Homeschooling Third Grade Math- Part One

This will be my third and last time going through third grade with one of my children. I am starting to prepare, and in this post I talked about my steps to Third Grade planning.  Part of this planning for me after laying out the blocks of study for each month is to get a good sense of the progression of math and language arts through the year.

So first I think of progression and goals.  Over the years, I have found the main objectives for third grade math to be:

  • To use a variety of strategies to make sense of number and number combinations, including counting and regrouping and estimating
  • Vertical addition and subtraction
  • Working with mulitplication and division; Long multiplication.  Long division, division with remainders might be third or fourth grade depending upon the child.
  • Estimating answers the the nearest hundred or thousands.
  • Written and oral practice in arthimetic so things become automatic. Yes, trying to start learning the math facts.  If my child has a learning disability, I don’t expect memorization of times tables until after the twelve year change.  Just my experience.
  • Number patterns in the rectangular array of 144 that covers the times tables 1-12
  • Telling time on all clocks
  • Measures of time, capacity, length, mass, money.
  • Written word problems
  • Freehand geometric drawings and geometric explorations

I start thinking a little about how I want to approach the blocks. I decided my math blocks would be in November( Farmer Boy Math with time, four processes, moving from horizontal to vertical), February ( measurement, mainly length, mass,  time) and April ( multiplication and division mainly but all four processes, working with money) but that my August block would include a good dose of  math review within the main lesson, the September block would include liquid measurement with our preserving/farming/gardening block, and our May block will also include measurement with practical projects.  These would all be worked into the main lesson period.  The two books I like for looking at the big picture and what blocks might contain includes the books, “Making Math Meaningful:  A Source Book for Teaching Math in Grades One Through Five,” by Jamie York, Nettie Fabrie, Wim Gottenboos and the book, “Teaching Mathematics in Rudolf Steiner Schools for Classes I-VIII” by Ron Jarman.

However, I also do have a complete outline of the “practice math” we will do each day and sometimes I do use the “practice time” to introduce a math concept we will deepen in a block or use a game to go deeper into practice on a math concept we have previously covered.  For this, I usually assign a topic a month that I really want to bring, and just a smattering of the other math skills. One book I like for this is a non-Waldorf book called “Third Grade Math:  A Month To Month Guide” by Suzy Ronfeldt.  I don’t use it to the letter, (some of the focus for each month I don’t find matches up with Waldorf mathematics so I discard those), but I look to see ideas by topic.

Once I have the focus for the blocks and the practice math areas for each month, I just start filling things in with ideas for cooking, games, practical experiences, movement experiences, and mathematical problems and puzzles to solve. For some specific ideas for grades 1-3, I like the following books:

  • “Waldorf Education in Practice:  Exploring How Children Learn in the Lower Grades” by Else Gottgens
  • “Third Grade Math:  A Month to Month Guide” by Suzy Ronfeldt
  • “Games for Math” by Peggy Kaye
  • “Things That Come in Groups: Multiplication and Division” by Tierney, Berle-Carman, and Akers.
  • “Math By Hand” which is math kits and Waldorf
  • “The Dyscalculia Toolkit” by Ronit Bird, which just has fun games for everyone
  • “Math Games and Activities From Around the World” by Zaslavsky

I also try to find literature that reinforces the mathematical concepts we are learning.  This probably is not common in a Waldorf School setting, but I find it to be very common in the homeschooling setting.  Some of my favorite books for third grade math for a student include:

  • “Alexander, Who Use to Be Rich Last Sunday” by Viorst (money)
  • “Fattest, Tallest, Biggest Snowman Ever” by Ling (measurement)
  • “A Quarter for the Tooth Fairy” by Holzman (money; not sure if I will use this one yet as I haven’t seen it)
  • “Just Add Fun” by Rocklin (multiplication arrays)
  • Division books suggested but I haven’t looked at them yet:  “The Doorbell Rang” by Pat Hutchins; “One Hungry Cat” by Rocklin
  • For geometry:  “Grandfather Tang’s Story”, which many Waldorf homeschoolers use in second grade; “The Greedy Triangle” by Marilyn Burns; “The Josefina Quilt” by Eleanor Coerr; “The Keeping Quilt” by Patricia Polacco.
  • “13 Moons on a Turtle’s Back”; “The Twelve Months” picture book  by Krykorka; “An Amish Year” by Ammon: “Alice Yazzie’s Year” by Maher; “The Time Garden” by Edward Eager -Chapter book.
  • Measurement:  All the books by Robert Wells – “What’s Older Than A Giant Tortoise?”  “Is A Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is?” etc.
  • Large Numbers: “Can You Count To A Googol?” by Robert Wells

I also start looking for games to have on hand too – that could be another post!

