If you are transitioning to the grades from the Early Years, it may seem daunting to put together a “block” of a certain length regarding an academic subject and HOW to teach that subject through movement and art. How does one begin?
First of all, THINK about the blocks. What blocks are in this grade and WHY? Will you include them all? Most curriculums, especially in the upper grades, include some blocks and don’t include others… and the other curricula on the market will have different blocks (although some are archetypal and always are included). YOU have to sit down and think about what you want, what is important to you, and why. I felt it was very important to place Ancient Africa and Africa in fifth and seventh grade. That was a block I invented. This is just an example; I am certain you can think of other examples. There are almost archetypal blocks for each grade, but there are also places to create your own.
The next step is to figure out (approximately) when planning the year how many blocks of each subject the child needs and the approximate length. Most block run three to four weeks, but sometimes things can run two to six weeks depending upon the subject. I find in my own homeschooling form drawing and math run in shorter blocks than upper grades history or language arts, for example. Plan a general flow to the year. I like starting each year with something “new”. One child really likes to start the year with form drawing/geometry; another child I know will love starting each year with science now that we are moving into fifth and up grades. Think about your child and the year. Get a flow going!
The second step is to consider how you will start school each day during your block. Many Waldorf homeschoolers have been told the “warm up” should be verses, songs, pentatonic flute or recorder, mental math, movement – and should take up twenty to forty minutes or more of time! I like this article by Christof Wichert’s article here http://www.waldorftoday.com/2011/01/rethinking-the-threefold-division-of-the-main-lesson-christof-weichert/ that challenges some of the assumptions we hold.
I personally like to start the morning with – a verse, singing a song or two that ties in seasonally or with subject matter of the block, a few speech exercises, a few fingerplays and some math practice if it is not a math block. That is it. Poetry I always tie into the Main Lesson, not the warm-up time. What I found more effective for us with flute/recorder is to tie pentatonic flute or recorder songs and even more singing (especially in geography in the upper grades, singing!) also into the Main Lesson itself.
I know this would be a “no-no” in the school environment and instead it might be either part of the “warm-up” or a middle, rhythmical “heart” lesson but in the homeschool environment with three children I do not have time to run three lessons a day for two grades children plus an early years lesson. Many homeschooling mothers try to be done by lunchtime or have minimal work to come back to after a later lunch, especially with multiple children.
Another thing I would like to mention is reading aloud. In the homeschool environment, even in the Waldorf homeschooling environment in the upper grades especially, I find many families reading aloud for an hour a day – some less, some more. This is probably a big difference from the classroom environment in a Waldorf School. Some families put reading aloud after lunch as a sort of “quiet activity” with older children especially or put it with handwork after lunch. It is part of the fabric of family life but also part of school. I tend to do reading aloud as part of our main lesson and because of the large age gaps I mainly read separately to each child. I read aloud for about fifteen to twenty minutes to each grades-aged child during main lesson time. I find phlegmatic children often seem to like this toward the beginning of the main lesson; my oldest likes it at the end of a main lesson. Totally not how it would be done in a Waldorf School, but it seems to work at home.
Next post in this series will talk about putting together the nitty gritty of a block…