Planning for third/fourth grade

Hello! It’s been a long time since I’ve written here and a long time since I’ve shared much about our homeschool in general in a long time. Last year was a challenging one – my husband started an executive MBA, our kids returned to extracurriculars while we navigated Covid-era challenges and for me the cumulative stress of the past few years started to affect my physical and mental health. We’ve had an amazing summer off – including tons of incredible travel – and I’m feeling ready to head back to school. Or should I say not back to school?

As I’ve done in past years I thought it would be fun to share what I’m planning for each of my children. This post will be for my 9-year-old son. Because he’s a June birthday and we have an eclectic Waldorf-inspired homeschool, grade placement has been a bit tricky for him. I think I’ve landed on officially calling him the grade younger than he would be in public school (this year that would be third grade) but actually transitioning to the next grade in winter, so this year that means we’ll be doing a third/fourth grade split. It’s just one of the many quirks of what I jokingly refer to as my children’s bespoke education. 🙂

Plan what to leave out

There are so many factors that go into planning a school year and I probably can’t touch on all of them here, but I think actually one of the most helpful places to start is deciding what you’re NOT going to do. Some of the big themes of a Waldorf third grade year are very hands-on like farming, woodworking and shelter building. I’m not going to do any of them. This is not where my strengths lie. With my oldest child I made haphazard attempts to cover these subjects at home but they mostly fell flat and I personally didn’t enjoy them. I also think it’s important to have an open mind about how these experiences can happen outside of school hours. For example, my son is currently at a summer camp where he’s learning to fish and I definitely count that as being in the spirit of a Waldorf third grade. I’m looking into outsourcing these topics where possible (planning a field trip, looking into our local forest school options again …) but other things won’t get covered and that’s OK.

Plan for the basics

One thing I’m doing much better with my second child is really excelling at the basics. With my oldest child she could tell you everything there was to know about the Norse gods in fourth grade but she couldn’t spell. I believed the Waldorf blocks were like the big rocks and the basics were the sand I could pour in around the rocks and fit them in where I could. This second time around the basics like reading, math and spelling are the big rocks, and the Waldorf themes are the sand I pour in as time and resources allow. For us the basics are reading lessons with All About Reading, math lessons and spelling with the Evan-Moor spelling workbooks (which have been very effective for us). For math my 9-year-old is using and enjoying The Good and the Beautiful’s third grade math after deciding to chuck Singapore math partway through last year. At some point this year we’ll transition over to Oak Meadow’s fourth grade math book.

Planning blocks

I am still working in blocks with my 9-year-old (I dropped blocks with my oldest last year when she hit sixth grade) and am figuring out what blocks we’ll be doing in real time as I write this post. Many of these blocks I will be pulling from Lavender’s Blue’s third and fourth grade curricula. I believe what we’ll do this year might look something like this:

  • September 6 – 23 – Basics (math, reading, spelling) + life skills + back to activities
  • Sept. 26 – Oct. 7 – Creation Stories and Cursive
  • Oct. 10 – 28 – Hebrews I
  • Nov. 1 – 22 – Chinese Shelters
  • Nov. 28 – Dec. 16 – Basics + a read aloud (I’m thinking about James Herriot’s Treasury for Children)
  • Christmas break
  • Jan. 9 – 27 – Hebrews II
  • Winter break
  • Feb. 6 – 24 – Shelters III (end of third grade work)
  • Feb. 27 – March 17 – King Arthur math (beginning of fourth grade work)
  • Spring break
  • March 27 – April 21 – Local geography! I love this one.
  • April 24 – May 19 – Harry Potter fractions *or* a science block on mammals
  • May 22 – 26 – wrap up loose ends

Planning goals

I think it’s so helpful to have some goals in mind as you enter a new school year with a child. Some goals I’m thinking about for my 9-year-old this year are:

  • Learning cursive and writing his main lesson book summaries in cursive by the end of the year
  • Improving drawing skills and transitioning from crayon to colored pencil
  • Learning how to do laundry and being fully independent with his laundry by the end of the year
  • Prioritizing friendships with other boys and activities that facilitate those (soccer, forest school, scouts, playdates …)
  • Solidifying skills learned in speech therapy and hopefully “graduating” this year
  • Learn how to swim. This is one of my biggest goals for him this year. We’ve missed out on swim lessons for three summers (thanks, Covid) and I’m determined to make lessons happen this year (demand seems much lower during the school year vs. in the summer) and have him confident in the pool by next summer.
  • Prioritizing hands-on, physical learning whenever possible. Elevating expectations for what he can contribute at home and in his community. This is so important for supporting the 9-year-change. Nine year olds are ready for and want more responsibility.

Planning extracurriculars

I think extracurriculars really need to come after you’ve assessed your goals for you child (not to mention your resources – both financial and time). I personally prefer a schedule that’s not chockablock with activities but also know how important it is for homeschool kids to be around other kids their age (especially after the pandemic …. woof). This is always a tricky dance and it’s different every single year based on those ever-important resources I mentioned and my child’s shifting preferences.

It’s been such a busy summer that I haven’t spent a ton of time planning and it was helpful for me to sit down and write this all out! I hope it will be helpful for those of you out there planning for your 9-year-olds. It’s such a big year for a child and it brings a lot of excitement and change!

2 Replies to “Planning for third/fourth grade”

  1. I love that you decided what to leave out first! Last year was my second time teaching waldorf third grade and I also left out the areas you mentioned. They were kind of miserable for me the first time around. Doing a harry potter block instead of woodworking/farming was so much more fun for us!
    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts

    1. Thanks Courtney! Yes I think getting clear on what you’re NOT going to be doing is really helpful and makes space for what you DO want to prioritize for the year. We can’t do it all and that’s OK.

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