planning the first two blocks of fourth grade

So, now we are up to the nitty gritty of planning.  Details on that in just a moment!

I have posted a few updates on Facebook at The Parenting Passageway page and on Instagram @theparentingpassageway, but here is an official updated planning post for fourth grade and where I am now…

  • I have laid out our school year and matched each week of our school year to a main lesson block topic
  • I looked at our “big picture rhythm” and thought ahead about festivals and birthdays
  • I have laid out a general rhythm for the school week – Mondays are journal writing and movement (and on selected Mondays, writing a rough draft of a letter in place of a journal entry); Tuesdays are yoga and journal writing; Wednesdays are  movement and the day for our fourth grader to cook dinner; Thursdays are mindfulness games, cleaning day, painting day, and instead of main lesson we will have nature studies or STEM kinds of activities or both.  Fridays we take off.
  • I made a quick list of each block by week on a legal pad and jotted down some brainstorming notes for practice ideas and projects.
  • I gathered many of my resources and grouped them into piles  by block or topic.
  • My block list for fourth grade, with one block still undecided and now I am leaning towards inventors because my son is really interested in birds and engineering.
    • August – Math Review of Measurement/Fractions (will introduce fractions over the summer) – I think with birds (American folk tales, which I switched – originally it was in November)
    • September – Cherokee and African-American tales leading into local geography
    • September – Man and Animal 1 (2 weeks) (tales from Lawrence Yep’s The Rainbow People, added)
    • October – Man and Animal 2  (tied into animals of our state, keystone species of our state, review of geography) (tales of the beginning of The Dwellers of Asgard in Padraic Colum’s book, “Children of Odin”)
    • November – Math – Geometry, review of fraction skills – adding and subtracting fractions (soul food tales of Odin from “The Children of Odin” by Padraic Colum)
    • December – Tales of Thor (changed, tales from  D’Aularies’ Book of Norse Myths),The Dream of King Alfdan from Isabel Wyatt in “Legends of the Norse Kings” , knots and forms
    • January – Math, Fractions – Norse Myths as “soul food” and we will draw or paint off of those (tales of Loki, Loki’s punishment, the Twilight of the Gods)
    • February –  Birds of Prey, report writing
    • March – Weland the Smith (undecided and at the moment I can’t seem to locate either book in my house since I am in the midst of cleaning out our school room.  End of year woes).  Or Inventors. My little guy would love a block on constructing bridges or something like that.  Totally not Waldorf, but I am looking at my child.
    • April – Earth, Air, Wind, and Fire (soul food tales from The Golden Stag by I. Wyatt); Camping
    • May – African Tales (tales from the San, tales from the Bantu people, Yoruba myths)

So, now we put the nitty-gritty together for each block, using the daily rhythm I have already created to know our rhythm, and knowing the parts of a main lesson block.

First, I read the resources for each block and jot down ideas on a form I made up.   I read my resources with ideas for the GOALS I want to see accomplished each block.  I don’t think you can effectively TEACH a block just by picking out story content.  Telling stories isn’t the same as teaching, so there is an idea of “soul food” – these are the stories that are needed for the development of the archtypal human being, and then there is the idea of what goals (skills, foundations, capacities) that need to be developed during the block.

So, for our first block I pulled from  “Math Wizardry for Kids” (Barron’s); “Making Math Meaningful:  Fun With Puzzles, Games, and More!”, “Math Games and Activities” by Claudia Zaslavsky; “Introducing Fractions” by Marilyn Burns.  I usually check in with Pearson’s “Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics” and York’s “Making Math Meaningful” for general progression and ideas as well.   I don’t tend to use a lot of stories in math for fourth grade, but instead use hands on activites.  I will tie in some of our math hands-on work to our bird of the week since our fourth grader loves birds!

I pulled forms from “Creative Form Drawing Workbook 1” by Angela Lord.

Our stories came from “With A Wig, With A Wag,”edited by Jean Cothran.  These we will model, paint, draw from each week during our extra art lessons.  I do this because for me, unless it is geometry, I find it difficult to really work on art with a fractions block. Just me.

I decided what birds we are going to study (one kind each week) for our bird loving little student and what other nature we will be looking at for our Thursday Nature Day.

I pulled together ideas for music, art, cooking, movement, yoga, mindfulness.

It’s a little jumbled on the form I created, but I can follow it.  You can see a picture of a few sample weeks on FB and IG.

