The first month of our new school year is over and, oh, what fun we have had! We are beginning to feel comfortable being away from home and especially for some younger ones to be without a parent for the first time. This is a major step in Early Childhood (EC) for children and parents alike. Some of you will remember these first days and weeks, I am sure. Your children are already forming friendships and developing a sense of group feeling. In the EC the emphasis is on "we". The "I" is not living yet in the young child, therefore we do everything together. We play, we clean up, we eat and we have gentle hands together. This makes sense to a young one and brings a desired comforting feeling. We are learning our daily rhythm and flow, so everything becomes predictable and doesn't leave any room for anxiety or stressful wondering. A steady daily rhythm, a few simple classroom rules, a lot of love and understanding create safe boundaries for children that are essential for feeling secure and held.
During our outdoor time in the morning we prepare our snack. We give the food we have brought from home to share a bath and cut it up. Your children love to prepare the different types of vegetables and fruit, using real but safe knives (with supervision) and experience the different smells and ways to cut it. Children of young age work out of imitation and this is why we teachers always need to be worthy of imitation. Being busy with daily chores and including the children with real work to help, is a gift beyond measure. Of course it often takes longer and at home there is not always time for this but please continue to bestow this gift upon your little ones, it is so worth it and lays a tremendous foundation for essential life skills and academic learning.
After a little over an hour we move inside and have our morning circle. This month it contained songs about different animals in the meadow, a "beloved" duck song and what it means to be a " gnome in his home". During circle time, children are introduced to numbers, rich language, rhymes and movement. We learn to wait, to listen, to remember, to count and to act out characters. Your children love to help the teachers create this circle and just when we all learn it by heart, which takes a few weeks, it is then changed. Circle songs and poems are repeated for several weeks so the individual elements can live deeply within the child. After our morning circle the children receive their jobs for snack time. There is the water-pitcher that needs filling, we need servers and helpers who put glasses on the table, flower caretaker, beautifier who pick a seasonal treasure to reflect the outside and someone who identifies the weather that day and picks the matching "weather gnome". These tasks are very special to all children and are followed through with pride.
After we light our candle and call the fire fairies we sing our blessing song. During meal time the teacher have various conversations with the children and a nice touch in time with every single one. Afterwards we clean up together, sweep and wipe the tables, and the go into indoor discovery time and free play. The past weeks our classroom was filled with " kittens and owners" and it is such a joy to watch your little ones taking care of each other.
Our Forest Fridays are full, fun and wholesome! Plenty of nature exploration, nature awareness games and even songs and healing prayers for our water. Crew shared the most beautiful words with us, acknowledging that our water isn't feeling well right now and needs our love to heal. It is so assuring to hear these littles ones' understanding of such immensity in our world. Your children revel in the wildness and play, exploration of woods, trees, puddles and good earthy mud. They joined the older students for a game of Eagle Eyes, a hide and seek game of clear vision, and be sure to ask your child to share their findings at Bone Island with you!
Thank you all, dear parents, for taking care of these beautiful children and for entrusting us with them. We love them all!!
With much love, Ms. Birte, Ms. Shivani and Ms. Kalin
The first grade has started with much enthusiasm for learning and is going very strong. The children started this year by finding their desks, receiving their beeswax crayons(block and stick) and learning how to use them. There are three sides to the block crayons: the papa bear side, the mama bear side and the baby bear side. The papa bear side is the longest, then the next shortest is the mama bear side and then the baby bear is the smallest. The stick crayons were used for form drawing, which was our first main lesson block. We learned about straight lines, curves and how they are found in everything they see. We went outside and found curves and straight lines and found them in our classroom. We walked the shapes and used them to make drawings. Form drawing helps the children to use their spatial abilities and becomes the backbone for writing letters. It also helps with concentration and mindfulness when writing or drawing. Each form drawing shape has a story to go with it to give a imagination for the shape and help the child to fully receive and integrate the concept.
