The First Week of First Grade

Our little first grader came dressed for  the first day of first grade as a gnome, complete with hat, beard and pointy shoe covers and announced that I would be teaching “Pebbles the Gnome” every day this year. Those of you that have read “A Donsy of Gnomes” probably can understand this little gnome character! (Pebbles is his favorite!)   At any rate, we had a fun first week of school.

We always start with movement, so our first day was jumping rope and other movement from Brain Gym and Extra Lesson work, our first grade verses,  our seasonal circle, our  math games (oh yes!  I start right away!),  and then a few words about school in general.  So,  in addition to the “normal” things that I think are often ingrained in us from Steiner’s lectures to do on the first day of school  (talking about what we do with our hands, painting with blue and yellow and yellow and green – see Steiner’s lecture four  in “Practical Advice to Teachers” if you are looking for more information), I also made several other points to suit the dynamics of our family.  This included a good, new look around the school room in which our little guy has hung out since he was born – what is on the Nature Table?  Where are all the supplies kept?  Where is the rhythm of the day?  How do we know if it is a Feast or Fast Day?   Let’s look at this space  with new eyes since now you are in first grade!

We also talked quite a bit about coming to school and how school is for those eager to learn, and how we learn how to do things that make us like our mommies and daddies and our older siblings and how eventually we can use those things to help other people.  Even at this early age, our first grader completely understands that his father’s work is to help other people and the work outside the home and inside the home  was to help other people.  So that made sense to him.

We talked about the rules of our school time.  Normally I wouldn’t be so direct with a first grader, because perhaps we think of first grade in the home being modeled and held by rhythm and a presence of loving  authority, but I decided with much older siblings in the mix (middle school and high school), our first grader has a different perspective and really wanted and needed to hear the expectations of school in direct but kind and firm words.

After that, we went into the great secret that all inventors, artists, scientists know – that everything in the world is made of the line and the curve.  We had a delightful Irish tale about Lusmore of Knockgrafton on the first day and then the next few days we worked with a story I created that held archetypal images with more lines and curves in various configurations.  We did an intense amount of movement and math in rhythmic verses, counting, and games along with three beautiful paintings and  keeping up with the rhythm of our home in cooking, cleaning, baking, and handwork.  Next week will include more modeling and painting and form drawing.

Overall, it was a very fun week for both of us that I know he carried inside of him.  One night as he was falling asleep, he said to me, “You know, roads are  straight lines and cul-de-sacs are curves. Some roads are curvy too.”  A fitting image to drift off to sleep, wondering about all the beautiful secrets in the world outside his door.

Blessings,

Carrie

Finding Rhythm With Grades-Aged Children

I think rhythm with grades-aged children (which I consider children in grades 1-8, so ages seven to thirteen or fourteen) can become trickier.  As children grow, chances are that you are not only juggling one grades-aged child but perhaps children that are older (teenagers) or younger (the littles, as I affectionately call them) with children that are in these grades.  There can also be an increased pressure to sign up for activities or increased pressure at school  as a child advances toward high school.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 1-3:

  • Seriously think about how many structured activities you need outside the home!  I wrote a post about choosing time outside the home wisely in which I detail how many activities I really think a child in public or private school, versus homeschooling children need.   Remember, it is almost impossible to have a healthy rhythm if you and your children are gone all the time scurrying from one activity to another.  Children under age 9 deserve a slow childhood with time to dream and just be (without screens) and I would vote for no outside structured activities for these tiny ages.  Mark off days to be solely home with no running around!
  •  Being outside in nature in an unstructured way is so very important, along with limiting media.  I suggest no media for these ages.  There are many other healthier ways for children to be spending their time that promote great physiological and psychological health rather than being a passive recipient. First through third graders need an inordinate amount of time to be outside, to swim and play in the woods or sand, to ride bikes, to climb trees, and just be in nature.
  • For those of you who want to homeschool through many grades, I do suggest getting involved in a homeschooling group or finding a group of homeschool friends for your child.  This usually becomes a much larger issue around the latter part of  age 10, post nine-year change for many children (especially melancholic children and typically girls over boys around the fifth grade year) and for those who are more extroverted.  However, one activity is plenty for third graders in anticipation of this “coming change” as a ten year old. 
  • Rest is still the mainstay of the rhythm – a first grader may be going to bed around seven, a second grader by seven thirty or so, and a third grader by seven forty-five.  This may sound very early for your family, but I would love for you to give it a try. If you need ideas about this, I recommend this book.
  • In short, I do not think the rhythm established in the Early Years should be changing too much in this time period.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 4 and 5:

  • Rhythm begins in the home.  What are you doing in the home? I find sometimes fourth and fifth graders are anxious to go, go, go because there is not much happening in the home.  No rhythm is being held, preparing for the festivals has fallen by the wayside, and they now see being involved in things such as preparing meals and such as work instead of just part of a rhythm of breathing in and out.  This takes time to develop again by being home. Be home!
  • All the things in the first through third grade section above applies. Rest is still very important and fourth and fifth graders may need help in this area – both in resting and in having a reasonable bedtime.  Children this age should be getting 10-11 hours of sleep a night, plus time to rest! Most children this age are still going to bed around 8 or 8:30.
  • I do not believe fourth and fifth graders really need structured outside the home activities, especially for children attending public or private school. I have seen some fifth graders who really relished one special activity.   Many homeschoolers will find their fifth graders really wanting a homeschool community and friends at this point, so I think that might need to be honored.
  • Media!  I have written many posts about media.  Fourth and fifth graders do not need media or their own phones or their own tablets.  Think carefully about this.  There are other ways they should be spending their time that are much more important to development.  The reason media is important in the context of rhythm is that it generally is used as a time-filler – so if the pull to media is strong, that typically means the rhythm is not strong or that the child needs help in finding something to do – handwork, woodworking, and other activities can help that need to create and do.
  • Being outside in nature and developing the physical  body is still of utmost importance. Setting up good habits for physical activity is important in this stage because most children feel very heavy and clumsy when they are in the sixth grade and changing around age twelve.  Having great habits in this period of grades four and five can really  help with that.  
  • This is a great age for games in the neighborhood – kickball, foursquare, etc. – and general physical activity of running, biking, swimming.  Free play is probably one of the most important things fourth and fifth graders can do!
  • Keep your yearly rhythms strong.  This may be easier with younger children in the household, but never lose sight of the fact that a fourth or fifth grader is in the heart of childhood themselves and therefore should certainly not be treated like a middle schooler.  This time is very short, and needs to be treated as the golden period that it truly is!  Keeping the festivals, the times of berry picking and apple picking and such, is the thing that children will remember when they are grown up.  If everything is just a blur of practices and lessons and structure, there is no space and time to make those kinds of family or community memories.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 6-8:

  • Rest!  Rest and sleep are very important components of rhythm.  Sixth graders who are twelve are generally sluggish, and teenagers have rhythms regarding sleep that begin to change.  This article from the New York Times details many of the changes for teenagers (seventh and eighth grade).  In order for these children to get enough sleep, and since the starting time of public school middle school may be later (but probably not late enough!), I highly suggest limiting late night activities.  Again, choose your activities outside the home carefully and with much thought.
  • This is a prime time to nurture life skills and responsibility around the home. If you are running everywhere, this time of learning, which is really the most important thing when children grow up and have to live on their own, cannot happen.   Life skills and home responsibility deserves a place in daily and weekly rhythm.
  • Media is harder to keep at bay for most families.  Remember, media impacts rhythm and vice versa.  It is often a time filler, and can prevent middle schoolers from solving their own problems of what to do when they are “bored” (or just being bored; there is value in boredom as well!)  and tapping into their own creativity.  It can derail any kind of “doing” rhythm.  Hold strong standards about media!  Some ideas:  use a Circle to manage time and content across devices ;  strongly limit apps (because every app you add generally leads to more time on the device) and do not allow social media.  We introduced the  computer in eighth grade (which I know is not always feasible for public or private school students who are using technology as part of school from an early age)  as a tool for school work more than a plaything, and I think that attitude also made a large difference.  If you allow movies/TV shows, I recommend using Common Sense Media , but I also feel this needs to be strongly limited (and I would vote toward not at all or extremely limited for the sixth grader/twelve year old) since these middle school years are  ages where children feel heavy, awkward, clumsy, and don’t particularly want to move.  So, more than anything else, I think watch what you are modeling — are YOU moving and outside or are you sitting all day on a screen?  Modeling still is important!   If they are sitting all day at school and with homework, it is important that they move vigorously when they are home from school and on the weekends!  With both things that unstructured in nature and as far as structured movement..
  • This is a great age to pick up sports if that hasn’t already happened, although many children will say they feel they should have started much earlier. Again, this is such a symptom of our times that everything earlier is better, which I often find is not actually the case.  There is a big discussion right now about sports burn-out for middle schoolers who have started in elementary school.    If you want to see more of my thoughts about sports, take a look at this post that details the last pediatric sports medicine conference I attended.
  • I find the artistic component often needs to be increased in these years to really counteract some of the headiness of school subjects and media exposure.  It is a healing balm for middle schoolers, even if they complain they are not good at drawing or painting or such.  Keep trying, and do it with them or as a family.  Keep art and woodworking activities out, provide craft ideas and help them harness some of that creative power!  That can be a part of the weekly rhythm for your middle schooler.
  • Remember that your middle schooler is not a high schooler. The middle schooler does not think, move, or act like a high schooler. Please don’t force high school schedules onto your middle schooler.  There should be a difference between the middle schooler and high schooler.

Last tips for rhythm with children in grades 6-8:

  • Where is the family fun?  You should be having tremendous family fun together.  Family is where it is at!  Family is more important than peers – you can look back to the book, “Hold On To Your Kids” by Neufeld and Mate if you need further confirmation.  Family fun can be part of all levels of rhythm – daily, weekly, and yearly! It is an attitude and an action!
  • Where is your rest, and your inner spiritual work?  I think you need this, especially as you enter the middle school years. Children can have a lot of emotion during this time period, and you have to be the steady rock.  If you need a reminder about boundaries and parenting, try this back post.
  • How is your home coming along?  By now, with children in these upper grades, there should be pretty steady rhythms and routines regarding the home and the work that it takes to maintain a home.
  • How is your relationship with your partner or spouse?  This is the time to really start thinking about date nights if your relationship thrives and deepens on that.

Blessings,
Carrie

How Is Planning Going For First Grade?

(Just a brief and gentle reminder, this post is copyrighted.  The posts on the Early Years and Early Grades seem the most likely to end up in other people’s work uncredited (and being sold for a profit!)   If you want to use something from this post in a public way, PLEASE link to it or credit my work in some way.  Please do not write a curriculum and use my ideas. Many of us with experience are becoming  reluctant to share due to this, and it hurts the homeschooling community. Food for thought).

I am so glad you asked!  It is going very, very slowly.  Between planning high school biology as a year long course, our ninth grade blocks, and our sixth grade blocks, which I did a lot of work on and re-did them all from scratch (this is  our second time through sixth grade)…well, first grade is coming along slowly, even though it is my third time going through it.  It is hard to get back into gnome and fairy land after planning high school, and also to juggle between high school, middle school, and first grade.  It is a situation unique to Waldorf homeschooling families and very different than a teacher in a Waldorf School setting. At any rate, this is what I have so far:

My block layout and a general structure for the day and week.  This essentially includes jumping rope, hand clapping or rhythmic games or skipping for more movement,  something from my favorite Movement for Childhood (see the article “Classroom Activities to Support Learning Readiness” on their website), our Opening Verse, a  seasonal Circle that is fairly paired down, some active math, and then our Review/Main Lesson Material.  Depending upon the day of the week, I have also  assigned my two helpers to do something with our first grader – usually this is cooking (August we will be working with peaches) or knitting ( I plan to use the story of Captain Tinker knitting a scarf for Jenny the Cat, for those of you who are familiar with the Cat Club books) , math and language arts games,  or painting, drawing, or modeling that  I want to do outside of our Main Lesson work.  I also always have several options for movement breaks on hand that I can pull out when we need a minute to get re-focused in our work.

