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?






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.



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!




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.




Let Me Tell You Your Mission (In Case You Forgot)

One thing a friend of mine and I were talking about recently is that there is room in the adult world for all kinds of people with all their various quirks and personalities and temperaments.  The diversity of people is such a beautiful thing, and I know I am so grateful that different people want to do different jobs than I would want to do; that different people have different strengths and abilities; that different people even look different and live differently because I find so much beauty in all the varying cultures and faces of the world.  I love it!

So why do people act as if our sole parenting mission, and yes, especially in the middle and upper classes, is for our children to get into a good college and be on a college track?  I am not saying that education is not important.  It is important, but how can we balance this in a healthy way?

Having our teens stress themselves out to the point of having psychosomatic illnesses and fearing for the future and not wanting to grow up because being a teen is already stressful enough (so how stressful must adulthood be?) is not helping this generation.  ANXIETY has now taken over depression as something teenagers are dealing with.  According to this article in the NY Times, 62 percent of undergrads are reporting “overwhelming anxiety.”  There has been a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers.  

So, exactly what happens when the push, push for the “good college” is acheived?  What happens in real life outside of this?  My point is that people (and teenagers) are made of more than just their academic portfolio.  There is space in the adult world for many people with their many likes and dislikes and interests and passions. In fact, the adult world probably needs you especially, teenager who is different.

So, parents,  let me tell you your mission in case you have forgotten.  You are here to support your teen and to help guide them.  If you see them putting such pressure on themselves to perform, how can you step in and help them? What will they really need in the adult world to meet their definition of success?  Is their definition of success even healthy? One of the many points in the NY Times article above is that parents are not always driving the anxiety of these teenagers anymore by pushing them, but that instead the teens are internalizing the anxiety themselves and pushing themselves relentlessly.  Health and social relationships are, to me, more important and deserve even more time than academic work.  

You cannot live their life for them.  You are here to help your teen unfold and be who they are going to be.

Life is messy.  Being a teen is messy .  Be supportive and be kind, because you may not know much of what your teen is dealing with at all.

When people ask me about my parenting and goals for my children, I essentially say I want them to be healthy and helpful human beings.  Human beings who are good and loyal friends and family members who will help others.  Human beings who are ethical and who do not divide their public and private lives.  Human beings who can relax and have fun, and yes, make a contribution to something greater than themselves and support themselves.  That is an exciting parenting mission.

Blessings and love,

Designing the American History Blocks for Eighth Grade

One of the major themes that Rudolf Steiner wanted to see taken up in the schools was to get the student up to modern times in history at the end of the grades.  He felt children were not mature enough to really grasp history before the age of twelve, which is why it is often just taught as a series of  events in time in mainstream situations and becomes part of why Waldorf teaches symptomatically.

If we can draw what children living in this present day and time  need to understand something from a certain time period, then we start to teach history in a different way, a more symptomatic way, a way of great movements and tendencies the character of the people of a time period and then one can move into details.  You can see Lecture 12 from The Renewal of Education for more details regarding what Steiner said about Greek and Roman history and the Renaissance.

However, these details do not give us much regarding the history of the United States, nor does it give us much to go on in  terms that the streams that make up America are different than that of Western Europe.  Western Europe is only one stream of American civilization and  American society encompasses many streams. I feel strongly and have written about the need to include Africa, South America and Asian geography and cultures along with the European influences.  When it comes to teaching American History, we must go back and think about the big tendencies of a time period and how we incorporate streams.  With that in mind, I bring to you the way I looked at teaching American History in Eighth Grade several years ago:

I kept Rudolf Steiner’s verse in mind, the intent that Rudolf Steiner saw for America:

For America

May  our feeling reach

To our heart’s inmost core,
And seek to unite in love
With men of like aims,
With those spirits who, full of grace,
Look down on our earnest heartfelt striving,
Sending strength out of regions of light,
Bringing light into our love.

So, I tried to keep in mind the striving, the men of like aims, and where there was light in order to counterbalance the darkness of history and wars. I also tried to use biographies of interest to an eighth grader, and to really tie this to what was pertinent today.

We had done a Colonial Block at the end of seventh grade, and I had a whole block of Native American studies planned for ninth grade, so we essentially started with the time of Lewis and Clark in our first Eighth Grade block.

