Fundamental to Waldorf education is the insight that children learn differently at different stages of development. This means that the curriculum of each grade is carefully chosen to work in harmony with the phases of the child’s inner development. It is designed to give children meaningful experiences at every age. Waldorf teachers create living, hands-on lessons that are brought with imagination and artistry.
The cornerstone of the day is the Main Lesson, a two-hour period in the morning when the children are most ready for academic work. Main Lesson blocks usually last from two to four weeks and focus on one subject. All Main Lessons incorporate the arts, including storytelling, movement, music, poetry, drama, drawing, painting, modeling, reading, and writing. Students record and illustrate their lessons in Main Lesson books that are treasured for years.
Ideally, class teachers remain with the same class throughout their five elementary years. As a result, the teacher and students build close, secure relationships that can accommodate individual needs and the teacher-parent relationship is a true partnership. Specialty teachers provide instruction in foreign languages, games and sports, practical skills, crafts, musical instruments and chorus.
Waldorf unlocks the beauty, the mystery and the romance of the world in such a way, a child can’t help falling in love with it. ~ Marjorie Spock
Humanities and History
The humanities curriculum draws on rich and diverse cultural sources with a progression from fairy tales, fables, legends and Old Testament stories in the early grades to the study of Norse Mythology in the 4th grade and the ancient cultures of India, Persia, Egypt and Greece in the fifth grade. Out of these rich stories, teachers draw their reading, writing and even math lessons so that learning is integrated and whole. A class trip is taken at the end of 5th grade to a Greek Olympics held in a different Waldorf school in the southeastern part of the United States each year. All year the students practice javelin throwing, discus throwing, Greek wrestling, racing and broad jumping for the ceremonial event.
Science in the early grades is brought pictorially through nature stories. As the young children play outside everyday they develop a loving connection with all of nature and this love of all living things is the inspiration for learning with all their hearts the subjects of zoology and botany in the 4th and 5th grades. In third grade children study farming in all its aspects and this serves as their science curriculum. The children spend a week away from home with their teacher at a local farm where they gain a hands-on experience of what it means to be a farmer.
Children start with the tradition of storytelling. They learn letters through their own imaginations and pictures in nature. They write and illustrate from stories they’ve been told, creating their own books and readers. Later poetry, creative writing, composition, grammar, spelling, oral storytelling, drama, and reading literature are interwoven throughout the curriculum.
Children are taught both Spanish and German from the 1st grade. Foreign languages are taught conversationally by native speakers. The children learn songs, games, simple names of things all orally and then begin to write and learn grammar in 3rd grade. The purpose of learning the foreign languages is to instill in children an interest and a deep respect for other cultures
Children first encounter the world of numbers through stories, musical rhythms and artistic activities, before gaining skills in abstract reasoning. They practice mental math and discover geometry in themselves and the world. They learn all four processes beginning in first grade using manipulatives. Work is done during the first three years to commit the number facts to memory in a rhythmical way. By the end of third grade, children are expected to know the multiplication tables randomly.
Children’s first explorations are close to home, examining their classroom, the school grounds, then the local community, state and region. Eventually they expand to the North American continent in grade 5. Modeling, drawing and painting maps is an integral part of this subject.
Performing Arts and Fine and Practical Arts
Music permeates life in a Waldorf School. Children sing every day. Beginning in the first grade all students receive education in vocal and instrumental music, both in dedicated classes and in activities integrated into the study of academic subjects. Children learn the pentatonic flute in first grade and then advance to the diatonic flute in grade 3. Every class presents a year-end play to the school that is based on the curriculum of their particular grade.
Students learn to knit, crochet, embroider and sew, model with clay and work with wood. Painting and drawing are integrated into the entire academic curriculum, including mathematics and the sciences to bring vitality to learning and promote patience, perseverance and creative thinking.
Spatial awareness, strength and coordination, healthy social interaction and cooperation, and a joy in movement are fostered in games classes, eurythmy (an art of movement unique to Waldorf schools) and in the daily recess periods where the children are allowed to run and play (rain or shine).
“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think” – Albert Einstein