Great Sixth Grade Read-Alouds

I realized I have a post for great books and read-alouds for the Early Years through fifth grade but nothing for the older grades!  So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite and recommended books for sixth grade, along with some suggested by other parents.  I have not read every book on this list, so please leaf through for yourself.

For those of you Waldorf homeschooling, I tried to note books that would go great in those sixth grade blocks!  Also, please realize that most Waldorf sixth graders are twelve years old or very close to twelve, so these are listed with that age in mind. And as always, please pre-read for your sensitive reader!

Possibilities from Grades Four and Five that you might have missed or want to re-visit:

  • All of A Kind Family – Sydney Taylor  (series)
  • Augustine Came To Kent – Willard
  • Because of Winn-Dixie – DiCamillo
  • Bed-knob and Broomstick – Norton
  • The Bee Book ; Little Bee Sunbeam – Strait (Waldorf book)
  • Big Red – Kjelgaard (series)
  • The Black Stallion – Farley
  •  The Children of Green Knowe – Boston
  • Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
  • The Dragon Boy – Samson (trilogy)
  • Finn Family Moomintroll – Jansson (series)
  • Anything by Edith Nesbit
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – E.L Konigsburg
  • Anything by Eleanor Estes
  • Anything by Elizabeth Enright
  • Anything by Edward Eager
  • Heidi
  • Hitty: Her First Hundred Years – Field
  • The Matchlock Gun- Edmonds
  • Tuck Everlasting – Babbitt
  • The Great Turkey Walk -Karr
  • Secret of the Andes – Clark ( or save for when you study the Incan Civilization)
  • The Wheel on the School – DeJong
  • I hope if you are American you have read the Wizard of Oz series!

 

Sixth Grade:

  • Adam of the Road – Gray (Medieval)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn;  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Twain
  • Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
  • Ben and Me – Lawson (and others by Lawson)
  • Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Bronze Bow – Speare  (Rome)
  • Brother Dusty Feet – Sutcliff (Elizabethan England)
  • Call It Courage – Sperry
  • Captains Courageous – Kipling
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch – Latham (could be in seventh grade with navigators and exploration as well)
  • Catherine, Called Birdy – Cushman (Medieval England)
  • Crispin:  The Cross of Lead – Avi (Medieval England)
  • The Dancing Bear – Peter Dickinson (Byzantium, 558 AD)
  • Dogsong; Hatchet – Paulsen
  • The Door in the Wall – de Angeli (Medieval)
  • El Cid – Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Far North – Hobbs
  • Favorite Medieval Tales – Pope
  • Galen and the Gateway to Medicine – Bendick
  • Geron and Virtus – Streit (Waldorf book) (Rome)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – Rowling – the characters grow up, so please be mindful in looking at the later books when the protagonists are 16 and 17 year olds!
  • The Hidden Treasure of Glaston – Jewett (Medieval)
  • The High Deeds of Finn Mac Cool – Sutcliff
  • The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkein
  • Homecoming – Voight
  • Books by Lois Lenski
  • Books by Jules Verne
  • Books by Jean Craighead George
  • Books by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Books by Rudyard Kipling
  • Stories of King Arthur
  • Little Women – (and others ) – Alcott
  • Mansa Musa – Burns (picture book, fascinating subject)
  • Mistress Masham’s Repose – T.H. White
  • A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver – E. L. Konigsburg  (Eleanor of Aquitaine) and also The Second Mrs. Giaconda (Da Vinci)
  • Queen’s Own Fool – Yole and Harris (Mary, Queen of Scots)
  • Redwall – Jacques
  • Anything by Jean Craighead George
  • Smoky the Cowhorse – James
  • Son of Charlemagne – Willard
  • String, Straightedge and Shadow – Diggins
  • Sundiata (picture book but fascinating subject) – Wisniewksi
  • This Dear-Bought Land – Latham (1607 America)
  • Tuck Everlasting – Babbitt
  • The Trumpeter of Krakow – Kelly (15th century Poland)
  • Walk Two Moons – Creech
  • The Weirdstone of Brisingamen – Garner
  • The Westing Game – Raskin
  • The Wilderness Tattoo – Steele (Hernando de Soto)
  • The World’s Desire – Haggard and Lang
  • The Yearling – Rawlings

