The Christopherus Science Curriculum
Science in the middle years is one of those ‘uh-oh danger ahead’ areas of homeschooling—and this is true for conventional homeschoolers as well. Of course Waldorf homeschoolers have the extra challenge to work with material that is at best unfamiliar and at worst, totally opposite to what they may have learned in school, college or in their professional life.
Other homeschoolers have the choice between doing science at home and creating everything themselves; following a set text; or enrolling their child in a conventional middle grades program. If one wants to work with Waldorf when engaging with science, the choices are very limited.
As of January 2018 we will have the first two components of our Christopherus science curriculum. These are Physics and Earth Science.
The former is written in a ‘classic’ Waldorf way, based on two physics main lessons, the first on heat, sound, color and light; the second on simple machines. It is basically for 6th graders, but can certainly be used with older children. I did not write it with sections specifically for older students, however, unlike our second component, Earth Science.
Our Christopherus earth science materials cover geology and the structure of the earth; the weather; biomes; and evolution.
By spring 2018 we will strive to bring out A Year Of Astronomy; and Chemistry One (based on the four elements, picking up from themes developed in past years in the Christopherus curriculum and complete with experiments one can do at home). Chemistry One will be accompanied by a teaching video showing how to do the various experiments.
What is important is that these publications are sequential—that is why I am writing them all at one time—so that they fit together and reference one another. If any subject needs to be approached in a holistic way, surely it is science! It can be very daunting to know what to put in which publication because, of course, everything in science is interconnected – that’s part of the point!
Your child needs to have worked his way through Physics before Earth Science and Earth Science before working with A Year of Astronomy. Chemistry One builds on themes developed in the sections on geology, soil, water, and weather and therefore needs to be done after Earth Science as well. Chemistry Two (hopefully ready by 2019) will build on Chemistry One.
Whilst remaining true to the pedagogical reasons for why one teaches which science topics when to students, I am writing these publications purposefully so that they can be done with older students because I know not everyone manages, for instance, geology with their 6th grader. I am even creating extra sections in each publication so that 8th graders going on to conventional high school can become familiar with how science is taught in the non Waldorf world whilst also benefiting from the holistic way that Christopherus presents material.
Ninth graders at home can also use these publications and again, there are sections specially created for 8th and 9th graders to take the material deeper as fits their age. So while Earth Science comes in the sequence of the curriculum at 6th grade, our Christopherus earth science publications are totally appropriate for older (but not younger) students. Astronomy and Chemistry One are for 7th grade but absolutely appropriate and challenging for 8th and 9th graders (again, they are not appropriate for younger students).
The other exciting thing about these publications (except for Physics) is that each is comprised of a Student Workbook and a Teacher’s Guide. The parent-teacher still has to do a lot of work with her child—there’s no such thing as just giving a text to a child in Waldorf education –but the parent’s workload is much reduced. It is now a question of discussing together and ensuring themes and topics have been grasped. The workbooks are mainly composed of text that I have written directly to the child which takes the place of much—but not all—of the presentation by the parent-teacher.
Within the workbooks, the students are asked to draw or copy particular pictures and possibly label them; to record observations from a field trip; to look at a map and find and list certain things and so on. There will be space for reports and creative pieces.
The narrative addresses the student directly and asks her to do things such as look at a map of the place she is studying; to collect things around the house or to look for certain geological features during a field trip etc and then there are blank or titled pages within the workbook so that the student can record their work. It is a hybrid workbook and main lesson book.
The Teacher’s Guides are full of advice about how to approach and form lessons and to continue work throughout the year –proper observation of weather phenomena and the stars, for instance, cannot take place only during the course of main lesson! The Teacher’s Guides also are full of specific lesson plans; information about how a Waldorf (Goethean) approach to phenomena might be attained; what resources to use; how far to take the lessons; and what to expect from a student.
Please note that the earth science, chemistry and astronomy texts all contain sections in their respective teacher’s guides on working with 8th and 9th graders, including assignments for older students; what to expect in terms of work; research questions and study topics and much more.