A beautiful flower girl wandered through her mother’s gardens. She wore a pink rose petal dress and delicate shoes made of acorns. She had hair that was the color of gold. Her name was Relaqwel.
Sighing, Relaqwel thought of all the suitors who had come to win her hand in marriage. Castle Tereteety was overflowing with millions of princes. Even thinking of them made her dizzy. There were so many that her father, the King, had a long list with their names on it. His assistants carried the papers everywhere he went, so if he met the princes then he would remove his spectacles and read through the list to find the correct names. To win Relaqwel, she had declared that they had to guess her name. So far none had. If her name was guessed, then the prince had to find a hoard of treasure.
That night a long line of princes lined themselves up in the throne room. The guessing began. Two hours passed. Then at exactly ten o’ clock a prince from across the sea said, “Relaqwel”. The King, who had said no to so many princes, almost said no but stopped just in time.
“Yes,” he said, “You have guessed rightly!”
The Prince could hardly believe his ears and at once all the other princes were on him shouting and swearing. “Silence!” roared the King. Then he turned to his assistants and removed his spectacles and read through the names until he found this Prince’s name.
“Robert, I believe,” he said to the Prince.
“Yes Your Majesty,” Robert replied.
“Now Robert, you must find the . . .”
“No Your Majesty,” interrupted Robert, “The treasure is already mine; it has always belonged to me.”
“I see, well, here is my daughter”.
Relaqwel stepped down from her throne. Robert gave her a dress made of white rose petals. The next night a wedding took place. Then Relaqwel and Robert stepped into a white carriage drawn by white unicorns and drove away in the moonlight. But as the carriage departed, four shafts of moonlight fell onto it and Relaqwel and Robert turned into fairies with sparkling wings.
The Norse Myths have been the subject of Tenderfoot’s study for the past eight weeks. Using D’Aulaires Book of Norse Myths, Favorite Norse Myths retold by Mary Pope Osborne, and Roy Wilkinson’s The Norse Stories and Their Significance, I was able to come up with an enriching and interesting lesson block.
The starting point was the telling of the Creation, beginning with Gunnungagap, Muspelheim, Niflheim, Ymir, Audumla, and the events that led to Odin, Vili, and Ve coming into being. Once this was told, Tenderfoot retold and wrote her understanding of the story. Nouns and verbs were underlined, and used as a springboard for writing sentences with attention to nouns and verbs. We moved on to the tale of Odin, Vili, and Ve’s rebellion against the giants and Ymir, ending with the Creation of the worlds that live in the roots of Yggdrasil. At this point the retelling and writing that Tenderfoot did was focused on tense:
Once there was nothing. There will be something. There is a spark called Muspelheim.
There was a spark. There will be something. It is an icy mist called Niflheim.
There was an icy mist. There will be something. It is water.
There was water. Something will climb out of the water. There is an ice cow called Audumla. There is a giant called Ymir.
She basically transferred the whole story in tense form, beginning with the Gunnungagap and ending with the Aesir ascending to Asgaard on the Bifrost, covering everything in between sentence by sentence using past, future, and present tense. It was quite a rythmic activity. We breathed out of this into discovering Yggdrasil’s inhabitants (the eagle, Nidhogg, Ratatsok, the sacred deer, and the three Norns) a bit more fully; everyone loved the imagery evoked by the squirrel running between Nidhogg and the eagle, carrying insults between the two. There was a lot of discussion about how this began . . . . who spoke the first insult and why did they? was it the squirrel himself who said something that inadvertently caused offense to one, so rather than take responsibility, he blamed the other, thus spurring the whole thing in the first place?
Wrapped up the Norse Myth origins with the three quests that establish Odin as All-Father. These were quite well received and immediately linked to one another . . . . oh yes, one would need to remember the runes in order to use them, and with wisdom one would know who to share them with and how, and of course poetry would come out of it, for with the memory and wisdom to understand both written and spoken words, speaking them persuasively and imaginatively makes sense!! Tenderfoot did a retelling of the quests and wrote about them, this time with attention to tidy handwriting, spellings, grammar, and arrangement of events, paragraphs, etc.
