Drawing Maps

My children say that I have an obsession with maps. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do think that we learn a lot about geography and history when we draw maps. So, I make them draw a lot of maps. Hence, the perceived obsession.

In fourth grade, we start by drawing a map of our desk and the schoolroom. That is easy enough because we could see everything quite clearly, plain as day. But the maps of cities, countries, and continents are a bit trickier. There are a different ways to accomplish these maps.


I usually lead the drawings quite carefully when we are drawing maps. I really want them to understand how carefully this map should be drawn (except with my eighth grader – she has it figured out by now). Plus, it should be beautiful. When we draw freehand, we look at the map and decide how it will fit on the paper. We look at the overall shape of the map and maybe sketch it in lightly with a golden crayon. Then we can carefully work in the shapes of the physical features of the map like rivers, lakes, mountains, and other terrain. We add the labels and finally, a compass rose.

Grid Method

To get a very accurate map,  I use the grid method. This is a very detailed process so I don’t do it every time, but I find it useful for very difficult shapes like North America.

chalk north america grid 2

This example is on the chalkboard, but it is the same method on the paper. First, I found a large physical map of North America on Google Images, printed it at Staples, and mounted it to a piece of stiff poster board. You would not believe how hard it is to find a printed physical map of North America. Next I drew nice straight grid lines across my map. They are the width of my ruler, to make it simple.

Then I drew grid lines on the chalkboard with a big yardstick. I think these lines were 2” wide. I always mark the center of the grid on the original map and my drawing, and sometimes I number the columns and rows to help me keep my bearings. Then I simply copied what was in each square of the grid, very carefully. This takes time.

chalk north america


My children and I took an orienteering course, and this helped us a great deal with learning to find our way outdoors. This also reinforced map reading skills for the children. It is definitely worthwhile to spend time going over all of the little details of the printed maps, like the title, color scheme, scale, key, and compass. Also, we have studied several kinds of maps such as physical, political, street, and topographic.

Compass Rose

It is nice to put a compass rose on map too:

IMG_4953  IMG_4956

IMG_4957  IMG_4959 

IMG_4960  IMG_4961



s 04 schoolroom map
3rd grade schoolroom map with key

h 20 painted texas map
4th grade freehand wet-on-wet watercolor map

h 11 texas map from memorym 08 texas map
Texas maps drawn from memory (4th grader and mom)

s 09 map of texas
4th grade freehand block crayon map

geography 03 map
5th grade North America map using grid method and watercolor pencil

map of greece 5th grader
5th grade freehand map of Greece using colored pencils

09 map
6th grade map of Europe using grid method and pencils

Rome 11 Map
6th grade freehand map of the Roman Empire

south america map
7th grade freehand map of South America using watercolor on dry paper

Grade 7–Physics



It has been quite a while since I taught this block, but I will try to remember what I can! You can see from the Table of Contents above, that we covered Light, Frequency, and Simple Machines (or mechanics). We actually covered Electromagnetism as well, but she included that with the machines.

Nearly all of these demonstrations came from Roberto Trostli’s videos as a part of the Essential Waldorf Online Conferences.


We began with light. In sixth grade, we studied color, prisms, atmosphere, and mirrors, so it was time to expand those studies. First we experienced the primary colors of light. I bought some inexpensive metal lights from Home Depot, along with colored bulbs: red, blue, and green. I set up a foam core white board (anything white would do), and we shined the lights in different combinations and recorded the results of the new colors.

Green + Blue = Cyan

Red + Blue = Magenta

Red + Green = Yellow (really!)

Red + Green + Blue = White

Then I placed a glass vase in front of the lights and we observed the colors of the shadows. The shadows represent absence of color, so after the first couple of combinations, she was able to guess the rest.


We then used a mirror placed between a groove on a board to study light, shadow and reflection. It was interesting to really observe all of the shadows carefully. Where were each of those shadows coming from? The light of the candle, or the reflected light?

IMG_5907  IMG_5908

We made a “still life” with a mirror.


I really wanted to skip the camera obscura because it seemed like a hassle (it was), but it was totally worth it. In eighth grade, when we studied the anatomy eye, I didn’t really need to explain why the image is projected in our eyes upside-down, as she had remembered it from this physics block.

I covered the window in her room (the only room in the house with just one window to cover), with black poster board and lots of tape. The room has to be very very dark! I cut a tiny hole in the poster board, and when the sun was shining bright, we could hold a piece of paper about a foot from the hole and see the landscape outside projected on the paper (upside down)! It was very cool. This happens because the light from above (from the top of tree) is shining down at an angle that will pass through the hole and towards the floor of the room. The light shining from the bottom of the tree will shine up through the hole towards the ceiling of the room. Thus, the tree appears to be upside down.

Frequency of Sound


Next we studied frequency and intervals, using the viola to demonstrate. This required a good deal of math! Jamie York’s “Math and Music” videos were very helpful. I use Jamie’s math books as well, and they fit in nicely with this physics block.


Hans Christian Oersted (Danish Scientist – 1777-1851) discovered that if you put an electrical wire attached to a battery and passed it in near a hanging magnetic needle, the needle would move. Voila! Electromagnetism!

We created a galvanometer by wrapping wire around a compass. If we connected the ends of the wire to a battery, the compass needle moved. This allows us to test for electrical current.


