Eighth Grade Sustainability Block

One of the other blocks we will be doing in eighth grade is a block on sustainability.  The blocks on sustainability will also carry us into high school should our eighth grader choose to homeschool high schooler.  I originally heard of this block as a suggestion from Christopherus Homeschool Resources, Inc and it may have been in one of the earlier editions of the book

These are my plans for a three week block on sustainability, using the following books and resources:

  • Energy Island by Allan Drummond
  • Generating Wind Power by Niki Walker
  • Environmental Engineering and the Science of Sustainability
  • Biomass: Fueling Change by Niki Walker
  • Geothermal, Biomass, and Hydrogen:  Future Energy by Jim Olhoff
  • Ocean, Tidal, and Wave Energy: Power From the Sea by Lynn Peppas
  • One Well:  The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss/ ill. Rosemary Woods
  • The Science of Climate Change:  A Hands-On Course by Blair H. Lee
  • Vanderbuilt University’s Resources for Teaching Sustainability
  • Lesson plans from The Water Project  (51 page download of lesson plans)
  • How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Joanna Yarrow
  • Sustainability:  Building Eco-Friendly Communities by Anne Maczulak, PhD
  • Native Defender of the Environment by Vincent Schilling
  • Field trips

Sustainability can be a hard topic for a three to four week block of teaching because it covers so many things, and I also wanted to highlight we are looking so much at sustainability these days due to climate change (so we need to know the science of climate change to understand sustainability).  So that is two major topics in one block for a middle schooler!

During this block we will be reading “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” as our read-aloud.  This is how I set up this block, choosing essentially climate change, alternative energy, and water scarcity as the topics we will touch on (note we will do the LABS first if a lab is mentioned, and cover the concept part of the lab the next day after sleeping on it, so a little different than the way some resources are set up).  I will figure out the artistic work and main lesson book work closer to when we start this block as this is a spring block and it still quite far off.

Week One

Question: What impact do we have upon the environment and the world?

Day One:  What is Sustainable Development?  (social/environmental/economic – where do these areas overlap?  How?)/Biography of Ben Powless or Tom Goldtooth/How Sustainable Are We –  What is a Carbon Footprint? Carbon Footprint Quiz (my plan is to do this block around Lent so we will talk about ways to reduce our carbon footprint as part of our Lenten practice)/Air and Greenhouse Effect sections from Blair Lee’s Book, labs

Day Two:  Review/ Carbon Footprint results (and yes, at this point I will work in some of our religious beliefs because we put a very large emphasis on environmental justice in our church)/ Greenhouse Gases and Labs from Blair Lee’s book

Day Three:   Review/Combustion Reactions and Concentrations of Carbon Dioxide, labs from Blair Lee’s book/

Day Four:  Review/Feedback Mechanisms and labs from Blair Lee’s book/

Week Two:

Day One:  Review/Weather versus Climate/Rising Sea Levels and Melting Ice Sheets from Blair Lee’s book/

Day Two:  Review/Adaptation/How We Help

Day Three:  Review/Read the book “Energy Island”/ Wind Power – its history and where we are now around the world with wind power (case example of Denmark)/Build a windmill generator/Biography of Winona LaDuke – Question to think upon:  Could wind power become a major way we power the United States?  Why or why not?

Day Four:  Review/Finish Wind Power/ Concerns of Wind power -role of environmental engineer

Week Three:

Day One:  Review/Solar Power/local solar power intiatives in our community/field trip

Day Two:  Review/Solar Power building- solar pizza oven

Day Three: Review solar field trip and projects; Review Carbon Cycle and Biomass energy/Brazil as example of Biomass energy

Day Four:  Review/Wave, Tidal, Ocean energy/  Energy from Dams – are dams damaging? Visit to our local dam

Week Four: (I chose water as our last area of sustainability to look at) (would love to have a field trip to a local water filtration plant this week)

Day One:  Review the water cycle/Read One Well:  The Story of Water on Earth/ Use Water, Water Anywhere lesson plan from The Water Project

Day Two:  Review sustainability spheres we started with in the beginning/ Use Dirty Water – So What? lesson plan from The Water Project

Day Three:  Review with quiz from The Water Project on the Dirty Water- So What lesson/make a Tippy Tap in the backyard

Day Four:  Review/ Use Village Voices plan from The Water Project/finish up all work

Blessings,
carrie

 

 

 

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Eighth Grade Oceanography

Oceanography is one of those blocks that I think makes perfect sense for eighth grade – if we are going to study meteorology in eighth grade, why not oceanography?Seeing the large picture, from the heavens to the depths of the sea is awe-inspiring for me as a teacher and for my students.    It goes well with physics, earth science, chemistry, biology, and even geography and history.  I love marine biology in particular, and live in a coastal state, so this one makes perfect sense to me!  Meteorology and oceanography usually re-appear in the Grade 10 high school curriculum of many Waldorf Schools.

