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

 

 

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Making The Burden Light: Homeschooling The Upper Grades

I think things really start to hit the fan sometime in the upper grades. Some families don’t get into too much worry and anxiety about the block content or repetitive practice that they are finding (or not finding) in curriculums until 6th or 7th grade; some until high school; and some starting in fourth and fifth grade. This is understandable, because some of the contents of the blocks tap into things that perhaps we didn’t receive in our own education, so in order to have to teach that,  and then to understand the impulse behind why we are teaching what we are teaching, and then to present that in this “magical” way we see on Pinterest or Instagram can often put a lot of pressure on a busy Waldorf mama!

One thing that always helps me is to have an idea of the flow of the curriculum of the Waldorf School in my head. No, I will not follow this curriculum exactly because I am a HOMESCHOOLER, but I also do not want to miss the iconic blocks that meet the archtypal development of the child. I also want to EXPAND the curriculum because I am not European, and I don’t want my homeschool to only include Western Civilization, but to be encompassing and inclusive.  If I was South African or lived in the Pacific Rim countries, the curriclum I have chosen to use would look different because we work where we are, and there are Steiner Schools all over the world, not just in Europe or in the United States! But still, I have to know where the curriculum starts for my country.

So, if I can think in my head at first in generalities by looking at the overall flow for grades 4-12… (not including extra artistic work or music) , I can find where things will come around AGAIN.  So I don’t have to include every little tiny thing about Rome  for my sixth grader, because it will come back in high school! This list is so brief for this blog post, but my friend Lisa found a great list here from Emerson Waldorf School in NC regarding content by grade.  However, here for your reference is a quick list for grades 4-12:

4th Grade – Local history and why early settlers were here and how natural resources were developed; Norse sagas; map making; Human and Animal block; Long Division/Word Problems/Fractions/Freehand Geometry; embroidery and cross stitch.  What I might include as an American:  hero tales; tall tales from North America;  book reports; letter writing; spelling

5th Grade- Ancient India/Persia/Mesopotamia/Egypt/Greece; the lives of Manu/Rama/Buddha/Zarathustra/Gilgamesh and more; Greek mythology; Geography of the United States; Botany; could include zoology of other animals not covered in 4th grade; Decimals/Fractions/Mixed Numbers/Metric System; Geometry; knitting with four needles. I may include the entirety of North American geography in this grade. I also include Ancient Africa and Ancient China and the Maya in MesoAmerica.

6th Grade – The Roman Empire; Medieval life; the Crusades; The Golden Age of Islam; the life of Christ; the life of Muhammed; Geography of North and South America; World Geography – the big pictures of contrasts in the world; Physics of light, heat, sound, and magnetism; Mineralogy; possibly continued botany; Business Math (especially percentages, ratios, exchanges, equations, proportions);Geometry with a compass; creating patterns and sewing. I include Medieval Africa here as well.

7th Grade – What is often called “The Golden Age of Exploration” in schools I term “Colonialism”; The Renaissance; The Reformation; biographies; Wish/Wonder/Surprise block for writing fluency; Geography of Europe (I often put in sixth grade instead) and Africa; Astronomy; Chemistry; Physiology; Physics; Beginning Algebra/Perimeter/Graphing/Roots/Formula/Area/exponents; Geometry; Sewing and embroidery

8th Grade – Modern History – I like to get up through present day; Revolutions (or I might put this in 9th grade depending  on the child); Poetry; Geography of the Pacific Rim; World Geography; Chemistry; Physiology of bones/muscles/the eye; Physics of light/heat/electricity/magnetism/aerodynamics; Meteorology; Geometry – Platonic Solids; Equations and Mensuration; Number Bases; Machine Sewing

