Weeks One and Two of Fifth and Eighth Grade

Hard to believe we are finishing up the second week of school.  After eight years of homeschooling the grades, and I guess more  years if you count in the last kindergarten year, I have come to a few conclusions regarding scheduling that could be helpful to other parents:

1.  Schedule your school year and have your blocks cover LESS time than the weeks of school you have available.  For instance, if you have 35 weeks for school, plan blocks for 32  weeks.  This way, you can take advantage of being a homeschooler and go visit places around you, go to neighborhood farms, or whatever it is in your area that you would like to visit and do during the school year and  not feel guilty about “losing days”.  This is not as big an issue in grades 1-5, as these experiences work into the curriculum and there is less “bookwork”,   but I think it does become more of an issue in the upper grades.

2.  Schedule your starting date carefully.  For quite a while when my oldest was little, we always started after Labor Day.  Then I adjusted and started when the children in our neighborhood were starting .  This year, our start date was around then.  One child in the grades was enthusiastic to go back and the other child was decidedly not.  So, you may not make everyone happy, but I feel like this year we could have started a few weeks after we actually did.

Six Year Old Kindergarten – It is so much fun having a little kindergartner in the house!  We have worked with the stories of St. Herman of Alaska, St. Mary and this coming week St. Aidan as part of our family religious life.  We have had a very long circle with foot plays, fingerplays,, and songs based upon the them of the garden, especially sunflowers and insects.  I have taken the story of “Hans and the Beautiful Flower” and modified it for our season and geographic area and told it with silk marionettes, with wooden figures, and without props.   We have baked, painted, made seasonal crafts, and modeled with beeswax.  Kindergarteners,, at least mine, are such willing helpers around the house too, so all the cleaning and sweeping is part of our daily lives and tasks.  Our little guy is just naturally counting forwards and backwards as part of life, and picking out letters and sounds by himself.  So, I think when we get to first grade next fall it will be a fun year.  I already have an idea for a theme for first grade circulating in my head!  Other than that,  he is busy playing and being active.

Fifth Grade –  We started this year with a good, solid rhythm.  We have two opening verses, several tongue twisters and then math games with either bean bags, a ball or copper rods, along with a botany verse and sometimes a tie-in with grammar.  Then we normally review math, cursive writing and/or some spelling, and have a brief break for a read-aloud .  These past few weeks we have read Holling C. Holling’s “Tree in the Trail” and “Paddle to the Sea” and got acquainted  with maps of the United States… Then we have a little verse for  beginning our main lesson and we have been diving into botany.  Our first week of botany felt a little unsettled and rather lukewarm, but this second week focusing on fungi and moving into algae has been very good.  We had a mushroom hunt and  have been doing drawing, wet on wet painting, and clay modeling of mushrooms.  We have practiced quite a bit of shaded drawing.  Next week we have a field trip planned to a local garden, and I hope to keep things active the rest of this block.  I have more to say on this block since it is our second time through the material, and I hope to write a post on this topic. 

Eighth Grade – Our eighth grader was not ready to go back to school, so rather an unenthusiastic first week…although the work itself has been fine.  Our eighth grader really enjoys geometry and geometric constructions, but I am still really thinking about this Platonic Solids block.  One of the main pieces of this block that I learned in a workshop from our local Waldorf School is the transformation in clay from one Platonic Solid to another.  Both my daughter and I found this rather daunting and difficult.  Constructing these solids  through the construction of paper nets and making models was more successful, and I think working with dowels and  beeswax would be another way to approach this, although neither of these approaches has the fluidity of transforming one solid to another.  We tied each element into one of the elemental forces (air, wind, water, fire and finally the cosmic force) and into where it generally appears in nature, but it all still felt rather flat to me.  The resources we used  including “Making Math Meaningful”; “Mathematics in Nature, Space and Time” and the little book “Platonic Solids” by Sutton, plus my notes and experiences from the workshop I attended. We moved into Loci toward the end of this week – constructing curves from straight lines, such as the Parabola, etc.  “Making Math Meaningful” was helpful in this endeavor, although sometimes I find their instructions less than clear for non-mathematician me.

We have also been reviewing math, doing vocabulary, and reading “Across Five Aprils” and digging into literary analysis of this book.  We have also spent some extra time discussing some life skills – great conversation skills and personal finance.  I had grand plans to do World Geography for two afternoons a week to tie all the geography we have been doing since fifth grade together, but that hasn’t come together.  I will see if we can get that started next week.

We have been doing some handwork in the afternoons, and busy in general with horses, 4H, and swimming.

Hope you all have had a good start to your school year!



