The Waldorf curriculum awakens and nourishes healthy intellectual, physical and emotional development in students, and provides a dynamic, multi-dimensional educational experience. We educate the whole child - the head, the heart and the hands.
How will your child benefit from a Waldorf education? Our students are not rushed through childhood by academic expectations that exceed their developmental stages. Instead, our teachers cultivate a life-long love of learning with an academic curriculum that is developmentally-appropriate and includes appealing, hands-on activities. Our children learn by doing, figuring out problems and finding opportunities while building respectful relationships in an environment that highly values individuality.
What does this look like in a classroom? Our students are engaged both physically and mentally with projects that strengthen the logical and creative sides of the brain. They do not sit still for long stretches of time or use screen technology that limits creativity and learning capacity by doing the work for them. Our students also spend a lot of time outdoors for projects, recess breaks, and on field trips. Our property includes five acres of forest and provides unique opportunities to engage children in hands-on learning.
A recent survey of North American Waldorf graduates showed 89% are highly satisfied with their choice of occupation and 90% highly value tolerance of other viewpoints.
In grades one to eight, ensuring a broad and balanced education requires the collaboration of many class teachers, subject teachers, support staff and specialists, as well as parental guidance. Teachers cultivate the academic and social potential of every student and create a supportive learning environment where students are accountable for their own work and the contribution they make to the group.
The class teacher is the child’s primary educator and mentor, and ideally remains with the students all the way from grade one to grade eight. In this way, a deep relationship between teacher and child can develop, based on trust, respect and understanding and where each child’s individual needs are recognized.
The class teacher begins each day with a two-hour main lesson where the students focus on a core academic topic such as science, mathematics, language arts, or history. Each particular main lesson topic is explored intensely for a three or four week “block” during which students approach the subject from a range of academic, artistic and hands-on activities.
After the main lesson, each day is divided into four, 45 minute periods or 35 minutes for the younger students. During this time, subject teachers instruct the students in specialist classes such as French, German, handwork, music, eurythmy, physical education, woodwork, and visual arts. Whenever possible, subject teachers align their work with the content and rhythm of the main lesson. These subjects follow their own arc of development throughout the grades, again in relation to the growing needs and capacities of the student.
Class & Subject Teachers
In grade one, the students are stepping into a new developmental stage and they are now ready to learn the new form of working in a classroom environment.
The curriculum content supports the student of this age in many ways. The letters of the alphabet are brought to the students through classic fairy tales and folk tales which are chosen to the archetypical images and universal truths. The students hear the story, draw pictures from it, then discover a letter within the picture as guided by the teacher. The teacher also introduces speech work.
Students experience the world of numbers through experiential activities. They dance, step, clap and transfer this bodily understanding into appreciating the quality of specific numbers, their relationships in the form of times tables and work with addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. In addition to movement and rhythm, materials such as beeswax, beads, and gems are often used to support the students’ tactile understanding of mathematical concepts.
Grade one form drawing works mainly with the straight and curved line. It strengthens spatial orientation, and prepares students for writing and geometry.
In grade two, the students are in a period of change, fluctuating between reverence and mischief. Fables and stories of saints give them examples of the polarities they now experience. Trickery, foolishness, courage and selflessness are experienced as part of life and examples of different behaviour.
There is more emphasis on writing, and the students, guided by the teacher, create their main lesson books. The students practice reading from the board and their own books, and typically graduate to an early reader by the end of grade two. They will also have been introduced to upper case, lower case and sometimes cursive writing by the end of the school year.
In mathematics, addition, subtraction, division and multiplication are expanded into larger numbers and deepened through mental math work. Grade two participates in the Michaelmas play and performs the Martinmas play. Developmental assessments are undertaken by a teacher in the school for each student in this grade.
In grade three the child passes through their 9th and into their 10th year. This is a significant time in the developmental life of the students as they begin to experience a sense of separation from the younger childhood years in which they has been more intimately connected to their surrounding world. The students often struggle to find a balance between who they are becoming and who they have been.
