Lesson Plans: October 2013


Our impromptu week at the beach has altered our lessons slightly. I never put vacations into my planning schedule, as we are not advance planners in that regard. Usually, I just pick up where we left off, but this time I’ve decided to cut and condense instead. We are ready to wrap up our current blocks and move on. So move on we shall. October is a busy month with a Michaelmas celebration, several shows at the downtown theatre, a camping trip, a visit from the NJ grandparents plus all the regular scout meetings, penny whistle lessons and whatnots we’ve got going on. Here’s what we are up to:

Vincent, 11 1/2 years old, grade 6: Vincent is still working his way through Rome, and while he is enjoying the material, he is not as enthusiastic as he was about Greece. In our remaining two weeks, we will be studying the historical Jesus and the fall of the Empire. After Rome we will move onto some math. I had originally slated geology for this month, but when I looked at our calendar, I knew we needed a block that wouldn’t suffer from the choppiness of all our extra activities. Math to the rescue!! We will be using the Key to workbooks for learning percentages and this book from Simply Charlotte Mason to begin business math. Vincent’s independent work will continue with handwriting practice and also exploring Latin roots with this workbook from the Critical Thinking Company.

Jude, 8 years old, grade 2: Jude has loved hearing the animal fables, drawing pictures in his main lesson book and bringing a menagerie of puppets to his desk everyday. We will finish this block tomorrow and then move on to our first math block. This block will be a review of the four processes, a bit of daily mental math and an introduction to place value. In addition to Eric Fairman’s A Path of Discovery and Donna Simmons’ Mathematics Grade 2, we are using this little gem from The Toymaker: The Mysterious Math Carnival. We will also embrace the season and incorporate a little nature study as we move into autumn. I have several books and stories that we always read at this time of year, plus the mandatory leaf and acorn crafts that we all love. I am also hoping to dye some yarn one day soon, if for no other reason than to clean out the bags of onion skins I have been saving for longer than I am willing to admit. (Ok, it’s been two years. That’s a lot of onions.)

Sheila: I think I actually started to twitch when I flipped the calendar page yesterday. I loathe having a chock-a-block schedule, but that is what this month is shaping up to be. At times, I can be really narrow-minded in my thinking of what constitutes “school”. “Learning” happens at the desks in that beautiful school room, whose color I agonized over and is evidenced by all the drawings and summaries I so painstakingly planned this summer. Yes? Yes? YES???!!! (Please tell me you are ruefully chuckling with me and not hysterically laughing at me.) My lesson this month will be to take one day at a time and delight in whatever that particular day brings. Taking a day (or two or more!) away from the desks each week will hopefully rejuvenate the spirit, stretch the mind and fill the heart. Maybe the boys will get something out of it too . . . Here’s to the bounty of autumn! May our harvests be full to overflowing.

Grade 1: Math


This was our third and final math block of the year. Jude continues to be comfortable with numbers, so my goal was simply to continue using the 4 processes. We read a few fairy tales that showcased counting and also embarked on an impromptu handwork project: stringing 100 buttons. (This was the project I saw on The Magic Onions that we never got to during December.) Jude and I spent a good part of 2 weeks with the buttons. In addition to working with Jude’s fine motor coordination, he kept track of our progress. We counted by 2s, 3s, 5s, and 10s. At one point, it became obvious the buttons were not going to fit on the piece of string we cut, so we had to cut a second string and divide the buttons in half.

I will be honest, by this point in the year, I was ready to start giving Jude some “real” work. He even asked to do mental math like Vincent does. We tried that for a day. He was not very enthusiastic about my story, so I let it go and he stopped asking. Seven is young. There will be plenty of time for proper math practice down the road – just ask Vincent! By keeping our main lessons short and full of movement, Jude was able to get back to his real work – play.


  • Christopherus Grade 1 Syllabus, Donna Simmons


  • Stringing 100 buttons. (I used a heavy cotton string and dipped the end in melted candle wax. The waxed tip made it much easier to thread through the holes. And what ever you do – do not put the strung buttons in a heap. Hang the string from something instead to keep it straight when you are not working on it. Let’s just say, I think it took me longer to untangle the buttons than it did to string the buttons in the first place. Not fun!)



  • Finishing main lesson book we began in October. (On the two pages below we traced 12 dresses for “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and came up with 12 ways to make 12.)