They also received modeling beeswax that they could use during free time and our story(Charlotte's Web) or drawing time. The beeswax needs to be warmed up in their hands and can be shaped into anything the child can imagine. This helps with fine motor coordination and the colors and smell of the beeswax is very comforting to use. The children also sewed a ball their first week to show a circle in our form drawing lesson. The children really had to concentrate to be able to draw a circle free hand and make it really look like a circle. The children also received their Science main lesson books the first week and drew a picture from nature. We will be using these books to explore nature around us and will be bringing them on Forest Fridays.
These past three weeks we have really settled into our main lessons and specialty classes. After form drawing we started Language Arts. We started with the letter B and will leave the vowels A,E,I,O,U to the last as they can have more than one sound. We are now up to the letter J and have been doing three letters a week. This Language Arts block will be three weeks long and includes a story with the letter to highlight words that the letter starts with. The children love to pick out the words from the story that start with the letter we are studying. I will ask them comprehension questions about the story and we have fun trying to figure out what may or may not happen in the story before I finish reading it. We use our main lesson books to write the letter on one page and then on the opposite page to draw a picture from the story. This is a holistic and immersive approach to learning the letters by writing the letters in their main lesson books, hearing the words that begin with letters and writing the words that begin with the letter on the chalk board. We have one more week of Language Arts then we will move on to Math. Painting is another aspect of our main lesson time, and we do it every week on Mondays. We started out with a lemon yellow and a golden yellow. With each painting the children follow instructions on where to put the colors on their paper, but not how. They can experiment with the mixing of the colors and experience what happens when they do a certain things with the color and how that would feel to them. Each child receives a pot of paint with a concentrated amount at the bottom and water on top. If they want a stronger color they can go to the bottom of the pot or a lighter color can be at the top. Each week we add different colors for a different experience.
The children really enjoy their specialty classes and have Gardening and French with Ms. Jessica, Spanish with Ms. Carmen and Meditation with Ms. Natalie. I will do Handwork and the children have already started making their own knitting needles from dowels that have been cut. They rub the ends on the stones in the courtyard to create the pointed ends and will eventually be sanding them smooth. Ms. Liz worked with the children to learn their part for the Autumn Equinox play. They were gnomes and did a wonderful job! Ms. Stephanie Sherburne Lallo will be coming in once a month to do cooking with the children. She came in this past month and did strawberry muffins and banana sushi. They were the biggest hit! Thank you. We will also be learning the recorder (flute) soon, as well.
Forest Fridays are very special days for the children. They are able to be out for an in depth immersion into nature. Some of the examples of what the children do are: identify plants like beauty berry and poison ivy, build shelters, check for petrified bones on Bone Island(Phillippi Creek) and work as a team. We rotate to different parks for a varied experiences and activities. We have been to Phillippi Cheek this past two Fridays and the children have reveled in it. They built a bridge with palm fronds to cross over to Bone Island and picked out letters from nature that we have studied in class. They also constructed a web out of yarn from Charlotte's Web, a book we have been reading. This week we played a game with Ms. Jessica called Eagle Eye where children would hide and another child was the eagle and had to spot where the other children hid with out moving. The children that hid had to be able to see the eagle but not be seen. They had great fun with this and were very good at hiding.
I would like to thank all the parents who have made the 1st Grade class so beautiful. It was a real team effort, from Ms Erin picking up my desk and chair, Bryan Suter for working on the curtain rods and desks and generally being so available for what ever I needed. Aneta Lundquist for all the beautiful plants outside and inside the class. Mr Geoff for helping with the desks and Darcy Banks for the watering cans we so needed. Thank you to you all and with gratitude for such a lovely and caring 1st Grade parent group. With Love, Ms Laura
The children have brought an increased sense of confidence with them into second grade. They have a new and exciting perspective on theirschool days and meet it with bold strides. They are beginning to becomemore independent, questioning everyone and everything around them. As we build on the foundation from first grade, the children experience the gentle, kind empathic qualities in the stories of the saints and from fable stories, the tricks of the wily fox, thus reflecting the ever contrasting polarities that they too are seeing in their lives.
