I wrote a post here about planning Roman History; I also have at least three back posts regarding Roman History in Waldorf Sixth Grade homeschooling from the first time I went through this grade (with the rare addition of pictures of artwork as well!) so if you use the search engine box those should come up.
I just finished planning my Medieval History block and it came to me that there are just things I do when planning that I don’t really think about but might be of interest to those of you planning. I talked about hte most important part, the knowing WHY we are teaching this at this time to a twelve year old from the standpoint of childhood development (Steiner’s indications) in the post I linked to above. I also mention in this post setting objectives and gathering resources.
However, one thing I always do automatically as well is to use a time line to get a big picture of that time period (and to refresh my own memory if it has been awhile!) This helps me get an order in my mind. I can also use the timeline big picture to get an idea of the big personalities and the big events that lead to that invigorating picture of contrast for the child. Polarities, or contrasts, often help us all see the period of time and help the child find wonder. And, whilst a timeline doesn’t help you flesh out the “this is how people lived day to day”, it does help you establish a consciousness of the people of this period. This changing consicousness of people is what defines history in the Waldorf curriculum.
It also helps you do something a little specific to homeschooling: it helps you find and hone in on things of interest dependent upon your child’s personality. For children who are more scientifically oriented, starting with Greece and Rome, for example, I might use a timeline to look at technological and scientific advances and I would follow that through all the grades. Or for another child perhaps it is following food or navigation or something else. These things wouldn’t be the whole block , of course, but the point of homeschooling is to throw ideas and projects that really pique interest our children and still highlight the developmental theme of that block.
The other thing a timeline does is to help you see what is happening in other parts of the world at the same time as your block. Some homeschooling parents get really frustrated with the history part of the Waldorf curriculum as it follows the stream of development that Steiner saw as archetypal for the development of Western Civilization and the development that becomes recapitulated in the inner life of the child’s soul development. You can understand more about this if you read An Outline of Esoteric Science and understand how Steiner saw the evolution of the world and epochs of time.
However, please do remember that a variety of cultures are studied in the Waldorf Curriculum and that we as homeschooling parents always have the opportunity to bring to use the beauty of the curriculum as a beacon for our children regarding our own heritage and our own place in the world . If you think about it, this is why the kindergarten and early grades start with the home, the local area and work outwards. Fifth grade covers a variety of world cultures and most homeschooling parents I know also put Ancient China and Ancient Africa in that grade. Ancient Africa, as a neighbor of Egypt and the cradle of humanity, certainly deserves to be in this grade and I like to put the Kingdom of Axum, Queen of Sheba and King Ezana in sixth grade. In my history blocks, I also am careful to put in at least one main lesson or outside reading of “what is happening around the world”. I certainly don’t want to take away from the stream of development that led to the consciousness of the human being in Western Civilization. This to me, would defeat the point of the Waldorf curriculum that I believe meets my child’s developmental needs.
However, to make a general note on upper grades curriculum planning, I think we MUST be very careful in this day and age to make sure the curriculum is not eurocentric and adjusted for where one lives (and where one is from). Some Waldorf teachers around the world are doing this. For example, those Eastern Africa Waldorf training manuals (for example, here is the Grade 3 Training Manual) always do a great job about pointing out how to adapt the curriculum for a particular region. I think there are many ideas to be gleamed to see how Waldorf teachers in Oceania, Asia, Latin America, and Africa are doing things. Also, in homeschooling, as I mentioned above, family matters as well – picking up the lines from the parts of the world where your family is from could be gratifying. In our case, our family is mainly of European descent, but when we get up to more individualized world events in Europe, I try to include the countries where we are from (our children have lines going back to eight different countries).
World cultures are also followed from the beginning of the grades through fairy tales, myth and legend and so on, so I also include Native Americans/First People in every grade from kindergarten on, and I include Africa in some way from kindergarten on. I include Asian and Latin American fairy tales and stories in all the early grades and then from fifth grade onward, include those regions in history as well to provide a complete picture of the world and dynamic contrast. For Roman History, for example, I put in correlations to the Han Dynasty in China and we can compare and contrast how these two Empires were similar and different. If you did Ancient China in Fifth Grade, this is a natural progression. For Medival History, I put in the wonderful biographies of Sundiata, Musa Mali, and one can at least mention the Ancient Puebloans of our country if one is American, or the Mayan Civilization (which I tend to cover in detail in seventh grade) and look at the Japanese feudal period. Great Zimbabwe and the Kingdom of Zimbabwe would also be appropriate in this time period. Seventh grade always includes a lot of African and Latin American geography along with stories of the great civilizations there, so sixth grade can be the time to plant seeds. Eighth grade obviously includes the geography and history of Oceania and the entire modern world, and my Down Under readers will certainly be finding out what is going on in their part of the world during the times of the Roman Empire and the Medieval Ages .
The other thing I always do automatically besides think of timelines and biographies is to look for food, dress, music, poetry, and games that will tie in. I don’t talk too much about that on this blog but it is always in my planning.
Just a few more thoughts, take what resonates with you. It is your homeschooling, and you are the expert for your family. If you have are a Waldorf homeschooler, you have a beautiful and developmentally appropriate framework.