Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Mummers!

The Rookie Rhetoricians of the Year (students from the Lost Tools of Writing class) gave an amazing performance last Sunday night at the annual WISH Christmas Party to an audience of over 70 children and adults.

Last Fall, while perusing my materials for a possible Michaelmas Day script, I happened upon a book that I must have picked up at a yard sale or thrift store for about 10 cents. It's a children's book written in script form, but with enough prose in between that you could read it like a story book. You can find the book by Katherine Miller, here.

As a humorous play, it would not be appropriate for Michaelmas. However, I saw this as a great opportunity for our older WISH students to gift the younger ones at our annual Christmas Party. So I told them they had to "keep mum" about it in order for it to be a surprise at the party. Of course, they immediately took to the idea of keeping a special surprise secret from all of the other children and even their parents (well, sort of . . . I had to let them know a bit of what we were up to!).

And what a hit it was! The children were delighted! They laughed and laughed. And the spontaneous applause at particular key points was a pleasant surprise.

The class, which I used to refer to as "the writing class" and on this blog "The Lost Tools of Writing" (after the curriculum we are using) has chosen a new name: Rookie Rhetoricians of the Year. I asked them to come up with a name that included the word Rhetoric (now that they know the five canons of Rhetoric!) because I intend to continue practicing all five with them rather than just the three that apply to writing.

Engaging in the Mummers' Play seemed a fun way for them to practice the two canons of Rhetoric which apply to speaking: Memory and Delivery. They learned a lot, had a great time, and became more bonded as a class.

I am looking forward to 2011 with my RRYTers. We are all learning so much and having a great time.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

"Waldorf Homeschooling": Oxymoron? Or New Paradigm?

Is it possible to "do" Waldorf homeschooling? Or is Waldorf a term that only applies to schools?

Typically, we hear the word "Waldorf" in conjunction with schools. Members affiliated with
AWSNA have the right to use the term in their schools' names. Unaffiliated schools (typically public) must follow special rules regarding usage of the term. We may also think of the “first Waldorf school” in Stuttgart when we hear this term. Rudolf Steiner did develop this educational approach to be used in a classroom setting. And folks who have been around homeschooling for any length of time will often hear the comment that “the home is not a school.” I agree. At home, you are not going to get a classroom experience — no matter how beautifully lazured your walls are, how amazing your chalkboard drawing is, how “true to Waldorf” your lesson plans are, how well you have that fairy tale memorized, or any other particular element we tend to associate with Waldorf education. On the other hand, homeschooling offers many advantages that even the best Waldorf school cannot provide. Of course, there will always be trade-offs. Your local Waldorf school probably teaches Eurythmy and a foreign language — which you may or may not be able to provide.

Over the past several years, my approach has been not so much to imitate the Waldorf classroom, but rather to study Steiner directly, focusing on his indications regarding the developmental stages, and then striving to apply those concepts to the home learning environment in a practical manner. This helps one to get away from comparing one’s self to the local Waldorf school — typically a self-defeating endeavor, and yet commonly engaged in by those of us who have spent any time involved with Waldorf school
s. Apples cannot be compared with oranges; both are fruit and perhaps sweet, but will look, taste and feel different.

So is a new term desirable? Shall we call ourselves Steiner Stay-at-Homers? Anti-establishment Anthroposophical
home educators? Much too cumbersome! The term Waldorf is the most easily recognized, of course, and as long as we don't incorporate or form a board of directors, a loose use of the term amongst home educators will most likely be tolerated. In the strictest sense of the word, however, I don't like to use the term "Waldorf" since the application of Steiner's ideas to a school environment is not something for which I aim.

What many people do not realize is that Rudolf Steiner actually used the term "curriculum" in three different ways. He spoke of the "established curriculum,"
that which we would call the mainstream approach to education found in most public and private schools. He identified the "ideal curriculum" as that which is informed by a deep understanding -- in his case, an anthroposophical understanding -- of human development. And finally, he spoke to his teachers of what he called "our Waldorf curriculum." He explained that "our Waldorf curriculum" must always bear in mind the "ideal curriculum" while also recognizing the need to answer to the authorities in regard to the "established curriculum." Even in the early part of the 20th Century, Steiner had to contend with inspections by the German educational authorities. He was a practical man, recognizing that implementation of the "ideal curriculum" would not be tolerated by the establishment.

