Waldorf-Inspired Homeschool Planning: The Year and Your Block Plan
For the month of May I’m walking you through the planning process that I’m using to plan out the upcoming homeschool year for our family. Today we'll cover planning out the year at a glance and making your main lesson block plan. Last week I wrote about planning out your year starting with the big picture of what is most important for your family. Here’s what we covered so far: Step One: Look at the big picture Step Two: Choose your grade level and curriculum resources
This week we’ll go over planning the entire calendar year, making a main lesson block plan, and deciding on additional subject or practice lessons.
Step Three: Make a 12-month calendar.
It can be very helpful to get a birds-eye view of the entire year, so for this step you can use a large 12-month wall calendar or take a big sheet of paper and divide it into twelve sections. The goal is to see all the big pieces of your year on one piece of paper.
Start filling out the calendar with any important dates or events. You might want to include festivals, holidays, vacations, travel, babymoons, or anything else that you’ll need to plan around.
When you’re planning festivals be sure to include the ones you always celebrate as a family but also think about any that correspond with your grade level. Many families like to do the saints festivals as part of second grade and the Jewish festivals as part of third grade. If you’re teaching a foreign language the country of origin also has festivals that you might like to celebrate (in that language of course!).
Then decide which weeks you will be doing your main lessons. Most families plan on 34-36 weeks of “school” and start in the fall, end in the spring, and take at least a week off each season. Those breaks are super important and I’m personally a big fan of a long summer vacation.
Step Four: Make a block plan.
Ooooh, now it gets really fun! In Waldorf-inspired homeschooling, the main academic subjects are taught in blocks during a main lesson. These are the “head” subjects such as math, language arts, science, geography, and history but of course this is Waldorf so we are always working through the “heart” and the “hands” as well! Main lessons are typically 1-2 hours in the morning and blocks can last 2-6 weeks.
In last week’s big picture planning post I wrote about approaching planning from two perspectives: The perspective of the traditional Waldorf curriculum and the perspective of what you feel your child needs most. In my experience it is very helpful when planning your blocks to know both WHAT is taught in each grade and also WHY is is taught in that grade.
One of my favorite things about Waldorf education is that nothing is ever arbitrary.
This is a good point in the the planning process to really dive into your curriculum resources and make sure you understand:
- What the story themes are this year and how they speak to your child’s soul at this age
- What the academic subjects are this year and how they correspond to your child’s developmental stage
- What the main lessons typically cover and how much time is typically spent on each block
If you have the opportunity to dig deep on these topics you’ll find that WHAT and WHEN to present topics varies a lot from teacher to teacher. The curriculum has a large amount of flexibility. It’s the WHY you present certain topics and stories that provides the backbone. As a homeschool teacher, this can be really freeing! Once you understand the why of the material for your grade you can start personalizing it for your own child and make a block plan that feels like a great fit.
Make a block plan for each grade that you’re teaching. You can plan blocks of varying lengths or you can keep it simple by planning one block each month. You can plan blocks for each child separately or you can plan to have everyone take similar subject material at the same time (everyone on math or language arts in the same month, for example). You can take key subjects as themes for the year or put them into blocks. Here are two sample block plans for fifth grade to illustrate:
Sample Fifth Grade Number One:
September: North American Geography and Botany October: Math November: Ancient Mythology December: Geometry January: Ancient Mythology February: Math March: Greek History April: Math May: Botany
Sample Fifth Grade Number Two:
Weekly lessons in Botany throughout the year
September: Math October: Ancient Mythology November: Geometry and Math December: Ancient Mythology January: North American Geography February: Ancient Mythology March: Math April: Botany May: Greek History
The block plans outlined on the Millennial Child website are a fun read. Eugene Schwartz outlines his plans for all eight grades and you can learn a lot from his notes on what is presented, when, why, and how he based some of these decisions on the particular group of children he was working with.
Finally, plug your blocks into that 12-month calendar. This is a good time to use pencil! Now you have a solid overview of your entire year.
Step Five: Choose your additional subject and practice lessons.
In every grade there are additional subjects that are taught outside of main lesson. As a homeschooler you have a lot of flexibility here!
Review your resources and decide what else you want to teach this year. Examples are handwork, painting, modeling, form drawing, music, woodworking, and foreign language. As your child gets older you might want to have daily or weekly practice lessons in academic subjects such as math, language arts, and grammar. If you are taking a “theme” for the year (such as botany in fifth grade), will you need to set aside a weekly lesson time?
We will dive into planning your daily and weekly rhythms next week. For now, it’s a good time to plan which subjects you will be covering this year, which ones will fit into main lesson time, and which ones will be taught separately. It’s also a good time to start thinking about whether you want to rotate these additional subjects in blocks (for example, painting for a month and then modeling for a month) or do them more regularly.
There are a lot of different ways to work with these subjects, so consult your resources and start thinking about what would work best for your family!