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

‘Tis the Season for Choosing Waldorf Homeschooling Curriculum

It is the time of year when many mothers are ordering resources in order to have time to plan over the spring and summer for a bright and shiny new school year!  I have written before regarding choosing Waldorf curriculum in several places, including   this back post.

Over the eleven years I have been homeschooling (six grade kindy year to now freshman high school year), I have used pieces of nearly every major provider on the market, plus written my own blocks, gone to Foundation Studies in the Arts and Anthroposophy (the training one takes before going to  Waldorf teacher training) and attended workshops.  I personally look for full curricula or curriculum pieces that meet the following criteria:

  1. I look for  a curriculum where the author understands the foundational piece of Waldorf education, which is Rudolf Steiner’s knowledge of the human being.
  2. I look for  a curriculum where the author understands not only Steiner’s work, the traditions of the Waldorf School because Waldorf homeschooling IS based in these traditions, but ALSO understands the differences between home and school. Working with students one on one or in small groups in a family setting is much different than a school setting.  Having a practical knowledge of Waldorf in the home and in the family is paramount.
  3. I look for a curriculum author who is steeped in knowledge of Waldorf Education,  including having attended workshops, teacher training or at least Foundation Studies, or a background of teaching in a Waldorf School AND someone who has homeschooled multiple grades, preferably through high school.  The curriculum reaches a beautiful climax in the high school years, and I feel if someone hasn’t been through at least grades six through eight (and high school grades would be nice), it can be problematic if authors have not been through at least these upper grade experiences preferably with multiple children or groups of children.

There are many quality resources available, including free resources and authors who sell blocks a la carte. There are also complete curriculums, and consulting available.  However, what I truly recommend is attending workshops and trainings in  person if that is possible.  Rudolf Steiner College (California) and Renewal (New Hampshire) offer week -long courses focused on each grade during the summer. This summer, Marsha Johnson will be holding a conference in Portland,  Taproot with Barbara Dewey will be in August in Ohio, the Waldorf Homeschool Conference will be Orlando in May (I will be at this conference as well along with Jean Miller of Waldorf-Inspired Learning, Jodie Mesler of Home Music Making, Donna Ashton of The Waldorf Connection, Kristie Burns of Earthschooling ), and I believe Waldorf Essentials will also have some dates coming up this summer.  There will be many opportunities to connect with mentors and other people homeschooling this way!

I would love to hear from you: how do you go about planning for a new school year?

Blessings on  your planning,

Carrrie

Sixth Grade Ancient Rome

I really enjoyed Ancient Rome when we went through it the first time.  You can see the back posts on Rome here for Part One and here for Part Two.  Here is a gallery of work from our first time through Ancient Rome.

This time, my second time through sixth grade,  I tried to keep things to a streamlined flow as much as possible.  There is much that could be included in a study of Roman History, and it is easy to get lost in it.  Here is my general outline, with some ideas for student responses using the Eight Arts of Waldorf Education (drama, speech, movement, handwork, singing and musical instruments, painting, drawing, and modeling):

1.An Introduction to Rome and the idea of Rome as a Kingdom, a Republic, an Empire

Possibilities:  Romulus and Remus (model a wolf’s head, drawing, painting); Numa Pompilius, Tarquinias Priscus and the first census; Roman life, review geography of Italy

Possible Student Responses: Modeling a wolf’s head for Romulus and Remus; Oral (Timeline could be a possibility, although I don’t see many Waldorf Schools making timelines until eighth grade – please do share if you have an experience surrounding this); create title page for Main Lesson Book if using one; painting or drawing seven hills of Rome; salt dough map of seven hills;

2. An Introduction to Roman Society – especially patricians and plebians, how the Romans ate, dressed, etc

Read Alouds:  “Our Little Roman Cousins of Long Ago”  free over at mainlesson.com

Possible Student Responses:  Oral Recall, (making togas or other Roman clothing, making Roman sandals, making Roman meals, playing Roman games), comparison chart of plebians versus patricians

3. The Roman Republic – roads, aquaducts, life of the Roman soldier

Read Aloud:  “A Roman Fort”, the book  “City” by Maccauley

Possible Student Responses:  (making a hodometer, diorama, drawings, making weaponry/masks/shields, making Roman road, making an aquaduct, )  first person account of Roman soldier training or building a fort; possible connection between Roman Republic and American government, values of the average Roman citizen

4. Hannibal and Scipio (possible student response:  drawing, modeling, drama)

5. Slavery – Roman Colosseum-Spartacus  (possible student response – writing, modeling the Colosseum, first person narrative of Spartacus)

6.Julius Caesar 

Possible Student Responses: black and white drawing of Julius Caesar, learning lines from Shakespeare’s play, music was often played at funerals – could compose music for the funeral of Julius Caesar with lyre or singing

7.Augustus Caesar and the Golden Age of Rome (also Mark Antony and Cleopatra); Roman Calendar