Many of us, especially those with a previous relationship to a Waldorf school, come to this method of homeschooling assuming that the class model is what we must imitate in order to "do Waldorf." However, by understanding Steiner's definition of the three curricula, I would posit that not only is this a false assumption but also one
that frequently causes undue stress, frustration and self-doubt. Of course, one can find many useful ideas within the traditional Waldorf classroom which may or may not be applicable to the home learning environment. But more valuable insights may be gained by studying Steiner's work, understanding the phases of human development (as well as the sub-phases and the needs of those phases), and most importantly, by closely observing his own children. Understanding how and why the Waldorf curriculum is designed to meet these developmental stages will also be helpful. Awareness of all of these can then be mindfully brought to your particular home life and the unique needs of your family.

For home educators, simply realizing that the curriculum of Waldorf schools — which are based on the first Waldorf school — are actually
founded on a compromise of what Steiner himself considered the "ideal," will hopefully bring a new sense of freedom to those on this path. Since many Waldorf home educators tend to hold themselves to the imagined standards of a Waldorf classroom, understanding the three curricula and the freedom they have to work within the realm of the "ideal curriculum," if they so choose, can provide a liberating shift in perspective.

Sources: Lecture Twelve, September 3, 1919, and Lecture Thirteen, September 4, 1919, Practical Advice to Teachers, Rudolf Steiner.

Sandi Russi has been home educating "Waldorf" style since 2002. She founded Waldorf-Inspired Sacramento Homeschoolers (W.I.S.H.) in 2003 and Wholistic Learning Resources in 2010. Sandi enjoys working with homeschoolers, presenting workshops, writing, and providing resources.

This article is copyright 2010 by Sandra Russi and should not be reproduced without written permission from the author.

2010 WISH Advent Spiral

Waldorf-Inspired Sacramento Homeschoolers (WISH) held its annual Advent Spiral Sunday, November 28, the first Sunday of Advent. There were about 55 people in attendance, with about 27 children walking the spiral. It was a pretty amazing experience to have that many children in the room . . . . and yet, so quiet and reverent was the mood.
The following verse, by Nancy Foster, was recited to help set the mood / tone of the event:

Deep Mid-Winter drawing near,
Darkness in our Garden here - -
One small flame yet bravely burns
To show a path which ever turns.

Earth, please bear us as we go,
Seeking Light to send a-glow:
Branches green and moss and fern,
Mark our path to trace each turn.
Brother animals, teach us too
To serve with patience as you do.

We walk with candle toward the Light
While Earth awaits with hope so bright:
In the Light which finds new birth
Love may spread o'er all the Earth.
Deep Mid-Winter drawing near - -
May Light arise in our Garden here.

We sang a simple song as the children walked the spiral, with the exception of the two teens who participated. We let them walk in silence, symbolic of their emerging independence.

It was a simple, profound event.

Some Advent Verses

Just pulled out an old publication that a friend gave me called Collected Poems for Class Teachers and Eurythmists. Here are some nice ones for the Advent Season.

ADVENT by Ann Ellerton

Now the twilight of the year
Comes, and Christmas draweth near.

See, across the Advent sky
How the clouds move quietly.

Earth is waiting, wrapt in sleep,
Waiting in a silence deep.

Birds are hid in bush and reed
Flowers are sleeping in their seed.

Through the woodland to and fro
silent-footed creatures go.

Hedgehog curled in prickly ball
Burrows 'neath the leaves that fall.

Man and beast and bird and flower
Waiting for the midnight hour
Waiting for the Christ-child's birth
Christ who made the heaven and earth.

Coming Towards Advent

Verses --
In darkest night
The earth shall be light
And gleam as a star --
You and I
I and you
We will give our light too --

When days are darkest
The earth enshrines
The seeds of Summer's birth
The spirit of man
Is a light that shines
Deep in the darkness of earth --

O radiant star of Bethlehem
Lead onward thro' the night
That we in winter's darkest days
May see thy guiding light.

Sun, moon and stars
Shining wide and far
Over land, over sea
Over you, over me.
For my soul's delight
Shine into my heart.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lost Tools of Writing Lesson 2 -- Arrangement, Part 1

I was happy to see that the students were successful in completing their Invention homework from the week before. Each arrived with 30 items in their ANI columns, and a much better understanding of how the topic questions help to feed the ANI chart.

I began the class by talking to the students briefly about the Art of Rhetoric, and that the writing tools they were learning about come from the discipline of Rhetoric. I informed them that Rhetoric also includes speaking -- not just writing -- and introduced the other two canons that apply to speaking: Memory and Delivery.

