Development of the Tenth Grader

Today is a quick sneak peek at the development of students in tenth grade. In Waldorf Education, this corresponds to an age close to sixteen.  If you are searching for ninth grade, close to age fifteen, try this back post.. If you are searching for age fourteen, which is typically closer to grade eight in Waldorf Education, try here..

Tenth Grade (closer to age 16):

  • Usually there is  reduction in mood swings, irritability, greater ability to manage anger.
  • Can be the year of the “Sophomore Slump” – many students feel “graduated” from childhood and are weighed down by the beginnings of adulthood but many sixteen year olds can’t look much further than today.  They are much more interested in the here and now than the future.  This year can also be a cocky year for many students where they become overconfident in their abilities.
  • A teenager of this age is often asking  “how”?  How do I bridge between myself and the world?  The process interests them.  How did the world come into being? How is “X” true?  How does this work?
  • There is a growing independence, especially often with branching out into driving a car or holding a part-time or seasonal job.
  • Teenagers  are more conscious of their clothing, their gestures, their behavior.
  • They no longer feel connected to their classmates, their teachers, their parents and feel vulnerable, lonely, not sure how to stand on their own. This is typically a hard year at school. They may completely change sets of friends as they struggle to find out who they are and may separate from their usual peer group.  For some students, this leaves them vulnerable to peer pressure and the behavior of the teenager can be very different this year than in previous years. This can be an age of super strong attachment to friends, especially different friends than in the past,  or to a love relationship. It can be an age of intense peer pressure and manipulation and of heartache in relationships.
  • They may completely change extracurricular activities
  • For those of you who follow Waldorf Education, there is a correlation between the nine-year change and this sixteen-year change. If you think back to how your child handled the nine year change, there may be a correlation as to how they handle this period in their life.
  • The maturation of the physical body has often slowed down by this point, the emotional chaos has also slowed down, but the teenager comes face to face with the idea of mortality. They may discover they have physical limits as far as lack of sleep, poor nutrition, being a perfectionist, carrying too many activities. Sometimes teenagers end up sick during this period because they are doing way too much, and being sick actually affords them time to step back and come up with priorities and choices that reflect these priorities.
  • There may be spiritual questions, philosophical questions but other teens may be more into having a thrilling physical life. Sometimes this can lead to poor choices and dangerous situations, including use of alcohol and drugs, teen pregnancy and other situations.  If they can experience their own mortality, their own spiritual separation and resolve it in a healthy way, they can participate in the world and find the answers to their spiritual questions in ways that are satisfying.
  • Around 16, the brain is usually fully capable of thinking in abstractions, in generalizations and can compare, contrast, analyze and synthesize information. They may still want to debate on things before they have all the material digested, and often come off as arrogant to adults.  They love finding flaws in adult reasoning, but at the same time, adults are blamed less and less and instead it becomes more important to  the adolescent how he or she takes responsibility for things.
  • The challenge to find a new way of relating to life during this time period can lead to crisis in many arenas – eating disorders, sexual relationships, alcohol, drugs and tobacco, etc but most important is that the child knows they will never, ever be abandoned, and that with freedom comes responsibility.  House rules and boundaries are still important – school and work are integral parts of life.
  • After this phase, one sees a time of distinct ACTION. The action can come from what was gained and learned in the earlier years, and the years of 17 or so to 21 can be most fruitful.
  • This is a great article from the Wall Street Journal that talks about supporting development from ages 13/14 through age 17.





Finding Rhythm With Grades-Aged Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How Is Planning Going For First Grade?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that is what I have so far.

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



How Is Planning Going For Ninth Grade?

I am so glad you asked!  Ninth Grade is such an exciting year – and for Waldorf homeschoolers, it can be a scary one, as there are less resources than the early grades to be sure.

I started by studying all the course descriptions for any Waldorf high school I could find, including the Waldorf Schools in Australia and by reading Steiner’s lectures in “Education for Adolescents” and other Waldorf literature geared toward adolescent development.   Looking at the websites of the schools  was helpful in pointing out regional differences and differences between countries.   There are a few high school level Waldorf books by subject.  Many of these are mainly “colloquiums” that discuss an overall approach to each grade and have a few pages devoted to each high school grade for different subjects.   While helpful and a good start with ideas of how to approach a subject, it  is definitely not enough  detail to provide full lesson block plans.  Remember, these subjects in a Waldorf High School would be taught by specialists and everything would come together in a beautiful culmination in twelfth grade from a journey started in the first grade.

