Fifth Grade Block Rotation

This is my second time through fifth grade this fall so I wanted a block rotation plan that was a little bit different than my first time around, and I also wanted to  build more of a foundation for things that we will be seeing in the upper grades. So, this time around I have chosen to do blocks in this order:

  • Botany
  • Ancient Civilizations (India, Persia, Mesopotamia)
  • Math block based upon Marsha Johnson’s History of Chocolate math block, but I really worked hard on it and expanded it into a bit more about the Toltec, Aztec and Maya of Mesoamerica
  • Geometry
  • Christmas Break
  • Ancient Civilizations II (Ancient Egypt, Ancient Africa, Ancient China)
  • Greek Mythology/History
  • Introduction To Metric System through our neighbor Canada
  • United States and Neighbors (United States, Review of Mexico and Canada from previous blocks, Caribbean) (I chose to combine Central America with South America in seventh grade geography). 

It is going to be a very fun year!


Switching to Colored Pencils

I had a dear friend of mine email me to ask about when to switch to colored pencils; what brand, and the ins and outs of pencils!  So I thought I would just share our experiences over the years as we have been through many colored pencil experiments at this point.

First of all, the timing to switch to colored pencils is rather individual, so do observe the child in front of you in the homeschooling environment.  Many do switch to colored pencil for writing only (with the drawings in Main Lesson Books still in block and stick crayons) in the second half of second grade or the beginning of third grade and the pictures/drawings in third grade are usually a combination of pencil and crayon.  By fourth grade all the drawings are typically in pencil with perhaps block or stick crayons for special parts of drawings or occasional drawings.  You will discover which picture calls for what as you teach!   

To be honest,  my  soon to be eighth grader is still using colored pencils to write.  We never switched to fountain pens, (GASP! the horror!) except for calligraphy work on certain assignments, because we both love the color and the ease of pencils.  I will try to take pictures of some of the really amazing work our daughter did in seventh grade and show  the differences between things written in calligraphy versus pencil.  It brings forth different aesthetics and feelings. This year,  in eighth grade, our daughter’s Main Lesson Book work will include colored pencils, graphite pencil, calligraphy pen, perhaps we will try our  fountain pen for some of the history summaries.  I know some Waldorf Schools use even some regular pens but to me, they really are not pretty and don’t appeal to either of the sanguine pieces of myself or my daughter though – just being honest! We will do a few pieces that are typed (typing typically comes in during ninth grade in the Waldorf Schools but we are home and will probably do some typing this year).  We are also unorthodox in that we never switched to using a regular sized three ring binder for seventh and eighth grades like most Waldorf School classes do…because neither one of us liked the aesthetics of it so we just continued to use the main lesson book style we loved…..but that is another post!

So what brand of  pencils??

The gold standard in Waldorf Schools seems to be the Lyra pencils.  We have used both Lyra and Primsacolor over the years.  At first, we didn’t like the Primsacolor as much as they seemed to break easier, but recent batches we have bought didn’t seem to have these problems (or maybe they just work well with middle school aged children??).  Now we pretty much only buy Primsacolor, but certainly have a HUGE stock of Lyras in varying shapes and colors from over the year, and we use both brands readily and for different things. You will get to know the hues of your pencils!

This post was very, very helpful to me when we were starting out:  Lyra versus Primsacolor  You can compare the hues of the colors by viewing this post.

Here are a few more of my suggestions regarding writing utensils:

  • Remember, that in the early grades, no matter what utensil you use for writing, you are working in tiny increments with lots of aids for borders, lines, spacing, etc…Remember those golden paths, golden stars between letters, using a three pronged sky-earth-water line for cursive, etc.  In the middle years of grades three through six is when most people switch to writing in cursive with fountain pens.    So it doesn’t have to come in third.  Fourth is the most typical grade to move from writing in crayon to fountain pen.
  • You can start out writing with the giant triangular shaped Lyra pencils in the second half of second grade or beginning of third grade.    They can really help grip.
  • Do NOT buy the giant boxes of 24 to 100 colors for small children!  More is NOT better!  They really need nothing more than red, blue, yellow and green, sometimes purple,  for second grade.  You can add in one color at a time, which can be very sweet!  The writing typically is more stick crayon and moving into pencil in second grade, so it is a gradual process.
  • Fingerplays throughout first through third grades are important, as is writing with the feet.  That really has nothing to do with pencils, but thought I would throw that in there!   And remember, probably one of the peaks in fine motor control for these earlier grades is actually in FIFTH grade, so don’t expect too much in second or third, especially out of those poor, eager little first born girls!  It can be easy to push but please don’t!
  • The triangular giant Ferbys can help a child get a good grip, but I think also look carefully at hand strength, core strength, posture…some children seem to need the weight of a colored stick  crayon to hold them back and drag along the paper so they make careful letters and some really need to move to a colored pencil.  Observe your child!
  • Cursive writing is usually practiced in second grade, but not used in writing things in the Main Lesson Book until third grade or even beginning of fourth grade, depending upon the child and the fluency and ease with which they write in cursive. 
  • Third graders can be pretty careless with writing in general, no matter if you use colored crayons or think about how much you are asking for, if you are setting good boundaries about the work being done in a careful way..but don’t ask for so much! Not everything needs a summary, and pick and choose what blocks you are going to require writing for…
  • Grade Four is typically when the child has 12 colored pencils plus stick and block crayons.  Sometimes you really need those block crayons,even in the upper grades, for something where it is just right.  Middle school grades is where one can expand into even more colors.

Hope that helps some of you in your planning,


The Root of Waldorf Homeschooling Is Love….

Today I am fortunate to be over in Tiffany’s space at Live Learn Love Eat. Here is  the opening of that post:

A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard;
Why aren’t we all like that wise old bird.

-Traditional Mother Goose Rhyme

I do not profess to be wise (nor old!), but as I head into my ninth year of Waldorf homeschooling, the sentiment of this rhyme resonates with me more and more. I used to feel as if I had pat and succinct answers for the questions families asked regarding Waldorf Education. I could talk about the work of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, and his work into looking at the development of the spiritual human being throughout the lifespan. I could talk about how Waldorf Education was a holistic method of education that Rudolf Steiner helped to develop in order to address the head, heart and hands of the child. I could talk about the eight artistic pillars of Waldorf education that works to develop the capacities of the child in a holistic manner that incorporates the art of speech, drama, drawing, painting, modeling, singing and musical instruments, movement, and handwork.

However, I think today, after homeschooling our oldest child  now entering eighth grade, and homeschooling our middle child now entering fifth grade, and with our youngest child getting ready to embark on one final kindergarten year, I would tell you that ….. to read the rest, please go visit Tiffany’s blog, Live Learn Love Eat.

Many blessings and thank you to Tiffany!


Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will–Week Five

We are up to page 27 in this glorious book by teacher Stephen Spitalny.  He talks about the development of self consciousness from birth or before birth and how we experience ourselves as separate until in our 30’s we may have “feelings of isolation and deep separateness”.  This is a very personal and inner experience of aloneness irrespective of our life circumstances.  At this point in our lives, we have the choice and option to forge our own spiritual path that re-creates the connectedness to the spiritual world that we were born with. 

In order to see this development of self-consciousness, we look at children in the early years of Waldorf Education are seen as having two fundamental processes at work:

  • First, the physical development of the body
  • Second, the increasing awareness of self.

Author Spitalny details the development of the infant to the toddler to the preschool-aged child.  He describes how during all of the early years children have a need for repetition and sameness.  Repetition, in Waldorf Education, is seen as building the will of the child.  From page 31:  “Adults need to be aware of this and support the child’s desire for having the same things over and again, because it serves a developmental need.”

The role of a toddler’s “no” is fully described.  This is a very large leap toward awareness of self in a young child that sets the child on a path that ends eventually around the age of 21 in which the young adult is connected to the core essence of themselves (the “I” or “ego”)

One thing that is pointed out that can be of interest in this age of selfies and documenting almost every aspect’s of a child’s life with pictures, video and social media is the idea that children birth through seven should not be shown pictures of themselves over and over as this is a prematurely awakening experience.  Children should love in the eyes of their caregivers, and from this becomes their beginning experiences of consciousness.

Children have the innate ability to experience things adults do not find accessible, such as forces within nature at work, or sensing the thoughts of others. “The arising of the intellect and the awareness of the self as a separate being from all that is around it leads to a gradual diminishing of the faculty of sensing thoughts and feelings of others, and a loss of the direct experience of nature.”

Many blessings,


Planning, Planning, Get Your Planning Here….