Here is how I divided our blocks (total of 12 weeks)

Block One (5 weeks)

Warm Up included Native American Poetry; Read Aloud before block began – Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell

Week One:

  • President Jefferson and the American West;  the Louisiana Purchase; Started “Sacajawea” by Bruchac as read-aloud
  • Louisiana Purchase Review; Lewis and Clark
  • Thomas Jefferson the Man – was he is visionary President or not?
  • Last Day of Week end on Westward Expansion; the Erie Canal and the Golden Age of Canals and the Steamboat

Week Two:

  • More material about the Steamboat
  • The formation of Texas; The Texan Revolt, the Mexian-American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe; start “Robert Fulton” as a read-aloud
  • Manifest Destiny and the Pony Express;
  • The Gold Rush – why was the California Gold Rush important for the development of the nation, what were some of the beneficial results; include impact of Gold Rush on ships and whaling industry in the Northeast; The Awakening of the American Mind (Fulton, Deere, Morse, Goodyear, Whitney, Howe)

Week Three – Read-aloud “Elijah of Buxton” and reader “Harriet Tubman”; lots of Civil War poetry; we got 15 books about the Civil War out of the library and read through them all; we also used our National Parks Service and completed a Civil War badge; visited many battlefields, memorized the Gettysburg Address, made a Civil War glossary; learned songs from the era

  • The Abolitionists, the Compromise of 1850; the Fugitive Slave Act, – write summary of regional differences of North and South
  • The Underground Railroad, the Dredd Scott Decisision; write about the impact of the Fugitive Act of 1850
  • The Civil War begins; Lincoln as a Man, Civil War Bull Run to Antietam with biography of Grant and Lee, Stonewall Jackson; Sherman
  • Lee and Grant; new weapons of combat for Civil War – how was the war deadlier than war ever was before? (steel ships, shells instead of cannon balls, trench warfare, role of telegraph and railroad cares, observation balloons(

Week Four

  • Review Battle of Antietam; psychological turning point of the war; Battle of Gettysburg as military turning point; Emancipation Proclamation
  • Women in the Civil War
  • Biography of Sherman and Sherman’s March to the Sea, the capture of Atlanta and Savannah
  • Lee’s Surrender
  • The Aftermath of the War


Week Five

  • Lincoln’s Assassination; Reconstruction and the Freedman’s Bureau; 13th and 14th Amendments
  • Compare and contrast Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois; the rebuilding of Atlanta, the beginning of the many historic black colleges and universities in Atlanta
  • The Plains Indians Wars; Custer, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull; read about the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where the Lakota Waldorf School is located
  • Killing of the Buffalo and beginning of the cattle industry
  • Transcontinental Railroad and the role of Chinese workers


BLOCK TWO (5 weeks)

Week One

  • The Gilded Age – Rockefeller and Carnegie; Industrialism and the rise of the city; new inventions and what happened in the South (remained heavily rural, much more poor than the North or West; only a few scattered cities and mill towns, very few high schools until the 1920’s)
  • Einstein
  • Imperialism to De-Colonization
  • Marxism

Week Two – lots of World One Quotes and Poetry

  • World War One, biography of Woodrow Wilson
  • The Jazz Age and effects of World War One – how did this change Americans?  (rush for people to stop thinking of themselves as immigrants and to instead be “American”; the examination of the First Amendment due to the Espionage and Sedition Acts)
  • The Dustbowl and the Great Depression; the seeds of World War Two


Week Three – Read Aloud “Breaking Stalin’s Nose”

  • World War Two – Causes; Biography of FDR, Churchill, and Hitler
  • The Holocaust and the lights in the darkness; The Grand Mosque of Paris
  • The Japanese-American Prisoners of War and the Japanese Internment;
  • How Did the Allies Win?
  • The Creation of Israel

Week Four

  • Biography of Eisenhower; the Space Race; attend a rocket launch
  • The Cold War – JFK
  • Vietnam War, Nixon
  • Reagan and Gorbachev – many of Reagan’s speeches reference Churchill and JFK, look at Cold War ideas in speeches

Week Five

  • The Persian Gulf War; biography of Osama bin Laden
  • War on Terrorism; Operation Inherent Resolve; ISIL; Boko Haram
  • Information Age/Digitality (history of the computer)
  • Challenges for the Third Millenium and our role in these challenges

THIRD BLOCK (2 weeks)