The first time I went through eighth grade I did oceanography and meteorology together.  This time around I am doing physics and meteorology together and running oceanography as a separate two-week block.

The main resources I use to put together this block includes the following:

  • Oceanography: An Invitation to Marine Science by Garrison (used college textbook)
  • Explore The Southeast National Marine Sanctuaries with Jean-Michel Cousteau
  • Oceans for Every Kid by Janice VanCleave (I don’t really love her work but sometimes find a gem)
  • Marine Biology:  Cool Women Who Dive by Karen Bush Gibson
  • Down Down Down:  A Journey To The Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins
  • Journey Into The Deep: Discovering New Ocean Creatures by Rebecca Johnson
  • Stories of William Beede, Sylvia Earle, Eugenie Clark, Jacques Cousteau
  • Hydraulics and Aeromechanics by Mikko Bojarsky (Waldorf book available through Waldorf Books or Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore)

My basic outline (and we cover a lot of ground in two weeks!):

Day One:  Review the Water Cycle/What Is An Ocean?/Interesting Ocean Facts/Explorers of the Oceans (Phoenicians through James Cook) – Question to leave student with:  Why are the deepest parts of the oceans not in the centers?

Day Two:  Review/To Understand the Oceans We Have to Understand Plate Tectonics/Biography of Marie Tharp/ Question:  is the motion in the ocean caused only by ocean currents?/

Day Three:  Review/Lab on Ocean Currents and Fluid Mechanics – biography of Kakani Katija (see National Geographic)/ Edward Forbes/Ocean Zones Introduction – Question: How much of the ocean has been explored?

Day Four:  Review/ The HMS Challenger/ Barton and Beede’s Bathysphere (library books and Bojarsky’s book)/ Aqualung to SCUBA/Remotely Operated Vehicles/Different jobs in Marine Science – biography Ashanti Johnson

Week Two:

Day One and Two:  Review/ Zones in Detail -sunlit zone, twilight zone, dark zone, abyssal plain, trenches – what lives there?  chemosynthesis, cold seeps, brine pools, methane freezes, deep sea coral gardens in the dark depths, whale falls – biography Lauren Mullineaux (see Oceanus magazine)

Day Three and Four:  Review/Census of Marine Life 2000-2010 /what did we find?/Biography of Natalie Arnoldi/ Climate change and the ocean (which we will follow up in our Climate Change/Sustainability block a few months later)

I essentially go through this outline and write a presentation for each day and decide on labs.  I usually think of review and artistic activities in the weeks preceeding the block.

Oceanography is always so fun to explore and great to tie in field trips if you live near or can get to a coastal area!

Happy adventuring,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

Upper Grades: Getting To The Essence of A Waldorf Block

The concept of “soul economy,” teaching in such as way as to succinctly represent themes and polarities in the world and then letting that knowledge sink down into the subconscious through sleep as an educational aid, is a concept in Waldorf homeschooling that sounds wonderful but  often feels like a mystery to attain without a lot of experience or teacher training!  For example, when I first started homeschooling the upper grades, about fifth grade and up, I realized I was trying to cram a lot of information into the blocks.  It was a feeling, perhaps from my own public school education, that I needed to pick out the most important things to represent the essence of a time period but also I *needed* to get through most of the book of Greek myths or most of the biographies of famous people in Rome or most of the timeline of American History or most of the experiments for different concepts in physics or whatever it was.  Yes, I tried to pick the most pertinent tales or biographies for the child in front of me, so in that sense it was personalized, but it was still that feeling in my head that we had to get through *all the things*.

Something shifted for me going through the fifth grade and up material a second time, and I think also combined with going through now the first two grades of homeschooling high school, which gives you a much better perspective on these upper grades.  I got much better about really narrowing down the pertinent points and choosing for my child what they needed to hear.  We really have this as such a luxury in the home environment!

