Waldorf curriculum works in rhythm with the natural stages of children’s development. Each grade’s curriculum is specifically designed to develop and inspire new capacities for growing and learning, inspire imagination, cultivate creativity, encourage flexibility of thought, freedom of expression, and promote problem-solving.
The cornerstone of the day in grade school is the main lesson, a two-hour period at the beginning of the day when children are most ready for academic work. Main lesson blocks are focused on a single curricular subjec (i.e. language arts, math) and continue on for three to four weeks. All main lessons incorporate the arts, and can include 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. Afternoons are filled with specialty classes of handwork, music, eurythmy, games and movement, and foreign language (Japanese).
grade two + three
Grade 4 & 5
The first grade is a time of awakening to the wonders of literature, music, knitting, movement, numbers and letters, painting, drawing and writing, and foreign language. The basic mode of learning for the first grade student comes through picture images, stories, and rhythmic movement.
Out of the wealth of fairy tales from all over the world come the picture images which lead to an introduction of the letters. For example, from the story The Fisherman and his Wife can come the letter W sprouting out of the waves and an F emerging from the fish. The letters are presented in the same manner as language itself developed – from picture to hieroglyphic to symbol. The children hear the stories, draw the pictures, paint and draw the forms, then write the letters. The writing of words follows letter learning, and from these words reading is introduced.
These same principles are used in the teaching of song, dance, circle games, and flute playing, as well as mathematics. Students are introduced to the processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, the qualities of numbers, and rhythmic counting. Concepts combined with movement, the imagination, and artistic activities serve to enhance the learning process and integrate the entire curriculum.
The second grade builds upon the foundations laid in the first grade. Learning continues through picture images, rhythmic movement, music, art, games, foreign language study, and handwork. Longer, more complex fairy tales and nature stories are told along with fables, legends, local folklore, and stories about the lives of saints. The animals in the fables of Aesop and La Fontaine illustrate the different aspects of human nature, whether noble or cowardly, vulnerable or strong.
Reading and writing instruction evolves from these classical stories and legends. Work with the four basic math processes continues and progresses to mental arithmetic, carrying, and borrowing. Multiplication tables are introduced through rhythmic movement. Crafts, games, music, foreign language and nature walks complete a well-rounded curriculum that focuses on the whole child.
Life takes on a different quality in the third grade. Just as fairy tales in the first grade and fables and legends in the second grade nourished the children, so do stories from the Old Testament form a treasury of sustenance for third grade students. The powerful story of the casting out of Adam and Eve from the Garden closely parallels the third grade child’s own experiences; she leaves behind the paradise of early childhood as she becomes more aware of good and evil. Third grade students grapple with their earthly existence through experiences of farming, clothing, housing, and social relationships.
The study of farming and gardening is a fun filled block that develops an awareness and understanding of the interrelationships of all forms of life. Planting, harvesting, cooking, and composting all bring a sense of wonder and delight. Making butter, grinding wheat, and baking bread are a few of the meaningful activities brought to our third grade children.
The study of animal and human shelters, emphasizing different times and climates, develops an understanding of animal’s and man’s creativity and their use of materials and tools. Students make models of shelters and frequently do some real construction. Practical domestic arts are visited such a soap making or the processing of wool from sheep to shawl.
The basic theme of practical life is integrated into all subjects. Students begin regular library visits and read about the things they are experiencing. Cursive writing is introduced and the study of grammar, spelling, and punctuation commences. The composition of original stories becomes the focus of writing. Students study time, money, weights and measures, all used as tools in dealing with life.
In the fourth grade students study the human being as mirrored in the animal kingdom, and they learn to feel in themselves the qualities that each animal has developed as its own: the fierce clarity of the eagle, the courage and enormous heart-breathing system of the lion, the open, sensitive feeling of the mouse with its rapid breathing, the loving calmness and powerful metabolic system of the cow and buffalo. The children can feel in themselves the balance of all these qualities.
But unlike the animal, man stands upright with free hands and can adapt to many different environments. He thinks and laughs, and he has self-consciousness. Several themes run through the man and animal blocks, but a common thread is to gain insight into the human being and to develop a love and responsibility for the animal kingdom. With their new awareness students will dramatize different animals, paint and sketch them, and write descriptions of them in their main lesson books. Consequently, the introduction to the study of nature and science is imaginative and artistic.
Also in the realm of feeling are studies of the Norse, Celtic, and Finnish myths. The mighty characters of Thor, Odin, and the cunning Loki move through Middle Earth to their last battle Ragnorak, the twilight of the gods, the end and the beginning of all things. As they listen to these powerful stories fourth grade students experience the same full range of emotions that they are beginning to experience and apply independently in their own lives.
Norse Mythology is integrated into form drawing as students sketch the weaving designs, symbols, and decorative motifs of the Norse people or the Celts.
Geography is introduced in the fourth grade, and study begins locally. Initially students draw maps of the classroom, the school building, and their route to school. They gradually branch out to their town, county, and state. Geography is experienced in a very real way. Students delight in stories of local towns, mountain ranges, deserts, great valleys, the coastal regions. Crops, minerals, and water resources become alive in these places, a part of their inner space.
Reading is an important activity in the fourth grade, and composition and grammar are emphasized. Math problems become more complicated and fractions and decimals are introduced. Cross-stitching commences in handwork and meter and time signatures are presented in music. Painting, games, gardening, foreign languages, and eurythmy keep fourth grade students very busy.
Greek mythology is taken up in the fifth grade. The debates and struggles of the Greek gods with one another are more complicated and engage the children’s mental powers more than did the simple, powerful action of the Norse myths. A constant theme of metamorphosis in the Greek stories — evolutionary, organic change in all things in dramatic and even unexpected ways — perfectly sets the stage for the fifth grade nature study of the plant kingdom with all its incredible changing forms growing out of one another.
Seed to root, and shoot to leaves of changing shape and size, to expanding flower petals, flower parts, fruit, and seeds once more. From tiny algae to towering oaks, a sense of oneness in the cycles of life is slowly felt. The unity of the plant kingdom with the earth’s surface is a major theme the children can wonder at as they sketch, paint, and write descriptions of the plant world.
The children of the fifth grade are crossing the bridge from imaginative thinking to the beginning of historical or time consciousness. They are introduced to the development of Western man as it evolved from ancient India to ancient Greece. They are given the flavor of ancient India and its Vedas, the Ramayana, the Mahabarata, and the stories of Buddha, or of Krishna. They learn of old Persia and Zoroaster, they relate to Babylonia through the Epic of Gilgamesh and cuneiform writing, and to Egypt with its mythology, monuments, and hieroglyphics. Finally, they take up the richness of ancient Greece: the Iliad and the Odyssey in story form (as they were once originally told), the biographies and stories of the Persian Wars and the Golden Age of Greece when history as we know it first began to be written down.
Also in the fifth grade, the children continue to work in geometry (begun pictorially in the form drawing of earlier years), up to a pictorial presentation of the Pythagorean theorem. They continue in handwork and crafts, often by making parts of their own clothing, needle knitting socks, hats, and mittens, and making toys such as animals, dolls, and doll houses.
In math, they work through fractions and decimals applied in as real and practical ways as possible. With geography, they expand their work to include all of North America. Colorful freehand map drawing helps them to develop a clear, personal understanding of geography. Composition work and spelling are also woven into the main lesson work.
Along with the regular class presentations and plays throughout the school year, woodworking, music, modeling, foreign languages, painting, drawing, gardening, sports, and eurythmy are all part of the fifth grade curriculum.