Planning Sixth Grade Roman History

Sixth grade Roman History is one of those mainstay blocks in Waldorf Schools.  Usually both Roman History and Medieval History are covered in the sixth grade in a school setting, but I have seen that not always occur in the homeschool environment.  With this block, like ALL the history blocks in grades 6-8, I think it is really important to think about WHY  you are doing WHAT you are doing. Waldorf History in these grades is a more a symptomatic approach to a particular time period and HOW that time period and the consciousness of these people, usually exemplified by biographies, fits in with the development of the child.  We often juxtapose polar opposite historical figures for even greater impact.  Examples  in Roman History might be the contrast between Augustus Caesar and Nero, for example.  You will have judgment calls to make as to what to include and how much to include for each block of history.   That is your right as the teacher.

So this week I have spent most of my week researching and typing away to create a Roman History block…this is my second time planning Roman History, for two very, very different children and I knew much more about Roman History from going through it the first time.  I have a whole stack of resources I am pulling from including “When the World Was Rome” by Brooks and Walworth; “Roman Lives” by Harrer (not super used); Kovacs’ “Ancient Rome” which I can’t really recommend  – I like the story tone, but it is inaccurate on so many levels and really functions more at an overview level than anything in detailed narrative; “Famous Men of Ancient Rome” by Haaren and Poland which is also not very detailed; “Peril and Peace” by the Withrows (Christian Resource); “Classical Kids” by Carlson for some minor ideas; Foster’s “Augustus Caesar’s World”; “Roman Fort” by MacDonald and Wood; “City” by Macauley: “Our Little Roman Cousin of Long Ago” by Cowles; a National Geographic “special issue” from 2015 on “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire” (I like to know what is current); and “Attila the Hun” by Ingram.  Plus I have looked at all the major Waldorf curriculum providers out there and varying history/ancient history websites.  This could be overwhelming to have this many resources, but I suggest you at least basic check fact your main resource against something.  Not everything will agree, but accuracy is important. For example, there are varying opinions on Nero and the Burning of Rome and whether or not the early Christians actually met in the catacombs or not.   If I had to pick a few resources for the teacher, I would suggest “When the World Was Rome”, the National Geographic issue, and the Internet.

My basic structure is always to figure out  our objectives – what do we want to walk away with?;  and then academic objectives for my child and artistic objectives. I think about hands-on projects.  The child I am designing this for finds writing and  hands-on projects exhausting, so I have to balance all of this with what we are doing in other blocks during the school year.   I always pick a read-aloud for our block (one or sometimes two).  I usually come up with a vocabulary list for each week as well (and to me, spelling and vocabulary are two different things.  Often what mothers seem to be pulling from blocks on the advice of well-meaning Waldorf teachers is vocabulary, not spelling, but that is another post I guess).

Each day for us follows a similar pattern of movement (so in this case, perhaps Movement for Childhood exercises or Brain Gym movements and Roman marching); Opening Verse, the Latin Phrase of the Day, Poetry, review of Math or tying in of Math to the Main Lesson as I can and the main lesson review from the day before.  Then we move into whatever work needs to be done and new material.

I am happy about my block this year, but readily admit it took hours to plan.  It has been slow going in planning sixth grade overall and I also have first to plan and quite a bit of ninth grade blocks (ninth grade biology is at least for the most part done other than my lectures that I am going to present).

Hope your planning is coming along!  Please share what you are working on and help other planning mothers out with wonderful ideas and tips…


18 thoughts on “Planning Sixth Grade Roman History

  1. Have you ever looked at “Story of the Romans” (Guerber) or “The Story of the Roman People” *Eva Tappan)? I also like some of the recommendations by Laura Berquist. They are in her seventh grade syllabus here.

    • Those sound great, Eva! I will look into those. Each time I do a block, I find new resources and learn new things, which is so lovely.
      many blessings and thank you for sharing all of your wisdom!