With that introduction, I asked them to apply these ideas to their delivery of the Opening Verse that we have been saying each week.

I then read them a poem by James Kavanaugh entitled Will You Be My Friend? I chose this poem because it seems to reveal much of what young people go through at this age. . . and in the many years of their youth.

Our new task was to sort all of the items in the ANI chart. This task is similar to sorting anything they might collect such as legos, socks or silverware. Although it is a fairly simple concept, it did take us nearly the entire class period. In addition to the methods outlined in the text (placing the same symbol next to "like" items, such as a *, ! or &), I suggested that using colored pencils may be helpful. Color is simply easier to see when you have a mixed group.

After the main lesson portion of our time together, I informed the students that we would be preparing a *surprise* for our homeschool group annual Christmas Party. But I didn't tell them what the surprise would be! And that they had to practice keeping quiet about it.

We finished the class with a brief game of charades. . . unbeknownst to them, it was an introduction to the surprise!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Lost Tools of Writing, Lesson 2 -- Invention

The second module on Invention brought both the students and I to a little bump in the road! About 3/4 of the way through the class time, I was noticing sort of a glazed / dazed look in their eyes . . . and KNEW they were not quite getting it. It was time to change gears and take a slightly different approach.

I did so, and yes, it helped. But we still needed to spend more time on this lesson. So as the author of the program recommends, I did not rush it. We are taking our time to make sure that this new material really sinks in.

The lesson was really about the "Topics." However, this word "topics" is not used in the same manner that we tend to think of the word in modern times. Essentially, the topics are a place the mind goes to for information. In many classes, these are listed and given as a part of the study of rhetoric. However, they are most useful when converted to the form of a question. The author of the LToW reminds us that we have been questioning to learn about the world since we were toddlers, or even infants. For instance, a 2-year-old goes around trying to define all that he sees in an effort to understand his world. Early on he may generalize and call all 4-footed mammals "dog." But soon learns that the one with whiskers and sharp claws that meows is actually called "cat." This is the earliest form of the topic known as "definition": what IS the term we are talking about?

This is a wonderful thinking tool for the students and has numerous applications -- not just in writing and language arts, but also in sciences. For the purposes of writing, asking the questions of the topics gives the students lots of material to "discover" or "invent" -- the first step in the writing process.

Our bump in road came when I focused on the topic questions themselves . . . without clear instruction on how they apply to the ANI chart. Once I saw this error, I quickly shifted the direction of the class and as mentioned, it did help.

So before the following class, I asked the students to read "Rikki Tikki Tavi," and we used material from the story to use with the questions. They all seemed to understand the idea much better this time around, and I am confident that they will successfully complete their homework.

Next lesson: Lesson 2, Arrangement Module. We will cover "sorting": how to place the information they have generated from the Invention process (using the topic questions) into an outline. This outline will have a few more details than the one they learned to create in Lesson 1.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thomas Jefferson Education . . . and Waldorf???

September 24 and 25, I attended a 2-day seminar on Thomas Jefferson Education, entitled "Face to Face with Greatness."

Why does a self-described Waldorf home educator attend a seminar of a differing philosophy?

In the past several years, I have been exploring and researching other approaches to home education. Sometimes, this begins in a superficial way, but often, it becomes deeper.

What I have found, especially through reading Climbing Parnassus, is that much of what I am drawn to are simply different branches of Classical Education. By tracing the entire history of education from ancient times through Climbing Parnassus, I was able to see what was going on in the world of education, the great debate of the times, when Rudolf Steiner came on the scene. Similar to Charlotte Mason, much of Steiner's work was a response to the "deadening" of classical education. In Steiner's case, however, there was also a sort of bridging between the two camps at the time: those who advocated for classical and those who advocated for an emphasis on technical education. Steiner included both a rich exposure to high level literature, poetry and the arts, as well as an appreciation and application of woodworking and other technical crafts. This had to do with his understanding of the three-fold social order and the realization that the classics are "good" for the laborer, and appreciation of the laborer's work is needed by the professional, in order to create a more harmonious social life for all.

While Thomas Jefferson Education (TJed) seems to be new on the scene, it is actually rooted in the larger body of education, known as Classical Education. Its principles are based on the way our Founding Fathers were educated, which was basically classical. There is also an emphasis on Mentors. Again, this emphasis is not unique to TJed; it is, however, highlighted, as the masses are typically no longer educated through classics or mentors. By definition, the mentor-student relationship is typically a one-on-one experience which allows the student to learn in a more in-depth manner.

