Thursday, October 23, 2008

Setting Sail

I was researching the pros and cons of block scheduling, and liked this Setting Sail in a Waldorf 7th Grade. I realized while looking it over that we don't really do "Main Lessons", but we do something more like "strands" that go through different permutations and link with each other. Does that make any sense?

So here is my tentative list of Strands for my 7th grader -- sorry, the descriptions are sort of vague in places, since this is just a starting point:

The Creed

Thorough study of the Apostles Creed through reading and discussion, with reference to the Catechism and to apologetic source books, and increasing understanding of different religions and their histories and beliefs. Understanding of the compatibility of faith and reason, and how this plays out in what we believe.

The Pauline Year

Read about St Paul, his life and work and thought. .... trace up to Benedict and his declaration of the Pauline Year.

Research Skills

Reading a range of different sources; summarizing; starting to compose simple reports


Understanding, discussing, retelling a literary tale. ... beginning literary analysis; applied grammar.


Covering the achievements in art, literature, science, architecture, music etc during the period of the Renaissance in Europe. How discoveries led to new discoveries. Side Topics -- history of science, developmental of new artistic and architectural techniques, printing press.


Luther, Calvin and others -- the origins of Protestantism, its spread, its effects, the Counter-Reformation. Ignatius, Edmund Campion, Southwell.


His life and literature, what stories he used (Plutarch, etc) and who he influenced. Some of the history of drama and the theatre.


The battle, its significance, Church history related to the time period, literature. Cervantes, GKC.

Age of Discovery

Mapping, exploration, discovery of the New World. Geographical review and consolidation; mapping skills; some exposure to different cultures in different parts of the world, mostly through a variety of reading.

New World

What the original meso-American civilization and Native American peoples lived like; their first encounters with Europeans. The physical terrain and how it affected the civilizations.
The first explorers, discoverers, pioneers and colonists; their history and their encounters with the indigenous peoples.


Inductive introduction to algebra and geometry, problem-solving creatively, consolidation of skills in basic arithmetic -- particularly fractions and decimal fractions.

Mechanics and Astronomy

Science through biographies of Renaissance and early modern scientists and discoverers, and descriptions of what they discovered. Origins of modern science and its interaction with Faith.

Chemistry and Physics

Basic introduction to Matter, Light, Sound, Motion. Development of a science vocabulary; understanding of physical and chemical processes.

Local Landscape

Local investigation and identification of things peculiar to our environment, plus some of the history of the area -- geographical and social. Seasonal journaling.

Classic Languages

Latin and Greek with some analytical English grammar and vocabulary.


First elements of logical thinking through formal logic, Venn diagrams, and discussion. Application through composition.


Introduction to piano; exposure to variety of different types of music, particularly Renaissance music.

Art & Architecture

Drawing techniques including perspective, shading. Beginning drafting and design; history of architecture. Work with different media.

Health and the Human Body

The history of anatomy; the structure of the human body; how to draw human forms, sculpture and forms. Respect for life, knowledge and care of person.

Founding of our Nation

Early history of the United States. Focus on biography.


Exploration of different skills related to the child's talents, temperament and interests. Examples: Cooking, Cartooning, Woodworking, Science Investigations, Weightlifting, Running, Football, Computer Programming, Story-making, Photography, social interactions, paid jobs around the house, managing money.

Where we seem to differ from standard units or main lesson blocks is that we weave these in and out in different ways on different days. I've always found it very difficult to categorize learning into subjects, yet I do tend to plan in subject boxes. But I see that I am really planning more in terms of "topics" that are connected to each other across the subject compartments.

Since my other kids are so young, it's very easy to just let them come along for the ride and do what Kieron is doing, except on an extremely simple level.

On a given day, I am realizing, we don't do "History, Math, Latin, Logic" , Instead, we tend to turn from a read aloud on Shakespeare to a retelling of Hamlet to a reading on European history in the 16th century, to some mapping, etc.

I think I have been influenced by Charlotte Mason who did a combination of "integration" with a bunch of short lessons. She didn't really go for unit studies or "concentration schemes" as they were known back then, but she did believe that knowledge interlinked and that a sequential, connected curriculum was important.

Anyway, just a few half-thoughts. Maybe now that I see this pattern I will have an easier time keeping records. Looking back at this week I can see that we were heavier on Shakespeare, studied European history and early science just a bit, and skimped on religion .... etc.

I have a Google Doc where I'm revising the basic list as we move through the year: Main Lessons for Year Seven.

Also, here is the link list for block scheduling. It's mostly of interest to public schools who have challenges changing their time format. In a homeschool you can do whatever seems to work. Personally, we like to vary, but we tend to operate in short lessons (15-20 minutes) for most assignments. If the child is still interested we can always extend the time and of course crafts and projects and read-alouds need longer periods, but 15+ minutes usually seems like enough to do a complete lesson in math or Latin or catechesis, with a few minutes of independent work afterwards.

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