So, I think the largest thing is to seriously THINK about the  development of the ninth grader, and more specifically to observe WHERE your ninth grader is.  So with ninth graders, age fifteen or almost fifteen in a typical Waldorf School setting, I start to think of the following things:

  • In a school setting, there is excitement, fear, anxiety. Girls tend to talk about it with friends, boys may hold it in.  Boys may enjoy doing more things “shoulder to shoulder” and then talk – ie, fishing, working, bicycle riding, car rides where they can talk and not have to look someone in the eye. What does this look like at home?
  • This is an early stage of adolescence.
  • Separation often occurs – the adolescent may fantasize having a new family, a new school, having adventures
  • They may not distinguish  fantasy from reality too well (believe it or not!).
  • Growing independence expressed in clothing, gestures, attitude, behavior…Through thinking they can begin to awaken to this new consciousness. Left alone, they are confused, or may be passive or aggressive or withdrawn.
  • They have very little tolerance for hypocrisy or  inconsistency.  Rules that apply to everyone matter.
  • They are hypersensitive to how they are treated, but often do not treat others well. They have to learn how to consciously relate to others.
  • They must learn to focus on others
  • Have a strong will but it is unorganized and often not aligned with what their actual values are.
  • Ninth graders are black and white, very concrete; still can’t think much beyond the first step to the next step. The polarities of ninth grade help them get grounded – comedy and tragedy; heat and cold in thermodynamics. Art history fits in well, including looking at indigenous culture, because it shows how standards of beauty change and counteracts the images of our society of materialistic and superficial beauty.
  • Fifteen year olds can also only hear themselves in conversation, and can only hear their own opinion. They must be taught to LISTEN to what someone else is saying and how to LISTEN without judgment and how to form personal opinions after listening to different opinions.
  • Fifteen year olds start to be interested in philosophy, the argument itself, philosophical questions –  although it can be  hard for them to focus for long.

As homeschoolers,  besides development, we also have to think seriously about high school credits and college,( if that is the track that your student is on) , and also about the interests of our student.   Our ninth grader is interested in medicine, so that will influence science and math courses.  For those worried about awarding credits and what that entails,  in the United States this can be done by looking at what your state university system requires in terms of credit,   and  perhaps also thinking ahead as to if you think your child will use dual enrollment at all.

So this year, I have three “track” (all – year long) classes: Algebra I, which I farmed out to a local hybrid school; High School Spanish II which our student is doing through Oak Meadow; and Living Biology, which I put together myself and which will run all year. This is very different than a Waldorf School that runs biology, physics, chemistry and earth science each year for all four years in blocks.  I chose to do a one year course in biology because I felt this would give us the most intensive number of hours for a lab course and give us a year to freely explore what we want in depth for a child who is interested in medicine. So, I made this course up myself by combining mainstream and Waldorf resources and included many labs.  The artistic end of this course will focus on  sculpture and printmaking.

In order to do those three track classes, I felt I had to cut down on the number of blocks we were going to do.  So I left out physics and organic chemistry.  Revolutions will make the cut if we have time at the end of the school year.  If we did do a Revolutions block, we would cover mainly the Mexican Revolution and Simon Bolivar in comparison and contrast to other revolutions we have studied, ( I do have it planned out) so hopefully we will have time for a short two to three week block but we shall see.  The blocks  we are going to do this year, for this particular child,  include:

Native American and Colonial History, which will complete a credit in American History from what we covered in eighth grade.  I am excited about this block as it will include basketry, soapstone carving, and Native American beading along with a study of Last of the Mohicans and early American poetry through Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley.  Our study will include the archaeology and history of the Native American tribes in our state from pre-history through European contact – so this will naturally look through time, and the geography of our state in great detail.  We will look closely at the early Colonial History of our state, the state of Native Americans before the Revolutionary War erupted, and the Trail of Tears.  Then we will expand our focus from our state to look at the colonies and English expansion, the House of Burgesses,  the tobacco colonies and religion shaped the colonies, compare and contrast New York City and Boston, the Southern Colonies. A look at the political cartoons of the time and American music will be a large part of the last part of this block.  We will go through the events of the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  The Library of Congress has great teaching plans based upon primary documents, so I suggest if you are looking for guidance on a block such as this to look there.  We also have a number of experiential learning sessions planned through our National and State Parks.   I anticipate this will be about a five week block, and the experiential part of it will extend throughout the school year.

