Sixth Grade Mineralogy

This is my second time through Sixth Grade Mineralogy, as it is popularly known in Waldorf Schools. Some Waldorf homeschooling parents want to take a bit broader view of mineralogy as well.  I think Waldorf Schools do traditionally include such things as an introduction to plate tectonics and  some include more about weather and such (see below), but many of these things are really expanded upon in eighth grade with Earth Science being taught through all four high school years.  You can see some Main Lesson Book pages from A Waldorf Journey

I like to do an introduction to plate tectonics in Sixth Grade Mineralogy, and put Oceanography, Atmosphere, and Weather/Climate in mainly Eighth Grade.  Water as a topic is something I would like to see worked into every grade in varying forms, and I think that is a possibility looking at the blocks in Waldorf Education.

The first time I did this block, I focused more on a movement from looking at the surface of the Earth through biomes and ecology, then what helps shape weather on the Earth and how that shapes the Earth’s surface, and then more into traditional rocks and minerals and ending with fossils and the record of time.  You can see a full, long post about this approach here.

This time around, different child, different year, I first and foremost did have the Earth Science Literacy Standards in my head because I was just at a conference.  These include nine “big ideas”:   the idea that Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet; that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and how the Solar System formed, the two types of Earth’s crust , the fossil record; that Earth is a complex system of interactions between rock, water, air, and life; that Earth is continuously changing; Earth is the water planet; that life evolves on a dynamic Earth; that we depend on the Earth for resources; that natural hazards do pose risks; and that human beings significantly alter the Earth.

So this time around, I started with the minerals around us – what minerals do we eat?  where are minerals in things we use every day?  From there I moved into :

  • What the Earth looks like from above; the layers of the Earth; an introduction to Plate Tectonics
  • Old versus new crust – subduction zones; how tectonic plates can move (introduction); the idea that continents collided, drifted apart, the oceans opened and closed – and how this happened in our own state.
  • Our state was mainly shaped by tectonic processes and erosion; review of our five distinct geographic regions;
  • Mountain building; types of mountains and what we have in our state; how plates moving determine the location of earthquakes and volcanoes; types of faults; tension/compression/shearing; using longitude and latitude to plot where volcanoes and earthquakes have been located;  contour maps
  • Igneous rocks- granite, basalt, andesite, obdisian, pumice. Look at the igneous rocks of our region of our state, and then at other regions in our state. I would suggest making volcanoes here.
  • Sedimentary Rock – sedimentary rock formation;  the most prime example in our state is that half of the world’s kaolin is in our Coastal Plain area; so we talked a lot about kaolin and how its uses, how it is processed; looked at sedimentary rocks in the rock game I have for our state. Limestone and caves; veil painting
  • Fossil record, walk back through time; what is a fossil and what is an index fossil; the eras of the Earth; what fossils do we have in our state and why; Mary Anning; Louis Leakey
  • Metamorphic Rock – ; the rock cycle including erosion and deposition (water, wind, glaciers); properties of minerals; how minerals form
  • Coal and Oil;  formation; the coal mining industry in our state; fracking; renewable energy; what our state is doing with renewable energy (which will be our next five paragraphy essay to write – we wrote one about Jupiter in our Astronomy block)

Resources I used:

  • I mentioned my two favorite ones here – Roadside Geology of Georgia and the game for identifying rocks in my state; notes from the symposium session I just attended regarding botany and geology
  • Library books: Mary Anning biographies, Diving to a Deep-Sea Volcano by Mallory; we tried When The Earth Shakes by Winchester – very text heavy; Experiments with Rocks and Minerals by Hand; Outrageous Ores by Peterson; Volcano Rising by Rusch; DK Eyewitness books on Fossils and Oil
  • Salt by Kurlansky and Schindler
  • The Living Earth by Cloos (Waldorf resource); Geology and Astronomy by Kovacs (Waldorf resource)
  • All About Rocks and Minerals by White (old)
  • Rocks, Rivers and the Changing Earth:  A First Book About Geology by Schneider and Schneider
  • Explore Rocks and Minerals! by Brown and Brown
  • Different books about renewable energy:  Biomass:  Fueling Change by Walker; Generating Wind Power by Walker; Geothermal, Biomass, and Hydrogen by Ollhoff; Ocean, Tidal, and Wave Energy: Power From the Sea by Peppas; How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Bishop

Field Trips:

  • Limestone Caverns including Luray Caverns in Virginia and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky; Granite Museum
  • We missed both a tour of  one of the kaolin facility and the marble festival – they are both only open to the public once a year in our state.
  • There really isn’t anything much for fossils in our state but I might join our state’s mineral society because I hear if there is any to be found it is done through that society
  • Gem show
  • Viewing local streams and watersheds; looking for erosion
  • There are some places of geologic significance we have not yet seen in our state so maybe we will get to some of those in the spring.

