Blog o' Graysmiths

Nature Journal September 1, 2009

Filed under: Homeschooling — graysmiths @ 10:08 pm

We made the first entry in Atticus’ nature journal today. It was a Seasonal Tree Study, an idea I found on the Handbook of Nature Study blog. We used their Seasonal Tree Study Page as a guide. First, we walked around the yard looking for a tree. I wanted one that would change with the seasons, so the numerous pines were out. Finally, Atticus settled on the Cherry Tree in our backyard. We sat down near the tree and I asked him some questions and wrote down his thoughts in the journal. He took some pictures of the tree, the best one will be printed out and glued in the book:

Cherry Tree

He also did a leaf rubbing and drew a picture. He drew the picture with cherries on the tree (the birds already ate all of them a few months ago) and said “we will have to save this picture for the spring since the cherries are on it. I wasn’t really looking at the tree when I drew it.”

We will do this again a few times this year: in November when the leaves are changing, in February when all the leaves are gone, in April when the blossoms are on the tree and finally when the cherries are on the tree.

Next week we will be reading an Enki Nature Story about purslane. I’m hoping to find some growing near here so we can study it in person!


Rhythms August 29, 2009

Filed under: Homeschooling — graysmiths @ 1:23 pm

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about and working on our Rhythms.  Implementing a rhythm is a major part of the work to be done during Enki Kindergarden.   I already posted about our Yearly Rhythm – a series of blocks that works with our family’s general schedule.   We also have a daily and weekly rhythm.  Enki stresses how rhythm gives the young child a stable and secure foundation and supports their ability to connect and integrate (more on this later).

For our family, I have noticed that when we don’t follow some sort of rhythm things quickly disintegrate into chaos.   Part of this is my need for rhythm, part of it is the kids.  Atticus is very very high energy, and very social and would prefer to be doing something with someone else (read: me or a friend) as much as possible.  I say this and then I can also say that he very contentedly listens to chapter books on CD.  However, the rhythm enables him to play creatively – a word which Enki uses in a very specific way to mean ‘imaginary or sensory play in which the child is fully absorbed.’  It is creative play that is the ‘work’ of the young child.

So, here is our Daily Rhythm so far.  As I posted earlier, Enki suggests transitioning throughout the day using songs.  Although I love singing, I keep forgetting to use the transition songs and instead direct which usually meets with resistance.  Ah well, we are all a work in progress.

Daily Rhythm:
Transition Songs

Getting up & Snuggle
:  Wake Up

Breakfast:  Earth Who Gives to Us this Food

Brushing Teeth and Getting Dressed: I’ve been working on the Railroad (thanks to another Enki family for this suggestion)

Morning Block: Come Follow 

Lunch:  Earth Who Gives to Us this Food

Quiet Time:  Pigeon House – I still haven’t tried this one yet, so we’ll see what they think.

Afternoon Block: Temple Bells

Settling in Time with Luke

Dinner:  Earth Who Gives to Us this Food

Violin Practice for Atticus

Family Time and Clean-up

Brushing Teeth and Getting Dressed: I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

Family Story Time:  Oh How Lovely is the Evening

Sleep:  Gone to Bed – I haven’t tried this one yet either – maybe tonight!

Morning Block
will mostly consist of:

  • Adventure Circle and/or Morning Walk
  • Creative and/or Outside Play while I clean up from breakfast and do some chores
  • Playdate, Errands, Field Trip or Outside Play

Afternoon Block will vary, depending on the day.  My plan is that I will get Rosemary down to nap after lunch while Atticus has quiet time (usually resting while listening to a CD).  After I get Rosemary down I will have 10-20 minutes to myself and then start the Afternoon Block with Atticus.  The Afternoon Block is where we will read our “Core Story” for the week – 3 or 4 times, do our painting and crafts.  Depending on the craft, we will wait until Rosemary wakes up to participate.

Weekly Rhythm:


Afternoon Block

Scheduled Activities


New Core Story

Violin Lesson (5:00PM)


Core Story Repeat & Painting

Soccer (5:00PM)


Creative Play

Eno Explorers Field Trip


Core Story Repeat & Craft

THEA and/or Soccer (5:00PM)


Core Story Repeat or Nature Story

FE/TT for Atticus (10:00AM)


Family House Work and Woodworking

Soccer Game most Saturdays


Luke Outing with the Kids

Next week will be our first week really utilizing this rhythm – I’ll post on how it all goes!


Stories and Storytelling August 27, 2009

Filed under: Homeschooling — graysmiths @ 10:57 pm

Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.

