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

Experiences:

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

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

 

Back In The Saddle Again!

At this point, we are headed into Week Seven of our school year.  It has been a pretty decent year so far considering juggling three grades and three “levels” of school (elementary school, middle school, and high school!).  I felt like this week is a good time to see what is really working in our family and school rhythm.

Working Well:

  • The fact that I planned less weeks total for the entire school year, and added a week to almost every other block as a “catch-up” week (or a vacation coincides).  That has really helped (and really made it less stressful when we feel like we are “getting behind”). It also makes me wonder why I didn’t do this before (???)
  • Summer planning really helped.  Saves. me. every. year.  I can totally ditch the plan, but if I haven’t researched and know my subject beforehand, especially in these upper grades, I absolutely cannot apply it to the child in front of me.
  • Planning field trips for the semester/school year.  We are part of a 4,000 plus member homeschooling field trip group (Southeastern United States).  There are so many wonderful field trips to take!  This is especially important for the middle school and high school level – it is what makes all the subjects come alive to see them in action.  Experience at the hands and heart level before the head level is a golden rule.
  • Making the festivals a priority.  This is easy to lose as children grow older, and because we don’t really have a specific “Waldorf group.”  I am so glad we are still hanging on.  This is especially important to me for our little first grader, but really for all of us.  It nourishes the soul through the seasons of the year.
  • Keeping our outside the home schedule at the busy-ish, but not too full, level. My high schooler really needs things to do, and our first grader and I really need to be at home, so we have to choose a middle road. And I am always glad we do, because I like to have room for the last minute spontaneity , last minute camping trips, or just being home together.
  • Still prioritizing play.  Today my first and sixth grader were playing so nicely together and the weather was beautiful and the puppy was so happy….school could wait a few hours.

The Jury Is Still Out:

  • Having a class outside the home for our high schooler.  In one sense, the accountability to a really good  outside teacher has been super nice for our high schooler.  On the other hand, we are totally tied into a public school schedule due to activities (which totally could be canceled or moved for the most part) and this class (which can’t be moved or missed because it is a week’s worth of work condensed into one class).  It feels limiting in that sense.  Not sure if I will farm anything out next year or not.
  • The best way to organize/motivate our high schooler.  Still working on that one!  Organizing independent work has been the single most challenge of ninth grade, and I don’t think there is a good way to prepare for it really in seventh and eighth grade because we did a lot of the things I thought would help this transition.  The work just changes at the high school level, and that is that.  It is a learning curve.

Not Working and I Want To Change:

  • I wish we had more festival preparation and handwork time.    My children don’t really do these things naturally even though they love arts and crafts, so I have to plant the seeds.
  • Self-care is still hard to come by. I want to exercise, but I have been back to having a really hard time getting up early in the morning to do it….In this height of allergy season, sometimes I just feel worn out from a respiratory/asthma perspective.  And the heat, which I actually am sick of at this point. Where is autumn?!

How is homeschooling going for you?  What is working, not working, and where is the jury still out?

Blessings,
Carrie

 

How To Be A Waldorf Homeschooler

 

When families are searching for curriculum, what they are often asking, consciously or unconsciously, is how do I become a Waldorf homeschooling teacher?  How does this work?  I completed my Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy and the Arts through Antioch University in 2013, and I can only relay to you a bit of my own experience in this area of becoming.  I am still becoming, so of course I do not profess to have complete answers regarding this subject, and I do think it differs from person to person. However, here are some thoughts and suggestions based upon a wonderful article Douglas Gerwin in the Center for Anthroposophy Autumn 2016 newsletter.  You can read the newsletter here as it will help you understand what I writing about in this blogpost.

One thing that is profoundly different about the development of Waldof teachers compared to traditional teachers is that the awakening of teaching is dependent upon practicing the arts, biography,  and the inner work and development of that teacher him or herself.  This is a very different approach than most traditional approaches to training teachers in the United States. The article I linked to above talks about this in the context of Waldorf teacher training, and I would like to add a few thoughts based upon being a Waldorf homeschooling parent who must wear both parenting and teaching hats.