  • Skip counting with beanbags.


Click the images below to see our other grade 1 math blocks.



Grade 1: Four Processes Math Block


This post is a part of Waldorf Wednesday. See all the links here.

The math gnomes returned to our schoolroom after a complete fashion overhaul. They are looking slimmer and taller . . . oh wait, those are my fashion goals . . . anyway, they are looking pretty spiffy and arrived ready to get on with the show. Waldorf education introduces all 4 processes in grade 1, which I think makes a lot of sense. The other key to teaching Math in the Waldorf manner is to go from whole to parts. Instead of saying, “1 + 1 = 2” you would say, “2 = 1 + 1.” The reason  is because 2 can also equal 2 + 0, 2 x 1, 10 – 8, etc. Admittedly, I am NOT a numbers person (truth be told, I have not taken a math class since I was a junior in high school), but teaching math to both my boys this way has changed my relationship with the subject. I actually taught this block to Vincent when we first came to Waldorf. Although he was in grade 3, he was having a hard time. Melisa Nielsen (whose math book I highly recommend) suggested I go back and start at the beginning. This was wise counsel. We had so much fun and it allowed him to see numbers in a new way. Taking this time to build a solid foundation really made a difference in his aptitude with math.

For Jude, I adapted the squirrel story Donna Simmons offers in her Grade 1 Syllabus, and set up a simple tableau using a few wooden trees and lots of tiny pinecones (photo below). Four gnomes are gathered around a campfire chatting about what they could do to spruce things up in their little neck of the enchanted woods. They nominate Green Gnome to go off into the forest to collect 12 pinecones. So off he goes and collects 1+1+1+1+1 . . . until he has 12. He brings his cache back to his friends and they all rejoice. Watching these happenings from behind a tree is the great King Equals, who sees the hidden talent of this green gnome. He appears before the group and informs them they live in the Kingdom of Numeria over which he presides. He talks to green gnome about a special job that needs to be done. He presents him with a hat, embroidered with a special symbol and renames him “Plus Addition.”

I continued this story over three weeks. When blue gnome is sent to the forest, he gathers a huge pile of pinecones. But he gives some away, buries some, and loses some on the way back to camp. He is renamed “Minus Subtraction.” Yellow gnome wants to take 20 pinecones back, but she doesn’t want to make 20 trips. So she makes 4 groups of 5 pinecones and becomes “Times Multiplication.” And the kind-hearted red gnome who loves to share, she divvies up what she finds in the forest among her three friends and is renamed “Divide Division.”


  • Christopherus Grade 1 Syllabus, Donna Simmons
  • Path of Discovery: Grade One, Eric Fairman


  • Created a tableau to illustrate the story and assist in Jude’s retelling efforts.




  • Used a lot of fun manipulatives to work simple math problems. Cinnamon sticks were by far our favorite.
  • Skip counted using beanbags.
  • Modeled mathematical symbols in beeswax (see photo above). We used these in conjunction with our beeswax numbers to create easy problems to solve.


For more posts about grade 1 click the image below.


Grade 1 Numbers Block


This post is a part of Waldorf Wednesday. See all the links here.

Our first math block was really fun. I used the numbers as a theme, rather than introducing them strictly as a mathematical concept. Knitting, baking, modeling, playing the pennywhistle, form drawing and listening to fairy tales among other activities helped us to explore the numbers one through twelve. I think these elemental lessons in grade one (like the letters) are easy to skip, but I believe they are helping to lay a proper foundation for teaching what school looks like in our home. Jude may not be learning anything new academically speaking, but he is learning about different forms of art and movement, life skills, my expectations, his limitations, my limitations and how we navigate all of this while living and learning together. Some days this is easier than others!

I cannot recommend Eric Fairman’s slim volume Path of Discovery: Grade One more highly. It is chock full of good ideas and truly imparts the essence of grade one. If you are on a budget, this single resource would be enough of a guide to homeschooling grade one with Waldorf inspired methods. Add in knitting, baking, afternoon storytime, lots of time outside and a strong daily rhythm, and your first grader will be well served.


  • Christopherus Grade 1 Syllabus, Donna Simmons
  • Path of Discovery: Grade One, Eric Fairman
  • Grimm’s Fairy Tales


  • Modeled numbers in beeswax.


