Looking Back: My Grade 4 Goals

In this post, I talked about my goals for Vincent this past year. I also have goals specific to homeschooling that I make for myself as well. We have just completed our second full year of homeschooling with Waldorf-inspired methods, and I can honestly say it does get easier and is finally starting to feel effortless. Now, please don’t misunderstand, I am not saying it is a cakewalk everyday and that my skills in modeling, chalkboard drawing, form drawing, wet-on-wet watercolor painting, block crayon drawing, penny whistle playing, singing and all the other things I have forgotten to mention are anywhere near where I would like them to be. BUT I have stopped feeling as though I am trying to communicate in a foreign language when it comes to the Waldorf way of homeschooling. (Oh, I forgot foreign language in the previous list!). Our daily rhythm feels solid. Teaching and learning via blocks feels right. Handwork in the afternoon feels natural.

And here’s the thing – I never thought I would be here. Never, ever, ever! But here I am – with still so much more striving to do. Below are the areas I worked on this past year.

  • Depth over breadth – less is more! I made this goal both for Vincent and for myself. I remember laying out our first block, which was to be local geography. The amount of notes I have for studying the state of North Carolina is staggering and I realized it would take us all year to do everything. So I started dialing it back. “Maybe we would just study the western part of the state.” “Maybe just our county.” “Maybe just Asheville.” “Maybe just our tiny town of Alexander.” I finally settled on studying our house, the land we could see from our house and how our town was connected to Asheville. We did two projects during this block. One was a map to scale of our house, the other was a birds-eye-view map of our “neighborhood”. That’s it. That’s all we studied for 5 weeks of local geography. And it was perfect.
  • One great resource rather than 15 good ones. Oh, the endless resources. Do you do this too? Please say yes. I like nothing better than to comb the shelves at the library looking for possible resources for a block. I check out books by the bagful. Subsequently, I overwhelm myself and we don’t get to a fraction of them. Jean Miller, who I met at Taproot Farm this past summer, gave some great advice in this area. Her advice was to literally count the number days you have scheduled for main lesson per block. We do school 4 days a week, and I like to keep my blocks to about a month, so I’m looking at about 16 days per main lesson. How much can I realistically accomplish in 16 days? Seeing our lessons this way really helped me to narrow down my resource cache.
  • Finish!!! Don’t just let things drift off. Have a definite starting and ending point. When I was reviewing our experience in third grade, this was the area I felt to be the weakest. I was really good at starting a block, okay toward the middle, but the endings were just awful. Blocks would just drift off: there was no sense of accomplishment, no review, and no definitive ending point. One way I remedied this in grade 4 was to have the boys and I present the block to my husband when we finished. We would do our circle for him, recite the poems we memorized, show the work/projects we worked on and just share what we had done for the last month. Of course he knew what we were working on, and would hear things throughout the month, but he really never saw what we did everyday. This was great for everyone. I also planned our blocks with a definite beginning, middle and end, with the final day having a scheduled review time built in. Ending our blocks in this way made it easier to begin the next one.

I am just beginning to think about the areas I personally want to work on for next year. Stay tuned.

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