Main Lesson Book/Projects:

  • So many projects you could do with this block!  Growing crystals and  basalt columns; making volcanoes and speleothems.
  • Clay modeling seemed so appropriate for this block!
  • Veil painting
  • The writing was intensive in our Astronomy block and our sixth grader cannot write that much two blocks in a row,  so this time we are going to use more of a main lesson book with foldouts, drawings and paintings and any brochures from places we visited in lieu of traditional drawing/summary tactics ( plus a report on renewable energy) that can be extended into the next block.

Many blessings,



High School American History

We are finishing up our last bit of bookwork for our high school American History course.  It took us eighth grade through the first part of ninth grade to finish this with a few more field trips to come in the next semester.  I approached this through a doing/presentation-artistic deepening-academic skills sort of rhythm and used many experiential things as our “doing” – from field trips to Junior Ranger programs to reading primary documents.

The way I approached American History in our Waldorf homeschooling was actually to place Colonial History and an extensive overview of the American Revolution through biographies at the very end of seventh grade.  It just made sense in the context of the Age of Exploration and what happened after that.  This did not count toward our high school credit, of course, but it helped lay the foundation for what was coming in Eighth Grade.  I can give details of what we covered in our seventh grade American history block if anyone is interested.

In Eighth Grade, I did two blocks of American History.  I also wove Hurricane Katrina, The Panama Canal, and the history of the Modern Middle East/American relationships into our World Geography, but I did not count those hours toward American history.  I just wanted those subjects covered and I liked putting them in World Geography.

In Eighth Grade we covered essentially the time of Lewis and Clark through the War on Terror and the Age of Digitality.  In Ninth Grade, we started at the beginning again once more from a Native American perspective and talked about time back to the land bridge, how do we think the Native Americans came to be in America, the history of Native Americans in the Southeast where we live, the struggles up through Colonial Times, and then moved into Thirteen Colonies, the precipitating events for the American Revolution and the  outcome.  We used MANY primary documents from this time period, from Colonial documents to political cartoons from this period to American songsheets and music from these times.  We took our time to analyze the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

Our American History was…. a lot.  I will try to detail what we did, projects, what we read, what went into our Main Lesson Books.

Experiential Learning:

Native American/Early Regional Historical Sites Visited:

  • Russell Cave National Monument Site –   Bridgeport, AL  Junior Ranger Program Badge Earned
  • Fort Matanzas National Monument –  St. Augustine, FL  Junior Ranger Program Badge Earned
  • Fort Castillo de San Marcos – St. Augustine, FL
  • Etowah Indian Mounds – Cartersville, GA

Searching for some terrific American Revolution sites in our state and South Carolina to travel to in the Spring.🙂

Civil War Historical Sites Visited:

  • Sweetwater Creek State Park/New Manchester Mill Ruins – Lithia Springs, GA
  • Manassas National  Battlefield Park – Mannasas, VA
  • Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield – Kennesaw, GA
  • Earned Junior Ranger Limited Edition Civil War Badge (2015)

Play:   “Freedom Train” -regarding the life of Harriet Tubman  – Atlanta, GA

  • Mammoth Cave National Park – Mammoth Cave, KY – Historic Tour/Black History of Mammoth Cave

Gilded Age Historical Sites Visited:

  • Biltmore Estate – Asheville, NC

Modern Historical Sites Visited:

  •  Jimmy Carter National Historic Site – Plains, GA Junior Ranger Badge Earned
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site – Atlanta, GA  Junior Ranger Badge Earned
  • On my list are our two museums of Jewish heritage and holocaust education and all of their programs as they tie into the local history  of our area, The Center for Human and Civil Rights, and the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.  Hopefully Spring!  There are so many places to go, and since I have younger students coming up, there will be many places to go and visit through the next four years.