The first and primary rule in developing yourself as a Waldorf homeschooling parent is to develop your own inner life.  What does that really mean?  To me, this means a conscious awakening of an inner spiritual path that will lead you toward love for all of humanity.  Steiner’s lectures compiled in “Love and Its Meaning In The World” have always been most inspiring to me.   The traditional way to develop your own inner life in Waldorf teacher training usually refers to two things: one is to a central meditation practice and also to Steiner’s six supplementary exercises taken on as a practice, and the second thing is a devotion to and practice in the arts.  These things are new to many people, and I think especially new to busy homeschooling mothers who are pouring themselves into their families.  A few resources I can recommend regarding this endeavor:

  • Lighting Fires:  Deepening Education Through Meditation by Jorgen Smit
  • Stairway of Surprise: Six Steps to A Creative Life  by Michael Lipson
  • Art As Spiritual Activity:  Rudolf Steiner’s Contribution to the Visual Arts Edited and Introduced by Michael Howard
  • There are many more titles by Rudolf Steiner that includes this work
  • There are some singulaiknowr titles regarding drawing, painting, modeling, speech, drama, and movement in the Waldorf School setting that can be helpful to parents striving to work with the arts.
  • If you are of a religious practice, you will find things that inspire you.  Since I am part of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church, I am inspired by the Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy of each Mass throughout the liturgical year, the book “Welcome to Anglican Spiritual Traditions” by Vicki K. Black and the writings of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  I also am drawn to resources about Christian Contemplative Prayer, Christian Contemplative Reading, and “sitting with God.”

In the home environment, I would also like to add the path of the homemaker as a way of developing oneself. This has been written about rather extensively in:

  • Homemaking and Personal Development: Meditative Practice for Homemakers by Veronika Van Duin
  • The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker by Manfred Schmidt-Brabant

The second way to develop oneself as a Waldorf homeschooling parent is to understand and to be aware of the development of the human being.  Traditionally, in Waldorf teacher training courses this is usually undertaken by reading Steiner’s lectures, particularly The Foundations of Human Experience, and through the study of one’s own biography.  The resources I can recommend regarding this endeavor include:

  • The Foundations of Human Experience by Rudolf Steiner
  • Tapestries:  Weaving Life’s Journey by Betty Staley
  • The Human Life by George and Gisela O’Neil

In the home environment, I would also like to offer the path of being fully and wholly present  and attentive with our children, our elders, our neighbors, our community, nature around us.  Their stories are our story.    Their stories make up the stories of humanity, just as our story does.  To connect on this very level of humanity is humbling and enlightening.  To connect to nature and feel it flowing through us leads us to sharpen our powers of observation and to see development over time.  And for that matter, to be fully and present of our own emotions and to be able to sit with those emotions is a major part of attentiveness. Here are a few resources that talk about this from a Waldorf perspective include:

  • The Therapeutic Eye:  How Rudolf Steiner Observed Children by Peter Selg
  • Drawing From The Book of Nature by Dennis Klocek
  • Tools for emotional self-discovery and emotional awareness such as Nonviolent Communication.

Douglas Gerwin points out in his article that the third way of becoming a Waldorf teacher is to develop your craft through the actual doing .  For homeschooling parents, I think this doing means NOT searching endlessly for the perfect curriculum; it means you jump in and  you DO IT.  Some things may fall flat.  Some blocks may go better than others.  Some circles just don’t fly well.  You may not be able to bring some things that you wish you could.  Even some years may feel more fallow than other years if you are homeschooling very long-term.  This is part of the learning process in teaching your children and in teaching other children outside your family.  Just find your resources, make a plan from your heart, leave room to teach the child in front of you and what the angels bring that day ( in other words, you may ditch your plan!) and go with it.  That is the art of teaching. It is the welling up of what is inside you – your biography, your inner work, your knowledge of the subject and the child in front of you and the environment.  It all intersects, and it takes time to get there. However, the clock for the time to get there doesn’t start until you actually start the teaching and facilitating of the beautiful child or children in front of you!  Waiting on the sidelines doesn’t do it.   I don’t know as  there is any one resource for this doing, as it is doing and not just reading and waiting for the right thing to fall into one’s lap!  The experiences of other teachers, and in homeschooling, the experiences of other homeschooling mothers are very helpful and illuminating, so my suggestion for increasing your craft is to:

  • Meet with other homeschooling families in community.  A Waldorf community would be ideal in terms of talking about actual ways to approach different grades and blocks, but any homeschooling community will help you understand the highs and lows that come with being a homeschooling family. Just find the tribe that fits you!
  • Find and attend conferences.  The Center for Anthroposophy has courses every summer to prepare for grades (East Coast); I belive Rudolf Steiner College (West Coast) does the same.  Gather a group and put on a conference yourself and gather the Waldorf homeschooling parents flung far and wide in your state.  To come together for even one day is so powerful and uplifting!

Blessings,
Carrie

Two Resources for Gardening In The Classroom

I recently obtained two resources from my local library that I thought might be of interest to some of my readers.  The first resource book I picked up was “The Garden Classroom: Hands-On Activities in Math, Science, Literacy & Art” by Cathy James.  This book is aimed at children ages 4-8.  This is a fairly substantial book at 221 pages. It has acid-free, recycled paper for the publishing and includes many photographs.  The sections include:

  • Welcome to the Garden Classroom
  • Introduction:  Nurturing Young Gardeners which points out that the environment is the third teacher (Reggio Emilia philosophy), that the garden provides an ever-changing and varied curriculum as it evolves through the season,  and that connection to nature is a gift.  It also includes a section about organizing a garden classroom that I think would be helpful to classroom and homeschool teachers alike. A glossary of key gardening vocabulary is included in this section.
  • Section One:  Let’s Grow! Garden Basics includes five favorite plants to grow, a word about bees, planting seeds with suggestions for all kinds of seed pots, a project of “egg heads & tin can hair salon” , ideas for quirky ecoplanters, painted plant pots, grow your own meadow, cultivating a snipping garden, making plant labels, making a DIY watering can, making garden potions to help feed your crops, harvesting your own seeds, and a word about strawberries.
  • Section Two:  Play & Imagination.  This section includes ideas about loose parts play and materials for your play space, how to build a fort,  making a pretend-play pottery shed, having a mud-pie tea party, making a fairy garden, making a dinosaur world, making miniature gardens, creating garden sensory tubs, having a sensory treasure hunt, playdough in the garden, and snail races.
  • Section Three:  Reading & Writing  brings ideas for the alphabet and words outside, using story tents and other literacy methods, writing a garden observation journal, creating a chalkboard observation station, creating a sensory word hunt, creating a nature treasure bag,  telling stories (example given is Jack and the Beanstalk, but there are many tales that would fit the bill), using story stones, creating a gnome or fairy mail box.
  • Section Four:  Science & Math.  Science in the garden can include soil testing, composting, use of magnifying glass or microscope, use of reference books (Note:  In Waldorf Education, some of these things would be held until much later grades. We always start with naked eye observation and nature observations.)  Ideas are given for math manipulatives from the garden, math games for the garden, a counting treasure hunt, addition and subtraction, and graphing.  There is a section on creating an  “investigation table”,  a growing seed experiment,  a minibeast bingo game,  creating a bird cafe, looking a small garden creatures close up, creating a bug hotel, making a ladybug number line, the use of measurement through a one-yard leaf race, hosting a plant olympics (counting, measuring, weighing), making a sunflower height chart, making a symmetry butterfly, making a tree-trunk geoboard.
  • Section Five:  Arts & Crafts.  This section includes making paint and paintbrushes from the garden, making natural plant dyes, making handprint sunflowers and cement-tile art, making garden buntings,  finger knitting flowers, making leaf collages, making a daffodil bunting, (which I am so going to tie into our Feast of St. David  of Wales in March!), making daffodil pinwheels, making large scale landscape art, making a spring flower bouquet. Other projects include making:  sticky pictures, caterpillars, clothespin butterflies, clay leaf impressions, clay faces and creatures, land-art wreaths, land-art mandalas, and scarecrows.
  • Section Six: Garden Recipes. This section includes notes on edible flowers, customized soup, basil pesto, and zucchini relish.  Other ending notes include a form to create a garden journal,  a list of blogs and websites, great books for children and adults.

