How Is Planning Going For First Grade?

(Just a brief and gentle reminder, this post is copyrighted.  The posts on the Early Years and Early Grades seem the most likely to end up in other people’s work uncredited (and being sold for a profit!)   If you want to use something from this post in a public way, PLEASE link to it or credit my work in some way.  Please do not write a curriculum and use my ideas. Many of us with experience are becoming  reluctant to share due to this, and it hurts the homeschooling community. Food for thought).

I am so glad you asked!  It is going very, very slowly.  Between planning high school biology as a year long course, our ninth grade blocks, and our sixth grade blocks, which I did a lot of work on and re-did them all from scratch (this is  our second time through sixth grade)…well, first grade is coming along slowly, even though it is my third time going through it.  It is hard to get back into gnome and fairy land after planning high school, and also to juggle between high school, middle school, and first grade.  It is a situation unique to Waldorf homeschooling families and very different than a teacher in a Waldorf School setting. At any rate, this is what I have so far:

My block layout and a general structure for the day and week.  This essentially includes jumping rope, hand clapping or rhythmic games or skipping for more movement,  something from my favorite Movement for Childhood (see the article “Classroom Activities to Support Learning Readiness” on their website), our Opening Verse, a  seasonal Circle that is fairly paired down, some active math, and then our Review/Main Lesson Material.  Depending upon the day of the week, I have also  assigned my two helpers to do something with our first grader – usually this is cooking (August we will be working with peaches) or knitting ( I plan to use the story of Captain Tinker knitting a scarf for Jenny the Cat, for those of you who are familiar with the Cat Club books) , math and language arts games,  or painting, drawing, or modeling that  I want to do outside of our Main Lesson work.  I also always have several options for movement breaks on hand that I can pull out when we need a minute to get re-focused in our work.

A lovely 3 week block of Form Drawing.  I made up a container story involving a farmer, a little boy who loves to be up in the trees, a turtle who lays a golden egg, a giant,   and a journey to a kingdom.  It is actually not a very complicated story, but it encompasses a lot of movement and  many line and curve forms, and also introduces counting  as the different characters go over things on their journey.  This should be a fun one to set up with little wooden figures, silks, river stones, and sand.

Our second block is also a three week block and will involve our qualities of numbers.  This block will include the same general structure I detailed above, but I will also introduce the pentatonic flute in this block with a story along with continuing many rhythmic activities .  For our actual  Main Lesson, I took the story, “Robert’s Harvest Loaf”  from the back of the book “All Year Round” and extended it and added more characters to make it into a story about the qualities of numbers 1-8.   After number 8, I am using individual stories for the numbers 9-12.  I am spending a lot of time in this block on developing rhythm in different ways, to really imprint that in the body as I feel this is a large key to learning mathematics in the early grades,  and in forming spacial relationships of these numbers in relation to the circle.  So we are using many active math techniques and games and a lot of bodily movement.  This will also be our time leading up to Michaelmas, so we have some seasonal preparations to do.  We will be cooking with apples this month and going apple picking, and tent camping as well.

I am sitting down today to write our third block, our Introduction to Letters.  For this block, I am envisioning a lot of fingerplays, and  fun with sounds and rhymes.  I plan to make a story off of  Dorothy Harrer’s story, “The Prince Who Could Not Read.”  I am envisioning expanding it ( a lot)  and weaving fairy tales into it to include the letters  B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P and W.  Our next block will cover the other letters and the vowels.

Our fourth block will be our second math block, and I am planning on introducing the four processes through bears.  Not gnomes, but bears. :)  Black bears live in our state and in fact  we had one in our neighborhood this summer.  Bears can  climb trees and swim, they can live in hollow trees or elsewhere and eat a variety of things that lend itself to math processes (berries, fruit, acorns, grasses, insects).  I think this will be a great block full of fun and being outside, along with more camping.  This block should write itself fairly quickly.

Our fifth block will be in December, and this will be a nature block and preparing for the holidays.  We will most likely do nature walks and hikes, crafts for the holiday and for winter, animal stories of the animals in our areas, and possibly look at making a calendar, which is suggested in the First Grade Christopherus Syllabus (I have a syllabus from 2005, so not sure if that has changed over the years!).

So that is what I have so far.

I would love to hear how your planning is coming along,

Carrie

 

How Is Planning Going For Ninth Grade?

