Sixth Grade Mineralogy

This is my second time through Sixth Grade Mineralogy, as it is popularly known in Waldorf Schools. Some Waldorf homeschooling parents want to take a bit broader view of mineralogy as well.  I think Waldorf Schools do traditionally include such things as an introduction to plate tectonics and  some include more about weather and such (see below), but many of these things are really expanded upon in eighth grade with Earth Science being taught through all four high school years.  You can see some Main Lesson Book pages from A Waldorf Journey

I like to do an introduction to plate tectonics in Sixth Grade Mineralogy, and put Oceanography, Atmosphere, and Weather/Climate in mainly Eighth Grade.  Water as a topic is something I would like to see worked into every grade in varying forms, and I think that is a possibility looking at the blocks in Waldorf Education.

The first time I did this block, I focused more on a movement from looking at the surface of the Earth through biomes and ecology, then what helps shape weather on the Earth and how that shapes the Earth’s surface, and then more into traditional rocks and minerals and ending with fossils and the record of time.  You can see a full, long post about this approach here.

This time around, different child, different year, I first and foremost did have the Earth Science Literacy Standards in my head because I was just at a conference.  These include nine “big ideas”:   the idea that Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet; that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and how the Solar System formed, the two types of Earth’s crust , the fossil record; that Earth is a complex system of interactions between rock, water, air, and life; that Earth is continuously changing; Earth is the water planet; that life evolves on a dynamic Earth; that we depend on the Earth for resources; that natural hazards do pose risks; and that human beings significantly alter the Earth.

So this time around, I started with the minerals around us – what minerals do we eat?  where are minerals in things we use every day?  From there I moved into :

  • What the Earth looks like from above; the layers of the Earth; an introduction to Plate Tectonics
  • Old versus new crust – subduction zones; how tectonic plates can move (introduction); the idea that continents collided, drifted apart, the oceans opened and closed – and how this happened in our own state.
  • Our state was mainly shaped by tectonic processes and erosion; review of our five distinct geographic regions;
  • Mountain building; types of mountains and what we have in our state; how plates moving determine the location of earthquakes and volcanoes; types of faults; tension/compression/shearing; using longitude and latitude to plot where volcanoes and earthquakes have been located;  contour maps
  • Igneous rocks- granite, basalt, andesite, obdisian, pumice. Look at the igneous rocks of our region of our state, and then at other regions in our state. I would suggest making volcanoes here.
  • Sedimentary Rock – sedimentary rock formation;  the most prime example in our state is that half of the world’s kaolin is in our Coastal Plain area; so we talked a lot about kaolin and how its uses, how it is processed; looked at sedimentary rocks in the rock game I have for our state. Limestone and caves; veil painting
  • Fossil record, walk back through time; what is a fossil and what is an index fossil; the eras of the Earth; what fossils do we have in our state and why; Mary Anning; Louis Leakey
  • Metamorphic Rock – ; the rock cycle including erosion and deposition (water, wind, glaciers); properties of minerals; how minerals form
  • Coal and Oil;  formation; the coal mining industry in our state; fracking; renewable energy; what our state is doing with renewable energy (which will be our next five paragraphy essay to write – we wrote one about Jupiter in our Astronomy block)

Resources I used:

  • I mentioned my two favorite ones here – Roadside Geology of Georgia and the game for identifying rocks in my state (boxes of rocks for each region of our state with a playing board for each region); notes from the symposium session I just attended regarding botany and geology
  • Library books: Mary Anning biographies, Diving to a Deep-Sea Volcano by Mallory; we tried When The Earth Shakes by Winchester – very text heavy; Experiments with Rocks and Minerals by Hand; Outrageous Ores by Peterson; Volcano Rising by Rusch; DK Eyewitness books on Fossils and Oil
  • Salt by Kurlansky and Schindler; Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea:  Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Burleigh
  • The Living Earth by Cloos (Waldorf resource); Geology and Astronomy by Kovacs (Waldorf resource)
  • All About Rocks and Minerals by White (old)
  • Rocks, Rivers and the Changing Earth:  A First Book About Geology by Schneider and Schneider
  • Explore Rocks and Minerals! by Brown and Brown
  • Different books about renewable energy:  Biomass:  Fueling Change by Walker; Generating Wind Power by Walker; Geothermal, Biomass, and Hydrogen by Ollhoff; Ocean, Tidal, and Wave Energy: Power From the Sea by Peppas; How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Bishop
  • Rock samples and samples of coal