So, I am in the midst of planning.  Fifth grade planning is done; I am still working on kindergarten and eighth grade planning. I finally decided on blocks for eighth grade to include:

  • August:  Geometry/Mensuration
  • September:  Physics (mainly electricity, hydraulics and aeronautics)
  • October:  American History
  • November:  Organic Chemistry
  • December:  Geography of Asia
  • Christmas Break
  • January:  Oceanography/Metereology (although I am  still debating about placing metereology into ninth grade and just focusing on oceanography)
  • February:  World History Themes
  • March:  Anatomy/Physiology
  • April:  Spring break and a short block on the Evolution of Human Freedom that will cover some of the wonderful biographers of peacemakers who changed the world 
  • May:  Medical Geography (the block my eighth grader picked)

I had planned an almost five week block of Revolutions but decided at the last minute that Revolutions would be better suited for us to go with the polarities found in ninth grade – binary, comedy and tragedy, the hot and cold found in thermodynamics, etc.

There are a few things that will be done daily (math) and a few things that will be running a few times a week (High School Spanish I, High School Latin I, and then World Geography and some focus on governmental structures for our state and nation).

Most of my blocks for eighth grade are either done or 50 to 75 percent done, so it is good to see the ending line in sight.  I wanted to be done planning everything by June, but it didn’t happen, so here we are.

How is planning coming for you?  I would love to hear where you are.


The Beginner’s Guide to Beautiful Beeswax Modeling–Part Three


“My experience has taught me that every child has a natural artist within.” – Learning About the World Through Modeling, Arthur Auer

Ideas for An Introduction, Verses, Modeling by Age,  and More

Most importantly…

Do make modeling materials available to your child.  Arthur Auer states in his book that most children these days are not doing enough modeling at home or in the classroom. I taught Sunday School Kindergarten several years ago and I found that to be very true.  The kindergarteners did not seem to have any idea what to do when presented with a lump of homemade salt dough, and had to be taught how to pinch off pieces and make balls and little “snakes”. So, most importantly, have modeling materials and experiences for both your Early Years and grades children available.

An introduction…

An introduction to beeswax modeling materials for the small child for the very first time could include a beautiful story.  My friend Cypress has a story that she wrote for this purpose and shared on her blog  here.  There is also a story in the book “Learning About the World Through Modeling” by Arthur Auer, so you can check there.  That is a wonderful resource for modeling with both beeswax and clay throughout the grades.  For modeling heads in eighth grade I have liked the book, Modeling the Head in Clay by Lucchesi.



There are a  few verses to use as you are getting out your beeswax modeling materials found in different publications, including one in “A Child’s Seasonal Treasury” and “Learning About the World Through Modeling”.  You can also check my  Beeswax and Clay Modeling Pinterest Board that has two verses for the Early Years one younger grades verse.  For older grades, modeling is tied in with lessons, but one could also use any number of beautiful bee poems.

Other free inspiration for the Early Years includes this free sample lesson from Live Education

When working with children, we need to know when to work with a more “construction” approach to modeling materials (ie, sticking things on) versus trying to make a figure or something arise out of the whole. 

Modeling In the Early Years Through Grade Eight

For ideas regarding small children under the age of seven and beeswax modeling, please go back to Part Two of this series for ideas.  Other ideas include making a simple ball, flat figures that can be stuck onto a window.  Children love to see adults making art, so your own example and time set aside for adult modeling is most important.   Concavity is a concept that often comes in most distinctly after the nine year change, so looking at this feature as predominant in an early year child’s creations may be telling.  

In grades one through three, it is helpful if the teacher or parent works on the “whole piece” idea of artistic modeling mentioned above – bringing something out of the unity of the piece of modeling material.  Letter and number symbols should be formed in beeswax as well as other creations.  The exploration of fundamental shapes in modeling – convex, concave, flat, elongated, etc  are important to explore before the child attempts to copy things the teacher  or parent is doing.    As eight to ten year olds gain strength in their hands, they  have more dexterity in working with beeswax, but it is important to make sure the children spend enough time warming the beeswax in their hands before attempting to model with it.  Clay can be used in increasingly larger amounts for main lesson work in homeschooling after age nine as children are more grounded on the earth. Children ages nine and up tend to model with more concave forms than before. 

