Are you thinking about Waldorf-inspired homeschooling for first grade? Waldorf-inspired methods might be exciting and intriguing when you first encounter them, but it can also feel overwhelming to figure it all out. So today I’ll get us started with some of the essential themes of first grade homeschooling.
In Waldorf-inspired homeschooling, the early years curriculum is all about inspiring play through movement, imitation, and imagination. Starting around age 7, children are ready to start first grade and an introduction to academic lessons. But play is still crucial at this age, and lessons are all inspired by story and brought in an artistic way with movement and full-body learning.
In Waldorf education, academics are never divorced from a holistic perspective on child development. In all grades, students study subjects which teach their heads (such as reading), their hearts (such as painting), and their hands (such as woodworking). But even more importantly, every subject is taught in a holistic way! So every lesson topic has academic, artistic, and active parts to it. Umm….Can I tell you how much I love that?!
Essential themes of Waldorf-inspired first grade
As in the early years, play is still important and so are rhythm, outside time/nature, and imitation (purposeful work).
Teachers present lesson material and new skills in an artistic, active, and imaginative way so the children are engaged with their heads, hearts, and hands.
Lessons are brought through stories, primarily fairy tales. Children around age 7 need to hear fairy tales where the heroine/hero faces great obstacles but overcomes them through their own good deeds and character.
The stories meet the first grader’s developmental needs on a soul level, but you can easily adjust the pace of academic learning to your child (one of the great advantages of homeschooling!).
New material is presented in a 3-day rhythm so your child can deepen her experience with it over three days and process everything in her sleep. Sleep is considered a critical tool for learning in Waldorf schools (and modern neuroscience backs this up).
The goal is not to cram in as much information as possible before the year is over (and then chew our fingernails worrying that it will all be lost over the summer)! The goal is to go deep with the material, to have it work on your child’s soul, to be pondered and processed in his sleep, his play, and his art.
The main academic lessons are taught in blocks. Teachers usually spend about 2 hours in the morning (less than that for homeschoolers in the early grades) for about 3-6 weeks at a time on each main lesson block.
Most teachers begin the year with two weeks of form drawing main lessons. Form drawing is a subject unique to Waldorf education. It’s a will-building activity (hands) that promotes balance, trains the hand in preparation for writing and drawing, and provides an excellent introduction to lesson work for the first grader. Many teachers consider form drawing the most important subject in first grade (see what Eugene Swartz has to say about it here) and often lessons continue weekly after the first block.
Your first grader might already be reading or she might not be ready to read for another year or two. The Waldorf language arts curriculum adapts to both of these children with rich language arts lessons in fairy tales, writing, reading, and an introduction to word families.
First graders spend an entire block learning about the quality as well as the quantity of numbers. What is one? How is oneness, twoness, fiveness, expressed in the world around us? The next first grade math blocks jump into arithmetic, learning all four of the basic processes (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) at the same time. The four processes are all related to each other and they are taught through story and lots of hands-on concrete work with manipulatives.
First grade science focuses on nature lessons, especially stories about the plants and animals that live all around us, spending plenty of time actually being in nature (observing and interacting), and gardening.
First grade is also a wonderful time to learn to play the recorder and to knit! First graders spend lots of time learning through movement, music, speech, drama, poetry, drawing, painting, and modeling with beeswax.
If you want to read more about first grade, definitely read this post by Carrie Dendtler first!
Now it’s your turn!
What are your thoughts on first grade? If you’re planning for first grade or considering Waldorf-inspired homeschooling for the future, I would love to hear all about it in the comments below!