Gilgamesh – Babylonian Mythology main lesson

Recently Elki finished a main lesson on Babylonian mythology. I chose to read him the story of Gilgamesh and base the main lesson around this story. He made a main lesson book, which I think will probably be his last main lesson book. Now that he is getting older he is finding main lesson books a bit tedious (although he did really enjoy creating some of the pictures for Gilgamesh), and next year as we move onto History I think his recorded work will be much more independant and report or project based, really I want him to have much more input into how he expresses what he has learnt, although he does still need my direction and motivation.

For this block we used the story of Gilgamesh by Bernarda Bryson, which is really child friendly and easy to read.

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Each day we read a chapter, or two if they were short, and then the following day recalled the chapter (Elki is actually much better at this than me!) and then we sat down together, drew a picture to represent the chapter, and wrote a short summary. I asked Elki what picture he wanted to draw each day and we drew together, rather than I me preparing a picture beforehand. I also wanted him to write the summaries mostly on his own, and as the block progressed he became much more at ease with this and increasingly confident with his writing.

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Elki’s drawing and summary for Uruk of the Walls

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My drawing

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Elki’s drawing and summary for The Luring of Enkidu

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My drawing

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Elki’s drawing and summary for The First Dream, and The Terrible Battle

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My drawing

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Elki’s drawing and summary for The Monster Humbaba

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My drawing

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Elki’s drawing and summary for The Wooing of Ishtar, and The Bull of Heaven (he most certainly enjoyed drawing battle scenes the most!)

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My (unfinished) drawing

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Elki’s summary for The Vengeance of Ishtar (he really wasn’t up to drawing a picture on this day so we just left it).

For the first few summaries of the block I would ask Elki what happened and lead him on through the chapter as he developed the summary. I would write this down and then he would copy it into his main lesson book (he is not a confident speller and usually needs my help with any difficult or new words). As we progressed through the block I wanted to work with him more on his spelling and sentence construction so I changed how we wrote the summaries. I got Elki to write each summary completely on his own, I would then go through what he had written with him correcting any mistakes and telling him why they were wrong, and then I would rewrite the summary and he would copy this into his book. It was a more time consuming and tiring way to write the summaries but I really feel that it was a much more helpful way for Elki to develop his writing and spelling skills, and give him more confidence.

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Elki’s drawing and summary for The Scorpian Men (he put a lot of effort into this picture and really enjoyed creating his representation of the scorpian man).

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My drawing

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Elki’s drawing and summary for Sabitu, and How Gilgamesh Crossed the Bitter River.

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My drawing

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Elki’s drawing and summary for Utnapishtim, and The Secret of Utnapishtim

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My drawing

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Elki’s drawing and summary for The Magic Weed, and Gilgamesh at last Finds Enkidu (he put a lot of effort into this, his last drawing, and was very proud of his gate of the underworld).

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I chose to draw something different for the last chapter, Gilgamesh lying down to join Enkidu.

Elki really enjoyed the story of Gilgamesh, the battles and adventures appealed to him. I was quite emotional reading the last chapter! Over the Summer we are going to just read through the rest of mythology – a small amount of Indian, and then Roger Lancelyn Green’s books on Egyptian mythology, Greek mythology, and I also have his version of The Tale of Troy. We’ll probably just read these as bedtime stories, and during the days I hope to cover some maths with both of the children. Then next year we’ll be moving onto History, which Elki is eagerly awaiting, and will really speak to where he is at right now 🙂

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A First Botany Block

It’s been a while now, since we finished Elki’s first Botany block, but I’m just getting around to recording what we did. In a previous post here I shared about how we made herbal throat balls as an activity for Botany, here’s how I approached the rest of the block with Elki.
Botany for us is really one of those subjects that we are ‘living’ all the time. Whether it’s through gardening, going for bush walks and camping, playing in the bush, visits to the botanical gardens, reading field guides and books, actively standing up for our endangered environment against those threatening it’s destruction, or simply observing nature, we are surrounded by plants and honour them, in our own way, daily. For Elki’s first Botany block I really just wanted to introduce him to things that he perhaps hadn’t yet been exposed to, and start to look at the more scientific descriptions of plants.
The list of books I used, and also had available for Elki to peruse if he was interested, is quite long, so I’ll just mention the main ones that we used the most – Botany by Charles Kovacs, Botany of the Flowering Plants by Eleanor Tan, Herbal Manufacturing-How to Make Medicines from Plants by Jenny Adams and Eleanor Tan, The Botany Colouring Book by Paul Young, A Field Guide to Tasmanian Fungi by Genevieve Gates & David Ratkowsky, A Guide to Flowers & Plants of Tasmania by the Launceston Field Naturalists Club, Wild Food Plants of Australia by Tim Low, and The Weed Forager’s Handbook by Adam Grubb & Annie Raser-Rowland. I also got inspiration from Eric Fairman’s A Path of Discovery guide for Grade 5.