I demonstrated this idea a number of ways, including re-creating Mr. Oersted’s (accidental) experiment. I also wrapped a nail (I believe it was steel) with wire and connected the wire to a battery. The nail became magnetized, and could lift the smaller nails off the table. When we disconnected the battery, the nails dropped to the table. Could my children make an even stronger magnet by wrapping more wire? Of course!

magnetized nail (3)magnetized nail (1)

Next, I made a solenoid by rolling a piece of paper into a little cylinder, and wrapped it in wire. This is just any old wire. I used beading wire from the craft store, and burned the coating off of the ends with a lighter. When the cylinder is wrapped with the wire, you can connect the ends to a battery to magnetize the cylinder. It took a minute or so to magnetize, and it became a little hot, but I could hold a nail in the cylinder. When the battery was disconnected, the nail fell to the table. We talked about the uses of the solenoid… so many! I explained how our car door locks use a solenoid, and even dialysis machines ( we had a relative on dialysis at home for a couple of years, so the children are very familiar with the concept). The solenoid is very cool.


To finish our study of electromagnetism for seventh grade, me made simple electromagnetic motors. I got the detailed instructions from the Eugene Schwartz videos. You can search for “simple electromagnetic motor” and you will get all kinds of instructions as well. This is very fun, and my son particularly enjoyed figuring out how to make it more powerful by connecting it to a bigger battery.

electromagnetic motor



And finally, we studied simple mechanics. I constructed a very simple see-saw in the backyard. I had one child sit on one end, while the other scooted back and fourth until finding just the right spot to balance the see-saw. We did the same thing with tuna cans on the see-saw. Then we tried the same idea with a balance as seen in this kit:

Physics Introduction Kit


physics lever

We used a lever to lift heavy things from the ground, like a bed, couch, and trailer. We experimented with the different types of levers, and studied mechanical advantage.


And lastly, we worked with pulleys. Again, first tried some large-scale experimentation in the yard, and felt how we could pull each other up if we used multiple pulleys. The next day, we came inside and tried to do some more accurate measurements using little pulleys from Home Science Tools.

IMG_7418 - Copy IMG_7419

This was a fun block, but, like all science blocks, it was very time-intensive. It can be so frustrating when the experiments don’t go the way they are planned. Is the problem with the materials? Did I do it wrong? What on earth will I present this week if I can’t get this to work?? My tendency towards last-minute planning really does not help me here. The pulleys were the worst for me. They are much more complicated than one would think!

Grade Seven–Late Medieval History


I love history blocks! They are always so much more fun than the others. It always feels more like the earlier grades to me… stories, drawing, writing, and more stories. We finished off the sixth grade year with the end of Ancient Roman history, and the First Crusade. So this year we pretty much started where we left off.

I think I got most of the stories from Eugene Schwartz, and possibly from Live Education’s sixth grade Middle Ages book. It has been awhile since I taught this block, so I am not exactly sure.

Anyway, I told her about the monks and their amazing illuminated manuscripts, and the rise of the Catholic Church. She tried her hand at an illuminated script. She started out in pencil, sketching out the drawing and the details. Then it was traced with an ink pen that wouldn’t bleed, and filled with color using watered down acrylic paints. Lastly, she added beautiful gold paint to some of the details. We used Iridescent Calligraphy Colors Copper Plate Gold Paint, and it worked very well.

Iridescent Calligraphy Colors Copper Plate Gold Paint

01 monksThe translation of the Latin text is roughly,
“Not to us, not to us, O Lord, But to thy name give glory”.

There are so many great books about Illuminated Manuscripts, but I really enjoyed Bibles and Bestiaries.

Bibles and Bestiaries: A Guide to Illuminated Manuscripts

The Art of Calligraphy & Lettering

We also studied the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages, soaring into the sky with their remarkable colored windows, which taught the masses the stories of the bible, how to worship, and how to conduct their lives. We enjoyed reading Cathedral, by David Macaulay.

02 cathedral

Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction, Revised and in Full Color

Next we spent several days on the life and adventures the Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was a Renaissance (or even modern) woman in a Medieval time, as Eugene Schwartz points out. What a fascinating story. She was a dynamic woman who would become queen of two nations (France and England), go on a Crusade, be imprisoned by her own husband, give birth to ten children, including Richard the Lionheart and King John (of Magna Carta fame), and leave an unprecedented royal legacy on Europe.

03 france


04 Eleanore of Aquitaine


I enjoyed reading World History Biographies: Eleanor of Aquitaine: The Queen Who Rode Off to Battle, as one of my preparation texts. I really like this series. The books are a nice length and give a good deal of information. I appreciate books that can give me the high points, so that I do not have to read a 300+ page biography in my “spare” time. I also look for podcasts to listen to in the car.

 World History Biographies: Eleanor of Aquitaine:
The Queen Who Rode Off to Battle

I also got Queen Eleanor: Independent Spirit of the Medieval World for my daughter to read, but even though it gets good reviews, she didn’t enjoy it much. 

Queen Eleanor: Independent Spirit of the Medieval World

Next it was time to finally learn about Joan of Arc. This was a moment similar to the moment that I told her we were going to study Christopher Columbus. “It’s about time, Mom!”

Eugene says that Joan was a woman of the Middle Ages, even though she lived at the very end of the time. Much different than Eleanor. It was interesting to compare these two women. Joan died so young, while Eleanor lived to be quite old. Joan was a deeply spiritual young woman, while Eleanor was religious probably only when it suited her. Eleanor was wealthy and privileged, while Joan was not. This list goes on, and yet history remembers them both.