Hopefully that gives you some idea of how to start with third grade math.  I would love to post some block examples and examples of practice by week in the future if that would be helpful to those of you planning.

Many blessings,





After The Fifteen/Sixteen Change

Many of you know that Waldorf Education and also in the way that I parent, I look not only at seven year cycles but the main developmental transformations of certain ages – six/seven, age nine, age twelve, age fifteen/sixteen.

Fifteen/sixteen is the one with the least amount of information out there if you Google, and yet I think it is the most dramatic developmental change of all..  You can see some of the characteristics of this change in this back post about the development of the tenth grader.  Many Waldorf teachers talk about how the fifteen/sixteen change is closer to the 9 year change (just bigger issues and challenges, I think!)

What is interesting to me is the feelings that are evoked in the parent when this transformation is done or fading away, much like when the nine year old change is fading away.  After the nine year change, the child hits ten, which is often seen as the hallmark “golden year” of childhood in Waldorf education.  I don’t think that happens after the fifteen/sixteen change for most teens.  When I talk to mothers of other sixteen and half year olds or seventeen year olds (and I have a daughter, so I am talking to other mothers with girls),  all of them say the same things:

They are guarded.  We don’t really talk that much.  We can have a long car ride and exchange only a few words.    I can feel them pulling away.  It is hard to know how to parent – how much to really input and how much to let go (by the way, I also hear this statement from mothers of boys who are about 18 – 19  if they are struggling with life changes).  

What seems to emerge after the trials of the fifteen/sixteen change is a calmer, more self-assured young person.  They don’t need to talk about everything anymore.  They are trying to handle things themselves in a more self-contained way than ever before.  They are preparing for their own life where they must stand on their own two feet.  Parents often are not sure how much to intervene or offer help at this stage.

So, with that in mind, I think it is really important for parents to:

  1.  Keep the time and space open for conversation and  connection.  Insisting on a walk together, or working together shoulder to shoulder, or that the car is a phone-free zone and we will must have conversation, or just find other places to have that time and space is important.
  2. Do insist on talking about the big things, even if you don’t get a great response.  This is a great time for coaching about risk (physical and emotional) and relationships.  Remember that this is the time when teens are at their riskiest due to the proliferation of reward receptors in the brain, so they do need to hear the messages.
  3. Do help them make great friends through emotional coaching.  At this time, you can’t make friends for them, but you can help them sort through personality types, boundaries, and patterns.  Tenth grade is often a time when one circle of friends is discarded and another circle becomes in place.  However, teens NEED good friends at this age. Good friends will help each other not take risks that are beyond stupid.  I talk to homeschoolers who often have a tight circle of good friends, which is great for this age.  However, if they only have one friend who sometimes is a good friend and sometimes is not a good friend, that can be harder and I actually would find it worrisome. While social skills are still maturing even at the ages of 17 and 18, which is something we don’t always remember,  I feel the depth of intimate relationships with family and friends can be a good indicator for how romantic relationships may go in the future, at least for girls.  Some teens need help in really being a good friend or in emotional IQ or in boundaries for relationships.  Share your experiences below; I would love to hear!
  4. Stop micromanaging. Whether or not they get their homework done in the time frame you would do it is not your problem.  Homework, getting to practice, those things are just going to have to be the test case for how to manage life.  And they won’t do it the  way you would do it.  Quit arguing and be supportive!  Being a teen is hard, hard, hard for many.  Some teens do just sail right through the later teen years, but for many THIS is the bumpiest time of life.
  5. Agree on the big rules.  Sleep, meals with the family,  media limits, getting work done comes to mind.  I find media limits to still be a thing many parents are struggling with.  Set the rules for the big issues and enforce them.  Little by little by the end of the first semester of senior year, your teen needs to start to take over even the bigger things.
  6. However, do keep track of the big things.  Some things that seem a little overwhelming to many young people I talk to include getting a driver’s permit or license (divided between the teens I talk to; some are thrilled and some are scared), job applications, college applications.
  7. Do insist on family meals, family vacations, family activities.  They may grumble and complain, but may secretly be glad!
  8. Do get some support from other parents who have children past the fifteen/sixteen change; even parents of fourteen and early fifteen year olds may not really understand where you are.  Even if it is just the smallest conversation in passing as we can longer the share the stories that are no longer ours to share, it helps to hear from parents with teens facing the same sorts of things – relationship changes, expectations for the future, etc.

Share your experiences below!