I saved most of the explorer and American history related books for seventh grade (when I usually do a Colonial History block and also explorers ) and eighth grade (especially for literature related to World War I and World War II) but if you are looking for titles related to this for sixth grade, I am happy to throw them out there.  Please look for upcoming posts on great books for grades seven through nine, and also I would love to hear your suggestions for sixth grade/twelve year olds.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Finding Peace

March seems to be this consistent time of the year that I look for, yearn for, and strive for  PEACE.  (Really!  You can see this post about “Peaceful March” all the way back in 2010:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/01/peaceful-march/)

This month, I want to approach the idea of peace differently than I ever have before.  Come join me in exploring peace through our…

Hands – the “Hands” part of this is really the physicality of the environment we live in – our homes, and also our bodies.  We live in our bodies.  How can our physical body be peaceful to us? I would love to talk about that and share some things with you that I have been looking at lately in regards to the peaceful home and the peaceful body.

Heart – Heart is our peaceful tone in our homes.  It is how we maintain our relationships in our home, speak to and guide our children, and how we maintain friendships.  It is also our one-ness and unity with the spiritual world and with nature.  How do we keep initiating deeper and deeper conversation with our own intimate spirituality?  How do we keep going deeper and deeper into a love for the world?

Head – Our head includes our thoughts, how we train our thoughts, how we deal with anxiety and worries.  I think in this we could also think about how we approach homeschooling in general – how do we homeschool FROM a place of peace and in a peaceful way?

Looking forward to exploring peace with you this month,

Carrie

Weeks 23 and 24: Homeschooling Eighth, Fifth and Kindy

The past few weeks have seen spring come in with full force – one moment is rather beautiful and warm and the next minute it is literally thundering and sleeting at the same time.  Our homeschooling has gone in spurts and fits as well, but overall has been fairly productive…

Kindergarten:  We moved from a late winter circle into an early spring circle and also into our new story about a little leprechaun from Suzanne Down’s wonderful little book, “Spring Tales”.  We have been enjoying walks outside, even in blustery weather,   and collecting interested dried seed pods still hanging on some of the foliage.  We have been wet on wet painting with blue and yellow, modeling, baking and reciting nursery rhymes.  We also spent a good deal of time on the stories of Saint David of Wales as part of our religious tradition.

Fifth Grade:  We are still  roaring through the mythology of Ancient Greece.  For some reason, this feels much less laborious than it did when we did this block with our first child.  We went through the minor gods and goddesses and the heroes of Ancient Greece (Perseus, Theseus, Hercules, Jason).  We wet -on- wet painted Prometheus bringing fire down to earth, and we did a painting of   Hermes, Orpheus and Eurydice.  We have modeled Grecian urns/pottery and drew the different types of columns found in Greek architecture.  We have also worked through many beginning geometry exercises, the life of Euclid, the six types of triangles and degrees in angles.  We will be continuing through more geometry in the coming weeks.  We also started reading the epic of Odysseus since we finished Lois Lenski’s “Strawberry Girl”.

Toward the end of this school week,  we moved into the Ancient Americas with our math block.  I used Marsha Johnson’s “The History of Chocolate” math block as a springboard to create a block combining review of four processes of math, decimals,  the mythology of the Toltecs, Mayas and Aztecs and a little about the Ancient Americas, and chocolate.  I just don’t see how I can live here in the United States and not talk about these early cultures in Native America in fifth grade.  The first story I told was the Toltec story of how chocolate was brought down to earth (which sounds similar to the story of Prometheus from Greek mythology) and we talked about the cacao tree. We also practiced all four math processes through word problems involving the cacao pods and beans and the process of fermentation.

