Deconstructing First Grade

So, I am busy planning a second go round with first grade (along with fourth).  First grade is really fun, simple to plan (I know it probably doesn’t feel that way when you are going through it for the first time, though!), and can be simply magical.

I think there are several things to consider when planning First Grade.

1.  How long will it take you to get through the alphabet?  All year? Part of the year?  When will you make readers from what your child can already orally recite (verses, prayers, things that are a part of your daily fabric of life) or from fairy tales?  Will this be a separate block, how will this work?  Perhaps you will just pick four fairy tales as an ending block and work on writing a short sentence summary and word families from these tales.  I have seen it done all different ways.

2.   Math should begin right away, at least in my mind.  Do NOT wait until your first math block.  Counting forwards and backwards and even and odd numbers and such is part of your daily opening to school, before you even get to that first math block.

3.  As far as form drawing – we typically start with a form drawing block that last two to three weeks.  Observe your child; know your child.  Will they fatigue with a longer block?  Form drawing should be once a week after that first block, and you may intersperse several more blocks of form drawing throughout the year.

4.  Science takes place through nature tales, through being in nature, nature crafts, through the preparation for the festivals, through cooking and gardening.  These are important activities, and a vital part of first grade.

5.  When will you start recorder/flute/pennywhistle?  Some teachers start around Thanksgiving or even early December, some start in January.  I have not heard of many teachers starting it on day one, although one can start with hand clapping games of the child repeating rhythms back to you through clapping, tapping, etc and  of course singing!

6. Handwork – How will you bring this?  Can you knit? Can your child braid, tie bows, finger knit, make slip knots?  Those are all skills to think about.  Can you show your child sheep, feel raw fleece, wash it, card it?  Whole to parts is very important.

7.  Foreign Languages – Eva over at Untrodden Paths reminded me I left foreign languages out the first time I wrote this post.  In our homeschool, in accordance with most Waldorf Schools, we study two foreign languages.  I picked Spanish and German for our languages as we had native speakers available to us in those areas.  I have several posts on this blog about foreign languages in the homeschool and invite you to refer to those.

Just a few thoughts.

Many blessings,



20 thoughts on “Deconstructing First Grade

  1. Carrie I’ve been reading your blog for over a year now and am so grateful for the insight you give me with every post. I find that I come here over other resources most consistently for a better picture of what I’m trying to accomplish in this household with my four children.

    My oldest will be moving into first grade this coming year, although I’m still debating how far into first grade I should go, because I don’t feel like we got the full kindergarten experience last year… But that’s something else all together. So mostly I was wondering if you knew where to send me to find out the basic mechanics of Waldorf first grade. How the blocks work and what the focus is. I have looked at several curriculums, which can be helpful, but I find that, in the end I want to be able to develop one on my own specific to my daughter, but I’m just needing the basic 1st grade framework to be able to do that.

    I hope this makes sense. And any helpful direction you could send me would be so appreciated. Thank you again for your wonderful blog. One of my favorite things is to have a few spare minutes to cozy up in bed to read your newest bit of inspiration!

    Thank you!

    • This post was so long ago, I’m not sure anyone will see this, but I’d be very interested to see what Carrie said about the basic form of first grade as well! I’m embarking on planning after homeschooling my daughter a little more traditionally last year, even though we’ve felt the waldorf pull. Now, I’m unable to ignore the pull anymore and ready to jump. All in! Any assistance would be immensely appreciated!!! Blessings, Erin

    • Hi Erin,
      Somehow I missed Caroline’s comment, I guess? There are many posts under first grade, have you checked there. I am guessing you mean what blocks are normally taught in first grade? Usually 2-3 form drawing blocks, several nature blocks with poetry and seasonal activities, a qualities of numbers block and then 1-2 math blocks after that to introduce all four math processes concretely, typically up to 3 language arts blocks – letters and possibly but maybe not moving into word families at the end of the last block and taught through fairy tales, block and stick crayon drawing is a component of blocks as is wet on wet painting, drama, speech, modeling in beeswax, hand clapping games and jumping rope, baking/cooking/household tasks. There is probably more I am forgetting, but hope that helps. Do hit the Homeschooling tab in the header and click on first grade. There should be a lot there..or maybe you found this post by doing that!

    • PS> Erin – forgot to add knitting and handwork/crafts and nature walks. And some families can do pentatonic flute and singing, and foreign language, and some don’t feel confident in bringing that. Singing anyone can bring and there are plenty of seasonal songs out there. Pennywhistle/pentatonic flute there are resources as well.
      And I realize now by form you might mean a rhythm to the day…if so, please write back and I can tell you about that.

    • Carrie! Thank you, that was very helpful! And I have PORED over your first grade posts! I guess I may be missing the meaning of some of the basic waldorf terminology in regards to the “how.” (ie: blocks, I’m not sure exactly what a block consists of) Also, the rhythm of the day/month/year with regard to these blocks and how things should fit in. We have a strong household rhythm and had nature time, baking day etc even with our “traditional” homeschooling, but I’m seeing that there really IS something to this 7-year cycle because, for example, dd is just now learning reading on her own, during the summer with no instruction; at this time she also has many of the signs of 7 year readiness, tho she won’t be 7 until September’s end. I digress…any more information regarding the blocks and the “how” and execution would be awesome. Maybe, though, I’m missing something from some basic waldorf posts?

      Thank you again!

    • Erin,
      As far as blocks, this is part one of a four part series:
      Main Lesson books, blocks, three day rhythm:
      Form Drawing Resources:

      Do you have multiple grades?
      Here is one that talks about the not smooth days:

      A basic rhythm for one grade might be breakfast, clean up, walk, main lesson (opening activities, review, main lesson), break/snack, “heart” = music or foreign language , lunch, clean up, rest time, “hands” = handwork. That would be more the flow in a school. You can of course modify this in any way for home.

