Monday, March 12, 2018

Artist Study: Henri Matisse

  We took a long break since our last Artist Study on Vincent Van Gogh, but we got back on track with our goal of covering 3-4 artists this school year.  Henri Matisse has been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl.  I can vividly recall seeing his masterpiece, One Thousand and One Nights, on a visit to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh.  I was eager to share my love for his vibrant paintings and bold collages with the boys.

  We began our study much like the last one, but without the helpful Simply Charlotte Mason portfolio of pictures, because there is not one available for Matisse.  Luckily, there are so many great resources appropriate for children.  One of my favorite is the Usborne Book of Famous Paintings (disclaimer, that link is to my Usborne store, I finally became a rep after buying so many amazing homeschool books).  You can see the book below; it is open to the page about Matisse's Harmony in Red.  It has been a lifesaver for starting discussions about what to notice in paintings.  Here we discussed the painting within the painting and how no one really know if it is a picture or a window because of the frame.

  We set up our own still life with a table, a chair and lots of fruit.  I encouraged the boys to add in some patterns in the style of Matisse rather than painting our plain gray walls.  They also inserted a window/picture just like Matisse after a quick demo in which I illustrated the geometry Matisse used to make the three dimensional frame (two nesting rectangles with 45* lines at each corner). 

  We also used the Matisse from the Taschen collection as a reference book to view the vast illustrations of his work.  Other than that we used picture books, and, boy, are there some fantastic ones out there on Matisse!  The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLaughlin was instantly deemed worthy of purchasing for our home library.  

  Another favorite picture book was Drawing with Scissors by Keesia Johnson and Jane O'Connor.  The books is told from the point of view of Keesia; she selected him to do school project on and the information about his life and art is relayed in a very engaging style.  

  We also read Colorful Dreamer by Marjorie Blain Parker and Henri's Scissors by Jeanette Winters.  These both enhanced our study and were enjoyed by all.

  I had every intention of ending our unit with a cutout collage project and we just ran out of steam.  Our unit lasted about a month of twice weekly reading or painting, and everyone was ready to move on before we tackled it.  Will requested Leonardo da Vinci for our next artist, so we will have a combo artist/scientist study next!

Waldorf Grade 5: Ancient Cultures Block

  Our second block of the fifth grade school year was Ancient Cultures, which combined language arts, history, social studies and geography.  As an aside, anytime we are not in a math block we always start our day with some math practice on the board, so that those skills do not get forgotten.

  Our first area of focus was India and it covered two weeks. As usual, we began by mapping India and studying the indigenous plants and animals.

 We learned the origin story Manu and the Flood.  We found references to Atlantis and compared it to Noah's ark.  For any of the myths or history stories, we follow a two day schedule of learning.  On the first day I tell the story, usually with a chalk drawing I have prepared, and Jack will make a main lesson page drawing.  On the following day he will retell the story, in his own words, while we work on language mechanics.  Some days he just writes, but if it is a complicated story I may help him make an outline first to make sure we don't leave out any crucial information.  

 We found a beautiful version of the Ramayana in the book A Year Full of Stories.  We really enjoyed learning about the faith of India through the Bhagavad-Gita and comparing it to our own values.


 Since the boys are in the school room together, they often hear parts of their brother's main lessons. Will was halfway paying attention to the story of Rama and Sita when he heard mention of the Monkey King, Hanuman.  I guess the idea of a Monkey King proved irresistible to Will and he immediately had to drop his own project and get his vision on paper! This is one of my favorite things about homeschooling: that we have the space for this kind of work.

 Our third week of study focused on Buddha.  Again, we compared our own values and faith with The Eightfold Path and the Noble Truths.

  For our final week of study, we spent the first day mapping Persia.

  The following day we covered Zarathustra.  Again, this was a great opportunity to compare and contrast all of these world religions with our own.  How wonderful to see so many core values in common.  

  Later in the week we looked at Xerxes and the wars with Greece.  Jack is excited to get to the Ancient Greece block (thanks, Percy Jackson!), so he was eager to hear mention of Sparta.  We may have taken more of a Greek focus than was intended, but it's nice to have the student so eager!