Field Trips:

  • Limestone Caverns including Luray Caverns in Virginia and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky; Granite Museum
  • We missed both a tour of  one of the kaolin facility and the marble festival – they are both only open to the public once a year in our state.
  • There really isn’t anything much for fossils in our state as far as digs but I might join our state’s mineral society because I hear if there is any to be found it is done through that society
  • Our  Natural History Museum does have quite a lot about dinosaurs and a “Walk Through Time” going through our state’s prehistory – we were lucky enough to attend our museum when it had a traveling exhibit from NYC’s American Museum of Natural History about “The World’s Largest Dinosaurs”
  • Another museum in our state has an extensive gem collection and a focus on the uses of gems and metals found in our state
  • Gem show
  • Viewing local streams and watersheds; looking for erosion
  • There are some places of geologic significance we have not yet seen in our state so maybe we will get to some of those in the spring.

Main Lesson Book/Projects:

  • So many projects you could do with this block!  Growing crystals and  basalt columns; making volcanoes and speleothems.
  • Clay modeling seemed so appropriate for this block!
  • Veil painting
  • The writing was intensive in our Astronomy block and our sixth grader cannot write that much two blocks in a row,  so this time we are going to use more of a main lesson book with foldouts, drawings and paintings and any brochures from places we visited in lieu of traditional drawing/summary tactics ( plus a report on renewable energy) that can be extended into the next block.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Sixth Grade Astronomy

I never really wrote a separate post about our first time through astronomy – I think some things are mixed throughout the seventh grade posts.   Anyway, we ended up doing astronomy in seventh grade the first time around, and I remember feeling like I wished I had had more “naked eye observing” skills.  I remember I had Marsha Johnson’s block, I had looked at Live Education, I had some mainstream and Waldorf astronomy resources from Rudolf Steiner Bookstore..and it just didn’t really flow for me.  It was an “okay” block, but probably the least favorite block we had ever done, at least for me,  because it wasn’t really coming from my own knowledge and interest.  My student enjoyed it, but I felt like it was kind of flat.

So, I knew this second time around through the upper grades I wanted to put astronomy in sixth grade, not seventh, and treat the whole year with field trips and experiences that centered around this theme of polarity between heaven and earth with human beings as the intermediary.  We can reach for the stars, we can sink our roots into this time and place, and we can shine where we are.   It is about where we find our place and space in the world.  Such an incredible theme for sixth graders!

My first thought (gasp!) was to not do a block and just experience things, but one thing that I came up with in researching this idea of naked eye astronomy was not only how this ties in so well into Ancient Civilizations, which I knew, but into the First People of the Americas.  And you all know how much I love American stuff in the Waldorf homeschooling experience when I can fit it in.   This little video from rocket scientist  Dr. Maggie Aderin Pocock was helpful to me in seeing why I wanted to make this a block and present something from myself in addition to experiential learning and art.

I started researching.  There were some Native American Astronomy lesson plans that I found that helped me start to pinpoint resources and such.  The ones that were most helpful to me were:

  • Sharing The Skies: Navajo Astronomy A Cross-Cultural View by Maryboy and Begay
  • They Dance In The Sky:  Native American Star Myths by Monroe and Williamson
  • The Stars We Know:  Crow Indian Astronomy and Lifeways by McCleary
  • Her Seven Brothers by Goble (picture book)
  • Star Boy by Goble  (picture book)
  • Storm Maker’s Tipi by Goble (picture book)

Then I looked at Waldorf/Mainstream resources:

  • The best book I have found is this free one at Waldorf Library On-Line called An Introduction To A Study of the Stars by Mirbt
  • Sky Phenomena by Davidson (great source of poems too)
  • Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey
  • I see Meredith over at A Waldorf Journey has a brand NEW guide out –I will totally pick this up for future use and as we extend astronomy throughout this grade. Here is the link.
  • Geology and Astronomy by Kovacs (mainly for the spiritual perspective of the sun; ideas for biographies) (information often not detailed enough and not up to date)
  • I used Internet resources for various topics that I wanted to up-to date information, especially the NASA website and the NSTA website.
  • I wanted to include the metric system, which we had done in fifth grade.  As an introduction, I  used an article that was a bit old -September 1999 from CNN – I don’t have the headline, but I used it as an example of why we care about the metric system in the US . It was about how NASA lost a 125 million dollar Mars orbiter because one  team used English units of measurement whilst the other team used the metric system and the measurement systems didn’t coincide!
  • Astronomy Curriculum from Georgia Performance Standards (my state); the astronomy club in our metro area and their resources
  • Poems:  I used poems by Walter de la Mare, a North American Indian song, a poem by William Carlos William.
  • Books from the Library:  Seven Wonders of the Gas Giants and Their Moons by Miller; The Milky Way and Other Galaxies by Kopp; Our Solar System by Simon; The Sun and The Stars by Sparrow; Planet Earth: Continents, Oceans, Climate, Geography by Farndon; Jupiter and the Asteroids (World Book).

Biographies:

  • Annie Jump Cannon, Astronomer by Gerber
  • Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman, Astronomer
  • Three biographies about Benjamin Banneker
  • Will introduce the biographies of Galileo and other traditional astronomers , etc   but will go over them again next year in Seventh Grade (my first time through I did the traditional astronomers from the Renaissance/Age of Exploration and tied it into navigation)

Main Lesson Book Pages/Projects/ Field Trips:

First Time Through Astronomy: (Seventh Grade)

  • The Circumpolar Constellations (drawing and summary)
  • Orion the Hunter (drawing) and “Choose Something Like A Star” poem
  • Prince Henry the Navigator (charcoal drawing) and Summary
  • Longitude and Latitude
  • Latitude and The North Star (drawing and summary)
  • The Planets drawing and summary
  • Copernicus drawing and summary
  • Brahe and Kepler
  • Paintings of Terrestrial and Gaseous Planets
  • Projects included model of the solar system, marking out distances of solar system with objects outside
  • Field trips – several field trips to the planetarium
  • Opportunities for eye gazing

Second Time Through Astronomy (Sixth Grade, slightly different focus)

  • Oil Pastel based off Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” for cover
  • The Native Americans and the Cosmos drawings and summary
  • The Earth and the Sun  drawings and summary
  • Equatorial Seasons  drawings and summary
  • The Moon (drawings, watercolor paintings, summary)
  • The Human Being and the Cosmos (drawing, summary)
  • The Planets
  • A five paragraph essay on planet of student’s choice (our student chose Jupiter)
  • Our Solar System Address
  • Projects- model of the solar system, marking out distances of the solar system with objects outside, and this awesome kit from Etsy to “Stitch the Stars” by Heather Lins Home – here is the Etsy link.
  • Field Trips – we found a walk through the solar system that I had no idea even existed in my area the first time I went through astronomy (maybe there is one in your area?), planetarium, and I really would love to take a trip to one of those “night sky” parks.
  • Opportunities for star gazing

Academic Skills we worked on:

  • Metric System and an introduction to Scientific Notation
  • Writing paragraphs: organizing information to write, combining shorter sentences to make longer and more complex sentences,  using -ly words in writing, using words that invoke five senses.  We also have been working on grammar.
  • I assigned a five paragraph essay and that gave us a great opportunity to work on how to make great sentences and flowing paragraphs; using non-fiction sources.
  • Longitude and latitude, reading an atlas.

When our block ended, we will be reading these throughout the rest of the year:

  • Stories from the Stars:  Greek Myths of the Zodiac by Burke through the year
  • 365 Starry Nights:  An Introduction to Astronomy For Every Night of the Year by Raymo
  • Various Native American Star Myths

Our naked eye star gazing is really just beginning as October is the least cloudy month in the Southeast and one of  the best for stargazing.  We have moved into a mineralogy block, but will continue in any opportunities for astronomy as the year goes on.

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

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!

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.

More About Planning Sixth Grade Roman and Medieval History

I wrote a post here about planning Roman History; I also have at least three back posts regarding Roman History in Waldorf Sixth Grade homeschooling from the first time I went through this grade (with the rare addition of pictures of artwork as well!) so if you use the search engine box those should come up.