Literature and Composition will be done in several blocks plus studying several other  works during other blocks during the year (see above in Native American and Colonial History).  Our main works will cover Comedy and Tragedy, Poetry and the Novel, and Short Stories. I highly recommend the Christopherus booklet for this block, which covers Sophocles’ Electra,  the Noh (Japanese) drama The Damask Drum,  Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night, Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of An Author, and Raisin in the Sun, which gives us a chance to talk about Langston Hughes, the Harlem Renaissance, and more.  Our work after this  will focus on some of the works in Oak Meadow’s high school syllabus.  I chose The House of Light, The House of the Scorpion, Kidnapped, Their Eyes Were Watching God,  and then my own picks which included The Old Man and the Sea, and several short stories including Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Gogol’s The Overcoat, The Gift of the Magi, and Steinbeck’s Flight.  Hopefully we can get through it all!    If we get behind, I will stop my list with Oak Meadow’s picks and not include my picks, so I will see how far we get.   Each block will be about four weeks long, but we will have to continue doing some literaturea and composition work weekly as well. 

Earth Science  involves picking up themes from eighth grade and looking mainly at seismology, the history of earthquakes in our state and in the world,  the use of triangulation to detect earthquake waves, the rock cycle and mapping plate tectonics, volcanoes (andesitic eruption and alkaline basaltic volcanoes), subduction zones and life around the oceanic trenches.   I hope to continue the study of earth science across all grades of high school to garner a full credit.  There is a Waldorf resource for Earth Science.  I anticipate this block to be about two and a half weeks long.

Art History I and Art History II.  Block One will look at Neolithic painting, sculpture and architecture with particular attention to Africa – the cave paintings at Blombos and Namibia; Mesopotamian  Art, and a comparison of Egyptian Art to Chinese Art; Jade Cong, Hellenistic Art, the MesoAmerican Olmec Heads, Roman Art,  and Japanese Art (hanging scrolls will be our main focus). From there we will look at Byzantine Art and Islamic Art, manuscript of the Middle Ages, the art of Benin. We will end the first block with a look at Durer.   In Block II, we will look at the Northern Renaissance with Rembrandt, Roccoco style, and then get into Modern material.  Goya,  Romanticism and Realism in American Art (Cole and Homer; Whistler), Impressionism will come next.  Then a peek at the history of women in art and women artists. Picasso, Latin American Modernism in Kahlo and Rivera, the American Art scene leading up to WWII, the New York School,  and lastly global contemporary art.  One of the last questions I want to tackle is the accessibility of art.  We have amazing art at our airport, of all places, and my favorite is a permanent exhibition of sculptors from Zimbabwe so I would like to end with those amazing works.  I think this combined with foundational drawing and sketching skills over the school year  and field trips to museums will lead to a full credit in  Studio Art and Art History.    There are several books that have compiled Steiner’s lectures on Art as a spiritual impulse and Art History available to help you.  I think all of this material will take at least 8 weeks and I will combine it with ideas from Oak Meadow’s Drawing and Design course to have a sort of Foundational Art Studio/Art History kind of course.

Our music credit will come from our church, which includes performance and music theory through the Royal Church School of Music program.

Life Skills/Health/PE –  this will be run during all four years of high school .  I am putting together a binder of articles and a list of books right now.   This year, I am looking a lot at awareness and conscious communication, listening skills.  Betty Staley has a book entitled, “Creating A Culture of Awareness” that is based upon a school setting but still has ideas appropriate for homeschoolers.