For our second block, local geography, I pulled from the same form drawing book and math games books.  I used “The Mapmaker’s Daughter” by MC Helldorfer for for the idea of maps;  and then my own notes from going through this grade two previous times regarding local geography.

Second, I plugged in ideas for our opening verses, practice work,  review of our main lesson/practice, main lesson work, closing verse, lunch verses,  our art/crafting/music/cooking slot after lunch and our Thursday birds/nature/survival skills.  I think I will be writing out ideas for movement separately.

Third, I have to write some things out for main lesson.  Some things are like refer to page X in a certain book, but sometimes I have to write out a story or a narrative about something.  For example, I have narratives written out for the different types geographic provinces of our state, the first settlers in our state, and the first staple crops of our state.  You can do this ahead of time or the week before.  Just know what you need a narrative about and which sections really need that!  When you get into upper level grades, pretty much everything needs a narrative.  For something like math, which I approach more hands on and less story like in fourth grade, I might not need the narrative, but I will need an idea of how to progress math within each lesson.

Then the fun part of putting things in my own main lesson book begins!  More on that later.

Blessings,
carrie

Updated Fourth Grade Planning

I have posted a few updates on Facebook at The Parenting Passageway page and on Instagram @theparentingpassageway, but here is an official updated planning post for fourth grade and where I am now…

  • I have laid out our school year and matched each week of our school year to a main lesson block topic
  • I looked at our “big picture rhythm” and thought ahead about festivals and birthdays
  • I have laid out a general rhythm for the school week – Mondays are journal writing and movement (and on selected Mondays, writing a rough draft of a letter in place of a journal entry); Tuesdays are yoga and journal writing; Wednesdays are  movement and the day for our fourth grader to cook dinner; Thursdays are mindfulness games, cleaning day, painting day, and instead of main lesson we will have nature studies or STEM kinds of activities or both.  Fridays we take off.
  • I made a quick list of each block by week on a legal pad and jotted down some brainstorming notes for practice ideas and projects.
  • This week I gathered many of my resources and grouped them into piles  by block or topic.

In my last post here, I detailed the order of my blocks.  So I started here:

  • August-  Man and Animal 1 which will flow into….
  • September/October – Local Geography and Man and Animal 2 – we will be looking at the regions of our state through habitats and our local animals/camping
  • November – Math/Introduce fractions
  • December- Geometry/ Form Drawing – most likely will draw from Viking Hero Tales by Isabel Wyatt
  • January – Norse Mythology
  • February – Birds of Prey (special interest of my student)- each morning I am going to try to work in fraction problems related to birds!  That should be interesting!
  • March – Weland the Smith – rather dark tale, but I think our son will love it.
  • April – African Tales/African Hero Tales/camping trips
  • May – Math in the Garden (leading into Botany for Fifth Grade)/ camping trips

And this is where I currently am from that:

  • August – Math Review of Measurement/Fractions (will introduce fractions over the summer) – I think with birds
  • September – Cherokee and African-American tales leading into local geography
  • September – Man and Animal 1 (2 weeks)
  • October – Man and Animal 2  (tied into animals of our state, keystone species of our state, review of geography)
  • November – Math – Geometry, review of fraction skills – adding and subtracting fractions (soul food American folk tales)
  • December – Thorkill of Iceland or Viking Tales, undecided, knots and forms
  • January – Math, Fractions – Norse Myths as “soul food” and we may draw or paint off of those
  • February –  Birds of Prey, report writing
  • March – Dream of King Alfdan or Weland the Smith (undecided and at the moment I can’t seem to locate either book in my house since I am in the midst of cleaning out our school room.  End of year woes).
  • April – Earth, Air, Wind, and Fire (soul food tales from The Golden Stag by I. Wyatt); Camping
  • May – African Tales

Right now I am essentially grouping books and resources into piles by block, and throwing possible read-alouds near there.  As I put blocks together more fully, I will post pics on IG/Facebook and update here.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Planning Fourth Grade

So, fall of 2019 will be my third time teaching fourth grade, and it is a fun grade!  This is my tentative block plan –

August-  Man and Animal 1 which will flow into….

September/October – Local Geography and Man and Animal 2 – we will be looking at the regions of our state through habitats and our local animals/camping

November – Math/Introduce fractions

December- Geometry/ Form Drawing – most likely will draw from Viking Hero Tales by Isabel Wyatt

January – Norse Mythology

February – Birds of Prey (special interest of my student)- each morning I am going to try to work in fraction problems related to birds!  That should be interesting!