We are still working hard on spelling and math every day.  Other than that , practices for two separate plays (one a Waldorf play and one a spring musical at our church), ribbon practice for church choir, horses, and 4H are keeping us busy.

Eighth Grade – Whew.  That is all I can say.  Our  Geography of Asia block has ended, but we are still tying up loose ends with a Daruma doll made out of paper mache that needs finishing touches and a diorama of the Great Barrier Reef and a one page report on that in the works.  We finished up our Oceania summary and have a wet on wet watercolor painting to go.  Whew.

We are now in our last history block of eighth grade, which has the challenging task of covering from about The Gilded Age through the War on Terrorism and Digitality.  So this week we have mainly covered the biographies of Rockefeller and Carnegie, the Gilded Age and all the myriad of things going on in that short time period, and looked at examples of architecture of The Gilded Age (especially the regional attraction we have visited:  The Biltmore House in Asheville, NC).  We also looked at the life of Albert Einstein, his theories and examples of this in the news with the discovery of gravitational waves.  We  looked at the overall themes of imperialism (which we had already covered in our seventh grade block on Africa last year), and the themes of totalitarian rule and our own Bill of Rights and are moving soon in the Russian Revolution and World War I.  Wish us luck as we continue to cover major themes in this block.

We are still reading, “Red Scarf Girl” as a read aloud.  Our eighth grader  has said this is her favorite book of the entire year.  She finished reading “The Good Earth” and we used that book as a beginning springboard to analyzing literature beyond plot – so into themes, symbolism, atmosphere, atmosphere, point of view.  There was also a test.  Our  next book is “Breaking Stalin’s Nose” and we will delve even deeper into literary analysis, including more about foreshadowing and tone and all the other things mentioned above.  These are good exercises for this second semester of eighth grade as over the summer I will be assigning three books to read, analyze upon a theme and write an essay.  For independent reading, our eighth grader is reading a book that ties in with what we are doing now with World Geography about growing up in Palestine.

In World Geography, we are finishing up the projects regarding Asia from our block but now continuing with our weekly studies.  We are studying the Middle East right now, along with Southwest and Central Asia.  We went back and reviewed the history of the Middle East from Biblical times through now, including Palestine and the creation of Israel.  We also spent a good deal of time looking at OPEC and also Afghanistan and the War in Afghanistan.  These issues probably could have been left for high school, but an introduction here is sufficient.  Perhaps we will do a more in-depth study of the Middle East in high school as well.   In the meantime, we got about twenty books out from the library regarding individual countries in the Middle East, Southwest and Central Asia and will be leafing through all of those this week.  We haven’t decided what to put in our Main Lesson Book yet regarding this area of the world; there is so much!!

In math we are working daily.  Our eighth grader is busy with ribbon practice for church choir (that Anglican chorister tradition!) , the spring musical and the presentation for 4H this weekend.

I would love to hear what you have been up to!

Blessings,
Carriewww

 

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: March

Despite Shakespeare’s warnings to “beware the Ides of March”, March lives in my head as this beautiful, peaceful month of new foliage peeking out along with little spring flowers.   A month of wind and gardens to be made.  A month of sunshine tossed with splattering rain and a little wind…but a good month full of shining new possibilities just as spring is beginning to emerge!

