Homeschooling Third Grade Math- Part One

This will be my third and last time going through third grade with one of my children. I am starting to prepare, and in this post I talked about my steps to Third Grade planning.  Part of this planning for me after laying out the blocks of study for each month is to get a good sense of the progression of math and language arts through the year.

So first I think of progression and goals.  Over the years, I have found the main objectives for third grade math to be:

  • To use a variety of strategies to make sense of number and number combinations, including counting and regrouping and estimating
  • Vertical addition and subtraction
  • Working with mulitplication and division; Long multiplication.  Long division, division with remainders might be third or fourth grade depending upon the child.
  • Estimating answers the the nearest hundred or thousands.
  • Written and oral practice in arthimetic so things become automatic. Yes, trying to start learning the math facts.  If my child has a learning disability, I don’t expect memorization of times tables until after the twelve year change.  Just my experience.
  • Number patterns in the rectangular array of 144 that covers the times tables 1-12
  • Telling time on all clocks
  • Measures of time, capacity, length, mass, money.
  • Written word problems
  • Freehand geometric drawings and geometric explorations

I start thinking a little about how I want to approach the blocks. I decided my math blocks would be in November( Farmer Boy Math with time, four processes, moving from horizontal to vertical), February ( measurement, mainly length, mass,  time) and April ( multiplication and division mainly but all four processes, working with money) but that my August block would include a good dose of  math review within the main lesson, the September block would include liquid measurement with our preserving/farming/gardening block, and our May block will also include measurement with practical projects.  These would all be worked into the main lesson period.  The two books I like for looking at the big picture and what blocks might contain includes the books, “Making Math Meaningful:  A Source Book for Teaching Math in Grades One Through Five,” by Jamie York, Nettie Fabrie, Wim Gottenboos and the book, “Teaching Mathematics in Rudolf Steiner Schools for Classes I-VIII” by Ron Jarman.

However, I also do have a complete outline of the “practice math” we will do each day and sometimes I do use the “practice time” to introduce a math concept we will deepen in a block or use a game to go deeper into practice on a math concept we have previously covered.  For this, I usually assign a topic a month that I really want to bring, and just a smattering of the other math skills. One book I like for this is a non-Waldorf book called “Third Grade Math:  A Month To Month Guide” by Suzy Ronfeldt.  I don’t use it to the letter, (some of the focus for each month I don’t find matches up with Waldorf mathematics so I discard those), but I look to see ideas by topic.

Once I have the focus for the blocks and the practice math areas for each month, I just start filling things in with ideas for cooking, games, practical experiences, movement experiences, and mathematical problems and puzzles to solve. For some specific ideas for grades 1-3, I like the following books:

  • “Waldorf Education in Practice:  Exploring How Children Learn in the Lower Grades” by Else Gottgens
  • “Third Grade Math:  A Month to Month Guide” by Suzy Ronfeldt
  • “Games for Math” by Peggy Kaye
  • “Things That Come in Groups: Multiplication and Division” by Tierney, Berle-Carman, and Akers.
  • “Math By Hand” which is math kits and Waldorf
  • “The Dyscalculia Toolkit” by Ronit Bird, which just has fun games for everyone
  • “Math Games and Activities From Around the World” by Zaslavsky

I also try to find literature that reinforces the mathematical concepts we are learning.  This probably is not common in a Waldorf School setting, but I find it to be very common in the homeschooling setting.  Some of my favorite books for third grade math for a student include:

  • “Alexander, Who Use to Be Rich Last Sunday” by Viorst (money)
  • “Fattest, Tallest, Biggest Snowman Ever” by Ling (measurement)
  • “A Quarter for the Tooth Fairy” by Holzman (money; not sure if I will use this one yet as I haven’t seen it)
  • “Just Add Fun” by Rocklin (multiplication arrays)
  • Division books suggested but I haven’t looked at them yet:  “The Doorbell Rang” by Pat Hutchins; “One Hungry Cat” by Rocklin
  • For geometry:  “Grandfather Tang’s Story”, which many Waldorf homeschoolers use in second grade; “The Greedy Triangle” by Marilyn Burns; “The Josefina Quilt” by Eleanor Coerr; “The Keeping Quilt” by Patricia Polacco.
  • “13 Moons on a Turtle’s Back”; “The Twelve Months” picture book  by Krykorka; “An Amish Year” by Ammon: “Alice Yazzie’s Year” by Maher; “The Time Garden” by Edward Eager -Chapter book.
  • Measurement:  All the books by Robert Wells – “What’s Older Than A Giant Tortoise?”  “Is A Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is?” etc.
  • Large Numbers: “Can You Count To A Googol?” by Robert Wells

I also start looking for games to have on hand too – that could be another post!

Hopefully that gives you some idea of how to start with third grade math.  I would love to post some block examples and examples of practice by week in the future if that would be helpful to those of you planning.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

 

 

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Planning Waldorf Homeschooling Third Grade

On The Parenting Passageway Facebook page, I have posted a few microblogging type posts about planning third grade.  I am starting withplanning  third grade now as I will have two other (older) grades to plan, and third grade is not completely foreign to me as this will be my third time through it.

I started with planning our tentative start and stop dates and vacation dates, and then mapped each week out on a piece of paper so I know how many weeks we will have in August, and how many in September, etc. and noted where days off or festivals will be occurring.

Then, I pulled out my FREE resources and started looking through them to help me remember third grade.  Any free resources will do, and you don’t need a lot to plan!  I pulled out some free blocks from Marsha Johnson’s files (which are still accessible if you join waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com) and the East Africa training manual PDF on teaching third grade.

Next, I mapped out my blocks and jotted down any extra things that came to mind for each block.  This is like the brainstorming stage.  Here is what I have so far:

August- Practical Work/Occupations of Our Area (also, Math Review, Form Drawing, Poetry)

September  Farming and Gardening , Preserving (thinking about mass and volume) (cursive)

October- Housebuilding and Shelters (Native American stories, nature studies) (cursive)

November- Farmer Boy Math (time, four processes)  (cooking) ( cursive)

December-  Old Testament Creation (painting, grammar) (speech, acting, poetry) (cursive)

January- Language Arts Old Testament(Abram, Jospeh, possibly Moses) (modeling, drama, cooking)

February-  Linear Measurement, Mass (Noah’s Ark, animals)

March-  The Story of Joshua (or Moses or Elijah), writing

April-  Math/Money, Four Processes

May-   Textiles/Practical Projects in Garden

Now I am at the point where I want to see what I want to put in each block.  This is the part, of course, that takes the longest!  Sometimes what helps me is to figure out what will flow through each day of each block?  So I am thinking right now about a flow to our Warm-Up time and to our Math Review time.   Right now I am thinking our flow will be

  • Opening Verse
  • Song or Poetry or Speech Exercise
  • Jumping Rope Rhymes or Zoo Exercises
  • Rod Exercises or Beanbags
  • Rhythmical Walking to Verse
  • Hand-clapping or String Games
  • Math Review – (maybe work in with weather) (Still thinking)
  • Number of the Day
  • Addition and Subtraction Games and/or Multiplication/Division Games
  • Memorizing Math Facts
  • Mental Math
  • Opening Main Lesson Verse

Once you have a little template, it just becomes sort of filling things in with a progression.

As I am planning this little flow, I am thinking about progression of academic capacities and practice.  For example, once I have looked at a progression of math, I will also look at Language Arts skills that I know we will need to practice in blocks and in between blocks.  This is things like phonics, sight words, spelling words, readers and read-alouds.  The vocabulary words will come from the blocks.  I know some teachers are totally awesome and pull their spelling words from the block itself, but I have found it better for myself and my children if I use something a little more structured according to spelling words and let the vocabulary words be the organic language part from a block. That’s just me. I was an organic speller, but I have found two out of my three children needed much, much more instruction and progression than pulling out random words.

When this is done, I will plan the nitty gritty of each block by day – the review activities, the story and how I will present  it (I actually love using puppets in third grade!), the  artistic activities and yes, make sure that we are covering the academic capacities.   The blocks sort of balance each other, so I don’t make each block heavy with writing, for example.  That is why we have to look at the whole year.

Many folks get bogged down with Third Grade Old Testament stories; I don’t feel the need to tell every story in the Old Testament!  Some teachers use the Old Testament; some use Hebrew Legends.  I pick which stories I feel are most meaningful; for my son it will be a little about creation and going out into the world but more about the Patriarchs.  More on that later.

I will post more as I go; I think it will come together quite well and then I will get moving on Grade 8!

Blessings and love,
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.

Which Waldorf Curriculum Do I Buy?