March – Weland the Smith – rather dark tale, but I think our son will love it.

April – African Tales/African Hero Tales/camping trips

May – Math in the Garden (leading into Botany for Fifth Grade)/ camping trips

We will be doing math daily and extra reading and spelling practice as my little guy is behind in  academic skills. We will also be working on survival skills in conjunction with his ninth grade sister, and in handwork we will be working on cross-stitch throughout the year.

It’s going to be a fun school year in the fall!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Free Lesson Block Plans and Ideas for Grades 4-6

The ten year anniversary of The Parenting Passageway is coming up in October.  This blog has seen me through the days and years of when our oldest child was tiny, all the way through high school and three children homeschooling multiple times through the grades! Amazing all the different changes in ten years!

One thing that has been consistent about this blog is a love of developmental parenting and education.  I often felt Waldorf Education met the developmental needs of our children very well, and wrote about what we were doing in our homeschooling.  I extend an invitation to you to check out my thoughts regarding the different grades and what we did for certain blocks.

All of this information is free, and I hope you can use what you like out of it to put together developmental education for your own children.

Grade 4:

Fourth Grade Handwork

Teaching Fourth Grade Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology

Local Geography

More Local Geography

I went through every week of fourth and seventh grade in 2014.  This is the Week One post

Fourth Grade Man and Animal Block

More Man and Animal suggestions

Switching To Colored Pencils

Grade 5:

Fifth Grade Block Rotation

Struggles with Preparing for Grade 5

Botany

Botany – second time through

Ancient Mythologies

Extending Africa Through The Curriculum

Greek Mythology and Ancient History

Using Mainstream Math Resources

I went through an entire year of  fifth and eighth grade week by week on the blog.  This is the Week One post

Grade 6:

Planning Grade Six

Block Rotation for Sixth Grade

Planning Sixth Grade Roman History

First Block of Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome – second time through sixth grade

Gallery of Work from Ancient Rome

Sixth Grade Medieval History

Medieval Block

Mineralogy Block -first time through

Mineralogy – second time through

Astronomy

Sixth Grade Geometry

 

Blessings,

Carrie

 

Toolbox of Tips For Dealing With 9-12 Year Olds

(This is Part One of a three-part series)  There is absolutely so much written about how to discipline, communicate, and recognize the stages of human development in smaller children, especially those under the age of 7.  And then…

Things just sort of drop off.  Community and friend support diminishes.  Family support may be there, but it can also be difficult if you are raising your children differently than your parents did.   It can feel invasive to talk about what is going on with a twelve-year-old to friends.  Parents end up feeling alone.  

The good news is that information is out actually out there, and this series of  posts is the round-up of helpful hints and ideas!  Take what works for you and your family and leave the rest behind.

Discipline:

Rhythm is STILL your friend.  Hold on to it!  This is the step that makes life and your nine to twelve-year-olds less crazy and easier to deal with! Don’t move too fast into the realms of letting 9-12 olds deciding everything that is going on for them.  Nine-to-twelve year olds still need bedtimes, help in not taking on too much at school, and yes, even helps in  taking breaks to eat and drink.  I personally recommend that if you are not working later at night and are home that your nine year old still goes to bed between 7:30 and 8:00 and that your 12 year old is in bed by 8:30. In order to do this, your children need to (and will be up) in the morning and will need to expend a good amount of physical energy  outside each day. The energy of  many boys in particular, seem to go up around age eight or eight and a half  and continue through about age fourteen, so they need hours of physical work and exercise.

That being said, RESPONSIBILITY is important, even as you carry the bigger pieces of the daily and weekly rhythm.  Nine to twelve year olds are very capable.  They should be doing chores and helping around the house, yard, or farm.  The way I work with chores is to make a list of daily chores for morning and evening, and assign teams. I only do morning and night because that tends to be when I have time to be available and check and rally the troops of this age.  I also try to catch children of this age doing fantastic things to help or be kind without being prompted.  Having a culture of taking responsibility and contribution is so important, and these ages are a great time to build that! I consider this step the first real step towards self-discipline.

WONDER is still important. This is NOT the time for a computer or cell phone yet.  It just crushes wonder and limits in-person communication – and in these days, most cell phones that parents give children also open up the Internet.  You can see more about smartphones here . Boys and gaming is also an issue, and I would encourage you to wait.  You can see practical advice about gaming here..  

