Guest Post: One Mother’s Experience Homeschooling Seventh Grade Chemistry


Our guest post today is by my dear friend Tanya.  She just finished her seventh grade chemistry block with her seventh grader and was kind enough to write about it for us today.


Seventh Grade Chemistry Block in the Waldorf- Inspired Homeschool

chemistry title pagechemistry table of contents

After beginning our year with a two week review, we jumped right in to Chemistry.  It took me a while to plan out this block during summer as there aren’t a whole lot of resources for the homeschooling parent to choose from.  What resources I did find though helped tremendously and we were able to execute most of the demonstrations laying a solid foundation for 8th grade and high school Chemistry.

My main resource was a great manual titled:  “ A Demonstration Manual for Use in the Waldorf School Seventh Grade Main Lesson” by Mikko Bojarksy.  This book not only lists in detail materials needed for each demonstration, but it also gives clear instruction on how to perform each demonstration as well as what conclusions can be drawn by observation.  Other resources I found helpful were the two sites:  Waldorf Inspirations  and  Waldorf Teacher Resources  (this one you need to register for a full access, but it is free).

For materials, I bought all equipment and chemicals from  Home Science Tools.  My son is very interested in chemistry so I went ahead and invested in their basic lab equipment kit which included various sizes of beakers and graduated cylinders, funnels, tubing and stoppers, along with an alcohol burner and stand.  I also purchased five or so powdered chemicals and their Spectroscope Analysis Kit (for the colored flames demonstration).  Most of the demonstrations can be performed with various everyday items found in your home and you certainly can use glass/mason jars versus beakers.  You do need a safe flame source-either an alcohol lamp, Bunsen burner or we have used those chaffing burners used to keep food hot at buffet dinners.

We spent about three and a half  weeks covering the various chemistry topics.  For Week One we began with Combustion! This was really fun for my seventh  grader.  The first day we talked about what chemistry is and how every substance has a physical and chemical property. Then we performed demonstration number one from the Mikko book.  After each demonstration was performed, we would put away the materials and recap what we did and what we observed.  The next day, we would review again and then draw conclusions based on our observations.  I tried to let my seventh  grader come up with most of the conclusions, which for the most part he did, but there were a few times throughout the block where he needed a bit more guidance.  So we spent the rest of the first week burning various materials and observing what happened when they burned. We ended the week discussing the properties of the candle and observing several demonstrations that involved burning a candle. 




During Week Two we covered salts and crystal formations.  We discussed the concepts of solubility, precipitation, and saturated solutions.  We also created crystals from epsom salt, table salt, and borax.  As in Week One, we would perform the demonstration on one day and draw conclusions from our observations on the next day. 

week two chemistry


 Week three was Acids and Bases!  My seventh grader found these demonstrations to be the most fun out of the whole block.  We created a pH indicator using red cabbage and then tested several common household chemicals to discover whether they were acidic or basic.  We ended the week by  briefly discussing the Lime Cycle.  This was the one topic I found the most difficult to recreate in a homeschool rather than classroom setting.  However, my son had received a chemistry kit as a gift and spent the summer performing the various experiments. Luckily for me, two of the experiments involved making lime milk and lime water so he was already somewhat familiar with the Lime Cycle.  Another option is to watch the demonstrations on You Tube (not very Waldorfy perhaps, but sometimes you have to adapt!).

week three chemistryweek three part two chemistry

In addition to performing various demonstrations, my son was given a weekly vocabulary list that included terms like combustion,solvent, effervescence, etc.  I also gave him a chemistry test at the end of the block (found on the Waldorf Inspirations website).  This was just to see if our bases were covered and it was not graded.  He did fairly well and I felt good knowing he had a solid foundation laid. Overall, I would say this block was a big success and my seventh  grader learned quite a bit.  It was great witnessing him come to conclusions simply based on what he observed and therefore learning more about our world.


Thank you so much Tanya for sharing your experiences with us!  If you have done seventh grade chemistry at home, I would love to hear from you!


