to copy in order to practice her handwriting. She still writes the occasional letter backwards and still tends to mix capital and lower case all throughout the same word/sentence. But, I feel confident that a year of copywork will resolve those issues.

The subject matter for Second Grade can really be summed up as stories of Saints, Animal Fables, Nature and Math. Second Graders are still somewhat dreamy like a First Grader (and mine most certainly is!). They are ready for a deeper understanding of the material, but are still so young and playful.

The stories of the Saints meet the second grader where she is developmentally. These are stories of other-worldly people who devoted their lives to serving others. The goal here has nothing at all to do with Catholicism (at least not in my home ~ if you are Catholic then this would be different in your home), but has everything to do with showing my daughter that it feels good to serve others. I want to include stories that will speak to her.

The stories of the Animal Fables also meet the second grader where she is developmentally. These are morality tales that teach a lesson, but as the teacher we should never tell them the lesson ~ let the story work deep inside them.

Second grade is also a good time for myths and legends from around the world. I like the Jataka tales because they sort of combine the ideas of the Saints and the Animal Fables into one ~ the Buddha told these tales of himself as various animals and people in order to teach people to be compassionate to all living things. Like the Jataka tales, stories involving Hindu saints would be good this year. I really like the stories that sort of combine the two themes.

Traditional Waldorf Second Grade emphasizes form drawing, knitting, recorder and lots of movement in addition to the academic portions. I have this in the back of my mind and will do my best to bring some aspects of it to my daughter, but I also have to be true to myself and not set myself up for feelings of failure. I have some goals for us in the form drawing and knitting departments, but I am not going to allow myself to feel guilty for "not doing it right" or "not doing it enough". As for music, we hold music in high esteem in this house and the girls hear a lot of it. We have a variety of instruments in this house and they have the freedom to use them. But, learning the recorder just isn't high on my priority list at this time. Movement? Who can keep them from moving? I mean, seriously. Will I be memorizing finger plays and songs with marching? Probably not. I know me. That isn't me. But, we will walk and scooter and bike to the park and the beach. We may do an exercise DVD together or some yoga. We'll stomp and clap some times tables and participate in circle time with friends, but my home will not look like a Waldorf classroom, complete with "lots of movement" and recorder and quality form drawing and knitting going on. And, I'm okay with that. :)

So, while there are many ways one can go with this year as far as the details go, the year can be summed up as:
  • Saints
  • Fables
  • Legends and Myths from around the world
  • Nature Stories
  • Deepening the understanding of the four math processes
  • Reading and writing

On a more personal level, my goals for The Princess are:
  • Math ~ Go slow and savor and enjoy the grade two topics, really solidify the four processes, have fun
  • Reading ~ Continue reading every day, increase in fluency and confidence, move from easy readers to longer chapter books
  • Writing ~ Write something every day, use short sentences of copywork to practice handwriting
  • Composition ~ Orally narrate stories and increase confidence in this skill as a precursor to written composition down the road
  • Developmentally ~ Bring her lots of stories of saints, animal tales, fables, legends, fairy tales, myths, etc.
  • Slow, gentle pace with lots of time for play and exploration, honor her childhood, let her remain "dreamy" as long as she needs to be
  • Regular chances to bake, cook, paint, model, build, create, draw and otherwise express herself creatively

How does that look as far as an outline for Second Grade this year?

I hope to get 8 weeks of school in between our return from Germany and Thanksgiving. During that time, my general plan is to focus on Saints for four weeks, Fables for 3 weeks and then spend a week on St. Martin in time for celebrating Martinmas.

During the holidays, I hope to very gently cover Saint Nicholas and Saint Lucia at their appropriate times in December ~ reading stories about them, baking for the neighbors, leaving shoes out for Saint Nicholas to fill, baking Saint Lucia's buns, making Lucia's crown, etc.

When we return from the holidays, I am imagining the flow to go back and forth between math, Jataka Tales, Saints, Fables, Anansi tales and possibly some Burgess tales. I have an outline of blocks here, but I am still undecided about exactly how we will approach it. Either I will have specific "Second Grade Main Lesson" time with the Princess each day and we will follow the blocks specifically OR I will incorporate the appropriate stories into our family read alouds, have her copywork be related to the stories and have weekly drawing and painting times where she can draw or paint from the stories while her sister is drawing or painting form her applicable stories. I am torn between doing separate main lessons and trying to blend us as much as we can. We tend to work well as a family unit. I'll let you know how that all pans out. The important thing is that her year be focused on the things I've mentioned. Again, as long as she reads every day, practices writing, deepens her math understanding, hears me read aloud quality literature and has plenty of time for artistic expression and play, I think we'll be just fine.

