Lower School: Grades 1-5
The early grades lay a solid foundation for the exceptionally rich and rigorous academic and artistic curriculum in Middle and High school.
In a Waldorf school it is traditional that the primary class teacher stay with the children through the lower grades. This lasting relationship supports the social and emotional growth of the children while also affording the teacher a deep and meaningful relationship with each child that allows him or her to understand each child’s individual challenges and strengths. This continuity also extends to the subject matter of the lessons, as the curriculum develops from grade to grade.
Beginning with the crossing of the Rainbow Bridge at the end of the Kindergarten year, when the young children cross over the bridge from the land of imagination and play to the “land of letters and numbers” that signifies the Grades, the class teacher forms a unique bond with each student as they are received into the class. At the start of first grade, the class participates in the Rose Ceremony and each first grader is paired with an eighth grade buddy who helps to guide the younger students into the rhythms of grade school. This buddy system has been known to foster life-long friendships and is a profound aspect of the experience of moving into a more academic environment in this close-knit school community.
The school day begins with each student greeting their teacher at the classroom door, shaking hands and setting the tone of the day with personal attention and a friendly greeting. This leads to simple exercises in movement and song that wake the intellect and spirit while integrating concepts of the current curriculum. This is followed by the morning lesson, focused on a single subject appropriate to the grade. This could be language arts or mathematics for the early grades, or subjects ranging from astronomy and botany to history and geography for the older grades.
Students learn their subjects in a variety of engaging and artistic methods during a three or four week focused block. Teachers employ poetry and song, music and drama, drawing and painting and, of course, exploration of the natural environment. Students become absorbed in the lessons; as they participate in the studies, they also create unique lesson books richly detailed with their own notes and drawings. These books chronicle each student’s progress as they are filled with careful diagrams, personal observations and other records of each student’s progress. The books are their own method of inquiry, their own way of interacting with the subject matter, organizing and exploring themes in a reflective context.
After the main morning lessons, students have time for exercise and social interaction, followed by a variety of subject areas with specialized teachers. Students take instruction in Japanese and Spanish languages, handwork and woodwork, physical education, music, and eurythmy. The studies are all creatively integrated, providing these young explorers a broad base of knowledge and gifting them with a love of learning that creates a culture of inspired academic excellence.
While each of these grades has its unique developmental benchmarks that guide both content and method of presentation, these years constitute the heart and soul of childhood. Core curriculum includes:
Key narratives from fairy tales, legends, fables, and Old Testament stories to Norse mythology, ancient Indian, Persian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Greek mythology.
Language Arts from the introduction of letters through progressing proficiency with reading, writing, and grammar.
Mathematics from the introduction of numbers, four arithmetic operations, and form drawing, through increasing complexity and application of skills in measurement, fractions, and decimals, number patterns, and freehand geometric drawing.
History from home surroundings to local history, California history, and history of ancient cultures through Alexander the Great.
Geography from nature stories to local geography, California geography, and geography of North America.
Natural science from nature stories and experiences, to farming, shelters, and study of animals and plants.