I am happy to say that this book runs about eight to thirteen dollars, depending upon if you buy it used or new.  I am happy to recommend this book to you all.  Although this book is not aimed at Waldorf Education, I think it could be used for the Early Years, and grades one through three easily.

The next resource I had to order through inter-library loan and it came from another state.  This book I cannot find anywhere under  about  thirty-five dollars.  This book is “Math In The Garden”, but Jennifer White and published by the National Gardening Association.   This book is more of an oversized paperback, with pencil drawings throughout.  It is about 160 pages long.

This book includes an Introduction that explains how to look at each page of activities (for example, each activity denotes an age range, group size, what you need, getting ready .  A lightning bug “illuminates” math concepts and skills featured, a hummingbird icon to point out notes for success in conducting the activities, a section for a databoard and what to put on it, and ideas for more math in the garden).  Pages 9 and 10 denote activites by age (and for my Waldorf homeschoolers, these may or may not match what we do in Waldorf Education).  The activities span age ranges 5-13, so essentially grades K-8 in a public school system.   A section regarding making  a garden journal is also included.

  • Chapter One: Numbers, Operations, & Algebra.  The activities include estimation and counting and comparing in “How Many Seeds in A Tomato?”, number sense/tally and number sequence in “Everything Counts In The Garden” (which also includes movement ideas for walking a numberline), coordinate grids and using a x and y axis in “Locating Garden Treasures” and “Inside the Coordinate Grid”, number sense and estimation with nonstandard measuring tools in “Comparing the Area of Leaves”,   area and perimeter in “Area & Perimeter of Leaves”,  measurement/dividing by increments of one-half in “Half of a Half of My Garden Plot”,  ratios in “Ratios of Shoots and Roots”, fractional equivalents in “Soil Plus Water Profile”.
  • Chapter Two:   Measurement.  This includes using hand spans, metric unit measuring,  converting nonstandard units into standard units, measuring growth in the garden,  measuring with steps (nonstandard measurment), using consistent nonstandard units of measurement,  estimating and measuring volume,  weighing garden harvest (consistent nonstandard units), and making a balance scale.
  • Chapter Three: Geometry  & Pattern includes exploring attributes of geometric shapes, using craft stick caliphers to record and compare angles, using radius, diameter and circumference of circles, exploring patterns,  exploring symmetry and asymmetry,  exploring bilateral symmetry, rotational symmetry, and asymmetry, drawing trees to look at proportions and identification of shapes and patterns.
  • Chapter Four: Data Analysis.  This includes collection and interpretation of data, including the meaning of range, sorting and classifying data,  recording, organizing, and evaluating data, use of pattern recognition and proportional reasoning, using mathematical models to represent quantitative relationships (this one is found in the exercise “Self-Similarity”), linear measurements and graphing to compare changes over time.

I like this book as well. I think for Waldorf homeschoolers, we most likely would use this book most in third grade (measurement) and then onward.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Needs of The Waldorf Homeschooler

I have been thinking  the “drop- off points”  in Waldorf homeschooling (if families get through the second and third grade then it seems many drop- offs occur between fourth and fifth grade, again around sixth grade, and then again before high school.  Lots of drop-off!).  I   find lack of curriculum and understanding how to develop academic skills a Waldorf way is a reason many  parents cite.

I don’t think this should be so; Waldorf Education is supposed to be a rigorous education.  However, skill development is often something that seems to be more of a subject of discussion in the “early grades” with Waldorf Education .  For example, for the early grades, many of those  “How Does Waldorf Education teach children to read?” or “What is the Waldorf approach to learning math?”  articles abound.  In general, I think we see less regarding academic skill development in the Waldorf community for grades 5 and up, and even less discussion for Waldorf homeschoolers regarding what needs to be done to prepare seventh and eighth graders for high school.

