Thursday, January 22, 2015

January Lessons

This month we began with a quality of numbers block (which we leapt right into on the 26th of December!)

Day 1 - The girls sit down for a puppet show:

*This is what our table looked like by the end of our block. Only Empress Equal and Danny Divide were there at first, when the puppet show began, and day by day as the story progressed new gnomes (Minus Takeaway, Addy Plus, and Tanya Times) were added to the table.

They discover, much to their surprise, they are PART of the puppet show! They use the keys they received back in our first math block to unlock the doors to the magical world of Numeria, where they find they ARE Phaedra and Adira! Empress Equal speaks directly to them, explaining the Land of Numeria is experiencing an eternal winter (oh dear, I tied our math block to Frozen, ever so slightly, just to make sure I kept their interest!) and she needs the help of the princesses to restore the balance of Nature and bring back spring. You see, the people of Numeria use special gems to help them with their everyday lives. They use them to heat their homes, for cooking, and instead of money, to buy things. Unfortunately, they became greedy and would not share with one another. Life became all about collecting the most gems and not about helping one another. A wise enchantress named Cyphir, who was the guardian of Numeria, cast a spell over the land, making it a frozen, snowy place, and hiding all of the gems in the earth until the people could once again learn to work together. Now the people of Numeria are ready to work together! Each of the four countries of Numeria has sent a special gnome to help find the jewels and distribute them among the people equally, and the gnomes, like the people, must work together to do this. Once the gems are distributed equally the balance of Nature will be restored. It is a very big job, and they will need the help of the princesses in order to do it.

The girls readily agree, of course, although they are both orbing with the excitement of it all. Just as the girls are talking to Empress Equal, they hear a noise and notice a little red gnome. Empress Equal introduces them to Danny Divide, the first of the four gnomes, who is in charge of distributing all of the jewels of Numeria equally among the people who live there, thus making sure everything is fair (a concept which has become of utmost importance to my two girls!) He asks for their help and they can't wait to get started. To thank them for agreeing to help he gives each of them a beautiful gift: a red velvet pouch filled with beautiful pink gems. But, there are not an equal amount of gems in the pouches! It's not fair! How can the girls make it fair? Isla, er, I mean Phaedra, decides we should dump out all of the gems and give one to Adira, one to Phaedra, another to Adira, another to Phaedra… reassuring me that I did not bring in this concept too soon ;). Then the girls drew pictures of Danny Divide:

Day 2 - Isla and Lyra recalled what they remembered about the puppet show and then Isla wrote a sentence: "Danny Divide likes to share and be fair." And then I gave the girls a bowl of raspberries at their desk to share. How to divide them equally? They both started in immediately with the "one for you, one for me" thing, but they went in twos and threes to make it quicker! OK wow! So I thought she might be ready for a number sentence. We worked with the gems. 10 *divided by* 2 = 5. It ended up seeming like too much, though, so we dropped it for now.

Next we went back to our puppet show, where the girls were greeted by Danny Divide. As they began helping him they hear someone coming. It is a tall, slim, blue gnome. He is introduced to the princesses as Minus Takeaway, and then he tells them he has found twelve jewels! But, as he searches his pockets, he only finds five! The girls tell him he must have holes in his pockets. So, how many jewels did he lose? We got out twelve gems, then took some away until there were five left. Then we counted the ones we had taken away - seven! Poor Minus Takeaway lost seven gems. The girls promised they would help him look, but that would have to wait until tomorrow. Then, we sat down at the desk and drew pictures of Minus Takeaway. I didn't draw at all, and the gnomes I needle felted did not have faces. I was very pleased to see that Isla added their special symbols without any prompting, and also that she really "got" what they were all about by the faces she gave them:

Day 3 - The girls recalled what they remembered of the last puppet show and then Isla wrote the sentence: "Minus Takeaway lost some gems." I tried to use sentences that used easy words to read, and were as phonetic as possible, or used sight words. Back to the puppet show we went, where the girls immediately began comforting Minus Takeaway. They came up with a plan to help, but just then, someone came walking up. It was a portly green gnome. Danny Divide took charge of introductions and the green gnome was introduced as Addy Plus. He was very pleased because he had just found SEVEN jewels on the trail to the cave where Danny Divide was working. How many did you say? SEVEN… Yes, the girls picked up on that, and guessed they were Minus Takeaway's lost jewels. Addy Plus happily gave them to Minus. We did a tiny bit of work with the jewels, helping the three gnomes, and then headed to the desk to draw Addy Plus:

Day 4 - Once again, the girls recalled what they remembered from the day before. Then Isla wrote the sentence: "Addy Plus found the lost gems." We then made our way over to the puppet show table. The girls said hello to the gnomes, and began helping with the latest predicament. Danny Divide laid out a pile of jewels (40) which they wanted to share equally among the four countries of Numeria. Once the girls had sorted out four piles of ten, a new gnome burst onto the scene. She was yellow, with a rainbow hat and a lot of energy. Danny Divide introduced her to the princesses as Tanya Times. Oh no. Danny Divide forgot how many jewels they had started with! The princesses had forgotten also! Ah, well, we need to count again. One, two… But wait! Tanya Times hops over and says she has a faster way! How many are in each pile? Ten. How many piles? Four. Let's count by tens! 10, 20, 30…40! You get the idea. Then back to the desk to draw Tanya Times:

Day 5 - The girls retold the story, and Isla wrote: "Tanya Times counts quickly."

