First Steps to First Grade: A Guest Post
I am so excited to share a wonderful guest post with you today! One of my favorite bloggers Sheila Petruccelli from the Sure as the World is here to share with you her ideas for stepping gently into first grade. :)
Thanks so much to Kelly for inviting me to guest post at Lavender's Blue Homeschool! I have been homeschooling with Waldorf for four years now, and even though it becomes easier every year, there is always something to learn. It is hard not to be overwhelmed some days, but I have found that going slowly and building a solid foundation serves me well. Nowhere is this advice better applied than starting out in grade one. I remember the pressure to "get it right" from the beginning to be almost paralyzing. However, with a little perspective and a lot of humble pie (ahem . . . ), I have put together some things I found most helpful in the early grades. I'm calling them First Steps for First Grade. (You can also find a supplemental page on my blog with more information about homeschooling grade one with Waldorf-inspired methods, including detailed block summaries for the whole year.)
Take a walk every day: This is a great way to start the day. Getting outside every day in every kind of weather anchors a daily rhythm and gets everyone's energy flowing.
Dedicate some time for main lesson: A Waldorf-inspired first grade is really just a continuation of the kindergarten years with the addition of a dedicated main lesson time. I think slow and steady is the name of the game here. Start with 20 minutes after a walk. By the end of the year, most first graders can sit for an hour of main lesson time. Most. With my boys, one could and one couldn't. Think about temperament, learning style and age. Also take into account everything you do all day long - learning doesn't only happen at a desk.
Knit a little: If you learn only one handwork skill throughout your whole homeschooling adventure, learn to knit. Casting on, knitting in garter stitch, and casting off will take you far. Think scarves, dollie blankets, pot holders, coasters, little kites. Add a couple of hand-sewn stitches and some stuffing and the squares become cute little animals. Knitting is relatively inexpensive, easy to master and portable.
Read in the afternoon: If you get a basket, put some really good books in it, and read to your children every afternoon, you are doing something great. First graders are ready for longer and more involved tales than they were in kindergarten, so fill them with stories! Some of our favorite read-alouds for first grade were Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Tales of Tiptoes Lightly by Reg Down, A Donsy of Gnomes by Sieglinde de Francesca, Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy by Johnny Gruelle, Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow, Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates and The Wise Enchanter by Shelley Davidow.
Commit to your own inner work practice: Planning, teaching, organizing, cooking, cleaning, singing, painting . . . dancing backwards in high heels, lol (does anyone wear high heels anymore?!) . . . it takes a lot of energy, a ton of patience and a whole lot of love. Finding a window of time for yourself to get quiet every day helps to cultivate an inner stillness I find invaluable to be able to do this every day. Find what works for you. Is it getting up early and meditating? Is it taking a hot bath after everyone's in bed? Is it a hard run around the block in the middle of the day? Usually this window of time doesn't magically appear (or if it does, can someone tell me the secret?). Ask for help.
Have perspective: For me, the most overwhelming part when I first began homeschooling was the pressure to choose a curriculum. The options are varied and can be expensive. I had the expectation if I just had that complete curriculum delivered to my door, it would be smooth sailing. I would open the book to page 1 and we would begin. Presto! Instant homeschooling with Waldorf! Although I do still use parts of different curricula for planning our year, I don't rely on one provider for all the answers. You know your child best. Trust that part of you that led you to Waldorf in the first place. It will not lead you astray.
A homeschooling day is hard to craft and hard to explain - it doesn't fit into any kind of neat box. You will find your own rhythm unique to your own family. And unfortunately - or maybe fortunately - that ideal picture we all have in our heads never actually materializes. But what I can tell you - four years in - that what does materialize is even better, because it is something you will create together. How you choose to integrate Waldorf-inspired methods into your home and your homeschooling will be a journey you won't forget. Remember to enjoy the ride.
Sheila Petruccelli is a homeschooler, homemaker and homebody at heart. She believes a fancy pair of cowboy boots is just about as good as a superhero cape, even though her husband, two boys, their dog and the old farmhouse in which they live frequently test the limits of her theory. She blogs about her days at sureastheworld.com.
Now it's your turn:
Please leave us a comment below! If you've homeschooled first grade we would love to hear your top tip for easing into the year. And if this is your first step out of the kindergarten years, how are you feeling about the transition?
I hope you'll also share this post with your friends who are just starting first grade this fall and go visit Sheila on her blog. It is such an amazing resource for getting organized, inspired, and relaxed about Waldorf-inspired homeschooling....