The following review is written by Teri Olson, a homeschooling mama who was kind enough to share her experience and expertise here. Teri has used almost all of the available Waldorf homeschooling curricula, including using the Christopherus first grade curriculum twice. She found the resource invaluable — I hope you find her comments just as helpful.
Christopherus First Grade Syllabus is a wonderful resource, especially for those who have never taught a grades child before. The book is written by the delightful and knowledgeable Donna Simmons. I found the book helpful in making the transition from years of Kindergarten at home to a new rhythm including academic work. Although I veered from her material frequently to suit the needs of my children, and to follow the paths that spoke to me, the syllabus was still invaluable.
It is divided into 4 parts:
Practical Considerations (Materials, Rhythms, How to Teach, and Storytelling)
Subjects (Language Arts, Drawing, Painting, Modeling, Foreign Language, Science, Math, Music, Handwork)
The Syllabus (Blocks and Day-to-Day Lessons)
The Stories (Various Stories referred to in the Syllabus)
I found the Practical Considerations to be concise and quite helpful for a first-time teacher like myself.
The Subjects section gives an overview of each subject. For instance, in the Language Arts section she describes teaching introduction of letters, writing, and a very helpful list of chapter books which are found commonly at many libraries.
The Syllabus section lays out the blocks and day-to-day lessons in detail. She gives an overview of how to teach form drawing, however forms are not given, as she has another book dedicated to the subject. The syllabus presents engaging activities at the beginning of each block to reinforce what they are learning.
Language Arts begins with Letter Introduction. This is the best part of the book. She weaves a clever container story of a Prince and a Wise Woman who are on a journey. Along the way they hear and tell other stories (mostly Grimm), and pictures are drawn into the main lesson book, such as a goose for G. The vowels are introduced as feeling letters along the journey. Both of my children loved these blocks and even my third grader wanted to draw all the pictures again when her brother began first grade.
The Math blocks cover the quality of numbers and the four processes. Donna uses squirrels and nuts as her theme. Now, I do not oppose squirrels, especially since you could weave them with a nature block as well if you wish, but I find it very difficult to draw a squirrel. I really do. Gnomes are much easier to draw, and I think the children at this age get more excited about them. I used Marsha Johnson’s very magical first grade math blocks (available at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorfhomeeducators). Donna also provides a delightful math block which weaves a few fairy talesand the math processes together, providing more opportunity for reinforcement.
Additionally there are some ideas for music, natural science, and foreign language, but understandably not enough to teach these subjects without more resources.
Teri, thanks so much for sharing your expertise here. If any of my readers have experience with one of the homeschooling curricula commonly available, or anything else for that matter, and would like to contribute to this resource drop me a line using the contact link above.