I felt like that was good, for now, and we do little math problems as they come up in everyday life. The girls talk about Danny Divide often, as sharing raspberries equally comes up quite a bit in this house!

Next we began a block which I call (to myself) The Wonder of Plants. The girls received special botanist cases, which included leather, lockable, lapis-crystal covered nature journals, small scissors, magnifying glass, seed-collecting box, flower-collecting box, and small pencil:

I have given very little direction to this block. The girls have taken a big interest in their cases, and they already have a real interest in and love of plants, so I am following their lead here. The first day Isla took her case outside and took a small cutting of our passion fruit vine, and then sketched the vine. She came in and asked me how to spell "Passion Flower" so she could write it underneath her drawing. So far, so good.

All three kids got the chicken pox this month, so it was good timing for a bit of a break. I let most of the month be "free form" while the children healed and we spent lots of time in nature as well as snuggled up at home. The things we do for fun during the day "count" for our nature lessons. We learned how to safely make a fire (and how and why we should put it ALL the way out):

When we are out and about in nature (which is almost every day) we ask questions about the plants we meet. This month we learned about Sumac, which we see all the time, and we learned that you can tell poison sumac (which we do not have here in California, but still, good to know) by the "milk" that comes out of the leaves if you break one. The girls were delighted that "our" sumac, Laurel sumac, did not have any milk in it. On our hike we spotted chickweed, one of their favorite plants. We are growing some at home, and it's fun to see it in the wild. On one of our urban walks we found what looked to be chickweed, but the flowers were orange with purple centers. We came home, puzzled, and looked it up. Apparently that is called red chickweed! The girls like to point out any plants they know as we come across them, and everything plant-related is fascinating to them right now.

Of course this block goes well with our remedy-making obsession:

And we have several games we play that go along with the theme:

Wildcraft, Gaia's Garden, One Seed and Living Landscapes.

And the rest of our day…

We cook (lots of things, but for some reason I only took pictures of our jellies - wild harvested prickly pear and front yard harvested lime - and some letter pancakes):

We make things out of toilet paper rolls (like this paper ball run, here):

We play outside, go on hikes, build fires to roast marshmallows:

Walk down to the beach in the rain to have circle time and snack when we're very lucky:

Speaking of circle, here is where I got some of the ideas for our math circle:

And this month we've been reading books like "The Seven Year Wonder Book" and "Twig." The books we've read that really go with our Wonder of Plants block are "I'm a Medicine Woman, Too," "Yana Listens," "Shanleya's Quest," "The Herbalist of Yarrow," and "Little Green Hiking Hood." Here are some of the reference books that inspire me for our "Wonder of Plants" block (which of course we kind of do year-round, not just for one block):

Here are some pictures of painting time. While the girls wait patiently and reverently, I light a candle and tell a story:
I hold the brush in my hand In a beautiful little wood, that stretched alongside a golden meadow, there lived a little fox named Fritz. Fritz was a very handsome fox, and as foxes often are, Fritz was rather proud of his long fluffy tail. I gently stroke the bristles of the brush. He had a special way of showing off his long, handsome tail when it was warm enough down by the clear, cool stream, and here's what he did: Fritz would carefully get his tail wet in the stream, I dip the brush in the water jar. and then, ever so carefully, he would dip it in the red earth I dip my brush carefully in the red paint. and draw a lovely design I begin to paint. on the large, flat rock which rested by the banks of the stream. Before long a few animals had gathered to watch Fritz at his work. Once the red design was just right, Fritz carefully dipped his tail back in the stream. I dip my brush in the jar of water… you get the idea! But there was still a bit of red on his tail, so Fritz dunked it up and down in the waters of the stream a few more times. When he was sure all of the red earth was out of his long, lovely tail, he gently wiped it on the rocks at the edge of the stream so that it would not drip. Then, he found some beautiful yellow sand near his large, flat rock and he dipped his tail in that. By now there was a small crowd of forest animals watching Fritz paint! He painted freely and happily with the yellow sand, and stood back to look at his rock. Almost perfect! He went to the stream to clean the yellow sand off of his tail, gently wiped it off and on his way back to his rock he spied some blue clay in the earth. That was just the thing. He dipped his lovely tail in the blue clay and made a few final touches to his painting. Now there were many of his forest friends watching him paint, and Fritz smiled at all of them. He was finally finished with his painting. One last thing to do - clean off his tail in the clear, cool stream.

After the girls listen to the story, we begin our painting song:

Rainbow fairies come to me
Dance across my paper free
How to make my paintings bright
Filled with warmth and loving light

As we sing, I pass out the brushes and the girls begin painting:

Next Month: The girls were feeling disappointed about missing out on the school valentine gift exchange, so we are planning on having a "Festival of Love" over here next month. We started getting our Nature Table ready: