(This guest post is written by a friend of mine who lives in my region of the U.S. She writes in):
As I write this I am enjoying a homemade sourdough English muffin, topped with homemade cheese and homemade strawberry jam. This, my friends, is the real reward of doing a Waldorf-inspired third grade year! We have just finished Grade 3, and what a fun year it has been. Although I have always homeschooled my boys, this has been our first year using Waldorf-inspired methods. I began our year by meditating on my son, Vincent, who turned 9 this past December. My number one goal for him was to get him out of his head a bit (well, a lot), which meant less reading and more physical activity. I also wanted to try to calm his mind and focus him to finish a task. Lower on my list of things to accomplish was to teach him all 4 processes in math, as we had only done addition and subtraction previously. And of course, there is my constant quest as a parent to encourage reverence, empathy and connection in both my boys.
Even though I had lamented the fact that we had not used a Waldorf-inspired curriculum since the beginning, Grade 3 was a relatively easy year to start with this method. Donna Simmons, in her audio called “Siblings, Schedules and Outside Commitments”, helped me to see this. She said (and others have also) that Grade 3 incorporates so much of what is usually already done at home, specifically cooking and gardening or farming. The building block can also be accomplished relatively easily at home. All three of these blocks fit beautifully with my goals for Vincent this year. Lots of physical activity and lots of outside time are a great antidote for someone who is very much in his head. Cooking was his favorite by far. The stuff he has made has just astounded me: Boston Cream Pie (with homemade pastry cream!), bread, scones, biscuits, cookies, soup, you name it. The kid has cooked it by himself, from scratch.
We also started a couple of barter relationships with our neighbors: one for milk, butter and eggs and another just for eggs. (We use a lot of eggs!). This has been so gratifying on so many levels. Friday has become our baking day where we bake what we are going to trade. Saturday morning, our neighbor (I refer to him as “our milkman”) shows up with 3 gallons of fresh milk from his milk cow, 2 rounds of butter that he has churned and usually 3 dozen eggs from his neighbor’s chickens. We usually trade something sweet and something savory – usually cookies and some kind of bread. This connection has been a great way to start the weekend and has really deepened our family’s relationship with those we live by.
The cooking, gardening and building blocks were relatively easy to prepare for and “teach” compared to my apprehension about teaching a block about the Old Testament stories. Because they are supposed to speak so deeply to a nine- year -old’s soul, I was very nervous about my presentation of these stories. I did a lot of reading of how different Waldorf teachers told/wrote these stories, and – true confessions – I put it off until May. It was our last block. Honestly it went fine. I did read most of the stories, rather than tell them. I just tried to be kind to myself and let that one go.
The most obvious improvement came during our math blocks. Vincent went from not even knowing what multiplication was to being able to recite all 12 tables backward and forward. I credit this accomplishment with coupling movement and memorization. We practiced the tables everyday while tossing our beanbags back and forth. (A bonus was that fact that his throwing and catching also improved dramatically.)
Overall, Grade 3 has been a year of big changes for my son and for our family as a whole. All good, but not without struggle. I have already started my planning for next year which will be Grade 4 and a more formal kindergarten with my 6 year old. I plan to do another block of Old Testament stories, because I feel we did not go deeply enough into them and I also plan to continue to catch up with math. I have listed some of the resources I found helpful below and organized them by blocks.
Wishing you all a fun year with Grade 3!
Old Testament Stories:
- And Then There Was Light, Journey to the Promised Land, We Will Build a Temple all by Jakob Streit
- The Story Bible by Pearl S. Buck
- Bible Folding Stories: Old Testament Stories and Paperfolding Together as One by Christine Petrell Kallevig (This book uses origami to illustrate the stories.)
- Man Gave Name to All the Animals song by Bob Dylan, picture book by Jim Arnosky
- In Our Image: God’s First Creatures by Nancy Sohn Swartz (I thought this was a good precursor to the Man and Animal block taught in Grade 4)
- Why Noah Chose the Dove by Isaac Bashevis Singer and illustrated by Eric Carle
- Big Momma Makes the World by Phyllis Root
- The Seven Days of Creation by Leonard Everett Fisher (The illustrations are good inspiration for blackboard drawings.)
- Various seed catalogs
- Sunflower Houses or any other book by Sharon Lovejoy
- A Journey through Waldorf Math by Melisa Nielsen
- The Little House Series (especially Farmer Boy) by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
- Baking Bread with Children The Little House Cookbook (Be careful with this one! I can tell you from experience that pioneer food is not high cuisine. It was fun, however and really made the books come alive.)
- Kids’ America by Steven Caney (This is a good all around craft/activity book. It is not Waldorf, but definitely “Waldorfy”. Plus we got it at our library.)
General Resources I found helpful for Grade 3 and coming to Waldorf late:
- Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne (My all time favorite parenting book EVER!)
- The Waldorf Student Reading List (Best $9 you can spend.)
- Various audio recordings by Melisa Nielsen, Donna Simmons and those produced on the Waldorf Connection
- Encountering the Self: Transformation and Destiny in the Ninth Year by Hermann Koepke
- Melisa Nielsen’s talks on the Nine Year Change
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle or Small Wonder both by Barbara Kingsolver
- The Householder’s Guide to the Universe: A Calendar of Basics for the Home and Beyond by Harriet Fasenfest
- Mother Earth News (magazine)
Thank you Sheila, and many blessings to you all,