So we covered nouns, verbs, tense, grammar, spelling, handwriting, sentence order/structure, and more through the stories, which connected really well with what we were working on: creative forces, intentional use of one’s will, words and their use, both written and spoken. At the end of each week Tenderfoot copied a poem and drawing into her main lesson book, though she took many liberties in rendering them in her own way. During these eight weeks we also arranged twigs in runic form, and built a home for the Norns by a well that sits by Yggdrasil, which as everyone points out should not be above the Norns but below, since the worlds are in its roots and the Norns are at the base above Asgaard!! But we all know this and were unable to find a branch that could sit beneath the board, so a bit of artistic liberty was applied in the essence of creating 🙂
Seeing that Tenderfoot is able to do some original work within the format we’ve been using, I had her pick out her favorite stories from either D’Aulaires or Mary Pope Osborne’s Norse Myth books. She then translated them into main lesson book material. At some point the children wanted to know just whose stories are these anyway? Tenderfoot returned from the library armed with books on Vikings one day, so we did a study on the people of Midgaard to wrap up the lesson block. This wrap up covered the lives of the Norsemen, how they lived, what they did, and where they are in the world today, which led to more library books on Finland, Norway, and Sweden. So we segued into some geography.
In the meantime Little Man did lots and lots of consonant blends, eight weeks of blending, mixed in with form drawing and the telling of fables that work well with blends, like The Ant and The Grasshopper and The Crow and The Pitcher. We’d pick sets of blends . . . . br/bl, cr/cl/ch, dr, gr/gl, sp/sl/sh, etc . . . . . and spend a few days working with them. He’d think of words with those blends, write them, then read them and use them in sentences one day. Next day we’d read past work, see how many he could read back, write any more that he’d thought of then move to the next blend set. At the end of the week he’d enter a picture and words in his Main Lesson Book. Every two days or so we’d end with form drawing, either with chalk, crayon, or outside looking at leaves/finding forms, making them with sticks, or just hanging out, looking around, making observations, and enjoying some sun. This pattern seems to work for him, so we’re flowing with it.
As for Stormy and Little Bird, between paper flower making, needle felting, drawing, gathering leaves, dipping said leaves in melted wax, and relocating caterpillars, I’d say they’ve enjoyed their days at school too.
Drawing from last weeks lesson . . . . Little Spider’s First Web . . . . I put together an insect block for Tenderfoot. What I like about it is that it really connects us from the bottom, itty bittiest of beings, upward to ourselves eventually . . . . . demonstrates the connectivity of all things really well, in the way the insects function and serve not only themselves but the rest of the world too. From the honeybee that pollinates the plants while it gathers for itself, to the fly that turns over the decomposing materials for the earth. Loveliest of all is noticing how the bee and butterfly feed on purely liquid matter, like nectar, along with the hummingbird (ever notice how hopped up on sugar that hummer looks when its zipping about so fast on such tiny wings?) . . .. and even more interesting is how the honeybee can mix up the pollen with the nectar to make honey, which allows it to overwinter in its hive, unlike the butterfly that has to migrate. Much food for thought, so when we look at our very long grasses and see the clover, plantain, yarrow, and other flowers covered with bees, we understand how come mowing gets done very seldom around here, as it is with the ‘dead’ sunflower stalks and everything else going to seed around the garden . . . .
We spent the first few days of the week looking for butterflies, ants, crickets, bees, flies, spiders, and following them about to see where they go, what they do, how many different types are there, where they can be found, and so on. Lots of outside time observing, hunting, picking up, looking, and discussion. All the children participated in this and it was fun. Tenderfoot worked on entering each insect into her Main Lesson Book over the week, illustrating and writing some basic information about each one. The block was partly intended for her to work slowly at drawing and writing about a subject, more than anything else, as she’s usually in quite a rush to finish her work and these pages really ask for you to slow way down in order to get them done. Sort of like a foundation building idea, with insects as the theme flowing out of last week and what we have all around us, after all the foundation has to be practiced/built on something right? It took her a while to get into a slow flow, but she kept at it, surprising herself by what she can accomplish when working painstakingly at anything! And in the evening around the dinner table there have been some further discussions about what we’re noticing about the insect world . . . did you know a spider is not an insect? We were joined by crickets and grasshoppers at the table, Little Bird is great friends with them and they are brought in and taken out quite often, clinging to her fingertips with sticky feet.