So how is TJed alike or different from Waldorf. To begin with, TJed is not so much a method as it is an over-arching view of education. It teaches the parent/educator about the different types of education in the broadest sense: conveyor belt (the method most of us grew up with and that has been adopted in nearly all U.S. schools, public and private); "professional" -- similar to "conveyor" but geared toward the top students for the production of lawyers, doctors and other professionals. Like conveyor belt education, the emphasis is on the end-product: getting a "good" job. Then there is "leadership" education, which TJed calls itself: education that aims at creating great leaders, not unlike the Founding Fathers of our country.

To take it a step further, I would say that one of the points of TJed is that the education transforms the person. Yet, others might argue that any other form of Classical Education has the same emphasis. This may be true. However, no matter what the approach, philosophy or method, there is a constant danger that it becomes dead, or dry for the student and ends up being another form of "conveyor belt" education. Along the way, most parent educators are confronted with the fact that their previous experiences with education may or may not work for their children. They often find themselves imitating some form of conveyor belt education simply because that is what they know and are familiar with.

This can even happen to parents who choose Waldorf as their main inspiration for home education. If they have previously been associated with a Waldorf school, they already have a long list of ideas and expectations in their minds which they tend to constantly compare themselves to. So even if they are not trying to measure up to the local public school, they may constantly being trying to measure up to their local Waldorf school.

So how can a Waldorf homeschooler intertwine the high ideals of TJed with that of Waldorf in a meaningful and productive way? Look for my next article for a practical application of the two philosophies working in harmony, and bringing out the best of each, for a truly free-ing education.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lost Tools of Writing, Lesson 1, Modules 2 & 3

The last two weeks we covered Lesson 1, Module 2 (Arrangement) and Module 3 (Elocution).

Overall, these were very basic lessons for most of the students. The lesson on Arrangement was a very basic outline with 3 Roman numerals: I. Introduction, II. Proof in 3 statements and III. Conclusion. The Introduction included the Thesis statement and the Exposition. Some of the students were already familiar with the term "Thesis statement," but Exposition was new to all of them.

Then this past week, we simply converted the outline into an essay -- a very short, very boring, very repetitive essay! For some, this may have seemed boring and "too easy." For a few, it was a new process. However, they all needed to learn to do this in a very basic way. Subsequent lessons will build on this foundation.

Since we are a Waldorf-inspired group, I added in to our lessons an opening verse and a closing verse for each class meeting. We also finished reading the story of St. George, the Patron Saint of England, as we are soon approaching Michaelmas Day. Most of the students knew the story of St. George & the Dragon -- but this was a longer tale which told of the many adventures and other stories of St. George. (Available at

Next week, we will begin Lesson 2's first module which will introduce some new thinking tools for the Canon of Invention.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Lost Tools of Writing -- Intro & Lesson 1

The journey has begun . . . last week we did the Introductory Lesson. All of the kids participated enthusiastically. The Introductory Lesson starts by asking the students to talk, tell about their many problems with writing -- any and all. Well, actually, we did a couple of other things before getting into the lesson: some introductions and we spent a bit of time talking about writing in general. I let them come up with ideas on why writing might be a good skill to learn. I wrote down all of their ideas on the board.

We also spent a bit of time talking about working together and the role of a mentor. I wanted to establish a relationship with the students in that manner, and make sure everyone was "on board."

Then we got down to the problems. Based on ancient Rhetoric, LToW has the instructor list the many problems on 3 separate sheets or boards -- of course, the instructor knows what the 3 main problems are. After the students have exhausted their list, you then have them look at the 3 boards to see if they can determine how the items on each are alike. What you arrive at are the 3 canons of writing: Invention, Arrangement and Elocution (yes, Rhetoric actually has 5 -- be we leave out Memory and Delivery as they belong to speaking).

This week, with Lesson 1, we began with Invention. The program is very incremental, leading the students step-by-step, first helping them to recognize that they make decisions every day and that writing is also a decision-making process. They learned how to turn a question into an "issue" -- essentially a 'yes or no' question. From there, we generated an ANI chart with Affirmative, Negative and Interesting columns. So all of the 'pro' reasons go in the A column, the 'against' in the N column, and anything interesting in the I column. We did this together; then they did it individually, and now they will do it at home on their own.

