Thursday, November 16, 2006

Grade 2 Blocks - Block 2

One thing that I find very exciting about grade 2 is the more formal move into multicultural studies. The grade 1 fairy tales do come from all over the world, however, you don't spend 2 months immersing yourself in another culture like you do in grade 2.

Our second block will be our first full multicultural cycle. Because we are starting in January and ending in February I have chosen for us to study Martin Luther King Jr. as our sage, and to immerse ourselves in African/American culture. Harriet Tubman is also offered as a sage in the Enki materials. I chose MLK Jr. because T-Guy was born on his birthdate, and J-Baby was born on the anniversary of his death. It is a unique coincidence.

For those accustomed to Waldorf block cycles, each cycle (which I am calling a block for my own simplification) consists of a language arts main lesson block and a math main lesson block, within the container of a specific culture.

Week 1 we will use an African trickster tale as the basis for our language arts work. Weeks 2 and 3 we will use the MLK Jr. sage story (I do hope it is ready by then!). The skill we will be introducing during this block is syllabication ( as well as the sage process). During weeks 1-3 our practice time will consist of reading practice (sight words and word families), handwriting numbers, and math games.

Week 4 we start the math portion of our cycle, and will review the four processes Weeks 5-6 we will introduce Fact Families. We're a little behind the standard for Enki math because we switched to Enki midway through grade 1, and I decided to take it slow and redo some of what we had done with Christopherus. Because of this we are doing more math blocks than are indicated on the Sample Grade Two Core Content Work sample in the grade 2 teaching guide, and I expect us to fully get through place value by the end of our formal academic year. It's not so much that I feel the need to catch up as it is the fact that J-Baby is grasping complex mental math very early (he is 6.5 and is already catching on to place value) and I want to give him a solid grounding through developmental-immersion-mastery. So where the sample has only 3 full math blocks, we're going to do 5 blocks of 3-4 weeks each, spreading place value over 3 blocks to accommodate our 3 day week.

Our practice time for weeks 4-6 will consist of handwriting letters, reading practice, word families (using the town board and stories), and a few other word games we have.

Throughout this cycle we will be immersing ourselves in African/American culture. Our music, crafts, and even some of our foods will reflect the culture. It isn't a teaching of a culture, it is an immersion in a culture. We'll be doing what we do anyway; singing songs, playing circle games, cooking and baking together, doing crafts. In addition, as J-Baby is still young for grade 2 I intend to use some of the grade 1 fairy tales from each culture we immerse ourselves in as stories (not worked with), either at bedtime or during our other reading times.

Grade 2 Blocks - Block 1

Kyra wants to hear about the blocks I am planning, and rather than lose them on the comments page I thought I'd do a proper post (actually, this has now morphed in 6 posts as I will detail each block in its own post). Remember, this is still very preliminary planning. I don't even have most of the Enki grade 2 resources or the instruction guides.

Block 1: Winter Holidays and the Christmas Tradition

This is an easing-in block, just 3-4 weeks to start moving us back toward the rhythm of structured learning. Compared to our other learning blocks it will be short, and will not focus on any new academics nor immersion in a different culture.

The plan is to choose 3-4 stories (1 for each week),and to take each story through the intake-digestion-output cycle. I think we might read The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader, The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens, and perhaps the story of the three shepherds as told in Donna Simmon's Practical Waldorf at Home: First Grade Syllabus. However, we're just getting back into Isabel Wyatt's The Seven-Year-Old Wonder Book and make take all 3-4 weeks from those stories.

We will stay within our own culture for this mini-block. The underlying goal is to firm up the daily and weekly rhythms with crafts, songs, and stories. I want the boys to get familiar once again with hearing a story, recalling the story, drawing the story, and writing a sentence or verse.

Honestly, I see no reason to step outside our own culture during a season that is full of tradition. I also do not believe is taking on other people's religious traditions as my own, so we won't just jump in and light a menorah. If we are invited to spend an evening of Hannukah with our Jewish friends that is within the context of community and is integrative, but doing so without connection makes no sense. We do celebrate the solstice in a non-religious manner, as I believe the turning of the seasons is something that all people in all times have found meaning in.

