Planning Eighth Grade

So I started planning  Third Grade first, since it will be my third time teaching third grade and therefore has a sense of familiarity. I wrote several posts about the planning process for third grade here.  Now I am looking at planning eighth grade next, since it will be my second time teaching eighth grade.

I really like eighth grade and am looking forward to it. This particular student has very strong opinions about what she will or won’t participate in, and she won’t really try to do anything with a block she doesn’t want to do. So I have had to think long and hard about what I really think is essential in eighth grade for soul development and what blocks will be well-received as well.

It doesn’t help that I think eighth grade seems to me one of the years with the least amount of “must do” soul material.  Yes, there is a Revolutions block, but some schools put that in ninth.  There is an idea of “modern” and getting children up to present-day, but again, many schools also spread that into ninth grade if they have a high school program.   The AWNSA chart for the Waldorf School curriculum includes The Industrial Revolution to the Modern Day; American History; Shakespeare and poetry; stories about different people of the world and their folklore and poetry; reviewing all grammar; writing including newspaper reporting, business writing, writing a short play and spelling; Latin and Greek and vocabulary building exercises; World Geography and geography of Asia, Australia and Antarctica; Chemistry, Physiology, Physics  including aerodynamics and meteorology; Three Dimensional Geometry.  “Making Math Meaningful” by Jamie York for Grade 8 includes geometry and platonic solids as a block (which I did the first time around in eighth grade but I will not do this time);  and number bases and loci as another block.

You can see some of the ideas I planned the the first time around in eighth grade  for our oldest child.  You can see how I planned high school American History between eighth and ninth grade in order to earn a high school credit in American History (this is something that would happen in homeschooling, not a Waldorf School setting). You can see my post about Eighth Grade Chemistry here, and  I went through each week of eighth grade beginning here, with weeks one and two.

So, my tentative –  totally subject to change-  plans right now include:

August and September – Physics and Meteorology

October – Oceanography

November – Short Stories

December – Short Stories

January – Revolutions

February – Two weeks of aerodynamics;  American History

March – American History

April/ May -Energy,  Carbon, Climate, and the Environment (my own invented block)

Each of these blocks will work closely on academic skills.  I am not doing the typical eighth grade Chemistry block which focuses on the human body or cooking and fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, we are not doing the typical Physiology block either, and we  will do Shakespeare in High School.  We will be doing World Geography one day a week and go through all regions of the world, including the typical eighth grade geography block countries.

My main idea for the week’s rhythm is to bring four days of being together as this student will have an outside academic math class one day a week.  Three days will be main lesson work, and one day will be geography.  We will do math daily together and a lot of math investigation as a family.

I would love to hear what you are planning! Have you started planning your block rotations yet?

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

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5 Steps For Raising Children To Have An In-Depth Life

In this day and age, it seems as if sometimes the most intimate and horrific things can be reduced to an emoticon.  There are not enough emoticons in the world for tragedy, outrage, and horror. And, in cases of serious challenges with rights and wrongs on both sides, there is no clear button to push on social media to express the grey.  So, instead of raising our children in an environment that expects easy and shallow answers to life’s grey questions, let’s raise them to become deep and intimate beings with capacities for willing, feeling, and thinking.

Keep your children close.  Not to micromanage, not to hover, but to be present and attentive to what the true deep needs of children are.  All children have little wants that they think are needs, but it is our job as parents to figure out what is it that this child truly and deeply needs. And we can only do that if we are paying attention over a long course of many years.    We learn to read this child through all their changes, just as when we live in one place we learn to read the signs of each season in the sky and land.  Attention leads to depth in relationships and the first ability of the child to empathize with another human being.

Keep your children outside.   Connection with nature is the foundation of emotional and mental stability, the foundation of academic greatness in many subjects due to developing keen observation skills for minute changes, but it also becomes a time when a child can learn to be with themselves. Only when we can rest peacefully in ourselves (and perhaps in  the things that are bigger than us)  can we truly have deep intimacy with others and the challenges confronting humanity.

Keep your children off of social media as long as possible.  Social media devalues things to a click, an emoticon, a passing by glance.  As much as I enjoy social media for myself, I also didn’t grow up with it and become a rich thinker through debates on all kinds of issues right at our dinner table.   Encourage reading, dinner time discussion every night, and meaningful conversations with real people.

Keep your children with great role models.  Of course, be the best role model that you can be, but I think it does take a village to help raise children,  especially as a child grows.  We never know what other teacher, what neighbor, what other adult at a place of worship or in an activity that a child loves that might spark a light in our child’s soul. Sometimes it is something that seems so small to us that makes such a big impression on them.  Build up great relationships between your children and the mentors, neighbors, or extended family they love.  I know in this day and age, where coaches are not trustworthy, neighbors are not what they seem,  etc. that this can seem scary.  However, I think it is worth the effort to find the adults you love and that your children really can be guided by.  Different seasons may need different role models outside of the family, but it is worth persuing.