Required Literature  List for Student for American History:

  • Poetry of Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley, which we analyzed
  • Last of the Mohicans – Cooper (ninth grade, difficult read for ninth grade.  Preview for your student).  Extensive analysis and vocabulary lists.
  • Sing Down the Moon – O’Dell
  • Sacajawea – Bruchac
  • Theodore Roosevelt – Benge and Benge
  • Freedom Train – Sterling
  • Across Five Aprils – Hunt.  Extensive analysis.
  • Elijah of Buxton – Curtis. An absolute favorite.
  • Profiles in Courage – Kennedy.
  • The Greatest Speeches of Ronald Reagan – Reagan – mainly skimmed and picked out speeches or phrases that typified Reagan.
  • The Audacity of Hope – Obama
  • Political Documents included primary resources from Library of Congress regarding Colonial life, maps of Colonial Boston and Philadelphia, analyzing documents regarding Colonial New York City, songsheets from Colonial and Revolutionary War Era, polictical cartoons from varying time periods, The Declaration of Independence, The US Constitution, The Bill of Rights.

Artistic Projects Completed:

  • Native American Basketry Project
  • Native American Beading Project
  • Early Colonial American Teapot
  • Portraits of American leaders in multimedia – pencil, collage, charcoal
  • Learned three songs from the American Revolutionary time period to perform
  • Mapmaking
  • Main Lesson book pages listed below

In our Main Lesson Books, Eighth Grade (note this doesn’t cover every thing we did or discussed in class, but just what we decided to put into the Main Lesson Book).

  • Beautiful Title Page
  • Portrait Thomas Jefferson
  • The Louisiana Purchase (map, summary)
  • Map of the Travels of Lewis and Clark
  • Summary, drawings of the Mexican-American War, Timeline of the Mexican-American War
  • Multi-media presentation of the North (mill) and the South (cotton fields) – one was watercolor painting, one was oil pastels
  • Causes of the Civil War (extensive summary)
  • Map of the Union and Confederate States and the Territories
  • Biographies of Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Robert E. Lee
  • Timeline of the Civil War
  • Summary of the Plains Indians War, the Indian Removal Act, multimedia portrait of Sitting Bull
  • Summary of the Gilded Age and a Map of the Biltmore Estate (an example of Gilded Age architecture)
  • World War I Summary (extensive)
  • Portrait of a flapper from the 1920s
  • Portraits of Franklin D. Roosevelt (and Winston Churchill as well) (we spent a lot of time on their biographies),  large page with a timeline of World War II, The Seeds of WWII, The Home Front, How the Allies Won WWII
  • Drawing and Summary of the Cold War – we studied Eisenhower extensively and included McCarthyism, the Korean War, the Day of Pigs invastion, the Cuban Missle Crisis, the Vietnam War in this summary, along with the fall of the Berlin War
  • The Speeches of Ronald Reagan – student used an excerpt of Reagan’s speech “A Shining City” and drawing
  • War on Terror, comic book strip style of events
  • Summary of The Digital Age – Coloseus Machine to ARPANET to the  WWW onward
  • Peacemakers – started with poem from Mattie JT Stepanek
  • Civil Right Timeline/Multimedia Collage tissue paper, drawing, cutouts of the saying of Martin Luther King Jr. “Love Will See You Through”

Ninth Grade Main Lesson Book Included:

  • Beautiful Title Page
  • The PaleoIndian Period (summary and drawing)
  • The Archaic Period  (summary)
  • The Woodland Period  (summary and drawing)
  • The Mississipian Period  (summary and drawing)
  • James Ogelthorpe and Chief Tomochichi (line drawing,  summary)
  • Letter to sibling extolling Colonial life, natural resources of chosen colonial city (we had compared and contrasted Colonial New York City, Colonial Boston, and the Southern Colonies  ( our daughter chose Boston as her pretend place of living during Colonial times)
  • Map of Boston during Colonial Times to go with letter to sibling
  • Events Leading to the Revolutionary War (summary)
  • Timeline of the Revolutionary War by year – so pages for 1774-75, 1776-1778, etc.  These had a large border with events listed inside the border and then a featured point of interest about those years in the middle of the page.
  • Analysis of The Declaration of Independence, The US Consitution, and The Bill of Rights

My hope is to keep extending the theme of America into our high school years in varying subjects and to especially look at Native American literature and literature and to keep referring to and analyzing political documents from history and to keep looking at current events.   So, I guess the learning never stops, but this was a good foundation.

Many blessings,



Scattered October

Every year, I tell myself that  I should  plan a fall break in October. And every  year, by May or June of every year, I totally forget this intention and don’t schedule it into our school year.

But October has a way of working it out without my help.  Because, October, you scatter us so.

