Pulling Together The Bits and Pieces of Waldorf Planning

I am busy planning – most of second and seventh grade is done in  a fair amount of detail, although I will have to go over each block/week at a designated time each week or two during the school year and make sure I have ideas for what I want to do with the Main Lesson book.  My tenth grade planning is coming along slowly, but I hope to have a majority of it done by the end of the month.

One thing I have noticed this year is there are a lot of “moving parts” to this year.  I have started thinking in terms of, for example, second grade:

  • Second Grade Blocks
  • Second Grade math to run through the year
  • Second Grade language arts (mainly games)  to run through the year
  • Warm up/circle for  the year
  • Extra form drawing, wet on wet painting, crafts, nature to run through the year
  • Flute to run through the year
  • Things for my older two to do with my second grader each day to help

 

It seems like a lot to think about, especially when I have similar lists of things for seventh and tenth grade.

One thing that helps me corral these “separate lists” is to create templates and use them to fill things in so things are more harmonized and work together.  This was form I created and used back when I had two in the grades and a toddler.  Our days are much, much more full now due to having one child in middle school and one in  high school, but I think right now I have made template forms to create the second grade circle, a form for the warm up for seventh and tenth grade, and then structural forms for running three grades.  This year, with high school, middle school, and tenth grade this sort of daily template looks like this:

M T W Th  (circle day)   (some weeks have three days, some have four days)

Second Grader

  • Warm Up
  • Weather/Calendar
  • Number of Days of School, Number of the Day, Math Practice/Mental Math
  • Form Drawing (Mondays, unless a form drawing block)
  • Block work (includes all lively arts)
  • Weekly extras at end of lesson :Tuesdays Seasonal/Festival Painting, Wednesday Crafts/Handwork Projects
  • Nature Walk weekly during tenth grader’s  outside class

#2 Main Lesson Period (typically the seventh grader; varies on the day if it is the seventh or tenth grader – sometimes the Main Lesson is combined work)

  • Warm Up
  • Movement
  • Growth Mindset
  • Poetry/Speech Exercises
  • Math Review/Mental Math/Math Games or Puzzles
  • Block Work (includes all lively arts)
  • Help first grader  during other Main Lesson period: Mondays Reading Practice, Tuesdays Math Games, Wednesdays Extra Modeling tying in to nature studies, Thursdays Reading Nature Books

Main Lesson Period #3 (Tenth Grade typically)

  • Warm Up
  • Movement Games
  • Growth Mindset
  • Poetry/Speech Exercises
  • Math Review/Logic Puzzles/Math Games
  • Block Work (includes all lively arts)
  • Help Child #1 during other Main Lesson period:  Mondays Jump Rope Games, Tuesday Crafts, Wednesday Baking, Thursday Math Games

Other considerations:

  • Combination Writing (twice a week)
  • Combination 10th Grade Health/7th Grade Physiology (twice a week)
  • Combination Math Experiences (once a week)
  • Combination Theme each month with weekly meeting (once a week)

Once templates are made, it becomes easier to plug in verses, songs, art ideas, the content of a block into the template, or it can be easier to say, we can cook or garden for our warm up and movement on this day and then jump into block work.  The template provides the framework for the flexibility.

Hope this idea helps someone with their planning!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

How To Get Your Early Planning Going!

Hello Friends!

It has been a busy time of year here with finishing school, enjoying friends and squishing in pool time.  One thing I have been serious about since I came home revitalized and encouraged from the Waldorf Homeschool Conference in Orlando, FL is to jump on planning.  There is a lot to coordinate this year.  My seasonal/festival ideas for each month are written down from over the years, and our start/end/probably vacation dates are also written out. I had an idea of possible block rotations  (subject to change), and I have recently sat down and gathered resources.  Most of them are Waldorf resources; there are some Oak Meadow resources for my tenth grader; but many resources are just library books sorted into subjects or things off of Teachers Pay Teachers for high school  to fill in my own gaps or to work with specific works of literature for high school.  Then I made a list of what needs to be planned:

  1. High School Spanish 3 – I will be facilitating this through a traditional text book and additional readings and games I found on Teachers Pay Teachers.
  2. A combination health (for our tenth grader) and seventh grade physiology (traditionally done in a block in seventh grade but I am combining with my high schooler’s health) twice a week.
  3. A twice a week writing track where I am combining my tenth and seventh graders, focused on the wish, wonder, surprise theme traditionally found in Waldorf  seventh grade where we can focus on skill progression in writing and different types of writing for our tenth grader.
  4. Second Grade Blocks and Weekly Nature Study.  This will be my third time through second grade, so I am familiar with much of the material but hope to really bring fun and new ideas to it all and make it very active for our very active little choleric guy.
  5. Seventh Grade Blocks – to include physics, Renaissance and Reformation history, Exploration, astronomy, several math blocks and hopefully a little block on Colonial America at the very end of seventh grade.  I am going to save the whole of chemistry for eighth grade.
  6.  Tenth Grade Blocks – still debating on blocks; we never got to our ninth grade Art History block as we ran out of time and we have a few topics in Biology to finish. Other than that, I am planning blocks in US Government, Embryology, Ancient Civilizations and Ancient Literature, a block of poetry, and a block of Contemporary African-American Literature, and several math blocks.
  7. Fantastic Fun – these will be hands-on things on a single topic once a week all together.   I fully expect our second grader to be in the room for many of these topics that really mesh more with seventh and tenth grade such as African geography, Latin American geography, project-based math, navigation,  and more (essentially places where I felt seventh and tenth grade overlap) so I am thinking of the best way to approach some of this. Our second grader probably will just weave in and out, and much like the way I feel about younger children hearing stories that they will encounter later, it just is what it is.  Homeschooling is first and foremost about family and I don’t wish to banish him from our activities.
  8. My other big plan is to begin this school year and have a week or week and a half of the life of Buddha and Buddhism – this ties into the Silk Road for our seventh grader, and into the Ancient World for our tenth grader and it could tie into stories for our second grader.  I envision this primarily as an artistic time, and hope to work with creating clay sculpting (tenth grader) and black and white drawing (seventh grader) and some other projects.  I also plan to read Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha” to the older children and work on some projects coordinated with that.
  9. Summer Reading lists – I am having our rising tenth grader read Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Bean Trees” and the book “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson. I also included a tenth grade reading list to pick several books of choice off of during the summer and school year for book reports.   I am having our rising seventh grader read, “Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World” and probably something that bridges the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

How are you coming along planning?  I wish for peaceful planning for you!

I think the best ways to get your early planning going is to see where you can combine children in blocks or topics, gather your resources, and just begin.  Where is the wonder and activity, and where is the skill progression for the upper grades? I would to hear from you how you are doing!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

Block Rotations For Tenth, Seventh, and Second Grade

So I have gone through a good deal of thinking recently about these grades. I have been writing things down (and scratching things out), and have come up with a yearly plan, a weekly plan, and a daily plan for my first time through tenth grade, my second time through seventh grade, and my third time through second grade.

To help clarify the roles of yearly, weekly, and daily plans, I think of the possibilities in the following ways. The yearly plan is our start and end dates, vacation dates, any field trips I know about.  It is figuring out how many weeks we will run total.  It is festivals and religious observances and seasonal fun.

The weekly plan includes things like how many days I week I will teach, how many days will we be outside the home (unfortunately, with a high schooler, more than I would like).  I think about things like how many times a week do I need to teach X high school subject that runs all year and is not in a block, or does my seventh grader need extra help in an area outside of block scheduling?

The daily plan includes things such as how to get everyone’s school in, what can we all do together as a family or what can I do to combine my seventh and tenth grader, what can I do for self-care and my own health each and every day, how will the house and meals be handled.

The block rotations are specific to Waldorf homeschooling and how I prefer to teach and how my children prefer to learn. So, the block plan rotation for each of these grades looks  like this so far:

Second Grade:

  • August – Nature Tales for form drawing and to review the alphabet and all letter sounds
  • September – Math through Trickster Tales
  • October – Fables
  • November – Math and American Tall Tales
  • December – Stories of Light
  • January – Math
  • February – Chinese Fairy Tales
  • March – Math
  • April – Native American Tales
  • May- Gardening and Herbs, more Native American Tales

Seventh Grade – We will be doing practice math daily and in blocks; we will be doing extra writing twice a week combined with our tenth grader, and we will be folding the physiology block into some of the things for health our tenth grader is doing weekly. Also, I am planning a once a week “together” block with some of the areas that overlap between seventh and tenth grades:  Africa, Oceanography, Navigation, Mechanics, Exploration and World Geography, Latin America, Colonial America, Poetry.

For blocks, I am thinking (totally subject to change!)

  • August/September – The Renaissance, The Reformation, and Perspective Drawing
  • October- Math
  • November – Africa – geography, people, animals (may work in poetry writing haikus about animals as well)
  • December – Physics and Math
  • January – Latin America
  • February- Exploration (with a focus on writing with a Wish, Wonder, Suprise theme.  We will also be doing this in our two day a week writing throughout the year).
  • March – Math
  • April – Colonial History – Biographies
  • May- Astronomy and Magnetism
  • I am thinking of skipping chemistry and combining seventh and eighth grade chemistry into one block in eighth grade but we shall see!