Let’s Read: Simplicity Parenting



We are up to Chapter Six in Kim John Payne’s “Simplicity Parenting” entitled, “Filtering Out the Adult World”. This is my favorite chapter in this book for so many reasons.  It really sums up to me the difficulties with parenting in this day and age and gives some great concrete suggestions for parenting.  The chapter begins with the story of a mother and how she said her feelings toward motherhood could be summed up with the word, “worry”.  The author goes on to detail stories of parents where the parents are wondering if their children are being tended to enough by coaches or teachers.  He doesn’t address homeschooling families, but I think worry can be doubled in homeschooling families where parenting and teaching hats are shared!


“Worry and concern are sewn into the cloth of parenting; they’re integral parts of the experience…..Worry may be an aspect of parenthood, but it shouldn’t define it.  When it rises to the top of our emotions, coloring the waters of our relationship with our children, something is not right.”


Simplifying the daily life of both you and your child often helps in decreasing worry and anxiety.  However, another place to simplify may be just how involved we are with our children.  Societal pressure has turned some parents into helicopter parents; and it is not just in the United States but all over the world.  Here is an interesting article from the NY Times about the “the cure for hyper-parenting” and how “hyper-parenting” is occurring all over the world.


Kim John Payne’s suggestions include: Continue reading

Girls On the Cusp of Puberty


With two girls in our house, I have spent a bit of time thinking about girls on the cusp of puberty. It also is a pretty hot topic amongst my parent friends who have girls this age, and is getting quite a bit of attention in even the mainstream media.  Here is one article from the NY Times called, Puberty Before Age  10:  A New Normal?  I believe the study of over 1200 girls mentioned in this article is this one in the medical journal “Pediatrics”.

We can argue all day long about the causation of early puberty.  Is it the estrogens, phytoestrogens, and other hormone disrupters in our food, water and environment?  Is it the levels  of different things within our own bodies at the time we got pregnant with the children who are now growing up to be girls on the cusp of puberty?  Is it something we just haven’t figured out yet?

WebMD details a few of the possible medical causes and signs of puberty and notes that the difference between early puberty and “regular” puberty is not in the signs , but in the timing.  I find it interesting that in this article the signs of puberty for girls is detailed solely as breast development and the onset of menstruation, but when I talk to parents about the signs of puberty they are worried about it can be about breast budding as well, but many times it is more about the moodiness/fluctuating emotions, talking back to parents that may be presumed due to hormonal change,  pubic hair developing or body odor or even just their daughter wanting to wear a bra.

Here is what I am finding most of my parents friends and readers to be doing: Continue reading

Woolens Sale Extended and Links To Make You Think This Week



Green Mountain Organics was kind enough to extend the 20 percent discount for readers of The Parenting Passageway until October 20th.  Use pp20 and get your woolens for winter  here.


Here are some of my favorite links from this week:

An interesting NY Times article about how to teach math: teach math.

An Orthodox Christian article about spiritual intervention that can help depression in addition to cognitive behavioral treatment (including the wonderful prayer of Fr. Arseny):  here.

A 2013 article about   post-partum practices in the US.  We can and should be doing so much better and so much more:

This article about outdoor exposure/no screen access for sixth graders for 5 days and its impact on emotional intelligence.  See Children and Nature news



Wrap Up of Week Eight of Seventh and Fourth Grade


I am trying to post a little wrap-up of each week of grades seven, four and five year old kindergarten year throughout the 36 weeks I have planned for school this year.  I hope this will encourage mothers that are homeschooling multiple children (or who want to but are worried!), and  encourage mothers that even homeschooling children of multiple ages who are far apart in age is doable.  You can find weeks six and seven  here and further in back posts you can find a post pertaining to the first two days of school this year which gives insight to our general daily rhythm.


Kindergarten:  This week was a birthday week for our kindergartener, so we had some company from family and friends to celebrate!  However, my little one also managed to get a good cold going by his birthday, so other than limited company and baking, this week has been a bit subdued.  We are continuing our foray into apples with the making of apple muffins and applesauce and we got out the fall books to enjoy.  Soon we will be going pumpkin picking, but we try to go closer to All Saints Day since the weather is often hot and the pumpkin will rot before that weekend if we get it too early!


Fourth Grade:  We are continuing Continue reading

Talking Back and What to Do About It


“Talking back” seems to be something I see getting press in more and more mainstream American parenting articles, with comments something along the lines of, “We expect teenagers to talk back, but we don’t expect six-year-olds to talk back and this is really infiltrating down and down into younger and younger ages.”