This is a month that includes both the solemnity of Lent and also  celebration with remembrances of holy people.  We have the following festivals on our calendar:

March 1- Feast Day of St. David of Wales – He is the Patron Saint of our parish, and I have shared as many stories as I could find about him with our children.  We got to celebrate at a very festive liturgy the last Sunday in February, and we sang all Welsh music and the children’s choirs all processed with daffodils.  It was quite lovely, and set such a tone for this month! Here are two back posts on celebrating with St. David of Wales:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/02/28/homemaking-in-lent-inspirations-from-st-david/  and here is one regarding painting:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/03/01/first-grade-wet-on-wet-painting-for-saint-davids-day/

March 17- Feast Day of St. Patrick – also so much fun, so many wonderful stories and books for the book box and crafts to do and food to make! You can see this back post on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day for ideas, along with ideas for other spring festivals:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/03/celebrations-of-spring-in-the-waldorf-home/

Holy Week and Easter – also so big that it has about six back posts or more.  Here is one to start you off about Lent and Holy Week:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2014/04/15/celebrating-lent-and-holy-week-with-children/

March  25 – The Feast of the Annunciation –  which will be marked with our parish

March 30 – St. Innocent of Alaska –  I plan to keep this one simple since this month has a multitude of saints to celebrate and Easter!  However, I do want to talk about the life of this Saint. The Orthodox Church in America has some wonderful resources for children regarding this Saint.

These are a few of my favorite things for the family:

  • Making spring and herbal tonics!
  • Spring cleaning with natural cleaners and essential oils!
  • Deep cleaning and purging of things – getting down to the essential.  I know I am slow to the Konmari movement, but I am looking forward to delving more deeply into this.  If you, like me, you are late to the game and  are wondering what this is, here is a title to start you off:  http://www.amazon.com/Life-Changing-Magic-Tidying-Decluttering-Organizing/dp/1607747308/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1456883842&sr=8-1&keywords=konmari  …Also, the author’s book “Spark Joy”
  • Also, I have plans to look at our outside spaces and outside play toys and see what needs to be removed or added to..

These are a few of my favorite things for small children:

  • Beautiful, nourishing spring tales!  Try this back post: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/17/favorite-spring-tales-for-the-waldorf-kindergarten/
  • Re-vamping the play areas – rotating out toys, re-designing the play spaces themselves so they are inviting.  I really enjoyed this post about one family’s loose part play block corner:  http://www.aneverydaystory.com/2016/03/01/whats-block-area-creating-block-area-open-ended-play/
  • Gardening with children – planting seeds, telling stories about the Earth, spending time outside

These are a few of my favorite things for children in the grades:

  • Poetry really calls to me in the month of March.  I hope to spend some tea-times reading lovely poetry and memorizing a few poems along the way.
  • Making and flying kites
  • Making spring toys that flutter in the wind – little sticks with crepe paper attached or rings with trailing streamers to run around with in the wind
  • Jump roping rhymes and hand clapping games

These are a few of my favorite things for teens:

  • Gardening!
  • Volunteering comes to mind for teens in this month
  • Hiking and being outside
  • Attending plays and musical concerts

These are a few of my favorite things for my own inner work:

  • This seems to be a month where I always feel drawn to start a new spiritual study.  I have not decided what study I am going to do this month, but it will be something.
  • Examining closely my own prayer life

These are a few of my favorite things for self-care and health:

  • Follow-up doctor’s appointments from January and February; dentist appointments
  • Getting out and walking every day
  • Checking Vitamin D levels through a simple blood test
  • Use of chiropractic and massage
  • Doing yoga
  • Taking time each morning and evening and checking in with myself and how I am feeling.

These are a few of my favorite things for homeschooling:

  • Re-vamping the space we are using for homeschooling
  • Seeing if there are appropriate field trips
  • Planning for fall.  It is wonderful to start now!

Please share with me what is inspiring you this month!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Guest Post From Waldorfish: Things Steiner Never Said

(Here is a beautiful post by Robyn Wolfe from Waldorfish.  Please do look for a very special offer for Parenting Passageway readers at the end of this post.  Those of you new to Waldorf homeschooling will especially be pleased!  Thank you to Waldorfish! Here is Robyn…)

We’ve all been there — new to Waldorf education, possibly new to homeschooling as well. Some of us may have arrived more recently than others, but we share at least one thing: wanting something different than whatever wasn’t feeling right for our child at the time. Maybe you first heard about a nearby Waldorf school from a friend, or had a passing conversation about homeschooling at a playgroup event. At some point you made a bold decision, and here you are. Welcome!

I love the enthusiasm that comes with new endeavors.

The dialog, at least in my head, goes something like this. “Ok! Here we go! Let’s DO this!”.  I like to picture a few high fives, and maybe some chest bumps too, although I’m not certain how Waldorfy those actually are.  In any case, you made the decision, took the leap, and then likely realized …. there were a lot more decisions to make.

Curriculum! Toys! Local classes! Art Supplies! Hurray! So many great options available online these days.

So. Many. Options. Oh boy.

No doubt at one point or another, you have found yourself pondering just HOW one is supposed to weed through all the available information out there? Maybe you spent just a little more time than you meant to looking at all the gorgeous toys for sale online? Maybe you spent just a little more money than you meant to? Or maybe a lot? Does anyone else still have a few things collecting dust from the early homeschooling days that were purchased in a flurry of enthusiasm, but then never actually got used? In my case, a spectacularly expensive, gorgeously handmade wooden puzzle comes to mind.

See? It’s ok. You’re not the only one.

Most of you reading this are probably somewhat familiar with Rudolf Steiner. No doubt you are aware that he had a lot to say about Waldorf education. Like, A LOT, a lot. It seems to me that if you are at the beginning of this journey, there is plenty of time to work your way through his lectures, slowly and thoughtfully. My advice would be to keep good chocolate nearby, and pace yourself. Remember, this is a journey. In the meantime, though, what about the here and now? My inner pragmatist wonders what she can tell you right now that will be immediately useful to you. While pondering this, it occurred to me that although the list of things Steiner said can be dauntingly long, the list of things he never said is, by comparison, quite short.

I am 100% certain that Steiner never said we should go broke giving our children a Waldorf-inspired education and lifestyle. He did say that we should emphasize natural materials, and that teachers should consciously choose open-ended playthings and supplies for the home or classroom that will nourish a young child’s senses. It’s true, sometimes the toys and supplies made from beautiful, natural materials DO cost more, and well, rightfully so. They are often handmade, and they are worth more than their plastic counterparts, plain and simple. This leads me to my next thought.

At no point did Steiner ever say that we must buy all the same things that other Waldorf-inspired families own. Nor did he say that we must teach our children in exactly the same way. In fact, he was pretty clear about that,

According to each teacher’s individuality, outer forms of teaching may vary enormously in the different classes, and yet the fundamental qualities are retained…in a Waldorf school outer forms do not follow set patterns, so that it is quite possible for one teacher to teach his class of 9 year olds well, while another who takes a completely different line, can be an equally good teacher…and as long as the teacher feels in harmony with the underlying principals, and with the methods employed, he must be given freedom in his work instead of being tied to fixed standards” ~ Rudolf Steiner

A good Waldorf education will not fit in a standard sized box. More importantly, it will not necessarily resemble what our Waldorf friends and neighbors are doing either.  A pinecone you find on your daily walk can become a doll, or a loaf of bread, just as easily as it can become a large bear lumbering through the woods in your afternoon story. Before making any purchase, consider asking yourself, “Is this toy (or school supply) helping to nurture a spiritual depth and creative thinking within my child? Do we currently own something that can be used to the same end?  Could we make something similar ourselves?”

My husband and I have spent the past couple of years distilling our decade of experiences in Waldorf classrooms down to the most essential components. We’ve been looking at what is really important. Our new online course, Waldorf Art for Beginners, is one product of this distillation process. While planning it, we asked ourselves:

  • What art tools and supplies does a family just getting started with Waldorf education really need?
  • What’s worth spending money on, and what’s not so important?
  • What are the most basic skills they’ll need to move forward with chalk-drawing, watercolor painting, and using block crayons?