The grades of four through six are VERY important.  These are years when adults really need to be encouraging.  Children in these grades can be very self-conscious and aware that they don’t do some things as well as other things (this is true I find in physical activity skills as well) and will shut down if they don’t think they can model well.    They want their pieces to look more “real”.  To do this requires a big leap in fine-motor skills and artistic perception.  It is also important to talk about how modeling is not about such scientific accuracy in these grades, and to help the child set realistic expectations and model that for the child in a specific way.  Modeling takes on a much more formal role in these grades.  Animal forms are important in fourth and fifth grade. 

The twelve year change is important.  Arthur Auer writes on page 140 of his wonderful book, “Modeling harmonious and interesting forms can help them (twelve year olds) balance and readjust to the new mechanics of their elongating limbs.  They can appreciate anew the infinite possibilities of movement and form of their hands.”

For ages thirteen and up, we provide experiences in carving wood and soapstone and clay.  Working with heavy material is important.  We explore through these substances the things we are studying in the curriculum. 

For the Artist Within You

Every adult has an artist inside them.  Arthur Auer has wonderful exercises for the adult in terms of looking at your hands, modeling archetypal forms, archetypal animal gestures, and more. 

Last But Not Least

Please don’t forget that opportunities for modeling exist all around us.  For small children, the sandbox and snow are wonderful opportunities.  Bread dough on baking day is another opportunity.  Playing with rich clay (frequently found down here in the Deep South) is another whole body experience.   Making salt dough together is a wonderful activity.  So, please slow down, and really savor these experiences and wonder with your child. 

Many blessings,


The Beginner’s Guide to Beautiful Beeswax Modeling–Part Two


“An artistic aim of modeling at any stage is not to make exact copies of  natural objects, but to more freely render aspects of their essential gesture and form, thus heightening our awareness of the world and ourselves.” – Learning About The World Through Modeling, Arthur Auer

So, How do I begin?

The first place to begin is to practice yourself.  Take a half of a sheet of beeswax and warm it in your hands.  In the beginning, there really is no form to take as this is an exploration of a gift from our friends the bees, and we gladly drink in the smell of sunshine and flowers and hold the warmth in our hands.  You can stretch the half sheet out and make a bowl, leaf or flower.  This is demonstrated in this  lovely tutorial from Sarah Baldwin over at Bella Luna Toys.  I find most challenges arise when one takes too large a piece that seems impossible to warm enough. Even warmed, the beeswax will not be fluid; there will be resistance as this is an important part of the process of modeling with our will forces.

One color is enough to experiment with the process of modeling, and the beeswax can be saved, warmed and made into a new creation.  As a child turns five or so, he or she may want to make little shapes. However, remember that the kindergarten years is still about process over product; it is still a time of free exploration. Perhaps something will arise, for example if you tell a little nature story whilst the child is holding the beeswax in his or her hands to warm it. This is about the process of holding, warming, smelling, touching, exploring, and yes, willing with the hands to see what can be made and perhaps then destroyed and made again.   I remember a snippet in one of the Waldorf Newsletter Clearinghouse newsletters that talked about how a Kindergarten teacher would lay out a little “scene” of silks, stones, sticks, etc and perhaps make one little beeswax character for the scene and just leave it open for the children to add to with their own pieces of beeswax.

Small preschoolers often want to stick and stack soft colors of beeswax together like building up blocks.  Arthur Auer talks about this on page 35 of his book if you would like to read more.  However, I feel one of the main ideas with beeswax modeling for the young child is to make something out of the whole, out of the unity.  So, for example, as Sarah Baldwin demonstrates in the video linked above,  a little mouse would have a pinching the beeswax to make the feet, ears, whiskers, as opposed to breaking pieces off and rolling them around and sticking them to  your creation.  In the grades, as we use more colors and such, then the part of adding to the whole does appear, but I feel  this is not as much the work of the small child.  So again, perhaps ways to alleviate this for the under –7 children  is to keep the process  “process oriented”, stick to one color or non-pigmented beeswax, and to model with your child. 

Types of Beeswax

For a small child in the kindergarten (ages five and six), you can, as mentioned , buy beeswax that does not have pigmentation.  Companies such as Stockmar add minerals for pigment to their beeswax and the colors are vibrant, which is perfect for the grades.  Companies such as Artemis add plant pigment to their beeswax and the colors are more of a pastel hue.

Our next and last part to this series will look at inspirations for modeling, look at modeling by age, and more!  If you need to see the first part of this series, please see here