Of course, we will also have our other family stuff that isn't specific to Second Grade ~ God at breakfast (Bible, Character, etc), Literature at Lunch, Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare, Poetry, Biographies, Nature Study, Classical Music, Art Appreciation, Kitchen time (baking and cooking), Crafts, Zoo field trips, Homeschool Group Field Trips, the local Symphony, our little group day of Form Drawing and Circle Time and Handwork ...

How are your plans coming? Do you spend time really getting a feel for what each child needs or do you just plan the year out and go with it? I love to hear how others handle their planning.

Until next time,
   ~ IrieMomma

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Teaching to the CHILD, not the curriculum

If you read my previous post, you know that I've been struggling with some of my homeschool planning this year. It all started about two months ago. We were moving along nicely with our plan to school through the summer and I got summer fever. I also started to notice some things that weren't working in our homeschool and I started to second guess.


Then, we moved onto just plain old "Summer School".

Then, we moved onto just plain old "Living" ~ coupled with reading aloud, reading independently, lots of library trips, play dates, homeschool group activities and free play around the house.

My school thought process has run the course all the way from:
  • Doing a Waldorf 2nd grade with the Princess and a pretty rigorous Charlotte Mason 4th grade with the Hippie, to ...
  • Keeping it Simple and Natural and just making sure we read something every day, write something every day, connect with God every day, do some math every day, DO something every day (with our hands), to ...
  • God first, Read Aloud, DO, Play, Live, Get Outside, Enjoy, to ...
  • Organic Homeschooling, to ...
  • Ruth Beechick, to ...
  • Modified Ambleside Online, to ...
  • Five in a Row, to ...
  • Back to Waldorf for the Princess and Charlotte Mason for the Hippie, to ...
  • 100% Waldorf across the board for the entire family, to ...
  • Full circle, back to Waldorf 2nd grade for the Princess and more Charlotte Mason-inspired for the Hippie ...
I think you get the idea.

I was truly a mess for about a month there. Then, I thought I got it settled.

Then, I got confused again.

What it boils down to is this ~ my two children are as different as night and day. As much as I wanted to choose the right curriculum or method for our family, I have to face the fact that there is not a blanket way to do things in this family.

The Princess is still dreamy. She is still very much a little princess. She needs gentle. She needs time to play. She needs stories. I interviewed her at the beginning of this charade and she told me that for math she would love to hear stories (Waldorf). She told me that she really doesn't care about history yet (Waldorf again). For "science" she told me she wanted to study animals (Waldorf 2nd grade puts us with animals). Ultimately, I've known in my gut for quite some time that she needed the gentle beauty of a Waldorf 2nd grade year. It is my responsibility to put that together for her.

The Hippie, on the other hand is ready for more. She loves Math U See and has looked rather worried when she saw me looking at Waldorf math ~ "You're not getting rid of Math U See are you?" She really wants to do MUS. Period. She likes to read. She likes to read about things that really happened ~ historical fiction and history, nature, about artists and all sorts of things. She likes Shakespeare and Classical Music and Artists. She seems to be a good candidate for a more Charlotte Mason education. Of course, she still loves all things magical and fantasy ~ she loves fairies, gnomes, believing in everything. She got excited about the Norse myths that would be in a 4th grade Waldorf curriculum. She loves animals and would love to study them this year. A 4th grade Waldorf curriculum would have her starting to work with Geography and map skills this year, and wouldn't you know she has been all about her compass and directions and maps lately. Ultimately, I know in my heart that I need to put together a custom-made curriculum that will meet her where she is developmentally, include the stories and ideas that Waldorf suggests she needs for her spiritual development, but I also need to balance that out with lots of beauty and living books.

So, if you wanted to know what was confusing me recently, there you have it. When you decide to teach to your child(ren) and not to a particular method or curriculum, decisions and plans become more complex than just buying that one-size-fits-all curriculum and making a schedule.

I need to find a way to fit in the gentle rhythm of stories and baking and painting and nature and God and lots of time to play to meet my Princess where she is. And, I need to find a way to fit in the slightly more rigorous structure that my Hippie is ready for.

