As many of us begin the new school year, we often reflect on the success (and the bumps) of the first few days/weeks. Some home teachers like to journal their thoughts as a keepsake of these special “first” days schooling their children. K-8 Oak Meadow teacher, Michelle Menegaz, did this on the second day of her daughter’s first grade school year. I hope her sharing inspires you to create your own journal or blog.
We had an impromptu Michaelmas (Michael and the Dragon battling in the heavens) celebration when rainy weather cancelled our wonderful homeschool first grade “crossing the bridge” celebration. Sigh. I need to tell you that very little of what I describe next was pre-planned. I had only thought ahead that the clothesline was straight and she could walk under it and that we would do some forms in her practice books. I think the spirit of the day just took over…
So, the next day on Michaelmas, only day 2 of school for us, my 6 and a half year old daughter and I played dragons under the clothesline as I hung up a few things. The concept in play was “the curve and the line.” She either walked a straight line under the clothesline or ran from one end to the other in a big curve – depending on whether the “dragon” (ME!) was sleeping with a straight tail or a curved tail. I used my arm as a tail in mime. If it was curved, it meant the dragon was spewing fire and she had to run in a big curve to avoid it. If it was straight, she could just walk under the line.
Then we discovered that the pusher poles for the line, made from saplings, were actually dragon pencils (!) and we drew our lines and curves on the dirt driveway, despite the gravel.
Next we ran up to the young orchard pretending a bigger dragon was in pursuit, climbed a tree or two and checked out the different leaves of the different fruit trees. Mama dragon then told her the secret of Dragon Hill, crowned on top with the sapling arch we made for last year’s home school celebration. The secret was that if a dragon marches forcefully and in a very, very straight line right up the steep hill to the arch and goes through it, on the other side the dragon will be able to fly down the hill in large graceful curves…which is just what we did. (See the little dragon under the orange leafed tree with her wings spread wide?)
Then homeward to practice form drawing, collecting beautiful bits of autumn color on our way. The curves were dragons (in green crayon) and the lines were their roars. Hilary had a slightly hard time bringing the bottom of the curve around enough so I told her that some of these little baby dragons like to sleep with their nose and tail pressed right up against a log. I put my finger at the end of the paper for the log and she drew the curve from the top of my finger around and down to the bottom of it. She looks proud but a bit afraid those dragonettes might bite!
Next we made some only moderately successful gluten-free dragon bread following the story linked with Michael in the book, All Year Round by Ann Druitt, Christine Fynes-Clinton, and Marije Rowling. Then, we went off to a riding lesson while a dear friend baked the bread at her house. During the waiting parts of the bread-making, Hilary made a beeswax dragon that lived under the bouquet of colored leaves next to the beeswax votive candle we had burning.
After the great riding lesson, (all about balance by the way), we met one more friend and headed up the big hill with the incredible view down the valley to make and fly kites and eat dragon bread – at least the parts the dog didn’t get into! 4 kids and three mamas. I followed instructions for a sled kite but I must say it just didn’t work well. I think homemade kites have to be very exact to fly right. The cheap boughten one with the smiling sun on it went up in an instant as they ran squealing down the hill pulling it aloft. I have never seen such pure glee, arms thrust into the air, mid-leap…laughter, adventure, trial and error, run-back-uphill-panting-and-do-it-again delight!
We stayed till dusk and raindrops began to fall, then headed home for grilled cheese dinner and a late bedtime; but what a day!
I realized that our dear wee first graders had indeed stood at the hilltop viewing the road before them, raced on ahead alone, faced a challenge and were headed over that bridge to their next journey of childhood. This was exactly what we had been trying to plan for a formal celebration, which is turns out we didn’t even need!
May the spirit move us always in such simple yet deep ways…