I think in order to get at an essence of a block though, you have to know the material.  This actually can be problematic for us as homeschooling mothers when we approach new material because we may be looking at new material across several grades.  For example from my own time through sixth grade – there I was,  two college degrees, and I knew very little about the Roman History covered in sixth grade!  Not really enough to pick what were the watershed moments of this time period and also to choose what really my daughter and her temperament and development needed to hear.  Again, I did much better with this the second time around as I was familiar with the material!

So, what can you do if it is your first time through a block of material? How do you find the essence?

Honestly, I think pick 4-6 “things” out of that block that you really want to bring to life for that time period, block of physics or chemistry, concepts of grammar or  tales of mythology.  I wouldn’t pick more than that.   You really can’t do it justice. Find the broad arc and themes, or the broad polarities in science, and pick things that illustrate that. Arcs, themes, polarities, should be your mantra. Then you can pick what really speaks and stands out to you for your child.

Check out the suggestions in the book “Towards Creative Teaching: Notes to an Evolving Curriculum for Steiner Waldorf Class Teachers” edited by Rawson and Avison.  I think their suggestions at least helped me think about what I really wanted to economically bring.  This book says things such as, “One of the three great discoverers – Vasco de Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and Christopher Columbus – might be taken to represent the time of the great discoveries.” (Page 153).  That is just one example of many suggestions as to how to pair things down and gather the essence of a particular block.

Think what and how concepts can be integrated across blocks. By that I mean, can the themes and polarities of one block be reinforced in another block?  For example, history, math, science, world religions, and handwork can all overlap.  Botany and mineralogy often overlap into geography and how people lived, and vice versa.  Many of the  concepts of sciences overlap. What overlaps personally to your child because of where you live in the world? What is reinforced by living where you live and how you live or the people in the child’s environment?  That is another part of homeschooling.

Use art with drawing, painting, modeling, poems, songs,  drama, and recitation of poetry in order to tie it all together.  These arts are so wonderful and what makes a Waldorf Education different from anything else.

Just a few musings.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Planning Eighth Grade

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

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

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

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

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

August and September – Physics and Meteorology

October – Oceanography

November – Short Stories

December – Short Stories

January – Revolutions

February – Two weeks of aerodynamics;  American History

March – American History

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

Seventh and Eighth Grade Chemistry

I will be preparing to do seventh grade chemistry this month for the second time, so whilst I have some ideas about seventh and eighth grade chemistry, I may have things to add after going through it two more times (this February and  then again in the future for our youngest).

First of all, the two resources I recommend whole-heartedly include:

A Demonstration Manual for use in the Seventh Grade Chemistry Main Lesson

A Demonstration Manual for Use in the Eighth Grade Chemistry Main Lesson

For Eighth Grade only: What Einstein Told HIs Cook: Kitchen Science Explained

 

Seventh Grade Block:

First of all, do see my friend Tanya’s guest post from when she did seventh grade chemistry here.  She was kind enough to share great detail.

Here is a list of what ended up in our  seventh grade main lesson book for Chemistry.  This includes some of the artistic work we did.

We did the same things that Tanya did, and started with combustion in week one. We did speech work with poems as well these first two weeks.   The first day we talked about safety rules, and I did a presentation regarding combustion. We found materials we could burn,  and figured out which ones burned well and which ones didn’t.  We worked with igniting a fire with flint and steel, and  using a magnesium fire starter and talked about the invention of matches and fire starting.  We compared and constrasted the way solids, liquids, and gases burned and made a table regarding this.  We then ended by burning powdered metals we had ordered from Homeschool Science Tools (iron, zinc, copper, magnesium fillings).  We explored why a fire needs air to burn, and used a blow torch in conjunction with a colored flames and flame kit I already had tucked away.

In the second week, we experimented with a candle flame.  We observed the greatest area of heat in a candle flame and drew pictures. We also did an experiment with Cool Light from a science kit that I thought fit in nicely.  We then moved into the Water Cycle,  and how water is a universal solvent.  We also explored water as a catalyst. Part of our speech work for this week was Patrick Henry’s speech, which was a catalyst for the American Revolution.  We made a list of crystals from table salt as part of one of our experiments, and did an experiment of crystallization of epsom salts.  I also did a demonstration of  a colorful silicate garden.  Here is a blog entry about combustion and candles that has a little more detail.  We ended with the limestone cycle.