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,

Blessings,

Carrie

The Heart Behind Rhythm

 

It is indeed a grievous feature of present-day life that when man meets man there is no understanding between them.” (Rudolf Steiner, 1924, p. 91 – The Roots of Education)

As the new school year is dawning, and I am thinking about how to fit in “track classes” (ones that run all year) and  subjects taught in blocks for our ninth grader, plus two other grades, rhythm is at the forefront of my mind.  But it really isn’t an intellectual function, a head function,  to look at rhythm, is it?   It is a function of the heart and being able to breathe. The breath is something mentioned in Waldorf Education  over and over again. Our physical breath comes from movement, but perhaps it is safe to say that the breathing of our soul forces come from rhythm and the balance that rhythm brings.

It is a function of our love and our kindness toward our families to have unhurried time, unrushed time and to be able to give our children the gift of long periods of time at home in which they can sink into play and rest and dreams.  The most fundamental deep place where rhythm comes from is the cosmos inside of us, and from love and kindness.  This post from Cedar Ring Mama in 2012 has stayed with me for some time. If you haven’t read it recently, you can find it  here.

In a world where we cannot seem to connect to the understanding of each other and humanity of us all, rhythm is a good place to nourish health for our children who will be leading and hopefully changing the world for the better one day soon.  We must begin with the health of these children in mind.  We encourage the base of indepedent thinking through experience when we give time in our rhythm.  We see the humanity of all mankind inside ourselves.

So, I can tell you about how I make a little chart with the 12 months on it and ideas for festivals, or how I choose subjects for blocks and look at the development of my child and where those blocks fit.  I can talk about how to plan blocks and make individual lessons breathe.  I can even tell you how I fit all the things my children need in a school year for learning into each day.  That is important in homeschooling.  But, if I don’t think about the overall rhythm to my family and how homeschooling is a part of this bigger picture of family love and kindness and healthy development, I have not led with my heart.

Kindness and love, the things that happen in unhurried time, is what matters in parenting and in homeschooling.  May all of our values be protected in promoting and encouraging our children to just be and to take time.  May they see and find the cosmos and the unity of humanity within themselves this school year so that we may all understand each other in love.

Blessings,
Carrie

How Is Sixth Grade Planning Coming Along?

(Just a brief and gentle reminder, this post is copyrighted.  If you want to use something from this post in a public way, PLEASE link to it or credit my work in some way.  There have been a lot of moms on Facebook and in Yahoo groups asking for plans for Main Lessons for these upper grades, but yet many of us with experience are reluctatant to share in any truly organized fashion as it becomes fodder that someone else’s uses and charges in their own work without any attribution for the original work.  Just a thought!)

Grades sixth through eight are my favorite grades to teach, so I wanted to share some of our plans as we foray as a family into our second time in sixth grade.  Here are a few of my notes by block:

We are starting the year with Astronomy.  As part of this block we are looking at how the First Peoples of the Americas saw various cosmic phenomenon, how we recognize the cosmos and earth inside of our own bodies, how to understand the rising and setting of the sun in relation to the axis of the earth, the affects of the moon on the earth, the circumpolar stars, comets, meteors, the planets in our solar system,  our solar address in the universe, and some biographies of great astronomers.   We will be working on memorizing about 70 lines of poetry this block, writing from diction, reviewing the metric system as well as an introduction to scientific notation along with wet felting, drawing with pastels and pencils and crayon resists and painting. (3 weeks)

Next we are going to move into the earthly realm and study Mineralogy.  For this block we will be learning poetry, expressing linear equations graphically, and reviewing the geographic zones of our state.  We will be looking at the layers of the earth and an introduction to plate tectonics and the types of movement of plates, and how our state’s landscape was shaped, which was mainly through erosion and a network of streams that cross our state.  We will be looking at mountain building and the four types of mountains, volcanoes, types of rocks and the rock cycle and the types of rocks found in the geographic regions in our states. We have a lot of granite and monadnocks in our state, so that is a special type of rock for us to focus on, along with kaolin.  Our state is the leading producer of kaolin in the United States.  We will look at a walk through time and  fossils, but the fossils of our state especially.  Lastly, we look at coal and oil and a discussion on fracking and sustainable resources. So many wonderful projects and field trips are in this block!  (4 weeks)

In European Geography,  the geography necessary to understand Roman History will be introduced  and more European geography will be worked into Roman and Medieval History.  In the stand-alone portion of European Geography, I  will introduce the European continent, the regions of Europe, and tie back into our Ancient Civilization studies by looking briefly at the Ancient River civilizations along the Danube River. I choose this river because it greatly influenced the Roman Empire and because I wanted to tie back into Ancient Studies.  I want to talk about the very first peoples of Europe of the Varna area (modern day Bulgaria) and then trace the Danube.  Then we will move into the geography of Italy.  In the course of our history studies, we will look at the other parts of Europe and European geography as well.  I hope to focus on modeling during this block. (2 weeks)