‘The Plant’
Johan Wolfgang Von Goethe
In woods I wandered
one day alone,
and nothing seeking
just on my own.
I saw in shadow
a flower rise,
like star a’sparkle,
like lovely eyes.
I wished to pluck her-
she spoke with a bow:
“Must I wither
be broken now?”
I took her gently
with roots and all,
to my own garden within the wall.
There she was planted,
in pleasant place,
and blooms forever,
and grows apace.

We began with the Aboriginal myth “The Gift of Flowers”, we were also reading aboriginal mythology at this time so it fitted really well. I read daily from Kovac’s Botany book, and in the first lesson read the story of The Life Cycle of a Flowering Plant, which I put together from two sources, Eric Fairman and Eleanor Tan. This can be found here under my stories menu.
Elki was really interested in exploring native edible plants, and the easiest for us to try first was on our doorstep, the crozier of our native tree fern,

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not the most delicious! But lots of fun to try.

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With my herbal knowledge (which is very quickly leaving my brain!) we talked about different herbal medicines and the plants they are made from. Elki tried some different herbal extracts, enjoying cayenne the most.
Each day we read from Botany of the Flowering Plants, firstly learning about the two different classes of flowerings plants, Monocotyledons and dicotyledons. We explored these by observing the different structures of a thistle plant and some grass, in particular the root systems.

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Elki examined and drew the parts of a bean seed ,

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and sprouted some mustard seeds to observe the seed leaves.

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And with the left over soaked mustard seeds Elki had a go at making mustard.

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As we continued with our readings I also got Elki to do some of his own reading and answer some questions about what he’d learned. I didn’t continue the questions throughout the block though, he hates writing, and I didn’t want to dampen his enthusiasm for learning about plants. By the end of the block we had read about seeds, roots, stems, and leaves, and briefly began learning about flowers, but I wanted to leave this until spring or summer when I hope to do another Botany block and there is actually some flowers blooming around us!

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We also sat down on some of our lesson days and each did a colouring (Anusha too) from The Botany Colouring Book. (I photocopied extra copies so we could all colour the same page).
At the beginning of the block I asked Elki to think about an area of botany that really interested him, to do a project on. I said he could approach it in any way he liked, and present it however he wanted. He eventually decided on Fungi and his project was to observe and identify fungi (as best as we could), and then record it in a fungi diary.
We started going on fungi walks in our area and a bit further abroad, keeping our eyes peeled for these humble little earth bodies,

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as it was autumn we found some amazing fungi, growing in such abundance and in varieties none of us have ever seen before. If it wasn’t for Elki’s project I’m sure it would have taken us a lot longer to notice what special fungi we have growing here in Tasmania!

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We picked a few specimens to dry, but mostly we took photographs, which I then got printed for Elki and I to put in our diaries (I started making one too). I’m not sure if this is something Elki will continue to do, but it was a wonderful thing to start and I do like the idea that it is something he can return to next Autumn if he wants to.

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We also did some watercolour painting, using lesson ideas from Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools. Suitably we did one of fungi,

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also tree ferns,

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and this one of a gum tree.
Another activity which I want to do with the children and also want to explore in depth for myself is dyeing with native plants. We had a brief attempt at making an Eco Print (a technique developed by India Flint) with gum leaves which was not very successful but it is something we are definitely going to explore and try again.
I think the thing we all like to do the most though is to go for walks and explore nature and the plants growing around us,

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like this stunning Mountain Rocket growing in the Hartz Mountains National Park,

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the exquisite Copperleaf Snowberry growing on Mt. Wellington,

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the magnificent forest and fungi on this lovely walk to the Silver falls on Mt. Wellington,

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and the beautiful array and shades of autumn leaves that we visit each year at the Hobart botanical gardens.

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As a family we have a deep affection for the growing and living beauty of plants, and I believe Elki and Anusha’s love and respect of nature, and the days spent alongside her will be the way in which they absorb most of their knowledge about plants. But Elki also enjoyed looking a bit more in depth into the worlds within plants that he does not ordinarily see, hopefully this will only enhance his wonder and appreciation of our natural world.