A lovely 3 week block of Form Drawing.  I made up a container story involving a farmer, a little boy who loves to be up in the trees, a turtle who lays a golden egg, a giant,   and a journey to a kingdom.  It is actually not a very complicated story, but it encompasses a lot of movement and  many line and curve forms, and also introduces counting  as the different characters go over things on their journey.  This should be a fun one to set up with little wooden figures, silks, river stones, and sand.

Our second block is also a three week block and will involve our qualities of numbers.  This block will include the same general structure I detailed above, but I will also introduce the pentatonic flute in this block with a story along with continuing many rhythmic activities .  For our actual  Main Lesson, I took the story, “Robert’s Harvest Loaf”  from the back of the book “All Year Round” and extended it and added more characters to make it into a story about the qualities of numbers 1-8.   After number 8, I am using individual stories for the numbers 9-12.  I am spending a lot of time in this block on developing rhythm in different ways, to really imprint that in the body as I feel this is a large key to learning mathematics in the early grades,  and in forming spacial relationships of these numbers in relation to the circle.  So we are using many active math techniques and games and a lot of bodily movement.  This will also be our time leading up to Michaelmas, so we have some seasonal preparations to do.  We will be cooking with apples this month and going apple picking, and tent camping as well.

I am sitting down today to write our third block, our Introduction to Letters.  For this block, I am envisioning a lot of fingerplays, and  fun with sounds and rhymes.  I plan to make a story off of  Dorothy Harrer’s story, “The Prince Who Could Not Read.”  I am envisioning expanding it ( a lot)  and weaving fairy tales into it to include the letters  B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P and W.  Our next block will cover the other letters and the vowels.

Our fourth block will be our second math block, and I am planning on introducing the four processes through bears.  Not gnomes, but bears. :)  Black bears live in our state and in fact  we had one in our neighborhood this summer.  Bears can  climb trees and swim, they can live in hollow trees or elsewhere and eat a variety of things that lend itself to math processes (berries, fruit, acorns, grasses, insects).  I think this will be a great block full of fun and being outside, along with more camping.  This block should write itself fairly quickly.

Our fifth block will be in December, and this will be a nature block and preparing for the holidays.  We will most likely do nature walks and hikes, crafts for the holiday and for winter, animal stories of the animals in our areas, and possibly look at making a calendar, which is suggested in the First Grade Christopherus Syllabus (I have a syllabus from 2005, so not sure if that has changed over the years!).

So that is what I have so far.

I would love to hear how your planning is coming along,

Carrie

 

A Guest Post: Main Lesson Structure

Main Lesson Structure – A Guest Post by Meredith Floyd-Preston from A Waldorf Journey

(Thanks so much to Meredith Floyd-Preston from A Waldorf Journey for sharing with us her thoughts about the structure of main lesson. Meredith is a long-time Waldorf teacher and the host of a brand new Waldorf podcast that you can find on her blog or on iTunes. Please make sure you check out the link at the bottom of the post for a free offer for Parenting Passageway readers. Thank you, dear Meredith, for being in this space today. – Carrie)

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, is often said to have indicated that all of the learning a child needs to experience in a day can happen in the first two hours of the morning. Anything outside of that precious, sacred two hour main lesson is bonus, enrichment content.

Now, I’m not sure how my subject teacher colleagues would feel about this statement, but for those of us who teach main lesson, it could bring a little anxiety and some big questions.

  • How can I make sure that I am making the most of those two hours every day?
  • What are all of the things that need to fit into that time block?
  • What activities and experiences will ensure that my students are primed and ready to receive and engage with my lessons?

I’ve spent my 10 years as a class teacher trying to answer these questions and I’ve come to a few conclusions about how to structure main lesson to make the most of it. Thanks to some great mentoring and a lot of trial and error experience, I feel like I’ve settled in on a rhythm that works really well for me and my students.