05 Joan of Arc

There are definitely no shortage of books on Joan of Arc, but again, I like this series.

Joan of Arc: The Teenager Who Saved Her Nation

To finish off this block, I told her stories of the great men who were dreaming of a future world… a time we would later call the Renaissance. First, Marco Polo… the great explorer who travelled all the way to China, bringing back stories that no one would believe, but they were, in fact, quite true. When we studied the Age of Exploration, we saw how future explorers were inspired by Marco Polo’s book (written in prison, no less)!

Then Dante Alighieri, and how he dared to write the Divine Comedy in Italian instead of Latin. I told his biography, and a synopsis of his great work where he makes a journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise.

And lastly, we talked about the life of the painter Giotto and the influence he had on the art world. We took one last look at Medieval art and compared it to Giotto’s work. Later, when we study the Renaissance, we will see the effect Giotto and other painters of his time had on future generations of artists.

06 Marco Polo

Marco Polo’s Journey to China

07 Marco Polo Map

She used the map from the lovely book called Marco Polo by Demi. The book also tells of the life of Marco Polo in much more detail than at first glance.

Marco Polo

And lastly, I picked up a book called Looking for Marco Polo at the library, and my daughter loved it (you never know). It is historical fiction, and she said that it was great fun.

Looking for Marco Polo

And so we leave the great cathedrals and feudal systems behind for the Masters of the Renaissance…

North American Geography


chalk north america - Copy

geography 01 covergeography 02 table of contents

Here we go again… geography! I started working on North American Geography with my son long before the block began. We read a wonderful book about Florida while on summer vacation (more on that later), and I had a project for him at the beginning of the school year. We looked at a map of North America and he picked out five places that seemed interesting to him. Then we composed a letter for him to write to the tourism bureau of each city. I had him copy one letter each week. This was a great way to teach writing a business letter and addressing an envelope. He was thrilled to receive packages of brochures in the mail. When the brochures arrived in the mailbox, we would go through them together and explore someplace new. My son still keeps these treasures in a basket beneath his bed… evidently they are great for bedtime reading.

geography brochures


The business letter read:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am researching different areas of North America for my geography class. I would be very appreciative if you would send me any literature that you have for free distribution.


(Student Name)
Fifth Grade

A couple of sweet folks even took the time to include a hand-written letter in return.

geography letter format  geography letter

During a grammar block, he wrote another business letter to an author of his choice. It was difficult to find one alive! He decided to write to Peter Arenstam, author of Nicholas: A Massachusetts Tale (more about that book below). Sadly, that letter was never answered.

Okay. Let’ s get on with the geography…

geography 03 map

To start off the block, we looked at a map of North America and figured out which land masses are considered a part of the continent. We talked about how the continent was formed. Glaciers, volcanoes, continental shifts and the like. We talked about the different regions. Where are the deserts? Glaciers? Tropics? Mountains? We looked a little more closely at the mountains and talked about the difference between the major ranges. He spent a good deal of time on this map. At least a week. He used the grid method to carefully draw the continent, then watercolor pencils for the color. Finally, he added the compass.

geography 04 mississippi river

The Mississippi River! It is fun to learn to spell that one! I taught my son about the beloved Sam Clemens (Mark Twain). We read A Brilliant Streak by Kathryn Lasky. I liked this book a lot. It was a great length for school. I think we read it in a day or two. The story focused mostly on his younger years, and my son had a deep connection with the man. And most helpfully, the book spends a good deal of time devoted to Clemens’ love of the Mississippi River. That led us to the geography! We looked at the geography of the great river. How long? How wide? How does it change course and why? What plants and trees grow along its banks? How did the river affect the growth of our young nation? What is the state of the Mississippi today? I used the book Draw 50 Boats, Ships, Trucks, and Trains to help us draw the steamship. It is not a great book, but it got the job done.

A Brilliant Streak: The Making of Mark Twain

A longer book about Mark Twain is The Trouble Begins at 8 by Sid Fleischman. My daughter delighted in quoting Mark Twain for months after reading this book!

The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West

geography 05 florida

My mom has a house in Florida, so we have the luxury of spending a few weeks there every summer. During summer vacation before fifth grade, we read the brilliant book called Journeys with Florida’s Indians by Kelly Weitzel. My son and I loved, loved, loved this book! It is a wonderful mix of historical fiction and archeological studies of the Florida Native Americans. There was plenty of interaction between the characters and the environment around them. The flora, fauna, and climate all play central roles to the story. How did the Native people deal with hurricanes? This story will tell you. The story begins with a young Paleo-Indian boy on a mammoth hunt. What more can I say?

Journeys with Florida’s Indians

Since we were visiting Florida, we went on a sea life tour to explore the waters and mangroves of Florida. You might be able to see the occasional yellow leaf in the mangrove trees in our pictures. That is because each mangrove tree has a yellow leaf or two. The yellow leaf absorbs the salt from the water to keep the rest of the leaves healthy. Really!

geography 06 johnny appleseed

Now we began our study of the Northeast with the story of Johnny Appleseed. He was such a lively character, that we enjoyed him almost as much as Mark Twain. We followed his travels and drew a map. This was a carefully drawn freehand map. I showed him how we could do it by lightly sketching the rough shape of the coast with a golden block crayon, then we used a golden stick to outline the states, drew in the Great Lakes, the rivers, and finally added the names. I think this map took two or three days for him to complete. We enjoyed reading The True Tale of Johnny Appleseed.