I recommend clocking (in your head at least) the number of hours you are spending outside in nature – hiking, biking, walking as a family, camping. If you have difficulty with this and you are in the United States, there are several organizations you could look into that would help your children get outside, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Fire Side, Earth Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Fresh Air Fund.  This is a step toward learning self-regulation.

PROTECTION – Yes, the world is opening up but some level of protection is still important. The best way to start is, of course, modeling and exposure to different people and culture in real life in whatever way that looks for your family and talking about things that you come across.

Talking about bodily changes needs to happen for most children who will have bodily changes between ages 10-14 (and some as early as 8 or 9). Most parents do not do an adequate job preparing their girls for menarche or talking to their boys about bodily changes.  The first part of sexual education is seeing the body in a healthy light, and yes, in seeing healthy relationships that include facets besides just sexual activity.  

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCEIn a society  where our number two killer of our teenagers is suicide, we have got to do a better job as parents talking to our children about growth mindset, resilience, emotional attitudes, positive attitudes, what to do with feelings, how to cope with stress, and providing techniques for breathing, yoga, body scanning.  

It is our job to model dealing with stress effectively and to model humor and to keep the lines of communication open.  This age benefits greatly from some one-on-one time with a parent if you have a lovable tribe of kids.

Also, don’t underestimate the sibling pack as the first way of promoting how we act in relationships, respect, love, loyalty, and yes, how we make restitution when we cross the line as siblings are wont to do!

SPORTS– I think in the United States if parents hold off till nine to start organized sports, especially in this day and age due to the lack of neighborhood play and less space in general to run for many children, you are doing well. Holding off until middle school would be even  better.  If you must start something, please see the back posts on sports (here is one to start). I recommend i9 sports for a variety of reasons, but mostly because this organization seems to understand the importance of rotating sports, of practicing and playing a game in one session for recreational sports, and the fact is that whilst some children are crazy about one sport and play for years on end, the majority of children involved in sports QUIT by the teenaged years if they are pushed too hard.  Also, from my standpoint as a pediatric physical therapist, many coaches are simply not educated enough about the developing pre-teen body, the importance of things like pitch counts, etc whilst they are in the midst of pushing intensive year round practices, weight training , and more.

 

Up in Part Two;  Communication!  This is what parents are really talking about  when they talk about “talking back” or “tween attitude”. I think it is actually less about discipline and more about teaching our children how to communicate not only with us, but with their friends.  More on that to come!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Upper Grades: Getting To The Essence of A Waldorf Block

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a few musings.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

 

The Human Being and Animal

This is a typical fourth grade block for Waldorf Schools, and it confuses many homeschooling parents!   I find it to be based in a deeply anthroposophic approach that transcends much more than zoology and takes some familiarity to really carry this approach.  I think the main assumptions of this block are very foreign to many people.  You can find the roots of this subject in Steiner’s lectures, particularly references sprinkled throughout “Discussions With Teachers.”  One thing Steiner says is that “...we should remain clear in our minds that a human being is really the whole animal kingdom.  The animal kingdom in its entirety is humankind.  You cannot, of course, present ideas of this kind to the children theoretically, and you certainly should not do so.”

So, we think about bringing this through example.  Steiner talks about  studying the animal world before the plant world, which Waldorf Schools typically do, and he talks about using cuttlefish, mouse, horse and a person as good examples.  He also talks about (in “Practical Advice to Teachers”, lecture 7), about relating all animals to the human being.  He advises animal study in third grade (which most Waldorf Schools and most homeschoolers don’t do), and then in the fourth grade  looking at the animal kingdom scientifically in its relationship to the human being, and then in fifth grade adding less familiar animals, and then moving the study into plants in the fifth grade, and more botany in sixth grade plus mineralogy in conjunction with geography.  Then one moves into physics, chemistry, and physiology of the human being and back into high school biologic sciences in grades 9-12.

So, the first place to start is to look at the human body.  What is the head like? What is the trunk like?  What makes human beings different than animals?  Eventually, through study, we find that what makes us different is our ability to be upright, which frees our hands to help and serve others.  Animals are wonderful, and very specialized!  Human beings are not so specialized, we are generalists.  We will never have the keen eyesight of the beautiful eagle, nor the incredible body that is so much a head and can do so many interesting things as an octopus, but instead in a way carry around these different aspects within ourselves and all the aspects of the specialized animals make up humankind.  We can look at different animals and see are they chiefly animals of a “head nature” or a “trunk nature” and look at different types of limbs…Charles Kovacs postulated in his book that human beings are the only true limb animals in a sense because our hands are then free to serve all of humanity.