I think this is an accurate depiction of what is going on in American society at least.  I am hearing from parents about talking back and what to do about it from about age five or six on up.

So, How Did We Get Here?

In general, I think part of what has gotten us to this point is that authority in general in society has changed, especially since the 1960s.  No longer are there figures of complete authority to obey without question and children see this in society.  I am not saying these changes are bad!  However, they do lead children to “question” authority more than before, and to also lead parents to be fearful of being an authority, because in our generation’s history this has often been linked with abuse of power and unfairness. Parents seem to walk a difficult line these days in regard to their views of authority and what that means in leading their own family.

The other large change has been the seeping of adulthood down into childhood, including the sheer number of choices a child has, the sheer power of decision-making a child has within the family structure and an awareness of the stress and pressures of the adults in the family.  Related to this has been the seeping of the adult world of information down to the child’s level.

Many American families I speak with feel that part of their children’s talking back is related to that child feeling entitled to experiences or things.  If you feel there is a correlation there, I would love to hear from you in the comment box!

For What Ages Is Talking Back the Biggest Problem?

From my mail, I am judging most parents are having difficulty with talking back during the six/seven year change, age eight (the age of boasting and bragging and exaggeration), and the years marketed as the “preteen years” – ages 10-12.  Surprisingly, I don’t get a lot of mail from parents being frustrated with their teenager’s talk.  I am not sure if that is because the talking back has actually died down at that age, or if parents are just used to it or something else.  Again, I would love to hear from you in the comment box!

What Can I Do To Figure Out Where We Are Right Now?

  • Always go back to the basics, especially for those under the age of 12.  Are they overbooked and overscheduled?  Too many choices and just generally holding too many opinions/ too much power?  Are they getting enough sleep, rest, time for unstructured play, eating whole and healthy foods?
  • What are your rules?  What exactly constitutes talking back by your child to you?  Does your child know what talking back really is and when they are doing it?
  • How are you treating them?  What kind of a model are you with them?  If you are constantly sarcastic and snippy with them, then that is their model.  That is exactly what they will parrot back to you.  Are you respectful and polite as well?
  • Are they more connected to their peers than to the family unit?  The privileges of a sixteen or seventeen year old  and the schedule of a sixteen or seventeen year old are not the privileges or schedule a ten year old should be having.  If you need help knowing what is appropriate for a ten year old versus an older child, please leave me a comment and I will be happy to dialogue with you.
  • What is their media intake?  Unfortunately, many of the nicer “family” shows that used to be on television or in the movies are long gone.  Today’s media often portrays a family where the children are snippy to their parents and seem to know much more than their hapless, bumbling parents.  The fathers are typically portrayed as extra bumbling.  Portrayals such as these really have not helped our society as a whole.

So What Can I Do? Continue reading

Wrap Up of Weeks Six and Seven of Seventh and Fourth Grade


I am trying to post a little wrap-up of each week of grades seven, four and five year old kindergarten year throughout the 36 weeks I have planned for school this year.  I hope this will encourage mothers that are homeschooling multiple children (or who want to but are worried!), and  encourage mothers that even homeschooling children of multiple ages who are far apart in age is doable.  You can check out weeks four and five here.

Kindergarten:  The momentum is back!  Week four included our usual activities and then we had a week at the beach of flying kites, digging in the sand and diving into waves.  This week began with a day at the apple orchard and back to a friend’s house to celebrate Michaelmas.  This week we have done fingerplays about apples, an apple orchard circle, Suzanne Down’s story “Little Boy Knight” with puppetry, along with making applesauce and apple crisp from our apples that we picked (and getting to use one of those wonderful apple peeler/slicer gadgets with the handle to crank!), making apple prints, cutting apples to see the star inside, and lots of verses and singing for Michaelmas.  It has been a fun week with apples and gestures for fall!

Fourth Grade:  We finished our first math block, which was a review block that went over many topics  but mainly focused on deepening measurement and conversion of measurement units in a way that worked into our Man and Animal block.  Our fifth week saw the beginning of our Man and Animal block with a presentation of the human being in its threefold organization of the head, trunk and limbs.  We worked in crayon with a painting resist for a Continue reading