  • Painted a representation of “The Seven Ravens.”


  • Started a math main lesson book dedicating one number per page.



  • Played lots of number themed songs on the pennywhistle: “This Old Man”, “Ten in a Bed”, “Ten Little Apples (Indians)”, “99 Bottles of Pop (Beer).”
  • Baked different shaped cakes: round (#1), square and rectangle (#4).
  • Baked dozens of cookies (#12).
  • Wrote numbers in a rice tray.
  • Tossed beanbags while skip counting.
  • Marched different number rhythms.
  • Did form drawing with 5 pointed stars (#5) (photo above).

Second Semester Adjustments


This post is a part of Waldorf Wednesday. See all the links here.

This is the point in the year where I second guess everything we have done so far. Actually, I don’t know if that’s accurate. Because if I am being honest, this is the point in the year where I feel like we have done absolutely nothing, so really what is there to second guess? The boys are behind. I am behind. I’ve been too lax. They can’t do this. They don’t know that. Yikes!

One would think these hyperbolic thoughts would get my butt in gear, but rather they make me think ahead to next year. Greener pastures and all that . . . sad, but true. This happens every January. I let myself have my little panic, maybe even take a peek at next year’s blocks and then I force myself to look at the evidence: all the paintings we’ve done, the main lesson books we’ve completed, the books we’ve read, the handwork we’ve created. The facts are we’ve done a bunch, had some great successes and learned a lot. Yes, there are some adjustments that need to be made, but nothing enormous. Some plans need tweaking, some things have been skipped and some struggles have come to the fore. This is real, live homeschooling, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

Below you will find a listing of our first semester’s accomplishments and also our second semester’s adjustments. Seeing everything in list form allows me to view things objectively, without the baggage of what went wrong, what could have been improved, what someone pitched a fit about, what I thought I was going to poke my eyes out over. A simple list. Just the facts. A thorough assessment, and then, we move forward.

Vincent: Fifth grade is vast. We will not accomplish everything – not by a long shot – and that is ok. The first half of the year was devoted almost exclusively to Ancient Mythologies and Math, specifically fractions. We covered India, Persia and Babylon. We reviewed carrying, borrowing and double-digit multiplication. We introduced long division. We reviewed basic fractions and started adding, reducing and multiplying fractions.Vincent has extended his pennywhistle repertoire and knits everyday. He is able to follow simple knitting patterns and has taught himself to increase and decrease. His agility in basketball and football has improved greatly. He is almost swimming. He is on track to earn his Arrow of Light in cub scouts.

Some adjustments we need to make include adding daily math practice, assigning independent reading related to main lessons and imposing a 2 handwork project limit. My grand plans for Botany have gone by the wayside. Somehow, we all shut off on Thursday night – me most of all. We still bake on Friday and have storytime, but that is about all we seem capable of. I’m giving myself a pass on this, and sometime in March or April we will do a Botany block. I have also decided to finish up our US Geography block from last year where we never made it west of the Mississippi. Plus I saw this state quilt in a magazine, and it made me swoon. I showed it to Vincent (Mr. No Fear!) and he was confident we could do it. Hmm . . . we’ll see.

Jude: Jude has taken to school like everything else in his life: slowly and steadily. He is (mostly) agreeable during main lesson, but would still prefer to be outside playing ball. I keep his lessons short, with lots of art, stories and movement. We have completed our letters block, introduced all the numbers from 1-12, and completed 2 mini nature blocks on fall and winter. Jude has become a confident knitter. He can cast on, cable cast on and do the knit stitch. He has made lots of squares. Just this past week he has started knitting with brown yarn, whereas previously he would only knit with green yarn. I’m seeing progress where I can and viewing this as pushing some sort of creative boundary. He continues to improve on the pennywhistle and is becoming more assertive during his lesson time. He loves Tiger cubs and has achieved several belt loops.

With Jude, my tweaks will be minor. First grade is just getting your feet wet. I do want to incorporate a little more writing, such as Jude copying a summary sentence from the board into his main lesson book. Trying different tactics (anything!!) to encourage him to retell the stories he has heard. I made a storytelling basket full of props that will hopefully assist in this goal. A little more pennywhistle practice and tackling a larger knitting project.

Is it June yet?