During the third week of chemistry, we made borax crystals, and then we moved into exploring acids and bases.   We worked with tasting acids and bases and made a list of their properties.  We used indicators, including cabbage juice as an indicator, and we neutralized vinegar with milk of magnesia.

Eighth Grade Block:  Organic Chemistry ( I consider physiology and covering the digestive system and the idea of what food does in the body and in a culture a prerequisiste before doing this block).

Ideas for Carbohydrates

What are our taste buds?  What kinds of things can we taste?

Are all carbohydrates sweet?  What is the role of a carbohydrate for living creatures?  What is cellulose? What is glucose?  What are the classes of carbohydrates?

Copy table page 9 Bojarksky’s book/ Look at “A Tight Squeeze” in “What Einstein Told His Cook” and do Demonstration #1 “A Comparison of the Solubility of Salt and Sugar”

Day 2- Write up demonstration from yesterday, look at “Two Kinds of Browning” in “What Einstein Told His Cook” and do Demonstration #2 “Melting and Burning Sugar”; make fudge and discuss the role of sugar crystalization and the role of sugar in fudge-making.

Read all of Chapter 1 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”

Day 3 – Student does Demonstration 6 – why does the potato bubble?  Do Demonstration 8.  Look at video of production of sugar from sugar cane mill.  There are 11 operating sugar mills in Louisiana.  Do Demonstrations 9 and 10.  Make Fehling’s Solution and Test for Simple Sugars

Day 4- Prepare Potato Starch by Hand; do Iodine Test for Starch; Demonstration 20 Breakdown of Starch with Hydrochloric Acid and Breakdown of Starch with Saliva Method.  Homework to write up breakdown of starch with saliva and hydrochloric acid.  Munch on celery sticks – how do we digest celery?

Day 5- The Physics of Popcorn; Make Tapioca Pudding

Day 6 – Proteins -The Role of Proteins in the body, the role of enzymes as catalysts;  read pages 124-129 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”; burn proteins outside (they smell bad!); Egg White Experiment

Day 7 – Write up summary of proteins; Heat Milk and look at Coagulation of Casein, A MIlk Protein, with vinegar

Day 8 -Make Bone Broth; read pages 143-156 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”; look at brining meat

Day 9 – Fats and Oils; fatty acids as part of larger family chemists call carboxylic acids.   Difference between  monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats. Render fat, do the brown paper test for fats; read pages 68-70 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”

Day 10- Extract Lemon Oil from Lemon Peel; Experiment with Common Oil; Oil and Water; read pages 70-76 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”

Day 11 – Burning Oil meets water experiment; extinguish burning oil; read pages 78-82 of “What Einstein Told His Cook”

Day 12 – Make Mayonnaise; look at flax seeds and make in banana bread – why does it work as a substitute for eggs?  Read pages 84-88 in “What Einstein Told HIs Cook”

Day 13- Make Ice Cream; Saturated vs. unsaturated fats

I decided not to go into cosmetics but that is another place some Waldorf School teachers spend a good deal of time.  I chose more of the cooking route.  Donna Simmons has good information about this approach, which I built on above,  in her Christopherus Rough Guide to Eighth Grade.

Please see The Parenting Passageway Facebook Page for pictures of our seventh and eighth grade chemistry main lesson book pages.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Making The Burden Light: Homeschooling The Upper Grades

I think things really start to hit the fan sometime in the upper grades. Some families don’t get into too much worry and anxiety about the block content or repetitive practice that they are finding (or not finding) in curriculums until 6th or 7th grade; some until high school; and some starting in fourth and fifth grade. This is understandable, because some of the contents of the blocks tap into things that perhaps we didn’t receive in our own education, so in order to have to teach that,  and then to understand the impulse behind why we are teaching what we are teaching, and then to present that in this “magical” way we see on Pinterest or Instagram can often put a lot of pressure on a busy Waldorf mama!