Waldorf Grade 5: Geography Mini Units

  The first block for Waldorf Essentials Fifth grade combines mapping, geography and history.  We started with a review of US Geography, learning which states were in each of the four regions and remembering capitals.  This took us through the first week of school, studying a new region each day. For each region Jack made a main lesson page that listed each of the states and their capitals.  We worked with some map puzzles and even played the Stack the States app on the iPhone (the horror! So very un-Waldorf!  Yet, so very effective in this instance!).

   We studied Africa for the next week, mapping the continent and reading about the flora and fauna.  

 If you have ever used Waldorf Essentials before, you will know that the curriculum can often be a suggestion about what to focus on for the daily lesson.  Personally, I love having this framework and tailoring the lessons to fit the child.  It does mean you will need some extra resources, many are suggested by Melisa (especially in the grade overview audio recordings on her site).  The extra resources we use are normally wikipedia pages printed out, examples of main lessons found on pinterest and library books.  We have managed to build a pretty good home library over the years and I was able to pull several books to help with these units.  Here are the bulk of them:

 The Monkey and the Fiddle was our choice for the folk tale. Jack did a great job on his first summary of the year and took great care with his border and drawing.  We try to follow a two day Waldorf approach to Main Lessons,  listening to the story on the first day and then modeling or drawing from it.  On the second day, after the story has had time to digest, we write a summary.  We usually discuss it first, to make sure that we remember the important characters and events.  I will put proper names on the board to help with spelling, but Jack writes it himself.  When he is finished, we read through it together to catch spelling or grammatical errors.  I'm a big fan of focusing on a few items at a time, as I gleaned from Julie at Brave Writer.  For example, we may discuss the following: run-on sentences, proper nouns start with a capital letter, and sentences end with a punctuation mark. I'll have Jack look for those items on his own and try to limit any critiques to those specific areas.

  To wrap up the Africa block, Jack cooked an African feast for us, using this Moroccan Chickpea Stew recipe

  Our next mini block was Atlantis.  This definitely seems like an odd choice, but it is typical in the Waldorf fifth grade curriculum.  We talked about the legends, specifically Plato's writings about it, and where it may have been located. We also looked at maps drawn from Plato's description and made a clay model.  Like the other areas of study, we also looked at animals and plants.

  Our next stop on the mini world tour was Australia.  Aboriginal folk tales combined with exotic plants and animals mad this a really enjoyable unit to study. I am so glad we found out about the book Topsy-Turvy World: How Australian Animals Puzzled Early Explorers by Kristy Murray from some Australian homeschoolers on IG.  Reading about the European explorers' first impressions of animals such as the platypus and wombat was highly entertaining.  He chose to write about the kangaroo from the fifteen species highlighted in this book.

  Our geography block really set the stage for a fun school year.  We got a little busy and didn't plan a meal for Australia, which was a shame.  It certainly adds a lot to the unit and Jack is so proud to take charge of a family dinner.  Jack's map making skills improved greatly this month, as did his world geography knowledge.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Waldorf Grade 3: Old Testament and the Hebrews Unit

 After spending the first week of school reviewing math and grammar from last year, we jumped right in with our Old Testament unit.  We started with some geography lessons about the biblical lands as well as history of the Jewish people.

  With this background we moved on to the days of creation from Genesis.  Here are some of the main lesson book pages Will made to represent the first week.

 We used this youtube video to finger knit a snake for the Expulsion from the Garden story.

 Then we moved on to the fun stuff:  the fall Jewish holidays.  First we made a perpetual calendar wheel and studied the months and days of the Jewish calendar.

 Then we celebrated Rosh Hashanah by baking a Challah with apples and honey.  The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, and one we use every year. Will did most of the work this year and proudly brought one of the challah loaves to share at Temple services.

We also made main lesson pages for Yom Kippur and Sukkot:

 We finished up our unit with the stories of  Cain and Abel and the children of Lamech, descendent of Cain.  Lamech's children are Jabel, Jubal, Tubal-Cain and Naamah.  I had never heard of any of them before but it was very interesting to learn about the father of animal husbandry, the father of musical instruments, the father of metalwork and the mother of the weaving arts, respectively.

Our next unit is a math study, but will incorporate Noah and his ark into the lessons as we learn about measurements.  

