Planning a Main Lesson Block

The winter break is coming to an end and I am busy planning our next Main Lesson Block.

“What’s that?”, I hear you ask.

Well, every 3-6 weeks we choose a core academic area to focus on and plan our formal lesson time around this theme. It’s an immersive learning technique employed by Waldorf educators the world round. The idea is that a topic is explored in depth using all of the lively arts to bring the topic alive for the child/ren. (Waldorf schools then have 2 more lesson blocks per day, but we do things a little differently in our home environment. Back to the planning…)

Before the winter holidays we enjoyed a block on science,  exploring sunbeams, air and the water cycle. Here’s a snapshot of some of Nikolai’s work on the watercycle.

Wet on wet watercolour painting from our Story of a Water Droplet’s Journey

Chalk drawing of Water Cycle

When we start back next week we’ll be tackling grammar through the medium of Animal Tales and Fables. And believe it or not, Nikolai is excited about this introduction to grammar! I kid you not. That’s the magic of this approach.

So how do we go about planning a Main Lesson Block?

Choose a core learning area

First off you need to decide if you want to tackle maths, language arts, science, geography, history, etc. We did a science block last time so will go with a language arts block this time.

Choose a skill to focus on

In the realm of language arts we could choose to focus on handwriting, phonics, sentence structure…we are going with grammar, and more specifically with parts of speech.

If you were working on a maths block perhaps you would choose working with the four basic processes, times tables, fractions or measurement. Science could be the elements, weather, habitats, etc.

For those of you who would like a little direction on what to choose when, ACARA  (the people in charge of the Australian Curriculum) have approved a Steiner Curriculum Framework which outlines which topics to address each year. 

You could also go direct to the source and read Steiner’s lectures or utilise a resource such as Alan Whitehead’s ‘Spiritual Syllabus’ which lays out the progression of topics for you. Or go ahead and choose your own adventure if you feel so inclined! 


Choose your teacher resources

Where will you as the parent get your information from? Will you draw it from a purchased curriculum or piece it together from other resources?  For our grammar block I will be using Doroth Harrer’s English Manual as my primary resource. 


Choose your stories

New information is brought to the child in the form of a story.  Each 3 day cycle has its own story, often told cumulatively. Simply calculating how many 3 day cycles you have in your block will let you know how many stories you will need to bring to your child. This is a short block for us so I will only need 3 stories. I have decided I would like to use my own version of the grammar fairy story in Dorothy Harrer’s book to introduce our topic, so that makes 4 stories in total. 

This time round I have scoured our local libraries and found a book of Australian animal fables, a pictire book of Russian trickster tales and a few other gems to draw from.

Traditionally in Steiner/Waldorf education, certain types of stories are presented to the child each year to meet them at their stage of development physically, mentally and spiritually. In first grade that is fairy tales, third is creation stories (often Old Testament stories, but it doesn’t have to be), fourth would be Norse myths. We are in the middle of second grade so stories of saints and heroes, animal fables and trickster tales are traditional. As I mentioned above, we will be using animal stories and fables this block.

Next I need to either choose stories or write them myself to convey the information I want to impart to the child. If I want to use someone else’s story, well of course I need to find it. Libraries, google, purchased curriculums; all of these are good places to look for the tales I need. In either case, the stories are usually told and not read. I do, however, like to leave complementary books lying around to be explored or to call upon to support a lesson.


Choose your activities

I mentioned above that learning is brought to life through the application of the lively arts, one of which is the Literary Arts, i.e. the story we are using as a basis for our topical learning. Accompanying activities to strengthen understanding came from the remaining arts; Dramatic Arts, Visual Arts, Movement Arts and Music Arts. 

Will I have my child/ren retell the story, role play it, mold beeswax figures to use as table puppets to reimagine the tale?

Warming beeswax to model pictures we could see in the sky when learning about clouds

Will we write summaries or lists in our books,  draw pictures or make beautiful wet on wet watercolour paintings?

Is there a song or verse we could memorise and perform?

A few activities we will use in our grammar block include writing colour-coded lists of nouns and verbs from our stories into our Main Lesson Books, performing our stories using clapping or stomping to denote nouns and verbs (in essence acting out the grammer using movement), taking a bushwalk to name plants and animals and brainstorming verbs and adjectives to describe what we see. 


Plan out daily lessons

Once I have an idea of what I want to bring the lesson, and an understanding of why and how I will do this, now I can map out what our individual weeks and days will look at. Typically a three day rhythym is used where each day builds on the last with ‘sleeping on it’ an important part of processing the information.

For example:

Day 1- bring the story. Sleep on it πŸ˜‰

Day 2- review the story (or review then build on it if using a cumulative tale). Follow up with a complementary art/craft activity

Day 3- review the story and write summary or perform a retelling

Begin again with next story.