Out into the cooler weather and into the sunshine to play, ride horses, be with the puppy , camp, and dream.

Out into the heating up of outside the home activities that our teenager so wants and needs.

Out into the golden yellows, reds, and browns of the leaves.

October, you scatter my brain.

This month I have felt so slow.  All the children are sleeping later.  We are all looking for play and sunshine due to the cooler weather.  We are looking to change up the routine.  And we are moving so slowly in our blocks that I pretty much decided to call a vacation last week.  I didn’t tell the children that in so many words, but I told MYSELF that so I wouldn’t feel “behind” (although the whole notion of “being behind” in homeschooling  is rather  ridiculous.  Slow and behind compared to what?!  You would think I would know this after so many years of doing this!) .  We are finishing our first block of ninth grade (although I only have five blocks planned for the whole year on top of our all year round classes); our sixth grader is in the midst of her second block; and our first grader is starting his third block this week.  Our teenager is also moving through Algebra I and Spanish II and Biology (we are finishing up cellular respiration right now and will move into cell reproduction soon!) pretty well.

Maybe, after all of these years of homeschooling,  I should realize that this is a  fairly normal pace for us.  Not all of us are speedy  homeschool families,  some of us are more snail- like and distracted by bright  shiny fun than others (!!), but I always remind myself that we are steady and we do keep learning. And every year, at the end of the year, I am always surprised by how much we material we really have covered, how much the children have grown, and how another school year has gone by and how all of it just keeps integrating and overlapping and circling around again.

This year, the scattering forces of October’s golden rays  has reminded me yet again, stitched into my brain yet again,  that we might sometimes be slow  but that we try so hard as a family to learn.  We love the diversity in our world and to have our children be lovers, encouragers, and hopefully action-takers in humanity.  Let’s just go slow, and deep, and steady, and have fun.

October, maybe you scatter us in all the right ways.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful, sparkly, golden Autumn.

Many blessings,


The Outdoor Learning Symposium

I am a member of the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia  and recently went to a day of workshops during The Outdoor Learning Symposium.  The workshops I attended were very interesting.

I went to one session that was held by a geologist and a biogeologist and talked about how we can use plants to identify the rocks beneath our feet.  Our state is very wooded and covered in plants.  Our capital city has the highest density of tree canopy coverage in the nation, so plants are an important intersection with Earth Science teaching in our state.  We essentially looked at the most common types of rocks found in our state by geographic region (which is taught in our state in the third grade, in Waldorf Schools we tend to teach this in fourth grade) and  then  what plants grew there due to the soil conditions.  We went through the prehistoric epochs to see WHY we have the types of rocks here that can be found, why our state is low in fossil finds, how Africa merged with North America and essentially took the part of the state that is now Atlanta, which was off the coast of Cape Hatteras and shoved it into where it was today.  Some of the rocks we went through included quartz and the plants associated with quartz, granite, amphibilate,  and limestone (and why our state only has marble in a certain place).   The best resources for this type of work include using indicator plants, using geologic maps, the web soil survey of the USDA. I bought a great geologic game for children. I already had the roadside geology guide for my state, and many other states are available.  This is the site for the Georgia book and geologic game that I use.  Earth Science Literacy standards were also addressed.  We received free pamphletswith the “Big Ideas” of Earth Science literacy.  For more information on this, you can see Earth Science Literacy.

I also went to sessions about Project WET and Project Learning Tree.  Project WET focuses on action-oriented education that helps children understand the value of water in the world. In that session, we played a variety of games, even including magic tricks, that focused on water.  They have a great curriculum that can be obtained by  taking a certification course that runs about 10 hours, but there are also a variety of free resources available as well.  There are other “sister” organizations in my state that work together, including Project WILD (wildlife focus) and Project Learning Tree (forestry).  All of these have separate certifications to be able to use their curriculum, but from what I saw it would be easy to incorporate many of these ideas and concepts into Waldorf Education.

The last session I attended was a Project Learning Tree session where we discussed forestry,  the role of trees in our state, and made paper.  It was a fun session.  For those of you looking for ideas regarding paper making, this book was there and it was fun to look through:  300 Ideas for Papermaking.  We had a great time making paper with all kinds of add-ins.

Lots of fun, and looking forward to the Annual Southeastern Environmental Education Conference and Research Symposium  next year!