One thing that always helps me is to have an idea of the flow of the curriculum of the Waldorf School in my head. No, I will not follow this curriculum exactly because I am a HOMESCHOOLER, but I also do not want to miss the iconic blocks that meet the archtypal development of the child. I also want to EXPAND the curriculum because I am not European, and I don’t want my homeschool to only include Western Civilization, but to be encompassing and inclusive.  If I was South African or lived in the Pacific Rim countries, the curriclum I have chosen to use would look different because we work where we are, and there are Steiner Schools all over the world, not just in Europe or in the United States! But still, I have to know where the curriculum starts for my country.

So, if I can think in my head at first in generalities by looking at the overall flow for grades 4-12… (not including extra artistic work or music) , I can find where things will come around AGAIN.  So I don’t have to include every little tiny thing about Rome  for my sixth grader, because it will come back in high school! This list is so brief for this blog post, but my friend Lisa found a great list here from Emerson Waldorf School in NC regarding content by grade.  However, here for your reference is a quick list for grades 4-12:

4th Grade – Local history and why early settlers were here and how natural resources were developed; Norse sagas; map making; Human and Animal block; Long Division/Word Problems/Fractions/Freehand Geometry; embroidery and cross stitch.  What I might include as an American:  hero tales; tall tales from North America;  book reports; letter writing; spelling

5th Grade- Ancient India/Persia/Mesopotamia/Egypt/Greece; the lives of Manu/Rama/Buddha/Zarathustra/Gilgamesh and more; Greek mythology; Geography of the United States; Botany; could include zoology of other animals not covered in 4th grade; Decimals/Fractions/Mixed Numbers/Metric System; Geometry; knitting with four needles. I may include the entirety of North American geography in this grade. I also include Ancient Africa and Ancient China and the Maya in MesoAmerica.

6th Grade – The Roman Empire; Medieval life; the Crusades; The Golden Age of Islam; the life of Christ; the life of Muhammed; Geography of North and South America; World Geography – the big pictures of contrasts in the world; Physics of light, heat, sound, and magnetism; Mineralogy; possibly continued botany; Business Math (especially percentages, ratios, exchanges, equations, proportions);Geometry with a compass; creating patterns and sewing. I include Medieval Africa here as well.

7th Grade – What is often called “The Golden Age of Exploration” in schools I term “Colonialism”; The Renaissance; The Reformation; biographies; Wish/Wonder/Surprise block for writing fluency; Geography of Europe (I often put in sixth grade instead) and Africa; Astronomy; Chemistry; Physiology; Physics; Beginning Algebra/Perimeter/Graphing/Roots/Formula/Area/exponents; Geometry; Sewing and embroidery

8th Grade – Modern History – I like to get up through present day; Revolutions (or I might put this in 9th grade depending  on the child); Poetry; Geography of the Pacific Rim; World Geography; Chemistry; Physiology of bones/muscles/the eye; Physics of light/heat/electricity/magnetism/aerodynamics; Meteorology; Geometry – Platonic Solids; Equations and Mensuration; Number Bases; Machine Sewing

9th Grade – Modern History (what I might focus on would be state history starting with the hunter gathers and First Peoples of our area, Early Settlers, any Modern History not finished in 8th grade); Great Inventions; Comedy and Tragedy; Art History; Meteorology; Mineralogy- Plate Tectonics; Chemistry; Physiology; Physics; Earth Science;  Algebra/Euclidean Geometry; Copperwork and Pottery

10th Grade – Ancient Civilizations and History; dramatic literature and epic poetry; Chemistry; Physiology – Embryology; Physics – Mechanics; Earth Sciences – oceanography/crystallography; Algebra – logarithms; Plane Trigonometry; Land Surveying; Projective Geometry; Metal Working; Weaving and Dyeing; Stained Glass work.  I included a block on African-American Literature from the Black Arts time period to the present day.

11th Grade – Roman/Medieval and Renaissance history; Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare; Parsifal and other Grail legends; History of Music; World Geography and Map Making; Atomic Theory in Chemistry; Physiology – plant and animal comparison; Physics – Electricity and Magnetism; Botany; Algebra including logarithms, exponential equations, spherical trigonometry; Computer Math and Science; Projective Geometry; Blacksmithing; Poettry and Copper Work; Photography. I will include a block on Latin American Literature.

12th Grade – Modern and World History; Russian literature; The Transcendentalists; Goethe’s Faust; World Geography and Map Making; Chemistry; Biochemistry; Physics – optics, mirrors, light, color; Zoology; Algebra and Geometry brought together in Analytical Geometry; Statistics; Probability; Computer Math; Integral Calculus; Logic; Building computers;  History of Architecture.  I will include a block on Modern African Literature.