I just finished  planning my Medieval History block and it came to me that there are just things I do when planning that I don’t really think about but might be of interest to those of you planning.  I talked about hte most important part, the knowing WHY we are teaching this at this time to a twelve year old from the standpoint of childhood development (Steiner’s indications) in the post I linked to above.  I also mention in this post setting objectives and gathering resources.

However, one thing I always do automatically as well is to use  a time line to get a big picture of that time period (and to refresh my own memory if it has been awhile!)  This helps me get an order in my mind.  I can also use the timeline big picture to get an idea of the big personalities and the big events that  lead to that invigorating picture of contrast for the child.  Polarities, or contrasts, often help us all see the period of time and help the child find wonder. And, whilst a timeline doesn’t help you flesh out the “this is how people lived day to day”, it does help you establish a consciousness of the people of this period.  This changing consicousness of people is what defines history in the Waldorf curriculum.

It also helps you do something a little specific to homeschooling:  it helps you find and hone in on things of interest dependent upon your child’s personality.  For children who are more scientifically oriented, starting with Greece and Rome, for example,  I might use a timeline to look at technological and scientific advances and I would follow that through all the grades. Or for another child perhaps it is following food or navigation or something else.  These things wouldn’t be the whole block , of course, but the point of homeschooling is to throw ideas and projects that really pique interest our children and still highlight the developmental theme of that block.

The other thing a timeline does is to help you see what is happening in other parts of the world at the same time as your block.  Some homeschooling parents get really frustrated with the history part of the Waldorf curriculum as it follows the stream of development that Steiner saw as archetypal for the development of Western Civilization and the development that becomes recapitulated in the inner life of the child’s soul development.  You can understand more about this if you read An Outline of Esoteric Science and understand how Steiner saw the evolution of the world and epochs of time.

However, please do remember that a variety of cultures are studied in the Waldorf Curriculum and that we as homeschooling parents always have the opportunity to bring to use the beauty of the curriculum as a beacon for our children regarding our own heritage and our own place in the world .   If you think about it, this is why the kindergarten and early grades start with the home, the local area and work outwards.     Fifth grade covers a variety of  world cultures and most homeschooling parents I know also put Ancient China and Ancient Africa in that grade.  Ancient Africa, as a neighbor of Egypt and the cradle of humanity, certainly deserves to be in this grade and  I like to put the Kingdom of Axum, Queen of Sheba and King Ezana in  sixth grade.  In my history blocks, I also am careful to put in at least one main lesson or outside reading of “what is happening around the world”.  I certainly don’t want to take away from the stream of development that led to the consciousness of the human being in Western Civilization.  This to me, would defeat the point of the Waldorf curriculum that I believe meets my child’s developmental needs.

However, to make a general note on upper grades curriculum planning,  I think we  MUST  be very careful in this day and age to make sure the curriculum is not eurocentric and adjusted for  where one lives (and where one is from).  Some Waldorf teachers around the world are doing this.  For example, those Eastern Africa Waldorf training manuals (for example, here is the Grade 3 Training Manual)   always do a great job about pointing out how to adapt the curriculum for a particular region.  I think there are many ideas to be gleamed to see how Waldorf teachers in Oceania, Asia, Latin America, and Africa are doing things.  Also, in homeschooling,  as I mentioned above, family matters as well – picking up the lines from the parts of the world where your family is from could be gratifying.  In our case,  our family is mainly of European descent, but when we get up to more individualized world events in Europe, I try to include the countries where we are from (our children have lines going back to eight different countries).

World cultures are also followed from the beginning of the grades through fairy tales, myth and legend and so on, so I also include Native Americans/First People in every grade from kindergarten on, and I include Africa in some way from kindergarten on.  I include Asian and Latin American fairy tales and stories in all  the early grades and then from fifth grade onward, include those regions in history as well to provide a complete picture of the world and dynamic contrast. For Roman History, for example, I put in correlations to the Han Dynasty in China and we can compare and contrast how these two Empires were similar and different.   If you did Ancient China in Fifth Grade, this is a natural progression.  For Medival History, I put in  the wonderful biographies of Sundiata, Musa Mali,  and one can at least mention the Ancient Puebloans of our country if one is American, or the Mayan Civilization (which I tend to cover in detail in seventh grade) and look at the Japanese feudal period.   Great Zimbabwe and the Kingdom of Zimbabwe would also be appropriate in this time period.  Seventh grade always includes a lot of African and Latin American geography along with stories of the great civilizations there, so sixth grade can be the time to plant seeds. Eighth grade obviously includes the geography and history of Oceania and the entire modern world, and my Down Under readers will certainly be finding out what is going on in their part of the world during the times of the Roman Empire and the Medieval Ages .