The First Two Blocks of First Grade

We are finishing up our second block of first grade this week.  This is my third time teaching first grade, and I am discovering I have some set patterns about the way I go about  presenting the material that I thought might be of interest to other homeschooling parents starting out.  In teaching Waldorf First Grade, we know our material, we do our inner work, and we look at the child in front of us and ask for spiritual guidance as to what this child needs.

So, first of all, I like to schedule form drawing and qualities of numbers as the first two blocks before we get to our first letter block.  This gives me plenty of time to work with movement and rhythm, to really see developmentally where gross and fine motor skills are as we work.   I can see what skills and capacities are emerging as we go through singing and ( in our second block) with an introduction to pentatonic flute,  painting and modeling, form drawing,  and even cutting and pasting in the qualities of numbers block.  I can look at working memory and how the child is with bodily geography as we work with  verses and rhymes, fingerplays, songs, pentatonic flute, rhythm, and I get a general sense of temperment and how this child reacts to something new and uncharted.  It give me an idea of the level of joy and humor this child finds in his or her work.  In other words, it gives me A LOT of information about the child in front of me that I can use when we move into our letter block and into subsequent math blocks.

Form drawing is a block that is unique to Waldorf Education.  To me, this block (and all of First Grade and all of Waldorf education)  is about taking the capacities a child has and bringing them under conscious control.  It takes time, and it is not about perfecting the forms, but it is about self-awareness and following instructions and trying  and how that ties into memory, fine and gross motor skills, eye-hand coordination.  Our first block also included a lot things from Movement for Childhood, a seasonal circle with gestures,  lots of fingerplays and games that involved rhythm (great preparation for math – get rhythm in the body, in the feet, in the hands!).  We always paint on the first day  according to Rudolf Steiner’s indications and  we also paint a few more times in this block and do some modeling with beeswax and clay too (yup, clay.  Send out the Waldorf Police.  I like clay, although we also beeswax modeled every week as well, especially in the qualities of numbers block).   The modeling exercises are usually archetypal transformations from one thing to the another thing but our math block included numbers, transitioning forms from three sided things to “how many things with three sides do we need to make nine sides all together” – that sort of thing.

I also always include within our form drawing story opportunities for acting out different gestures with movement and rhythm – walking like a giant, walking tiny and fast, walking slow.  How many steps does it take to get to the door, the window, the kitchen?  These things start to move into mathematical thinking of estimating, counting, size differences.  We also work on rhythmically walking/jumping/hopping to include counting of ones, by twos, by threes, by fours, by fives.  We work on counting forward and backward.  Again, this is all done orally and  just as part of our form drawing story.  And,  of course we work on movement and forms in space and on paper!  We also knit, mainly because our son already knows how to knit with needles.  So off we go.

And I just keep observing.  What is hard, what is easy, what is needed, how is behavior with each activity – that gives one a lot of clues. And I think what do I need to do for this child?

Our second block  has been a quality of numbers block.  For the numbers 1-9, I  made a new container story based upon a greatly expanded version of  the story “Robert’s Harvest Loaf” from the back of the book, “All Year Round”.  For the numbers 10-12, I used individual stories.  This block also included things from Movement for Childhood, a seasonal circle with gestures, and lots of seasonal fingerplays and songs.  We have  been painting and  modeling as I mentioned above.  We have done so much rhythmical movement with counting, counting backward, skip counting, and even informal adding and subtracting (We have a math-oriented little guy who loves little oral games or games with nuts or jewels) We have done a lot of searching in nature for numbers and shapes, cutting and pasting of three and four sided figures (and multiples of these figures to make more sides all together!), making circles and arranging jewels or nuts on the circle to make stars for the number five and other number patterns, finding the star in our own body for the number five and moving in a circle together fast and slow and listening to each other’s feet so we can move together (remember, rhythm is math! patterns are math!).   We also did counting and sorting – I like to see how children move objects when they count (or do they? do they put them in groups at all? )  I looked to see if my student uses words like “more”, “less”, etc.  It is all playful, fun.  We laughed a lot.  And we did some writing of numbers and how to spell “one”, “two”, etc.,and modeling of the numbers with beeswax.  I also introduced more rhythmic musical games and pentatonic flute because I think math and rhythm go together.  And we keep knitting and cooking and carrying that Michaelic spirit throughout September and this month.

I think if  you approach these blocks with the purpose of gathering information about bodily rhythm, movement, gross and fine motor skills, you will walk away with a much fuller and rounder experience and picture for both you and your child.

