Sunday, 27 September 2009

Parents' evening and Hebrew...

There was parents night this week and Donna gave us a description of what Class Three goes through. I'll intersperse it with the photographs. Also the class is still doing the Creation - and learnt Hebrew at the same time. The other amazing thing is that almost everyone in the class has started to read. From the holidays where no reading was done to now - where the boys were reading bilboards, etc which they came across when i brought them to town.

The first two or three years of school still retain an echo of the age of imitation. The children do not yet have any strong desire to make a distinction between 'me' and the world; and there is as yet no sharp distinction between what is inanimate and what is alive.

Lessons therefore provide sufficient space for learning through direct experiencing. The period between 7 and nine is still characterised by strong forces of imitation and situation memory. From 9 onwards, the children increasingly stand back and question given authorities. Now the children notice a strong division between themselves and the grown-ups.

In class 3, through the themes of farming and house-building, the children's journey is brought literally down to earth. They carry out practical farming and building activities. Such practical activities, tailored to the children's age and capabilities contain long-term pedagogical elements that prepare them for later insight into economics and ecology. Learning how natural raw materials are transformed into products, which serve real needs in the world, sows the seed for  real experience of mutuality and service.

By class 3, reading progresses to a differentiation of material for different purposes,including understanding instructions and tasks, finding out information and reading timetables. Reading aloud is practised with an awareness of content and punctuation. Children are directed to a wide range of reading materials according to ability.

In class 3 the children write long, draw more complex compositions. Instruction and practice in formal letters, diaries and description of nature moods supplement this. Neat legible handwriting is encouraged. 

Measurement moves from oral realm, which is comparative, qualitative and contextual to the use of formal units. Starting with traditional measures based on body proportions, the children are introduced to standard units of linear, liquid, weight, time, money and music measurement and notation.

Donna also gave us the time table. Main lesson from 8.40 - 10.40 all days with breaks after that. Followed by music, cookery, reading, drama, german, handwork, art, eurythmy, gardening and games. 

With Oisin now reading and writing and doing maths so easily, i wonder what lesson there has been in here for myself. I must admit that i did use to worry, but now i find, what did i have to worry about? Childhood lasts for such a short, short time - why did i want to make him join the adult world through these skills so quickly? It will slowly but surely happen. With each child, it is different, but their world through the school is so rich and varied. 

This year they will focus on house building and farming. They will literally build houses and huts, as well as go onto farms and the school allotment to plant things which they will later eat. Many of the families in the school already do this, but that they do it with their peers gives emphasis to the work that is being done.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

More pictures ...and a bit about learning and forgetting

A chalk drawing from the blackboard...the tree of life...

Here's a bit from another Steiner site about what Class Three is about

Third Grade:
After the learning personality is developed and students have learned to take responsibility for engaging it in the life of the class, their childhood in a sense ends. As mentioned previously until this point, children have for the most part experienced their feelings as only arising in response to concrete life situations, when listening to stories, and when imitating concrete life situations and stories. But now, they notice their feelings may arise in response to inner imagined situations.

The exercise of this capacity leads to a child realizing that their feeling life may be independent of their relationships with parent, peer or teacher. Before this time, a child's feelings were like garments that others gave them to wear depending on the weather. Hopefully the garments they were given always kept them warm. But now, they must chose their own garments, and they have little experience at judging the weather.

This independence of their feeling life and therefore responsibility for their feeling life causes for children anxiety and a lost of self-confidence. Though if a proper foundation as been set, students this year will conquer writing, reading and arithmetic, they will also study house building, farming and textiles. The application of these academic skills and human-craft will rebuild the self -confidence of students, and stories about leaders such as Noah, Moses and Harriet Tubman who, with an inner source of strength, lead others through difficult situations will support the resolution of rising anxieties.

Sunflowers from the school's garden decorate the notice board with stones and shells...

A piece from the story they are doing. It is the story of creation - Donna gets them to listen to the story on one day, act it out on the second, paint it on the third and then write it on the fourth. Using the learning-forgetting methodology the children are quietly learning...