They are ready to be challenged, with more difficult arithmetic problems, paintings with several colors, adding purling to their knitting projects, learning new drawing techniques, printing evenly and precisely, then beginning to read their work, modeling more complex beeswax figures, and often the most difficult of all, experiencing differences among their classmates and choosing to call upon their kind heart to work it out, be a friend to all and show forgiveness. The second graders have stepped forward on their journey this year with a joyful spring in their step and are experiencing the many new challenges, in that special way only a second grader can. ~Mrs McMillan
The third graders are becoming more aware of themselves as individuals. They are an inquisitive group, asking interesting questions, wondering why things are the way they are, and they're developing a sense of self in the process. They are becoming more conscious of the things that make them different, individual beings, but at the same time, they are actively searching for the elements that they share in common. The stories we share in class - both personal and literary - are informative and help guide us to a better understanding of what it means to be a good person in the world today. The third graders are actively engaged in working toward a more cohesive recognition of the fundamental workings of language and math - two of the forces that shape our world - and they seem genuinely interested in acquiring the skills that will allow them to better comprehend the world around them. ~Mr Geoff
This strongly connected group of children has had a marvelous start to the new school year. Happiness, deep engagement, and willingness to move straight toward and through growing edges and challenges have been their modus operandi.
For our study of Spelling, the children have settled into a familiar rhythm, with Mondays consisting of spelling sorts or dictation, Tuesdays taking “pre-tests” to determine what we know and what needs practice, Wednesdays writing a creative sentence or paragraph using the spelling words that need practice, and Thursdays taking a spelling "test" by writing down the their self-composed sentences. The children focus on one or two spelling patterns each week dependent on their needs. Thus far we have collectively looked at the short vowels u, o, i, e, a, long vowels, silent final e, diphthongs, short e sound spelled “ea” and the pattern i_e.
Practicing and reinforcing math skills from all years prior have been a part of our math review sessions a few times a week. In the first weeks children reviewed addition, borrowing when subtracting, and double digit multiplication. We then turned our attention to long division. Those who are beginning to master the basics were introduced to dividing by double digits and problems with remainders. During this past week we began revisiting how to add and subtract fractions with like denominators as well as multiplying and dividing fractions.
We informally began our Botany block by learning about one of my favorite botanists, John Muir. John Muir experienced plants and nature like few have. Fully nourished and filled by nature's "loveliness", Muir encountered a natural world without concepts and a continuous monologue running in his head. He was able to consistently let go of judging what he saw, any physical discomforts, and release for extended moments the habit of thinking only of himself and how everything relates to him. This allowed Muir to see what was there. As Muir wrote, "You lose consciousness of your own separate existence. You blend with the landscape, and become part and parcel of nature." Muir described his method of study as this: "I drift about from rock to rock, from stream to stream, from grove to grove. Where night found me, I camped. When I discovered a new plant, I sat down beside it for a minute or a day, to make its acquaintance and try to hear what it had to say." Kinship with plants, this possibility of connection, and the growing of the capacity to see deeply into plants are our aim for our two Botany blocks.
We began work in our Main Lesson Books by focusing on the plant and its main parts: The roots, the leaves, and the flowers. We learned that the roots are at once the “most dead” and the “most living” part of the plant. Roots have the strength to split rocks, a process that enriches the surrounding soil with minerals. The children saw that it was through the work of the leaves that the plant grows, as well as touching in with the fact that without leaves, we wouldn’t be able to breathe. We have literally been stopping to smell and observe the flowers wherever we go. We have visualized the experience of being an insect visiting flowers. We spent time reading some of John Muir’s his observations of and revelations about the animal and plant kingdoms from his time in Florida in the fall of 1867.