What I Want My Children To Learn During Lent

For whatever reason, I just love church during Lent. I love the tolling bells, the Decalogue (the repeating of the Ten Commandments), the Confession and Absolution, and the Trisagion.  And that is just at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy!   Lent, to me, is the time where I wander with my Lord in the desert. It is the time when I remember that my Lord was sent here to die for all of humanity and in order to truly be successful in life one must die to self and reach out into humanity in an intimate way.  For some reason, this comforts me in the midst of my wanderings and temptations and frailities of being human.

This really is so abstract for children, and since part of healthy parenting and Waldorf homeschooling really is in the way we help children unfold the deep truths  of life over time,  I am always considering in Lent what I want my children  of varying ages to absorb.

For those under  age 9, I like to go over our Baptism Vows and talk about baptism and belonging.  Part of the Baptism Liturgy for us as Episcopalians includes such beautiful language as “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?” and the prayer to give those baptized “an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works” .  When we are baptized, we belong. Belonging and goodness is a wonderful part of baptism and how we concretely go out into the world to witness to love.  This is so easy and wonderful to do with small children!  Bake for neighbors, help others, help small creatures, wonder together!    We also take a good  look at what things are different in church – there are no flowers, for example, only branches.  There is less and less music and singing.    These very physical things in the Liturgy signify this is a different season.

For those  ages 9-14, I like to talk about how Lent corresponds to the forty days Jesus was in the desert being tempted by Satan.  God didn’t make Jesus do anything, but Jesus chose the hard things anyway.  We can choose good choices, even when the good choices are hard.  We talk about what we gain when we let things go, and how the spirit of Lent can open us to doing something positive – and then we take those concrete steps to do something positive for those around us and for ourselves.  So many wonderful conversations around this!

For older teens ages  15 and up, I still like to talk about Lent and choices, but also about the choices we have inside of us and our attitudes, our attitude toward people and the least among us.  We talk about how often the devil is not only in the world, but inside us in that we all have the ability choose good or evil, how we react to things, how we rise up.  We have a choice to be selfish and think only of ourselves or do something more.   The world is can be grey,  the choices are not always easy or pat or rote, and older teenagers totally know  and get this.  However, just as the  good choices of Jesus were for us, for humanity, we  as human beings can also make choices that help others for the greater good of humanity. Love can become the meaning in the world if we choose that and let that flow.  Rudolf Steiner wrote in his lecture “Love and Its Meaning In The World”:  “We have to leave our acts of love behind in the world, but they are then a spiritual factor in the flow of the world events…..Love is the creative force in the world.”  So, how do we bring love to the world?  That is the question for the older teenager to find in themselves and in the gifts that they have to share with the world.

May we all send out love,




I was talking to an equine nutritionist the other day (yes, that is a real occupation!) and I was telling her how hard this certain horse is – recovering from major colic surgery, history of ulcers, etc, etc – and said something to the effect that having a horse can be such a crapshoot in terms of health and what happens!  You do all you can do, and there still comes a point where it is all out of your hands.  And she said, oh yes, but we love them anyway, and if experienced horse people tell you about the reality of that  probably no one new would even want to be around horses. LOL.

Well, isn’t it kind of the same with  parenting and children?

I see some many mothers who feel so insecure.  Maybe I am parenting wrong.  Maybe I am homeschooling wrong.  So much is riding on this.  Suppose I screw my children up in some way?  My friends and family are telling me their concerns with my parenting and homeschooling are x, y, and z.  This parenting thing is so hard!  How can I figure it out?  I am positive Susie down the street is doing it better!  No one’s children are having as many problems as my children!  I can’t do this!

Mostly, I  hear this insecurity a lot from moms who have children under the age of 9 and/or who are new to homeschooling, and then things stabilize a bit in the years of 9-14 and then the insecurity comes back in the later teen years.  In a way, parental insecurity in during the teen years also gets worse because parents feel isolated.  We cannot often talk about what is going on with our teens without violating their trust and the  unfolding of this other person, this other person’s story is no longer ours to tell.

The reality is that we all feel insecure at different times in our parenting (but hopefully not all the time!).  We all want to do what is right by our children and teens.  We all want our children to be as healthy as possible and  happy and to be successful on whatever terms that means success to our children.  We all want to avoid the large and devastating issues that can affect children.

Some children have a super hard beginning in life.  Some have such a hard 9 year change.  Some are at their lowest at 14/15.  Some have a really hard 16/17.  Some have a really hard time getting through the beginning stages of adulting 18-25 and need a lot of direction.