In Roman History, my plan is to begin with an introduction to the three phases of the Roman Empire.  When we move into Rome as a Republic, we will see how Rome was organized similarily to the way the United States is organized, the growth of the Roman Army, the plebeians and patricians, the slave trade, the making of Roman law,  and a soldier’s life and the Roman fort.  Then we will move into Carthage and the story of Hannibal, the battles against Greece, the ideals of Roman citizens, slave uprisings, especially Spartacus, the rise of Julius Caesar and his assassination, Caesar Augustus,  Mark Anthony and Cleopatra.  The last part of our block will be the life of Jesus of Nazareth, His miracles and  parables about the Kingdom of God, the historic Jesus, the Ancient Church and Paul the Apostle along with the symbols of early Christianity, and the decline of the Roman Empire, Emperor Constantine and the first of the desert hermits.  Our last week will look at a comparison of the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty in China – the origins of the Han Dynasty, the acheivements of the Han Dynasty, the Sack of Chan’gan, the decline of the Dynasty and its legacy.  This continues our study of China from Fifth Grade.  The Empire of Askum, the Queen of Sheba, and King Ezana will end our block.  One of the main features of this block outside of the artistic work (mainly charcoal drawing, black and white drawing, mosaics and clay) will be training like a Roman soldier, complete with Roman marches and other forms of Roman training, and making and playing Roman games and writing compositions and more dictation.  (6 weeks)

In Medieval History, we will begin with the Byzantine Empire, iconoclasm, Byzantine society and move into Gregory the Great.  I will start to paint a picture of how life in Western Europe became isolated as roads and cities decayed.  Feudalism and monasteries will play a large role in this block,the code of chivalry, the castle, the role of women and children and the peasant and the life at a manor will all be investigated.  We will also look at what is happening in the Americas during this time with the Ancient Puebolans of the United States, and the Maya. The Maya will be studied more in-depth in seventh grade, but I felt it good to introduce here.  Then we will move into an entire week of study on not just Muhammed, but Islam itself, complete with Islamic Geometry, Islamic poetry, and the achievements made in this time period as the scholars of the Muslim world improved upon the knowlege of Ancient Babylon, Greece, Rome, Persia, India and Egypt – especially in optics and the life of Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (which also ties in well to physics).    Charlemagne, the Vikings, William the Conqueror, Eleanor of Aquitaine,  King Richard the Lionheart and Saladdin will be studied. Lastly, we will end with the story of St. Francis of Assisi. I have notes for the Kingdom of Zimbabwe the Mali Empire, Sundiata and Mansa Musa, the Songhai Empire, and the gold for salt trade,  but if we get behind I normally do a very extensive block on Africa in seventh grade and could integrate those notes there.  If we have time, I would also  love to spend a week on Feudal Japan. The structure of Japanese Medieval Society and the Samurai, the growth of Zen Buddhism, would all be wonderful for this grade, along with a study of the haiku and Basho the poet.   I have this planned out, but will have to see how far we get.  (8 weeks total; I may split out Medieval Africa and Japan)

In Business Math, I am planning to use this block to brush up on decimals, work on percentages and look at how we start to use formulas in preparation for our algebra block in Seventh Grade, this history of money and different systems of money and how they were used historically.  We are going to look at American money and also the buffalo nickel as a piece of American history and American art.  We will look at how we earn money, how taxes work, how banks work.  We will work with budgets, tips, commissions, and calculating simple and compound interest.  We will end with the ideas surrounding philanthropy and investment.   We will be painting and drawing during this block, along with some field trips and large scale charts to keep track of things we discuss (3 weeks).  In Geometry, which I hope to run in weekly lessons instead of one long block, we will focus on Islamic geometric forms along with forms from nature.

Physics will encompass acoustics, darkness and light, heat, and magnetism.  I have 3 weeks set aside for this block to encompass lab reports, main lesson book drawings, and experiments. This is one of my favorite blocks from the first time we went through sixth grade, and to me encompasses the qualities of development of this age, so I am looking forward to this.

Lastly, I want to finish with a zoology block. Torin Finser’s book “Towards Creative Teaching” had a small section that I am working off of for my little animal lover.  I am sure this block will be the highlight of the year, and I am still planning this. The number of weeks will depend upon how much time we have left in the school year, but hopefully we wil have 2-3 weeks to delve more into the animal world, which we will pick up again in our Africa and Latin American Geography blocks in seventh grade.

