Although we still have one block to go and (state-mandated) testing to take, I am mentally ready to wrap up grade 4. Every year I start my planning by making goals that I would like to see us work toward in the coming year. Around Memorial Day, I check in and see how we did. These personal and academic milestones allow me to see the subjects we study as a means to an end. How can I tailor the blocks laid out in the Waldorf curriculum to fit my child and what he needs? Putting Vincent at the center of this question aligns my focus with what is truly important.
One basic assumption I hold about homeschooling (and really any schooling) is that you are not going to learn everything. To me, this is impossible and also unadvisable. At 42, I love the fact that I am still learning new things – many of which are presented in the Waldorf curriculum! Learning should be a passion that is instilled, not a checklist to be completed. You may notice that none of the stated goals below are academic in nature and absolutely will not be on the test Vincent will take in a few weeks. For me, this keeps an eye on the whole person with an eye toward the balanced adult to be. I know how easy it is to get caught up in the details of what is lacking in the little picture (He doesn’t know when to use a comma. He doesn’t write in script. Division is shaky.) However, I want to keep the big picture front and center in what I want to achieve during any given year.
Goals for Vincent, Grade 4:
- No more facts: Well this was a whopping failure, and admittedly tongue-in-cheek to begin with. Vincent has always had a voracious appetite for facts. He has a prodigious memory and loves being able to recite random facts ad infinitum (ad nauseam to the listener). This can be a good thing – memorization, recall – however learning facts for the sake of learning facts doesn’t mean much. My number one goal for him this year – now that he is through the 9 year change – was to begin balance this. I realize I am not going to change this intrinsic part of him – nor do I want to (well, most days anyway). But I currently see my responsibility as a parent and as a teacher to present the year’s blocks in a way that does not add to his plethora of stored facts. Our blocks this year focused heavily on stories and artistic interpretation, with lots of time allowed for play and movement throughout the day.
- Stories, stories and more stories: Left to his druthers, Vincent would read nothing but non-fiction. Although he has been reading forever, the fact that he never voluntarily reads fiction became apparent to me just last year. To meet this goal, which can be seen as tangential to goal #1, I included a least one novel per block this year and concentrated heavily on the Norse myths all winter and early spring. Our afternoon story time also allowed us to read 2-3 additional novels per month and has honestly been the highlight of our homeschooling year.
- Projects that take days/weeks/months to complete: My aim here was to infuse an elongated sense of time into our homeschooling rhythm and to balance the immediacy of Vincent’s choleric temperament. Our embroidered map/quilt of the United States took a solid 6 weeks to embroider, and we are still working on turning the piece into a quilt. (I will post more on this project when it is completed.) A couple of 300+ page novels read during story time also helped to fulfill this goal. I also tried to challenge Vincent in his favorite pastime: cooking. Recipes that took all afternoon to make, food that takes a day or two to defrost in the refrigerator, sourdough bread that is made over a two day period: all of this countered his internal (lightening fast!) pace.
- Connection to other, especially people and place: We started the year with a local geography block that focused on our house and immediate surroundings, literally the land we could see from our property. One of our neighbors is the grandson of the people who built our house back in the 1880s. I really wanted Vincent to experience this intimate level of connection to where we live. Hearing stories about “our” house (which will forever be called “The Bridges’ House” even though a member of the Bridges family hasn’t lived here in 50 years!). Talking to our neighbor about all 10(!) children that were raised in this two-bedroom farmhouse. Finding out our road was named after our neighbor’s father. Knowing what the abandon barns and structures that dot our landscape were once used for. These stories along with working with maps, planning a route, and asking him to direct us to a destination in the car helped to ground him in a very real way in time and space.