And all we can do is find our own way, form a village , do the best you can do, and LET IT GO.  Y ou cannot live the life of the child in front of you and control everything.  In the younger years, you have a chance to shape things and you have precious time, even if it is the ordinary time of dirty diapers, naps, and baths. However, as your child grows, your lives as intertwined but no longer on the same exact growing path.  The teen branches out into the world with roots at home.  They will make mistakes, sometimes large ones, and it becomes more and more of their journey and less of yours.  And so it goes.

Insecure feelings in parenting  is real and raw and true.  Find your spiritual work, find your tribe, re-find your partner or spouse if you have one,  set your boundaries, do what you can do without losing your mind, and laugh together.  Parenting is over many years, and the cycles of joy and triumph and despair are just that – cycles.  Riding the wave is sometimes the best and only thing to do . Insecurity eventually can be replaced by the reality of it being only one small part of the tapestry of parenting and generations.





The Cardinal Rules of Waldorf Homeschooling

I was thinking recently about what  would MOST help people new to Waldorf homeschooling or those struggling with burnout who need to re-center.  Sometimes we need this re-centering in February!

My personal “cardinal rules” of Waldorf homeschooling:

  1. Make LOVE the core of your homeschool.  This is always more important than any academic progress or Main Lesson or artistic focus.  This is the foundation of becoming and being human.
  2. Always work with not only your WHOLE child (physical body, life forces through rhythm, the feeling life and the spiritual life) but with the WHOLE family.  Homeschooling is about family.
  3. The homeschooling parent needs to feel stable in order to have successful lessons.  It is may be necessary to unschool, use a workbook, or do something else to get through a truly difficult or horrific season.  If you homeschool  long enough, I think it it will come out in the wash.  The homeschooling parent may need to work on his or her own baggage in order to bring this type of homeschooling successfully and it  may take time.
  4. Do what you can.  You cannot have a Waldorf School in your home.  Waldorf homeschooling follows in the traditions of the Waldorf School, but is not Waldorf School at home. It is Waldorf homeschooling; it is holistic homeschooling for all the human beings in the house!
  5. Celebrate the rhythm of the day, week, and year and hold on to it in a simple and sustainable way.  Celebrate the festivals, even with teens.  They will thank you later.
  6. Work from the local and innocent child in front of you to your home to your local area to your local state or province to your country to your region of the world to the world.  It will all come in time.  If you get nervous, look ahead to the later middle grades and the high school grades.  It is ALL there.
  7. Get a spiritual path for your family and KEEP it. Draw strength from it!
  8. Get out in nature every day and take time to camp, hike, swim, pick fruit, farm, be with animals, look at the woods or beach and wonder in awe together.
  9.  Remember goodness of the world –> beauty of the world –> truth in the world; gratitude  —> love —> duty (a love of the whole world with a desire to help humanity) as the most important things in the  basic seven year cycles of the child.
  10.  Keep striving to improve yourself and your interest in the world.  As your children grow,  you may feel more able to expand or practice art or develop other skills that will be used in your homeschooling adventures.

Many blessings and love tonight,


Planning Waldorf Homeschooling Third Grade

On The Parenting Passageway Facebook page, I have posted a few microblogging type posts about planning third grade.  I am starting withplanning  third grade now as I will have two other (older) grades to plan, and third grade is not completely foreign to me as this will be my third time through it.

I started with planning our tentative start and stop dates and vacation dates, and then mapped each week out on a piece of paper so I know how many weeks we will have in August, and how many in September, etc. and noted where days off or festivals will be occurring.

Then, I pulled out my FREE resources and started looking through them to help me remember third grade.  Any free resources will do, and you don’t need a lot to plan!  I pulled out some free blocks from Marsha Johnson’s files (which are still accessible if you join and the East Africa training manual PDF on teaching third grade.

Next, I mapped out my blocks and jotted down any extra things that came to mind for each block.  This is like the brainstorming stage.  Here is what I have so far:

August- Practical Work/Occupations of Our Area (also, Math Review, Form Drawing, Poetry)

September  Farming and Gardening , Preserving (thinking about mass and volume) (cursive)

October- Housebuilding and Shelters (Native American stories, nature studies) (cursive)

November- Farmer Boy Math (time, four processes)  (cooking) ( cursive)

December-  Old Testament Creation (painting, grammar) (speech, acting, poetry) (cursive)

January- Language Arts Old Testament(Abram, Jospeh, possibly Moses) (modeling, drama, cooking)

February-  Linear Measurement, Mass (Noah’s Ark, animals)

March-  The Story of Joshua (or Moses or Elijah), writing

April-  Math/Money, Four Processes

May-   Textiles/Practical Projects in Garden

Now I am at the point where I want to see what I want to put in each block.  This is the part, of course, that takes the longest!  Sometimes what helps me is to figure out what will flow through each day of each block?  So I am thinking right now about a flow to our Warm-Up time and to our Math Review time.   Right now I am thinking our flow will be

  • Opening Verse
  • Song or Poetry or Speech Exercise
  • Jumping Rope Rhymes or Zoo Exercises
  • Rod Exercises or Beanbags
  • Rhythmical Walking to Verse
  • Hand-clapping or String Games
  • Math Review – (maybe work in with weather) (Still thinking)
  • Number of the Day
  • Addition and Subtraction Games and/or Multiplication/Division Games
  • Memorizing Math Facts
  • Mental Math
  • Opening Main Lesson Verse

Once you have a little template, it just becomes sort of filling things in with a progression.