We'll reinstate practice time, alternating between reading skills and math manipulatives, along with daily handwriting practice. I'm ordering this lovely Christmas pop-up book to use with J-Baby and his alphabet sounds.

Crafts and art come easily at holiday time. There are gifts the boys can help to make, a tree to trim, cookies and treats to bake. We're planning to roll beeswax candles, to make bath salts and soaps, and to make olive oil lamps (we bought the basics from Lehman's and will use jars we save from food). We're searching for some good gluten-free,vegan recipes to make treats (I'll probably have to concoct my own). We can definitely make vegan GF rice crispy treats and vegan GF Fudge.

Holiday and seasonal songs abound. We'll listen to old favorites and pull some from the Enki materials as well. One thing we love is making music, and Papa has gotten very good at playing many holiday songs on his guitar.

I won't be released to full activity until right before Christmas, so we'll probably focus on fingerplays for our movement, along with slow, easy stretching movements. I'm hoping to talk the doctor into letting me take an easy walk around the block each morning starting the week after Thanksgiving.

My goal is to use this time of holiday, when we do so many integrative activities, to act as a springboard for the rest of our grade 2 year. I'll be slowly moving the boys back into rhythm, but gently, much like warming beeswax and then softly pressing here and there to create shape.

Okay, so this probably isn't the block Kyra was most interested in. However, my point was to illustrate that the holiday season is a great time to ease into Enki, whether it is for the first time or just transitioning to a new grade after a break.

I'll add a post for block 2 later this afternoon.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I Lied...

Papa seems intent on enforcing 2 weeks of bed rest, and already I am going insane. So today I did a little more grade 2 planning. I filled in the dates, finalized cultures, and added our health curriculum (a California thing, and we've always considered it an unschooled subject, but I want to focus more on nutrition and on emotional health).

Some cultural blocks end perfectly; ie. our African/American block ends during black history month, so we should find events in Los Angeles to wrap up the block. We've planned a trip to Yosemite and other natural areas of California to follow the Scottish/John Muir block. Our Mexican/Aztec Indian block will end just in time for Mexican Independence Day, which will surely be celebrated throughout Los Angeles. We might even take the train straight to Olvera Street.

Others may be more problematic. There is a Jewish holiday that coincides with the end of our Israeli block, but it isn't exacly a festive holiday and I try to be very careful when it comes to co-opting other religions. Tisha B'Av has been described as the saddest day of the Jewish calender. Perhaps there will be a commemoration at the Museum of Tolerance.

Our Native American block ends less than 2 weeks before the summer solstice, so although we will have just moved on to our Israeli/Jewish block we will hopefully find a solstice celebration to participate in.

This is the nuts and bolts kind of planning that my brain can handle right now.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Long Break From the Blog...

Don't expect to see anything here for a few weeks. In fact, if I write anything here before 11/27 you have permission to email me and tell me to get off the computer.

Surgery is 11/8. I'm hopeful, and terrified. I've decided that I should stay off the computer for the full 2 weeks that I am not allowed to drive (with the exception of occasionally checking email from my laptop, in bed). After that we have Thanksgiving and I do not want to spend family time writing in the blog. So Monday 11/27 I give myself permission to think about blogging and homeschooling again.

I should be able to report what it is like to go through recovery when you spend 24/7 with your children. I think it will be fine. T-Guy is really sad about losing co-sleeping privileges for a couple of weeks, however, he is equally excited about using his recently acquired kitchen skills. He can now pour his own cereal, make toast and frozen waffles, and use the microwave to make popcorn (microwave popcorn was purchased in anticipation of my recovery). Although I have written down my basic recipes for Papa, it is T-Guy who plans to show him how to make beans, rice, etc.

J-Baby is having a tougher time of it, because he doesn't release his emotions as easily as he exhales (T-Guy swims in his emotions). He's been asking a lot of questions. He snuggles me more and keeps getting in as many double hugs as he can (a hug in which we pick him up and he hugs us with his arms and legs). It seems that his stuffed dolphin is also scheduled for surgery, which is one way that J-Baby processes a lot of things.

So farewell for now. Papa will be sending out a surgery update via email to a few people, so there will probably be updates at Amity's, as well as on HF and IEAWL. I gladly welcome all good thoughts that you might want to send my way....