Farm Life/Wilderness Skills/Gardening – we have a strong relationship with a farm through horseback riding that happens to also have other farm animals; I am hunting for a local wilderness skills kind of course or summer experience.   Kroka is always on my list!  If only!   We will also be doing camping, of course, and some backpacking. These are important experiences but  I probably will not award any credit for it per se.  We also are looking to gardening and herbal experiences.

At any rate, it has been interesting planning and researching.  I am off to do some work on Grade One, which I am finding difficult to get back into after doing all of this more heady work.

I would love to hear what you are working on,



The Heart Behind Rhythm


It is indeed a grievous feature of present-day life that when man meets man there is no understanding between them.” (Rudolf Steiner, 1924, p. 91 – The Roots of Education)

As the new school year is dawning, and I am thinking about how to fit in “track classes” (ones that run all year) and  subjects taught in blocks for our ninth grader, plus two other grades, rhythm is at the forefront of my mind.  But it really isn’t an intellectual function, a head function,  to look at rhythm, is it?   It is a function of the heart and being able to breathe. The breath is something mentioned in Waldorf Education  over and over again. Our physical breath comes from movement, but perhaps it is safe to say that the breathing of our soul forces come from rhythm and the balance that rhythm brings.

It is a function of our love and our kindness toward our families to have unhurried time, unrushed time and to be able to give our children the gift of long periods of time at home in which they can sink into play and rest and dreams.  The most fundamental deep place where rhythm comes from is the cosmos inside of us, and from love and kindness.  This post from Cedar Ring Mama in 2012 has stayed with me for some time. If you haven’t read it recently, you can find it  here.

In a world where we cannot seem to connect to the understanding of each other and humanity of us all, rhythm is a good place to nourish health for our children who will be leading and hopefully changing the world for the better one day soon.  We must begin with the health of these children in mind.  We encourage the base of indepedent thinking through experience when we give time in our rhythm.  We see the humanity of all mankind inside ourselves.

So, I can tell you about how I make a little chart with the 12 months on it and ideas for festivals, or how I choose subjects for blocks and look at the development of my child and where those blocks fit.  I can talk about how to plan blocks and make individual lessons breathe.  I can even tell you how I fit all the things my children need in a school year for learning into each day.  That is important in homeschooling.  But, if I don’t think about the overall rhythm to my family and how homeschooling is a part of this bigger picture of family love and kindness and healthy development, I have not led with my heart.

Kindness and love, the things that happen in unhurried time, is what matters in parenting and in homeschooling.  May all of our values be protected in promoting and encouraging our children to just be and to take time.  May they see and find the cosmos and the unity of humanity within themselves this school year so that we may all understand each other in love.


How Is Sixth Grade Planning Coming Along?

(Just a brief and gentle reminder, this post is copyrighted.  If you want to use something from this post in a public way, PLEASE link to it or credit my work in some way.  There have been a lot of moms on Facebook and in Yahoo groups asking for plans for Main Lessons for these upper grades, but yet many of us with experience are reluctatant to share in any truly organized fashion as it becomes fodder that someone else’s uses and charges in their own work without any attribution for the original work.  Just a thought!)

Grades sixth through eight are my favorite grades to teach, so I wanted to share some of our plans as we foray as a family into our second time in sixth grade.  Here are a few of my notes by block:

We are starting the year with Astronomy.  As part of this block we are looking at how the First Peoples of the Americas saw various cosmic phenomenon, how we recognize the cosmos and earth inside of our own bodies, how to understand the rising and setting of the sun in relation to the axis of the earth, the affects of the moon on the earth, the circumpolar stars, comets, meteors, the planets in our solar system,  our solar address in the universe, and some biographies of great astronomers.   We will be working on memorizing about 70 lines of poetry this block, writing from diction, reviewing the metric system as well as an introduction to scientific notation along with wet felting, drawing with pastels and pencils and crayon resists and painting. (3 weeks)

