Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Year of Elements: Creating a Homeschool Curriculum Part 2

As I rummage through my mind and heart about how to best approach the first year of homeschooling, the elements are taking the front seat of the agenda. Fire, water, earth, and air. The seasons are a little more obvious for a first choice in influence, but the elements have always been the first layer of my language of the universe.  And the seasons are the next stop.

What element do you associate with each season?  It's very prominent in Western, contemporary, Earth-based beliefs to connect Spring with the East, the rising sun, and Air, but this has never jived with me.  Maybe it's something to do with the Spring festivals relating to fire, a lot to do with my summers connecting to water recreation in the heat of S. Texas, and definitely influenced by the lessons of a book I studied very early in my exploration of the mystical realm:  In the Shadow of the Shaman, by Amber Wolfe.

This is a beginner's introduction to Earth-based/shamanic connection and one that I will rely on heavily for shaping work with Wildschooling.  And in this book, Spring is the resurrection of the sun, which is Fire, and the building of that power.  It then associates Water with Summer, Earth with Autumn and the Harvest, and Air with Winter, the straddling between this realm and the spirit realm.  But I challenge you to let go of whatever current associations you have and let your own authentic experiences shape these associations.  Having something tangible for your children, (or for you) will be the most powerful connections you can make.

Since it is summer as I write this, my focus is on dreaming up a plan, listening to my intuition about how to go about teaching Jetta in her first official year of "study," and age appropriate books on watery things like mermaids, the ocean, and the beach.  This is a time when we've had lots of visitors and will visit the coast at least once more before the official school years starts-- this is about relationships and exploration, both inner and outer. 

But when the school year starts for  us, things will shift.  Our studies will be simple and season based, with the elements influencing the yearly plan as well as the daily plan.  Generally speaking, we'll focus on leaves, harvest, and other seasonal things for Autumn, but the element of Earth will influence the overall tone by being about the tangible manipulatives we utilize, the structure we start with (that may change through the seasons as we find more authenticity in what we are doing) and the grounded approach we attempt in early learning. 

The transition after Halloween and Thanksgiving will lend itself to more spiritual notions as we incorporate celebrations of the holidays, intangible traditions such as Santa (saint, or fairy?), elves, connecting with the 'in-between' time of winter, when the Earth is sleeping, the temperatures drop, and the outer life of the wild is not as visible.

Spring will return to Fire, the warming of the Earth, life returning, cleansing, and the discovery of the self.  There will be a lot of self-interest in the themes for Jetta, and I expect by that time we'll be bordering an "unschooling" method that is strongly shaped by her preferences.

Our "summer break," I'm hoping, will be filled with new relationships and friendships as she explores through summer camps, visits with family, and travelling, both inner and outer.

Soon I'll share my actual monthly plan, with intended units or themes, but I would love to hear what others have played with and what successes you've had with first year homeschooling.

Happy Dreaming!


  1. I'm interested to see what kinds of themes and units you'll be teaching. The whole idea of "unschooling" sounds very cool but also sounds very difficult to implement. Maybe it's the difference between Jetta and the boys or the effect that public schooling's had on them. It all just seems very difficult to implement.

  2. I'm not entirely "schooled" (pun intended) on unschooling, but generally speaking you just take every opportunity to teach your child, as you do in regular parenting, and let every teaching opportunity become a rich exchange of knowledge, led by their curiosity and interest (rather than the teacher's or parent's scheduled time and topics). Some unschoolers make sure to sit down with materials for core subjects, some just incorporate learning into everything they do (like baking-- lots of math there, or gardening, or birding, etc.). We will definitely have "organized" time, regardless of whether it is creative or academic, but I am open to letting all of it evolve organically to see what suits us and what feels most effective. Time will most likely tell!