A unique element of Waldorf Education is the use of a morning Main Lesson block for teaching core academic subjects. In the elementary grades, each day begins with a two-hour main-lesson period that is the academic cornerstone for the day. In the early grades the subjects are primarily language arts, mathematics, and form drawing, with new subjects including science and social studies added when developmentally appropriate.
The age-specific content of the Main Lesson is designed to support the developing child. Thus, in 1st grade, all of the core subjects are taught through the telling of fairy tales. The content changes as the children grow—in 4th and 5th grades the children learn through ancient mythology and by 8th grade they are studying the modern world in all of their subjects. The continuity of the curriculum, whether in mathematics, science, language arts or history, gives the student the capacity for perspective and an ability to exercise judgment responsibly.
The main lessons are planned in a block system. Each block lasts from three to six weeks during which a specific academic subject is examined in depth. The students keep thorough notebooks of the main lesson studies. They transcribe, amplify, and illustrate these notes in main lesson books that become more than a means of recording and reinforcing learning. The books are a primary source for further study as well an aesthetic creation in which students take great pride.
In practical and cultural activities, the teacher’s objective is to present all subjects creatively to meet the children’s needs at each stage in their development. Because the children are actively engaged by the participatory presentation, the lessons are alive and meaningful. Each student’s imagination is stimulated and disciplined.