The True Tale of Johnny Appleseed

geography 07 lewis and clark

I don’t know how, but I think we may have spent three weeks on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The book took longer than expected to read, I guess? I really am not sure how it happened, but it is a fantastic story.

geography 08 sacagaweageography 09 sacagawea

Our studies were based largely on the book Sacagawea by Joseph Bruchac. This is another family favorite. He spent a lot of time composing his writing, so I guess this long block was worthwhile!


Below are photos of my daughter’s North America main lesson book from a few years ago. She started off by describing what exactly comprises North America, and she was given some vocabulary words related to geography to define.

geography 18 north america geography 19 vocabulary

She also studied the Lewis and Clark expedition:

geography 20 lewis and clark geography 21 sacegawea

And the land of California, where we explored the unique geography and the California Gold Rush.

geography 22 california gold geography 23 california

In many of our North American geography lessons, we explored what life was like when the Native Americans lived in the region. An excellent resource book for this is Man in Nature by Carl Sauer. It is long out of print, but it is my favorite geography book!

Man in Nature

We also looked at the geography of the Northeast. I believe we checked read about the natives and the land from Man in Nature, and I showed her some highlights from library books. We talked about maple syrup, fall leaves, and how cranberries are harvested.

geography 24 northeast

She also read a series of four books, beginning with Nicholas: A Massachusetts Tale. She enjoyed the series very much.

Nicholas: A Massachusetts Tale

And finally, we tried to study the geography of Colorado while we were there in the summer, but the mountains and rivers kept calling us outside, so we didn’t get anything more than a map for the main lesson book.

geography 25 colorado

Here are some of my drawings from these blocks:

geography 10 mom johnny appleseed map geography 12 mom steamboat

geography 13 mom lewis and clark

geography 15 mom sacegawea geography 11 mom florida native geography 16 mom northeast

geography 14 mom california gold geography 17 mom california map

All About Spelling

My seventh grade daughter is an excellent speller. I have given her spelling lists since third grade, and she has always done very well with them. This is how I have structured spelling with her:

Day 1: I give her a list of words (10-15, depending on her age). I take some words from the subject we are studying, and some come from commonly misspelled lists. She writes the words in a composition book.

Day 2: Write the words again. Define 5 words of my choosing.

Day 3: Spell the words aloud.

Day 4: Quiz. If a word is misspelled, it has to be written 5 times.

This is all we do, and she hardly ever misses a word, even though I am looking for the most difficult words that I can muster.


My fifth grade son has a much harder time with spelling. I tried lists and our own kind of practice for years. A Waldorf school recommended “How to Teach Spelling”, and I tried it for a while, but it was not well organized nor helpful in the least.

Then last summer, someone on Marsha Johnson’s Yahoo Group mentioned All About Spelling. It is kind of expensive, and not very Waldorfy-looking, but I was desperate, so I gave it a try. Gosh! Am I ever glad I did!


I bought Level 1 for my fifth grader, which seems to be the way to go. Most of it was pretty simple for him, but the concepts are built upon one another, so we had to start from the beginning. He thought that some of it was kind of babyish, but he did learn a lot, and he gained confidence.

We are now on Level 3, so I decided it was time to post a review. I definitely see improvement in his spelling, reading, and writing. He used to feel completely unable to write anything other than his name without my prompting. Now he can spell some things with confidence, and others, well, he will just spell how it sounds. It may be wrong, but at least he isn’t paralyzed by fear anymore!

So, here is how it works for us. Every single day, we have a spelling lesson. The teacher’s manual is basically a script… it tells you exactly what to say and how to teach each lesson. It is teacher-intensive in the sense that you have to be there to lead, but there is no preparation time. Yea!

The kit comes with tiles of the letters and other doo-dads. At first, we put out all of the letters on his desk each day. This was great in the beginning, because it forced him to put the letters in alphabetical order every day for weeks. He became very good at knowing the order of the letters… a great skill to have when looking up words in the dictionary. After a while, this became tedious and unnecessary, so I bought a 2-foot by 3-foot magnetic white board. We put the little magnets on the back of the tiles, put them on the magnetic board, and now they stay in place all the time. I just pull out the board, and everything is set up and ready to go.

all about spelling

The lessons guide us through spelling with the tiles, dividing the words into syllables, identifying the types and syllables, etc. There are index cards to learn the sounds, blends, and rules. We put the cards that are not mastered in the review divider in the index card box, and review them at the beginning of each lesson. That’s another great thing about the kit… the review is built into the lessons. So easy.

After the review and new lesson, then I dictate words or sentences for my son to write into one of those inexpensive composition books. Then we are done for the day.

We put a sticker on the completed lesson list. When a level is completed, we go out for ice cream!

What about the cost? I mentioned before that the program is rather costly. It is… I started with the Level 1 Teacher’s Manual, Student Packet, and Basic Interactive Kit. I think all of that is about $50. Then you have to buy Level 2, and so on. On the bright side, nothing is consumed, so take care of everything and you can use it for multiple children, plus, you can resell it. Check out how much this program goes for on eBay. You can get a lot of your money back to pay for the next Level. I have a friend who just uses the Teacher’s Manual and makes everything else herself! It looks a lot prettier too.

