I am so glad you asked! Ninth Grade is such an exciting year – and for Waldorf homeschoolers, it can be a scary one, as there are less resources than the early grades to be sure.
I started by studying all the course descriptions for any Waldorf high school I could find, including the Waldorf Schools in Australia and by reading Steiner’s lectures in “Education for Adolescents” and other Waldorf literature geared toward adolescent development. Looking at the websites of the schools was helpful in pointing out regional differences and differences between countries. There are a few high school level Waldorf books by subject. Many of these are mainly “colloquiums” that discuss an overall approach to each grade and have a few pages devoted to each high school grade for different subjects. While helpful and a good start with ideas of how to approach a subject, it is definitely not enough detail to provide full lesson block plans. Remember, these subjects in a Waldorf High School would be taught by specialists and everything would come together in a beautiful culmination in twelfth grade from a journey started in the first grade.
So, I think the largest thing is to seriously THINK about the development of the ninth grader, and more specifically to observe WHERE your ninth grader is. So with ninth graders, age fifteen or almost fifteen in a typical Waldorf School setting, I start to think of the following things:
- In a school setting, there is excitement, fear, anxiety. Girls tend to talk about it with friends, boys may hold it in. Boys may enjoy doing more things “shoulder to shoulder” and then talk – ie, fishing, working, bicycle riding, car rides where they can talk and not have to look someone in the eye. What does this look like at home?
- This is an early stage of adolescence.
- Separation often occurs – the adolescent may fantasize having a new family, a new school, having adventures
- They may not distinguish fantasy from reality too well (believe it or not!).
- Growing independence expressed in clothing, gestures, attitude, behavior…Through thinking they can begin to awaken to this new consciousness. Left alone, they are confused, or may be passive or aggressive or withdrawn.
- They have very little tolerance for hypocrisy or inconsistency. Rules that apply to everyone matter.
- They are hypersensitive to how they are treated, but often do not treat others well. They have to learn how to consciously relate to others.
- They must learn to focus on others
- Have a strong will but it is unorganized and often not aligned with what their actual values are.
- Ninth graders are black and white, very concrete; still can’t think much beyond the first step to the next step. The polarities of ninth grade help them get grounded – comedy and tragedy; heat and cold in thermodynamics. Art history fits in well, including looking at indigenous culture, because it shows how standards of beauty change and counteracts the images of our society of materialistic and superficial beauty.
- Fifteen year olds can also only hear themselves in conversation, and can only hear their own opinion. They must be taught to LISTEN to what someone else is saying and how to LISTEN without judgment and how to form personal opinions after listening to different opinions.
- Fifteen year olds start to be interested in philosophy, the argument itself, philosophical questions – although it can be hard for them to focus for long.
As homeschoolers, besides development, we also have to think seriously about high school credits and college,( if that is the track that your student is on) , and also about the interests of our student. Our ninth grader is interested in medicine, so that will influence science and math courses. For those worried about awarding credits and what that entails, in the United States this can be done by looking at what your state university system requires in terms of credit, and perhaps also thinking ahead as to if you think your child will use dual enrollment at all.
So this year, I have three “track” (all – year long) classes: Algebra I, which I farmed out to a local hybrid school; High School Spanish II which our student is doing through Oak Meadow; and Living Biology, which I put together myself and which will run all year. This is very different than a Waldorf School that runs biology, physics, chemistry and earth science each year for all four years in blocks. I chose to do a one year course in biology because I felt this would give us the most intensive number of hours for a lab course and give us a year to freely explore what we want in depth for a child who is interested in medicine. So, I made this course up myself by combining mainstream and Waldorf resources and included many labs. The artistic end of this course will focus on sculpture and printmaking.
In order to do those three track classes, I felt I had to cut down on the number of blocks we were going to do. So I left out physics and organic chemistry. Revolutions will make the cut if we have time at the end of the school year. If we did do a Revolutions block, we would cover mainly the Mexican Revolution and Simon Bolivar in comparison and contrast to other revolutions we have studied, ( I do have it planned out) so hopefully we will have time for a short two to three week block but we shall see. The blocks we are going to do this year, for this particular child, include:
Native American and Colonial History, which will complete a credit in American History from what we covered in eighth grade. I am excited about this block as it will include basketry, soapstone carving, and Native American beading along with a study of Last of the Mohicans and early American poetry through Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley. Our study will include the archaeology and history of the Native American tribes in our state from pre-history through European contact – so this will naturally look through time, and the geography of our state in great detail. We will look closely at the early Colonial History of our state, the state of Native Americans before the Revolutionary War erupted, and the Trail of Tears. Then we will expand our focus from our state to look at the colonies and English expansion, the House of Burgesses, the tobacco colonies and religion shaped the colonies, compare and contrast New York City and Boston, the Southern Colonies. A look at the political cartoons of the time and American music will be a large part of the last part of this block. We will go through the events of the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Library of Congress has great teaching plans based upon primary documents, so I suggest if you are looking for guidance on a block such as this to look there. We also have a number of experiential learning sessions planned through our National and State Parks. I anticipate this will be about a five week block, and the experiential part of it will extend throughout the school year.