Next week, we will take the data from the ANI chart and work on the canon of Arrangement.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Lost Tools of Writing

This fall I will start a new endeavor with my son and a small group of middle-school aged homeschoolers: a writing class based on "The Lost Tools of Writing" from the CiRCE Institute. I am very excited about this program!

I spent the last couple of years researching different programs including IEW, Classical Writing, Classical Composition, Writing Strands and a few other tutorial-based programs.

One of the reasons I am so excited about this program is that it is based in Ancient Rhetoric -- which was my major in college. It addresses all of the major problems that students run into when faced with the task of writing. This is done in a systematic way that is manageable for both teacher and student.

Another strength of the program is that it not only teaches the students to write, but how to think. They are introduced to thinking tools that will improve their writing, and will have the opportunity to express and discuss their ideas while learning to form sound arguments.

Had I learned to write in this way, it would have saved me so much time with all of those college essays. I am confident that even by completing just Level 1, these students will be well-equipped for any writing assignments they undertake in high school or college.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Life, Death, Simplicity and Refrigerators

Tonight I am thinking about simple living. It's interesting how it typically takes a major life event bring us back to our simplest needs. For instance, when death or birth visits a family, what do we do? Send them food . . . to be sure that their most basic needs are being met. When immersed in adjusting to the care of a newborn, life s l o w s way down . . . so that we are only thinking about the very basics: food and sleep, mostly.

Likewise, in the midst of grief, we may forget to eat, so friends and neighbors bring over food. Or, all we may want to do is eat. I remember when my grandmother died -- who was like a mother to my sisters and I -- I think we spent an entire week eating sourdough bread and drinking wine, while we soaked up all of the love and memories that last week we got to spend in her home which to us felt like "our home."

This week at our house, we have had a death . . . of sorts: the refrigerator has been slowly dying. Interestingly, however, the freezer seems to be working just fine. After two days with the ice chest, we opted to bring in the small wine cooler-type refrigerator we had in another room. I suppose it could hold about 20 bottles of wine to give an idea of its size. After testing to be sure it would keep the dairy products cold enough, we brought it into the kitchen.

So now life in the kitchen is getting simpler. I have to actually think about how much space is in that small fridge. Actually, I have not been shopping in a while as I am trying to be sure we "eat down" what we already have. It makes me think of the old days, when folks used to do their "marketing" several days a week -- like those stories Grandma used to tell about her old ice box.

I sort of like this small fridge -- it's manageable. I seriously doubt I will find anything growing way in the back, forgotten and neglected for weeks. It has a smoked-glass front door that I can see through and see all my necessary ingredients. Just the simple basics: milk, a few dairy products, eggs, and veggies (ok, and maybe a bottle of wine!). Of course it helps that most of the condiments are still in the big fridge -- the stuff that's not going to spoil easily.

It feels good to live more simply . . . with more awareness, and most likely, less waste.

Of course, if the freezer goes out on the old fridge, I'll have to step up the CraigsList search for a new/used regular-sized refrigerator. But for now, I'm going to enjoy this simpler approach and trust that the "right" new fridge will eventually find its way to us.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Soul Development through Handwriting – The Waldorf Approach to the Vimala Alphabet.

Recently, I followed a link to this blog which is pretty critical of Jennifer Crebbin's book, Soul Development through Handwriting -- The Waldorf Approach to the Vimala Alphabet.

I tried to post a comment, but could not do so as I am not a "team member" of the blog.

Over the last few years, I have heard tidbits here and there -- criticisms of Jennifer's book, and even that certain "Waldorf" booksellers and other vendors are choosing not to sell it. As mentioned below, I have not yet read it. (I had finished introducing handwriting to my son long before her book was published.) However, I DID use the Vimala method and I am a bit puzzled about all the hoopla in regard to Jennifer's book.

I have pasted the comment that I would have posted to the critical blog below:


I disagree. I have not read "Soul Development," but I have read Vimala's book, "Your Handwriting Can Change Your Life." I practiced it for quite some time before introducing it to my son in Grade 3 (who is now 13; homeschooled) after many weeks of running forms.

As with all children, my son's writing is unique to him (as with any adult -- even those who pursue Vimala).

I modeled leaving some gaps between letters. But at times he insisted on connecting and I did not make an issue of it. If you read Vimala's book, she points out that most people DO leave gaps -- they just appear joined.

It really comes down to HOW the teacher works with the students. And of course, the teacher needs to have a deep understanding of the WHY behind this approach. (I recommend Vimala's book for a thorough understanding.)