 

Tenth Grade – Classes that will run all year will include geometry, United States Government, Environmental Science, Health, and possibly Spanish 3.  English will run in blocks and twice a week during non-writing blocks.  United States Government will run in much the same way – in blocks but also in weekly classes when we are not on that subject as a block.

Block Rotation will include: (also totally subject to change!)

  • August – United States Government
  • September – Embryology
  • October- United States Government
  • November  and December- Ancient Civilizations with Ancient Literature
  • January – Hands On Trigonometry, Triangulation
  • February – Contemporary African-American Literature (6 weeks)
  • March/April – United States Government
  • April/May – Poetry

We shall see how it all works out!  It promises to be a busy year.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Sorting Through Writing In The Middle School Grades

Waldorf Education lays an amazing foundation for writing throughout the elementary school years by working with rich oral language, varied sentence structure and vocabulary and opportunities for expository writing ( informative), creative writing (narrative), poetry (both written and in songs).  Many of the Waldorf teachers I have spoken to do speak of the need to bring in more opportunities and examples for book reports, reading non-fiction sources and writing reports, and opportunities for persuasive (argumentative writing) throughout the middle school years of grades 6-8. A public school environment would also focus upon cause and effect and comparitive essays in addition to the types of writings just mentioned. I think there are many ways to incorporate all of these types of writing along with grammar and oral language opportunities, but only if one plans ahead.  I  also fully believe on demand timed writing can wait until at least eighth grade if the student is headed to a public school high school  environment (but to know that this can be a focus in some school districts) and to begin in high school otherwise.

There is no one “Waldorf writing” resource for grades 6-8 or high school, although I am partial to the articles by Betty Staley on these topics over at the Waldorf Library On-Line and I like the Comedy and Tragedy booklet that Christopherus Homeschool Resources, Inc offers for ninth grade.  Live Education does have a grammar book for the upper grades that could be of interest to some.

If you are looking for resources, I have been reading a lot lately in the realm of English Language Arts for teenaged writers (which would essentially cover grades 7-12 in a Waldorf School or Waldorf homeschooling setting).  My favorite author so far is Kelly Gallagher and pretty much anything he writes I enjoy and can find gems in his work for my own homeschool.

I think  in the Waldorf homeschool setting, sixth grade is a great time to work on grammar, poetry, book reports, and  creative/narrative writing and expository writing, which can include gathering information from non-fiction sources.  Looking back upon Mr. Gallagher’s work and the sixth grade year I am in the midst of  with our second child, I am convinced we have done enough reading, but I am not convinced we have done enough writing.  I am working hard to increase our writing volume now.

Seventh grade is a traditional time of creative/narrative writing with the “Wish, Wonder, Surprise” block in Waldorf Schools.  I find seventh grade is a time when many students really up the quantity and quality of their writing.  I look back upon my first child’s work and I can see this amazing leap between sixth and seventh grade.  Then, in eighth grade, just as in previous years,  there is opportunity for all types of writing and I think also opportunities for using and deciphering news articles regarding current events.   I like requiring book reports quarterly from sixth grade onward (perhaps some of you start this requirement earlier), and I focus a lot on reading non-fiction texts in putting together  2-3  research papers or to accompany larger projects  a year in sixth grade, and then in seventh grade and up even more. Of course, we are learning grammar, summarizing topics, working with poetry and recitation and more throughout the year in all of the middle school grades.

I would love to hear some of your successes in homeschooling grades sixth through eight and how you approached the development of lovely writing in these grades.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Planning Tenth Grade (And Combining With Seventh Grade!)

So hot on the heels of my ideas of ways that will improve our next ninth grade experience, I am busy thinking about and ordering resources for tenth and seventh grade.  Seventh grade is my favorite grade, but it is very full, so I am thinking of ways to combine an also very-full tenth grade (and second grade).

For tenth grade, I am seeing if there are any local classes we could take advantage of for areas where it might be a struggle, and then seeing what we will be doing at home. We are not going to do any kind of dual enrollment this year with our local colleges, but I know some tenth graders who have done that as well, so that may be a possibility for your family if you are planning tenth grade.