Some resources for this unit study include:  

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Art Appreciation: Van Gogh

  With a background in art history and a lifelong passion for creating and enjoying art, it really surprised me when I realized we were more than halfway through our first year of homeschool without ever having studied any art. Certainly, we had made a great deal of art, we just had not spent any time really studying famous painters or works of art.  Somehow I happened upon a lovely book, Vincent's Starry Night and Other Stories by Michael Bird, and we began incorporating art history into our weeks.
  I love how each chapter (arranged chronologically) highlights a masterpiece, from a cave painting to a Byzantine mosaic, and tells the story of its creation.  These tales quickly became an integral part of our morning circle time, and they still are, but this year I was determined to do more.

  I decided to try a picture study from Simply Charlotte Mason and ordered the Van Gogh portfolio. I really wasn't sure if a guide and eight nicely printed art prints were worth the price, but the quality is very good and I don't regret the purchase at all.  So far we have used the biography as well as the talking points and information for three of the works and plan to study a few more. I must have had sunflowers on the brain because I bought a bouquet at Trader Joe's and then realized they would be the perfect prop for our own still life painting session.

  We also have been reading some picture books from the library about Van Gogh.  Camille and the  Sunflowers is the hands down favorite.  It's such a sweet story and teaches the importance of accepting and loving people that seem "different."

  We fit art into our rhythm by incorporating it into our morning story time; just ten minutes once or twice a week.  Painting is such a soothing thing for my boys that we tend to do that in the afternoons when it can be hard to start up school again after a lunch and free play break.  They are eager to paint their own versions of Starry Night, so we will attempt that this week. Van Gogh will remain our focus for a few more weeks, so if you have any resources to share please do so.

Monday, August 28, 2017

2016-2017 School Year

  The first day back to homeschool is in the books!  We finished up moments ago and I thought that I would give a little rundown of our plans for this year.  We have a third and fifth grader.  My four year old will go to a nursery school nearby a few mornings a week and join in with us the remainder of the time.
*this post contains links, but none of these items are sponsored, they're just products I enjoy.

  We absolutely loved using Waldorf Essentials last year and are using that as the backbone of our schooling again this year. Waldorf can be overwhelming to newbies, like us, so we've heeded the advice to layer things in.  We are getting better at form drawing, wet on wet painting, handwork, improving our Main Lesson Book Pages (borders!) and incorporating more rhymes, stories with props and math games into our circle time.  Without all of those things, it's hard to stretch out the main lessons into a school day.  We still feel like we need a little bit more.

 Our little bit more will be Brave Writer Arrow.  Our plan is to read aloud the bulk of it with assigned independent reading sections.  Last year I had the boys read everything independently (Quiver of Arrows for the second grade), but now I realize it is meant to be a family read aloud.  I was excited about the selections for Arrow this year (and the party school ideas now included), so we went ahead and bought the year.  Last year I let the boys choose selections each month, but this year we are going to work through them together.  We also use other elements of Brave Writer  throughout our year, like Friday Freewrites and Poetry Teatimes.  It's a wonderful resource.

  Last year we absolutely loved the Beautiful Feet Books Early American History bundle.  I think I will always look back on that course in our first year of homeschool as something quite magical.  We were hoping to find a Medieval Studies course that was similar, but the BFB course is for older children, and I think it wouldn't hold the same level of attraction trying to push it with younger kids.  Well, I thought, I have a Medieval Studies Minor, I can figure out a course of study with picture books that will be charming and fun and educational!  I spent the summer poring over children's literature about the Middle Ages and I think I have a fun course of study.  We are hoping to do History about two days a week.

  Other than that, we throw in a little handwriting work, a little real world math, a little Shakespeare memorization, some typing and art and come up with pretty full and fun days.

  Our rhythm looks something like this:

8-9 Breakfast, get dressed, make beds
9-11 Circle Time, Main Lessons, snack
11-11:30 Nature Walk/recess
11:30-12:30 Finish Up Main Lessons, handwriting or typing
12:30-1:30 - Lunch, Free Time
1:30-2:30 SPECIALS
2:30-3:30 Reading/Independent learning/handwork

Specials are Arrow on Monday, History on Tues and Wed, Art on Thurs, Poetry Teatime on Friday

It is a rhythm, not a schedule, so we do not stop things or drag things out to fill time slots.  It's just a rough flow of how the day goes.  Sometimes a doctor's appointment or a field trip completely upsets the schedule.  We just go with it : )