As with so many things concerning Waldorf, yes, the Vimala approach can, I suppose, be turned into a dogma -- as you seem to present it. However, it can also be taken with fluidity and flexibility -- to meet the needs of the children.

It seems to me the "spirit" that you mention comes from the teacher and the students -- not from any formula or method -- which are simply the tools the teacher uses.

Having not yet read Jennifer's book, I cannot criticize or necessarily recommend it. However, I would not "throw out the baby with the bathwater," as the Vimala approach is grounded in a deep, spiritual understanding and one that brings new thought and meaning to a habit that will last a lifetime -- even with all of our technology, typing and texting.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Opening Day! Wholistic Learning Resources

We had a wonderful opening day for our Waldorf-inspired classes at Wholistic Learning Resources. Our teachers, Rumi Gant and Marguerite McKenna, welcomed the children into the new space at the American River Grange in Rancho Cordova. Everyone, parents and children alike, were very excited to begin this new endeavor! A special thanks to my husband, Tim, son, Noah and friend, Carrie, who came early and helped get everything set up!

Once the children got settled, parents enjoy coffee, tea and snacks in the yard. We were blessed with beautiful sunny weather.

Two wet-on-wet watercolor paintings from the older children's class. Starting with an experience of pure color, the teacher gently guides the children into the creation of form.

Our Community Handwork Circle will begin March 8. Learn more about us here.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Announcing Wholistic Learning Resources

I am thrilled to announce the opening of Wholistic Learning Resources!

For many years, I have carried the vision of creating a one-day-a-week program to support Sacramento Area homeschoolers in their quest to educate at home with Waldorf inspiration.

Over the years, the vision has expanded as I learned about other approaches, like Charlotte Mason, Classical Education and unschooling.

To start with, the classes will be "Waldorf-inspired": Eurythmy and Watercolor Painting, led by two wonderful teachers. In the future, we will expand, adding more Waldorf-inspired classes as well as those from other wholistic approaches to education.

Please check out the site! I'd love your feedback.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Waldorf, Home Education and Learning to Work Independently

Today my son is working independently -- and I am very pleased! I can fold laundry, pay bills, make phone calls and whatever other household tasks I need to accomplish without feeling like I am interrupting the flow of our schoolwork.

But it wasn't always like this! I think for many of us, starting out with the idea of pursuing a Waldorf-based home education for our children, we can often be led down a path of more dependence rather than less. Why? Because so many of us (and more so with those who were previously involved with Waldorf schools --like myself!) begin this path striving to very closely emulate what goes on in the Waldorf classroom. Waldorf is a rather teacher-intensive approach to education; the teacher does a LOT of prep work in order to bring the subject matter to the students in a lively, imaginative manner.

However, when coupled with the home ed environment, especially with a single child, the student usually has a lot more access to his or her teacher. Over the years, this can turn into an overly dependent situation. In contrast, in a Waldorf classroom, the students typically have a fair amount of time to work independently; the student: teacher ratio simply will not allow for that type of easy and constant access to the teacher.

Seeing this coming, over the last year or two, I began looking for ways to move my child away from me as the constant in his education. So for instance, in 6th grade, I let Noah start with a computer program for Spanish. He has been using Rosetta Stone, a well-known good program.

Noah also wanted to learn to type. Now I am a firm believer in the student being able and comfortable with handwriting, but looking forward, I could see the practicality of him being able to type his papers by the time he gets to high school. (Even his best friend who is at our local Waldorf high school has the option of typing his papers.) So we agreed that he would still continue with handwriting, some copywork and some running forms to keep his hands in that approach as well. (I'm also a firm believer that if kids ARE going to use the computer, they should know how to type -- not just hunt and peck.)

Then since I wanted to be sure that his math was aligned with state standards (again, looking ahead to high school -- whether he ends up public, private or still at home), we went ahead and signed up for the ALEKS program. It is completely self-paced and standards-aligned. Noah can also see his progress on a daily basis and choose what area of mathematics he wants to work on for the day.

Science is an area that is not really my strength and we found another program with which Noah can work independently called Intermediate Science by Experiential Education. It is very complete with all the kits needed for the experiments, a Student Log book where the student questions and learns to write lab reports with a very middle-school appropriate set-up, and a Teacher's Manual. And yes, it comes with a CD-Rom with instructions to lead him through the concepts, activities and experiments.

We still do lots of reading, history, literature, writing and more together. He also reads literature and biographies on his own. Overall, I am very pleased with his progression to becoming a more independent learner as he prepares for high school.