When I look at the blocks, I have to think – how much do I know about this subject? If I close the curriculum pages, and think about what I know, what do I know?  If I pull this topic up on the Internet what comes up? What is general flow for that subject normally for high school or early college?   I usually do some Internet research on my own plus extensively use my library in order to write up a summary or biographical sketch that I can present, along with reading the actual curriculum or Waldorf resources I bought!

Often, for history especially, I need a timeline in my head and match biographies to the timeline I have for that historical period.   For science, I may need to think about a particular flow to a block and  if I understand the phenomenon myself or not and what i would need to understand it.  It is very hard to teach these upper level subjects if you don’t know anything about them at all.  It is different than opening up the pages of a fairy tale and reading it three nights in a row in one way but in another way if you can condense the information down into a summary you can present to your child, then you CAN read it three nights in a row and memorize.  For example, right now I am writing some summaries based on what I have read regarding the Paleolithic  Age and the Neolithic Revolution for our block in February on Ancient Civilizations in tenth grade.  I have to research a little and put things together, and then own it and present it.

I have to understand the content in order to figure out the gestures behind the content and the polarities. I am always hunting for polarities, to teach in that antipathy-sympathetic way for the contrasts because that makes it all come alive! I also try to relate it back to what we studied previously.  I find fault with the Charles Kovacs books sometimes, but I do think that is one thing those books do well – find the polarities, find how it relates to previous subjects.

Secondly, what is the  Waldorf perspective on this? Do I understand the WHY of presenting this at this time? Most importantly, is  the child in front of me ready for this topic now or developmentally are they behind or ahead where this topic is? I may need to shuffle the order of my blocks!

Then I have to think how can I present this in the most ENLIVENING WAY possible for us?  What is most doable in our situation, and what excites us the most?  Pinterest can help there;  sometimes just having time to sit down and draw and decide what you want to capture is also the best use of time. The Main Lesson books for our oldest and middle daughters look different because we chose to capture different things, even with the same stories for fourth grade or for the Renaissance or whatever.   Or maybe we threw the Main Lesson book out for that block and chose lapbooking or some other way to do something, especially for high school due to sheer volume of information.  Homeschooling is flexible like that!

Then I have to think of the way we lay out sleep as our educational aid. With these blocks do I:

Open warmly (and how)

Review (many different way to review; variety is the spice of life!)

Practice skills; Work with the material artistically and in our heads

Have new material or deepen the material we have gone over.  There should always be something new there!

If you are looking for ideas about this, I suggest Meredith’s podcasts on these parts of the Main Lesson over at A Waldorf Journey Podcasts. I also suggest the great documents on planning a Main Lesson and especially all the different ways to review here at Waldorf Inspirations. I especially like the ideas about forming a daily rhythm and how this is different for older students in fourth grade and up, at least in the classroom setting (and it might give you ideas for the home setting as well!)

So, this may not seem especially “light” but I do think it is reality.  I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” for the upper grades. I think Live Education, Earthschooling, and Waldorf Essentials all have fairly complete curriculums for at least grades 6-12, and perhaps you start there when in doubt!  But you actually need to look at the content and not just open up the curriculum morning of to teach.  These upper level subjects need more preparation than that!  If you break it up into small chunks starting in the spring, it is really doable.  Use a few hours on a night to prepare for the next week, and the more you go through it, if you have multiple children for example, the more doable it becomes.  

Teaching IS an art.  I would love to deepen my own teaching and help readers deepen their own homeschool teaching. I would love to hear from you! How has working with your fourth through eighth graders deepened and differed from teaching your first through third graders?  How has your high school teaching deepened?  What have you learned along the way?  This would be a great subject for a conference call with many mothers!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Nurturing Parenting: The 12-14 Year Old

One interesting thing that Waldorf Schools typically do in sixth grade (at least in the United States) is to have the students make dolls.  These are  not put together the way a professional dollmaker would put a doll together,  but more from an organic process that almost follows the development of the embryo itself and forshadows the physical development of the human being as it comes to life.  From loving nothingness to a small tightly wrapped ball (the head), expanding into the universe as a defined trunk  then with limbs taking shape (arms with a thumb and legs with feet)  and finally  a little being with twinkling eyes,  beautiful hair and clothes.