Some children are more resistant than others.  I actually find this is usually the more phlegmatic children, but it can also  be children who have learning challenges.  In my experience, children with learning challenges also have incredible trouble with rhythmical movement and working memory, yes, even as early as the first and second blocks of first grade.  So, that could be something to keep an eye on if that is an area where your child struggles.  Yes, all children unfold in their own time, and some do not unfold until the nine year change,  and yes first and second grade are gentle, but some children really do have learning challenges that deserve to be addressed as well and it is important to not discount that.   Sometimes it is hard to tell if it is a later unfolding of capacities or if it really is a learning challenge, but I think observing with attentiveness is so paramount. What is this beautiful soul telling you?

I really am sharing this  all with you to say this is all first grade is!  You can do it!  It is not hard to do first grade – keep thinking movement and rhythm, gross and fine motor skills, strengthening the will and the memory.  I really don’t want people scared away by the “Waldorf” part of homeschooling – jump in and give it a try!  I hope it feels “do-able”!




Sixth Grade Astronomy

I never really wrote a separate post about our first time through astronomy – I think some things are mixed throughout the seventh grade posts.   Anyway, we ended up doing astronomy in seventh grade the first time around, and I remember feeling like I wished I had had more “naked eye observing” skills.  I remember I had Marsha Johnson’s block, I had looked at Live Education, I had some mainstream and Waldorf astronomy resources from Rudolf Steiner Bookstore..and it just didn’t really flow for me.  It was an “okay” block, but probably the least favorite block we had ever done, at least for me,  because it wasn’t really coming from my own knowledge and interest.  My student enjoyed it, but I felt like it was kind of flat.

So, I knew this second time around through the upper grades I wanted to put astronomy in sixth grade, not seventh, and treat the whole year with field trips and experiences that centered around this theme of polarity between heaven and earth with human beings as the intermediary.  We can reach for the stars, we can sink our roots into this time and place, and we can shine where we are.   It is about where we find our place and space in the world.  Such an incredible theme for sixth graders!

My first thought (gasp!) was to not do a block and just experience things, but one thing that I came up with in researching this idea of naked eye astronomy was not only how this ties in so well into Ancient Civilizations, which I knew, but into the First People of the Americas.  And you all know how much I love American stuff in the Waldorf homeschooling experience when I can fit it in.   This little video from rocket scientist  Dr. Maggie Aderin Pocock was helpful to me in seeing why I wanted to make this a block and present something from myself in addition to experiential learning and art.

I started researching.  There were some Native American Astronomy lesson plans that I found that helped me start to pinpoint resources and such.  The ones that were most helpful to me were:

  • Sharing The Skies: Navajo Astronomy A Cross-Cultural View by Maryboy and Begay
  • They Dance In The Sky:  Native American Star Myths by Monroe and Williamson
  • The Stars We Know:  Crow Indian Astronomy and Lifeways by McCleary
  • Her Seven Brothers by Goble (picture book)
  • Star Boy by Goble  (picture book)
  • Storm Maker’s Tipi by Goble (picture book)

Then I looked at Waldorf/Mainstream resources:

  • The best book I have found is this free one at Waldorf Library On-Line called An Introduction To A Study of the Stars by Mirbt
  • Sky Phenomena by Davidson (great source of poems too)
  • Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey
  • I see Meredith over at A Waldorf Journey has a brand NEW guide out –I will totally pick this up for future use and as we extend astronomy throughout this grade. Here is the link.
  • Geology and Astronomy by Kovacs (mainly for the spiritual perspective of the sun; ideas for biographies) (information often not detailed enough and not up to date)
  • I used Internet resources for various topics that I wanted to up-to date information, especially the NASA website and the NSTA website.
  • I wanted to include the metric system, which we had done in fifth grade.  As an introduction, I  used an article that was a bit old -September 1999 from CNN – I don’t have the headline, but I used it as an example of why we care about the metric system in the US . It was about how NASA lost a 125 million dollar Mars orbiter because one  team used English units of measurement whilst the other team used the metric system and the measurement systems didn’t coincide!
  • Astronomy Curriculum from Georgia Performance Standards (my state); the astronomy club in our metro area and their resources
  • Poems:  I used poems by Walter de la Mare, a North American Indian song, a poem by William Carlos William.
  • Books from the Library:  Seven Wonders of the Gas Giants and Their Moons by Miller; The Milky Way and Other Galaxies by Kopp; Our Solar System by Simon; The Sun and The Stars by Sparrow; Planet Earth: Continents, Oceans, Climate, Geography by Farndon; Jupiter and the Asteroids (World Book).