Making Herbal Throat Balls

As part of Elki’s Botany block we recently made herbal throat balls together. He was interested in the medicinal uses of plants and really enjoyed the process of making the throat balls from raw ingredients.
We used a book that I had from when I was studying herbal medicine; Herbal Manufacturing – How to make Medicines from Plants, by Jenny Adams and Eleanor Tan. It is a really useful and simple book for making herbal medicines at home.

The ingredients for the throat balls are:
2 tsp liquorice root powder
2 tsp marshmallow root powder
1 tsp slippery elm powder
1 tsp echinacea powder
¼ tsp calendula powder
1 drop of essential oil (optional, Elki chose Lemon)
Honey (we used Agave so they were vegan)

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I had some of the ingredients at home, the rest I bought from a herbal pharmacy in Hobart called Gould’s Naturopathica. Instead of Calendula powder we bought the dried flowers and ground them into a powder, first using our processor and then in a mortar and pestle. We also used a liquid Echinacea tincture, which was a mix of Echinacea angustifolia and purpurea, using the same amount (1 tsp).

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I got Elki to do as much of the preparation as possible, Anusha was also very interested and eager to help. Together we first put the powdered herbs (and Echinacea) into a bowl and wet them with enough water and Agave to make a sticky paste.

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We also added the Lemon essential oil.

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Next we added enough slippery elm powder to form a smooth paste, this ended up being a fair bit more than 1 tsp. The children kneaded the mixture until it had the consistency of bread dough, occasionally adding more slippery elm until it was not too sticky.

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Elki got into the kneading experience!
We then sat down together and rolled smalls amounts (about the size of large tablets) of the dough into balls, coating them in slippery elm powder. In the recipe it says to place the balls on a baking tray and dry them in a very low oven with the door wedged open for several hours, or in the sun for a day. I thought it would work well to dry them in our dehydrator.

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I dried them until they were completely hard, the dehydrator working really well! Once done we placed them in a jar, where they will keep for up to 12 months, and of course we had to each try one – pretty yummy for medicinal throat balls!

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This was a great activity to share with the children, its something that really interests me and they both loved the idea of making something thats healthful and healing, and tastes good too. Definitely something I would like to do more of with the children in the future. Soon I will write about what else we did for Elki’s Botany block.

A Slice of Geometry

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At the end of last year we started Elki’s grade 5 geometry block. We picked it up again a few weeks ago to start off his year of lessons, and have recently finished, Elki ready to move on to the next main lesson block. For this block I got help and inspiration from Eric Fairman’s, A path of discovery guide to grade 5, Drawing Geometry by Jon Allen, and String, Straightedge and Shadow by Julie Diggins.

I decided to start the block with some form drawing,

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using a basic guide to form drawing from Christopherus Homeschooling, and Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools by Thomas Wildgruber.

We had some fun with string games,

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learning them from the book Pull the Other One, by Michael Taylor.

And we began reading a chapter or two of String, Straightedge and Shadow each day, the early chapters inspiring us to make a right angle on the ground using only a string,

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We then moved on to geometrical drawing with a compass. I made the mistake to start with of buying cheap compass’s and they were terrible! Always slipping as we tried to draw precise arcs and curves! So, I invested in a more expensive compass for Elki, and it made all the difference.

Using Jon Allen’s Drawing Geometry we moved through the different shapes, and found that it was pretty awesome! Elki really enjoyed it, which surprised me a bit at first, geometry is supposed to be boring isn’t it? But then when I thought about it more I realised it is something that would appeal to him, using a tool to form creations in a practical way, watching shape and form arise on the paper using precise circles, arcs, and lines. A bit like making a lego creation starting with only the bare bricks…..

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Iscoceles triangles on a line, which we then used to draw a kite.

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Dynamic and static square in a circle and on a line.

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Hexagon in a cirlce and on a line. We were both really loving the flowers that can be made using only a circle and arcs!

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Pentagon in a circle.

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Dodecagon in a circle.

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We also went over some geometric terms,

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And made a geometric solid from paper, the Icosahedron or twenty sided figure, formed out of equilateral triangles. Elki turned his into a twenty sided dice.

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Now it’s time to move on, Botany is awaiting. Obviously there is so much more we could have covered but I think for now we have made a good start. And with all our supplies and books on the shelf Elki can immerse himself in further geometry learning if it’s something that calls to him.