Homeschooling Waldorf Ninth Grade

So, we are fast coming to a close on our ninth grade year.  This year was not nearly as light and fun as I predicted it to be for several reasons:

  1. My own inexperience.  I felt confident in teaching any subject at all, but it was still hard in terms of what would best reach my student – for example, the order of topics within biology, more literature analysis versus composition in language arts, etc.
  2. The year was busy with outside things and we had less time to be home and really do elaborate projects and things.
  3. We were still trying out resources to find what really clicked.
  4. My expectations were too high.  All over the Internet I kept reading, “Oh, it is so easy to homeschool high school!  They are so independent and all you have to do is facilitate!”  That may be true for students attending a hybrid school or taking all on-line classes, but I did NOT find this to be true in our case. Also, at least according to a Waldorf perspective, a  ninth grader is in a black and white stage where they do not think too deeply; it is general thinking and not introspective thinking; the main focus is outward and not inward – it is simply the year of “WHAT?”   “What is happening around me?”  Some Waldorf sources note the students are willing to do work without too much questioning of “Why?”  Again, this did not fit our case at all.  My ninth grader was not excited about homework or, happy to take things in but not so happy to provide any response.

So, my tips and advice as to what I would have done differently and what might help you as you plan ninth grade:

  1.  I would have spent the year doing a physical science or an environmental science and saved biology for tenth grade.  And in doing biology, I would use Oak Meadow again (which we found halfway through the first semester after an unsatisfying start), but I would re-arrange it so we started with the “macro level” of taxonomy, the kingdoms, and worked down to the microscopic level. This is what we are used to in Waldorf Education, and I think it would have made more sense to us even though pretty much every high school text starts with the cellular level.   I tried to start this year with using my own syllabus I created using Campbell (the high school level) Biology book, “The Way Things Work,”  and several lab books that many homeschoolers use, but this did not work for us. Oak Meadow Biology did work well for us, with added resources from Waldorf resources and Teachers Pay Teachers.  We did keep a Main Lesson book and did all the experiments and that was fine.
  2. We started the year with a Comedy and Tragedy block, which was a hit.  After that, we used American colonial poetry and the book “The Last of the Mohicans” with our Native American/Early American History block.  This was more difficult but okay. We then used pieces of the Oak Meadow syllabus to look through several works of literature, including “House of the Scorpion”, “Kidnapped,” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” and poetry by Mary Oliver.  Most of this was not enjoyable to our student and rather like pulling teeth.  I think when I re-do ninth grade, we will spend the year writing, but not  as much literary analysis.   I  would advise you to look at your student and see if you think your student would be better served with composition (argumentative/persuasive writing, narrative writing,  descriptive writing, expository writing, etc ) or is ready for analysis of literature past one block or so.  One idea I had was to base the types of writing across the year on Art History, which normally is  one or two blocks in the Waldorf Schools in ninth grade. So I may try that next time, (although my next student is super science-oriented, so I may base that through science next time!)
  3. I would have alternated solely the history/language arts blocks -3- 4 months each, 2 hours a day would have met the required hours for a college track class (120 hours), and then just added the math and science as year long classes. So yes, you would be teaching blocks plus two track classes at home, which could be a lot on top of teaching younger children.  But I think one could pull it off with careful planning.
  4. Apart from science, which I really do not believe you can get enough credit hours over four years with blocks to equal 180 hours in biology, chemistry, etc with labs, I would look carefully at keeping the block system with running math and science as year long courses if your student loves block learning like mine.  I had grand plans for more blocks, but we ended up with an Early American history  block to finish off our American history credit, Comedy and Tragedy, Literature, Art History ,  and year long courses in Ninth Grade Literature and Composition,  Biology, Algebra I, and Spanish II.  It wasn’t horrible or anything, but I felt like it all could have been lighter and more fun.
  5. Think carefully about what you might need to farm out to save your own sanity, and be prepared it may or may not really be what you needed!  This happens.  For example,  I farmed out Algebra I , but I wish I had farmed out the language arts component instead.
  6. We did have some great experiential learning this year, so borrow a trick from our unschooling friends and keep track of the hours of an experience and count that toward credits.  For example, we did a two hour class on fish anatomy, physiology, and classification, so that could count toward biology.  We did another class at our local aquarium on sharks, so that too could count towards biology.

I have some big plans for tenth grade since I had an epiphany this weekend, so stay tuned for some more ideas of dealing with the upper grades.  I have some ways I am thinking of combining seventh and tenth grades!

Many blessings and love,