Our new course contains the answers to all these questions in one place. There are video tutorials, URL links, and written content galore — all designed to help ease you into this journey, and to help you wade through at least some of the options you will encounter.

Does this sound like the kind of support you’re craving? You can learn more the course here. Also, we’ve created a 15% discount code just for readers of The Parenting Passageway…we’re so excited to have you join us! Use PPDISCOUNT at checkout to make it happen. Registering before 3/5/16 will also get you our e-book, Paint with Watercolor: Pencils & Crayons, for free!

The decision to homeschool in a Waldorf-inspired way is going to take you on a beautiful journey! Our intention is that the work we do and the tutorials we provide will create a sense of ease around this for your family. We aim to provide the support that will keep families encouraged and confident, and allow you to find the JOY!

(Thank you so much to Waldorfish for this generous offer! I know my readers will love this so much)

RobynWolfeheadshot

All About Robyn Wolfe: An early career as a park ranger led Waldorfish.com co-founder Robyn Wolfe, to her love of illustrating and education. Trained as both a public school and Waldorf teacher, she has been involved in art + education for over 20 years, including homeschooling one of her two children. Robyn is currently working as an illustrator and as the manifestor of the creative vision held by the Waldorfish team. Working out of the premise that life is short (but sweet!), she and her husband Brian empower soul-filled teachers & families to (re)find their JOY in teaching and making art. Robyn’s work has been featured in Amulet magazine, The Mother magazine, the children’s book The Journey of Analise, as well as Annapurna Living and the Pence Gallery.

Weeks 21 and 22: Homeschooling Eighth, Fifth and Kindy

It almost feels like the verge of spring here, despite several days of very cold weather and flurries.  The skies are blue, and it feels lovely to be outside today.  I think we all are feeling a little spring fever already!

These past few weeks have flown by; if you would like to see what we were working on in weeks nineteen and twenty, please see here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2016/02/04/weeks-nineteen-and-twenty-of-homeschooling-eighth-fifth-and-kindy/

Kindergarten:  Having a forest kindergarten program two days a week has been really wonderful for our extroverted little guy.  At home, we have been working with a winter/early spring circle at home, the story “The Quiltmaker’s Gift” and drawing, painting, bread baking and being outside hiking.

What I have been contemplating a lot is this balance between the older children and what they need academically and socially and  what our littlest guy needs.   Our oldest will be 15 this summer…and that seems a long way from 6 right now… How do we resolve and balance those needs?  Is there even a way to do this?  I have spoken lately to quite a few mothers of completely extroverted third children who would do fabulously if the entire day could be structured around them, but what do you do if the whole day cannot be structured around them?  Still contemplating deeply.

Fifth Grade:  We finished Ancient China and have been fully immersed in Ancient Greece.  We have studied the land of Greece, wet on wet painted the land and wrote a summary, and drew some forms to decorate our main lesson book pages.  We have gone through all the major gods and goddesses of Greek mythology, and then our fifth grader picked one myth to re-write.  Our fifth grader chose to re-write the story of Dionysus and the pirates he changed into dolphins as our major summary.  We moved into the minor gods and goddesses toward the end of this week and next week will choose another myth to re-write.  For the drama component, we are lucky enough to be working on a play  with a group of homeschoolers about the myth of “The Labyrinth”, which is a good opportunity.  We will head through more mythology next week, including  the labors of Hercules, the Odyssey and more in the next few weeks.    We have also been tying geometry into each day and looking at geometry within the context of the Greeks.  We may not have time for a long geometry block, so I think to tie this into Ancient Greece may be a way to work a little more into our school year.   We are also working with all four processes, measurement, fractions and a preliminary look at decimals right now in math along with spelling and spelling rules.  We finished reading “Understood Betsy” with its focus on New England and are now reading “Strawberry Girl” by Lois Lenski with its focus on Florida.

