This post is for people who are planning for adventures in Waldorf Grades One through Eight with their children, children who are aged seven and older. If your child is under the age of seven, please do hit “rhythm” and those sorts of tags in the tag box on the right hand side of this page and start there. There are also some separate posts on Waldorf Kindergarten on this blog that may be of interest to you.
Onward to the parents of grade-school children… Mel over at http://lovey-land.blogspot.com/ and I were talking about the necessity of planning when you are a Waldorf homeschooling mother. The Waldorf curriculum is very multi-layered, and very hands-on with skills that you will need to master ahead of time so you can show your child. It seems that many people within the Waldorf community these days want a pre-planned, pre-done curriculum – you know, the open and go kind of thing. I too, adore an open and go kind of thing! The only thing I can share, however, is that my open and go curriculum is created by myself. I believe this is a great privilege of homeschooling that I can create and use stories that will speak specifically to my child’s strengths and weaknesses and to our family’s values. I do have many different books, websites and Steiner’s lectures to draw on, and I start planning early so I have time to read everything I want and digest it and meditate on it and then create my own product. In order to do this, I have to start early…I am reading second grade material now in order to be ready with a finished second grade curriculum by September 2009.
I first take a calendar and look at the 180 days we need in our state to fulfill homeschooling law. I mark in when our vacations may be if I know that, and I also take note of each festival and count back anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks in order to start mapping out festival preparations. I have a separate binder for festivals that has many recipes, plays, verses and craft ideas I have collected and have ordered by festival and date of the year. This gives me a good jumping off point so I can plan what we will do each day leading up to a festival day.
Then I take a moment to dream, to really look at the big picture for the grade and what that grade means to me. I go back to Steiner’s lectures and read about what he says for each grade and some of the indications he gives for teaching different subjects and try to get to the heart of the matter. This is very important as many mothers who would like to homeschool using Waldorf methods have never actually read a lecture by Steiner. Please do, it will add such dimension and clarity to your understanding of the grades and your teaching. I think about and create goals for my children based not only on all academic areas, but also in areas such as social, character development, religious/spiritual goals, practical life, music, handwork, art, and foreign languages. I write those down, and I also create goals for myself of things I want to learn and work on, and write those down.
Then I plan out the sequence of blocks and how that might flow best throughout the year – for example, I like to start with a month of form drawing so I usually start there but then I need to map out how many math blocks, how many language arts blocks, how many science blocks. I decide on the blocks and on what main things I would like to bring to my child. Remember, Steiner said in one of his lectures in the book “Soul Economy”, that “The aim of Waldorf education is to arrange all of the teaching so that within the shortest possible time the maximum amount of material can be presented to students by the simplest means possible.” This means that you are choosing things for each block to light your child’s imagination and interest, you are choosing the events that best represent a historical time period, you are choosing the most important and wonderful things your child needs to know about this subject and presenting them in an active, no textbook kind of manner.
Then I take each individual block and start writing lesson plans for each day around our daily rhythm and the notion of Head, Heart, and Hands. Head is Circle and Main Lesson Work. Heart is typically outside time, hiking, wet on wet watercolor painting, music, drawing, or when our tutors come for foreign language teaching. Hands is typically our practical everyday work (baking, gardening, etc) and handwork. I especially look for what is the ACTIVE part of each lesson, what is the piece I can pull out to really inspire my child and make her just be enthralled with this subject?
I also look at the three day rhythm where Waldorf education uses the aid of sleep to really learn. For example, if I tell a story in Grade One about one of the math gnomes, then we may sleep on it after the introduction. The next day we will re-visit the story and then paint, draw or model something from the story and play math games in a physical manner about whatever math process the story was about. The third day we re-visit the same story again, and provide more practice with math and then draw problems in our main lesson book and a picture of the math sign (plus, minus, times, division sign) – this is the academic piece that is always brought in on the third day. You can fit in another three day rhythm for the week if you introduce a story after this work is done on the third day.
So I keep all that in mind and just write day by day until the month is done.
Once the yearly plan is in my computer by month, it is easy enough to adjust it if something comes up and we need to miss a day. I try to schedule a reasonable amount of work for each day so there is plenty of time for play, dreaming and so if we do miss a day we can easily make it up. I am still in the early grades and consider this to be very important that these early grades are the bridge to greater academic work and excellence later on.. I know this will shift about third grade or so.
At the start of every block during the school year, I review the plans and make sure I have all the materials I need and make sure it all still will speak to my child. I have time to be able to tweak it as needed because I did it ahead of time.
I would love to hear how other folks plan, how far ahead you plan, what works best for you.
Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.