In Waldorf education writing and reading are introduced in grade 1. Beginning with oral storytelling, a Waldorf child listens to and summarizes oral language. Then, using imaginative pictures of sounds (e.g. a snake shape for the letter “s”), the children gradually learn the abstract letter forms, and move on to phonetics, spelling, grammar and punctuation. After recording their own stories and illustrations in personal books, children learn to read from the words they wrote themselves.
The literary themes of the first through fourth grades are: fairy tales, fables, stories of the Hebrew people and Norse mythology. Fifth grade includes a study of ancient mythologies of India, Egypt and Greece. In grades six – eight, the literary themes are drawn from history. Sixth grade includes Roman history, seventh grade, the history of the Medieval and Renaissance period, and eighth grade focuses on the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, including the major revolutionary movements.
In the early grades, the math concepts of number value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are taught using a multisensory approach through the use of stories, movement, recitation, and art. In the third grade, skill building of the four processes continues and the study of money and time is introduced. In grade 4, fractions are studied in all four processes using story problems, manipulatives and illustration and all previous arithmetic work is deepened and strengthened. Grade 5 brings the consolidation of previous skills, including work with fractions, decimals and geometry. This work continues in grade 6 along with the introduction of business math, geometry using classical tools and simple algebraic manipulation. The study of geometry and algebra deepens in grade 7 and 8 with the study of bases, exponents, roots and linear equations as well as much practice with problem solving.
The study of science in the first two grades focuses on nature, life and environmental sciences through story, song, walks, other movement, class games and activities. The goals is to help the child feel connected to the nature world. In grade 3, children learn the practical study of issues in daily living with a focus on food, farming and gardening. Our school garden provides a lot of great hands-on opportunities for learning.
In grade four, animal classifications are explored via writing, illustrations and modelling animals and their habitats and their contrast to human beings. Botany is explored in grade five through the observation and journaling of changes in form and structure of plants. The life cycle of the plant is studied, as well as the parts of a plant and plant kingdoms. Science in grade six expands to geology, mineralogy, physics, and astronomy. Observation study and measurement of results is used to study inorganic chemistry, physics, and physiology in grade seven. To inspire an interest in the world and how it works, grade eight students study meterology, physics, organic chemistry and human anatomy.
In the Waldorf curriculum, history is not only taught as a specialized subject, but is thoroughly integrated with subjects as diverse as mathematics, handwork and singing.
In the first three grades, the content of fairy tales, fables, and stories of the Hebrew people underlay all of the subjects that the children study. The study of history as a separate subject begins formally in the fourth grade through the study of Norse mythology and local history (First Nations People and early settlers). In the fifth grade begins the study of ancient history and the peoples of India, Persia, Egypt and Greece and their myths, monuments and everyday life.
In grade 6 students begin to crave facts, historical events and time lines. They study ancient Rome, the fall of the Roman Empire and the birth of Europe in the Early Ages. Many important biographies are told from different spheres of life as students in grade 7 study European history. Through the study of historical facts and literary texts the grade 8 students get an understanding of the modern mindset while learning about the American Civil Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and World Wars One and Two.
Geography is not taught as a specialized subject in grades 1-3 but is included as part of the children’s study of the natural world and the environment around them. In grade 4 the children begin with the geography of the local surroundings and also study the First Nations culture in the area and how they used the land. In grade 5, the children study the physical, cultural and political geography of North America with a focus on Canada. They also touch on the geography of some of the Ancient Civilizations they learn about in history class such as Greece and Egypt. In grades 6-8 geography studies branch out beyond Canada and North America. South America is studied in grade 6, Africa in grade 7 and world geography in grade 8.
The teaching of two foreign languages is an integral part of the Waldorf curriculum.
A different view of the world and a different experience of humanity is imminent in the experience of different languages, as expressed for instance in tenses, tonal elements, sounds of vowels and consonants, rhythm, vocabulary and sentence structure. Learning foreign languages contributes to a more complete experience of mankind and the world.
In addition, the experience of a foreign language complements the child’s individual development by practicing the will forces and by strengthening the capacity of observation, flexibility in thinking, and the feeling of genuine interest and empathy towards other cultures. The experience of a different language also brings a deepening aspect to the child’s mastering of his/her mother tongue.
At Halton Waldorf School German is offered twice a week from grades 1 to 5. French is offered twice a week from grades 1 to 3 and three times a week from grades 4 and 5. All classes are 45 minutes in length. We are currently doing a pilot in grades 6 to 8 offering French four times per week as we explore changes in our French program to reflect the new curriculum requirements for French in Ontario public schools. We are not bound by the requirements but would like our students to be prepared for high school.