Eighth Grade:  In the past two weeks, we have continued our Geography of Asia block.  We went back and focused a lot on modern Chinese history, especially Chairman Mao and Chaing Kai-Shek, the cultural revolution and more.  Our eighth grader made a timeline about Chinese Revolution along with a pencil drawing to practice drawing people.  Our eighth grader has been reading “The Good Earth” by Pearl Buck and we have used this to look at characters, theme, symbolism and more in a piece of literature and then as a read-aloud we are reading “Red Scarf Girl” which focuses on the Cultural Revolution of China.  In weeks 19 and 20 we had also covered Korea and Japan ; we also studied  Daruma dolls and their meaning and Japanese Buddhism.  We studied Vietnam and included a beautiful picture of a water buffalo to encapsulate our reading of the book  “Water Buffalo Days”; looked at Borneo; Oceania and its continental, high and low islands;  the continent of Australia; and compared and contrasted the Australian Aborigines and the New Zealand Maori.  Our main project for Australia is to complete a diorama and report of the Great Barrier Reef.    After this block our eighth grader really wants to move into World History, so we will be doing that as our next block.

In  math, we are still working on ratios and proportions – especially as they pertain to blueprints and scales for a map.   Spanish still continues to come along.  The 4-H District Project Achievement is  coming in the first weekend of April at the 4H center.  Our eighth grader is presenting a speech on the Get Outdoors Program and the Junior Ranger Badge Program in Outdoor Recreation.

I would love to hear what you are working on this week!  I am glad we are a little more than halfway through the school year.There were many points so far this year where I felt completely under water trying to juggle children of such vastly different ages so  although we still have quite a few weeks of school left, I am hoping it will be successful.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

The February Homeschool Rhythm Re-Check

February is such a great time to re-assess what is working and what is not.  I have had conversations these past few weeks with several different homeschooling families about when to “do school” during the day.  I don’t think there is a “right” answer; every family is different and we are not running Waldorf schools.  And, because we are also (usually) the chef, driver, housekeeper, keeper of the tone of the home, and hopefully taking care of ourselves (and many of us also hold down an  outside or from  the home job while homeschooling!), we have a lot to consider when crafting a rhythm that works for the family.  Because, really, the homeschooling rhythm cannot be separate from the home rhythm.  Homeschooling is part of that home rhythm, but if you get up and the house is a mess and you have no food in your house, then probably homeschooling is going to go by the wayside whilst you clean up and go get food.   (Okay, some homeschooling families live in remote areas and have well-stocked stores, so perhaps this is more of a suburban/urban challenge, but I am throwing it out there as an example!)

I can only share with you what is working for me this month…it changes frequently!  Take what resonates with you, and works for you.  We are all different.   These are the things I try to examine each and every week:

    1.  Self-care.  I recently discovered my Vitamin D levels were at why-don’t-I-have-rickets- levels.  It was rather shocking, considering that we live in a Southern climate and are outside a lot, but it also explained a lot about how I was feeling.  So, I think if you are feeling as if everything is chaotic and awful and fatiguing, start with yourself and perhaps a trip to your medical professional.  Also, are there any medical trips you need to make each week?  Are there things you need to do each day for your own health?  Most homeschooling mothers I know run from sun-up to sun-down.  So seriously, where can your self-care go?  That takes thought and it may involve cutting back somewhere else.
    2. A schedule for meal planning, shopping for food and cleaning. Use of crock-pots, Instapots,etc are usually helpful.
    3. Knowing if there is anything “special” coming up in the week – festival celebrations, birthday parties, etc  It helps to plan ahead!
    4. Check your amount of running around outside of your home.
    5. Look ahead on what you are teaching! It really helps to have things planned ahead, for example, to have your watercolor painting done or an example of your modeling done or an idea of what the summary should say.  It is a lot easier to fly by the seat of your pants in the early grades than it is the upper grades!