  • Annie Jump Cannon, Astronomer by Gerber
  • Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman, Astronomer
  • Three biographies about Benjamin Banneker
  • Will introduce the biographies of Galileo and other traditional astronomers , etc   but will go over them again next year in Seventh Grade (my first time through I did the traditional astronomers from the Renaissance/Age of Exploration and tied it into navigation)

Main Lesson Book Pages/Projects/ Field Trips:

First Time Through Astronomy: (Seventh Grade)

  • The Circumpolar Constellations (drawing and summary)
  • Orion the Hunter (drawing) and “Choose Something Like A Star” poem
  • Prince Henry the Navigator (charcoal drawing) and Summary
  • Longitude and Latitude
  • Latitude and The North Star (drawing and summary)
  • The Planets drawing and summary
  • Copernicus drawing and summary
  • Brahe and Kepler
  • Paintings of Terrestrial and Gaseous Planets
  • Projects included model of the solar system, marking out distances of solar system with objects outside
  • Field trips – several field trips to the planetarium
  • Opportunities for eye gazing

Second Time Through Astronomy:

  • Oil Pastel based off Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” for cover
  • The Native Americans and the Cosmos drawings and summary
  • The Earth and the Sun  drawings and summary
  • Equatorial Seasons  drawings and summary
  • The Moon (drawings, watercolor paintings, summary)
  • The Human Being and the Cosmos (drawing, summary)
  • The Planets
  • Our Solar System Address
  • Projects- model of the solar system, marking out distances of the solar system with objects outside, and this awesome kit from Etsy to “Stitch the Stars” by Heather Lins Home – here is the Etsy link.
  • Field Trips – we found a walk through the solar system that I had no idea even existed in my area the first time I went through astronomy (maybe there is one in your area?), planetarium, and I really would love to take a trip to one of those “night sky” parks.
  • Opportunities for star gazing

Academic Skills we worked on:

  • Metric System and an introduction to Scientific Notation
  • Writing paragraphs: organizing information to write, combining shorter sentences to make longer and more complex sentences,  using -ly words in writing, using words that invoke five senses.  We also have been working on grammar.
  • I assigned a five paragraph essay and that gave us a great opportunity to work on how to make great sentences and flowing paragraphs; using non-fiction sources.
  • Longitude and latitude, reading an atlas.

When our block ended, we will be reading these throughout the rest of the year:

  • Stories from the Stars:  Greek Myths of the Zodiac by Burke through the year
  • 365 Starry Nights:  An Introduction to Astronomy For Every Night of the Year by Raymo
  • Various Native American Star Myths

Our naked eye star gazing is really just beginning as October is the least cloudy month in the Southeast and one of  the best for stargazing.  We have moved into a mineralogy block, but will continue in any opportunities for astronomy as the year goes on.








Homeschooling Ninth Grade Biology: Part One

If you are interested in homeschooling high school biology, particularly if you are arriving here as a Waldorf homeschooling parent,  I would ask myself several questions:

  1. Do you want to run this as a “track” class (all year, the way it is run in public schools in the United States?) or do you want to continue to run the sciences in blocks such as done in the middle school grades?

2. Is ninth grade the right grade for this subject to run as a track class?

3. If it is, and we look at living biology in topics or units, what sense do the order of topics make coming from doing the middle school science grades from a Waldorf perspective?

4. What resources – non-Waldorf and Waldorf – are available to help me teach?

5. What experiential things are available to really make this subject come alive? How can we touch the heart and hands before jumping into the heady portion?

I am eight weeks into high school biology with our high schooler, and I think I would answer these questions the following way –

  1. Yes, I would run this as a track class.  I don’t think there is any way to run this in blocks throughout high school and garner enough hours (180 hours) to count as a high school science on a transcript as a homeschooler.
  2. Is ninth grade the right grade for this subject? The ninth grade year is the year of “what” so in one sense I think this is well for “what” since it is  life all around us – but some of the “why” I think gets a little lost on the ninth grader as well and will need to be re-visited in other grades.
  3. If we look at biology in units or topics, now that we are into it, I think it makes more sense to actually start with ecology and evolution and then move into the level of the cell and molecular biology.  I didn’t do it this way this year, and most traditional textbooks and high school biology courses start where we started with the cell,  but I want to try a different order next time.  It seems like a much more familiar place to start if one begins with ecology as opposed to the cellular level.
  4. What resources are available?  I will post a list by unit of what we used and liked (and didn’t like).  Part One is below.
  5. What experiential things are available?  We used 4H experiences and field trips, along with classes at our local zoo.  Depending upon where you live, I think this is an easy subject to find experiences that match with topics.   I think in high school we take the Waldorf method of presentation-artistic method-academic piece with revisiting and nuances on the new material to be inciting the hands and heart (so could be experiements, field trip with hands-on component, etc) with hands-on piece and academic piece with lots and lots and lots of review and at the school level, the student has to be able to take notes, read follow up materials,etc. in the homeschooling environment.