As I am planning this little flow, I am thinking about progression of academic capacities and practice.  For example, once I have looked at a progression of math, I will also look at Language Arts skills that I know we will need to practice in blocks and in between blocks.  This is things like phonics, sight words, spelling words, readers and read-alouds.  The vocabulary words will come from the blocks.  I know some teachers are totally awesome and pull their spelling words from the block itself, but I have found it better for myself and my children if I use something a little more structured according to spelling words and let the vocabulary words be the organic language part from a block. That’s just me. I was an organic speller, but I have found two out of my three children needed much, much more instruction and progression than pulling out random words.

When this is done, I will plan the nitty gritty of each block by day – the review activities, the story and how I will present  it (I actually love using puppets in third grade!), the  artistic activities and yes, make sure that we are covering the academic capacities.   The blocks sort of balance each other, so I don’t make each block heavy with writing, for example.  That is why we have to look at the whole year.

Many folks get bogged down with Third Grade Old Testament stories; I don’t feel the need to tell every story in the Old Testament!  Some teachers use the Old Testament; some use Hebrew Legends.  I pick which stories I feel are most meaningful; for my son it will be a little about creation and going out into the world but more about the Patriarchs.  More on that later.

I will post more as I go; I think it will come together quite well and then I will get moving on Grade 8!

Blessings and love,


Celebrating Valentine’s Day In The Waldorf Home

February is consistently labeled as the month where all homeschoolers want to quit.  The dreary weather often makes those of us in the Northern Hemisphere want to head for warmer locations and sunshine, and get rid of school altogether!

But really, Valentine’s Day can be our little spot of sunshine!  There are all kinds of things to make and do, and it can be a lovely pink and red time of showing love for one another.  I love Lisa’s Valentine’s Day post over at Celebrate the Rhythm of Life and would like to add some resources so you can have an amazing  handmade Valentine’s Day celebration!

Verses –

Good morrow to you, Valentine.
Curl your locks as I do mine,

Two before and three behind,

Good morrow to you, Valentine

-From “Festivals, Family, and Food: Guide to Seasonal Celebration” by Diana Carey and Judy Large, page 9

Games:  The book mentioned above has a suggestion for a Valentine Ring Game ( so you would need a group large enough to form a ring).  It is sort of a version of “Duck Duck Goose” involving a handkerchief and song.

Stories: The book “Tell Me A Story” from WECAN  has the story “A Million Valentines” by Suzanne Down; Suzanne Down’s Juniper Tree Puppetry website also has an entire book of Valentine Day stories here.

Activities:  Making Valentines out of red, white, and pink paper, lacey doileys or leftover lace is a fun activity.  Also,  making little felt hearts with a string, sort of like a pendant necklace is fun, or to sew two little felt hearts into a brooch.  One year we found heart shaped buttons and made little bracelets with buttons.

You could also consider the Swedish-type hearts made out of paper that sometimes one sees around Christmastime.  They are really sweet and may appeal to older children.

“All Year Round” has a suggestion of making bird biscuits and hanging them from a branch.  You can try my Pinterest Board for more suggestions, including biscuits to feed the birds, felt heart garlands, little lanterns, and more.

One thing we like to do is to have a pretty breakfast table with flowers and fun decorations.  Little garlands of red felt hearts are easy to make last minute and are very sweet hanging up.  Many of the crafts on my Pinterest board would make a pretty table.

When we think of activities, we also include acts of service.  If there is anyone in your neighborhood that is alone, elderly to visit, or a food bank that needs donation, those are all great ways to spread Valentine’s Day love and cheer.

Food:  Having a tea party seems to fit in well with this day.  On The Parenting Passageway Facebook page, I posted a picture of the flowering tea we had at Candlemas.  These would be fun at Valentine’s Day too, and everyone enjoys watching the flower unfurl in the hot water of a clear tea pot.

If you have wonderful pictures of your Valentine’s Day fun, please do post it over on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page or share a link below.