Mojave in my Heart

From a not-so childlike beginning in New York City to my child inspired world here and now


Leave a comment

john muir block

We started a block of study on John Muir way back in November and did not finish until after the holidays. It was interrupted several times and ultimately I did not want to push through since it was going SO PHENOMENALLY WELL!! I borrowed curriculum from a friend several months before that and when I finally got around to reading through it, I was pleased. It took a few weekends to get my head wrapped around all of it; the volume of materials was truly overwhelming. Nonetheless, I found much of it to be well researched and decided to try out a story and the general approach. The language arts section of these materials focuses on stories, like I’ve been telling this year, but there are many suggestions for how to expand on the stories, culturally. The stories are actually biographies of folks from around the world – from Harriet Tubman to Ghandi.  In some ways, the approach of these materials reminded me of my teaching days and this lit a fire within!  Back then, I would completely immerse myself and my high school students in as many aspects of the culture we were studying. For example, when my students and I studied Islam we read background, learned vocabulary, studied maps, and dates. I also told my students, in story format, all about Muhammed, the prophet of Islam from my own research. They were captivated by hearing a story told to them.  We drew pictures and made books. We studied Arabic, listened to recitations of the Qu’ran, and Arabic music. In that way these borrowed curricula materials encouraged me to teach in…my own style! What a gift!

I started with John Muir, Scottish-American naturalist  well-known for his efforts to protect America’s wild places.  Just as in high school teaching, I decided to absorb as much of the subject matter as possible through my own readings– the subject being John Muir– which are fantastic! He was totally accessible, so informative, and truly entertaining.  I highly recommend reading him.

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-8-15-47-am

We continued with our usual daily format although this was one of our longer blocks.

Day 1: I tell the story, we draw a picture and rest on it. Day 2: The girls re-tell the story, often acting it out with props and I help fill in the narrative gaps. We first work aloud the summary of the story and I write it on a large paper or board. The girls then begin their own summary writing. This is the beginning of our books! The cycle continues in this fashion, 4 days a week for several weeks. I overlapped some of our phonics words when appropriate and kept up with spelling.

After our circle time, which includes both seasonal and cultural songs, poems, and games we work on math problems, both on paper and aloud, followed by some brief phonics work and then a more substantial focus of the block’s cultural side –working on a specific poem, a Scottish song, or a dance.  We had so much fun with “Aiken Drum” which I did not know was Scottish! We’ve been singing that song for many years. We also learned the “Wee Willie Winkie” poem which reminded me of my cousin Alistair, from Scotland. He passed away two years ago this winter. The food of a culture, too are wonderful to explore.  Scotland is not well known for culinary exports and so I struggled here.  Haggis is apparently the national dish of Scotland, but with ingredients such as a sheep’s stomach, heart, liver, AND lungs we skipped for simple stews and barley porridge.  We made maps of Scotland, learned about islands, “seas” and the vast Atlantic Ocean between the United States and Scotland. We pulled out our own photo albums of Yosemite from two summers ago were we swam in the waters beneath famous Half-Dome and walked among the giant and ancient ones, the Sequoias of Yosemite.

Honestly the block came at such an opportune time. We too needed to “listen” like John Muir, to the calls within us (I know I did!), to the calls of the outdoors.  Happily, we hit the trails often during this block. Listening to oneself, like John Muir, requires tremendous courage and I was overjoyed at bringing such a wonderful role model into our studies.

We also read a lot of picture books on John Muir.

The block cycle: storytelling, re-telling/acting it out, working on our handmade books, and then repeat! We completed the block  in about 4 weeks, not counting the “breaks” of travel, holidays, etc.  The girls’ writing has grown  beautifully during this block– from a creative and engaging approach.  Their work is meaningful. Perhaps “meaningful work” is one of the the primary reasons I homeschool! As a teacher, I saw “meaningless” busy work and the display of dejection by students. Some learn to gear up for tests only, because to them, that’s what it is really about. Sometimes folks love to learn despite their school experiences!

Ada’s book:

untitled-03155

 

untitled-03162untitled-03163untitled-03164untitled-03165untitled-03166untitled-03167

Arlene’s book (bottom):

untitled-03161

 

untitled-03173untitled-03174untitled-03175

See John on the trail above left?

Suntitled-03176untitled-03177

Then they wrote their own biographies for the end of the book along with a picture:

untitled-03178

untitled-03168

We took a break from writing books and caught up on some chapter books, a little more math, and couple trips to the museum. In fact, the museum was very helpful as an introduction to our next block!

untitled-2


2 Comments

sunrise hike

What is it that we always want more of? Or, less of? As we approached the holidays this year, I felt a strong desire to just BE together. Freedom to BE together. Perhaps Santa could arrange time together rather than things?  Perhaps we could remind ourselves that this time of the year is a gift to be free. To not feel the yoke of commercial obligation, but to take that moment and breath deep and remind yourself that YOU are FREE. I had an inspiring thought in the fall about the Sabbath in this regard– that truly the gift is freedom.

One of our favorite 12 Days this year was our sunrise hike day. Santa left warm undershirts, hot cocoa powder, and a map…a beguiling map that we were to follow the next morning to experience the beauty of the sunrise together as a family.

untitled-03048

Stephen and I were very tired during the holidays and honestly, it was challenging to gather the mental and physical, as well as emotional energy to follow through on this and some of the other 12 Days. Nonetheless, we set the alarm and went to bed early, unbeknownst to us, we were to receive an incredible gift the next day!

untitled-03039

Arlene and Ada? Amazingly excited to hit the trails at 6 am on a chilly, Colorado, winter morning. It was truly exhilarating to begin the hike. The mountains, black and silhouetted against a dark, but lighter background. The air was refreshing and almost nourishing. The quiet. The solitude. It was truly incredible and we were only 100 feet into the hike.

untitled-03036

untitled-03043

We followed the map and landed at the star. What a spectacular spot to await the rising of the sun! We poured hot cocoa, settled in and waited. Suddenly everything was okay out there. Serenity and peace washed over me. There was no where else I’d rather be.  Within minutes it seemed everyone had found their own space and quiet, both physically and internally.

untitled-03056untitled-03057untitled-03063untitled-03068untitled-03071untitled-03073untitled-03086untitled-03089untitled-03090untitled-03092untitled-03094untitled-03097untitled-03098

imag0606_1

untitled-03100

What a miracle to experience the sunrise. Awaiting something so special, so simple was  at the heart of that morning. The season, too. It was dark, then it was slowly light.  It was just us and then there were animals. It was cold and then slowly, warm all the way through. It was quiet and then there were birds.

I did indeed get what I wanted for Christmas. A priceless experience– seemingly extravagant in how greatly it filled me up, yet completely free.