Bottom Line:

I LOVE Waldorf education. BUT… I have not found any Waldorf materials that really tackle the issue of spelling (for those that struggle). I don’t know how they do it in Waldorf schools, but I know that All About Spelling seems to be working for us.

I wish I would have started All About Spelling in second or third grade with my son. If I would have done it then, I would have made the program look better. I could make the tiles myself… cut out little bits of watercolor paper with magnets on the back. It could definitely be done with a more Waldorfy look, even if it does not really follow the Waldorf teaching style.

For a child who is a naturally good speller, this program would be a waste of time and money. My daughter has enjoyed reading it and finds the concepts interesting, but it is definitely not necessary. Spelling lists are much more useful, from what I see.

However, I would love to teach her more about Latin and Greek roots. If anyone has any recommended sources, I would be very appreciative to hear about them!

Grade 7 Chemistry

Okay, this one is pretty tough. I was armed with my Eugene Swartz conference materials, so I thought that we were going to be okay, but this block sort of fizzled out. We did have a few positive experiences, but I had trouble getting several of my experiments to work. I am definitely going to need help with 8th grade chemistry.

We focused on combustion, acids, and bases for this chemistry block.


In addition to the conference, I also purchased a book called Chemistry for Waldorf Middle Schools by Robert Sonner. Although it was a large book with many experiments, illustrations, and pictures, I found that I could not complete many of the experiments (the same was true of his Physics book) because they required expensive equipment that one would probably only purchase for a school setting.

The first day of the block went well. I tore up a piece of paper and put it in a beaker of water, then I burned a piece of paper. We would later use this part of the demonstration to discuss the difference between physical and chemical changes. The wet paper is still paper, but the burned paper has turned to ash. Next, I burned candle wax over a flame to melt it, then poured it into a dish of cold water. I also burned wax until it was all gone.

To introduce acids and bases, I mixed baking soda and citric acid with water, then put a lit match close to the mixture until it extinguished the match. Then I used a beaker of purple cabbage water to show how we can test for acids and bases. When I put in citric acid, it turned pink. When I stirred in bleach, it turned yellow. These were the first demonstrations, as designed by Roberto Trostli for the Eugene Schwartz online conference.


So the next day we began experimenting with how different materials burn. We burned lots of plant materials, including leaves, stems, pine needles, flowers, and even nuts. We looked experienced the different smells, the length of time to burn, and the shape of the ashes that remained. We also burned a few animal (wool, leather, finger nail, hair) and mineral substances (sulphur). As you can imagine, the combustion experiences were well-received by my 5th and 7th graders!

Then we looked more closely at the candle and explored its magical properties. I lit a candle in a dark room with a white board behind it so that we could see the heat convection currents. We also studied the different zones of the flame, and the movement of the little puddle of wax. We found that we can do a sort of “magic trick” relight a candle just blown out.

Michael Faraday presented a series of lectures and demonstrations regarding the chemical properties of a candle for children, and those lectures are widely available online for free, although I purchased a copy. I found the first part of the book fascinating and useful for this block. The end of the book was a little over my head, quite frankly. I did a little digging to find a copy of the book that has illustrations, as apparently many copies do not. I did find the illustrations quite helpful.

The Chemical History of a Candle

So then we explored the how carbon dioxide affects combustion. My daughter really enjoys physics and chemistry because she says it is the one time that she can draw objects and people around her, instead of Julius Caesar or the Alps. You can click on the picture below to read more details about the demonstrations.


We also explored the properties of water and salt. My daughter’s explanation below is fairly detailed, so it gives a good description of our experiments. I insisted that she use this opportunity to work on drawing nice hands, but in real life we wore gloves when working with hydrochloric acid! In addition to the demonstrations that she describes below, we also put hydrochloric acid into a beaker of limestone pebbles to watch them fizz and bubble.


Finally, we worked with testing the pH levels of substances. This was great fun. We took little plastic cups and filled them with a cabbage juice (cooked a few purple cabbage leaves in water), then she put in various substances from around the house to see if they were more base-like or acidic. We made a beautiful rainbow of cups.



I had planned more experiments and demonstrations, like creating a chemical battery and the combustion of salts (showing the various colors which arise from burning metals and salts), but I had many “technical” difficulties. So although we were able to do some fantastic demonstrations and experiments, I think that I will be seeking out some help with chemistry in eighth grade!

Planning and Burnout

One of my readers wondered how I manage planning my lessons. To be quite honest, I am not a great planner. Boy, do I get sidetracked. Sometimes I am not excited about what I am teaching, sometimes I am overwhelmed, and often I am just plain tired!

I know what you are thinking… but the finished work on the blog is so nice!

Yes, it is. But you should see the mess that is created to make this work! I try to be as organized, well-prepared, and tidy as possible. This makes the school day so much better for everyone. But, let’s be real.

planningThis is my desk at the moment.
Does it look like I am well-prepared for school tomorrow?
And, more importantly, why is there a nutcracker on my desk?

Even Rudolf Steiner said that teachers will always feel inadequate, so feeling like we are not doing enough is perfectly normal. Well, with the depth of the curriculum he outlined, no wonder we never feel like we are well prepared!

Anyway, this is how I plan:

Beginning of Summer:

Put away school books and clean up the school room (I never really finish the school room, because I give up and go on vacation, promising to finish when we get back).