9th Grade – Modern History (what I might focus on would be state history starting with the hunter gathers and First Peoples of our area, Early Settlers, any Modern History not finished in 8th grade); Great Inventions; Comedy and Tragedy; Art History; Meteorology; Mineralogy- Plate Tectonics; Chemistry; Physiology; Physics; Earth Science;  Algebra/Euclidean Geometry; Copperwork and Pottery

10th Grade – Ancient Civilizations and History; dramatic literature and epic poetry; Chemistry; Physiology – Embryology; Physics – Mechanics; Earth Sciences – oceanography/crystallography; Algebra – logarithms; Plane Trigonometry; Land Surveying; Projective Geometry; Metal Working; Weaving and Dyeing; Stained Glass work.  I included a block on African-American Literature from the Black Arts time period to the present day.

11th Grade – Roman/Medieval and Renaissance history; Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare; Parsifal and other Grail legends; History of Music; World Geography and Map Making; Atomic Theory in Chemistry; Physiology – plant and animal comparison; Physics – Electricity and Magnetism; Botany; Algebra including logarithms, exponential equations, spherical trigonometry; Computer Math and Science; Projective Geometry; Blacksmithing; Poettry and Copper Work; Photography. I will include a block on Latin American Literature.

12th Grade – Modern and World History; Russian literature; The Transcendentalists; Goethe’s Faust; World Geography and Map Making; Chemistry; Biochemistry; Physics – optics, mirrors, light, color; Zoology; Algebra and Geometry brought together in Analytical Geometry; Statistics; Probability; Computer Math; Integral Calculus; Logic; Building computers;  History of Architecture.  I will include a block on Modern African Literature.

When I look at the blocks, I have to think – how much do I know about this subject? If I close the curriculum pages, and think about what I know, what do I know?  If I pull this topic up on the Internet what comes up? What is general flow for that subject normally for high school or early college?   I usually do some Internet research on my own plus extensively use my library in order to write up a summary or biographical sketch that I can present, along with reading the actual curriculum or Waldorf resources I bought!

Often, for history especially, I need a timeline in my head and match biographies to the timeline I have for that historical period.   For science, I may need to think about a particular flow to a block and  if I understand the phenomenon myself or not and what i would need to understand it.  It is very hard to teach these upper level subjects if you don’t know anything about them at all.  It is different than opening up the pages of a fairy tale and reading it three nights in a row in one way but in another way if you can condense the information down into a summary you can present to your child, then you CAN read it three nights in a row and memorize.  For example, right now I am writing some summaries based on what I have read regarding the Paleolithic  Age and the Neolithic Revolution for our block in February on Ancient Civilizations in tenth grade.  I have to research a little and put things together, and then own it and present it.

I have to understand the content in order to figure out the gestures behind the content and the polarities. I am always hunting for polarities, to teach in that antipathy-sympathetic way for the contrasts because that makes it all come alive! I also try to relate it back to what we studied previously.  I find fault with the Charles Kovacs books sometimes, but I do think that is one thing those books do well – find the polarities, find how it relates to previous subjects.

Secondly, what is the  Waldorf perspective on this? Do I understand the WHY of presenting this at this time? Most importantly, is  the child in front of me ready for this topic now or developmentally are they behind or ahead where this topic is? I may need to shuffle the order of my blocks!

Then I have to think how can I present this in the most ENLIVENING WAY possible for us?  What is most doable in our situation, and what excites us the most?  Pinterest can help there;  sometimes just having time to sit down and draw and decide what you want to capture is also the best use of time. The Main Lesson books for our oldest and middle daughters look different because we chose to capture different things, even with the same stories for fourth grade or for the Renaissance or whatever.   Or maybe we threw the Main Lesson book out for that block and chose lapbooking or some other way to do something, especially for high school due to sheer volume of information.  Homeschooling is flexible like that!

Then I have to think of the way we lay out sleep as our educational aid. With these blocks do I:

Open warmly (and how)

Review (many different way to review; variety is the spice of life!)

Practice skills; Work with the material artistically and in our heads

Have new material or deepen the material we have gone over.  There should always be something new there!

