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

Homeschooling Waldorf Ninth Grade

So, we are fast coming to a close on our ninth grade year.  This year was not nearly as light and fun as I predicted it to be for several reasons:

  1. My own inexperience.  I felt confident in teaching any subject at all, but it was still hard in terms of what would best reach my student – for example, the order of topics within biology, more literature analysis versus composition in language arts, etc.
  2. The year was busy with outside things and we had less time to be home and really do elaborate projects and things.
  3. We were still trying out resources to find what really clicked.
  4. My expectations were too high.  All over the Internet I kept reading, “Oh, it is so easy to homeschool high school!  They are so independent and all you have to do is facilitate!”  That may be true for students attending a hybrid school or taking all on-line classes, but I did NOT find this to be true in our case. Also, at least according to a Waldorf perspective, a  ninth grader is in a black and white stage where they do not think too deeply; it is general thinking and not introspective thinking; the main focus is outward and not inward – it is simply the year of “WHAT?”   “What is happening around me?”  Some Waldorf sources note the students are willing to do work without too much questioning of “Why?”  Again, this did not fit our case at all.  My ninth grader was not excited about homework or, happy to take things in but not so happy to provide any response.

So, my tips and advice as to what I would have done differently and what might help you as you plan ninth grade:

  1.  I would have spent the year doing a physical science or an environmental science and saved biology for tenth grade.  And in doing biology, I would use Oak Meadow again (which we found halfway through the first semester after an unsatisfying start), but I would re-arrange it so we started with the “macro level” of taxonomy, the kingdoms, and worked down to the microscopic level. This is what we are used to in Waldorf Education, and I think it would have made more sense to us even though pretty much every high school text starts with the cellular level.   I tried to start this year with using my own syllabus I created using Campbell (the high school level) Biology book, “The Way Things Work,”  and several lab books that many homeschoolers use, but this did not work for us. Oak Meadow Biology did work well for us, with added resources from Waldorf resources and Teachers Pay Teachers.  We did keep a Main Lesson book and did all the experiments and that was fine.
  2. We started the year with a Comedy and Tragedy block, which was a hit.  After that, we used American colonial poetry and the book “The Last of the Mohicans” with our Native American/Early American History block.  This was more difficult but okay. We then used pieces of the Oak Meadow syllabus to look through several works of literature, including “House of the Scorpion”, “Kidnapped,” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” and poetry by Mary Oliver.  Most of this was not enjoyable to our student and rather like pulling teeth.  I think when I re-do ninth grade, we will spend the year writing, but not  as much literary analysis.   I  would advise you to look at your student and see if you think your student would be better served with composition (argumentative/persuasive writing, narrative writing,  descriptive writing, expository writing, etc ) or is ready for analysis of literature past one block or so.  One idea I had was to base the types of writing across the year on Art History, which normally is  one or two blocks in the Waldorf Schools in ninth grade. So I may try that next time, (although my next student is super science-oriented, so I may base that through science next time!)
  3. I would have alternated solely the history/language arts blocks -3- 4 months each, 2 hours a day would have met the required hours for a college track class (120 hours), and then just added the math and science as year long classes. So yes, you would be teaching blocks plus two track classes at home, which could be a lot on top of teaching younger children.  But I think one could pull it off with careful planning.
  4. Apart from science, which I really do not believe you can get enough credit hours over four years with blocks to equal 180 hours in biology, chemistry, etc with labs, I would look carefully at keeping the block system with running math and science as year long courses if your student loves block learning like mine.  I had grand plans for more blocks, but we ended up with an Early American history  block to finish off our American history credit, Comedy and Tragedy, Literature, Art History ,  and year long courses in Ninth Grade Literature and Composition,  Biology, Algebra I, and Spanish II.  It wasn’t horrible or anything, but I felt like it all could have been lighter and more fun.
  5. Think carefully about what you might need to farm out to save your own sanity, and be prepared it may or may not really be what you needed!  This happens.  For example,  I farmed out Algebra I , but I wish I had farmed out the language arts component instead.
  6. We did have some great experiential learning this year, so borrow a trick from our unschooling friends and keep track of the hours of an experience and count that toward credits.  For example, we did a two hour class on fish anatomy, physiology, and classification, so that could count toward biology.  We did another class at our local aquarium on sharks, so that too could count towards biology.