The main things covered in many Waldorf Schools in tenth grade (and I got this by looking at the grade outlines for high school from the Honolulu Waldorf High  School, the Seattle Waldorf  High School, Austin Waldorf School, The Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor, The Rudolf Steiner School  in New York City, and Academe of the Oaks, the Waldorf High School in Atlanta), seem to include:  

  • History:  Ancient River Valley Civilizations through Greece. Some include India, China, and Tibet as a focal area.  Some include Colonial America as another block.
  • U.S Studies:  Some include Civics. Some include U.S. History I.  (we already did US History over eighth and ninth).
  • Literature/Language Arts: Most seem to include epic poems, The Odyssey, Poetics in general, Greek Drama and Mythology (some include Siddhartha), The Old Testament as literature. Some include separate world literature or focus on a geographic area literature (ie, Pacific Rim and literature, etc)
  • Math:  Most include geometry or Algebra II as a year long course, trigonometry and land surveying, practical trigonometry
  • Earth Sciences: Some include hydrology or oceanography or crystallization
  • Life Sciences:  Embryology; some also include circulation. (we did circulation in ninth grade)
  • Physical Sciences: Mechanics
  • Chemistry:  Acid and Bases  (Since we are going to do a full chemistry course in eleventh grade, I may not totally worry about this!)

So, I started to think about where tenth and seventh grade will or COULD overlap. The middle school grades have a bit of fluidity to them, so I thought I would just see what I could come up with:

  • Mechanics definitely
  • Oceanography could be a maybe – hybrid between eighth grade and tenth grade
  • Navigation (exploration and astronomy in seventh grade, navigation and astronomy in eleventh grade)
  • Poetry – all three children can enjoy this
  • Colonial America – not typically included in seventh grade, but I did this my first time around in seventh grade so we could start around the time of Lewis and Clark in eighth grade and I was thinking about how to include it again, and some schools are including Colonial America in tenth grade.
  • World Geography – this could tie in to Africa and Latin American blocks in Seventh grade, and Ancient World Civilizations in tenth grade. This could also tie into World Literature.

So, I am thinking for blocks we will do Ancient Civilizations (but I have not decided which ones yet!), literature tie-ins to the Ancient Civilizations  but not get too involved with compare and contrast between texts, (which is more eleventh grade in a Waldorf School),  a hands- on trigonometry block using Trig Trainer and trigonometry board games plus a geometry design game, embryology and a  poetry block.

Our number of blocks was smaller this year in ninth grade simply due to the year long courses requiring so much work.  My main goal throughout these high school years besides helping our student with what she needs and wants and having fun and loving as a family is also to keep  things manageable for myself because of the demands of teaching so many things at once and because I have already homeschooled for years. No burnout wanted here!

I was thinking our combination subjects could happen one day a week and will involve projects that both grades/students could enjoy about these areas ( and I am sure my little second grader will be listening in).  They wouldn’t be blocks per say, since there would be no two or three day rhythm, only one day a week, but I was thinking one subject area per month and just having fun things to do throughout the Mondays (or on other days of  the month! Field trips!).   This would be a unique way to tackle some different parts of the curriculum for both grades that might otherwise be harder to get to and fit in (especially for tenth grade, which seems really full!)

Many blessings,
Carrie

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.

Blessings,
Carrie

A Guest Post: Main Lesson Structure

Main Lesson Structure – A Guest Post by Meredith Floyd-Preston from A Waldorf Journey

(Thanks so much to Meredith Floyd-Preston from A Waldorf Journey for sharing with us her thoughts about the structure of main lesson. Meredith is a long-time Waldorf teacher and the host of a brand new Waldorf podcast that you can find on her blog or on iTunes. Please make sure you check out the link at the bottom of the post for a free offer for Parenting Passageway readers. Thank you, dear Meredith, for being in this space today. – Carrie)

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, is often said to have indicated that all of the learning a child needs to experience in a day can happen in the first two hours of the morning. Anything outside of that precious, sacred two hour main lesson is bonus, enrichment content.

Now, I’m not sure how my subject teacher colleagues would feel about this statement, but for those of us who teach main lesson, it could bring a little anxiety and some big questions.

  • How can I make sure that I am making the most of those two hours every day?
  • What are all of the things that need to fit into that time block?
  • What activities and experiences will ensure that my students are primed and ready to receive and engage with my lessons?

I’ve spent my 10 years as a class teacher trying to answer these questions and I’ve come to a few conclusions about how to structure main lesson to make the most of it. Thanks to some great mentoring and a lot of trial and error experience, I feel like I’ve settled in on a rhythm that works really well for me and my students.