If you are looking for ideas about this, I suggest Meredith’s podcasts on these parts of the Main Lesson over at A Waldorf Journey Podcasts. I also suggest the great documents on planning a Main Lesson and especially all the different ways to review here at Waldorf Inspirations. I especially like the ideas about forming a daily rhythm and how this is different for older students in fourth grade and up, at least in the classroom setting (and it might give you ideas for the home setting as well!)

So, this may not seem especially “light” but I do think it is reality.  I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” for the upper grades. I think Live Education, Earthschooling, and Waldorf Essentials all have fairly complete curriculums for at least grades 6-12, and perhaps you start there when in doubt!  But you actually need to look at the content and not just open up the curriculum morning of to teach.  These upper level subjects need more preparation than that!  If you break it up into small chunks starting in the spring, it is really doable.  Use a few hours on a night to prepare for the next week, and the more you go through it, if you have multiple children for example, the more doable it becomes.  

Teaching IS an art.  I would love to deepen my own teaching and help readers deepen their own homeschool teaching. I would love to hear from you! How has working with your fourth through eighth graders deepened and differed from teaching your first through third graders?  How has your high school teaching deepened?  What have you learned along the way?  This would be a great subject for a conference call with many mothers!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Planning The High School Years

High school planning is challenging because of the becoming.  I can tell you  I think the largest, biggest, scariest, most brilliant leaps in development happen between ages 15-17 and it happens in ways so hard to predict!  So on one hand, who wants to plan high school so far ahead and pigeon-hole what beautiful opportunities and passions come out of growth?  On the other hand, who wants to think myopically and make the world very small and not plan far enough ahead so that opportunities will  then not be available for the young adult?  I think this is the fine line that every homeschooling family straddles.

So far, I can only tell you our plan for one child, who is currently in tenth grade,  and what we think the next few years will look like.  I am happy to share that; I am also happy to share that ninth and tenth grade have been vastly different for this child and that things are emerging daily that could be a path to something for the future that I cannot even foresee yet.  There really are no planned out tracks or goals for a career right now, no set path.  This child would prefer to have four years of high school and not pursue dual enrollment. In my area, dual enrollment is insanely popular and perhaps for good financial reason.  But I also understand my child and how she wants the excitment to enter college as a freshman (or in taking a gap year and then entering) and how she wants the beauty of the full college experience as a new freshman and how she doesn’t feel ready for dual enrollment with many older students. And I think that is okay!

So, my main advice to you in planning high school is to:

LOOK AT YOUR CHILD.  What is their temperament, their personality, their interests? Are there any outside academic high school classes in your area and if so, does your child want to take them?  Does your child want to go to college?  Do they know what they want to do or do they have an area in which they shine that might lead to a career path?  Do they want to do dual enrollment? Or not?

THINK ABOUT BEING MINIMAL.  High school can suddenly seem very, very complicated.  In all states in the United States, you can create a transcript for graduating high school.  However, if your child is interested in applying to college, there may be certain requirements the college or university is looking for.  So look at the public college system in your state and see what the requirements look like.  After freshman year, perhaps your student will be willing to chime in on a few colleges they like and you can look at those requirements as well.  So, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be limiting. There are many ways to meet science or history requirements,  and many unique areas of focus that would count depending upon the final goal upon high school completion.  Most homeschooling families who have homeschooled multiple children through high school have commented that every high school path has looked different for each teenager.  As it should be – THAT is one reason why we homeschool high school!

DON’T PANIC.  150 hours is usually a humanities credit, and a 180 hours is usually a science with lab credit.  You can fulfill this a variety of ways – hours of experience, using a textbook and getting through most of the textbook, or honestly, when you feel the material has been mastered.  Some will use CLEP tests or SAT II Subject Tests to prove mastery.  If you keep track of what you do as you go along, you will have no trouble putting a transcript together.