Lots of poetry – lovely book “Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace” by Anna Gorssnickle

Week One – Reader “Black Like Me”

  • Roots of Human Freedom – review
  • Harriet Tubman and Sojurner Truth compare and contrast
  • Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968 timeline; biographies of Martin Luther King, Jr; Malcolm X (compare and contrast); Andrew Jackson Young; John R. Lewis; field trips

Week Two

  • Women’s Rights – biographies of Elizabeth Stanton; Susan B. Anthony; Wangari Maathai and Malala Yousafzai
  • Gandhi
  • African Nationalist Movements; Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

These blocks were a TON of work to read and put together my own presentations.  Just a ton of work.  The main lesson book entries were a ton of work.  However, we read alot and learned alot and spend a lot of each day creating art and reading books from the library around each time period.

Hope that helps someone as they are trying to figure out Steiner’s task of moving into modern times! I realize by posting my work here it may end up for sale in someone’s creation of a Waldorf Curriculum without accreditation, which pains me, but I welcome use of this for personal use only.





What Are Waldorf Grades 6-8 About Anyway?

In the Waldorf School, there is often a sharp drop-off at sixth grade (the twelve year change), and then again as children enter high school in grade nine, as many parents switch to different forms of education.  This is also happens in Waldorf homeschooling. I know very few people who are Waldorf homeschooling grades 6-8 in the manner in which they homeschooled grades 1-5.  For many homeschoolers, this coincides with an uptick in outside activities of their children with just not enough time to plan or implement something lengthy, the want/need for children to do something more independently, or simply a dissatisfaction with the middle school curriculum as it is often said the true “thinking” part of Waldorf Education begins in high school.

I personally think it may be more of a daunting teaching problem rather than anything else.  I found this interesting quote regarding a more esoteric view of the human being  from  January 2002, Volume 7 #1: Did Rudolf Steiner Want a Seven-Grade Elementary School Configuration? – Waldorf Library in discussing whether or not a teacher should be with a class for all eight classes:

Waldorf education is not only about educating but about “awakening” the children. If a teacher does not possess the powers of awakening a certain age group, should one not accept that and instead work with the principle of specialization?

I think this problem of “awakening” children sometimes is daunting not only for teachers in a Waldorf School setting (who really might be better served by being with early years children) and who don’t want to awaken older children, but also for homeschool teachers as well…if we don’t awaken children by throwing facts and judgment at their heads, then how do we awaken them in the middle school grades?   How do we teach?  As the days with older children grow busier and more out of the home, these grades are not spoken about nearly enough compared to first and second grade, at least in the homeschool world. How do we get sixth through eighth graders ready for high school?  Still, though, in my observation of my own children and in looking at other children from even non-Waldorf families and what those children are ASKING to study during those years, the Waldorf curriculum meets those needs in a lovely way.

I found this interesting quote regarding a more esoteric view of the human being  from  this article:

The four upper grades deal with the same aspects of the human being in reverse order. In the fifth grade, the great individuals of Ancient History stand as a polarity to the Norse Myths, because they both deal with the human ego. The sixth grade topic of Romans, especially Roman law, is polar to the Hebrew Law because law shapes the astral. The seventh grade topic of Age of Discovery is polar to the topic of animal fables; both are connected to the life of people/ animals or to the etheric in general. The eighth grade topic of cultural history is polar to the archetypes found in Fairy tales of the first grade, because both describe the nature of human archetype thus representing the physical body level of the curriculum. A teacher who masters such interrelationships has mastered the content, form, and organic wholeness of the entire curriculum, and is thereby able to give the children the sense that all the subjects are interconnected and taught for a purpose.

Steiner did give indications of what to bring in these upper grades and it all culminates beautifully in the high school curriculum, where tenth grade is back into Ancient History, eleventh grade is back into Medieval and Renaissance topics, and twelfth grade is back into modern scenes.  A beautiful balance of the working of the will (cultural geography), working with the heart (history and literature), and working with clarity of thinking (math and sciences) permeates all grades.

I urge you to think about how the curriculum that served your children so well in the younger years serves them even better in the upper grades and high school.  I see children in the middle school years who are asking about the exact topics that the curriculum provides! It doesn’t change just because a child is past 12 or even past the 15/16 change.  The curriculum meets the child in front of you.

Many blessings,