I have been thinking a lot about planning first grade as I am finishing up first grade for the second time, this time with my middle child. Going through this grade again made me think especially about the differences in doing this grade with a first (or only) child, and doing it again within a larger family dynamic. So, if you are planning for first grade for your oldest or only child, I want to encourage you that you have quite a bit of leeway, to keep it simple, to not overplan and to make sure you are including some very fundamental things that may not have much to do with those letter stories or the math gnomes!
Oh yes, please be sure to include form drawing, knitting, crafts for the season, harvesting.
Yes, you want to go through the math blocks. Yes, you want to introduce the letters – but many parents I speak with have oldest or only LITTLE GIRLS who are already reading. So I say, concentrate on the artistic end of drawing the letters. Let them write a sentence for each letter and practice really good handwriting, if your little girl is bent that way. You can start word families in the last block or so of first grade; sight words generally are better left until second and third grade unless your child has a prodigious memory and is already doing it. Let your child read for pleasure, but you continue to read aloud to this child too. Make music and sing! Do chores and work around your home.
But please schedule time for the most fundamental skills of first grade: movement and getting the child in his or her body, time out in nature, and social interaction with other children. Does your child do well with only one other child? What does your child do in a small group? Are they good with children older or younger or not? Do you have a community you do things with?
Do plan lots of time to be outside in nature. It would be well-worth your “school time” to drive to the woods or to the lake one morning AND one afternoon a week and just be. Even if you do ‘formal school’ three mornings a week for an older or only first grader, especially one that is already reading, you will be fine.
It is tempting to go ahead and plan a crazy, very structured year. I would go the other way. Take days off to play in the snow or out in the rain. Take time off for festivals! Festivals don’t go away in first grade! Again, especially in children like these little girls I often see, they often need the balancing of time in nature and often need help socially and emotionally to learn how to be a friend, how to relate to people, how to be a bit more steady. And nearly almost ALL of the children I observe these days still need to help to “get into their bodies” in the first grade.
There are many beautiful things out there on people’s blogs for first grade, but please, please take time to just live. Many veteran Waldorf teachers and veteran homeschooling parents would say you do not need a curriculum for first grade at all, but I had a friend remind last week that when one is walking this first journey for the first and possibly only time, curriculums give one a jumping off place. In the schools, Waldorf teachers have the benefit of teacher training, and of other faculty to talk to about how this journey goes. We don’t always have that at home, and I do feel in general comparing Waldorf school in a school environment and Waldorf homeschooling is like comparing apples and oranges. So maybe that curriculum would be helpful to you, but just please don’t forget life.
Many blessings and much love,