This is the last week before our Term 2 Exams, so we are very busy finishing up all of our reading. However, we still manage to make time to be active. A couple of weeks ago, the Greene family came to share a recipe for pita bread. The Greenes are a local homesteading family that grows and sells produce at Foothills Farmers Market. Since they homeschool, the children were able to come in to talk about what a typical day on the farm looks like. Then we each made our own pita and ate it warm from the oven with butter. Yum!
Last Friday, we took a field trip to Charlotte, NC to visit Discovery Place and First Presbyterian Church. Of course, Discovery Place gave us an opportunity to study principles of science in a fun, hands-on way. While we were there, we also saw an IMAX movie about the migration of the monarch butterfly from Canada to Mexico. The reason for the visit to First Presbyterian Church was to view a real fresco. Our study of Raphael this term taught us that a "fresco" is a picture that is painted right into wet plaster, so that when it dries it becomes a permanent part of a wall. We had seen many pictures of frescoes in Europe, and we thought it would be difficult to find one to see in person. Then we found out about Ben Long, who has painted frescoes throughout North Carolina. The one we saw showed the story of the Good Samaritan. The children were surprised to see just how big the painting was. They noticed that it looked different from far away than it did up close, and they moved slowly along the painting in order to see the details of each section. Now, if we could just get to Rome to see Raphael's frescoes...Maybe one day we will!
There are several principles upon which Charlotte Mason's education philosophy rests:
Here is what Mason says about the science of relations:
"Education is the Science of Relations"; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thought; so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of--'Those first-born affinities That fit our new existence to existing things.'" (Mason, Philosophy of Education, p. xxx)
In other words, there is such a wide variety of things to know and things to inspire us in this world! To trim it down to just basic skills, or even to skills that will be useful in getting a job later, is too restrictive. Those things are necessary, to be sure; but they are not the whole. To take this idea further, think about Psalm 24:1--"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it." Everything includes all the knowledge there is to be had on Earth. And it all belongs to His children by rightful inheritance. It is not mine to give or withhold as I see fit, even if I use "scientific" measures like intelligence or achievement tests to inform my decision. That is why all of our students will read Shakespeare, Bacon, Locke, and Churchill. It is why they will all study philosophy, art, music, and advanced math, and learn at least three foreign languages before they graduate. It is also why they will all learn to be naturalists, to cook, to clean, and to make handcrafts. All of those things are worthwhile, and the fact is that we just don't know what each child will need in order to fulfill God's plan for his or her life.
This week we worked on deepening our relationships with the principles of architecture. This is a new subject for most of our students. It combines elements of history, science, mathematics, and art, which is a great way to demonstrate that these subjects do not exist in isolation. We began this project with a simple task assignment: Use the materials provided to build a bridge from one block to the other that will hold the weight of three clay "people". The first day was primarily trial-and-error, and students kept a record of what they tried and the results in their science journals. Then, we incorporated two texts: The Art of Construction by Mario Salvadori and Building Big by David Macaulay. These books show pictures of actual bridges and outline how they were designed to overcome problems that were specific to the site upon which they were built. The first bridge studied used Roman arches to increase strength. In the pictures above, you can see how the children improved their bridge designs by incorporating this element. In the coming weeks, we will learn about other types of bridges and continue to improve our designs.
Another book that Forms 1 and 2 are reading is Eric Sloane's Seasons of America Past. This is a beautifully illustrated book about how people used to be more related to the natural world than we are today. They knew things about weather, planting, foraging, and construction that we have forgotten. So to help the children deepen their relationships with the food they eat, we made bread, butter, and apple butter from scratch on Friday. Actually, we had to start on Thursday by peeling the apples (the peels and cores went into our growing compost pile) and coating them in cider to keep them from browning. Then a parent had to take them home and cook them for several hours. When we got to school on Friday morning, the apples had cooked down and the sugars had caramelized. We ran them through a food mill, added cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, and then they went back on the stove for a few more hours. Then we mixed and kneaded our bread dough and set it to rise. We learned about yeast and the chemical process of fermentation that leads to light, airy bread. While we waited on this process, we read the day's books, had a math lesson, and recorded the week's history lessons into our Books of Centuries. "When is it going to be ready?!" was heard often throughout the day. The delicious smell filled the whole building. Still waiting, each child was given a baby food jar half full of whipping cream. We shook, and we shook, and we shook that cream! After about five minutes, it became whipped cream, but we kept going. It seemed like nothing was happening. And then, all of a sudden, we began to hear the swish of liquid moving and the thud of the fresh butter beating against the sides. We had to pour off the "buttermilk" and add a little salt, and then, finally, we were ready to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Things like this take time, but oh, was it worth the wait!
We have been busy! Last Friday, we prepared a meal of lasagna, salad, and brownies for Dr. Joe Collins, who makes and plays mountain dulcimers. A parent sent in a hammer dulcimer for comparison. We picked kale out of our garden, and since it had bolted, we used the flowers for centerpieces. Dr. Collins showed us how the dulcimer works, and we sang some American folk songs.
We also had a yard sale fundraiser on Saturday and cleared over $800! Thank you to all of you who donated and came out to support our school. It was great exposure in the community, since many people who came in had no idea there was a school there.
The students finished their art projects on a favorite artist. Now they are working on self-portrait tiles that will be put onto a keepsake board and hung in the school to commemorate our first year together. Can you believe it's almost over?!
