It has been good to get back into a more normal routine after the holidays. Normally we take a break until Epiphany, but this year we lost quite a bit of time in the fall, so we started back on Monday. I made a revised schedule of blocks for both eighth and fifth grade, and whilst we will finish later than usual for us for the school, I feel that in light of the fall we are doing the best we can do. If you would like to look back and see what we were doing in weeks twelve through fourteen, please see this article
This week has been a beautiful celebration of Epiphany, culminating today and tomorrow in lots of time at church for our Epiphany Celebration where the children put on a scripted musical. We are looking forward to it! We also spent a lot of time hiking the past few weeks, including several times up a local mountain, which our kinder really enjoyed.
Kindergarten – Kindergarten in Week Fifteen (the week before we took off for the holidays) and Week Sixteen (this week) was spent hiking, ice skating, baking and cooking, wet on wet watercolor painting and modeling. This week we moved into a Winter Circle, and the story “The Holy Nights” from the WECAN book, “Tell Me A Story”. This week also centered around things for our Epiphany Celebration at home, including baking an Epiphany Cake. Lots of fun! Our kinder has been walking around adding and subtracting out loud, copying letters that others have written, and overall just appearing ready for what will come in the fall. I am grateful he has this extra time to just be before he embarks on first grade.
Fifth Grade -This week we moved on from Ancient Mesopotamia and the land of Gilgamesh into Ancient Egypt. We finished up Ancient Mesopotamia with three paintings and summaries of: the land itself, the ziggurat and its role, and Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh was one of the favorite stories of the whole year so far. I am partial to the Geraldine McCreaghean version. For Egypt, I pulled from various sources to describe the land of Egypt and the Nile River Valley, the life of the Egyptians and yes, pyramids and mummification. At the very end of the week we began the story of Osiris and Isis. I hope to wrap Egypt up next week and move into Ancient Africa, something not typically covered in a Waldorf School curriculum, but one I wanted to cover this year so seventh grade Africa is not such a huge block with no background. Then we will cover Ancient China, and of course, before the year is through, Ancient Greece. We will be covering the Ancient Americas as tied in with a math block as well.
We are working hard on spelling and math daily. We finished reading about John Muir and are starting to read “The Golden Goblet” as a read aloud to tie into Egypt. Other than that, for drama, our fifth grader is Mary in our church’s Epiphany Celebration,so that has been rehearsals. We are still riding horses as well through the winter months and lots of choir practice for the Spring Musical and ribbon practice for choir.
Eighth Grade – We finished Chemistry. Everything this year has been at the pace of a snail, so I feel as if it has taken us awhile! We made it through carbohydrates, and what ended up in our Main Lesson Books was a page about the three classes of carbohydrates, a comparison of the solubility of sugar and salt, and the breakdown of starch with hydrochloric acid and the use of Benedict’s Solution to test for simple sugars. We did quite a few other projects and demonstrations for carbohydrates, including making an iodine solution and testing for the presence of starch and many baking projects. With proteins, we looked carefully at the special role of proteins in the body, enzymes (which was also in seventh grade chemistry too), we burned proteins, and looked at the coagulation of casein. One of our major experiments was testing proteins using the biuret reaction, and more cooking. We especially looked at bone broths and the role of protein in healing bone broths and went through the best way to make bone broths, the benefits of broth and recipes for broth. Lastly, we looked at fats and oils – their role in the body, what makes a fat saturated or unsaturated, what essential fatty acids the body cannot produce, testing for fats, the use of coconut oil, extracting an essential oil from lemon peel (and did a black and white charcoal drawing of lemons), looked at common oils, and emulsions. It was a full block, and now we are moving into physics.
I pared physics down due to running low on time so we are going to do mainly aerodynamics. Our eighth grader’s great-grandfather was a test pilot, so I started with his biography and we looked at the aviator’s alphabet and the nature of air through several experiments. One of the main sources I am using for this is actually not a Waldorf resource, but the book “The Sky’s The Limit!” by Adair, Ivans, Shennan, et al in conjunction with “Physics Is Fun!” (a Waldorf resource). Also, there are many wonderful biographies to look at – Amelia Earhart, the Wright Brothers, Bessie Coleman, and the Tuskegee Airmen.