Next we are going to move into the earthly realm and study Mineralogy.  For this block we will be learning poetry, expressing linear equations graphically, and reviewing the geographic zones of our state.  We will be looking at the layers of the earth and an introduction to plate tectonics and the types of movement of plates, and how our state’s landscape was shaped, which was mainly through erosion and a network of streams that cross our state.  We will be looking at mountain building and the four types of mountains, volcanoes, types of rocks and the rock cycle and the types of rocks found in the geographic regions in our states. We have a lot of granite and monadnocks in our state, so that is a special type of rock for us to focus on, along with kaolin.  Our state is the leading producer of kaolin in the United States.  We will look at a walk through time and  fossils, but the fossils of our state especially.  Lastly, we look at coal and oil and a discussion on fracking and sustainable resources. So many wonderful projects and field trips are in this block!  (4 weeks)

In European Geography,  the geography necessary to understand Roman History will be introduced  and more European geography will be worked into Roman and Medieval History.  In the stand-alone portion of European Geography, I  will introduce the European continent, the regions of Europe, and tie back into our Ancient Civilization studies by looking briefly at the Ancient River civilizations along the Danube River. I choose this river because it greatly influenced the Roman Empire and because I wanted to tie back into Ancient Studies.  I want to talk about the very first peoples of Europe of the Varna area (modern day Bulgaria) and then trace the Danube.  Then we will move into the geography of Italy.  In the course of our history studies, we will look at the other parts of Europe and European geography as well.  I hope to focus on modeling during this block. (2 weeks)

In Roman History, my plan is to begin with an introduction to the three phases of the Roman Empire.  When we move into Rome as a Republic, we will see how Rome was organized similarily to the way the United States is organized, the growth of the Roman Army, the plebeians and patricians, the slave trade, the making of Roman law,  and a soldier’s life and the Roman fort.  Then we will move into Carthage and the story of Hannibal, the battles against Greece, the ideals of Roman citizens, slave uprisings, especially Spartacus, the rise of Julius Caesar and his assassination, Caesar Augustus,  Mark Anthony and Cleopatra.  The last part of our block will be the life of Jesus of Nazareth, His miracles and  parables about the Kingdom of God, the historic Jesus, the Ancient Church and Paul the Apostle along with the symbols of early Christianity, and the decline of the Roman Empire, Emperor Constantine and the first of the desert hermits.  Our last week will look at a comparison of the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty in China – the origins of the Han Dynasty, the acheivements of the Han Dynasty, the Sack of Chan’gan, the decline of the Dynasty and its legacy.  This continues our study of China from Fifth Grade.  The Empire of Askum, the Queen of Sheba, and King Ezana will end our block.  One of the main features of this block outside of the artistic work (mainly charcoal drawing, black and white drawing, mosaics and clay) will be training like a Roman soldier, complete with Roman marches and other forms of Roman training, and making and playing Roman games and writing compositions and more dictation.  (6 weeks)

In Medieval History, we will begin with the Byzantine Empire, iconoclasm, Byzantine society and move into Gregory the Great.  I will start to paint a picture of how life in Western Europe became isolated as roads and cities decayed.  Feudalism and monasteries will play a large role in this block,the code of chivalry, the castle, the role of women and children and the peasant and the life at a manor will all be investigated.  We will also look at what is happening in the Americas during this time with the Ancient Puebolans of the United States, and the Maya. The Maya will be studied more in-depth in seventh grade, but I felt it good to introduce here.  Then we will move into an entire week of study on not just Muhammed, but Islam itself, complete with Islamic Geometry, Islamic poetry, and the achievements made in this time period as the scholars of the Muslim world improved upon the knowlege of Ancient Babylon, Greece, Rome, Persia, India and Egypt – especially in optics and the life of Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (which also ties in well to physics).    Charlemagne, the Vikings, William the Conqueror, Eleanor of Aquitaine,  King Richard the Lionheart and Saladdin will be studied. Lastly, we will end with the story of St. Francis of Assisi. I have notes for the Kingdom of Zimbabwe the Mali Empire, Sundiata and Mansa Musa, the Songhai Empire, and the gold for salt trade,  but if we get behind I normally do a very extensive block on Africa in seventh grade and could integrate those notes there.  If we have time, I would also  love to spend a week on Feudal Japan. The structure of Japanese Medieval Society and the Samurai, the growth of Zen Buddhism, would all be wonderful for this grade, along with a study of the haiku and Basho the poet.   I have this planned out, but will have to see how far we get.  (8 weeks total; I may split out Medieval Africa and Japan)