    • There is also The Book of the Ancient Romans. This is an older text Memoria Press has republished. It was originally for high school, but some parts are of interest to younger students. It is also written in a narrative style.

      You can find Eva Tappan’s book here and Guerber’s book here for free. There are many older copies and reprinted copies available of these too. Our library also carries them.

  2. We loved The Capricorn Bracelet by Rosemary Sutcliffe as a read aloud for this block. My son also devoured the Caroline Lawrence Roman Mysteries. So many good books!

  3. We are having similar issues here at the moment. We just had our Waldorf teacher come in and do our annual portfolio review, which is so helpful in many ways. She was of great help especially in rearranging our blocks for 6th grade, as our son is still very much in a dream state, more in India than ready for Rome, you probably know what i mean but this. So I placed the Rome block towards the end of 6th grade and it is questionable if we will get to do the Middle Ages in the 6th grade, which I would prefer, but if he is not ready for it than I rather wait until the beginning of 7th grade.
    We will have to re- evaluate it all around Christmas time again and see what will happen.
    Thanks for sharing Carrie!


    • We are doing the Middle Ages with my 7th grader right now. It would have been too much to do in 6th grade.

      I sent you an e-mail just now!

    • Eva,
      I didn’t see an email anywhere…can you re-send it? Thank you for all your help and encouragement!

  4. Carrie, I wonder if you have any advice about how you create a block to meet a different temperament or stage of development? For example, with Rome, how would you adapt it or present it differently for each temperament?

    I am interested in Maggie’s comment above: what do you think are some of the markers that show a child is ready for Rome? If a child was not ready, would you delay or just adapt the content?

    I am a bit worried about getting through sixth grade. We are having a lot of interruptions at the moment because I feel my 12yo needs me to stop homeschooling and listen, just be with him as his mom. That’s OK but the end result is that we seem to be getting more and more behind. And I wonder if he is really ready for sixth.

    Thank you, Carrie

    • What have you done so far in sixth grade? I think if you are feeling this way, you have to really meditate..because 12 year olds can get really bogged down and heavy and just not want to do a whole lot or be interested in a whole lot….so I think only you can decide is it bogging down because of outside interruptions or is he really not ready? If he really is not ready, how does your school year run – can you put Rome toward the end of the year, have a block in between and finish on the Middle Ages?
      As far as temperament, I think the phlegmatic would like to hear about food and the ordinary of the everyday life of Rome, the choleric would like the legions and forts and people such as Hannibal and Julius Caesar, the sanguine might enjoy stories of the patricians and how they lived, the melancholic might like the tragedy of the assassination of Julius Caesar and the Antony-Cleopatra period — but remember, the whole point of this block is to use Roman history at a point where the child feels developmentally chaotic, heavy, like one foot in the door of childhood and one foot out and how do we bring order to that?
      I would do a lot of movement. Roman marches, Roman soldier training as it were – 12 year olds need to move and not get so bogged down. Bringing that balance is important.
      Blessings, hope that helps

    • This is really great, Carrie. Thank you!! I definitely see signs of a foot in both camps, but mostly I see regression to a younger age and when I see him in a group with other 12 year olds, he seems so much younger than the other boys. He is also clearly not ready for geometry (we tried, but I switched to something else). I’m really not convinced I’ve seen that “Greek” stage everyone talks about. Last year when we did Egypt that really, really spoke to him. It was probably the best thing he’s ever done for homeschooling. That was about 4 months before his 12th birthday. At that point he hadn’t lost any molars (he didn’t lose his first milk tooth until he was nearly 7.5).

      We are also dealing with outside interruptions. In 5th we got really behind because we had a lot of sickness in our family, so this first half of our year has been a blend of 5th and 6th grade blocks. He is also grieving because his best friend – like a brother really – moved overseas in February while his 2nd bf moved to another part of the country. Now he has no close friends, nobody he really likes or feels really “get” him and like the same things, and it is really hard for him at this age. The first few months were ok, but now it is starting to sink in that his friends have gone and every day he feels sad about that and is needing to talk about it. So the homeschooling goes out the window while I listen….And he’s been teething, so in pain from that too with 8 adult teeth coming through all at the same time. Homeschooling is going very slowly….

