Content Areas

Humanities

Throughout the grades, in both the homeschool and the classroom, reading, writing and listening skills are primarily taught as an integral part of the social studies curriculum. Other people, times and cultures are brought to life through storytelling, writing projects, poetry, drama and other art forms. This integrated approach cultivates an intimate experience of a larger world and lays the foundation for a lifelong respect for other people and ways of life. To supplement this theme-oriented approach, students keep journals for writing and illustrating their own stories. Language arts skills are practiced and refined in skill building classes. This integration of the humanities builds an artistic, poetic sense of the English language from which the students can draw in their Middle and High School years.

During the Middle and High school years a more analytical understanding of the English language is undertaken. However, our emphasis continues to be on both written and spoken language as an artistic as well as practical form of communication. For more information see our article Humanities and the Enki Approach.

Geography – Grammar Poems

Integrating their language arts and geography studies, 5th graders are given a “parts of speech” template as shown below. They are then asked to choose words and images to create poems depicting particular geographic areas.

Template
Sample Poems
Parts of Speech
Appalachia
The Southwest
noun
Mines
Cliffs,
three adjectives
dark, dusty, black.
hard, rough, warm.
[article] noun
The dynamite
The River
verb
blows
runs
adverb, adverb
loudly, violently
wildly, quickly
preposition
upward
below.

Mathematics

Through mathematics we show the students the wondrous and mysterious relationships in the world around them. In all grades the children are shown how mathematics is a living part of understanding our world and relating to one another. Hearing stories, working with movement and rhythm, drawing form and color patterns, and exploring with concrete objects, elementary students gain an active and deep-seated understanding of mathematical concepts. They begin to see patterns all around them and apply the many skills they learn to other aspects of their work. Their visual perception of form and pattern will serve as a strong base for geometry.

Throughout the grades we work with a Foundational Mathematics system. Children work thoroughly with one foundation stone at a time. In this way they are not overwhelmed with small glimpses of different topics but rather gain a solid grasp on particular concepts and skills in keeping with their developmental needs. For example, First graders are naturally focused on relationships. In math we bring them a lively image of the four processes of computation (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) as four ways to interact. They are easily engaged in the process of giving, receiving, and equalizing – this is the nature of the friendships they are navigating day in and day out. In the Enki program they will spend the entire year exploring and stabilizing this base with simple challenges. When they return to these processes in the later years as they move on to place value, measurement, fractions, algebra and the like, they will be well anchored in the meaning and processes of computation.

On the base of rich immersion in a focused topic, from their youngest days on, the children are given building blocks and the opportunity to explore and discover concepts and mechanics on their own (see Discovery learning section). In all grades mathematics skills are then practiced and refined in additional skill-building classes, exercises, and drills. In this way the ground is laid for students to develop the flexible and reversible thinking needed for higher mathematics and creative living, while they gain a solid handle on basic skills.

In the Middle and High School years emphasis is on developing and refining the students’ analytical and flexible thinking skills, again using the discovery method, in the study of algebra, geometry, business math, and computer science.

Science

Today, mankind must work to balance global development with environmental preservation. That being so, it is particularly important for science programs to focus on all aspects of life as interactive ecosystems. We believe this perspective is best cultivated by nurturing the children’s natural reverence for the interrelatedness of all aspects of our world.

Therefore, in the earliest grades, we work with story, poetry, and the visual arts to bring the children an imaginative and lively description of the processes of nature in the context of the ecosystem. Long walks and projects made from materials collected on these walks further the children’s experience of the natural world. In the middle elementary grades it is an active participation in farming and building that gives the children a direct experience of the natural world. It the later elementary years they learn about animals and plants through direct observation and independent research, as well as through stories and the arts. Together these experiences keep alive the children’s natural sense of wonder, inquisitiveness, and caring for the world around them and lay the foundation for observation and analytical skills.

On this base, when the children are developmentally ready, they can move into more analytic explorations of the world in and around them without losing the sense of the whole.