Pick out a book and read it just for fun. I am always reading about history, geometry, and things like that, so I make myself read a book just for fun. Like Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, or Eat, Pray, Love… something fun. Last summer I read Killing Lincoln. Eugene Schwartz recommended reading something over the summer that would help you look one year ahead. Since over the summer I was preparing for the fifth and seventh grades, I decided to read Lincoln as it would pertain to eighth grade United States history. Besides, someone gave me the book so I didn’t even have to leave the house. This was a easy and interesting book to read, but so much for my “I’ll just read one book for fun” idea. Thanks, Eugene. Sort of.


Now it has been a few weeks into the summer, and it is time to get back to work. I start listening to Eugene Schwartz’ conferences, and taking notes like mad. I almost make transcripts of everything he says. Thankfully, I can type fairly well. I set up the conference on my iPad, place it next to my computer, and type away. Now this is inspiration! He makes the curriculum so exciting!

Organize resources. I used to print out everything that I thought would be useful and put it into binders. I do that a little bit, but mostly I put everything that I think I might use (links to books, articles, pdf files, etc.) into Evernote. I have a notebook for each block for each grade. If someone recommends a book or other source, I just pop it in that folder. A few weeks before each block, I check the folder for ideas.

When get home from our vacations, I spend a week or so cleaning up the schoolroom and trying to put together the lessons for the first weeks.

Beginning of School Year:

I always start out a little bit slow. We usually begin with form drawing (in later grades we start with geometric drawing and perspective drawing). This helps the children get re-acclimated to school, and helps me with planning, as form drawing is usually easier to teach.

The Rest of the Year:

I try to get up before everyone else. Boy, do I try to keep ahead. It is hard. Having multiple main lessons is so hard. I know that some people do it with 4 or 5 children, and I think they are amazing. The lessons for the oldest child are the most challenging, since it is new material for me. The younger child is easier, but I still need to have a plan! I read through my notes a week or two before a new block, and I gather materials. Sadly, the meat of my lesson plans happen the night before or the morning of the lesson. I seem to do best under pressure, I guess.

The World Book is my friend. When my planning falls short, I can always rely on the World Book Encyclopedia. Just today, I was teaching about the Maya civilization. I did not feel well prepared. I got up early this morning and read the World Book entry, took notes, and voila! A lesson! The World Book is great because they put together the essentials. Wikipedia is fantastic, and I use it all the time for research, but it is not substitute for the old-fashioned set of books on the shelf. I think our set is from 1986. They are still so relevant to most of what we study. I do ogle at the new sets in the library, however. The color in them is so vivid compared to our old set. We have also used the book for looking up things we want to draw.

World Book Encyclopedia

What about Burnout?

This can happen anytime, but my worst time is February. I used to go to the Waldorf in the Home conference in Boulder, Colorado every October when my children were younger. I remember thinking even then that I wish that I could afford to go to another conference in February.

Now Eugene Schwartz gives a two-hour Halftime Webinar in January. The tagline is so appropriate… “Inspiration when you need it most”. Amen.

Sometimes we have to spend a lot of time in the car. On those car trips, or sometimes in bed, I listen to podcasts. I download them from iTunes to my iPhone, and I can often get inspiration there. Sometimes it is great to hear a lecture instead of reading (as much as I love my books!) I have listened to podcasts about Joan of Arc (from a military historian), Christopher Columbus, Ancient Greece, how trees affect the weather, and so on. I believe that Steiner said that teachers should have eight hours of preparation for each hour of teaching. That sounds crazy, but he includes our life experience in our preparation as well. So, I can listen to a lesson on trees and weather, and I am not sure if it will be needed, but it sounds interesting and it may very well fit into Botany. (As it turns out, I used some of the information from that lecture in teaching about the rainforests of South America during seventh grade exploration and geography).

And of course, sometimes I just get away from it all. Forget it for a while. Go on a date with my long-suffering husband. Call a friend who understands. Get a good night’s sleep. Go for a quiet walk.

Times Table Songs


Sibyl from Sistene ChapelThank you to everyone who bought my daughter’s times table songs and supported her trip to Italy with her youth orchestra. It was an amazing trip that will not soon be forgotten.

Her orchestra is planning a trip in two years to either Argentina or Spain, so any funds raised by these songs she will put into her trip savings account. She has her heart set on another tour!


Times Tables Songs

Many years ago I adapted some common songs in order to help my children learn their times tables.
My daughter has recorded these songs, and I am making them available for sale. The proceeds will go towards her trip.

Check out the free sample of the three times table sung to the tune of “Frosty the Snowman”:

Three Times Table

Each of the songs includes the times table up to 12x, and then back down! So the ‘lyrics’ to the three times table song are:

3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36,
36, 33, 30, 27, 24, 21, 18, 15, 12, 9, 6, 3

You will get a total of SEVEN songs:








The twos, fives, tens, and elevens are easy enough that we did not make songs out of them.

To order the Times Table Songs, please click the button below to pay via PayPal. After you place the order, I will email the link to download the songs to you. It usually takes just a couple of hours, but it can be up to 24 hours.


Grade Six – Early Middle Ages

I started to write a post about the Late Middle Ages in seventh grade, and I thought that I should reference the Early Middle Ages in my post. But, lo! I never posted anything about the Early Middle Ages! So… here is our first block covering Medieval History.


Eugene Schwartz Online Grade 6 Conference (Of course!)

