Today was our last day of school! It went longer into the summer than I originally anticipated because we lost days in the fall and spring due to extenuating circumstances. So, today was our last day! For those of you coming up on fifth and eighth grade, I wanted to share a few things about what we did, and what we liked and didn’t like. This was my second time teaching fifth grade, and my first time teaching eighth, and my third time being in a kindy, celebrate the seasons kind of year.
Kindergarten: If this little kindergartener is your baby amongst a multiple of children, please do make sure they get their time with you. Older siblings can also jump in and do cooking, baking, and festival projects with your little one, but the littlest really wants their share of the “school” attention too. If this is your first little kindergartener, please don’t overplan – you are living life and parenting. First grade is the beginning of academics, and kindergarteners who are six will learn all kinds of things throughout the year, including “academic” things. It will all be fine as they develop their bodies and develop a great foundation with crossing midline and visual skills for first grade.
Fifth Grade: The blocks we did this year included Botany (in which I used a different framework to tie to the human being than the traditionally used infant-toddler-school aged child kind of reference); Fractions and Decimals through Ancient Americas/Chocolate; Geometry; The Metric System through Canada; Ancient Mythologies and Cultures – Africa, India, Persia, Mesopotamia, China, and Greece; North American Geography – all states, Mexico and the Caribbean. Here are a few notes:
- Think carefully about botany. The simplest plants are mosses. Fungi, algae and lichens are not plants but I guess could be considered part of “general vegetation”. Think about how you want to present this and tie it to the human being.
- Think about bringing mathematics and tying that in to either countries you want to introduce or cultures. Geometry ties in nicely with Ancient Cultures. It could also tie in with botany.
- If you are going to require a report on a state, I recommend dividing North America into two blocks and doing the state report in the first block. We did most of our North American geography at the end of the year and we were all tired. It was not a good time to do a state report. In fact, as another recommendation, don’t put that block last!
Eighth Grade: We did the following blocks: Platonic Solids and Loci; American History (Thomas Jefferson through the War on Terror, the Age of Digitality and the Challenges of This Century, strong emphasis on Native Americans in early America): World History; Peacemakers block; The Geography of Asia; Chemistry; Physics – mainly focused on aviation principles; Oceanography and Meteorology. We didn’t get to Physiology. Great literature was required reading during all of these blocks and many biographies were covered. Year long courses included High School Spanish ! through Oak Meadow and I ran World Geography as a separate year long course for a high school credit. Here are a few notes:
- History may be the hardest piece to figure out and much of it will depend what you got through in Seventh Grade. Look for the big themes and contrasts, and bring the child into the present age if you can. To me, that is what the eighth grade year is about – coming to the present, finding the light in things, identifying the helpers of humanity, providing hope and encouragement that the young teen can go on and do great things for humanity.
- Science typically includes Oceanography and Meteorology (some include in Ninth Grade; parts of this may also be included in a high school level World Geography course); Physics; Chemistry; Physiology. Only you can decide how much science your year needs and how it will all fit in.
- It is so tempting to overschedule – we must cover it all, right? You cannot cover it all. Schedule less weeks than you normally might so there is space and time to work on Main Lesson book drawings and projects. Many of these things due to arranging page layout, fonts, synthesizing of information and writing drafts, take much longer than the earlier grades.
- Every block should contain great literature, great biographies, opportunities for great writing, hands-on projects. Tie things into exhibits and things in your area to see and do. This makes all of this come alive and brings the eighth grader solidly into the world for high school.
- Think about what you are going to do with computers. There is a great free resource available through the Waldorf Library On Line that shows what many Waldorf Schools are doing regarding computers. It is important to think about!
I would love to hear how your homeschooling year went and what worked and what didn’t work for your family.