As they become more aware of their individuality and of the world, the curriculum supports their striving by providing practical opportunities on living and surviving day to day, such as farming and gardening. The class is responsible for the school’s vegetable garden and supports the care of the school grounds. Students also experience and work on an operating farm on their first overnight trip as a class, build a large scale project outdoors and do regular cooking and baking. The students learn about textiles, natural fibres and clothing. In these ways they learn the arts and skills of living in the bigger world they are now discovering.
The language arts curriculum revolves around the Old Testament stories of the Hebrew people and their struggles in finding their place in the world and with their god. The students are introduced to grammar, sentence forming and punctuation as they begin their own first compositional work. There are weekly reading classes and they move from printing to cursive writing.
The experience of measuring during the building project and in baking and cooking leads into measurement studies in math class. The students measure the world around them, first in imperial form and eventually in the metric system. Time, weight and money are also introduced. The other major subjects in math are long division and multiplication, and carrying and borrowing with addition and subtraction. The rhythmical learning of multiplication tables continues.
Subject lessons for grade three include German, French, handwork, music, gardening and movement. Many students begin learning cello or violin in private lessons at the school.
The grade three class participates in the Michaelmas play. Their class play is often based on a creation story from the Old Testament.
The grade four students ease into a new stage of childhood in which they find comfort in themselves and the world after coming through a significant change. They are ready to take on challenges, are able to make more conscious decisions and take on more academic work. Their developmental stage is met in the stories of the Norse Mythology and Finish Kalevala. Students continue to develop their composition skills in writing as they work with these stories. Most teachers introduce formal weekly spelling tests. Recitation continues and more complex language is explored through drama and verse.
In math the grade four curriculum focuses on fractions. The students are given opportunities to divide things into parts that up to now they have experienced as whole, such as food, music, the class (working in groups) etc. The mastery of mathematical concepts from grade three continues to grow through practice in grade four. The experience of square measure might be added to division, long and short methods, and to multiplication and simple freehand geometry.
Students also study animals as they relate to the human being. They explore local geography and history, often spending a week at Black Creek Pioneer village, and taking a local overnight camping trip. The class has key roles in the Michaelmas play and does the Maypole dance at the May Fair.
Specialty subjects continue as in grade three, though in handwork they move from crochet to cross-stitch. The students who began string lessons in grade three join a weekly string ensemble and those who do not play strings participate in a recorder ensemble. Where applicable, subject teachers design their programs to meet the developmental stage by introducing and then increasing writing, relating their lessons to the current main lesson block, and doing more work in groups or ‘parts’.
Students in grade five are at a pivotal point between childhood and young adulthood. A reflection of this development stage is their coordinated, balanced and harmonious movements. Cognitively the students are more able to understand questions and phenomena in a realistic and reasoning manner. The celebration of their abilities culminates in their participation in the spring in the Greek pentathlon, an Olympiad event with other regional Waldorf Schools.
History and geography become separate main lesson subjects. As the students study the progress of humanity through many phases of consciousness they are led to see themselves and the age they live in as heirs of an evolutionary process that they in turn will carry forward.
In grade six many physical changes can be seen in the students: their limbs begin to lengthen and a tendency for awkward, angular movement can surface. These physical changes are accompanied by an emerging intellectual capacity.
Twelve year-olds develop a sense for cause and effect and they enjoy creating causes in order to see what effect they might have. There is a growing orientation towards the world, and peer values become increasingly important. Grade six is a year of dramatic physical, social, and emotional growth. Throughout this year greater emphasis is placed on strengthening the students’ connection with the world by means of direct experience.
Grade seven students move steadily into early adolescence and two basic characteristics accompany this developmental stage: a strong desire for knowledge about the world and a budding capacity for self-reflection.
Grade seven students feel a yearning for independence and creative exploration while at the same time wrestling with a certain anxiety and emotional vulnerability. The teacher nurtures their growing capacity for independent critical thought, particularly in the science and mathematics. The humanities encourage them to creatively express a wide range of human emotion. They are given biographies of striving individuals who have made an impression on the world and taken responsibility for their actions.
In grade eight, the students adjust to early adolescence. The young person seems more robust than in the previous year. The world of ideas begins to take on meaning for the 14 year old, and the critical faculties are noticeably sharper. At the same time, the elements of reasoning and self-reflection are steadily emerging.
A search begins for new authority figures and social forms and school subjects nurture the students’ development during this pivotal year.