This week we moved up the plant kingdom to lichen, and moved from Atlantis to Ancient India. . . using both of Charles Kovacs books. I just love them, as they are the most anthroposophical that I have seen, and they are short summaries that you can seep into your soul and elaborate on for your children in your own way of connecting to them based on their temperament. They are also not overly-facty but do contain some wonderful facts with lots left to the imagination. I defer to Steiner's lecture on Botany:
"Try not to do too much, whatever your inclination may be, let us say, in describing plants. Try to teach about plants so that a great deal is left to the child's imagination, that the child can still imagine for himself, in terms of his own feeling, the psychic relations prevailing between the human soul and the plant world. The person who enthuses too freely on object lessons does not know that there are things to be taught which cannot be studied externally. And when people try to teach the child by object lessons things which ought only to be taught through moral influence and through the feelings, this very object teaching does him harm. We must never forget, you see, that mere observation and illustration are a very pronounced by-product of the materialistic spirit of our age. Naturally, observation must be cultivated in its proper place, but you must not apply the method when it would only spoil the intimate relation between the child and the world in the sphere of his imaginative mind."
We explored lichen in person before we began our classroom talk about it, and again, I defer to Steiner:
“When we go with the children we are teaching, when we take them out to nature. In introducing children to nature we should always remember that natural science teaching itself only belongs to the school building. Suppose we are just coming into the country with the children, and we draw their attention to a stone or a flower. In so doing, we should scrupulously avoid allowing so much as an echo of what we teach in the schoolroom to be heard outside in nature. Out in the open we should refer the children to nature in quite a different way from what we do in the classroom. We ought never to neglect the opportunity of drawing their attention to the fact that we are bringing them out into the open to feel the beauty of nature and we are taking the products of nature back into the schoolroom, so that there we can study and analyze nature with them. We should, therefore, never mention to the children, while we are outside, what we explain to them in school, for instance, about plants. We ought to lay stress on the difference between studying dead nature in the classroom and contemplating nature in its beauty out of doors. We should compare these two experiences side by side. Whoever takes the children out into nature to exemplify to them out of doors from some object of nature what he is teaching in the class room is not doing right. Even in children we should evoke a kind of feeling that it is sad to have to analyze nature when we return to the classroom. Only the children should feel the necessity of it, because, of course, the disturbance of what is natural is essential even in the building up of the human being. We should on no account suppose that we do well to expound a beetle scientifically out of doors. The scientific explanation of the beetle belongs to the class-room. What we should do when we take the children out into the open is to excite pleasure in the beetle, delight in the way he runs, in his amusing ways, in his relation to the rest of nature."
Of course some facts do get mentioned. . . such as "Look! It's lichen! It's green!" in the same way one would say "Look it's a Beetle! It's black! Look at it move!" but to wander after a child with fact after fact after fact after fact when out of doors is quite an unnecessary affair, and a kind of assault on the senses. It takes away from the experience! Even when back in the classroom, we should ideally invoke a reliving of the experience with creative descriptive language, and a sad reminiscing of being out in nature. We can then bring it back alive in the classroom through story and art with some facts mixed in. . . but not TOO many 😉
Also, there was the eye-roll invoking cheesy joke. . . "I'm LIKIN the lichen!!!" Yeah. We aren't THAT dorky. Well maybe we are. Ha.
We did some writing for 5th Grade about how lichen are like tiny children who have just learned to stand and speak their first words. . . and in addition to breathing this idea in, we also breathed in the story of Sangara from Ancient India and wrote about that too. There was a beautiful white horse in the story that my daughter just loved (she wanted to have a horse someday) and so we painted her in a field near a log with lichen. It is quite a challenge for a 5th Grader to paint around things to leave them white and we have been doing that SO much in this block so she is getting some great practice.
With my 1st Grader not to be left out of our adventures, we included this wonderful book of Ancient India Fairy Tales ✨ *** please note that these stories can be just as grim as Grimm's Fairy Tales, so if you have a sensitive child, take this into consideration. I have a way of telling these to my girls so that they don't really mind because I know them very well and how to deliver them to them.
We began with Bear's Bad Bargain. . . a great lesson for those times when life just isn't fair, and perhaps trust was misplaced.
In the tale, the bear got a bad bellyache from eating unripe pears. . . and my 5th Grader enjoyed it just as much as my 1st! We used to live on many acres and had a few pear trees that never seemed to ripen. So, I think it was relatable and silly!
I prepared a letter "B" out of the story. . . and she really wants to write full sentences like her big sister, so practice we will! They prefer that I use paper instead of chalkboard drawings for their main lessons. I have permission to share her pages today.
I am thoroughly enjoying how Botany and Ancient Civilizations are crossing over and weaving together. . . it's really fun and fulfilling for all three of us! Our next lesson this week is Moss and Baghira, check it out in our next post. . .