And yes, there are products on the market for some of these areas.  However, I do not consider having only ONE product  ( or even two!) that may or may not resonate with a Waldorf homeschooling family to be enough!  Waldorf homeschooling families  would also  like to hear a variety of experiences and “how we really did this” for the upper grades especially, because these upper grades can vary considerably in experiences and skill levels.  Waldorf homeschooling is not Waldorf School!

What I hear over and over from Waldorf  homeschooling mothers regarding what they want in ” subject-specific  ” curriculum is:

  • Something for spelling by grade and block .  Yes, the spelling words should be pulled out of the blocks, but I think homeschooling parents are searching for what spelling rules are taught when, how a spelling word is different than a vocabulary word,. and how spelling can be built upon year after year, block after block in a systematic way.
  • Something for grammar by grade and block.  This is a constant source of difficulty for most parents.
  • Something for math, that includes MANY creative practice problems for daily use .  Yes, there are guides, yes, there are Waldorf math books, but  I think a few more options on the market to help parents along would be well- appreciated for the upper grades and high school.  The amount of topics needing to be reviewed gets intense, and for those parents less well-versed in math, even something like mental math can be difficult to make up on one’s own. (For that matter, even parents with children in the early grades would like some more laid out mental math options.  If a homeschooling parent has a child in first through third grade, chances are he or she may also have a kindy aged child and maybe a baby.  We are sleep deprived!  It is hard to create number journeys about gnomes  and fairies for second graders when we are sleep deprived. :))
  • Something for  developing great writing skills for the middle school years.  This is particularly needed for grades seven and eight as students look to transitioning into high school subjects. Between the  idea of an “animal report” in fourth grade and a “state report” in fifth grade, and the standard “Wish, Wonder, Surprise” block in seventh grade (which sometimes works well in the home environment and sometimes not!),  I think parents are often left wondering what they should be doing step by step in writing instruction, especially if writing is not their forte.
  • Along this vein, more ideas for general preparation for high school.
  • For the upper grades, more ideas for blocks and how a block can look very different from homeschool to homeschool… More of the “how” to teach these blocks and the academic skills that should be intertwining in these blocks. Many of these subjects  in grades 6-8 are foreign to parents.  Some parents never had Roman History, for example, in high school or college. It is a lot to put together every block with no background, and it is a lot to learn about every subject from scratch well enough to teach it to your child (plus figuring out HOW to teach your students the academic skills using this subject as vehicle).  Parents get frustrated or simply are scared off because they think Waldorf homeschooling is no longer for them because they don’t know much about these subjects, let alone  how to teach these vast subjects in a “Waldorf Way”.  I personally want Waldorf homeschooling parents to feel very supported in these upper grades and high school so they don’t give up!
  • In that vein, we could use more high school products to choose from.

What products would YOU love to see on the Waldorf homeschooling market?

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

My Top 5 Tips – Thriving in Homeschooling and Homemaking

We are starting our third week of homeschooling this week and I was reflecting on the fact that I have been homeschooling for ten years (I am counting my oldest child’s six year old kindergarten year forward to ninth grade this year).  I was trying to think the other day of what really helps hold everything together for me as a homeschooling mother in terms of also being a homemaker, since as homeschooling families we are moving in both overlapping circles continuously.   When children are smaller, the academic demands are less and I think easier to work into homeschooling, but as children get older these arenas become more separate in some ways.  After some thought,  I found five things that help me homeschool and make a home:

  1. Accept some mess will happen…If you look at my house on a homeschooling day, yes, it may have papers and colored pencils and clay and main lesson books and projects in both our homeschool room and in our breakfast nook. Our high schooler tends to work in the breakfast nook, and the other children tend to work in our homeschool room so that is why we have two places.  The garage, where we do a lot of movement, can also get messy.  However….
  2. Accept that mess can be cleaned up within a half hour window.  That is sort of my barometer.  Can everything be tidied up within half an hour?  If it can, then the part of me that is extremely sensitive to visual clutter rests a little easier.  Everything everywhere just doesn’t work for me.
  3. Do things as promptly as possible and have a rhythm.  For me, the prompt part means doing dishes after we eat, sweeping up when the puppy drags in mud and grass on her paws, throwing in a load of laundry every morning, etc.  Of course, having a rhythm really helps with many of these pieces. What day do we change the sheets on the bed, clean the bathrooms, dust?  At what points during the day do we tidy up and clean up?   I cannot always free up hours on end to these things consecutively, but all of  these things can get done within in the course of the week.
  4. Elicit help. All members of the family can help, and i notice the more upper level grades I am teaching and the more subjects I am teaching, I  simple need more help because I am spending more time teaching and then older children may have activities they need to be driven to after teaching is done. I need everyone to pitch in and help, and at this point, our older two students are adept and independent in many areas of housemaking.
  5. Think ahead and streamline. For me,  things such as menu planning; sitting down and figuring out doctor and dentist appointments and field trips for two to three months at a time; deep cleaning at various points in the school year actually ends up saving me time in the long run.

I would love to hear your best tips for homeschooling and homemaking together.

Blessings,
Carrie

The First Week of Homeschooling High School

…..and what I learned…

This is the first time I ever been through homeschooling high school, and it is definitely a learning curve when you are putting together your own materials for the most part.  I talked a lot about planning this grade in this back post. , and many families have homeschooled children with strong interests that they can creatively mix into their child’s first high school year.  We are following more of a traditional Waldorf School kind of high school path modified for the home environment and what I can feasibly do.

Our first week was a mix of homework for an outside Algebra I class that is a mainstream class,  a year-long biology class that I created, and our first block of the year which is Native American and Colonial History which includes not only a main lesson book but a literature study on the book “Last of the Mohicans” (hint: the book was not as easy as I thought it would be!) (block also created by me).  These are the things I learned along the way this first week of homeschooling high school from a sheer weekly/daily structure kind of standpoint:

If your child takes an outside class, the child will have a good amount of homework to do if the class meets only once or twice a week.  We figured this going into it all, but I am so glad I put time in our rhythm every day to field homework questions.  And I am so glad I totally remember my high school algebra for whatever odd  reason!  Seriously, though, homework is an independent endeavor, but your student still needs time to ask you questions and you need to have a plan of how your child can get help if it is a subject you are not as familiar with or don’t remember well.

For year-long classes that you are creating, particularly science, do make sure your child knows how to take notes from what you are saying and from what you assign for reading for the class.  I learned I really needed to break things up more by day  and into  much  smaller chunks than what I anticipated in the original syllabus I created, and also that I needed at first to give a little guidance how to pick out the most major ideas and key phrases, etc. We had done some of this in middle school, but reading technical and scientific things can be quite different than other types of reading.

It is a delicate balance between track and block classes and the amount of work.  It is important to look at it all and really plan longer for the blocks than you might normally.

The artistic end of the high school work is so very important.  I know in the Waldorf Schools there are specialists in these areas, and I consider myself so NOT a specialist.  Of course we have been drawing, painting, and modeling just like in previous grades, but I also have been relying on some kits to help us  and am searching for some outside teachers or classes as I locate them for the artistic skills our high schooler wants to learn. For this particular history block, I tied in Native American basketry (kits), Native American beading (already knew how to do but working on more complext patterns and such) and soapstone carving (kits).  For biology, we are tying in block printmaking (experimenting on our own with the help of books from the library) and the art of gyotaku, Japanese fish printmaking (kits and experimenting on our own – the fish are plastic replicas in the kits).  Music, drama, and speech are also important.  We are fulfilling these things outside the home but also tying in music and speech in with our history block.

Nature and exercise – has to be up there on the priority list.  Ninth graders really cannot sit still well and need those healing balms of movement and nature.

For those of you going through homeschooling high school, what have you learned that would help a first time high school homeschooling mom as far as the day to day scheduling and priorities?

Many blessings,

Carrie