This fulllness of the human being is then echoed in seventh grade physiology, in eighth grade studies of reproduction, and in tenth grade in the studies of embryology.  This beautiful expanse of the human being is coming at a time of intense fragility of the 12-14 year old.

It is easy to think that once one is through the nine/ten-year-change, that the floodgates open wide. I have discussed some of these issues before in a series on portals.  And yet, there is still a twelve-year-old change to follow, and a fifteen/sixteen year change, which to me may be the most dramatic of them all.

Much like the toddler stage of life, young people of this age need protection at this time.  This is the time of the middle school grades in the United States, and often noted to be a very difficult time due to differences in physiological development, peer cliques, and I believe that the use of social media has compounded these issues. Being rather stuck between wanting to be more adult-like but also have the freedoms of childhood is difficult for the child, but also for the parent!

There is a certain fragility and uncertainty in these years that are like no other. Balancing the freedoms often provided to these group and the structure is a navigational process. I believe this age group needs protection from their limitless energy and wanting to do too much.  The limits of this age group in doing activities has essentially been eliminated. In the past, one might start playing sports in middle school (and you didn’t get much play until 8th grade) or doing more than one activity in high school. Now children in middle school have been playing sports for years and doing many activities.  They need help setting guidelines for sleeping, healthy eating, and more, and helping in meeting those guidelines even when they would rather stay up extraordinarily late or eat only sugary snack food.

So, in parenting this age group, please consider limits.  Children of 12-14 should not be treated like an older teenager with all the fun and none of the responsibilities.  While there is a campaign to“Wait Until 8th” for a smartphone , many twelve to fourteen year olds are navigating social media sites and media usage.  Media should not be limit-free for this age group!  Sending nude pictures, sexting, and using social media and texts in order to bully  a peer is sadly not uncommon in this age group because again, many of the children this age have no limits in terms of hours on their devices, and parents are not checking phones and computers.  One way to think about setting limits on media is to use a device like a Disney Circle; you can see a review from 2015 here; I believe now certain sites can be more easily blocked than what this review has stated.  Some parents have no idea what their child is doing on line or that they have multiple used profiles on Instagram or are on Snapchat or other sites. Devices such as these can trail usage across multiple devices.

Children of this age may need help being active in a free and easy way.  Many children this age like to “hang out” but the days of 12  and 13 year olds zooming bikes around a neighborhood or playing pick up games may not happen as much in the past.  How can this child be active without or in addition to an organized sport?  This typically requires free time that has no agenda. Having time to just be protects children and gives them space in this fragile state where they are emerging and trying to hear their own voice and may even give them time to connect with you, the parent.  You are still more important than peers at this age. In fact, I think the ages leading up to the fifteen/sixteen year changes may be one of the times you have the greatest influence.  So don’t give up! 

Lastly, help your child not to be a terrible human being with peers.  No, we can’t police everything, and yes, perhaps we were not policed in our peer relationships at this age in the past, and yes, friendships come and go in the middle school years as middle schoolers try to find their own voice and where they belong.  However, I think because so much of the free group play of the early years and early grades has been lost and replaced by adult-led, structured activities, children this age are coming into the more socially difficult middle school years with even less social abilities than in previous generations.  Help your child to learn what a loyal friendship looks like; is that friend really a friend or not; what bullying and toxic behavior looks like, talk to them about peer pressure in the areas of drugs and alcohol and sexuality.

Provide areas where children MUST show responsbility, whether that is nurturing the home, helping to care for a younger sibling, help with elders in the family, run a tiny business from the home.  Too many of the children this age have many toys and a run of what they want to do with no limits, but yet have no responsibility outside of themselves in terms of contributing to the family.

Most of all, just love them.  These years bring many changes in development in all areas being human.  Remember that this age is not 17 or 18 though, and as opposed to guiding an older teenagers with check-ins, they may need more parenting and limits than an older age group.  Being involved in this fragile, almost back to toddlerhood stage of needing protection is how it should be. It is a fine line between hovering and meddlesome and being helpful; boundaries are key to navigating this.  If you need help, I highly suggest you make friends with parents who have older children that you admire.  It can be helpful to hear what worked really well at this age, especially in those older teenagers that might have a similar personality to your younger child.

Blessings,

Carrie