Here’s what it comes down to …

  • Warm Up and Wake Up
  • Review and Deepen
  • The New and Exciting Content
  • Write, Draw and Beautify Bookwork

Warm-Up

During the warm up, your task is to get your students ready to engage with the lesson that is to come. When they first begin the day, your students are facing many barriers to engaging with the lesson. If you teach at a school, your students are coming from different parts of town, houses, family dynamics and morning commute situations. One goal of the warm-up is get all of these different students coming from their varied circumstances all onboard the same ship, ready to set sail into the morning’s lesson.

There are many different ways to think about this warm-up, but it helps me to think about the 3-fold nature of the human being and the activities that will wake up my students’ heads, hearts and hands. Here are some examples.

  • Hands – rhythmic movement activities, relay races, jumprope, a morning walk, obstacle courses, outdoor play
  • Heart – social interaction time, singing, recorder-playing, poetry
  • Head – quick thinking work, mental math, memorization quizzes, times table work, beanbag parts of speech game

Review

Often the review comes in the form of a discussion about the previous day’s material. The idea of the review is to refresh the material from the day before to see how it has grown and changed in the students’ sleep life. You know those little epiphanies you have when you wake up in the morning after sleeping on something that happened the day before? That happens for your students, too. Coming back to the material from the day before is how you can make use of and solidify the ideas that came in the new content from the day before.

Most teachers look for ways to spice up this daily review so students don’t become tired of the idea of reliving content from the day before. Reviewing the content with dramatic reenactments, specific questions, pop quizzes, creative drawings, or poetry-writing are all ways you can make the review a little more interesting than just orally rehashing the story from the day before.

One other suggestion – I have found it useful to save a little nugget of new information to share during the review. I’ve noticed that when I casually mention some additional detail from the story that I didn’t share the day before, a little spark of interest lights up in my students and they’re much more engaged than they were before.

Though the traditional model positions the review right after the warm-up, many teachers are now experimenting with doing the review after the new content when possible. The idea here is that the new content is the part of the lesson that the students are most engaged and interested in. It is the reason they come to school and it is the part of the lesson that they most look forward to. If we can bring that to them earlier in our lesson we’ll have more engaged and interested students.

New Content

As mentioned above, from a certain perspective, the new content is what the lesson is all about. This is the curriculum material that you put your heart and soul into preparing and it is what your students most look forward to. In the lower grades it is often the story content that inspires the imagination of your students. In the upper grades it is the new thinking content that your students’ intellectual minds grapple with.

Whatever the age of your student, this content is a gift that is given directly from teacher to student, without the interference of a textbook or other reference material. Take the time to learn the content and make it your own, so you can deliver it to your students in a living way.

Traditionally, the new content is delivered at the end of main lesson, and I can imagine this model working well in 1st or 2nd grade. But any older than that, I recommend bringing the new content as soon as it realistically makes sense. If the new material doesn’t need the lead-in of the review, you can even bring it right after the warm-up. There have certainly been times when my excitement about the new content has inspired me to bring it to my students right away

Bookwork

During the bookwork portion of the main lesson, the students take the material they have learned and put it into crystallized form. They bring the rich imaginative experience of the content into final physical form. In the upper grades, it can be a very satisfying experience to live into the content one more time in this very will-oriented way. Younger students appreciate the opportunity to engage with the content in a more tangible, active way.

I encourage you to think creatively about these four parts of the main lesson. With an understanding of the purpose behind each component, you can freely craft lessons that guide your students through the process best. You can imagine each component making up one half hour of your morning lesson, but use your powers of observation to determine if that structure makes sense for your students. Generally, younger students need a longer warm-up, older students need more new content time. Observe your students and plan accordingly.

I’m all about encouraging and empowering teachers and homeschooling parents to craft lessons that speak specifically to their own students. There is no secret sauce when it comes to Waldorf Education. As long as you understand child development and observe your students, you have everything you need to create your own lessons.

To help teachers and parents feel confident about planning their own curriculum, I have created a free 3-part video series about planning curriculum. To receive a link to the first free video, head over to my blog and subscribe using the form in sidebar. You’ll receive a link to the first video, as well as my Ultimate Guide to Chalkboard Drawing.

I hope these little videos, along with Carrie’s fantastic posts here at Parenting Passageway, can inspire you to create a Waldorf curriculum that is uniquely suited to your individual students.