The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child:
The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance

The Age Of Discovery (Waldorf Education Resources)*

* In The Age Of Discovery by Charles Kovacs, he actually covers much more than the true “Age of Discovery” (the 15th century). He begins somewhere around the fall of the Roman Empire and continues until the Reformation. Very good stuff! However, if you are unfamiliar with Kovacs, please beware that he comes from a very Christian perspective. I am Christian, but every once in a while I find a sentence a bit offensive… he might infer from time to time that Christians are just plain better than everyone else. I prefer to remain as objective as possible during history lessons. But, I don’t think that should deter anyone from his work. It is outstanding. I simply read it during my preparation, and decide if there are passages that I want to read to the children, or if I will just take what I need for my lesson. Most of his books only have a couple of sentences of which I find questionable.

middle ages 01 covermiddle ages 02 contents

We began by reviewing the fall of the western Roman Empire, and how that affected Europe. Just a quick introduction to that topic, as it will be explored in depth between now and the Renaissance.  We tried to take an in-depth look at the medieval peasant. They were mostly farmers, so their days and weeks were heavily dictated by the seasons. They worked hard… from sun up until sun down.

My daughter made a replica of a stained glass artwork found in the book: Medieval Life. This is a rather famous piece, located in a London museum, and I am sure that a photograph can be found in many sources. It was common for medieval art to depict “Labours of the Months”, showing ordinary people in their daily lives. My daughter made her “stained glass” replica using black card paper and kite paper. She first drew the outline of shapes with pencil onto the black paper, then cut out the pieces using an x-acto knife. Then she cut out the colored kite paper to fit in the spaces. You can even layer a few pieces to get the color you want. She added the details using a Sharpie pen. This whole project took quite a while. Thankfully, she really enjoyed it.


middle ages 03 peasants October; The Labours of the Months, unknown maker, about 1480. Museum no. C.134-1931

Next we studied knights, heraldry, and we started reading a book about a young knight in training:


Men of Iron by Howard Pyle

I did not finish reading Men of Iron because time just got away from me, but the five or six chapters that weread together was quite good. It is historical fiction, so it gave us a glimpse into the life of a knight while weaving an interesting tale. I assume my daughter read it on her own later, but I am not sure. I bet the boys would really like it!


middle ages 04 heraldry

The next assignment was to make a coat of arms using watercolors. She used a dry watercolor method, instead of wet-on-wet. We talked about the purpose of heraldry (so that they could tell the knights apart during tournaments), and what the symbols might mean. I believe I used a list of symbols from Live Education, but I am sure you could find them online.


middle ages 05 knights

Then instead of the usual composition, she was inspired by Men of Iron to write a short story describing a young page in training. We studied the medieval castle in depth as well. I asked her to draw a castle and make a floor plan, which she did… but she disliked her drawing of the castle and refused to put it in the main lesson book. We decided to move on…


middle ages 06 islam


I told her about the birth of Islam. We started with the prophet Mohammed, the sacred kaaba, and the prophet’s holy visions. We learned how a mosque is built, the five pillars of Islam, and the lightning-fast speed in which Islam spread throughout the middle east and northern Africa.


middle ages 07 charlemagne 

We learned about the feudal system, and how there were not really great and powerful kings like the Roman Emperors, but there were a few influential and powerful figures. There was Clovis, who became king of the Francs at only 15, and would become the first pagan king to be baptized a Christian. Then there was the great Charlemagne, uniting many lands into a new Holy Roman Empire. This portrait is the one she is most proud of this year. It is lovely to behold in person. I just love his eyes… they really glare at me!


middle ages 08 crusades


And to end our studies of the early middle ages, we covered the first crusade, in a fair amount of detail. In the later middle ages, we did not really have time to go into every crusade in the same detail, so I am glad that we covered the first one quite well. It helped to provide context for other stories of the middle ages and even the early Renaissance.


I told my daughter that the crusader in her drawing looked rather feminine. “Shhhh…”, she said, “she is in disguise!”

Just look at that beautiful golden sunlight glowing all around her as she rides off, shining and confident… determined to fulfill her destiny. A rather powerful drawing at the end of the school year for a 12 year old girl, isn’t it?

Grade Seven – Perspective Drawing

7th grader perspective 12 cover

I always try to start off our year with a form drawing block. In fifth and sixth grade, the form drawing blocks became geometric drawing blocks. Now in seventh grade, we began the year with perspective drawing. This was a three week block.

I love to begin our year with this kind of a block for a few reasons. First of all, the preparation is not too stressful. It can be a little time-consuming (what isn’t?), but the preparation is a lot more straightforward than history, grammar, or geography.

It also seems nice to transition from summer into school with something that is not too academically stressful for the child, and yet it gets her mind and body back in that motion. Of course, this all depends on how the child feels about this kind of drawing!

Perspective drawing is important for the seventh grader for several reasons. I won’t go into too much detail here, as I really like to get to the drawings! The children have drawn in a two-dimensional style for the entirety of their grade school lives. Now, they can finally learn to draw their world as they see it. Grade seven (age thirteen) is the perfect time for this. This is very exciting… very grown-up! We will also be studying the Renaissance this year… the age in which the laws of perspective were finally discovered, so it all fits together beautifully.

First of all, we needed supplies! I was able to use mostly the supplies that I had  purchased for sixth grade geometry. They are:

1. Drawing Board – I bought a few sheets of pressboard at Home Depot, and stuck some of those little rubber feet on the bottom to make them tall enough to accommodate the t-square. These boards were only a few dollars each, so it was very affordable. I thought about buying these drawing boards, since they are simply wonderful, but I decided to go with the cheaper option.