I think the confusion comes in as some anthroposophic resources divide the animals by whether or not they are head, trunk, or limb animals OR through a look at the threefold nature of animals – are they mainly “ruled” by their metabolic/digestive system, such as a cow or bison; or by their  rhythmic system, like a dog, or by their nervous/thinking system?  Again, these are generally foreign ways to look at animals for those of us raised without a spiritual scientific look at the human being and the animal kingdom, so it takes some getting used to to decide if one or both of these approaches resonates.  I like to do both of these approaches in the first block of the Human Being and Animal. You can see how I do this in the notes of these blocks below.

After this introduction and tying in of the animal kingdom to the human being, we can then  move into a second block that shows all of the differen types of animals in perhaps a more traditional manner, but always keeping in mind sympathy and antipathy.   Where do different groups compare and where do they contrast?  This block usually contains a researched report as well.  So, one would cover birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, mammals, etc as suitable for a fourth grader.  For this block, I like to tie it into our state’s animals, such as our state reptile, our state fish, etc to further illustrate the local geography a fourth grader has been studying during this year.   I also like to include a few weeks study on ocean animals specifically because we live in a state that has a coastline, and this furthers our study of local geography.  You have the upper grades to get into more specific zoological considerations if you add a zoology block in seventh grade, study animals along with geography of the world, and then of course in high school  you will have the biological sciences throughout the high school years.

The art opportunities in these blocks are amazing!  You can paint, draw, model with clay, create dioramas and origami and more.   Speech work with amazing poems, tongue twisters, and riddles is also so much of this block!  Field trips are also a wonderful part of this block, and we can do many!  We have done farm, aquarium, zoo, animal rehabiliation center, vet all as field trips for this block.

My favorite resources for this block include:  “Drawing From The Book of Nature;”  “The Human Being and the Animal” by Charles Kovacs; the free files from Marsha Johnson at waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com,  many library books about the specific animals I have chosen to present, “Learning About The World Through Modeling” by Auer, “Painting and Drawing in the Waldorf Schools”, the Christopherus “The Human Being and Animal” booklet; and there are free resources in the East African training manual for Waldorf teachers and Waldorf Inspirations.

So, in practice, just as an example, the last time I did fourth grade my blocks were structured somewhat like this:

Block One, Week One – 

Poetry for the Creation in the World, (we are Episcopalian so we used a prayer from our Book of Common Prayer).  I usually have the student lay down on a large piece of butcher block paper and we trace each other and have everyone fill in their own bodies with crayons or pencils.    We take a good look at ourselves, and write down what are some of the things we can do?  What can our younger sibling do?  What can adults do?

We also do a picture of ourselves as a round head, a crescent-shaped body, and limbs that are raying out at the hands. This idea came from Marsha Johnson, Master Waldorf Teacher, in her free fourth grade files available within her Yahoo Group waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com and she has more details on the why’s and how’s of presenting this in her files.  Once the drawing is done in crayon, we paint over it in watercolor paints and it makes a beautiful resist painting.

We talk about our heads and how our head sits quietly even if we are running and jumping around, how the head is along for the ride taking in everything around us as we process the information that comes in through our senses.  There are some animals that act almost wholly like a human head.  The cuttlefish is a prime example of this as the cuttlefish hardly moves but has to take water in and squirt it out in order to propel himself, and the cuttlefish takes in what he sees with his large eyes, and even his skin changes color in response.  Snails are another great choice, and fun to model with a sea shell and beeswax.    We have also looked at the squid (great fun to paint!) and talked about giant squid.

Week Two –

For animals that seem especially adapted to their environment due to their trunk, we first looked at the seal. This animal is mainly found in the United States far away from our state, but most children love the idea of seals so it seems like a good place to start.  Seals are fun to draw, and there is a wonderful poem by Rudyard Kipling called, “Seal Lullaby”.  We also talked about the  Eastern Harvest Mouse, since that is more specific to our region (but not as exciting as a seal! LOL).

