Well, now that we are more than half way through our first grade year, I thought I would re-cap a few things I have learned and discovered; maybe they will resonate with you as you either plan for first grade or finish first grade up this Spring.
1. There cannot be enough Form Drawing. I planned three form drawing blocks plus weekly form drawing most months; it is that important. I highly suggest that you start First Grade with an entire MONTH of Form Drawing. There is a post on this blog about Form Drawing; please refer to that for further details.
2. You simply must plan handwork a certain number of times a week or it will may not happen; your child may love to knit but mine did not. We worked essentially on a row a day every day in knitting and we are still behind completing the number of projects she probably would have completed by now in a Waldorf school. This fact does not really bother me, she does beautiful and careful work and I feel certain by next year she will enjoy knitting when she doesn’t have to think so hard about it, LOL.
3. Which brings me to my third point – sometimes your little one will balk and YOU have to know when to take the day off and go hiking, when to allow play with the siblings,and when to say, “No, really, this has to happen today. Back to work, please.”
4. You can imbue many opportunities for nature and ecological study throughout the curriculum. We kept a gardening day due to my kindergartner and I think next year I may expand this to twice a week in our rhythm instead of once; I also planned nature blocks in with Form Drawing and we also did Nature Blocks in January with the The Year/The Four Seasons and a Backyard Nature Block. I hope to write a post on the Waldorf way of teaching Science in the future; it is fascinating! As a science person, I totally appreciate it!
5. The story of the letters can be taught in many different ways through the use of a container story to hold the fairy tales together. This was helpful as I made up something that spoke to my daughter, a story with fairies and princesses that also involved some spiritual elements as well. Think of what truly speaks to your child and work that in.
6. Wet-on-wet watercolor painting is important, and it is great fun to alternate this with modeling. We painted twice a week and modeled two to three times a week.
7. Math is one of those subjects that people tend to put in a secondary position versus reading; but please do not be fooled. Math is of the utmost importance; Eugene Schwartz is convinced that there are periods of math windows for math literacy. I think it is important once you do your initial math block to practice every day you do school where that is not the main lesson focus (with a few breaks here and there for holiday crafting and such). Math is one of those subjects that works whole to parts, that needs to build in the child. Please keep working on it.
8. Please do not neglect the fun things- festival preparation, crafts, projects. Don’t forget that the “head” part of your main lesson can be totally hands-on. Today we did the Grimms’ fairy tale “The Pink” and drew a huge, as tall as my daughter mural of the castle/tower from the story. We also wet-on-wet watercolor painted ‘the pink” (a flower) from the story. Tomorrow we will use our third day of this story to draw giant P’s on the driveway with chalk, walk them, hop them, draw them on each other, and finally draw them in our Main Lesson Book.
9. We waited to start our “blowing instrument” as Steiner called it (we have been using a pennywhistle this year) until after the New Year. You really don’t have to do it all at once; we did however bring in a lot of singing throughout the school year. We learn at least two new songs or more a month, and often make up repetitive songs to go with the fairy tales or the season. Think how you can bring music into your homeschool! Steiner talked about how the seven-to-fourteen-year old learns best through rhythm, so thinking about how to bring this to your child is so important.
Just a couple of things from along the way; if you are finishing First Grade please your nuggets of wisdom in the Comment Box to share and help other mothers just like you!