      Hope that helps, feel free to keep asking questions!

    • You’re a GEM!!!!! THANK YOU! Going to read what you’ve linked, then I’ll get back to you!

    • Ok, Carrie, I’m definetly developing a better understanding of what grade 1 entails!! Thank you so much for your help!!!! A few more questions:
      I’m looking at Melisa Nielsen’s curriculum to add to what I do on my own, thoughts? Or should I just develop my own blocks etc without a curriculum? I don’t mind the planning, I just feel like I might not head in the right direction, being my first waldorf year.
      …which leads me to another question…I feel like My daughter (she turns 7 at the end of sept) may have missed out on some of the wonder, fairy tales/stories last yar since I did a bit of traditional schooling last year. #1: should I start first grade in september? #2: is there anything I can do with the remainder of the summer to give her some of that, or should I just start grade 1? We have a fairly strong weekly rhythm and I’m working on strengthening it and even improving our daily rhythm.
      What steiner work(s) wold you recommend for a new-to-waldorf mama to bring me up to speed?
      What stories/poems, etc do you recommend as “must-dos” for first grade? I have a few things, like the blue fairy book(too awakening?), A.A. Milne works, and a few others that may be appropriate but would like to hit some must dos in the process since I feel like she may have missed out on alot last year.
      Sorry that’s so long, but THANK YOU💛 again…I can never tell you how much I appreciate your guidance and thoughtfulness and blog!!!

    • Dear Erin,
      No, turning 7 at end of September is definitely first grade. There is a lot of wonder in first grade. If you haven’t seen Jen’s blog, I recommend it to give you a sense of the wonder that can be in first: (scroll down on the left sidebar to get to the first grade buttons). That might help. Also try my Pinterest board for first grade:

      Places to start now: Stories are great! There are so many good ones! Try any back post, there are also some special six year old stories in “Tell Me A Story” from WECAN (Amazon) and in “You’re Not the Boss of Me! Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation” edited by Ruth Ker (Waldorf booksellers). Outside time and gross motor development. Teaching yourself to knit and teaching your daughter finger knitting. Playing with watercolor. Practical work in your home and staying home instead of running around. Puppets would be something that she may have missed in the Early Years, and puppetry is totally acceptable in first and second grades, so perhaps looking into that angle of it with stories.
      Steiner works I love: A Child’s Changing Consciousness, Soul Economy, Kingdom of Childhood. You can find them for free on line and also free in audio on line.
      Stories/ Poems for first grade: Grimm Fairy Tales, Multicultural fairy tales, Nature stories that have to do with the animals and plants where you live. The Blue Fairy Book and that series are good, but often geared for ages 9 and up, depending upon the story. Elsa Beskow books, Twig (reading aloud ) would be cute for your daughter’s age.
      It is important to start with the line and curve – I recommend the free files on Marsha Johnson’s Yahoo Group You have to join the group then look under free files by grade. She has a lot there and it will give you good ideas about stories, putting together blocks, festivals, etc.
      Hope that helps!

    • I’m going to digest all of that!!!! You are a treasure! I’ve been reading your blog since my girl was a wee one, and am always pulled back to it. Thank you.💛
      One more afterthought, I read your post about schooling a singleton or oldest, and still struggle with the balance of home and social activities. Thoughts?
      My heart is putter patterning with gratitude. Truth.

    • Yes – my thought on this is two-fold:
      Many homeschooled children seem to have friends that they met when they were younger…For example, my oldest daughter is 14 and her two best friends are ones that she has had since she was 3 or 4. So, it I think it is worth it to have free play and some sort of community where children have a lot of time to socially play without regulations…
      Teenagers really NEED activities. I see this especially in girls about age 12 and up, boys about 14-15 and up. So while I think some activities are worthwhile around age 9 or 10, I think the real pull to “do things” comes later and I think in our society we often shove this too early… Did you read the back post about Choosing Time Outside the Home Wisely? The comments there might help. Some of it may depend upon the friend situation, if you live in a neighborhood, do you have to “go” somewhere to really get outside, etc.
      Hope that helps,

    • I’m going to go read that back post about choosing time wisely!!! My concern is something you mentioned: community. Especially being an only child, missing the social interaction worries me. Thanks again!!!

  2. I think that one essential element is missing here: foreign languages! Most European Waldorf schools start two foreign languages in grade 1, the original schools also offered Latin and Ancient Greek later on (eventually the student had to choose between the modern and ancient languages).

    I think it’s very sad that none of the available Waldorf curriculum guides gives any help in this area.

    • Yes, I forgot to mention those…we do Spanish and German in our homeschool, my oldest can read and write and speak in both of those languages..I will go back and add those in, not sure how I forgot!
      Thank you for reminding me Eva!
      Many blessings,

    • Eva – I updated the posts, thanks again for the reminder…and PS I think you should write a guide for homeschoolers regarding German. You are so familiar with Waldorf Education and obviously German culture and language! 🙂

  3. In my next life — as my mother would say. If you provide me with a cook, babysitter, and housekeeper, I’ll give it a try :). Or maybe in my old age, after Flora is done with school . . .

  4. Hello! I just found your website, and it’s been very helpfull to me to have a better understanding of what Waldorf schools are, this is my first time in a Waldorf iniciative school. I’m from Mexico and I’m an ESL teacher, but as a spanish native speaker I know alot of songs and things you could use for spanish classes.

    • Nadia,
      Share away! Do you have the book Senderos? There are also some conferences in the United States that Waldorf teachers give over the summer to prepare for grades..those might be helpful to you as you learn your way around Waldorf.
      So glad you are here!

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