About Meredith

Meredith Floyd-Preston is a mother of 3 teenagers and a trained and experienced Waldorf class teacher who blogs about her experience at A Waldorf Journey. Her new podcast A Waldorf Journey Podcast is a resource for supporting teachers and homeschooling parents with their teaching.

Which Waldorf Curriculum Do I Buy?

I have posted on this in the past, but feel the need to bring it up again since it has been a little while since I last wrote on it and it is that time of year when people are looking for resources and asking about which Waldorf curriculum they should buy.  Some people have asked what I use personally.  I have box (es) of materials for each grade  ( grades 1-9 so far plus Early Years) because I make up my own curriculum for each grade for each child.  If you came to my house and looked through my boxes, you would see I own pieces of most major Waldorf curriculum providers for each grade ( at least for grade 5 and under; the pickings get more and more slim for grades 6 and up and for high school there is not much at all) and many of the resources from Rudolf Steiner College bookstore that Waldorf teachers use.  I am reluctant to “recommend” anything because I find it to be such a completely subjective experience – what I love and what works for me and my family absolutely may not work for you.  So I really refrain from giving recommendations, but I have in the past mentioned pieces that were helpful to me in particular blocks for a particular grade for a particular child.  It changes year to year as I go through each grade three times because each child – and our family dynamics at each stage –  is quite different.

So, this is what I recommend when thinking about Waldorf curriculum in general:

Look at the curriculum writer’s experience – do they have background in anthroposophy, the educational lectures of Steiner AND do they have background in homeschooling and teaching?  Have they gone through Foundation Studies or Teacher Training or both?  (This is a plus, I think, even in the homeschool environment).  Have they attended workshops to further their own understanding and also to be tied into the larger Waldorf educational community?  Have they worked with other children besides their own? (this is a huge plus!  Their child is not the same as your child!)   Have they homeschooled through all the grades, or just a few?  Do they have a big picture of where the curriculum is headed  or not (ie, high school!)?

Look at what  YOU need – do you need something to riff off of, so to speak, just to get started?  Do you need a full curriculum with lots and lots of ideas?  Do you need help implementing things practically in your home?  Do you need help with the artistic pieces?    Everyone asks for a completely comprehensive, organized by the minute Waldorf curriculum, and I understand the “want” for that in getting started due to fear or inexperience.  However, most of the curriculums written by experienced Waldorf homeschoolers/teachers will give suggestions that you  have to flesh out as Waldorf Education is an art.    And quite frankly,  at some point if you are going to stick with Waldorf homeschooling, you will be piecing things together. Commit to try and do something original for each grade, even if it is to just write a few poems and stories for first grade or some riddles for second grade or make up some stories, etc.  For sixth grade and up, I think you will be writing and piecing together an awful lot of your own things. Which leads to…

What are you willing to invest?  It takes time to develop your own skills in drawing, painting , and modeling.  It takes time to learn about things and the more complex subjects of the upper grades take time to flesh out and understand before you try to present it to your child.  So, what are you willing to invest in time and will the curriculum help guide you?

What are the goals for your family?  What are the dynamics for your children and family?  How will this curriculum assist in that?  Remember, homeschooling is about family and relationships first and foremost. And, when you talk to other people, they may or may not know what you need and what your family dynamics and rhythms are.  Know yourself and your family first!

Can you see the curriculum in real life?  It really helps to see what you are feeling drawn to if that is possible!  It helps you find what voice as an author reaches you and makes you feel empowered to homeschool.

Much love,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

Waldorf Homeschool Planning: Hands, Heart and Head

It is that time of year in the Northern Hemisphere!  School here in the Deep South is ending this week for most of the public schools, and we are coming to a close fairly soon as well.  This year our oldest will be heading into homeschool high school in the fall, and we will also have sixth and first graders starting anew!  These  important transitions are all the more reason to get organized over the summer.  I find myself following essentially the same sorts of rhythms ever year and  it really seems to fall into a hands, heart, and head pattern:

Hands – I start packing up the books for each year into bins and start getting out the books for the upcoming grades ( I have so many books by grade that I essentially only keep the grades we are doing out and the seasonal books and the rest go into the garage).  I organize the bookshelves and the school room supplies and see what we need to purchase in terms of art supplies and science supplies.  I also see what might need to be made for the first grade stories for our littlest member.