2. Speaking of the T-Square… we used the 24” Staedtler. Very sturdy, and we have not had any problems with them. It is helpful to have T-Squares that have those clear edges.

Staedtler T-Square Wood 24 in.

3. Clear Acrylic Triangles – I found that the 12-inch 30/60 degree triangle worked well.

Pro Art 12-Inch 30/60-Degree Triangle, Clear

4. Pencils – 4H (hard, for the light ‘helping’ lines), and 2B (soft, for the darker lines). I bought these at Hobby Lobby, I think.

General Pencil Kimberly Drawing Pencil 4H 

5. Erasers – We used kneadable and the Tri-Tip.

General White Tri-tip Triangle Eraser

6. Dry Cleaning Pad – Used to make erasing easier, reduces smudging on paper due to the movement of the drawing instruments.

Professional Drafting Dry Cleaning Pad

7. Good Quality Masking Tape

8. Nice Drawing Paper – 18” wide.

9. Long Metal Rulers – 18” long.

Stainless Steel Ruler With Non Slip Cork Base, 18″

Yes, that is a long list, and we needed two of everything except for the dry cleaning pad. It was expensive, but all of the items are used for geometric drawing in sixth grade, plus many other projects. I have regretted many purchases in my life, but rarely do I regret quality art supplies!

As usual, most of my lessons came from Eugene Schwartz’ Grade Seven Conference lectures. For perspective drawing he has included helpful step-by-step videos that explain how to do most of these drawings. I know it is hard to see our ‘helping’ lines, as they are drawn with a very light 4B pencil. I tried to decrease the brightness to make the lines more visible.

7th grader perspective 01
We began the first day by dividing a rectangle into four equal parts, then we divided a trapezoid in the same way. Look at that perspective! Magic!


7th grader perspective 02 vanishing point
The next day we learned how to ‘extrapolate’ the perspective lines to a vanishing point.


7th grader perspective 03 fence
Now we could finally make something! Eugene suggested making something very simple, so I decided on fence posts. My daughter thought that making the lockers from our local community center would be fun too.


7th grader perspective 04 tile floor
Then we turned our paper, and, we made a tile floor. The first line on the bottom is 10 inches long. We used a ruler to divide it into 10 inch segments. Each point was connected to the vanishing point. Then we measured one inch up from the first square, and extrapolated until we had 10 rows. If you look very closely, you can see the helping lines reaching to the vanishing point at the top of the page.


7th grader perspective 05 two vanishing points boxes
The next step was to create two vanishing points and make some 3-dimensional boxes.


7th grader perspective 06 two vanishing points buildings
Then we could take that one step further and create some buildings with windows. I also introduced the gabled roof at this point.


7th grader perspective 07 cityscape
Now she had the tools to create a cityscape. I think this was her second attempt. The first attempt had such a large building in the front that there wasn’t much room for anything else. I love how this one turned out. I think the colors are great fun. Notice the windows and doors… they are all in perspective. Everything in these drawings is drawn in perspective. This drawing is supposed to be technical. We will sketch in perspective later in the year, but this block is really more about the mathematical and geometrical laws of perspective.


7th grader perspective 08 interior
An interior space. This is interesting, because the perspective for the inside walls is opposite of the boxes and cityscape. The furniture is done in the same way as the boxes. We enjoyed showing the adjoining room… very satisfying!


7th grader perspective 09 arches
The perspective of arches is interesting as well. I saw several methods, but in
Perspective Drawing by Baravalle, he describes the method that we used for making curves and arches. There are easier ways, but this one is more mathematical and precise than the others.


7th grader perspective 10 staircase
I tried my best, but I could not create a staircase with the
Baravalle book. I was more successful with the directions from the Barron’s Perspective Drawing book. I bought this book, and I don’t really care for it, but the staircase worked well for me. It probably took more practice than any other construction, but it did finally become easy!


7th grader perspective 12 cover
The last day was spent on the main lesson book cover, although it could have easily been two main lessons. Each letter is in perspective. She had to extrapolate the space for each letter, divide each space into four equal columns and eight rows, and then she could finally start constructing the letters inside those spaces.


In addition to Eugene’s videos, I used a few reference books:

Perspective Drawing
Perspective Drawing by Hermann von Baravalle is available at the Steiner College Bookstore. Eugene bases his lessons from this book. I found some of it a little hard to understand (like the staircase!), but I used his method of creating arches.


Perspective Drawing (Drawing Academy) was also available at the Steiner College Bookstore, so I bought it. I was a little disappointed though. Most of the exercises seemed rather randomly placed throughout the book and not explained clearly, with the exception of the staircase.


I checked out Perspective (Artist’s Library Series) from the library, but I am definitely going to buy it. I had to return this book to the library, and I am missing it too much! I think is a great all-around reference book for perspective, and it is something that we can use quite often.


Okay, I will finally end this terribly long post with my own drawings:


mom perspective 01mom perspective 02 vanishing point

mom perspective 03 fencemom perspective 04 tile floor

mom perspective 05 two vanishing points blocksmom perspective 06 two vanishing points city

mom perspective 07 cityscape

mom perspective 08 interiormom perspective 09 interior

mom perspective 10 archesmom perspective 11 staircasemom perspective 12 letters