In the Middle School years, our science curriculum encourages students to see the world through their own eyes and to stand in wonder and appreciation of what they see. It is this sense of wonder that will keep their inquisitiveness alive and help the students use all they learn to care for the world around them. Therefore, during the Middle School years we emphasize a phenomenological approach in which the students’ observations form the ground for further study. Students begin by observing everyday phenomena. They will look, draw, and describe what they see, as precisely as possible. From this keen observation, students develop their own hypotheses, which they must be able to test. Only once their own theories have been thoroughly tested and explored are students given the established theories and asked to compare the results. In this way students get a firm grounding in the scientific process, strengthen their critical thinking skills, and gain the confidence and enthusiasm born of personal discovery.

Expanding the focus on ecosystems into the students daily activities, our High School science curriculum works in harmony with the apprenticeships which lie at the heart of our High School curriculum. During these years the science program will broaden, deepen, and clarify the very practical work being undertaken during the apprenticeships. For example, a ninth grader doing a forestry apprenticeship will study soils, climate, botany and ecology. A tenth grader doing a human service apprenticeship in a hospital will study biology and sociology. Whenever possible the apprenticeships will include direct work with scientists engaged in laboratory and/or field research.

Projects and Crafts

All of us, young and old, seek to create our own worlds. How many times in a day or a week or a month do we re-dream our lives in new configurations? In our projects and crafts classes we give the children structured opportunities to take what they are learning in their other classes and use it to create a world of their own. The youngest children may recreate a story or an excursion in bees wax and wood, silk and stone, wool and felt. They may knit animals to inhabit their creation or knit full size scarves and hats to warm them on their journeys. Older children may build sheds or play houses. They may carve a bow or weave a quiver for their arrows. They may work with clay to build pyramids or model animals. They may use bee’s wax to sculpt a topographical map, or papier-mâché for a diorama of mining towns. There are a myriad of possibilities.

This work also gives the children an opportunity to work in small groups and develop the social skills needed to create together, with progressively less direction and assistance from the teacher. In this way the children learn to harness their own dreams, work together and begin to work independently in a safe and structured environment. These are all skills they will need to draw on for a creative, successful future, in school and out.

In grades 6 – 8 projects continue to include arts and crafts of cultures studied and models from science and mathe-matics studies, but the students now bear the privilege and responsibility of planning, researching and executing both individual and group projects. The teacher acts as a resource and consultant in this process. In addition to these smaller ongoing projects, each class develops one major group project for public presentation. These might include: “period fairs” (Renaissance, Asian caravanserais, Pow Wows, etc.); setting up a children’s museum with rotating displays; sports competitions (Olympics, Med-ieval festivals etc); creating an event exploring multi-cultural rites of passage; or setting up a “restaurant” with rotating multi-cultural food, displays and music. The projects time will become interwoven with Morning Lesson subjects.

In High School the student’s primary need is to participate in the larger community in a meaningful way; therefore, the primary focus is on the apprenticeship program. However, the students still need to be involved in creating their own community. Drama, wilderness trips and festivals become the projects that they plan and execute as a peer community.

Foreign Language

In Enki schools, foreign language study is part of all grades from kindergarten through high school. We work with the natural patterns for language learning as they unfold in infants and toddlers across the globe. This includes work with three major approaches: Immersion; TPR (Total Physical Response); and Living Pictures.

Immersion: The immersion aspect of our work includes periods devoted exclusively to foreign language. Classes range from 10 or 15 minutes every day in the kindergarten, to 45 to 60 minutes several times a week in the middle grades and high school. During this time, teachers speak exclusively in the foreign language. There is no translation during these periods and any explanation is done through gesture and example. Our emphasis is on bringing the children a living experience of the cultures in which the language is primarily spoken; these cultures provide both the context and flavor of our work. In the early years, these classes consist primarily of songs, games and stories. As the children become more familiar with the language, in the early elementary school years this study grows to include more conversational skills, reading, writing, and drama. In the junior high and high school this base expands into full reading, writing, and the study of history, geography, ideas, and customs of the countries where the language is spoken.