This proverb begins the Enki book on stories for the Kindergarden year.  Stories are central to the Enki curriculum and possibly the primary reason why I felt that Enki would be a good fit for Atticus.  Over and over again, night after night, day after day, Atticus will ask for a story – not to hear a book, but a made up story.

In Enki, a “Core Story” – is read to a child each week three times or more.  There are several different types of stories:

  • Folk Tales – simple, fun stories where repetition leads to a predictable outcome, giving the child the experience of being in control
  • Quasi-Fairy Tales – stories in which an innocent character ventures out on a journey, goes through a process of learning and returns, unchanged to an unchanged home.
  • Nature Stories – stories which nourish the child’s connection to the natural world

All of these stories serve important purposes:

  • Creating the capacity for receptive, open listening
  • Immersing the child in high-quality language
  • Supporting and strengthening the three fold learning process – open intake, digestion and understanding
  • Empowering a child’s own learning process by allowing them to discover the answers to their questions through repetition of the story
  • Bringing a sense of the universality of the human journey to the child
  • Mirroring the child’s developmental process  – the new individuality and independence which needs reassurance that life is dependable, safe and has order.
  • Immersing the child in other cultures – the stories have been chosen from around the world

It is wonderful to see Atticus, eyes open, unfocused as he hears the stories – clearly absorbed.   I hear him after the story is over, repeating part of the story to himself, reliving the experience.

In Enki, it is up to the parent to chose the story for each week.  I am still pretty daunted by this task.  I read through all the stories over the summer and made notes next to them as to whether I thought they would suit our family well or not.   I decided that we will read one Folk or Quasi-Fairy tale each week and occasionally add in the Nature Stories as we move through the seasons.  I decided to  start with the simple Folk Tales as an introduction and picked five stories for our summer block.  I chose our first story, ‘Tiddelick the Frog’  because, well, there are a lot of frogs around during the summer.   Hmmm, very deep of me, don’t you think.  Each time I read the story, however, it resonated more and more with me as mirroring some of the ‘sharing’  issues Atticus is having with Rosemary.  In the story, Tiddelick’s grumpy mood leads him to take all the water for himself and refuse to share.  It is only by making him laugh that the problem is resolved.   This is an approach I have seen Atticus take time and time again when he upsets Rosemary – too bad it is an hourly occurrence around our house these days.

Our second story, which we are reading right now, is one about friendship and four animal friends who help each other out. I’ll let you know how it goes!


Music Lessons August 24, 2009

Filed under: Homeschooling — graysmiths @ 2:09 pm

Besides starting our homeschooling year this past week, the other big excitement was renting Atticus’ violin.


Atticus has taken Kindermusik classes from a wonderful local teacher off and on since he was six months old.  This year, he aged out of the classes that worked with our schedule, and we have been having ongoing discussions about what to do next (if anything) for the past six months.

Enki says that one of the core goals of music in early childhood is to “nourish and strengthen the natural voice of the heart.”   And in both the Enki and Waldorf traditions (as far as I can tell), singing and listening make up the primary music education of children through Kindergarden age (around 6 1/2).  Singing is a very important part of daily rhythm in Enki – songs are chosen to ease transitions throughout the day, such as waking up, eating meals, telling stories.   Fortunately, I love, love, love to sing and have sung to Atticus and Rosemary since birth.   They both will make up songs and enjoying singing throughout the day.    We also have a wide variety of musical instruments around the house and the kids play with them daily.  I began to think this immersion into music through daily singing and listening would be enough.   After all, students in Waldorf and Waldorf-inspired programs are typically introduced to the recorder as a first instrument in the first grade, and then a string instrument in 3rd or 4th.

Still, there was something in me that wondered whether more “formal” musical instruction on a specific instrument might also nurture his “natural voice.”  To that end, over the past months we attended a number of concerts – the NC Symphony, youth orchestra and suzuki performances – where he was exposed to different instruments.  I consulted with music professionals.   I talked with Atticus and Luke (and our friends) about different instruments.  Finally, I asked Atticus if he wanted to choose an instrument to play, and if so, which instrument.  After thinking for a few weeks, he said “I want to learn to play the violin.”

At first, I had many reservations.   Primarily,  I have no idea how to play the violin and was (am) worried about being able to help him practice.  Second, would he practice willingly? I didn’t (don’t) want to spend a lot of energy forcing him to practice.  Third, could I stand listening to him practice – after all there is a lot of screeching and as we call them “cat vomit” sounds when you are first learning to play the violin.   Finally, I not-so-secretly had hoped he would want to learn guitar.  I have taken lessons sporadically over the years and was looking forward to the idea of us learning together.  My second choice was the cello – what I consider to be perhaps the most beautiful sounding string instrument.  And then of course, there is the piano, which due to the generosity of my wonderful in-laws, we actually already had in the house.   But no, Atticus insisted on the violin.  And, over the course of the past month, he insisted consistently.