The key is to ensure you are balancing inward and outward activities, utilising all of the lively arts in your lessons (perhaps some are used in a circle time warm up if they don’t fit your Main Lesson plans?) and address the head, heart and hands. Because that really is the point of holistic education, to educate the WHOLE CHILD, not just impart knowledge we deem important.

Take away message?

1. Know what you want to teach and why

2. Create balance and rhythm in your lessons

3. Teach to the whole child

And that’s it. It seems a lot but gets easier as you go along. Most important of all? Have fun!

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The Holistic Homeschool

This article is Part Two of a series on holisitic homeschooling.

I know, I know. I promised this post moons ago. I’ve been busy writing an article for the next issue of Mulberry Magazine (due out very soon) and writing/procrastinating/agonising over my plan and report for the Home Education Unit. Not to mention the general business of running our micro homestead. But here it is. Finally πŸ˜‰

The holistic homeschool. What is it? What does it look like? What is the point?

In Part One of this series I talked about holisitic education and how it differs from traditional education. The topic is HUGE but at it’s core we can boil holisitic education down to a few points: rhythm, balance, relationships, a transdisciplinary approach. A holisitic homeschool takes these values and ideas and applies them to the home and to home education.

Here’s how it works at our house ☺

Our home hums along to a gentle rhythm. This makes sure our day-to-day life flows gently and with purpose. Children thrive on knowing what comes next and what to expect. And to be perfectly honest, so do I. When your home is also a homestead, daily rhythm becomes imperative. Those animals aren’t going to feed themselves unfortunately. At least the bread rises all on its own πŸ˜‰

Aside from a daily rhythm which includes our everyday chores, our meals, our lesson time, play time, self-directed learning time, etc., we also have a weekly rhythm. This helps us balance our lessons to ensure we are addressing all learning areas across the week, sharing our time between home and community, between lessons and play, between inside and outside.

Overlaid with this we have our yearly rhythm. This includes family celebrations, festivals, seasonal planting/harvesting/preserving and celebrating the cycle of seasons. We endeavour to live seasonally, with respect for nature and our place within the environment.

Each of these rhythms seeks to bring balance to our lives and our learning, to foster an understanding of and respect for the environment and to help us become productive members our chosen communities.

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One of our old rhythm charts


TIP! Writing out your rhythm on a chart serves as a helpful visual reminder to the whole family.

While we are focusing on bringing our lives into a harmonious balance, we are also seeking to balance our learning. Unlike traditional schooling, book learning isn’t deemed to be more important than learning (both through and about) art, music, handwork, yardwork, or even the learning that comes through being bored and at a loose end. It’s amazing the things you learn when you’ve got nothing but time and imagination!

Aside from the intrinsic value of each of the areas mentioned, we also believe that utilising these as tools is helpful in learning the more traditional subject areas. We discover science through story telling, maths through the art of form drawing, English comprehension through drawing and modelling. And this is just to name a few!

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A story began this science lesson outside with friends. We learn handwork with the help of songs. Drawing helps with comprehension of stories. Story and manipulatives assisted this maths lesson.

A balanced approach to learning has us overlapping between the subject areas. As holisitic homeschoolers we aren’t into learning subjects as separate entities, studied individually. We try to incorporate head, heart and hands learning- to bring story, song and art- to all areas.

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Art, song and story make it into all of our learning

We’re also not very interested in sitting still in one spot for our lessons. We learn in the garden, on our nature walks, at our co-op, and on family outings. We learn in the kitchen, in the playground, on our blackboard and in our books. It happens on our couch and on the floor. Learning happens in all sorts of places with all sorts of people. It happens as part of our daily life. It happens just as often while jumping around as it does sitting still. Actually with my kids it very rarely involves sitting still for long πŸ˜€

On a very practical note, we have tried curriculum and no curriculum, very structured and rather unstructured curriculum. We’ve gone DIY and we’ve gone open and go curriculum. For us, a Waldorf-inspired approach works best and we have found Kristie’s curriculum at BEarth Institute to be the right fit for us (nope, not being paid to say that and that is NOT an affiliate link. I just love the curriculum and wanted to share it with you all).

While we dedicate LOADS of time to pursuing personal interests, to freeplay and to just doing our own thing, we discovered unschooling just wasn’t for us. We prefer the structure, the rhythm, the balance, the parent/teacher-child relationship that comes with a holisitic model of homeschooling. We enjoy the magic, the art and the story of the Waldorf approach (even if the anthroposophy isn’t for us).

I’d love to hear what model of homeschooling you have adopted or are drawn to and why πŸ™‚

Happy Homeschooling xx

Mini-Series: Holistic Homeschooling

A while ago I wrote this post on how we accidentally found ourselves unschooling. A few months later I updated to say we had moved to a more holistic model of homeschooling, promising to tell you more about the change…and then I left you hanging :-p

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But I finally sat my butt down behind my screen and shared my thoughts on holistic education in a series of blog posts. You can find them all here πŸ™‚

What is holistic education in general?

And more specifically,

What is holistic homeschooling? 

