Welcome: To Grade 4! (#241)


A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
Day 241

For one year, 365 days, this blog will address the Common Core Standards from the perspective of creating an alternate, ambient learning environment for math. Ambient is defined as “existing or present on all sides, an all-encompassing atmosphere.”

And ambient music is defined as: “Quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times. Why ambient? A math teaching style that’s whole and all encompassing, with themes that repeat many times through the years, is most likely to be effective and successful.

Grade 4!  Another milestone, a marker in the child’s journey, one that echoes Grade 2, in that it’s another confident leap into the world.  And with this confident exuberance comes a certain rambunctiousness that is nicely mirrored by trickster tales!

Just as the fables’ animal antics displayed these qualities for the 7-8 year old, the Norse myths and other trickster tales serve the same purpose for the 9-10 year old.  The deeply good qualities found in the stories and legends of the saints served to balance the fables’ mischief, as the Norse myths balance elements of the light and dark side by side.

As with all good, classic world literature, the Norse myths embody cultural archetypes that impart meaning and depth.  We are sorely missing this element in modern times, and our children are hungry for it.  Why are we stripping education of all the so-called “frills” subjects?  Isn’t it time we woke up to the fact that we are starving our children?  Because, just as we feed their bodies and are careful to provide all necessary nutrients for health and growth, we must do the same for their minds.  Right-brain teaching and learning is not a fad, it’s a vital balance.

A picture is worth a thousand words, as is a good story.  So here is a story for you, from Bullfinch’s Mythology, about The Three Norns, three archetypal women who show up in many of our ancient tales, followed by a wonderful chalkboard rendering from Catie Johnson’s page, Chalkboard Drawings in the Waldorf Classroom.

The Norns’ Web

The Norns sometimes wove such large webs that one of the weavers stood on a high mountain in the extreme east, while another waded far out into the western sea. The threads of their woof resembled cords, and varied greatly in hue, according to the nature of the events about to occur, and a black thread, tending from north to south, was invariably, considered an omen of death. As these sisters flashed the shuttle to and fro, they chanted a solemn song. They seemed not to weave according to their own wishes, but blindly, as if reluctantly executing the wishes of Orlog, the eternal law of the universe, an older and superior power, who apparently had neither beginning nor end.

Two of the Norns, Urd and Verdandi, seemed very beneficent indeed, while the third relentlessly undid their work, and often, when it was nearly finished, tore it angrily to shreds, scattering the remnants to the winds of heaven. As personifications of time, the Norns were represented as sisters of different ages and characters, Urd (Wurd, weird) appearing very old and decrepit, continually looking backward, as if absorbed in contemplating past events and people; Verdandi, the second sister, young, active, and fearless, looked straight before her, while Skuld, the type of the future, was generally represented as closely veiled, with head turned in the opposite direction from that where Urd was gazing, and holding a book or scroll which had not yet been opened or unrolled.


This beautifully intricate imagery is deeply taken in by the children, not analyzed per se but rather taken at face value, digested, and allowed to nourish and nurture elements of the personality that will manifest later as deeply moral and complex human qualities.

As always, knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of knowledge as a worthy goal. Tune in tomorrow for more wonders from Grade 4!

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