Keep your children even in their relationships.  As children age into the middle grades, and early high school years, it is easy for friendships and crushes to come and go. Help your child sort out their  capabilities for emotional intelligence, how they treat people fairly, how sometimes old friends are actually the best friends, what to do when friends hurt them, how to react to conflict, how to be assertive and set boundaries and more.  This is another thing that seems simple, but if you do not have time due to outside pressures of your own, you will not be present to help your child navigate this piece of life that is becoming more and more important in today’s world.

Slow down, and embrace being unbusy.  Children are in your home for 18 years usually. It is a long time, but also short.  If you don’t slow down, you might just miss it.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

planning + Waldorf + simple

 

So, I have homeschooled quite a long time – from Kindy second year to tenth grade this year that is 11 years.  And in doing this, I have found that some years were just simpler than others. We aren’t a Waldorf School at home, we don’t have a staff, and we have real life things to attend to – meals, housework, perhaps outside activities with older children.  And in a year of overwhelm, we also have divided energies.  The very real and hard thing about Waldorf homeschooling is it often isn’t possible for a student to progress super independently in main lesson book work.  Students need, and deserve input of their homeschooling teachers, just like all students do.  This isn’t like passing off a textbook and workbook and assigning problems.

So, in an great effort to keep thing as simple as possible, let me share with you some ways Waldorf veteran homeschoolers plan.  It IS different than a Waldorf School, and that is okay.

  1.  Health and family relationships take priority.  So this might mean we get to one less block a year than a school setting.  It may mean our school year looks longer, or shorter.  So long as we are in compliance with the homeschool laws of our state or province, we are doing okay.  But homeschooling first and foremost is about sustainability.
  2. We combine ages for main lessons.  I don’t advise anyone to teach more than three main lesson periods a day.  It is exhausting!   If you have six or more children, you might have four main lesson periods, but I would look for ways to combine, rotate days for some children, and school mostly year-round to fit in blocks for everyone.
  3. We put most everything in the main lesson period we are having with a child or children.  Some people do put handwork separate, and some families have only one to two children and they can do a lot of “separate” periods for painting or handwork or cooking or whathave you.  Most of us who have older children and multiple children must economize and make these things part of the artistic or practical response to a main lesson.
  4. We find many resources at the library.  Yes, there will often be need for some specific Waldorf resources, but I find the longer people Waldorf homeschool, the more they are not afraid to take resources from any stream and they can make it Waldorf.  Waldorf Education is a living and breathing entity specific to the child in front of us and to the specific geographic place where we live.  We follow the curriculum of the school setting, and honor the major impulses of experience before head thinking, sleep as an educational aid and more, but again, we are not and cannot be a school at home.
  5. Rhythm is key.  It takes a lot of energy to hold Waldorf main lessons; holding that space takes a lot, and we need to make sure as homeschooling parents we have time for OURSELVES.  This is also a key to sustainability over the years.
  6. We are committed to this.  The Waldorf homeschooling market is TINY.  You won’t find Waldorf materials at state homeschooling conferences.  You won’t find a lot of us around even to have community.  Many Waldorf homeschoolers have never seen a Waldorf School in real life.  We need to be patient with ourselves as we learn.

When I think about simple, I also try to think beyond the big picture and see how this will in reality, flow every day.  I wrote a post a little while back that had a little planning form for homeschooling parents to use.  It had two main lesson periods on it and more.  Here are some more ideas for putting together rhythms.

Ideas for rhythm #1:  (Two  Main lessons)

  • Family Breakfast/Chores
  • Circle Time for those under 9 or Warm Up time for the entire family
  • Math warm up for the whole family or divided by level (Personally, I think grades 1-5 could go together and grades 6-9 could go together).
  • Main Lesson Period #1 (what will other children be doing?)
  • Walk, play or tea break or Lunch if you start later in the day.
  • Main Lesson Period #2 (what will the other children be doing?)
  • Walk, play, or tea break or Lunch
  • Practical Activities ( could include music as a family, handwork, crafts, baking, gardening)
  • Free Reading or Reading Aloud
  • End of School Day

Ideas for Rhythm #2: (Two Main Lessons)

  • Family Breakfast/Chores
  • Music Practice or Movement
  • Main Lesson #1
  • Practice Period for handwriting, math, or individual music practice
  • Tea or Lunch
  • Main Lesson #2
  • Handwork

Ideas for Rhythm #3: (Kindy plus 3 Main Lessons)

  • Family Breakfast/Chores
  • Circle Time with littles/Kindergarten story
  • Main Lesson #1 (includes movement and art)
  • Main Lesson #2 (includes movement and art)
  • Lunch
  • Main Lesson #3 (rotate so not every day has three main lessons, on the off day put in kindergarten practical work)

Ideas for Rhythm #4:  (Three  Main Lessons, Grades)

  • Family Breakfast/Chores
  • Main Lesson #1
  • Tea
  • Main Lesson #2
  • Movement, Cooking, Practical Arts
  • Lunch
  • Main Lesson #3 – some days have this be an extra practice period for math or language arts

The ideas are infinite!  Please share with me your favorite rhythm for the grades that has worked well and is relatively simple!

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

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,
Carrie

 

 

 

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!

Blessings,
Carrie

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,

Carrie

Insecure

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.

Peace,

Carrie