We are still enrolling in grades K-9 for the 2012-2013 school year. If you or someone you know is interested, call or come by!
The weather was beautiful last week! On Wednesday it was much too pretty to stay indoors! We took advantage of the sunshine by walking over to Gardner-Webb. There were not many signs of spring yet, although one Magnolia tree was beginning to flower.
The students are into Harry Potter right now, so on Friday we divided into houses and prepared a special meal for our guest speaker, Coach Jim Corn. He spoke on southern culture during the 1960s, so we made "soul food": Chicken and dumplings, collard greens, cornbread, grits, salad, and peach cobbler. Our Form 1 students recently read a biography of Arthur Ashe, a famous African American tennis player who broke down the race barrier. Coach Corn played with Ashe in the 1960s, so he came to tell us about it. At that time, the races were segregated. There were different schools, different water fountains, and different bathrooms. They did not even eat together. Coach Corn talked about his experience when the schools integrated for the first time. He also told about how Arthur Ashe was not allowed to play at some country clubs.
We all liked the peach cobbler best, and some of us were surprised that we liked the collard greens. The grits were interesting because we had to separate them from the chaff. We discussed a couple of ways of separating mixtures, like sifting or throwing it up and letting the wind blow the chaff away, but in the end we decided the water method would be best. We covered the grits with water, and the chaff floated to the top, where we could skim it off.
During one of our breaks, two of our students were found engaged in a Wizard's Duel while Abbie played referee!
Welcome back! On our last day of school before our break, we had a fun and festive time at our family banquet. The children worked hard to make cookies, to decorate the fellowship hall, and to make our guests, their parents, feel loved. We even had a sparkling cider toast to our school!
Now that we are back (and almost half way through our first year together), the time has come to focus on how to move everyone forward. It takes a while to adjust to the curriculum and methods at Willow Tree, but all of our students have made their own paradigm shifts and are ready for the bar to be raised. In the first half of the year, we spent a lot of time learning how to read and listen attentively, so that we know. We also had lots of practice learning how to narrate, or tell back in great detail, using names, places, dates, and other specifics. Now we are ready for the students (especially the older ones) to begin taking more responsibility for their own learning. We will be doing more writing, and our older students will have more independent assignments, with the adults serving more in the role of a mentor or coach. In this way, children learn to be self-directed and responsible self-educators.
Last week we had our monthly At-Table day. We served our resident musicologist, Dr. Cindy Swicegood, homemade pasta. It is always fun to learn how common foods are made and to see the differences between fresh and prepackaged foods. Pasta-making also afforded us with lessons as we learned to multiply recipes and enjoyed a video by Alton Brown about the history and science behind noodles. Along with our pasta, we made pumpkin pies from real roasted pumpkins, and we picked fresh greens from our school garden for a salad.
After lunch, the children did their weekly chores around the school and helped Mr. and Mrs. Aldinger wash up in the kitchen. Then we all walked over to Blanton Auditorium at Gardner-Webb for a presentation by Dr. Swicegood about our composer for this term, Domenico Scarlatti. She showed us the similarities and differences between the harpsichord, which was the instrument for which Scarlatti wrote, and the piano, which had just recently been invented in his day and was not yet widely popular. Dr. Swicegood also let us hear the difference by playing a piece by Bach. We learned about the geography of the Mediterranean region, since Scarlatti was born in Italy but lived in Portugal and then Spain as a court musician. Then Dr. Swicegood shared some of Scarlatti's music with us.
First on the piano:
Then on harpsichord (sorry about the orientation):
Last week we had several special visitors. Our guest of honor was the pastor of Boiling Springs United Methodist Church, Teresa Blanton. We prepared an autumn harvest meal of roast pork loin with rosemary, sweet potatoes, baked apples, salad, and apple pie. I really love our monthly At Table days. Not only do the children do the cooking and the cleaning, which are important life skills, but they also learn to serve others.
Other guests included a rat snake found in Miss Struble's house, a wheel bug brought in by Ethan, and a black and yellow garden spider, which has taken up residence outside the kitchen at school. Of course, we HAD to take advantage of such fine specimens by doing an extra nature study!
Below, two students are making entries in their Book of Centuries. This is a bound timeline that follows each student through their years at Willow Tree beginning in Form 2. Entries are made for literature, history, scientific, technological, and mathematical discoveries, and Bible stories. Over time, the students gain a sense of time and chronology, as well as the ability to understand what was happening at the same time in different places. The particular entries seen below are drawings of sorghum mills from Eric Sloane's Seasons of America Past, which the Form 3 students are reading for natural history, because October is the traditional time to make molasses.
This Friday we are supposed to harvest sweet potatoes for the Potato Project. That plan may change if it rains, so watch our Facebook page Thursday night and Friday morning.
Yesterday Mr. and Mrs. Brame came over to help us build a cover for our garden bed to keep out rabbits, deer, cats, and dogs. We also made a compost pile.
Today Mrs. Aldinger and Mrs. Brame came to help us make lunch for a guest speaker. We milled our own wheat berries to make healthy pizza crusts, and then we loaded them up with fresh veggies, cheese, and pepperoni. Rachelle and Renee Eason from Art Blooms came for lunch and then showed us several examples of coiled baskets. We started our own basket bases. Basket coiling will be our focus handcraft this term.