I have posted on this in the past, but feel the need to bring it up again since it has been a little while since I last wrote on it and it is that time of year when people are looking for resources and asking about which Waldorf curriculum they should buy.  Some people have asked what I use personally.  I have box (es) of materials for each grade  ( grades 1-9 so far plus Early Years) because I make up my own curriculum for each grade for each child.  If you came to my house and looked through my boxes, you would see I own pieces of most major Waldorf curriculum providers for each grade ( at least for grade 5 and under; the pickings get more and more slim for grades 6 and up and for high school there is not much at all) and many of the resources from Rudolf Steiner College bookstore that Waldorf teachers use.  I am reluctant to “recommend” anything because I find it to be such a completely subjective experience – what I love and what works for me and my family absolutely may not work for you.  So I really refrain from giving recommendations, but I have in the past mentioned pieces that were helpful to me in particular blocks for a particular grade for a particular child.  It changes year to year as I go through each grade three times because each child – and our family dynamics at each stage –  is quite different.

So, this is what I recommend when thinking about Waldorf curriculum in general:

Look at the curriculum writer’s experience – do they have background in anthroposophy, the educational lectures of Steiner AND do they have background in homeschooling and teaching?  Have they gone through Foundation Studies or Teacher Training or both?  (This is a plus, I think, even in the homeschool environment).  Have they attended workshops to further their own understanding and also to be tied into the larger Waldorf educational community?  Have they worked with other children besides their own? (this is a huge plus!  Their child is not the same as your child!)   Have they homeschooled through all the grades, or just a few?  Do they have a big picture of where the curriculum is headed  or not (ie, high school!)?

Look at what  YOU need – do you need something to riff off of, so to speak, just to get started?  Do you need a full curriculum with lots and lots of ideas?  Do you need help implementing things practically in your home?  Do you need help with the artistic pieces?    Everyone asks for a completely comprehensive, organized by the minute Waldorf curriculum, and I understand the “want” for that in getting started due to fear or inexperience.  However, most of the curriculums written by experienced Waldorf homeschoolers/teachers will give suggestions that you  have to flesh out as Waldorf Education is an art.    And quite frankly,  at some point if you are going to stick with Waldorf homeschooling, you will be piecing things together. Commit to try and do something original for each grade, even if it is to just write a few poems and stories for first grade or some riddles for second grade or make up some stories, etc.  For sixth grade and up, I think you will be writing and piecing together an awful lot of your own things. Which leads to…

What are you willing to invest?  It takes time to develop your own skills in drawing, painting , and modeling.  It takes time to learn about things and the more complex subjects of the upper grades take time to flesh out and understand before you try to present it to your child.  So, what are you willing to invest in time and will the curriculum help guide you?

What are the goals for your family?  What are the dynamics for your children and family?  How will this curriculum assist in that?  Remember, homeschooling is about family and relationships first and foremost. And, when you talk to other people, they may or may not know what you need and what your family dynamics and rhythms are.  Know yourself and your family first!

Can you see the curriculum in real life?  It really helps to see what you are feeling drawn to if that is possible!  It helps you find what voice as an author reaches you and makes you feel empowered to homeschool.

Much love,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

Waldorf Homeschool Planning: Hands, Heart and Head

It is that time of year in the Northern Hemisphere!  School here in the Deep South is ending this week for most of the public schools, and we are coming to a close fairly soon as well.  This year our oldest will be heading into homeschool high school in the fall, and we will also have sixth and first graders starting anew!  These  important transitions are all the more reason to get organized over the summer.  I find myself following essentially the same sorts of rhythms ever year and  it really seems to fall into a hands, heart, and head pattern:

Hands – I start packing up the books for each year into bins and start getting out the books for the upcoming grades ( I have so many books by grade that I essentially only keep the grades we are doing out and the seasonal books and the rest go into the garage).  I organize the bookshelves and the school room supplies and see what we need to purchase in terms of art supplies and science supplies.  I also see what might need to be made for the first grade stories for our littlest member.

Heart – I sit down with my planner and figure out approximate start and end times for the school year and vacations; how many weeks of school I think we will do (which is usually 34-36 to fit things in); and I remember  and remind myself “what” our family’s goals for education are; I go through my Pinterest boards for homeschooling planning and make note of things that stir my soul for this year; I observe where the children really are in all spheres of development.  Over the years, I have made so many of those “divide a piece of paper into 12 blocks” – where you  write down your festival days, in our case Feast Days of Saints, seasonal qualities for where we live – that I don’t really have to do that anymore, but I do go through my seasonal Pinterest boards and see what we might like to make or do or use to celebrate by month and write it down.