I have some big plans for tenth grade since I had an epiphany this weekend, so stay tuned for some more ideas of dealing with the upper grades.  I have some ways I am thinking of combining seventh and tenth grades!

Many blessings and love,

Carrie

A Day In The Life of Messy Waldorf Homeschooling

The older my children get, the harder it is to write about homeschooling.  The Waldorf curriculum is a constant for us, but every child reacts so differently to it in the homeschool environment and it is hard for me to know if any of our experiences will translate.  Homeschoolers tend to paint this picture of things being lovely on blogs and Instagram.  Our days can be lovely too, but  some days are not, and I find with older children they look much different than when I had children all in 5th or 6th grade and younger.  It is not as beautiful as the early grades when all the children were more on the same page as far as the curriculum; it is more academic; it is more juggling for me because the children are so spread out in ages (if you are a first time reader, my children are 9th grade, 6th grade, 1st grade) and it is more focusing on areas that are difficult and time-consuming.

Today started with the usual – breakfast.  My children really want hot meals at most meal times.  My fifteen year old and twelve year old absolutely can cook and do, but I find if I do breakfast it is speedier and gets us off to a better start.  So today I threw oatmeal and flaxseeds in the crockpot with some cinnamon and cut up pears and sauteed some apples in cinnamon, butter, and a little coconut sugar.

We started with our littlest guy.  After his opening verses, he is doing a lovely circle regarding Pelle’s Suit from the book, “Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures” but I added in a number of Spring Wynstone verses about daffodils, violets,  gnomes and the Spring Queen.  In this way, we wake up our voices, our fingers and toes.  We woke up our minds with some movement math.  Then we reviewed.  We started with a little song he knows well.  It was written on the board – (“Spring is coming, Spring is coming, birdies build their nest, Weave together straw and feather, Doing each their best) and we hunted for all the S’s, all the c’s, found the letter that makes the “W” sound, etc.  We also practiced saying the words and clapping on the S’s and stomping on the b’s.  He still mixes up some of the letters and their sounds, so we played some games of putting little alphabet cards that he wrote in order and then I pick a sound and he finds the letter or vice versa (and then he quizzes me!).  We also took turns writing the capital letter on the board and writing the little letter friend that matches – big A, little a, for example.  He re-told the story of Snow White and Rose Red to me in exquisite detail, and we modeled a bear.  Then we painted not so much a bear, but the gesture of a bear in red, with yellow around it for the gold, and then a shy blue hiding in the corners.  The painting looks like the painting of any other first grade with a play of abstract color, but to us it represents the strong bear who could defeat a dwarf and the inner gold we all carry.  I put a sentence on the board from the story and we looked at it carefully, finding all the letters.  Tomorrow we will re-tell the story again, and draw and write from the story and have a new story.

During this, my sixth grader was bringing me her report on Attila the Hun.  She is using the book “Attila the Hun” from the Villians of History series and going through the chapters and writing down three things from each chapter that she learned.  On Friday, we will take all her notes and make it into a little report that will bridge our Rome History Block and our Medieval Block.  And my ninth grader was wandering in and out, muttering about writing up a lab and how the graph was weird (which I later figured out it was because I was having her plot the wrong thing. Oops!  We did fix it).

Next I worked with our ninth grader.  We started with biology.  We have been doing ecology and lately succession and biomes in particular (and catching up on labs since we switched programs in the fall semester and are still catching up). We looked at the lab she was having trouble with, and fixed that.  Then we forged ahead with using a microscope.  Oak Meadow Biology doesn’t require a microscope, but I wanted our ninth grader to have this experience, so today we were using the microscope to review mitosis and using some labs I pulled off the Internet.  We also looked back through our main lesson book at mitosis since this was something we did earlier this year. Then we moved into our more current topic and went through the biology chapter and I have had several main lesson book activities for this topic.  Lastly, we went through the book Kidnapped our ninth grader is reading for literature and went through comprehension questions and vocabulary.  During this, our first grader was playing, our sixth grader was practicing violin and reading the fiction book, “The Dancing Bear” for bridging our history blocks.