Here’s what it comes down to …

  • Warm Up and Wake Up
  • Review and Deepen
  • The New and Exciting Content
  • Write, Draw and Beautify Bookwork

Warm-Up

During the warm up, your task is to get your students ready to engage with the lesson that is to come. When they first begin the day, your students are facing many barriers to engaging with the lesson. If you teach at a school, your students are coming from different parts of town, houses, family dynamics and morning commute situations. One goal of the warm-up is get all of these different students coming from their varied circumstances all onboard the same ship, ready to set sail into the morning’s lesson.

There are many different ways to think about this warm-up, but it helps me to think about the 3-fold nature of the human being and the activities that will wake up my students’ heads, hearts and hands. Here are some examples.

  • Hands – rhythmic movement activities, relay races, jumprope, a morning walk, obstacle courses, outdoor play
  • Heart – social interaction time, singing, recorder-playing, poetry
  • Head – quick thinking work, mental math, memorization quizzes, times table work, beanbag parts of speech game

Review

Often the review comes in the form of a discussion about the previous day’s material. The idea of the review is to refresh the material from the day before to see how it has grown and changed in the students’ sleep life. You know those little epiphanies you have when you wake up in the morning after sleeping on something that happened the day before? That happens for your students, too. Coming back to the material from the day before is how you can make use of and solidify the ideas that came in the new content from the day before.

Most teachers look for ways to spice up this daily review so students don’t become tired of the idea of reliving content from the day before. Reviewing the content with dramatic reenactments, specific questions, pop quizzes, creative drawings, or poetry-writing are all ways you can make the review a little more interesting than just orally rehashing the story from the day before.

One other suggestion – I have found it useful to save a little nugget of new information to share during the review. I’ve noticed that when I casually mention some additional detail from the story that I didn’t share the day before, a little spark of interest lights up in my students and they’re much more engaged than they were before.

Though the traditional model positions the review right after the warm-up, many teachers are now experimenting with doing the review after the new content when possible. The idea here is that the new content is the part of the lesson that the students are most engaged and interested in. It is the reason they come to school and it is the part of the lesson that they most look forward to. If we can bring that to them earlier in our lesson we’ll have more engaged and interested students.

New Content

As mentioned above, from a certain perspective, the new content is what the lesson is all about. This is the curriculum material that you put your heart and soul into preparing and it is what your students most look forward to. In the lower grades it is often the story content that inspires the imagination of your students. In the upper grades it is the new thinking content that your students’ intellectual minds grapple with.

Whatever the age of your student, this content is a gift that is given directly from teacher to student, without the interference of a textbook or other reference material. Take the time to learn the content and make it your own, so you can deliver it to your students in a living way.

Traditionally, the new content is delivered at the end of main lesson, and I can imagine this model working well in 1st or 2nd grade. But any older than that, I recommend bringing the new content as soon as it realistically makes sense. If the new material doesn’t need the lead-in of the review, you can even bring it right after the warm-up. There have certainly been times when my excitement about the new content has inspired me to bring it to my students right away

Bookwork

During the bookwork portion of the main lesson, the students take the material they have learned and put it into crystallized form. They bring the rich imaginative experience of the content into final physical form. In the upper grades, it can be a very satisfying experience to live into the content one more time in this very will-oriented way. Younger students appreciate the opportunity to engage with the content in a more tangible, active way.

I encourage you to think creatively about these four parts of the main lesson. With an understanding of the purpose behind each component, you can freely craft lessons that guide your students through the process best. You can imagine each component making up one half hour of your morning lesson, but use your powers of observation to determine if that structure makes sense for your students. Generally, younger students need a longer warm-up, older students need more new content time. Observe your students and plan accordingly.

I’m all about encouraging and empowering teachers and homeschooling parents to craft lessons that speak specifically to their own students. There is no secret sauce when it comes to Waldorf Education. As long as you understand child development and observe your students, you have everything you need to create your own lessons.

To help teachers and parents feel confident about planning their own curriculum, I have created a free 3-part video series about planning curriculum. To receive a link to the first free video, head over to my blog and subscribe using the form in sidebar. You’ll receive a link to the first video, as well as my Ultimate Guide to Chalkboard Drawing.

I hope these little videos, along with Carrie’s fantastic posts here at Parenting Passageway, can inspire you to create a Waldorf curriculum that is uniquely suited to your individual students.

About Meredith

Meredith Floyd-Preston is a mother of 3 teenagers and a trained and experienced Waldorf class teacher who blogs about her experience at A Waldorf Journey. Her new podcast A Waldorf Journey Podcast is a resource for supporting teachers and homeschooling parents with their teaching.