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.
Thank you for this! Before starting Grade one this year, Grade three seemed soooooo far off. Now it seems just around the bend! This summary helps me in my planning for Grade two as I can see where the curriculum is heading in a real, tangible way.
Hello again, Carrie,
Thank you for this post– my younger daughter will be in 3rd grade next year.
I am getting back to you about my older daughter. She will be 13 in a month. We just completed a 6th grade waldorf inspired homeschool year. Some things went very well- she was very engaged in our studies of Ancient Rome, and Medieval History (especially the Plague). I believe she has gained incredible confidence in her math ability due to the Making Math Meaningful program. What has been hard has been keeping up the connections with her friends from our days before homeschooling. She had been attending a private farm school up to spring 2012 (the school folded at that time). All her buddies dispersed to private or public school here in our island rural community in the Pacific Northwest. We have kept close with one girl from that clique. She is on the swimteam and has just started karate. She lives for these activities. Both girls grumble sometimes about homeschooling. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself and I have a hard time relaxing. I seek more fun and creativity. I am drawn to the idea of “unschooling”, but I don’t want to lose the richness of the content that Waldorf can add.
Can Waldorf and unschooling fit together? What kind of support system do you have for homeschooling?
I do have ideas for you but I think I might put them in a post. 🙂 I think grumbling (some) is normal, and I also think this is a normal time due to parent fatigue to think about changing and such. It seems like things went well with the homeschooling part but the social part needs expansion but you are working on that through activities (which is different than the unstructured play and hanging out that older children sometimes want or seem to need). I think Donna Simmons has an audio on unschooling and Waldorf that you might be interested in over at Christopherus. There are also several back blog posts. My opinion on this has changed over the years, and I feel strongly that there is plenty of room within the curriculum to address individual wants and needs within a developmentally appropriate way.
I had a homeschooling group that no longer exists, so our mainstays have been things like 4H and church. My oldest daughter would like some more friends, but mainly she would just like to see the friends she has more often (we all live spread apart). Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart at this age.
Hang in, be steady, take some time to really observe both children and plan for fall and then decide what needs to change or what needs work.
Thank you for a fabulous post Carrie. We are in Australia and just into term 2 of grade 3 for our eldest. We’ve covered shelters and loved it and Old Testament we are covering through incorporating Jewish festivals throughout the year which is w
Oops, sorry, hit return too fast! We are enjoying working through the Jewish festivals. I’m still working through whether / how to incorporate North American tales or change to Australian Aboriginal. Love your posts and all that you do. Thank you!
Jo – if you are in Australia, I would vote for Aboriginal tales for sure.
Customize Waldorf education to where you are in the world.
We just finished up fifth, third and first grades! Third grade was a blast. I had to work with my daughter because she was not interested in shelters or the Old testament or Judaism! Quite a challenge! However, we figured it out with some creativity. 🙂 I am very happy with the way the year turned out. I agree with the projects. Writing is on the goal list for fourth grade so we did a lot of projects this year. Sounds like yours went well too!
Carrie — do you use a pentatonic flute? For some reason I had understood you taught your girls with the penny whistle …… Thanks! – Katie
I did use pennywhistle for awhile with our oldest child, and I could play it quite well, but we switched as our child did much better with pentatonic flute. So I continued to use that with our second child as well. I think there are wonderful reasons to like the pennywhistle – the expensive for one, that it has an American history and such, but I honestly don’t like the tone as well as the pentatonic flute.
Hope that helps,
Yes, thank you! I picked up the penny whistle myself a few years ago (instrument that doesn’t need to be tuned, is portable and easy to replace — perfect for a new mom!), and I enjoy playing the pentatonic songs on it with my kids (who are 4.5 and 1). Is the fingering the same on the pentatonic flute, just minus a hole?????
My boys take penny whistle lessons and love them. I knew I was not going to play with them and found a lovely teacher in town who is passionate about the PW and irish music. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is to just bring the music into your lives however you can. Having the music come from their own breath/bodies is so powerful.
Yes, Sheila, absolutely! I think there are lots of reasons to love pennywhistle!
Thank you for your wonderful post Carrie. I am preparing for third grade this fall. I too have a very hands on daughter. I often find myself focusing too much on the academics and getting everything done that I set out to do. I find it very hard to balance the academics with the projects and crafts etc. So this year I aim to plan a far more project based year. Your post was a real inspiration! Many Blessings.
thank you for the info, i love your post.
Please do share the resources, my child is starting 3rd grade in Waldorf school and struggling in everything, I wish to find some way to support her, and do work hard to calm myself down on this.
Hi Carrie! I thought I had commented on one of your grade 3 posts but I can’t seem to find it… my apologies if you have already answered this somewhere!!
I am doing grade 3 for the 2nd time this year. Like you, the first time I taught it I focused on OT stories for most of the year. This year I am really feeling drawn to the Native American stories and the practical aspects that go along with that. (Perhaps because this time I am teaching my son, and the first time it was my daughter? I’m not sure!!). My son really enjoys hands-on activities, music, handwork, etc. I am intrigued by your idea that Native American stuff belongs in every year. I was worried that if I incorporated Native Americans in to grade 3, that it would take away from doing it in grade 4. We have a wonderful Native reserve within about 20 minutes of our home, with a fantastic store that sells everything from local Native stories to hides for crafting with, etc. I can really see him enjoying those things but is this stuff that is normally covered in grade 4 also? Do you still feel that Native studies belong in every year? (I’m in Canada, so it seems strange to say Native American!). Thanks for any thoughts you might have, they are much appreciated.
Yes, I do still feel Native American or First Nation stories belong in every grade and keep bringing in First Peoples into history throughout the upper grades. So I think your Native reserve would be wonderful for third grade and for fourth, you will be looking at your province and the whole of Canada, so there will be plenty more on which to focus. 🙂
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