Can’t wait to hear your plans!

Blessings,
Carrie

The One Thing You Need In Order To Homeschool This New School Year

The beginning of the school year is coming.  Yes, I know for some of you it seems so far away, but some schools down here in the deep South have already started back this week.  However, most of the schools in my state start during the first two weeks of August.  We will be starting a bit later than that, but I know it is coming up fast and will be here before I know it.

One thing that I do to get ready for teaching a new schoolyear is to steel up my own spiritual work;  both the work focused on me and the spiritual work focused on my children for the school year.  When I am quiet and still I can observe- what is it that I really need?  What is it that the children really need and how can I help them?  How do I balance the needs of everyone in the family, including my own self-care? And most of all, with three children spanning grade 1-high school, how can I teach from a place of rest and a feeling of peace?

For me, the answer to this lies within my own spiritual work.  For years, I have seen families come and go from Waldorf homeschooling (and any other type of homeschooling methodology) – always searching for the answer in pedagogy and methodology, always searching for the next latest and greatest thing.  And,  (ironically), often grasping on to any and all posts containing the words “simple” or “minimalist” as they make their lives as complicated as possible searching the Internet and bouncing around from one thing to another.

The answer is NOT THERE.  The answer is within you.  And most of all, what is often crying out is a need for a connection to something larger than oneself, and a place of spiritual peace and rest that can only come from that connection.  This cannot be found in any book, curriculum, blog or Facebook group or by following someone else’s methods.  It can only be found by connecting to the Divine in whatever capacity that means for you.   This is something that sustains through all periods of life.  Life is often messy, especially if you have multiple children. My life will probably never be simple  with three children spanning large age gaps, but it can be restful and peaceful.

In past summers, I have begged parents to make it a summer parenting project to look carefully at their own spirituality so that beauty, wonder,  peace  and stability can be passed on to our children.  We cannot model what we ourselves are not actively doing.

So, to that end, my own spiritual preparation for the new school year begins with being immersed in God’s creation -sometimes in an active way that makes me feel alive and sometimes in a quiet way that makes me feel reflective.  It begins with reading the sacred texts of my traditions  daily and gathering with others in  a place where I feel connected to my Beloved Creator and  to others who are on this path.   We grow within a spiritual community.   It continues throughout the day in prayer and meditation and as I strive to be still, be watchful, and to align my thoughts with something higher than my own base reaction.   Rhythm is my ally in this endeavor, and keeping our homeschooling plans as uncomplicated as possible so we have “time affluence” – that time to just be in nature and space is the goal.  This is where the work begins.  And when I get lost during the school year and in the pulls of three very different children who have extremely different needs,  as I inevitably will, that is the work to which I will return.  May we all have a guiding compass to help us on our journey.  This is my wish for you this school year.

Blessings, love, and joy,
Carrie

A Guest Post: Main Lesson Structure

Main Lesson Structure – A Guest Post by Meredith Floyd-Preston from A Waldorf Journey

(Thanks so much to Meredith Floyd-Preston from A Waldorf Journey for sharing with us her thoughts about the structure of main lesson. Meredith is a long-time Waldorf teacher and the host of a brand new Waldorf podcast that you can find on her blog or on iTunes. Please make sure you check out the link at the bottom of the post for a free offer for Parenting Passageway readers. Thank you, dear Meredith, for being in this space today. – Carrie)

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, is often said to have indicated that all of the learning a child needs to experience in a day can happen in the first two hours of the morning. Anything outside of that precious, sacred two hour main lesson is bonus, enrichment content.

Now, I’m not sure how my subject teacher colleagues would feel about this statement, but for those of us who teach main lesson, it could bring a little anxiety and some big questions.

  • How can I make sure that I am making the most of those two hours every day?
  • What are all of the things that need to fit into that time block?
  • What activities and experiences will ensure that my students are primed and ready to receive and engage with my lessons?

I’ve spent my 10 years as a class teacher trying to answer these questions and I’ve come to a few conclusions about how to structure main lesson to make the most of it. Thanks to some great mentoring and a lot of trial and error experience, I feel like I’ve settled in on a rhythm that works really well for me and my students.

