When I taught high school history there were summers where I’d sketch out and PLAN nearly the entire year only to learn at the start of school that there was a major change to the syllabus. Or, there were years where I would get three weeks into the semester and decide to alter my plans because of the particular class or some new resource I’d discovered. So clearly there it is important (for me) to strike a balance between planning and preparedness AND flexibility– allowing a more intuitive nature to lead…
This is exactly what happened with our second grade (2016-2017). I had much of the year sketched out, in fact half of the year was solidly planned; however, after the winter holidays one thing lead to another and I decided to follow the girls’ interests and stick with biographical studies. In Waldorf education second grade’s main vehicles (that through which the curricula is “delivered”) are: fables or trickster stories and stories of saints as the themes within speak to 7-8 year old child. We took on trickster stories from Native American cultures and rather than European saints, we learned about some remarkable individuals, saint-like in their own ways such as John Muir, Malidoma Some, Siddhartha Gautama and a Hindu mystic named Mirabai. I wove into these lessons, cultural elements of music, dance, poetry, geography, climate and even lessons on indigenous plants and animals around the continents of study. For example, during our block on Mirabai of India, we looked at the variety of spices that come from India– which led to shopping at an Indian market and then some creative cooking. We ended our year with Aboriginal stories from Australia and a cursory, but nonetheless fun and interesting look at the geography of Australia. Within these large studies, we practice math, reading, vocabulary, spelling, crafts, art, handwork…we learned about history and nature and more! With its experiential basis in Waldorf education, there’s lots of movement, gesture and various artistic outlets within these disciplines.
Second grade involved some “stepping up” in our workload, but not so much so that we didn’t have plenty of afternoon play time, bike rides, and spontaneous adventures tucked in here and there. The art museum became a regular venture in the winter/spring and then with the very mild winter we had, we spent a lot of time outdoors after lunch. The girls reading and math practice picked up in significant ways. Ada moving on to some serious chapter books by the school year’s end. Arlene so far, loves math and is incredibly skilled with her times tables and mental math practice. They both love dance, art, and warming to my heart, history. I try as often as possible to integrate stories from history into what we are studying– even though formal history lessons are not typically part of these early grades and understandably. I recall learning American history and just having no reference point for anchoring the information. There is obviously just SO much to history and it is in the layering year after year, for a lifetime, that makes one a student of history. We came across this quote, which I’m paraphrasing, from Confucius in a graphic novel we read about the cultural revolution in China:
There are three ways to learn. First through history, which is the hardest. Second through imitating which is the easiest and third, through experience which is heartbreaking.
We learned about Ayurveda, too. Ayurveda is a science from ancient India. It dovetailed beautifully with the girls’ insatiable interest in all-things Indian! We experimented with many recipes and along the way it shaped some beautiful habits around gratitude and healthy eating habits. We baked sourdough, made yogurt and buttermilk regularly. We began to embrace more and more local foods and ventured to the farmer’s market weekly. We started a 3rd grade cookbook project with seasonal growing tips and recipes.