The Heart of the Curriculum
The two-hour morning Main Lesson is the academic cornerstone of each day. Main Lesson is taught by the Class Teacher and planned around a block system that lasts from three to six weeks. This unique period gives students time for in-depth exploration of mathematics, sciences, language arts, and social studies.
Textbooks and worksheets are rarely used. Instead, students create Main Lesson books that hold original writing, lab observations, and carefully rendered illustrations—true academic and artistic reflections of learning.
The beauty of language is explored in speech, literature, poetry, plays, and composition.
In the early grades, teachers share stories and poems, and children continue to develop a sense of the musical nature of language. The children's formal instruction in reading begins with writing; children create their own book of the alphabet.
Reading takes off naturally and an enthusiastic interest in books continues through the grades. Books are carefully selected to enhance the curriculum, and biographies help older students understand history and their own journey as human beings.
Students have careful instruction in handwriting, printing, and cursive. They practice grammatical concepts and creative expression through the grade school years. In their annual class plays, students explore literature, history, and the beauty of language. Compositions, reports, and oral presentations augment the curriculum.
Children explore the mathematics in engaging hand-on lessons. Daily mental math practice evolves through the grades, building students' powers of concentration an understanding of math concepts.
First graders learn to write Roman Numerals and Hindu-Arabic numerals, and second graders explore the concept of place value and borrowing. Third graders are interested in big numbers, even beyond billions. Weights and measures, distance, time, and money are also explored.
Increasingly complex concepts engage fourth and fifth graders: factoring, decimals, proofs, metrics, and more. Fifth graders explore ancient mathematical systems in conjunction with their study of ancient civilizations.
Middle school students are ready for more abstract mathematical thinking, and explore math in Main Lesson blocks and year-long track courses. They are introduced to percentages, graphing, and business math, and begin a multi-year study of algebra and geometry. Algebra begins in seventh grade and continues through a course in Algebra I in eighth grade. In geometry, the students explore the construction of the five regular solids.
Direct observation and experience lead to scientific discover.In the early years, before they are ready to delve into scientific terminology and inquiry, children experience the natural world around them. There are stories of nature and the seasons, and long forays into natural areas. Children also work with a gardening teacher, tending a plot at nearby St. Anne's home.
In fourth grade, students take up comparative zoology. Fifth graders study botany. Plants are observed over time and in relation to their natural environment through excursions into nature and imaginative descriptions.
Middle school students take up multi-year studies of physics (acoustics, optics, heat, magnetism, electricity, mechanics, astronomy); geology; chemistry, and anatomy and physiology. Students use scientific format to describe demonstrations; the teachers emphasizes clarity in illustrations and explanations.
Grade school students experience global cultures and historical themes throughout the curriculum.
Early graders hear engaging stories of people and places; mythology, folk tales, and stories the cultural heritages of the students. Third grades look at how human beings began living on earth; how they shelter, clothe, and feed themselves; and learn about farming, agriculture and house-building. They are at an age of some separation and identify with the practical nature of the curriculum. Fourth graders take up local geography, mapping the classroom, home, city, and beyond. They study California history and the geography of North America, then move to local, state, and continental geography and history.
Older classes explore world history chronologically from ancient civilization to modern times. Fifth grade begins with the ancient cultures of India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt. The study of Ancient Greece culminates in a multi-school Pentathalon. Sixth graders study Roman laws and create their own classroom laws. Seventh graders explore the Renaissance and the age of Exploration; by eighth grade, students trace the development of modern nations. Geography studies continue through the middle school years: Europe and the Mediterranean; Latin and Mesoamerica; Africa and Asia.
Precise mastery of forms – lines, curves, and shapes – helps students develop a sense of balance, proportion, and symmetry while improving fine motor skills, artistry, and mental picturing.
This exercise, unique to Waldorf education, begins in first grade when students take up writing and penmanship, and continues through complex geometric forms in fifth grade. First grade form drawing is an excellent preliminary exercise for second grade cursive writing. Lessons in the second and third grades encompass vertical and horizontal symmetry, four quadrant forms, and inward and outward spirals. Fourth grade continues with braided and knotted forms, and the free hand geometric forms in fifth grade serve as a transition to the use of compass and straight edge in sixth grade geometry.