We had lunch, which I hurried along and brought a smoothie for myself to the school room.  It was time for our sixth grader  to get to  work.  We worked on spelling, math written and with movement and some grammar exercises regarding possessive pronouns. This all sounds simple, but it took over an hour and we didn’t have lots of time left. We reviewed her information about Attila the Hun and made plans for moving forward.  She has a few things to finish up in her Rome Main lesson book, and we hope to finish this week.  We are also working on business math.  We have gone through the history of math, and we are going over fractions, percentages, and decimals.   During this time, our ninth grader was re-writing her lab, and working on some questions surrounding her literature assignment.  Our first grader was playing in the school room and throughout all three lessons, our little puppy was being entertained by whatever child was available and sitting on my feet with toys.  After school, it  was time to get ready to go to the barn and have a horseback riding lesson.  The fresh air was welcome! We came home for a later dinner  and made dinner and everyone was ready to relax.

We had a slow start to this year and even in January, but things are finally falling into place (at least for now until it changes, LOL).  Hope you all are having some catch-up days to your school if you need it or settling into the groove of a new semester!

If you post a day in the life of your homeschool, please do link it here in the comment box!  I would love to hear from you!

Blessings,
Carrie

First Semester Ninth Grade Wrap-Up

It was a steep learning curve for my teaching this semester, my friends.  I have never taught ninth grade before, and I think what I mainly remembered from high school was twelfth grade.  And i kind of forgot how I got there, if that makes sense.  So, I want to share my mistakes with you so you don’t have to re-create the wheel when you get to ninth grade homeschooling. Now of course, this is how I think I should have changed things for this particular child in our family situation, and it may work out totally differently for you and your child!  So, I guess maybe these are just points to ponder.

In no particular order:

  1. I would recommend to decide what your track and block subjects will be if you are still continuing to homeschool with Waldorf Education as your base.  We are doing Algebra I as a track class with an outside teacher; High School Spanish II as a track class through Oak Meadow (enrolled); blocks on American History to add to last year’s blocks to make a credit for social studies;  Literature and Composition throughout in a combination of blocks and weekly readings and responses; Biology as a track class;  Art History and Foundations in Design and Drawing as both a block and weekly artistic projects. Our music credit we are getting through our church’s musical theory and performance program.  What I have found   is  that it is  very hard to earn enough hours to make a high school credit if you ONLY do things in one or two blocks,  unless you add up the blocks from multiple years.  And really, I think  there is a lot of material to cover so you need both weekly and block experiences
  2. Count your  hours of experiences as well.  I have used 4H experiences, experiences at our National Parks earning badges, and field trips all as part of experiential learning in each  subject area because I consider that to be a main feature of a Waldorf Education at this level – seeking truth from experts in the field; doing things instead of just reading about them.  Plan and count your experiences! Field trips!
  3. Biology may work out well for some children this year, but I would  put it in tenth grade if I had to do it over.  If you put it in ninth grade, be prepared to have both you and your student put a lot of time into it.    I would choose a physical science or environmental science if you must have a track science class in ninth grade.
  4. Pre-read all the works of literature you plan to cover.   I am sure this is where teaching the same grade multiple years in a row yields advantages!  This semester we covered The Last of the Mohicans, and in accordance with the Christopherus Comedy and Tragedy guide, we covered Electra by Sophocles, The Damask Drum (Japanese Noh Drama), Twelfth Night, Six Characters In Search of An Author, and Raisin in the Sun.  The Last of the Mohicans fit in great with American History, but it was a really difficult go and probably would have been better in eleventh or twelfth grade.  Neither of us enjoyed Six Characters in Search of An Author, and had I pre-read it I probably would have picked a different work to showcase an example of modern theater.  Some books have themes that your child may or may not be ready for in these works, so that is another reason to  pre-read.  Next semester we are using some works  from Oak Meadow’s Literature and Composition I course along with The  Old Man and the Sea.  I will let you know how it goes!  Literary analysis is exceedingly hard for most ninth graders, and so you must have a clear progression in your mind as the teacher as to how you are going to develop this and work toward this.
  5. Keep your rhythm and the artistic and  academic deepening work going in that same two or three day rhythm you used througout the grades. I have found that this worked really well, and kept us grounded.  I hope to share some pictures of our work at some point in the future.
  6. Don’t forget to hike, celebrate the seasons and festivals, get outside, pursue interests.  The whole point is to be well-rounded.
  7. Handwork, music, dance and movement, gardening, cooking  – don’t give up. Find spots for it, both in the main lesson and the track classes, but also separately.

Share with me your high school homeschooling experiences!  I can’t wait to learn from you!