For us, we have been trying to get up by 7 and  be ready to start school by 8:30 or 9. With having three children, it would be even better for me if we could start school by 8, but I find with breakfast, cleaning up the kitchen, starting laundry, pulling out food for dinner and the children doing chores with me, that is as early as it seems to get.

I usually work with our kindergartener first – circle, story, work of the day.  Our eighth grader is usually working on something independently at this time. Our fifth grader is still not a good independent worker, so she usually has to wait for me.   Depending upon the day, I might meet for fifteen or twenty minutes with our eighth grader to lay out work or answer any questions for her before I work with our kindergartener.  It just depends.

Then I work with our fifth grader – usually this is opening activities, spelling,  math if we are not doing a math block,  main lesson activities and a chapter or two of a read-aloud.  Our eighth grader is usually still working independently on Spanish, math, reading something for school, working on main lesson book pages, or helping with her little brother during this time.

Usually, our eighth grader gets in some time with me before lunch and then again right after lunch because everyone gets hungry by 11:30 or 12.  Our fifth grader usually is the main lunch helper and sometimes solely responsible for lunch for the family.   Our eighth grader’s school work with me usually consists of  opening activities, reviewing her math and looking ahead to the next day’s math so she will be able to do it fairly independently, main lesson activities and a read-aloud.  I don’t do a lot of formal spelling or grammar with her because that comes very naturally to my student, but we do spend time reviewing her Spanish vocabulary and grammar for her lesson for an outside class either when we meet in the morning or just on the fly.  Our fifth grader at this time is usually helping with her little brother or reading or gasp-playing.  If the weather is nice, they may be outside.

Some days go smoothly.  Some days we are still working at three o clock.  Some days I feel like someone gets short-changed, but that will even out and another day someone else will get short-changed in time with me.  That is how it goes when you are using a very teacher-intensive method such as Waldorf Education, and especially if you have children who have learning challenges and need more of you or an older grade compared to kindergarten or an early grade.

People always ask about where to put handwork, music, etc.  I try to incorporate music (and drama, speech and poetry) into main lesson activities and we do more formal music through our church’s program (which is part of the Royal Church School of Music ).  We try to do handwork two  afternoons a week, but fully admit I am thrilled when there is a handwork class with  Waldorf people we know in our area since I would rather do that.  I love fine arts, and I do like handwork, but I am not a handwork teacher by a long shot.  My thought for fall, when I have a high schooler and middle schooler is to schedule two afternoons a week to do fine arts or handwork depending upon what outside classes are available, and use that time for our first grader to do handwork or festival preparation.  And maybe in nice weather we will work outside and he can garden and such.

Things such as woodworking, foreign languages, even things like blacksmithing and glassblowing and basketry , I try to find in the community, even if it is something like a summer activity.  For example, for high school , I feel grateful that we are within driving distance of a folk school that has a lot of blacksmithing, basketry, etc that we could do over the summer.   I cannot do it all and also bring my older children to activities, take care of myself, and take care of the house and cooking. And I don’t even have a job outside the home!

It can be a complete struggle to meet everyone’s needs.  People want to know what homeschooling is “really ” like, and I think with any teacher-driven method of homeschooling in what I described above would ring true for many families with multiple older children where you cannot really combine main lessons.  I understand why people drift to unschooling, or field trip/road trip schooling or something where you can combine more as opposed to Waldorf.  I have zero judgement about that.  I also understand why those who love Waldorf Education sometimes move to an area where they have a Waldorf school available.

Homeschooling this way is hard.  It takes planning. It takes perseverance. It takes organization. It also takes realizing you cannot do it all and that we homeschool hopefully for things such as family love and togetherness, fostering strong bonds between siblings, giving our children unhurried childhoods, having time to travel and experience life, spending time with extended family – whatever your reasons for homeschooling are, that these reasons are even “bigger” than each and every day’s highs and lows  If something about your homeschooling is bothering you, now is time to take stock and make changes.

Lots of love,
Carrie