CHASE THE PASSIONS. This is why we homeschool high school on one hand, but on the other hand, not every homeschooled kid has this insane passion that takes hours a day.  Be easy on this if they don’t have a passion, but do look for the opportunities that make homeschooling worthwhile!

WALDORF WHAT?  Many of you here are Waldorf homeschoolers and I am here to tell you whilst there is almost no information out there, it is possible to homeschool Waldorf in a high school manner using a mix of track (all year) classes and block classes (just like you did in grades 1-8).  Check out the Waldorf High Schools around the United States on-line and you will see the same blocks over and over with some geographic variation, just like in grades 1-8.  The AWNSA chart created by David Mitchell details high school in it, as does books by Stockmeyer and the book by Finser.  You will be putting together blocks yourself just as you have done through the middle school years when less curricula was available. you can do this!

Our plan right now, for one very specific teenager who wants to go to college and pretty much likes only math (LOL) and whose siblings’ high school courses will look much, much different:

We did World Geography as a year-long course (Oak Meadow’s high school course)  in Grade 8 and High School Spanish I in Grade 8.   These credits could count toward high school if we need them – especially the foreign language.

Ninth Grade – we did Biology as a year-long track class with labs (Oak Meadow with things I added to it); American History (through blocks that added up to enough hours between eighth and ninth grade); Algebra I (outside class in our town); Spanish II (Oak Meadow); and Literature and Composition I (including the typical Comedy and Tragedy block found in ninth grade) and math blocks (see Making Math Meaningful for High School for more information on these blocks).  Typical Waldorf blocks also include Art History, which would count toward a fine arts credit if a college requires it and you add in fine arts projects or toward an elective credit.  We had a credit with Music Theory and Performance (vocal, piano).

Tenth Grade – AP Environmental Science is our year-long track science class (outside class in our town); we will start World History in several blocks and finish that in eleventh grade; United States Government and Civics as a year-long course (and tied back into Greek History and Civics that is a popular block in Waldorf Schools); Literature and Composition I (taught in blocks, this year, Ancient Literature, Epic Poetry, Contemporary African-American Poetry/Essays) and math blocks.  Books with reports throughout the year.  Health and Physical Fitness (Oak Meadow).  Geometry and Algebra II/Trig were the other two outside classes our tenth grader chose to take (two credits total) along with the math blocks found in tenth grade Waldorf Schools.  Our embryology block will tie back into our Biology credit from ninth grade.  We will also have another credit with Music Theory and Performance II.

Eleventh Grade – Chemistry will be our science, I believe, along with several blocks of botany found traditionally in Waldorf Schools and blocks on astronomy.  We will finish World History and include resources on world religions, usually found in Waldorf Schools in this grade.  Eleventh Grade English is usually Dante, Parsifal and more in this grade, so still deciding that route.  Books with reports throughout the year.  Math will be Precalculus and possibly AP Statistics as outside classes (two credits).  We will most likely have another credit in music and will apply the hours in our History Through Music block to this.

Twelfth Grade – Physics and Calculus will be our outside classes, most likely along with AP English and AP Psychology, also outside the home.  The traditional Waldorf blocks include literature such as  Faust , Transcendentalists, and Russian literature, so I will be drawing from those, and History through Architecture.  We most likely will have another credit in music and I would love to cover Marine Biology, but we will see how far we get.

There are some things we may not cover, such as a lot of Earth Science, which is covered in Waldorf Schools. However, I think for the most part, our plan lines up to both some of the things found important developmentally in Waldorf Schools and also meets requirements for the more competitive colleges our teen is dreaming of applying to.

So that is our plan, but mostly we want to be flexible and allow time for all of our teen’s passions, of which there are a few (mainly horseback riding and musical ventures, and involvement at our parish).

Tell me your high school plans!

Blessings,
Carrie

What Are Waldorf Grades 6-8 About Anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many blessings,

Carrie

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