Above all, though, I must remember what is most important to me and my family (all "experts" aside). No matter where my mind wanders, I know that the most important things in this home are:
  • God and family first, always.
  • Forming and keeping strong relationships between my girls and me, between these two sisters and between them and Daddy
  • Developing Godly character.
  • Peaceful home life that includes cooking and baking from real, whole foods, keeping a clean and orderly and above all COZY home and having fun together.
  • Getting outside and observing nature, learning from nature and cultivating true reverence for nature.
  • Reading aloud to them ~ classic literature, poetry, fables, myths, legends, fairy tales, biographies, nature stories, etc.
  • Developing an appreciation for quality music, art and literature.
  • Time to play and explore and get bored and create.
  • Basic skills so that they can learn anything they want ~ reading, writing and math.
  • Creating memories and traditions around holidays and festivals that matter to us.
  • And so on ...
I had a bit of an epiphany this morning. I remembered how just a few months ago I was telling my husband that I finally felt like I knew what I was doing with homeschooling. I may have been struggling to manage other areas of my life, but I had this homeschooling gig figured out.

My epiphany was this ~ if I felt like I really knew what I was doing before, then whatever it was I was doing must have been working. So, in reality, I should really just leave well enough alone, right?

At that time, we were doing our own thing ~ predominantly Charlotte Mason and Waldorf inspired. But, our own way of doing it.

And, we were happy with it.

The only exception was my little feeling that things weren't quite right for the Princess. My little feeling that she needed me to slow down and honor her childhood a bit longer.

So, that epiphany tells me that I need to revisit the drawing board. But, not to start over from scratch. All I need to do is figure out a way to continue on the path we were already on, with a bit more relaxed and gentle Waldorf flair for the Princess.

Stay tuned for my thoughts on how to make that happen.

If you're still with me after this long stream of consciousness rambling, I applaud you. I apologize if I've bored you. But, if you are a homeschooler, I have a suspicion that you could relate to much of what I've said.

It's funny how we can do this for years and still come back to that feeling of not having a clue!

Until next time, 
   ~ IrieMomma 


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Have you missed me?

A shot from LAST fall ... I'm craving fall, are you?

Man. I sure have been quiet lately.

Life has gone on ~ we've been reading and playing and getting things done. We've played games and played with friends. We've been to the library a zillion times. We've seen a Wizard of Oz play. We've ridden bikes, been to the beach, the usual. We finished The Wise Enchanter and started reading My Father's Dragon at night.

Life has gone on, I just haven't been too inspired to write about it. I'm sorry about that folks.

My guess is that my brain has been overloaded with thoughts and ideas about school and until those thoughts and ideas felt "ironed out", I wasn't in the mood to share.

As you may know, we have a BIG trip scheduled in exactly one month. We will not return until the end of September and I plan to start our school year when we return, so I'm feeling the pressure to get every little detail worked out before we go.

But, I'm having a really hard time with that for some reason.

I am so torn.

I want natural.

I want beauty.

I want joy.

I want our days to feel delight-directed, beautiful, joyful and natural.

In that regard, I decided a long time ago what really matters most to me. To keep it simple, the important things are:
  • God
  • Relationships
  • Nature
  • Reading aloud to them
  • Reading ~ them reading to themselves
  • Writing
  • Basic Math
At this stage, the rest is inconsequential. As long as a love for God and Family is instilled, reverence for Nature is cultivated, a love of literature is developed and the basic skills are acquired, nothing else matters. The specifics and academics can come later. Content before about 7th grade just isn't that important.

But, then we come to me and my personality type. Although I realize what really matters and I want our days to flow naturally and I want my children to not see the separation of "school" and "life", I still need a plan. I need structure. I just can't let it go, let it flow. I feel like I need every detail planned out.

But, I want that natural, Unschooly flow.

That has been my dilemma. That is why my thoughts have been all over the map. That is why I've been quiet.

Regardless of my internal confusion, we have been settling into a nice rhythm around here. The girls really have been learning a lot (that's what keeps tugging at my Unschooling heart strings).

Our plans for the next month ~ getting some good walking shoes for Germany, making sure we all have jeans and long sleeves that fit, lining up long-term parking, getting some luggage, learning some German ... and getting super excited!

Somewhere along the way I also hope to get some things settled for school. I really have done quite a bit of research, thinking, pondering, note-taking and figuring. I'll start sharing some of that soon.

How are your homeschool plans coming?

Until next time,
   ~ IrieMomma 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...