Head – This is the most time-consuming part.  This is where the rubber meets the road and I start to lay out blocks – what blocks will I teach, in what order, how long will the blocks be, what resources will I use (which could be a post in and of itself!), what will each block contain and I write it all up day by day.  This part will take me most of the summer, even having been through first grade twice before and sixth grade once before. I include not only the block work itself, but opening verses, poetry and movement and other notes.

I also think hard about the daily rhythm at this point.  How many teaching periods each day or per week can I reasonably handle and not feel crazy?  Where can I combine?  What do I need to let go of and what do we really, really need as a family to be happy together?   I am finding the older my first child becomes, things are shifting in my family.  All the family in the children have very different needs right now, and I have different needs than before as I approach the last half of my fortieth decade of life.

Lastly, I make a schedule for myself for summer planning.  When will I plan exactly?  That part is really important because the follow-through has to be there.

Would love to hear what you are planning for fall!

Blessings,

Carrie

The Cost of Overscheduling Your Children

There was a very good post  recently over at “Becoming Minimalist” entitled “How To Slow Down Your Family’s Schedule” which did a great job in pointing out some of the problems with over-scheduling children in our world. I wrote a post some time ago about choosing time outside the home wisely.  In that article I mentioned several points, specifically in reference to the homeschooling community, where because children are not out at school all day, parents often feel the need to get their children out after homeschooling is done.  Here are a few of the discussion points:

  • I don’t think children under 12 need anything, although many parents of 11-12 year old girls have told me they felt their girls “needed something to do” whereas boys seemed to not care until age 14 or so.
  • Teens ages 13-15, somewhere in that time frame, really do seem to need something.  If you haven’t overloaded them with activities up until this point, then adding one or two activities may seem like enough to them.
  • Families with one child seem to vary on how they approach things – read the comments from the previous blog post.
  • Families with four or more children seem to pick activities where all children can participate at once, whereas families with one to three children seem to run around a lot more with the children all doing separate activities!
  • The DRIVER (parent) is often the one who is tired out!
  • Many parents noted they would love to stay home and have informal play with other children, but no children  are at  home in their neighborhood or they may live far out in the country and there are no children.  Children are interacting in structured activities these days, not in playing street games, tag and riding bikes like thirty years or so ago.

I think it could possibly take a full-on public health campaign in the United States to really change the perception of parents that there is value in UNSTRUCTURED play and to not sign their children up for every activity.  I am so glad to know so many of you are trendsetters and are pointing the way toward family being home!

If you want to pare down your schedule, here is a list of suggestions that other parents have told me works:

Discount activities that meet over the dinner hour.  Don’t be so willing to trade a structured, led by an adult outside your home for the benefits of the family dinner hour.  (and there are many benefits; there have been studies).

Let each child pick ONE thing per semester.  Many things now, at least in the United States, seem to run all year round, but see what you can find.

Delay the starting ages for doing activities outside the home.  “In our family, you get to pick an activity to do outside the home when you are “X” years old.”

Figure out when is YOUR day with your children if you are really busy with activities.  How many days do YOU need to be home to feel happy, to have the house the way you want it, etc.

You can try my method:  I put a big X over certain days of the week and do not allow myself to schedule anything on those days.  I have talked about this is in back posts.

Can you let go of guilt?  Every article, including the “Becoming Minimalist” post above, mentions how wonderful free, unstructured play with other children is, yet most parents say there are no children to play with!  Can you feel okay with your child playing by themselves or with their siblings for many days of the week?

The reality is that most homeschooling parents, at least most Waldorf or holistic homeschooling parents, do not want to be out every day and see the value in being home.  They see the value in space and time for development.

I think part of the problem is that most parents are working, and therefore no one is home and the child has to be somewhere.  Also, the ending time of school can vary and take away the down time of the afternoon.  For example, the middle school (grades 6-8) in my area get home around 5 PM, at which time they must eat and do homework.  So, part of this question I think becomes what do we do until economics – attitudes- amount of homework changes? A  tall social order!

Love to hear your thoughts and your thoughts on the “Becoming Minimalist” blog post.

Blessings,
Carrie