Possible Student Responses:  (black and white drawings,  model of Cleopatra’s boat,  paper on Cleopatra, creating dialogue or dramatization between Antony and Cleopatra, paper of technology of Rome)

8. Life of Jesus – Parables, Miracles; The Ancient Church; Early Symbols of Christianity

Read Aloud:  “The Bronze Bow”

Possible Responses:  (drawings, modelings, dramatization, re-creating one of the parables in symbols, mosaic tiles of the early symbols of christianity, meal)

9. Emperor Nero

10. The Division of the Roman Empire; St. Constantine

11. Decline of Roman Empire -the  Huns, the first of the Desert Hermits, Life of St. Anthony

Read Aloud:  “The Dancing Bear”

Possible Student Responses: (drawing, dramatization of life of St. Anthony or Constantine’s vision; a large butcher block artistic response to the life of St. Anthony;  maps of the Roman Empire and the tribes moving in  on paper or in salt dough with little figures; paper on the Huns, sayings of the Desert Hermits)

12. Bridge between Rome History Block and Medieval Block:  Possibly reading a non-fiction source, writing three ideas from each chapter and creating a paper.  We are using a children’s nonfiction book, “Attila the Hun”  for this endeavor.  If one does a math block after this block, a paper could be worked on during the math block.

Would love to hear your plans surrounding Rome.

Blessings,
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

The Parenting Passageway First Grade Workshop

The Parenting Passageway will be in Decatur, Georgia on February 18th for an entire day devoted to first grade homeschooling with indications from Rudolf Steiner and from the traditions of the Waldorf Schools.  Our topics will include:

  • The Five Pointed Star of Planning First Grade -including notes on observation, temperment, wamth and love, inner work and more
  • The goals and progression of capabilities to meet those goals for blocks including Form Drawing, Math, and Language Arts
  • Practice in drawing with block and stick crayons
  • Numerous ideas for movement and the development of the 12 Senses
  • Planning the Seasonal Year, including verses,  festivals, seasonal crafts and nature crafts,  wet on wet watercolor painting
  • Modeling sequences for first grade
  • How to Balance the Week and multiple children
  • Work and Play for Daily Rhythm with multiple children

I would love to see YOU there.  Please contact jkernstine1@gmail.com in order to attend!

Many blessings and looking forward to this workshop!

Love,

Carrie

The Light In The Middle of the Homeschooling Year

Sometimes I am searching for  the light in the middle of the homeschool year. Did you ever feel that way?  There is a saying that every homeschooling family is ready to quit in February, so maybe this feeling that homeschooling is a hard juggle is just starting early. What usually  happens is that  by the end of the year I will be saying, “Oh well, it wasn’t really SO bad!”.  I told a friend that other day that maybe homeschooling is a little like childbirth, and we forget the painful parts, which is why we come back for the next year! Hahahaha!

So, at this time of year, at least for me, we just have to  press on.  I have to keep myself going because the end of the year is not that far away, and I realize particularly for our high schooler, we may have to extend a little past the date where we normally end even with pressing on.

So,  in order to conquer the midyear feels, I have been busy bringing in light into our homeschool in various forms.  I have done this with physical forms of  light in our home – candles and salt lamps; through crafts that make our space feel cheery.  I have done this with emotional things that give us light.  For example, this month we have focused on courtesy and kind speech and loyalty through a variety of stories and biographies and our Christian faith.  That feels nice. We try to get out to walk everyday for a very physical dose of light as well.   We have been at the horse farm and the children have been playing outside with our puppy.  I have streamlined errands as much as possible and made rest, exercise, rhythm, and cleanliness a priority.

For those of you Waldorf  homeschooling and wondering where we are these days, our first grader is on his second math block of the year. He is going over all four math processes, and starting to work on math facts involving the numbers 1-20, the multiplication tables, patterns and estimating and more.  Math is easy for him.  He is also working on all his letter sounds (for those of you not Waldorf homeschooling, we introduce academics in first grade, not kindergarten, for a variety of reasons), short vowels and consonant-vowel-consonant words and we are doing a lot of modeling in this block.

Our sixth grader has completed Astronomy, Mineralogy, European Geography, and we are finishing up Rome this week and moving into a math block next week.  She has daily practice in math, grammar, spelling, and is working on Latin a few times a week.  She is working a lot on black and white drawing also during this block.

Our oldest child is a ninth grader.  Biology is the one subject that has been consistently hard for her, and we switched tactics partway through the first semester so we are still catching up.  She has recently been studying and writing about, “The House of the Scorpion, ” and the poetry of Mary Oliver ( from Oak Meadow’s freshman year literature and composition suggestions), along with Biology, Spanish II, and Algebra I.  She has been creating her own business making horse-related products to sell.

So, it isn’t perfect, but it is moving!  Throw some of your light over here and tell me how your homeschooling is going!

Love,
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