After concentrated focus on the roots and leaves, we turned our attention to the flowers. We sketched and wrote of the four main parts, the process of fertilization, and the growing of seed and fruit. Naturally we note the presence and quantity of each part during every flower visit outside. Next we drew and visualized the metamorphosis of a plant from seed to seed, noting and drawing each expansion phase and contraction phase of this metamorphosis. These children have been experiencing the lives of plants for some time during their Gardening time with Miss Jessica. Our studies then took us to investigating the greatest division in the plant world, that between monocotyledons and dicotyledons.
This past week we began sketching flowers with more awareness of how we approach plants. Our actual approach, or walking, toward plants has the purpose of growing awareness of the direction we are placing our life energy at that moment. We are more consistently using our breath to focus our minds so that we can tune in and be fully present with ourselves and the plant. Tuning in opens up many doors, while letting our thoughts usurp control of our minds makes us miss out on gifts of flowers outside of us and our brilliance within us. As many botanists agree, flowers are students of the rays of the sun, learn how to take shape from the light of the stars, and are mirrors of the universal brilliance. Who then, are we, if we are the ones looking into the mirrors of the flowers? This can be our experience. More mundanely, we are learning to draw the flower from the inside out and be guided by the flower as to what colors to use, how to place them, and so forth. The children now consistently request time to sit and sketch flowers they observe on and off campus.
Finally, we began using an "Acorn" as means of organizing ourselves as a community based on the rhythms found across nature. Thus our student self-directed and self-maintained structure is slowly being applied to daily life in the classroom, as students are beginning to run our morning circles, keep time throughout the day, and resolve conflicts. Each student has a role (also called a direction) that is essential in making the community flow. For example, the direction of East is where the sun rises, bringing new light and inspiration. Our student in the East gathers the group, motivates, encourages, reminds us of our class agreements on conduct, brings our attention to hazards, and so forth. Sounds like the sun, right? As our student in the West is in charge of celebrations, the Acorn has planned and ran their first event of the year: A party. The party was a grand way to note our joyful reunion. We are grateful to be together once again.
Many Thanks, Mr Jon
It simulantaneously feels like we never parted and that we have changed and grown so much this summer. Your lively pre-teens and now (gasp!) teens are as engaged and energetic as ever, with a deepened curiousity of all things they come in contact with and conjure up in their ever wakeful state. At this age, challenge continues to be paramount, the more creative and active the better! This year we met this need for stimulating the will forces by fulfilling a heartwarming community need - more desks! They set to work straight way and persevered ALL DAY , revealing sturdy, well built, aesthetically pleasing, sanded desks! There were so many benefits to this project beyond learning how to build furniture - they figured out an efficient system, experimented with different methods, communicated and assisted one another, problem solved, and persevered despite the heat. They are now also very careful and conscious of their new desks, keeping them clean and organized.
Once the desks were ready to be broken in, we began drawing geometrically, as some had never experienced this activity before, and it is a very gentle way to come into a new school routine, as they require extreme precision, but yield a very satisfying finished product. They are always astounded that these intricate forms are actually math, yet they are able to make accurate predictions and anticipate what the form will look like as we go. Later in the year we will experience this in a different way when we begin to look at ratios more formally, including the golden ratio, also related to our Renaissance studies. Everything we teach is related to many areas, so although we work in blocks, the content is woven in together, rather than taught in an isolated way. Again and again we have seen the importance of mathematics in art, art in history, and so on.
Coming together again, especially with new members of our class family is an excellent time to reawaken ourselves to previous content that we need to access in order to move forward. For the first two weeks of school we created useful business letters, corrected each other's writing and grammar, and did a thorough review of foundational math. In order to assess where new students are comfortable, as well as rekindle our prior teachings, we start simply with mental math and written practice of four operations of increased complexity. We then moved on to fractions, then decimals, converting between the two, then word problems. As we went, each aspect was completed faster as they became reinvigorated and ready to tackle more turgid problems and advanced mathematical thinking. Generally it takes three years to truly master a concept. The first year, it is introduced, the second year it is recalled and practiced, and the third year, it is mastered. Using this guideline, one can see a comfort and ease developing that allows us to build into the more conceptualized math skills such as negative numbers and algebra next month.