Literature and Composition will be done in several blocks plus studying several other works during other blocks during the year (see above in Native American and Colonial History). Our main works will cover Comedy and Tragedy, Poetry and the Novel, and Short Stories. I highly recommend the Christopherus booklet for this block, which covers Sophocles’ Electra, the Noh (Japanese) drama The Damask Drum, Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night, Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of An Author, and Raisin in the Sun, which gives us a chance to talk about Langston Hughes, the Harlem Renaissance, and more. Our work after this will focus on some of the works in Oak Meadow’s high school syllabus. I chose The House of Light, The House of the Scorpion, Kidnapped, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and then my own picks which included The Old Man and the Sea, and several short stories including Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Gogol’s The Overcoat, The Gift of the Magi, and Steinbeck’s Flight. Hopefully we can get through it all! If we get behind, I will stop my list with Oak Meadow’s picks and not include my picks, so I will see how far we get. Each block will be about four weeks long, but we will have to continue doing some literaturea and composition work weekly as well.
Earth Science involves picking up themes from eighth grade and looking mainly at seismology, the history of earthquakes in our state and in the world, the use of triangulation to detect earthquake waves, the rock cycle and mapping plate tectonics, volcanoes (andesitic eruption and alkaline basaltic volcanoes), subduction zones and life around the oceanic trenches. I hope to continue the study of earth science across all grades of high school to garner a full credit. There is a Waldorf resource for Earth Science. I anticipate this block to be about two and a half weeks long.
Art History I and Art History II. Block One will look at Neolithic painting, sculpture and architecture with particular attention to Africa – the cave paintings at Blombos and Namibia; Mesopotamian Art, and a comparison of Egyptian Art to Chinese Art; Jade Cong, Hellenistic Art, the MesoAmerican Olmec Heads, Roman Art, and Japanese Art (hanging scrolls will be our main focus). From there we will look at Byzantine Art and Islamic Art, manuscript of the Middle Ages, the art of Benin. We will end the first block with a look at Durer. In Block II, we will look at the Northern Renaissance with Rembrandt, Roccoco style, and then get into Modern material. Goya, Romanticism and Realism in American Art (Cole and Homer; Whistler), Impressionism will come next. Then a peek at the history of women in art and women artists. Picasso, Latin American Modernism in Kahlo and Rivera, the American Art scene leading up to WWII, the New York School, and lastly global contemporary art. One of the last questions I want to tackle is the accessibility of art. We have amazing art at our airport, of all places, and my favorite is a permanent exhibition of sculptors from Zimbabwe so I would like to end with those amazing works. I think this combined with foundational drawing and sketching skills over the school year and field trips to museums will lead to a full credit in Studio Art and Art History. There are several books that have compiled Steiner’s lectures on Art as a spiritual impulse and Art History available to help you. I think all of this material will take at least 8 weeks and I will combine it with ideas from Oak Meadow’s Drawing and Design course to have a sort of Foundational Art Studio/Art History kind of course.
Our music credit will come from our church, which includes performance and music theory through the Royal Church School of Music program.
Life Skills/Health/PE – this will be run during all four years of high school . I am putting together a binder of articles and a list of books right now. This year, I am looking a lot at awareness and conscious communication, listening skills. Betty Staley has a book entitled, “Creating A Culture of Awareness” that is based upon a school setting but still has ideas appropriate for homeschoolers.
Farm Life/Wilderness Skills/Gardening – we have a strong relationship with a farm through horseback riding that happens to also have other farm animals; I am hunting for a local wilderness skills kind of course or summer experience. Kroka is always on my list! If only! We will also be doing camping, of course, and some backpacking. These are important experiences but I probably will not award any credit for it per se. We also are looking to gardening and herbal experiences.
At any rate, it has been interesting planning and researching. I am off to do some work on Grade One, which I am finding difficult to get back into after doing all of this more heady work.
I would love to hear what you are working on,