Monday: The first of a three-day lesson block

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Ever since I read about the three-day main lesson block over at Parenting Passageway, I’ve been hooked. It works especially well for us since we have co-op on Friday and Daddy’s day off is on Thursday. As Carrie writes, Waldorf is the only methodology that uses sleep as a teaching tool! So technically, our three-day main lesson block starts the night before, on Sunday, when I tell the story of the week at bedtime.

For Daniel, my kindergartener, this is usually a fairy tale, starting with Once upon a time and ending with And they lived happily ever after and Snip, snap, snout, this tale’s told out. For Nicholas, it’s an Old Testament tale or perhaps a fictionalization of an historical event. We don’t really discuss it or analyze it. We tell the story and then let it brew a bit overnight.

Carrie recommends the following for Monday:
Monday – Perhaps practice something from last week, perhaps Form Drawing, TELL new story and let it rest

As I wrote above, we tell the story the night before, so on Monday, I retell it and usually the child will jump in and help fill it out a bit. For example, Daniel’s fairy tale this week is Rumplestiltskin. I wrote some music to go with it for Seasons of Joy, and so at the second telling he is able to join in some of the songs.

You might note the emphasis both Carrie and I place on TELLING the story. I feel that this is so important. While later we might bring in props, like a story basket or a picture book, it is so important to have that first telling be an intimate affair, just you and your child. Tell it, as my oldest used to say when he was just little, “from your heart.” There’s such a connection when you do.

Because our main lesson blocks tend to be continual, cumulative projects—for example, last week Nicholas revisited the Old Testament story of Joseph and had a week-long project of drawing the map, coloring it in, adding a legend and compass rose, and then tracing Joseph’s route from Canaan to Egypt—we do break out the main lesson book on the first day. We also try to bring in some familiar elements from the week before. Not only does this give the child a chance to review, but it also places them on firm footing by allowing them to review and practice something they have already mastered instead of just throwing them into a sea of newness and expecting them to swim. Last week, for example, we looked at both a map and a globe (review!) and added a compass rose (review!) and interpreted the map legend (review!).

Now, Steiner’s original vision for the main lesson block was 2 hours that encompassed all the subjects with the exception of foreign languages. With six children, I do not have this luxury. So each child has an assignment sheet of work they can accomplish on their own. I do borrow from other educational pedagogies as well, so there might be copywork, *gasp!* flashcards, nature study, etc. There are some things we begin together in our main lesson but leave before they are completed, with the understanding that they will be finished later on his own. This is probably not idea, but it is what it is.

Our Monday main lesson has some other predictable aspects: choosing and copying spelling words into our main lesson book (again, this is something we begin in main lesson but he completes on his own, as he doesn’t really need me to be right there whilst he copies his words), choosing a poem to memorize and use for copywork, and introducing a new form for form drawing. We generally throw in some math review and memory practice in the brief “circle time” that proceeds the lesson. And if I’ve timed it right, we break for snack and come back for some math. My personal experience has been that math needs to be something that is done every day, although we do have some main lesson blocks where it is the main focus.

Please note that this is what a main lesson block would look like in my home for first through fifth grade. My middle schoolers have quite a bit more independence, and while we do get together in the afternoons I would characterize it more as a conference than a main lesson. They do a great deal of reading of primary sources, literature, non-fiction, and their Oak Meadow texts as well as experiential activities and projects and check in with me throughout the morning, so they’re not left hanging. I will admit that while this has been very effective for my oldest two, I anticipate Nicholas needing a much more guided learning experience for some time to come.

I do NOT do the three day main lesson with my kindergartener. I do keep the aspect of telling the story first on Sunday night and retelling it on Monday, but even though we have “Mama Daniel time” it isn’t a formal main lesson.

So, to summarize the first day of the three day main lesson block:

  • We begin the night before on Sunday night by telling the story at bedtime and letting it rest.
  • We retell the story the next day, “from the heart” and without props.
  • We draw in aspects from the week before as a review.
  • We introduce the week’s forms and spelling words.

And next month I’ll show you how we do the second day of the three day block.

So how about you? Do you use the three day main lesson block? What do your Mondays look like?