Struggling With Preparing For Grade Five?

I am in the throes of watching another “drop-off” in Waldorf homeschooling.  This time around it is the eighth/ninth grade drop-off where many families chose not to homeschool anymore or choose more traditional academic routes.   It can be a lonely place to be, but yet in many ways this is reminiscent of the “drop-off” between fourth and fifth grade for many families (and in preparing for first grade before that!)  So, if you are sort of struggling to prepare for fifth grade, I would say you are in good company and  that it could possibly even be a natural part of the Waldorf homeschooling cycle for parents with children this age. I sometimes wonder if on a soul level we as parents are mirroring the “fractioning” off the fourth graders themselves are doing (remember fourth grade fractions and what that reflects in a class?!)

The reasons families have struggled is varied but seems to boil down into these categories:

Parenting:  Differing expectations of “protecting childhood” (much murkier than in the early years!)  now that the child has gone through the nine year change.  How much should the world really be opening up?

My caution:  Make sure the world is opening up in a nine/ten year old way, not a sixteen/seventeen year change way.  Ask parents who have teenagers if you are unsure!

The curriculum content:  Yup, I am going to say it out loudMany parents are uncomfortable regarding the amount of anthroposophy underlying the fifth grade curriculum.  Whether it is likening different plants to childhood development ( remember, anthroposophy relates to knowing the human being and how the world is a reflection within the human being) or the progression of Ancient Civilizations to reflect epochs and soul development, to the story of Manu and the Flood placing Manu in Atlantis, the content and the underlying pinnings can be challenging.

My suggestions:

  • Decide what is really authentic for you to bring as a homeschooling parent.  I personally do not use the story of Manu and the Flood beginning in Atlantis, for example, because it is not authentic and living for me.   I have had some conversations with friends  from India regarding these subjects and I want to feel comfortable presenting Ancient India in light of these conversations and thoughts.
  • Read some more and see with time and “settling” how things feel for you – which leads back to authenticity, but this time in a more objective and clarifying way then just dismissing things out of hand.  I don’t want to bury my head in the sand, and I do want to know what Steiner said about these things.  However, many of the things about Ancient Civilizations seem to be more in Steiner’s general writings, not the educational lectures.  The educational lectures talk a lot about Greece, for example.   It takes time to digest and to decide how deep one wants to read into these subjects.
  • Listen to veteran homeschooling mothers and what they discovered going through things.  Here is veteran Waldorf homeschooling mother Lauri Bolland’s take on botany. Well-worth reading!
  • Understand what Steiner said about the evolution of human consciousness.  Whether or not you agree with this is up to you, but again, food for thought.
  • Hang in there and breathe.  Sometimes the more you can be steady and bring things on a level you are comfortable with for your family, the next time around different things will click in different ways. Hold true to who you are and what your family culture is, and see how you can work with the curriculum as well.  To me, sixth and seventh grade are much more straightforward in a sense…

The academic side of the curriculum.  Some parents really leave Waldorf homeschooling behind because fifth grade is a big jump in content and in academic content.  If you feel pressured about where your child is and not feeling as if the curriculum is working for you in this arena, it is easy to think about abandoning it for another method of homeschooling that is either more traditionally academic or less academic.

My suggestion:  Remember, you are homeschooling this way for a reason. What drew you to it, how does it fit your child, be the teacher and get creative!

Tell me your stories about preparing for fifth grade.  Did you struggle?  How did it resolve?


10 thoughts on “Struggling With Preparing For Grade Five?

  1. Oh my goodness, not only has Grade 5 been hard to plan, but it has (is – we’re doing it now in the southern hemisphere) also been so different to deliver. We have had sickness and other interruptions (lost 5 weeks so far and not even at the half way point) and we’re struggling to complete work on time even without those disruptions. It makes me think of decorating my house – it takes twice as long to do everything than what I had envisioned! Maybe it’s just us….?I’m needing to adjust my plans almost daily, both because we’re not keeping up and because it just feels right to change things. To a degree I have always made adjustments, but this year I seem to be spending hours and hours each week re-planning lessons, moving blocks around.

    I don’t want to put anyone off homeschooling this year because despite all of the above the curriculum has been/is amazing…for me it’s a double-edged sword of loving this year and feeling totally overwhelmed by it all!

    It’s certainly making me re-think everything I thought I knew about home educating with Waldorf!

    • Thanks, Licoricelovinglady,
      I think your comments will be so helpful to those planning grade five. Thank you for your generosity in sharing.

  2. I had a hard time with the Manu story and Atlantis, and I too chose to leave out Atlantis. Other than that, I don’t think I had too much angst about fifth grade. I was worried that my son would think botany was boring, but he ended up really loving it. As far as relating the plants to child development, it didn’t bother me to do that, but my son ended up arguing with me about some of it. I can’t remember right off hand which parts he argued about, but there were a couple of things that he vehemently disagreed with. I know some people have a hard time with the way Waldorf doesn’t separate the kingdom of plants and the kingdom of fungi–I taught this the Waldorf way but also acknowledged to my son that mainstream science presents this differently. My son adored all the ancient civilization blocks, particularly India, Egypt, and Greece. I’d have to say that fifth grade was the favorite year for both him and me.

  3. I just finished planning all the lesson blocks for grade 5 and I personally did not have any problems with the story presentations. I plan to present Manu and the Atlantis story similar to the Nordic Myths we covered in 4th grade. I will not go into depth about this period, as there are whole books written about it, and also because we are Christians, so our Christian faith is our basis.
    The same goes for our Botany block. We will talk about the relation of the child to the plant phases, but that will rather be an allegory.

    I think it also depends on the child and on how the lessons are presented, one can mention and talk about other belief systems, as long as one does not delve deeper into the meanings or the faith of that other religion/ belief system.
    We are using Live Education for our Ancient India block and I will stick to their presentation of the story lines, which I think are nice and basic.

    The one thing I do have a bit of a problem with though is the amount of proposed work, my son is not that good with writing yet, so we will not add all the stories into our main lesson books. We will read them together and discuss them rather than write about all of them.

    • Congratulations on having your planning done, Maggie! You are a rock star!
      Thanks for writing in and sharing,

    • Thanks Carrie! To be honest I am a bit surprised to have it all done already, but than again I am not re-searching a hundred different resources this year as I used to….
      Now I just have to put it all onto paper.


  4. Grade five is a wallop! I found it helped solidify why we do waldorf and that I can understand the progression more now. We did do Manu and Atlantis by the by.

  5. I am not far enough along in my planning to “get” why 5th grade is a wallop. Now I am a bit nervous! I am really looking forward to re-learning/learning and then teaching some of the ancient civilizations next year and am super excited about botany. That’s a love and the loves come alive and are infectious in our home! I am still wrapping up our current year, which we got behind on, and I find it incredibly difficult to move ahead with my planning when I behind with the current lessons. It feels like jumping ahead and I get frazzled. So…now I am ready to roll on and it sounds like I might be a bit surprised about what is coming? The part of planning I am in right now is really just to observe my child. I am getting external pressure about the social needs of a child this age and I just don’t see my child needing more external social activities yet, but I also know that could change quickly, so I want to be able to adjust when that happens.

  6. Pingback: Rudolf Steiner |

  7. Pingback: Free Lesson Block Plans and Ideas for Grades 4-6 | The Parenting Passageway

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