Our first main lesson block of the year was the late Middle Ages; this acted as a bridge between the early Middle Ages from last spring, to the Renaissance, coming this spring. Last year we explored many years of history, from the early Romans through the fall of the Roman Empire, to the wild tribes of Europe, to arrive at the feudal system and life in the manor. The students experienced the training of knights, and a day in the life of a monk. This year we encounter history in a different way, in terms of biography. Through biography, students find captivation in personal triumphs and sorrows, all in the context of a certain time period. At this age, there is an intense fascination in other people, therefore biographies powerfully attract and hold their interest in the larger subject. Wonderfully enough we had two incredibly powerful women to discover in this block - Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Jeanne d'Arc, or Joan of Arc.
Although Joan is practically iconic, the children were immediately drawn to and intrigued by Eleanor. Despite her earlier birth, Eleanor was a true Renaissance woman, and ahead of her time. Born in Aquitaine, Southern France, Eleanor was raised in a more secular and cultured part of Europe at that time, due to its proximity to the border of Spain and its heavily Islamic influence. As her father's only heir, she was raised much like a boy of that time would be, not to be a powerful man's wife, but to learn to wield power herself. By the time she was just a teen, in fact, she was the most educated woman in all of Europe. She was married off to Prince Louis of France, an arranged marriage of course, at the age of 13, (utterly shocking to these students!) became Queen of France soon after, and was then required to move to Paris, which at the time, compared to Aquitaine, was quite a dull place, especially for someone like Eleanor. At this point in her life we began to see her unconventional ways and sense of adventure forced to the surface, unable to be contained, leading her to champion a crusade, and eventually seek an annullment from her husband. She remarried Henry, the heir to the English throne and bore two future kings, Richard the Lionheart, and John, who famously signed the Magna Carta and gave Europe the first republic since....Rome! She assisted her sons in leading a rebellion against her own husband, at the age of 50 or so; she was clearly a very firey, dominant woman, unencumbered by societal expectations, even in her older years.
In Eleanor the children saw something of themselves - a lively, strong and fearless woman who rejected the past and very much lived in the future. This is a feeling living very strongly in a child of this age, as seeds of their future start to become apparent to them, and they are often, either subtley or overtly, shedding their past. Eleanor lived on her own terms, and they were utterly fascinated with her motivations and her ability to take charge of her own destiny.
In comparison, they found Joan's story much more sorrowful, although they still connected deeply to a young woman propelled into major historical events, and felt an empathy for this challenge put before her. They admired her bravery, her intensity, confidence, and persistence, but they couldn't quite understand what made her keep going. They were outraged hearing about her trial, which was the most documented event in history at that time. This process brought them great clarity though, when they realized that of the 70-some infractions Joan was originally charged with, they were wittled down to 12, and then 3, (her visions, wearing men's clothing, and refusing to submit to church authority), with the most egregious sin being that she would not submit to church authority. Then they understood, that she couldn't maintain her integrity without standing by her testimony; she couldn't disobey god in order to obey the church.
This was powerful for them as they started to naturally compare these two very persistent, bold, choleric women. They were able to see clearly that if Joan had been born earlier, she perhaps would have been universally revered, but in her time, to insist one has a link to the spiritual world separate from the church was simply unfathomable to that authority. While Eleanor died a peaceful death in her old age, they observed that her life would have perhaps been less dramatic if she had been born later on, in the Renaissance, with its rich culture; she would have been very stimulated and satisfied, in a time of innovation and artistry. There were many discussions about their actions with an intention of trying to penetrate beneath the surface and understand their motivations and circumstances. This is the gift of this age...a giant leap in their capacity to think, and offer a strong opinion based on their knowldege, which is substantial. Their capacity for memory is remarkable as they can recall years back in terms of content, and make connections to what we are studying now in a much deeper way than before.