I started our year in the very traditional way of sort of an introduction to biology, the basic chemistry of biology, the working cell, cellular respiration and photosynthesis.  I wish I had started with ecology and then moved into evolution and form and function for my Waldorf-based student, as I mentioned above.   I would put the unit we started with more in the January time frame instead of the beginning of the year.  That is my plan when I teach it the second time!

Also, you may move much faster than me, but i think this material (Introduction, The Cell, Cellular Respiration/Photosynthesis) takes about eight weeks to cover.  If you have less children to homeschool or your student is super motivated and flies through materials and main lesson book pages and lab write-ups and reading, then it could take less time.

Our main resource materials for Introduction to Biology/The Cell/The Cell At Work for our discussions, my presentations:

    • The Way Life Works, Hoagland and Dodson, Chapters 1 and 2
    • Campbell Biology Concepts and Connections , Eighth Edition,  Chapters 1-7
    • PBS Evolution, Handouts, Leaf Cutter Ant story illustrating scientific method
    • Article by Graham Kennish, “Teaching Ninth Grade Biology In A Human Context” – Steiner Education, Volume 22, No. 1)
    • Article by Craig Holdrege “Learning to See Life – Developing the Goethean Approach To Science”
    • Article by Craig Holdrege “Metamorphosis and Metamorphic Thinking” – Waldorf School Life Science/Environmental Studies Colloquium
    • Chapter 5 “Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems”  from “Hard To Teach Biology Concepts” Revised 2nd Edition.  Available online through National Science Teachers Association, NSTA.
    • Articles about homology
    • Teachers Pay Teachers Nitty Gritty Science Photosynthesis, Cell Process & Energy (more generalized)
    • Teacher Pay Teachers  Science with Mrs. Lau: Biochemistry Activity with Four Macromolecules;  Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration Coloring Bundle (very detailed)
    • Teacher Reference:  Environmental Educators Alliance Workshops in my state – my first workshop is in just a few weeks!

Labs: (Teacher Reference:   Biology Inquiries by Shields;  Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments by Thompson, Online Resources)  We did a lot of work with acids, bases, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, enyzmes, in our seventh and eighth grade chemistry so that was a good basis for this, so we didn’t do as many labs with this.  There were also hands-on components to the Teachers Pay Teachers materials mentioned above – not artistic and beautiful, but still with ideas for coloring, sequencing, using the hands for concepts that are not always easy for students to really “get” deeply.

  • 3 Labs on “What Is Life?” (a harder question than one might think!)
  • Introduction to Enzymes
  • Exploration of Enzyme Activity
  • Osmosis Lab
  • Onion and Cheek Cell Lab
  • Observation of Carbon Dioxide Uptake, Determining Effect of Light Intensity on Photosynthesis


Well, this fall coincided with our Forestry Judging for 4H which included identifying 79 types of trees, insect and tree diseases, estimation of sawtimber, and compass and pacing so that to me totally counts as a biology experience!

We also will have/ have had field trips this semester to a class on native fish of our state and fish adaptations;  our local museum involving presentations on weather and a new dinosaur exhibit; an aquarium behind-the -scenes visit and  three high school homeschooling classes at our local zoo that involved neuroscience of the mammalian brain, neuroscience of the bird brain, neuroscience of the reptile/amphibian brain and two of those three classes involved dissection.

Main Lesson Pages Required:

  • Beautiful Title Page
  • Milestones in Biology 4 Billion BCE – 200,000 BCE (Anatomically modern humans)
  • The Sixteen Patterns of Life
  • A Generalized Animal Cell
  • A Generalized Plant Cell
  • Cellular Respiration
  • Photosynthesis
  • Comparision Page of the Holistic Cellular Respiration/Photosynthesis relationship

Other Artwork/Projects:

  • Gestural Drawing of Animals and Plants at zoo
  • Cell Model