As for Little Man, drawing on what’s around us again, I told him the story of Hummingbird and Heron, which resonated with us all since we’ve seen the heron’s gobble up the koi we stocked the pond with . . . they left a few. The story was what we worked through during the week, including writing words and sentences beginning with H (not exclusively H though), painting the story, acting out the story, telling another heron story and dramatizing it (this one was fun to portray, as the heron can be very proud and strutting, and you can add more fish than perch in different styles and sizes . . . we had minnows, spotted trout, bass, rainbow trout . . . basically what’s in the rivers around here), doing some form drawing with wool on felt, and ending by illustrating and writing a brief version in his Main Lesson Book.
Stormy and Little Bird have fallen into a rhythm of coloring, painting, swinging, playing games outside, needle felting, and doing their own “writing”. Our days have stretched to 10 – 2:30, and we have our lunch at the schoolhouse. We came up with a letter game that everyone plays in the afternoons, on rainy days this past week: first we wrote all the letters in Capitals on individual pieces of paper, taping them to the ground. Then each player draws an alphabet card from a deck (we use our pack of Quiddler cards but you could make your own) and goes to find it on the path . . . it’s fun to walk the path even if you know where the letters are . . . . once there the players stand on the letter and say as many words as they can think of with that letter, even doing the person behind or infront of them’s letter . . . . it’s a fun game and some surprising words come flying out 🙂 Stormy and Little Bird don’t now their letters yet, though Stormy can copy them and knows how they function in a book: making words to tell a story for instance, so she really enjoys hearing their sound and thinking of words with that sound, A . .. Anne, ant, apple, etc. and Little Bird digs the motions involved in hunting for the match.
The week began with our circle, which was interrupted by our dog Clover barking fiercely. By the creek were three bear hunting dogs (it’s chase season), and she promptly chased them all away 🙂 There was much excitement for a while!! The story for the week was Little Spider Weaves A Web, told on the first day. This rhythm seems to work really well, coming in from circle time to the telling of a story. Everyone is fresh and ready to listen, and the story sets the tone for the rest of the week. After the story was over Little Man spelt out the names of all the different people in the story: spider, bee, fly, ant, etc. with the wooden alphabets. Tenderfoot illustrated it and wrote a brief summary. Stormy made wax butterflies, then painted. Little Bird and I went outside to look for butterflies, crickets, spider webs, and ants. We found all, as well as mushrooms and even heard a bird singing. Came back in and cut strips of paper with which Tenderfoot did weaving, and the younger two girls used for gluing pictures of weavings. Little Man was ‘practicing’ his illustration, after which we got a small fire going and cooked eggs over it along with some corn.
Second day we had our circle, played a game of Oranges and Lemons, then inside where we recapped the story and had a lively discussion about all the people it features: where they live, what they eat, how they look, if they are many types of each one, what they do, how things would change if they weren’t around, and so on. Everyone engaged in this, after which Tenderfoot and Stormy made tissue paper flowers and Little Bird did more weaving-pictures with paper and glue. Little Man worked on his illustration in his Main Lesson Book. When we were done we went by the pond and scattered stale bread for the koi to eat. Clover hunted cicadas, she loves them!
Third day we looked for all the people from the story on the way to the schoolhouse, discussing what we were seeing along the way. After circle Tenderfoot and Little Man worked on forms, and Stormy decided she was going to see if she could copy the alphabet into her book (it’s tacked up on the wall) . . . . she could and she did and was pleased as punch even if she has no idea what they are! Little Man made some flowers after he was done form drawing, and Tenderfoot wrote about the different insects and what she knows about them. Went outside and looked for more forms, walked them, and scratched them into the flattened sawdust by the pond. Ate our lunch right there and played for a while . . . . jumping over logs and boards and hide and seek . . . . before heading home.