      My plan was to do Rome at the end of the year and leave Middle Ages for start of 7th. We are almost half way through our year now. We started our year with the biography of the Buddha and drew lots of freehand mandalas. Then we moved on to some geography (catch-up from 5th) and we did mineralogy, which was a big hit. We did an Ancient China block which I felt was a good 5-6th block as it was biographies rather than mythology. We’ve also done a math block.

      Last year we did a short Greek mythology block and later read The Illiad and Odyssey during our math and geometry blocks but we didn’t get round to Greek history, so we’ll be doing that next. It will be interesting to see how he responds to that. Our Egypt block was very much focused on the spiritual side of things, the beliefs of the Egyptians, the role of the pharaoh, the art. He seems to find that fascinating. He also loved Gilgamesh last year. Those two were way more engaging than Greek mythology for him.

      I’m hoping to do some astronomy (I’ve decided to just do some observations for now, and do a bit more in 7th, tying it in to Age of Discovery) and more maths of course, then we’ll do our physics block and Rome.

      I will definitely look at bringing more movement. And your thoughts on temperament for the Rome block are really helpful. Thanks for taking the time to write about that, it’s really helpful!!!

  5. Great post, Carrie. It’s so good to get inside your head a bit and see your thought process for block planning. I’m also glad to read your thoughts on Kovacs, as I just wrote a blog post expressing my fondness for his resources. I suppose it is the narrative quality that I like most. There have certainly been moments when I have ready something in one of his books and wondered about the accuracy. I supposed I swept it under the rug and considered the story more “archtypal” than “accurate.”

    I used a lot of internet resources for Rome last time through. I made liberal use of The Baldwin Project ( Some of the stories there have that same narrative quality that Kovacs has, but it definitely takes some sifting through. I also liked Augustus Caesar’s World more than some of the other books in that series.

    Oh, and I assigned The Eagle of the Ninth as a reader. I loved it and thought my students would too when I pre-read over the summer, but it got somewhat mixed reviews from my crew.

    Happy planning!

    • Thank you! Nice to hear your thoughts as well! I am also going to check out Eva’s sources. I have to be honest and say I wish there were more sources for these upper grades…it often seems as if there is one thing to sort of pick from, like Kovacs or Making Math Meaningful and if those don’t resonate with you, then you are out of luck sort of….I wish there were at least a few Waldorf sources to pick from for each block in grades 6-9. I haven’t read The Eagle of the Ninth; we read The Bronze Bow the last time through…I am sorting through for this time around, trying to find something new (perhaps). 🙂

    • And Meredith,
      I wanted to tell you how excited I am about your podcasts! Yay! Also, I love your back posts about sixth grade – as I recall there were posts on Rome, Business Math and more. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I know you are busy planning eighth grade for your class and I can’t wait to hear what you plan. We had a great eighth grade year. I really, really enjoyed eighth. Seventh and eighth were probably my favorite grades of all.

  6. Thomas Wildgruber (the German Waldorf art teacher) recommended reading excerpts from “The Robe” by Lloyd Douglas for the Roman block to me. The whole book is very long, but it is very interesting. We are reading it as a read-aloud for my highschoolers right now. I do not care so much for the language, though, Douglas was not a first-class author. The story is good, though.

    And it is so true, you really have to start looking for your own books when coming to the higher grades. Charlotte Mason homeschoolers and some classical homeschoolers do have good suggestions, though.

  7. Pingback: More About Planning Sixth Grade Roman and Medieval History | The Parenting Passageway

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

  9. Do you sell your lesson blocks? I am feeling so overwhelmed and uninspired this year. I need a boost! Do you recommend any 6th grade Roman history blocks that i can purchase? thank you

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