Heart – I sit down with my planner and figure out approximate start and end times for the school year and vacations; how many weeks of school I think we will do (which is usually 34-36 to fit things in); and I remember  and remind myself “what” our family’s goals for education are; I go through my Pinterest boards for homeschooling planning and make note of things that stir my soul for this year; I observe where the children really are in all spheres of development.  Over the years, I have made so many of those “divide a piece of paper into 12 blocks” – where you  write down your festival days, in our case Feast Days of Saints, seasonal qualities for where we live – that I don’t really have to do that anymore, but I do go through my seasonal Pinterest boards and see what we might like to make or do or use to celebrate by month and write it down.

Head – This is the most time-consuming part.  This is where the rubber meets the road and I start to lay out blocks – what blocks will I teach, in what order, how long will the blocks be, what resources will I use (which could be a post in and of itself!), what will each block contain and I write it all up day by day.  This part will take me most of the summer, even having been through first grade twice before and sixth grade once before. I include not only the block work itself, but opening verses, poetry and movement and other notes.

I also think hard about the daily rhythm at this point.  How many teaching periods each day or per week can I reasonably handle and not feel crazy?  Where can I combine?  What do I need to let go of and what do we really, really need as a family to be happy together?   I am finding the older my first child becomes, things are shifting in my family.  All the family in the children have very different needs right now, and I have different needs than before as I approach the last half of my fortieth decade of life.

Lastly, I make a schedule for myself for summer planning.  When will I plan exactly?  That part is really important because the follow-through has to be there.

Would love to hear what you are planning for fall!

Blessings,

Carrie

Preparing the First Block of First Grade

Some of you are already thinking of planning your first block of first grade.  I have just planned our first block.  This is my third time teaching first grade, and while each child is so different, I think there are some general tips that can be helpful to any parents planning a block.

If you have looked at the festivals of the year, your school year calendar, observed your child, and planned what blocks when plus gathered resources, you are ready to start planning your first block in detail.  If you are NEW to Waldorf homeschooling, you really need to understand the “why” and “how”. WHY do we do form drawing as the first block and HOW is it typically done?    Steiner’s educational lectures are the cornerstone in this regard, along with secondary pedagogical resources.

Many parents look at each block in terms of setting a goal for artistic work, soul development, and academic capabilities.  First grade is especially about getting children into their bodies, so to me this is an especially logical place to start.  I like to come up with an outline for each day and week. So, in our case, I have our day started with movement,  using the movement block rotation listed at the Movement for Childhood website. I also like to plan “movement breaks”  from this website as I know I will need them during the time spent with my child.

Then I look at establishing a daily order:  for example, after movement our order may be  our opening verse and active circle, active math, what the main lesson (in this case, form drawing) actually will be each day , and the ending of our day.  In our case, our first grader will also spend time each day working with his older sisters, so that will be listed as well – what they will be doing with him each day, whether that is cooking or handwork or reading to him or playing games.

Once you have this order of what happens during the time you are together,  and what happens each day of the week outside of the “main lesson time”, it is easy to make a template and start to plug things in from your resources or to make up what you need from your own creative and authentic self.  What will your movement, opening verse, active circle, active math, main lesson work be each day?   Look things up and create your own things!  You can write your own poetry or verses or songs and make up your own poetry!  Steiner outlined the first several days of first grade in his lectures, so looking at his indications is also an essential first step to planning the main lesson part of your template.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to draw from your child’s interests when it is developmentally appropriate.  For one child, when we did form drawing, I drew a lot from a story I made up about pond life and the movement of the animals, wind and things around the ponds in our local area.  For another child, I did form drawing based upon the stories and characters of Brambly Hedge.  You will find the right thing for your child if you just sit with it all for a little bit.  It will come. Trust the inspiration that comes to you!  It will be the right thing for your child.

Many blessings, and thank you for letting me share,

Carrie