19 thoughts on “Weeks One and Two of Fifth and Eighth Grade

  1. I really enjoy reading what you and other homeschool parents are doing and how it is going! I added to my ‘notes to self’ for next year that our school year rhythm is slow to start as activities gradually phase in and summer activities gradually phase out. Carrie, about how long are those activities (one-on-one or independent) taking with/for your 5th grader? Verse activities, then math and cursive, then lesson read-aloud, then main lesson would be about 2-3 hours in our home and I cannot keep 5th grader focused that long or her little brother playing/working independently that long.

    • Hi Nicola,
      I schedule an hour and a half for each time period I have with each grades child. My fifth grader doesn’t work well independently yet, so whatever we do has to be in that time period. If any drawings or summaries need to be finished, then I have a second forty-five minute period where she can work, but my full attention may be with someone else or a sibling may help out.

  2. Hello I am also homeschooling a fifth grader and plan to start our year with botany. How long is your main lesson time for the fifth grader on average. Thanks a bunch for all your info.

  3. Hi, Its nice to know how you are beginning your year as I prepare to begin 8th grade with my daughter. What sort of handwork will you be doing with your 8th grader? I was thinking of making a Waldorf doll with mine since she has not made one yet, but the other kids in our little handwork group have already made one so I was trying to consider other options.

    • Hi Julia!
      Doll-making and machine sewing are at the top of my list; along with soapstone carving as we haven’t done that yet either. Around here the traditional eighth grade project seems to be making an article of clothing from pattern to cutting out to machine sewing.
      Hope that helps,

    • Carrie, while I don’t have an 8th grader yet, I am very curiously reading along when you share about yours. Have you been able to pull resources together? I remember reading that you were finding that more challenging. There are so many pulled together resources through 6th grade, but beyond that, it seems to be that one has to piece it together. I notice a couple of the popular curriculum providers have substantial materials for 7th and up now. Have you sought any of those out?

    • Nicola – Earthschooling and Live Ed both have pieces available; I have pieced together my own for the most part …for example, I really cannot find any “waldorf” resource for oceanography, often mentioned as occurring in eighth grade. Platonic Solids I had about three resources plus the workshop; history there is Kovacs for more about Revolutions and such but I will be doing that in ninth and Kovacs I do not find to always be historically accurate; etc. Mainly I have taken the blocks I decided to do and have used primary resources. I will try to list as I go along.
      It is a lot of work, no lie, but perhaps you could use Live Ed straight or Earthschooling when you get to that point. Asian Geography and some of the other blocks you may decide to leave out or piece together on your own.

  4. wonderful conversations and so inspiring, thank you! We are on day 2 of first grade and it is feeling great!
    Carrie, are your older children part of the K circle time? We’ve done circle for years and years- the girls love it. I think simple finger and foot (foot plays?) plays might add some fun, too since we’re already doing other stories as part of our lessons. sheila

    • HI Sheila – This is the first year my older children (fifth and eighth) are not part of circle time for our kindergartener. I imagine they will join us again next year as they will be doing some of the teaching of our then first grader. My fifth grader rests at this point of the day (Kindergarten is after her school and it takes a lot out of her), and my eighth grader is involved in independent work and getting ready for me to work with her next. But for many years, we did circle all together.
      I always do several verses, several jumping rope and gross body movement rhymes, some fingerplays and foot plays, then a circle and a story. We also sing during the circle and sometimes we work on songs outside of circle time. There are so many ways to do it that makes it wonderful.
      Blessings to you -first grade is so FUN!

  5. Hooray! I’m so excited you are doing a weekly/bi-weekly wrap up again this year! It is a wonderful and inspiring planning tool for me. I have a daughter who just turned five, and last year, it really helped me to read your concise wrap up as the year progressed through the seasons. Here in Southeast Alaska, it is decidedly FALL TIME, and after a spate of late summer birthdays, community events, and a much anticipated wedding in our village, plus the departure of Grandma, who spends the summers with us…well…we are really ready for a return to our regular rhythm!!! Circle Time and Story Time are such a special time of joy and bonding for me and my daughter. I want to encourage other mothers to relax into and enjoy telling stories to their young children. This is such a magical experience for a young child. For me, story time is not about entertaining my child or making her laugh (although she often does!), but it is about spinning a web of magic and enchantment and reverence around her. I want to encourage other moms to feel free and be creative in adapting stories from Waldorf resources to fit their geography/seasons/time of year and to incorporate characters or elements from their child’s world and their child’s play. Simple, simple, simple stories…just gnomes and fairies (and for us, creatures from my daughter’s imagination that are sort of like sea horses who live in the ocean by day and come on land at night)…dinking around in the garden and the forest…nothing really happens (from an adult perspective) but it is oh, so magical and joyous. Do you have any back posts specifically related to telling stories to young children? I’m sure you do!…I will look! Thank you for the summary of your start up this year. Blessings for a wonderful homeschooling year!

    • Aw, thanks, Chris! Nice to have you here still!
      PS. I am pretty sure there are back posts about storytelling…gosh, so many posts on here. Hahahahaha.

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