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

 

 

Homeschooling Ninth Grade Biology: Part One

If you are interested in homeschooling high school biology, particularly if you are arriving here as a Waldorf homeschooling parent,  I would ask myself several questions:

  1. Do you want to run this as a “track” class (all year, the way it is run in public schools in the United States?) or do you want to continue to run the sciences in blocks such as done in the middle school grades?

2. Is ninth grade the right grade for this subject to run as a track class?

3. If it is, and we look at living biology in topics or units, what sense do the order of topics make coming from doing the middle school science grades from a Waldorf perspective?

4. What resources – non-Waldorf and Waldorf – are available to help me teach?

5. What experiential things are available to really make this subject come alive? How can we touch the heart and hands before jumping into the heady portion?

I am eight weeks into high school biology with our high schooler, and I think I would answer these questions the following way –

  1. Yes, I would run this as a track class.  I don’t think there is any way to run this in blocks throughout high school and garner enough hours (180 hours) to count as a high school science on a transcript as a homeschooler.
  2. Is ninth grade the right grade for this subject? The ninth grade year is the year of “what” so in one sense I think this is well for “what” since it is  life all around us – but some of the “why” I think gets a little lost on the ninth grader as well and will need to be re-visited in other grades.
  3. If we look at biology in units or topics, now that we are into it, I think it makes more sense to actually start with ecology and evolution and then move into the level of the cell and molecular biology.  I didn’t do it this way this year, and most traditional textbooks and high school biology courses start where we started with the cell,  but I want to try a different order next time.  It seems like a much more familiar place to start if one begins with ecology as opposed to the cellular level.
  4. What resources are available?  I will post a list by unit of what we used and liked (and didn’t like).  Part One is below.
  5. What experiential things are available?  We used 4H experiences and field trips, along with classes at our local zoo.  Depending upon where you live, I think this is an easy subject to find experiences that match with topics.   I think in high school we take the Waldorf method of presentation-artistic method-academic piece with revisiting and nuances on the new material to be inciting the hands and heart (so could be experiements, field trip with hands-on component, etc) with hands-on piece and academic piece with lots and lots and lots of review and at the school level, the student has to be able to take notes, read follow up materials,etc. in the homeschooling environment.

I started our year in the very traditional way of sort of an introduction to biology, the basic chemistry of biology, the working cell, cellular respiration and photosynthesis.  I wish I had started with ecology and then moved into evolution and form and function for my Waldorf-based student, as I mentioned above.   I would put the unit we started with more in the January time frame instead of the beginning of the year.  That is my plan when I teach it the second time!

Also, you may move much faster than me, but i think this material (Introduction, The Cell, Cellular Respiration/Photosynthesis) takes about eight weeks to cover.  If you have less children to homeschool or your student is super motivated and flies through materials and main lesson book pages and lab write-ups and reading, then it could take less time.

Our main resource materials for Introduction to Biology/The Cell/The Cell At Work for our discussions, my presentations:

    • The Way Life Works, Hoagland and Dodson, Chapters 1 and 2
    • Campbell Biology Concepts and Connections , Eighth Edition,  Chapters 1-7
    • PBS Evolution, Handouts, Leaf Cutter Ant story illustrating scientific method
    • Article by Graham Kennish, “Teaching Ninth Grade Biology In A Human Context” – Steiner Education, Volume 22, No. 1)
    • Article by Craig Holdrege “Learning to See Life – Developing the Goethean Approach To Science”
    • Article by Craig Holdrege “Metamorphosis and Metamorphic Thinking” – Waldorf School Life Science/Environmental Studies Colloquium
    • Chapter 5 “Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems”  from “Hard To Teach Biology Concepts” Revised 2nd Edition.  Available online through National Science Teachers Association, NSTA.
    • Articles about homology
    • Teachers Pay Teachers Nitty Gritty Science Photosynthesis, Cell Process & Energy (more generalized)
    • Teacher Pay Teachers  Science with Mrs. Lau: Biochemistry Activity with Four Macromolecules;  Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration Coloring Bundle (very detailed)
    • Teacher Reference:  Environmental Educators Alliance Workshops in my state – my first workshop is in just a few weeks!

Labs: (Teacher Reference:   Biology Inquiries by Shields;  Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments by Thompson, Online Resources)  We did a lot of work with acids, bases, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, enyzmes, in our seventh and eighth grade chemistry so that was a good basis for this, so we didn’t do as many labs with this.  There were also hands-on components to the Teachers Pay Teachers materials mentioned above – not artistic and beautiful, but still with ideas for coloring, sequencing, using the hands for concepts that are not always easy for students to really “get” deeply.

