The class teacher is responsible for bringing the comprehensive Waldorf curriculum to the children. This curriculum includes writing, reading, arithmetic, and other basic academic skills. Over eight years, it also features fairy tales, folk tales, fables, Biblical stories and stories of saints, Norse Mythology, Greek and Roman mythology and history, the culture of the Middle Ages, the religions and culture of the non-Western world - India, Persia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, Japan, and Africa - local, national and world history, as well as zoology, botany, physics, chemistry, business math and basic algebra. All academic classes are infused with art to encourage creative thinking, inspire self-discipline and deepen the understanding of subject matter.
Grade School Philosophy
"Waldorf education stresses discipline and rigorous teaching methods. It is not a free and easy education. It may be artistic, but it requires a tremendous discipline. And by disciplining the will, through the curriculum in the classroom, children become prepared for life." ~Rene Querido
The second stage of childhood, from the age of six or seven until around the age of 14, is a time when feelings are of primary importance to children. Through their responses to experience, they begin to understand the world. The intense physical activity of the earlier years is gradually overtaken by a growing inwardness.
In each grade, a full spectrum of academic subjects is taught not only intellectually but experientially and artistically as well. The children's journey of learning and self-discovery is guided by Waldorf-trained teachers who consider each child's abilities and challenges individually and educate to meet the different developmental needs and readiness of each year of childhood and early adolescence.
The Arts in Waldorf Curriculum
Waldorf curriculum includes the full range of arts and handicrafts throughout a child’s journey through the eight years of elementary education. Between the ages of seven and fourteen, the child is primarily a being of feeling and sensory activity. The thinking and intellectual capacities are beginning to develop, but do not dominate until puberty. For this reason, all academic classes are infused with art in the elementary years- be it reading, writing, math, history, geography, botany, zoology, physics or foreign languages. This infusion of arts encourages creative thinking, inspires self-discipline and deepens the understanding of subject matter. Children learn to paint, draw, model with beeswax and with clay, knit, crochet, sew, embroider and to carve and work with wood as well.
Waldorf curriculum seeks to provide the child with experience, challenges, and content that are appropriate to the child’s age and stage of development. Through the grades, from an early, varied experience of tone and music, the child moves to the structured study of music notation, theory, and history, to learning to play a musical instrument and then to find his or her own musical path.
First & Second Grades
Experiences of tone, rhythm, tempo and melodic contour can be introduced. Folk music from around the world is especially appropriate and allows bringing together music and movement through simple singing games and dances. Songs that tell a story and/or involve call-and-response help develop vital listening skills. Modeling of musical activities, rather than formal instruction is the hallmark of this period.
Third, Fourth & Fifth Grades
Typically at this time, the child develops an interest in learning to play the soprano recorder, with formal instruction in the study of music notation specific to this instrument and playing with others in an ensemble. This is also the time when Waldorf schools introduce the strings program which is typically learning to play the violin or in our case, the ukulele (or both).
Sixth, Seventh & Eighth Grades
Continuing on with alto recorder playing, the teacher can introduce the more abstract and analytical aspects of music theory and harmony. Students of these grades are ready for the rigor and complexity of his/her musical life. Careful analysis of musical forms, technical mastery in individual and ensemble playing and more formal rehearsals are now appropriate. The study of music history through biographies of musicians and composers is especially meaningful at this time.
Drama achieves one of the essential goals of Waldorf education - to integrate thinking, feeling and willing. This is why in a Waldorf school, drama is not done only in special interest clubs by a few students. Drama is for the whole class as a part of the curriculum every year because few other activities address the various aspects of the child’s character so globally or in such an engaging way.
The task of working on a play together also contributes to the social dynamic of the class. Completion of the performance leads to a shared experience of pride of accomplishment, an experience that strengthens the bond among the students in the class. In a Waldorf setting, the dramatic subject mirrors the developmental stage of the class and often comes from the curriculum that is being taught that year.
Every child moves and speaks, however small the part, in a Waldorf school play. Each performance works to bring the child toward full awareness of who he or she is, and to give awareness and control that will eventually allow the child to take charge of his or her own destiny in life, a destiny that is as particular and unpredictable, and yet as universal, as the destinies of the heroes and heroines, the gods and goddesses of the ongoing human drama.