Finally, we looked at the different limbs of different animals and connected these animals with how the limbs are specialized for the environment the animal is in.  The mole is a wonderful example; one of my children did a report on elephants and her interest in the elephant stemmed from our discussion of the elephant’s limbs.  We compared the padded feet of the elephant to the hooves of horses as well, and drew horses. Finally, we can compare this to the human being who doesn’t have specialized hands for flying, digging, or swimming but instead we can use our hands to serve others and the world. This is beauty in the world, and we can create it with what our hands do.

Week Three –

You could end as above, (some families do and that’s fine!) , or move into a threefold look at the animals.  I usually use the American bison as an example of an animal associated with  metabolic/digestive  forces, and this can lead to great modeling, dioramas, and probably rabbit trails into geography as the first thoroughfares of North America were traces made by bison and deer in seasonal migration and between feeding grounds and salt licks.  Many of these routes were followed by Native Americans and then later by explorers and  settlers (see how this all fits together as a foundation for the upper grades? )  I also like to mention our National Park System; most Waldorf homeschoolers in America have camped and explored different National Parks so this idea of protecting and preserving our lands is an important American concept.

We can then look at a the discerning, thinking American Eagle (beautiful poetry), and the rhythmical system that the dog is so associated with.  Great opportunities for modeling and making dioramas!  Lastly, we can create the very iconic Waldorf picture of the human being with the animals representing these realms superimposed on the human being. If we, as human beings are not specialists or ruled by one particular area, then what do we have?  We are generalists, and we can look briefly at the development of the human being.  Many fourth grade children are astonished to know that adults are still developing too throughout the life span!  We receive gifts from the animal kingdom, and have relationships with the animals kingdom for food, domestication, pets, and more but our gift to the animals is our abilities in conservation, in our stewardship, in our ability to wonder and awe at the beautiful planet we live on! We can talk about concrete ways we can help the animals.

The second block, at least the way I do it, is very specific to our state.  I live in the Southeastern United States, so I picked our state and regional animals to represent general animal categories.  The richest biodiversity of reptiles and amphibians in the United States is concentrated in the Southeast, so I usually start there.  This is a great time to paint, and to look at these creatures closely.  Salamanders are a great study.  For reptiles, I usually look at the American Alligator as this is a keystone species ( a keystone species is a species that has a very large affect on its environment even though the abundance of the species may be small, and it supports other species in its habitat). I find keystone species to be good subjects for reports as well.  For reptiles, I also like looking at turtles and tortoises, (finding out the differences!), and if you are in a coastal state, the types of sea turtles.  This also incorporates a lot of discussion about geography.  For example, our state has barrier islands, which hosts a large number of sea turtle nests.

In the second week, we usually look at birds.  This is also a good time to look at the biographies of such greats as James Audoban or Tory Peterson.  We can get a good general look at birds, visit falconers, places that rehabilitate injured birds, go to birds of prey shows, and more.  We also take a close look at our state bird and look at water birds as well.

Week three  and four is generally mammals, which is a huge and diverse category ranging from moles to flying bats to whales to manatees to donkeys.  Again, I try to stick more local as I think this makes the most sense to a fourth grader.  The American marsupial the opossum is very interesting to study, and I think educational as many people carry about misconceptions about the opposum.  We also usually look at beavers as those are right outside our neighborhood, and coyotes and bobcats as those are also close. Primates I tend to save until our seventh grade geography studies, but also can be looked at.

For week five, because we are a coastal state, we look at our own coast and animals in the coast.  I usually start with ideas about waterways (which end in the ocean in our state). So, as we find out about the watersheds in our state, we find out about the bass family as that is common.  Then we look at oceans.  We read about Jacques Cousteau and Sylvia Earle, and learn about the different ocean zones.  Ninety percent of marine life lives in the sunlight zone, but some that live in that zone dive down into the twilight or midnight zone (Sperm whales are a great example!).  We talk about the hatchet fish, the lantern fish, bioluminescence and some of the animals that live in these deep zones.  We also talk about the ocean floor and the trenches, which is a great foundation for  geography and mineralogy in the sixth grade.

Lastly, sometime in May to go along with our gardening, we look carefully at insects.  Which insects are creatures of the dark, which ones are hard versus soft, what is the metamorphosis of the butterfly and other life cycles?  Which insects are social?  How do pollinators work and what kinds of pollinators can we offer as a family to our insect friends?

These are just some ideas from my experience.  I hope you and your student have a wonderful time in this block!

Blessings and love,
carrie