In Enki, and many other educational philosophies, a parent seeks to hold back their own expectations and goals in order to observe and honor their individual child’s needs.   This was why I choose Enki for Atticus instead of a more classical (and comfortable to me) education.   Atticus’ request to play the violin, made consistently and intently, showed me his commitment and interest – his need to find his own musical voice of the heart.   I look forward to hearing it.


Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting August 22, 2009

Filed under: Homeschooling — graysmiths @ 8:40 pm

One of the expressive art forms Enki Education recommends engaging in on a regular basis is Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting.  I believe this comes from the Waldorf tradition and is also used in all of the Waldorf and Waldorf-inspired programs I know about.  Over the past few weeks I gathered our materials together: painting board, watercolor paints, sponges, brush and the heavy paper.  I also purchased a wonderful paint holder with jars so that we could keep the paints (you mix the thick paint with water to get your desired intensity) organized once they were ready.   Not terribly sure of what I was doing we mixed the paints on Friday – not the easiest since I had not idea of the concentrations and ended up putting in some paint, and adding water slowly until I felt like the paints were deep enough.   Today, we finally (Atticus was begging to paint since Wednesday morning when we presented him with the paints)  were able to paint.   Fortunately, Atticus was able to give me lots of tips on the how-tos since he used this painting technique at the preschool he attended this past year.   I cut the corners off of the paper, then wiped the paper on both sides with a wet sponge.  I gave Atticus three colors:  blue, green and yellow (he had just heard the Core Story for the week about Tiddelick the Frog).  And here is what happened:
.Painting Painting2

Why wet-on-wet watercolor?  Enki talks about the need for children to experience color, and the energy and movement of color.  Wet-on-wet watercolor allows the child to have this experience, without focusing too much on the end product – on creating a specific form.

I hope that we will paint at least once a week – both wet-on-wet watercolor and our tempura painting on dry paper which we have been doing for some time.  Not to mention easel painting and of course, the full body painting popular among both small people in our house which usually requires a bath.

Fortunately Atticus has always loved painting:



A Quick Overview of My Kindergarden Plans August 20, 2009

Filed under: Homeschooling — graysmiths @ 10:51 pm

I started writing a “First Day of Homeschool” post, only to realize that I needed to explain what exactly it is we are going to be doing this year.  We are using Enki Education’s Kindergarden Package.  You can (and should) read more about their philosophy on their website – I am definitely not prepared to give an overview on this blog!   Here are some of our undertakings for this year:

  • Establishing rhythms – daily, weekly and yearly
  • Integrating our bodies, hearts and minds
  • Nurturing our relationship with our ecosystem
  • Developing different “voices” – ways of expressing ourselves

On a more practical note, we  will be:

  • Including movement in our rhythm – using movements designed to awaken the breath, support senses, including proprioceptive and vestibular senses, and strengthen midlines and fine motor skills
  • Listening to folk and fairy tales which mirror Atticus’ developmental stage,
  • Taking nature walks and keeping a Nature Journal,
  • Painting, drawing, and engaging in different crafts,
  • Experiencing a different language through songs, games and daily immersion,
  • Participating in seasonal activities, and
  • Engaging in creative play.

There will also be outside the home activities: soccer, music (violin lessons start in September!), enrichment classes, playdates and our Eno Explorers (homeschooling group) field trips.

Yes, we are going to be busy!


First Day of Homeschool is….tomorrow! August 18, 2009

Filed under: Homeschooling — graysmiths @ 10:59 pm

I decided to have an “official” first day of homeschool and we set the date as August 19th. Atticus and I are both really excited. I’ve been working hard getting all of our plans together, and I think everything is starting to come together. Of course, best laid plans…

But I do love love love planning!

Our “Yearly Rhythm”

Summer Block: August 17 through September 20 (5 weeks – 1 Adventure Circle)
Autumn Block: September 21 through November 15 (8 weeks – 2 Adventure Circles)
Autumn Break: November 16 through November 22 (1 week)
Holiday Block: November 23 through December 21 (4 weeks – no Adventure Circle)
Winter Break: December 22 through January 3 (2 weeks)
Winter Block: January 4 through March 21 (11 weeks – 2 or 3 Adventure Circles)
Spring Break: March 22 through April 4 (2 weeks)
Spring Block: April 5 through June 20 (11 weeks – 2 or 3 Adventure Circles)
Summer Break: June 21 through August 17: (8 weeks)

Away we go!