Here’s what it comes down to …

  • Warm Up and Wake Up
  • Review and Deepen
  • The New and Exciting Content
  • Write, Draw and Beautify Bookwork

Warm-Up

During the warm up, your task is to get your students ready to engage with the lesson that is to come. When they first begin the day, your students are facing many barriers to engaging with the lesson. If you teach at a school, your students are coming from different parts of town, houses, family dynamics and morning commute situations. One goal of the warm-up is get all of these different students coming from their varied circumstances all onboard the same ship, ready to set sail into the morning’s lesson.

There are many different ways to think about this warm-up, but it helps me to think about the 3-fold nature of the human being and the activities that will wake up my students’ heads, hearts and hands. Here are some examples.

  • Hands – rhythmic movement activities, relay races, jumprope, a morning walk, obstacle courses, outdoor play
  • Heart – social interaction time, singing, recorder-playing, poetry
  • Head – quick thinking work, mental math, memorization quizzes, times table work, beanbag parts of speech game

Review

Often the review comes in the form of a discussion about the previous day’s material. The idea of the review is to refresh the material from the day before to see how it has grown and changed in the students’ sleep life. You know those little epiphanies you have when you wake up in the morning after sleeping on something that happened the day before? That happens for your students, too. Coming back to the material from the day before is how you can make use of and solidify the ideas that came in the new content from the day before.

Most teachers look for ways to spice up this daily review so students don’t become tired of the idea of reliving content from the day before. Reviewing the content with dramatic reenactments, specific questions, pop quizzes, creative drawings, or poetry-writing are all ways you can make the review a little more interesting than just orally rehashing the story from the day before.

One other suggestion – I have found it useful to save a little nugget of new information to share during the review. I’ve noticed that when I casually mention some additional detail from the story that I didn’t share the day before, a little spark of interest lights up in my students and they’re much more engaged than they were before.

Though the traditional model positions the review right after the warm-up, many teachers are now experimenting with doing the review after the new content when possible. The idea here is that the new content is the part of the lesson that the students are most engaged and interested in. It is the reason they come to school and it is the part of the lesson that they most look forward to. If we can bring that to them earlier in our lesson we’ll have more engaged and interested students.

New Content

As mentioned above, from a certain perspective, the new content is what the lesson is all about. This is the curriculum material that you put your heart and soul into preparing and it is what your students most look forward to. In the lower grades it is often the story content that inspires the imagination of your students. In the upper grades it is the new thinking content that your students’ intellectual minds grapple with.

Whatever the age of your student, this content is a gift that is given directly from teacher to student, without the interference of a textbook or other reference material. Take the time to learn the content and make it your own, so you can deliver it to your students in a living way.

Traditionally, the new content is delivered at the end of main lesson, and I can imagine this model working well in 1st or 2nd grade. But any older than that, I recommend bringing the new content as soon as it realistically makes sense. If the new material doesn’t need the lead-in of the review, you can even bring it right after the warm-up. There have certainly been times when my excitement about the new content has inspired me to bring it to my students right away

Bookwork

During the bookwork portion of the main lesson, the students take the material they have learned and put it into crystallized form. They bring the rich imaginative experience of the content into final physical form. In the upper grades, it can be a very satisfying experience to live into the content one more time in this very will-oriented way. Younger students appreciate the opportunity to engage with the content in a more tangible, active way.

I encourage you to think creatively about these four parts of the main lesson. With an understanding of the purpose behind each component, you can freely craft lessons that guide your students through the process best. You can imagine each component making up one half hour of your morning lesson, but use your powers of observation to determine if that structure makes sense for your students. Generally, younger students need a longer warm-up, older students need more new content time. Observe your students and plan accordingly.

I’m all about encouraging and empowering teachers and homeschooling parents to craft lessons that speak specifically to their own students. There is no secret sauce when it comes to Waldorf Education. As long as you understand child development and observe your students, you have everything you need to create your own lessons.

To help teachers and parents feel confident about planning their own curriculum, I have created a free 3-part video series about planning curriculum. To receive a link to the first free video, head over to my blog and subscribe using the form in sidebar. You’ll receive a link to the first video, as well as my Ultimate Guide to Chalkboard Drawing.

I hope these little videos, along with Carrie’s fantastic posts here at Parenting Passageway, can inspire you to create a Waldorf curriculum that is uniquely suited to your individual students.

About Meredith

Meredith Floyd-Preston is a mother of 3 teenagers and a trained and experienced Waldorf class teacher who blogs about her experience at A Waldorf Journey. Her new podcast A Waldorf Journey Podcast is a resource for supporting teachers and homeschooling parents with their teaching.

More About Planning Sixth Grade Roman and Medieval History

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.

Blessings,

Carrie