As well as,

Holistic Homeschooling as an aspect of Homesteading. (coming soon)

And for those of you who have made the decision to send your children to a public school, this post talks about how to ensure your children still get the holistic education you want for them 😊

I hope you enjoy this mini-series on educating THE WHOLE CHILD. Make sure you have subscribed to the blog so you don’t miss out on future posts. You can find the subscribe option in the sidebar 😊 And please share your ideas and feelings on the subject. We have so much to learn from each other!

See you soon x

A Monday

“What does a typical day look like?”

I get asked this a lot, and I know when I was contemplating the change to homeschool that it was what I wanted to know too. It’s frustrating that the answer really is that there are no two days alike. Add in the fact that no two families are alike and it’s an almost impossible question to answer. But this is what our yesterday looked like…

We woke up when we were ready. My Little Mathematician wandered downstairs to feed the cat and chickens, and to watch cartoons. An hour later the rest of us joined him. I fed the baby and the dogs, then we sat around eating breakfast and chatting. The Mister went to pick up his brother because they had a day of renovating planned. The baby explored the house while her brother read and I did some housework.

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LM has been copying Mother Goose rhymes for handwriting practice. He likes to read them out loud to us all before he chooses one to write out. Occasionally he chooses one to memorise and recite for family, but yesterday he just copied.

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We have been learning about Ancient Egypt and found a great book about their food. I left it out along with some leading questions. LM used his knowledge of Egyptian geography to guess at what they would eat before reading the book to find the actual answer. He discovered a recipe for chicken skewers he thought would be tasty so he wrote a shopping list of ingredients.

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He then decided to play with the tangrams I had left out for him. While he was doing this I wandered between playing with his sister, doing the housework and joining in with the tangram play.

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We discussed different types of patterns, made them for each other to copy, designed pictures and wrote down the language we were using: growing patterns, repeating patterns, symmetry, shape, size, rotate, flip, and so on.

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At about 10am the baby went down for a nap and my Little Mathematician decided to plan a secret tunnel through the house. This involved drawing a map of the house and yard, labelling the map, digging in the yard, and reading a book on what the Earth is made of. He wrote a list of hazards to look for when digging, and this included wombats! Of course this meant he needed to know more about wombat behaviour and habitat so he asked me to help him Google the information.

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When Little Beastie woke up we went to the shops and found the ingredients on the list. We came home for lunch and a play, then started on our Egyptian chicken recipe because it needed to sit in the fridge for a few hours. LM read the recipe, measured the ingredients and made the marinade.

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Next up he wrote a letter to his great-grandmother using this little kit I had put together for him. We then all sat down to watch a DVD together. Eventually the baby was looking tired again so she had a bottle and went off to bed.

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LM headed outside to plant some sunflower seeds in the garden bed he had built with his dad a while ago. He watered the garden, checked for eggs and played hopscotch.

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He helped weed, supervised the chickens freeranging in the garden and picked carrots to have with dinner. He had planted these carrots himself earlier in the year.

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LM helped prepare dinner with his Dad, then played with his Uncle and sister while I finished cooking. We all ate together then Uncle went home. The kids went off to bed, I prepped for the next day then watched some TV before getting an early night.

So that was yesterday. So far today has been completely different. Both are different to what I had imagined and planned for us when we were making the decision to become a homeschool family.

What do your days look like? Are they the way you imagined?

xx

Rainbow writing prompts

Earlier this week I showed these funky rainbow writing prompts over on Facebook. As promised, here’s how to make and use them πŸ™‚

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For these you will need some paddle pop sticks. Coloured is ALWAYS more fun. I got these ones for a few dollars from RIOT but I’ve seen them in discount stores as well. You could even collect used paddle pops sticks and dye or paint them yourself for another fun activity. You’ll also need writing implements: paper, pencils, clipboard (all work is better received on a clipboard in my house. Go figure?!).
Oh, and a Sharpie pen for Mum πŸ˜‰

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Then you simply write some prompts on the sticks. I’ve colour co-ordinated mine to broad topics. All about me (yellow), magical what-ifs (red), cool places to live (blue)…

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…the completely fantastical (green)…

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The orange are for persuasional writingΒ  (‘up is better than down because’ and other crazy arguments) and the purple sticks are recall work from our other subjects (People in the Stone Age…). The key is for them to be interesting, open-ended and without a specific right or wrong answer; we are looking to make writing FUN! Feel free to use the ideas you can see on our sticks, or come up with your own based on your child’s current interests.

Pop them all into a jar. A box or bag would work just as well, so use whatever you have. Have your mini-Wordsmith select one at random and write/draw/narrate a story to you.

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My usually reluctant writer LOVED these! He filled a page from the first prompt, then engaged in a lively game of storytelling with his Dad and Uncle using a few more. We will keep these on the bench beside paper and pencils to encourage further writing πŸ™‚

What would you write on your sticks to get your little one scribbling away?