Fourth day began with circle, then inside where Little Man practiced forms on chalkboard. We had a discussion about ripples and boats as he worked, with the forms illustrating what he was saying about boats looking bigger close to land then getting smaller as they sailed further away. He then showed me what stones skipping on water look like, what the wind does to water, and what a rock thrown in does; it was quite fun. Stormy was needle felting the whole time and Tenderfoot was making forms on a board outside with pine needles, sticks, sawdust, and other materials. Little Bird was fluttering about between outside and inside. She and Stormy went back home after we had our lunch. Tenderfoot and I had a grand time saying tongue twisters out loud . . . . . six sick slick sycamore saplings and so on . . . while Little Man practiced handwriting in a penmanship book.
Wrapped up the week with Tenderfoot and Little Man entering the forms in their Form Drawing Books, handwriting and spelling practice for each of them, and a morning of outdoor games, rope jumping, and painting with Stormy and Little Bird. Then we offed and away to dig out potatoes.
What a wonderful week at the schoolhouse! We’ve been walking there at around 10 and come back between 12 and 12:30. We start out with a circle outside, circled by poplar stumps; a song, some stretching out, up, down, and shaking.
Began the week by telling the story of Johnny and The Three Goats. While I told it, Tenderfoot wrote a list of words as she heard them in the story. Stormy and Little Bird listened, and Little Man arranged upper and lower case letter cards in alphabet order. Once the story was over, Stormy and Little Bird illustrated it on their chalkboards and Tenderfoot used wax to make the fox and rabbit. During this time, I played a card-pull game with Little Man: he pulls a random alphabet card out and names five words beginning with that letter. When we were done it was lunch time, so we came back home and baked the bread we set up before leaving to have with purple tomatoes and cheese.
Started the second day with the same circle, followed by a game of oranges and lemons. Inside, Tenderfoot wrote the story as she remembered it, Stormy and Little Bird made trees with wax, and I worked with Little Man on the card-pull game again, this time writing down one word from each pull on the chalkboard. He colored a picture on his chalkboard while Stormy and Little Bird painted outside on the easel. Again the morning seemed to come to an end surprisingly quickly, so home it was for a wheat berry lunch tossed with red cabbage and fermented turnips.
Third day round, after circle time we headed in and Tenderfoot read the story as she had written it out aloud. Then we had a long discussion about goats, rabbits, foxes, and bees: where they lived, what they eat, how they move. We’ve all seen them countless times, so had quite an engaged discussion. When that was over Tenderfoot wrote about each animal and Little Man practiced drawing each one. The younger two were busy painting outside again, played a few games, and soon it was lunchtime.
Today Tenderfoot baked cookies by herself while the rest of us went to the schoolhouse. She joined us for circle time and her heart was elsewhere, so she returned home to find her focus. Little Man copied the story summary, illustrated, into his Main Lesson Book. Little Bird fiddled with everything in her desk. Stormy made a few pictures and chose to see if she could copy the words from the storyboard (I had tacked it onto a wall) into her book, and we came home a bit earlier today, to be greeted by the smell of peanut butter cookies 🙂
A grand yet simple week, where everyone was engaged in something to suit them individually, simultaneously (that’s the hard part . . . . doing 2 hours of work with 4 children, feels like 8 hours of energy compressed into two!!). Onward, ho!
Five Poplars are ever so giving! The milled wood was beamed and planked and now the cabin frame is up this summer solstice! We’ve all been putting our helping hands to work with our neighbour and friend, building the little cabin together by the pond, which it’s my hope will be used as a schoolhouse in the coming months. Little Man drilled 200 plus screws to fix the floor down and was completely and happily busy with this endeavour when he wasn’t climbing from bottom to top, monkey eyes sparkling 🙂 It’s as yet incomplete but is open and airy and an extremely fun place to play before the walls, roof, and door are added; days of joy are spent here with baskets of toys and snacks toted to and from the main house.