We are still reading “The Brooklyn Bridge” aloud and will next read about Woodrow Wilson in preparation for our upcoming World History block. Our eighth grader is reading Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” independently now and is answering questions about these stories and themes twice a week. We are reviewing decimals, percentages and ratios as well. Our eighth grader has also been working hard on Spanish as a mid-semester project was due with an outside teacher, and also her 4H Portfolio was due as well. Horses, choir and ribbon and piano practice and more 4H have kept everyone busy!
I would love to hear what you are working on.
Happy New Year, Carrie! I am glad to read your first week back has been positive. I did a lot of meditating on what is and is not working for us in our homeschool during the break. I planned the break well and we had a really wonderful December. Question for you….with the clear structure of the Waldorf curriculum, how do you manage your children’s interests that might pull you away from the curriculum? Perhaps you have a past post on that that you might direct me to? Thank you, Nicola
I do have some back posts on unschooling and Waldorf that might be helpful…?? It is a three part series, so use the search box for the other parts: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/17/unschooling-and-waldorf/. If you give me an example, I am happy to tell you how I might handle it, not that it may be the right answer for you and your family as only you can be the expert on that, but it could give you food for thought. I think 10-11 is a tricky age in that regard.
Thank you, Carrie. I will do some searching and read that post more thoroughly. I think the definition of unschooling might vary depending on the person using it. I recently described our family in this funky way; I think I am nature based, child interest guided, with Waldorf principles guiding me and sprinkling magic on what we are doing. So…I am not sure if a label fits, but with Waldorf in mind, I am shifting a bit to try and honor my kids interests, with me still at the helm. Some Waldorf topics we have really enjoyed. Some, I have had to shelve, when our homeschooling became unhappy as a result of trying to push it. So, I am wondering how to handle additional interests when they are out of alignment with Waldorf. (For example, my 4th grader’s interest in the Industrial Revolution. I went with it, at her level, and the result was an amazing presentation to a homeschool group.) I am also stuck when their interests + Waldorf subjects = more time than we have. I apologize if that was a bit disjointed, but I am trying to focus on enjoying our homeschooling this year and am having to let some things go.
I think you already have the answer to your own question. You have handled the interests that typically come in a later grade and it worked well for your family. You did what was right for your family. As far as needing more time on Waldorf subjects versus their subjects, I always console myself that the entire curriculum spirals and you will come back to all of these Waldorf subjects and more in the upper grades of 6-8 and in high school in greater depth. As far as their interests competing with Waldorf subjects, I always ask myself if this (ie, their interest) has to be a school time subject or one they can investigate on their own outside of my time, if that makes sense. I have a limited amount of time and I am invested in Waldorf Education, so that is the angle I typically choose. If they have an interest that seems a bit advanced for where I would normally find it in the curriculum, I ask myself what does one really need to understand for that subject, what are the underpinnings, and are my children ready for that? So sometimes I will put it off and say, we will learn about that in X grade or I might say here is part of that subject that might interest you now. It just depends. It is easier to see what when the higher we go in the grades. All of this that you are talking about is just part of the line we learn in teaching and parenting, I guess. You will make the right choices for your family.
Thank you, Carrie. You are right. Perhaps I just needed it reflected back at me. Yes, one of the things I have noticed, gratefully, is that, as I bring Waldorf main lessons to my younger child, my older seems to pick up pieces that she missed the first time. I suppose I need to trust that what I am giving is enough and they are getting what they need to. Excellent point about within and outside of lesson time with me. Thank you!
Carrie, I just wanted to come back and say I read your post that you linked to, the comments to that post, and the post you linked to within that post! I will try and read some of the ping backs from the comments, but in reading, I had one of those “oh yes!” moments and it was one I have had before (many times, sadly), when I realize I have gotten caught in the trap of trying to do too much, do it all. As you mentioned in your post about covering Africa in 5th to have a familiar touchstone when it comes up again, I needed the reminder (again), that I don’t need to cover everything when I cover a subject. I need to cover what I can, what feels right, and know it will come in another layer at a later time. It is one of the things I love about Waldorf education.
So glad that was helpful!