TPR (Total Physical Response): This system emphasizes “action language”- commands and conversations which require a physical response. Therefore, along with emphasizing movement in our songs and games, foreign language is sprinkled throughout the day in relevant situations. For example, “time to wash hands”, “no running”, “walk, please”, “who would like to feed the duck?”, “please close the door”, “please get the cups and water”, “whisper please”, and so on. This gives the children a living reinforcement, a learning which is taken up in their actions, just as any language is learned in infancy.

Living Pictures: This addition to our study was developed by Enki teachers. Recognizing that infants learning a language have a vast opportunity to draw on visual cues both to expand vocabulary and to put together concepts, we developed the living pictures system. Here we use drawings which have relevant pieces that move. As children are introduced to songs and stories they see them “happen” on the “Living Picture” cards. This is followed by acting out the story or song in the earliest years, drawing their own cards in the middle years, and making cards for younger children in the older years. We have found this visual information provides an important link between the auditory/ kinesthetic experiences, of both immersion and TPR, and understanding.

Frappez, frappez, petites mains.
Tournez, tournez, petits moulins.
Children sing and play in our living pictures work.

Visual Arts

In the visual arts, which are both woven into all other academic classes and have their own periods, children progress from rich experiences in color and movement/gesture to work with more structured and planned forms. From early experiences in which color freely floats about on wet paper to later work with light and shadow using charcoal and pad, the children are learning to notice the subtle moods and forms in the visual world around them. These experiences give them a firsthand knowledge of the visual laws and possibilities from which to actively draw in later years.

In the Middle and High School years students receive progressively more instruction and have progressively more opportunities to pursue a wide range of visual and sculptural media. Drawing, painting, modeling and crafts continue to be an ongoing part of both the history and science curricula.

 

Movement Arts

In the Enki approach, in both the classroom and homeschool programs, artistic activities that develop rhythm, balance, coordination, and spatial awareness are integrated into academic areas of the curriculum on a daily basis. Exercises, games, movement verses, expressive movement, and folk dance all build the skills needed for successful academic, artistic, and social learning. Specific movement experiences are drawn from Jean Ayres’ Sensory Integration and from Paul Dennison’s Brain Gym. Our sensory integration program is designed to foster each child’s full development through focused movement. These exercises are part of daily movement work and are helpful in re-mediating learning difficulties. Along with this ongoing work, specific classes are dedicated to a variety of movement arts.

Aikido, a non-aggressive martial art, cultivates interpersonal skills and awareness. In the middle and later elementary years, the curriculum also includes sports, team games, fitness exercises and children’s kyudo, a contemplative form of archery.

During the Middle and High School years, ongoing work with rhythm, balance, coordination and spatial awareness continues in activities such as juggling, mime, and folk dance. While our sensory integration program addresses this development in an ongoing manner throughout the school years, on the strong base built in the early years, the students now shift their primary emphasis to expressive movement, fitness, and sports.

Special Sensory Integration equipment is used during playtime as well as in movement classes.

Playful verses are used to engage the children in exercises designed to foster both neurological and sensory integration.

Lazy lion wakes at dawn
And growls with a toothy yawn.
Stretching up to greet the sun,
He knows another day’s begun.

Reaching forth with mighty claw,
He opens wide his fearsome jaws.
Then stretching up from tail to mane,
His roar resounds across the plain.

Music

Music is an integral part of all academic classes throughout the grades, bringing to life the flavor of the many cultures and themes studied. Using high quality wooden recorders, we begin our formal study in Grade One. Simple group singing and recorder playing in the early grades develops into complex rounds and beginning harmonies in both song and recorder in the later elementary years. Children come to experience many cultures and many times through music. They also work with the mathematical relationships in rhythms, scales and musical notation. In the later elementary grades children begin work with an additional instrument and are introduced to working in small orchestras.

The powerful draw of music for the pre-adolescent and adolescent makes clear that music gives voice to much that these youth cannot yet express in any other way. In deed the popular songs of our adolescence often keep a special place for our lifetime. In recognition of this, during the Middle and High School years, music continues to have a central role. All students participate in both orchestra and chorus, in mixed-grade classes.