The other thing I always do  automatically besides think of timelines and biographies  is to look for food, dress, music, poetry, and games that will tie in.  I don’t talk too much about that on this blog but it is always in my planning.

Just a few more thoughts, take what resonates with you.  It is your homeschooling, and you are the expert for your family. If you have are a Waldorf homeschooler, you have a beautiful and developmentally appropriate framework.

Blessings,

Carrie

Planning Sixth Grade Roman History

Sixth grade Roman History is one of those mainstay blocks in Waldorf Schools.  Usually both Roman History and Medieval History are covered in the sixth grade in a school setting, but I have seen that not always occur in the homeschool environment.  With this block, like ALL the history blocks in grades 6-8, I think it is really important to think about WHY  you are doing WHAT you are doing. Waldorf History in these grades is a more a symptomatic approach to a particular time period and HOW that time period and the consciousness of these people, usually exemplified by biographies, fits in with the development of the child.  We often juxtapose polar opposite historical figures for even greater impact.  Examples  in Roman History might be the contrast between Augustus Caesar and Nero, for example.  You will have judgment calls to make as to what to include and how much to include for each block of history.   That is your right as the teacher.

So this week I have spent most of my week researching and typing away to create a Roman History block…this is my second time planning Roman History, for two very, very different children and I knew much more about Roman History from going through it the first time.  I have a whole stack of resources I am pulling from including “When the World Was Rome” by Brooks and Walworth; “Roman Lives” by Harrer (not super used); Kovacs’ “Ancient Rome” which I can’t really recommend  – I like the story tone, but it is inaccurate on so many levels and really functions more at an overview level than anything in detailed narrative; “Famous Men of Ancient Rome” by Haaren and Poland which is also not very detailed; “Peril and Peace” by the Withrows (Christian Resource); “Classical Kids” by Carlson for some minor ideas; Foster’s “Augustus Caesar’s World”; “Roman Fort” by MacDonald and Wood; “City” by Macauley: “Our Little Roman Cousin of Long Ago” by Cowles; a National Geographic “special issue” from 2015 on “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire” (I like to know what is current); and “Attila the Hun” by Ingram.  Plus I have looked at all the major Waldorf curriculum providers out there and varying history/ancient history websites.  This could be overwhelming to have this many resources, but I suggest you at least basic check fact your main resource against something.  Not everything will agree, but accuracy is important. For example, there are varying opinions on Nero and the Burning of Rome and whether or not the early Christians actually met in the catacombs or not.   If I had to pick a few resources for the teacher, I would suggest “When the World Was Rome”, the National Geographic issue, and the Internet.

My basic structure is always to figure out  our objectives – what do we want to walk away with?;  and then academic objectives for my child and artistic objectives. I think about hands-on projects.  The child I am designing this for finds writing and  hands-on projects exhausting, so I have to balance all of this with what we are doing in other blocks during the school year.   I always pick a read-aloud for our block (one or sometimes two).  I usually come up with a vocabulary list for each week as well (and to me, spelling and vocabulary are two different things.  Often what mothers seem to be pulling from blocks on the advice of well-meaning Waldorf teachers is vocabulary, not spelling, but that is another post I guess).

Each day for us follows a similar pattern of movement (so in this case, perhaps Movement for Childhood exercises or Brain Gym movements and Roman marching); Opening Verse, the Latin Phrase of the Day, Poetry, review of Math or tying in of Math to the Main Lesson as I can and the main lesson review from the day before.  Then we move into whatever work needs to be done and new material.

I am happy about my block this year, but readily admit it took hours to plan.  It has been slow going in planning sixth grade overall and I also have first to plan and quite a bit of ninth grade blocks (ninth grade biology is at least for the most part done other than my lectures that I am going to present).

Hope your planning is coming along!  Please share what you are working on and help other planning mothers out with wonderful ideas and tips…

Blessings,
Carrie