  • 3 Labs on “What Is Life?” (a harder question than one might think!)
  • Introduction to Enzymes
  • Exploration of Enzyme Activity
  • Osmosis Lab
  • Onion and Cheek Cell Lab
  • Observation of Carbon Dioxide Uptake, Determining Effect of Light Intensity on Photosynthesis

Experiences:

Well, this fall coincided with our Forestry Judging for 4H which included identifying 79 types of trees, insect and tree diseases, estimation of sawtimber, and compass and pacing so that to me totally counts as a biology experience!

We also will have/ have had field trips this semester to a class on native fish of our state and fish adaptations;  our local museum involving presentations on weather and a new dinosaur exhibit; an aquarium behind-the -scenes visit and  three high school homeschooling classes at our local zoo that involved neuroscience of the mammalian brain, neuroscience of the bird brain, neuroscience of the reptile/amphibian brain and two of those three classes involved dissection.

Main Lesson Pages Required:

  • Beautiful Title Page
  • Milestones in Biology 4 Billion BCE – 200,000 BCE (Anatomically modern humans)
  • The Sixteen Patterns of Life
  • A Generalized Animal Cell
  • A Generalized Plant Cell
  • Cellular Respiration
  • Photosynthesis
  • Comparision Page of the Holistic Cellular Respiration/Photosynthesis relationship

Other Artwork/Projects:

  • Gestural Drawing of Animals and Plants at zoo
  • Cell Model

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

 

The First Week of Homeschooling High School

…..and what I learned…

This is the first time I ever been through homeschooling high school, and it is definitely a learning curve when you are putting together your own materials for the most part.  I talked a lot about planning this grade in this back post. , and many families have homeschooled children with strong interests that they can creatively mix into their child’s first high school year.  We are following more of a traditional Waldorf School kind of high school path modified for the home environment and what I can feasibly do.

Our first week was a mix of homework for an outside Algebra I class that is a mainstream class,  a year-long biology class that I created, and our first block of the year which is Native American and Colonial History which includes not only a main lesson book but a literature study on the book “Last of the Mohicans” (hint: the book was not as easy as I thought it would be!) (block also created by me).  These are the things I learned along the way this first week of homeschooling high school from a sheer weekly/daily structure kind of standpoint:

If your child takes an outside class, the child will have a good amount of homework to do if the class meets only once or twice a week.  We figured this going into it all, but I am so glad I put time in our rhythm every day to field homework questions.  And I am so glad I totally remember my high school algebra for whatever odd  reason!  Seriously, though, homework is an independent endeavor, but your student still needs time to ask you questions and you need to have a plan of how your child can get help if it is a subject you are not as familiar with or don’t remember well.

For year-long classes that you are creating, particularly science, do make sure your child knows how to take notes from what you are saying and from what you assign for reading for the class.  I learned I really needed to break things up more by day  and into  much  smaller chunks than what I anticipated in the original syllabus I created, and also that I needed at first to give a little guidance how to pick out the most major ideas and key phrases, etc. We had done some of this in middle school, but reading technical and scientific things can be quite different than other types of reading.

It is a delicate balance between track and block classes and the amount of work.  It is important to look at it all and really plan longer for the blocks than you might normally.

The artistic end of the high school work is so very important.  I know in the Waldorf Schools there are specialists in these areas, and I consider myself so NOT a specialist.  Of course we have been drawing, painting, and modeling just like in previous grades, but I also have been relying on some kits to help us  and am searching for some outside teachers or classes as I locate them for the artistic skills our high schooler wants to learn. For this particular history block, I tied in Native American basketry (kits), Native American beading (already knew how to do but working on more complext patterns and such) and soapstone carving (kits).  For biology, we are tying in block printmaking (experimenting on our own with the help of books from the library) and the art of gyotaku, Japanese fish printmaking (kits and experimenting on our own – the fish are plastic replicas in the kits).  Music, drama, and speech are also important.  We are fulfilling these things outside the home but also tying in music and speech in with our history block.

Nature and exercise – has to be up there on the priority list.  Ninth graders really cannot sit still well and need those healing balms of movement and nature.

For those of you going through homeschooling high school, what have you learned that would help a first time high school homeschooling mom as far as the day to day scheduling and priorities?

Many blessings,

Carrie