Nature table with the offerings of autumn's fruit - from the earth and the woods.

The boys enjoy a pillow fight in the 'quiet' corner which Donna's made in the class.

A bit about learning and forgetting. Else, the school's mentor and guardian angel - one of the many ones that we have - gave a wonderfully inspiring talk about how children learn to parents last semester. It was incredibly inspiring and reassuring.

The talk was partly organised because Else is such a wonderful talker, but it was also done because this learning-forgetting aspect of Steiner education is so at odds with our mainstream method of education where the knowledge is constantly 'being pulled to the surface'.

Else began the talk by recalling how when she first encountered an amarylis it took such a long time before it blossomed. It seemed like it was doing nothing at all for ages and it was most frustrating and bewildering. Then finally, when it was not convinient for herself - when she was about to leave for a long journey - the flower finally opened. She said it was truly miraculous to behold its beauty - and all the growing that it had done in silence was necessary and could not be rushed.

This was the analogy for the way children learned. It has been observed that the mind and the way we develop is not a contanst upward trajectory. Like everything else in nautre - including waterfalls - development pulses. There is movement and then there is rest. (This movement of waterfalls was independantly observed by Oisin in the Mournes without any prompting from me - look at how the water beats mom, he said to me.) Even if it is infinitesimal.

Waldorf/Steiner education observes and works with this. Instead of constantly pulling the information to the surface through testing, it allows the learning to settle and work with the child. It does not insist that children learn at a particular rate either as each child is different and each child has its own gifts. What is common is the nurturing of the spirit-soul that takes place through the education.

Many parents then shared their own experience of how their children learned. This was reassuring to others who were still in the process and naturally would feel anxious if their children weren't seen to be 'progressing normally'. Wait and see, be patient, was Else's advice.

She also recounted the change from Middle to Upper school and how this was often challenging for everyone as they road out the adolescent growth spurt. "It makes me laugh every year when Lower School teachers say to Upper School teachers 'What have you done with my angels?' and Upper School teachers say to Lower School teachers 'Did you teach these children anything?' We must be patient and trust the process - one day when we least expect it, we will see this wonderful amarylis."

Here's a piece from our website taken from the Steiner curriculum handbook about learning and forgetting...enjoy :-)

In Autumn St Michael

Summer has passed and school is now back. The class has grown by two! so now we are 11 once again! I dropped Oisin off to the school and heard the class singing the verse - the St Michael's song. There is something plaintive and sweet about it - it perfectly captures the passing of summer and the arrival of autumn - and all the glory and ambivalence of the seasons' changes.

This year of course they do house building and farming, but also creation, and Donna sent me these wonderful pictures.

To see the gentle growth that has taken place over the summer reflected in their writings - it was like visiting a lush rain swept garden.

The rainbow of creation.

When i saw this photo, i wanted to cry - because firstly it was so beautiful - the light just captured the wee story which they had worked with. And then i saw all of Oisin's watercolour paintings from the day he went to Kindergarten till now. To see it slowly appear, not forced or learnt, but gently grown from seed and nurtured and nourished... it seems as if i have been waiting for this and not even known about it. What a blessing...

Donna did this beautiful drawing of the recorders!

The backdrop to the nightsky...hints of advent already in the air...

Animals, houses and farms will feature heavily in this year's work. I can't wait.

Here's some of the written work over the week...

And the lyrics to the St Michael's song...

In autumn Saint Michael with sword and with shield
Passes over meadow and orchard and field
He’s on the path of battle ’gainst darkness and strife,
He is the heavenly warrior, protector of life

The harvest let us gather with Michael’s aid,
The light he sheddeth fails not, nor does it fade
And when the corn is cut and meadows are bare
We’ll don Saint Michael’s armour and onward will fare

We are Saint Michael’s warriors with strong heart and mind,
We forge our way through darkness Saint Michaels to find
And there he stands in glory, Saint Michael we pray,
Lead us on to battle and show us thy way.