In January, my fourth grader and I spent the month on a Norse Myths block. Studying the Norse Myths is a traditional component of a Waldorf fourth grade, but I was completely unfamiliar with the stories myself. I am not using a curriculum this year, so I was quite intimidated teaching a block of stories I had never read before. I’m happy to report that my 10-year-old and I thoroughly enjoyed discovering these stories together! They are a bit weird and quite violent, but also rich in detail and very compelling for a 10-year-old who is thrilled with all things over-the-top these days.
When I was planning this block, I simply started by counting how many days of lessons we would have (four weeks with four lesson days per week = 16 days). Then, I counted how many stories we had to read. We used the D’Aulaires Book of Norse Myths for this block, and I divided the number of stories by the number of days and that told me how many stories we needed to read each day. We ended up reading about two stories per day. Simple!
We did not do a main lesson book page for every story; that would have been a LOT of writing and drawing. At the beginning of this block we were just recovering from all five family members having the flu, so I kept our pages quite simple at the beginning. As the block went on and the stories became more complex, so did our story summaries and drawings. It was difficult by the end to choose just one scene from a story since so much had happened!
The bulk of this block was just spend reading stories and writing stories, but we did add in a few other elements. For our skills practice session we did a daily lesson from All About Spelling. My kiddo is really enjoying this format and we are blasting through the program with much success.
Over our Christmas break, I decided to outsource form drawing. I had invested in a form drawing book at the beginning of the year and hadn’t used it once. This transition from using a curriculum to forging my own path has had a lot of learning curves this year. I purchased Waldorfish’s third grade form drawing course (the fourth grade course isn’t available yet) and my kiddo is loving it. She is much more receptive to the lessons from the lovely Rev Bowen than she was from me, and I am very happy – with a 6-year-old and 3-year-old in the mix – to have her productively engaged elsewhere even for a short while.
So, each of our mornings, my fourth grader began independently with her Making Math Meaningful practice page, her form drawing lesson (or practice) and then we did spelling before turning our attention to the Norse Gods and Goddesses.
When I was researching this block last summer I read the advice that the Norse Myths should be experienced in the darkest time of the year. So, that’s why I scheduled this block for January. I have to say, it really was the perfect time. These stories struggle with themes of good and evil and I felt that they harmonized perfectly with a time of year when I often find myself deeply immersed in my own inner work.
I will say that I had a couple of resources for teaching this block that I ultimately didn’t find very useful. Not to disparage what others are offering to the Waldorf homeschool community, but I share that just to say that I think with a block like this you really can just let the stories speak for themselves and allow what your child recalls from them the next day to guide your summaries and drawings.
One thing I did bring into this block was lots of independent reading for my voracious reader. Books she devoured during this block include:
- Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
- Gods and Thunder – A Graphic Novel of Old Norse Myths by Carl Bowen *
- The Saga of Erik the Viking by Terry Jones
- Thorkill of Iceland: Viking Hero Tales by Isabel Wyatt
- Usborne’s Illustrated Norse Myths *
- Viking It and Liking It by Adam McCauley
- The Magic Tree House books Viking Ships at Sunrise and Narwhal on a Sunny Night.
* I held a couple of these books back until the very end of the block because they closely mirrored the book we were reading together and I didn’t want to spoil the end of the myths before we were able to read it together.
We wrapped up this block with a Viking dinner on our last night. We had “Viking” stew and the adults tried mead, which the Norse Gods were very fond of. (Us … not so much.) I’m not sure how historically accurate our stew was, but I wasn’t about to roast a whole pig and I was fresh out of goats who drip mead from their udders. 😉