Grades 1-8 Academics
Unique Aspects of the Waldorf Elementary School
Elementary-age students possess strong imaginative powers, which become the field of learning in the Waldorf classroom. Everything from the introduction of the alphabet to the Pythagorean theorem is taught through the child's imagination with engagement and relevancy to the real world.
A Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum
The question behind the teaching methods of most schools is this: How can the child accumulate the most information possible at the earliest age possible? Waldorf does not come from this mindset. All children grow through predictable developmental phases and Waldorf works with these natural phases, maximizing the learning process at every step. Waldorf's rich and varied curriculum includes rigorous academic work as well as rich artistic experiences, all of which are appropriate to the age of the child. This fully integrated approach to education engages the child's head, heart and hands. Waldorf schools invest in human development, not simply brain development.
The Class Teacher
Waldorf elementary classes have a class teacher who accompanies the children for multiple years sometimes through all eight grades. The class teacher is the primary teacher for math, language arts, social studies and science. Teachers are continually challenged, learning new materials each year and developing presentations designed for a small group of children they know intimately. Class teachers have completed two or more years of specialized Waldorf teacher training. Teacher training is strongly emphasized because the class teacher will not only teach all of the core academic subjects for eight years, but will carry primary responsibility for the growth and development of each student. Children build genuine human relationships with their teacher, and the respect, trust and love that develop between teacher and student offer the security and support each child needs as a foundation to develop his or her fullest potential.
The Morning Main Lesson
In the elementary school, each day begins with a two-hour main lesson during which the main academic work of the day is presented. The subject (which can be algebra, ancient cultures, botany, etc.) is taught in a three or four week block by the class teacher so that the students may explore the subject in depth. This approach allows freshness, enthusiasm, memorable experiences and time for the children to digest what has been learned so that it becomes truly their own.
Main Lesson Books
Rather than use standardized, generic textbooks, the class teacher creates presentations out of research on a given subject. For each subject taught, students accurately record and artistically illustrate the substance and essence of their lessons in a main lesson book. Developing ownership and responsibility for their learning in this way results in learning that penetrates deeply into the imagination and memory of the child.
In addition to main lesson work, the students also begin lessons with their special subject teachers who will also accompany them through the grades: German, Handwork, Eurythmy and Games & Movement. Many of these lessons are integrated with the main lesson work. In third grade, each student will begin to study a stringed instrument and participate in an ensemble and, later, the orchestra in middle school.
--All grades curriculum information adapted from the Detroit Waldorf School