I am finishing up third grade for the second time right now. The two children that have completed third grade are very different people.
Our first child was reading and writing in three languages at this point. Very, very language oriented.
Our other child had definite talents in movement, science and the natural world, and music.
All children are individuals, and although there is a “curriculum” in Waldorf education, such as laid out in the schools and on the chart published by AWNSA, the main thing we are prescribed to do as teachers is to OBSERVE the child, UNDERSTAND child development, be interested in the world around us (keep learning) , to not go stale (in other words, what worked before may not work again!). The template of the school and the secondary pedagogical literature of Waldorf education has been helpful to me personally, but I also have read an awful lot of Steiner’s lectures and work. I steer a lot by my strong philosophical orientation of Christianity, attachment and Waldorf.
This year, I started the year with a block on Native Americans. When I first started Waldorf homeschooling, I felt a block on Native Americans really belonged in fourth grade with local geography, but I have drastically changed over the years as I have tried to grasp the curriculum in an American way. I feel Native American stories and lore belong in every grade for American Waldorf homeschoolers – early years through grade four and then in Grade Five in United States Geography and onward into American History. Our block on Native Americans extended for much longer than I originally intended (about eight weeks total! Totally unplanned that way!) and included a lot of modeling, writing, word families, drawing, building and field trips and read alouds.
We moved into math next with a lot of review and not much writing. Then we moved into a block on shelters, and subsequently into textiles. The stories of the Old Testament, just the Days of Creation through Moses, was next (whereas our first child covered the entire Old Testament in Third Grade including John the Baptist. See how different this can be from child to child!). More math followed, and now we are finishing up a block on farming.
The main bulk of writing was in our Native American block, (a little in our shelter block), textiles, a little in our Old Testament block (at least Abraham through Moses; before that was mainly watercolor paintings and drawings), and farming.
We did an inordinate number of projects, modeling, dioramas, cooking, making. We did many building and modeling and diorama projects for our Native American block, our shelters block, our Old Testament block and farming. We made cheese and cooked and baked and measuring. There was a lot of music – pentatonic flute (we didn’t switch over to diatonic yet), piano, choir. There were lots of read alouds and field trips as well. There was a lot of time to play and be outside.
I think third grade should be ART and PROJECT based. Pick your blocks for writing carefully if you have a child struggling in this area, and if your child is not struggling here, please be sure to keep third grade a year of doing and not really just sitting and writing. For the homeschooler, I would rather see more projects, modeling, drawing, and crafts than main lesson books. There will be plenty of time for that in the upper grades. On the other hand, do not neglect rhythm. Keep practicing reading, writing and math through games every day in your beginning warm up time. Do not neglect math. Third grade is a critical grade for math. Keep reading to your children and having them read to you. Combine things and teach with economy.
I think third grade is that grade where you are still giving so much as a teacher, and some children start giving back to you in this grade some of what has come before. The years of what you did before to help build skills and soul qualities starts to come alive. For some children, this giving back of what has already been built may come more in fourth grade, but you can see it coming.
Many things can change and even out in third grade. The children that were so far ahead in first and second grade many times are not so far ahead by the end of third grade or beginning of fourth. The children that seemed a bit behind often are caught up by the end of third grade or beginning of fourth grade. Do not panic over normal development. We homeschool so we can give our children the gift of time, and sometimes we have to calm ourselves down so we can get through this time where things may seem fallow. It will come!
I have a list of resources that I love for third grade by block and hope to share them with you in a later post.