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

 

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,
Carrie

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.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

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,

Carrie

Sorting Through Writing In The Middle School Grades

Waldorf Education lays an amazing foundation for writing throughout the elementary school years by working with rich oral language, varied sentence structure and vocabulary and opportunities for expository writing ( informative), creative writing (narrative), poetry (both written and in songs).  Many of the Waldorf teachers I have spoken to do speak of the need to bring in more opportunities and examples for book reports, reading non-fiction sources and writing reports, and opportunities for persuasive (argumentative writing) throughout the middle school years of grades 6-8. A public school environment would also focus upon cause and effect and comparitive essays in addition to the types of writings just mentioned. I think there are many ways to incorporate all of these types of writing along with grammar and oral language opportunities, but only if one plans ahead.  I  also fully believe on demand timed writing can wait until at least eighth grade if the student is headed to a public school high school  environment (but to know that this can be a focus in some school districts) and to begin in high school otherwise.

There is no one “Waldorf writing” resource for grades 6-8 or high school, although I am partial to the articles by Betty Staley on these topics over at the Waldorf Library On-Line and I like the Comedy and Tragedy booklet that Christopherus Homeschool Resources, Inc offers for ninth grade.  Live Education does have a grammar book for the upper grades that could be of interest to some.

If you are looking for resources, I have been reading a lot lately in the realm of English Language Arts for teenaged writers (which would essentially cover grades 7-12 in a Waldorf School or Waldorf homeschooling setting).  My favorite author so far is Kelly Gallagher and pretty much anything he writes I enjoy and can find gems in his work for my own homeschool.

I think  in the Waldorf homeschool setting, sixth grade is a great time to work on grammar, poetry, book reports, and  creative/narrative writing and expository writing, which can include gathering information from non-fiction sources.  Looking back upon Mr. Gallagher’s work and the sixth grade year I am in the midst of  with our second child, I am convinced we have done enough reading, but I am not convinced we have done enough writing.  I am working hard to increase our writing volume now.

Seventh grade is a traditional time of creative/narrative writing with the “Wish, Wonder, Surprise” block in Waldorf Schools.  I find seventh grade is a time when many students really up the quantity and quality of their writing.  I look back upon my first child’s work and I can see this amazing leap between sixth and seventh grade.  Then, in eighth grade, just as in previous years,  there is opportunity for all types of writing and I think also opportunities for using and deciphering news articles regarding current events.   I like requiring book reports quarterly from sixth grade onward (perhaps some of you start this requirement earlier), and I focus a lot on reading non-fiction texts in putting together  2-3  research papers or to accompany larger projects  a year in sixth grade, and then in seventh grade and up even more. Of course, we are learning grammar, summarizing topics, working with poetry and recitation and more throughout the year in all of the middle school grades.

I would love to hear some of your successes in homeschooling grades sixth through eight and how you approached the development of lovely writing in these grades.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

High School American History

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

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

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

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

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

Experiential Learning:

Native American/Early Regional Historical Sites Visited:

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

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

Civil War Historical Sites Visited:

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

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

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

Gilded Age Historical Sites Visited:

  • Biltmore Estate – Asheville, NC

Modern Historical Sites Visited:

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

Required Literature  List for Student for American History:

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

Artistic Projects Completed:

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

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

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

Ninth Grade Main Lesson Book Included:

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

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

Many blessings,
Carrie