The Faculty, staff and students of our school share music in many contexts. During the school year, the faculty prepares and presents choral pieces for Grade Eight Graduation and various festivals and assemblies, offering the students a true gift of the spirit. The whole school community, including parents, joins together in song for festivals and meetings. There is a strong tradition of music in the school and all faculty consciously strive to bring celebration and learning through rhythm and song.
Music permeates the classes and all teachers bring music to the children. Class teachers bring music in their own way to students, sharing repertoire with each other that is connected to the age and stage of development of the children. Three music specialists also work in our school, a musical theatre specialist, who is our music teacher, and a professional cellist and violinist who hold the String Program. Children in grades one through eight receive several lessons per week from our music teacher who brings singing and recorder playing to the classroom. Students in Grade three through eight have the option of adding violin or cello to their school music experience.
Class Music – Singing and Recorder
Our music teacher develops a relationship with each class teacher, and strives toward bringing each grade level developmentally appropriate musical activities. In addition, the music teacher prepares the children and faculty for presentations to the school community.
Beginning in Grade three, the students have the option to participate in our on-site strings program which is held by two qualified professional musicians. In addition to their work with the students, our cellist and violinist each offer their musical inspiration by performing for school events.
Students may play either violin or cello and each receives a weekly ½ hour private lesson. In addition, string ensemble is part of the class curriculum in grade 4 and 5, and string orchestra for students in grade 6 through 8. Whenever possible, the music learned in string study is related to the classroom work to enhance the Waldorf curriculum being presented there. The ensemble and orchestra share their music with the rest of the school community at festivals and assemblies.
Movement has always been a means through which students learn. In recent years, educators have recognized that it is integral to children’s learning experience. Eurythmy is a rhythmical movement and is part of the Waldorf curriculum. We express music and speech through movement and gesture. It is the expression of language through story and verse that is unique in Eurythmy. For every sound we speak there is a Eurythmy gesture. It was developed by Rudolf Steiner as visible speaking and visible singing utilizing the whole human body as the instrument.
The students explore aspects of music and poetry through inner pictures. We experience geometry, spatial directions, and coordination (both gross and fine motor skills) as we work together in a group. The students gain in strength, stamina, dexterity, and agility as they bring movement into expression.
As the students advance through the grades, the material becomes increasingly more challenging and complex. We study aspects of grammar, arithmetic, geometry, music, history and many other subjects. While the students develop memory, listening, sequencing, and concentration skills, they begin to work through the pedagogical exercises.
The Eurythmy program is designed to support the steps of the student’s academic growth. The lessons reflect the work of the Main Lesson and reinforce the learning in other subjects. Each grade is met with age appropriate material, i.e. music, verse, and story which increases the students’ intellectual, artistic, and social development.
An eurythmy program is currently not offered as part of our curriculum. Individual student eurythmy therapy is available.
Movement education begins in the early grades with rhythmical activities, then proceeds to various games, the circus arts, the Greek pentathlon, and on to more competitive athletics and team sports as the student moves towards high school. Materials for these lessons come from the same themes as the rest of the curriculum. Movement education supports the abilities of students to stand on their own as individuals as well as participate in the supportive dynamic of the group, such as the Maypole dance performed by the grade 4 class.
In grades 1-5 children use beeswax crayons to create their main lesson books and learn wet on wet painting techniques in a weekly art class. Form drawing is introduced in grade 1. The above skills are continued in grade 6 with the addition of coloured chalk pastels, charcoal and calligraphy. In grade 7, children combine their math and art skills to create beautiful string cards. In grade 8 children gain experience with clay modelling and veil painting, with their final major project being the reproduction of a contemporary artist’s work using acrylic paint or mixed media.
Practical Arts (Handwork and Woodwork)
As human beings, we use our hands regularly in our daily lives. At Halton Waldorf School, our practical arts program incorporates handwork (grades 1-8) and woodwork (grades 5-8). Our handwork curriculum is broad and includes skills such as knitting, crocheting, cross stitch, hand sewing, felting, paper crafts, and machine sewing.
Many of the benefits of practical arts are obvious: hand-eye coordination; basic math skills such as counting, the ability to understand and follow a process from concept to completion and the ability to focus on a project for an extended period of time.
There are also more subtle rewards that complement these obvious benefits. Students must prepare and care for materials. Design and color choice allow for individual creative expression. Another, far-reaching benefit of handwork class is the social aspect. Students often work together on larger scale projects such as felted pictures.