Since grade 2, Alfie has been finding school hard. Having absolutely loved Kindergatan and Grade 1, he now often fights against going to school. And in Sweden it is the law to go to school.
Why does he dislike school so much? Well, he is very bright, and has no problems when it comes to academic issues (gosh, if anything, he complains that things are too easy!), and he appears to have lots of good friends. But he is born in December, which means, by Swedish terms, he is the youngest in the year group – and in grade 2, unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of sitting, and a lot of ‘table work’ – and unfortunately, he’s landed in what is a very ‘fidgety’ class. Lovely kids, but many with great difficulties in sitting still and listening, and folllowing directions.
Essentially Alfie has no problems sitting still – if he’s interested in something. He can sit literally hours at a project he has created when drawing, making bead plates or making films, for example. But when something is too easy, or is being repeated and becomes tedious, or when the children and structure around him becomes ‘busy’, I think he finds it stressful.
And in reaction, he ‘fights back’. Not physically, but with language. Testing and trying out the limits. To a certain extent this may be natural with a boy of his age – but to some extent, I think it is important for children to have a grasp and an understanding of the ‘real world’ outside their own world, in order to keep their behaviour ‘on track’, to reflect, and to think about others.
Alfie has always loved animals. Really really loved them – and he has always had an ‘understanding’ of animals – almost as if he sees their personalities and characters. He is often seen in the school yard with beetles or frogs in his hands, or with snails crawling up his arms. 😊
In August we started reading books about animals – books about animals with personalities, and animals that do things for a reason. One of the books I read to him was called ‘A Golden Land’ by James Reeves. It is very very old, and is a compilation of different stories for different ages, many about animals. Alfie loved these stories, and despite them being very old, they were written is a simple and understable way – not too fussy – often being stories which had a topic of nature.
Seeing how much Alfie enjoyed these stories, we went on to read abridged versions of the Rudyard Kipling ‘Just So’ stories, ‘How the camel got his hump…’, and so on. He loved these too.
And so we started to read some of Aesop’s fables, from different sources. Often we read two different versions of the same story, and compared them. Alfie loved these. We went on to draw pictures of the animals in these stories, to make models, or sew the animals. We didn’t read them all of course, just the more well know ones ‘The Lion and the mouse’, ‘The Grasshopper and the ant’, ‘The town mouse and the country mouse’, ‘The fox and the grapes’, ‘The sun and the wind’, ‘The fox and the stork’ and ‘The crow and the pitcher’ were the ones I remember we did.
We also have been reading chapter books about animals together – ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’, ‘James and the Giant Peach’, the ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ series, an abridged (and rather easy version) of ‘The Wind in the Willows’, and more recently we have finished ‘Charlotte’s Web’.
In most of these books there is an underlying moral. I have been careful not to point out these morals to Alfie, but instead let him think about them, talk through them, and comment upon what is right or wrong, and the character’s behaviour. I think it has helped him to relect upon his own and other’s behaviour in school – why people do things, and what he himself should or should not do.
A friend of ours who teaches her children through Waldorf has since told me, that ironically, this would be part of a Waldorf curriculum in second grade. She also told me, that ‘The Saints’ is another area, in waldorf second grade, where the curriculum touches upon morals. This interested me, and I looked in the library for a relevant book. I found this one, which is in Swedish, but fortunately, my Swedish is now at a level where I can translate relatively well…..
The book is called ‘In the Saints World’ and has simple but informative stories of many of the well known Saints.
Now I don’t want to drum in to Alfie the message of God behind the stories. Despite what I might believe, I also believe in letting my children decide on their own ‘roads’ in life – I feel my job is just to ‘steer’ them in the right direction. 😊
So, so far, we have read and talked about St Martin, who gave half his cloak to a homeless man – and we reinforced this with taking a sleeping bag to the homeless man who we have come to know, who sits outside our local shop. This was a real experience for Alfie, who chatted to him, shared his ginger biscuits with him, and who recieved a pair of (much loved) knitted bed socks from him, in return for the sleeping bag. In Germany they celebrate this Saint on November 11th with a lantern walk, which ironically we did on that very night in scouts, through the forest – and of course Alfie was with us….
We then read the story of ‘Francis of Assisi’ who is the Saint of animals, and always took care of animals and saw that they were safe – the story with the wolf is a well known one. Here we talked about winter coming and the birds having no bird, and it only seemed natural to fill up the bird feeders and put them on the trees, to reinforce this story.
Then, being the beginning of December, it only seemed natural to read the story of St Nicholas – the ‘first’ father Christmas, who left coins in poor children’s shoes. He was happy to find a chocolate coin in his boot the next morning. 😊
Next weekend it is the festival of Saint Lucy (Lucia), which is a big festival in Sweden. We celebrate by cooking and eating saffron buns (Lussekatt) and watching children perform in Lucia concerts. This year we will be watching Ted in his playgroup Lucia concert at the church (last year it was Alfie, the year before Maya…). So of course, that reinforces the story of Saint Lucy for this week…..