In Business Math, I am planning to use this block to brush up on decimals, work on percentages and look at how we start to use formulas in preparation for our algebra block in Seventh Grade, this history of money and different systems of money and how they were used historically.  We are going to look at American money and also the buffalo nickel as a piece of American history and American art.  We will look at how we earn money, how taxes work, how banks work.  We will work with budgets, tips, commissions, and calculating simple and compound interest.  We will end with the ideas surrounding philanthropy and investment.   We will be painting and drawing during this block, along with some field trips and large scale charts to keep track of things we discuss (3 weeks).  In Geometry, which I hope to run in weekly lessons instead of one long block, we will focus on Islamic geometric forms along with forms from nature.

Physics will encompass acoustics, darkness and light, heat, and magnetism.  I have 3 weeks set aside for this block to encompass lab reports, main lesson book drawings, and experiments. This is one of my favorite blocks from the first time we went through sixth grade, and to me encompasses the qualities of development of this age, so I am looking forward to this.

Lastly, I want to finish with a zoology block. Torin Finser’s book “Towards Creative Teaching” had a small section that I am working off of for my little animal lover.  I am sure this block will be the highlight of the year, and I am still planning this. The number of weeks will depend upon how much time we have left in the school year, but hopefully we wil have 2-3 weeks to delve more into the animal world, which we will pick up again in our Africa and Latin American Geography blocks in seventh grade.

Can’t wait to hear your plans!


The One Thing You Need In Order To Homeschool This New School Year

The beginning of the school year is coming.  Yes, I know for some of you it seems so far away, but some schools down here in the deep South have already started back this week.  However, most of the schools in my state start during the first two weeks of August.  We will be starting a bit later than that, but I know it is coming up fast and will be here before I know it.

One thing that I do to get ready for teaching a new schoolyear is to steel up my own spiritual work;  both the work focused on me and the spiritual work focused on my children for the school year.  When I am quiet and still I can observe- what is it that I really need?  What is it that the children really need and how can I help them?  How do I balance the needs of everyone in the family, including my own self-care? And most of all, with three children spanning grade 1-high school, how can I teach from a place of rest and a feeling of peace?

For me, the answer to this lies within my own spiritual work.  For years, I have seen families come and go from Waldorf homeschooling (and any other type of homeschooling methodology) – always searching for the answer in pedagogy and methodology, always searching for the next latest and greatest thing.  And,  (ironically), often grasping on to any and all posts containing the words “simple” or “minimalist” as they make their lives as complicated as possible searching the Internet and bouncing around from one thing to another.

The answer is NOT THERE.  The answer is within you.  And most of all, what is often crying out is a need for a connection to something larger than oneself, and a place of spiritual peace and rest that can only come from that connection.  This cannot be found in any book, curriculum, blog or Facebook group or by following someone else’s methods.  It can only be found by connecting to the Divine in whatever capacity that means for you.   This is something that sustains through all periods of life.  Life is often messy, especially if you have multiple children. My life will probably never be simple  with three children spanning large age gaps, but it can be restful and peaceful.

In past summers, I have begged parents to make it a summer parenting project to look carefully at their own spirituality so that beauty, wonder,  peace  and stability can be passed on to our children.  We cannot model what we ourselves are not actively doing.

So, to that end, my own spiritual preparation for the new school year begins with being immersed in God’s creation -sometimes in an active way that makes me feel alive and sometimes in a quiet way that makes me feel reflective.  It begins with reading the sacred texts of my traditions  daily and gathering with others in  a place where I feel connected to my Beloved Creator and  to others who are on this path.   We grow within a spiritual community.   It continues throughout the day in prayer and meditation and as I strive to be still, be watchful, and to align my thoughts with something higher than my own base reaction.   Rhythm is my ally in this endeavor, and keeping our homeschooling plans as uncomplicated as possible so we have “time affluence” – that time to just be in nature and space is the goal.  This is where the work begins.  And when I get lost during the school year and in the pulls of three very different children who have extremely different needs,  as I inevitably will, that is the work to which I will return.  May we all have a guiding compass to help us on our journey.  This is my wish for you this school year.

Blessings, love, and joy,