Waldorf education spans early childhood through high school, and, at each developmental stage—from toddler to young adult—addresses the student’s growing capacity for thinking, feeling, and willing (doing). This three-fold approach, which is sometimes referred to as learning through “head, heart and hands,” permeates the curriculum in an ascending spiral of learning.
The program in all grades also includes music (singing and playing the recorder progressing to strings and orchestra), Eurythmy (a form of movement unique to Waldorf education), Spanish, Handwork, Form Drawing, Painting, Clay, Woodworking (grades six to eight), Gardening, Drama, Speech, Physical Education and curriculum related field trips.
Waldorf Early Childhood programs provide children and families with a warm and nurturing experience. Free play alternates with group activities, such as circle time for songs, finger plays and games, movement, painting, beeswax modeling, crafts, cooking, storytelling and puppetry. Children experience all the activities with a sense of joy, yet each develops capacities, including fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and language. Daily outside play encourages children to engage in more active movement involving the whole body. The seasons of the year are observed and celebrated with festivals.
Grades 1 – 8
A class teacher typically remains with the same class for grades one – eight. In this way, the teacher is better able to assess each individual’s development, needs, and learning style—and the children, feeling secure in this long-term relationship, are more comfortable in their learning environment.
Fairy tales; folk tales and nature stories; pictorial and phonetic introduction to letters; form drawing; reading approached through writing; qualities of numbers; introduction to the four processes in arithmetic, and lower multiplication tables.
Legends of saints, multicultural folklore, animal fables, reading and writing, elements of grammar, cursive, and arithmetic, including times tables, place value, carrying and borrowing.
Introduction to history through stories of the Hebrew people, study of practical life through farming, housing, and clothing; Native American tales, reading, spelling, writing, composition, grammar, punctuation and parts of speech, cursive writing practice, higher multiplication tables, weights, measures and money.
Local Native American studies and California history and geography, Norse mythology and sagas, descriptive writing, composition and letter writing, study of the animal kingdom, and fractions.
Ancient India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece; North American geography related to vegetation, agriculture and economics, botany, Greek letters, grammar, composition, spelling and reading, arithmetic, including decimals, ratios and proportion, introduction to the Pythagorean Theorem.
History of Western civilization from Rome through the Middle Ages, rise of Islam, Arthurian legends and medieval tales, geography of South America and Europe, mineralogy, physics (acoustics, magnetism, optics and heat), botany, astronomy, composition, grammar, spelling, biographies, geometric drawing with instruments, and business math.
History through biographies (1400 to 1700), Age of Exploration, the Renaissance and Reformation, Shakespeare class play, African geography, physics (mechanics), physiology, astronomy, inorganic chemistry, poetry composition, grammar, spelling, literature, arithmetic, introduction to Algebra and the Golden Mean.
Modern history, civics, world literature, short story reading and writing, world economic geography, physics (density and weight), organic chemistry, physiology, and algebra.
High School Grades
Mathematics: ninth-twelfth grade track classes (offered by skill level) include algebra, geometry, algebra 2, pre-calculus, calculus 1–3.
Spanish 1–5 track classes offered by skill level.
Each high school year includes choral and instrumental music, Eurythmy, Wellness & service learning, and PE.
English/Literature: mythology, the novel, grammar, essay writing. Drama: comedy/tragedy. Mathematics: All ninth grade students—counting theory. Science: physics (thermodynamics), chemistry (organic), biology (anatomy), geology. U.S. history: Revolutionary War (class trip to Boston). World History: revolutions, history of art. Visual arts: black-and-white drawing, clay, historical drawing, basketry, woodworking, copper. Technology: introduction.
English/Literature: Greece and the Odyssey, poetry, novel (Grapes of Wrath), the analytical essay, writing lab, ecological literature. Drama: tenth grade play. Mathematics: conics sections. Science: physics (mechanics), chemistry (acids and bases), biology (physiology). U.S. history: civics. World history: ancient civilizations. Visual arts: watercolor painting, clay instruments, weaving. Arts/Crafts: watercolor painting, clay instruments, weaving, woodworking.
English/Literature: Dante’s Inferno, Shakespeare, Parzival, Romantic literature. Drama: Shakespeare monologues. Mathematics: projective geometry. Science: physics (electricity and magnetism), chemistry (atomic theory and periodic table), biology (botany and cell biology). U.S. history: Colonial period to World War I. World history: medieval history, music history. Visual arts: portrait drawing, veil painting, clay portraits, coppersmithing, book arts.
English/Literature: Russian literature (19th and 20th century), world literature, Transcendentalism, critical reading and analysis. Drama: senior play. Science: physics (optics), chemistry (biochemistry), biology (zoology), advanced science elective. U.S. history: WWI to present. World history: economics, history of conciousness, history of architecture. Visual arts: stone sculpture, figure drawing, acrylic painting, textiles. Senior Project: independent, year-long explorations of individually selected topics. Written and oral presentation.
Subjects in a Waldorf school support the main lesson work and are integral to the students’ educational experience.
Eurythmy is an art form unique to Waldorf education. The unique quality about Eurythmy is that the medium for the art is the body itself. Through gestures, students bring expression to poetry and music, working with beat, rhythm, and pitch, phrasing and dynamic, the musical tones and intervals. Eurythmy supports the development of a child’s healthy relationship to his or her body. By the time the students are in high school, they can perform Eurythmy to complex musical compositions and exquisite poetry.
Elements and Benefits of Eurythmy include:
- Spatial orientation and coordination
- Geometric forms and their inherent logic
- Rhythm and proportion
- Polarities of all kinds: lightness and heaviness, contraction and expansion, large and small
- Agility in the feet and expressivity in the hands
- Social collaboration and coordination
- Sensitivity to position of self and to where others are in space
- An appreciation for the liveliness of language
Second languages are an integral part of the Waldorf curriculum. In addition to the practical benefits, learning a foreign language helps develop the child as a human being. The children gain a sympathetic picture of the culture, geography and history of the countries and people whose language they are studying. In grades one through eight, the whole class learns Spanish. Students have two Spanish classes a week in grades one through seven and three lessons a week in grade eight.
In high school, students have Spanish three times a week. The goal is for students to acquire language proficiency and effective communication in the skill areas of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and culture. In addition, students learn to understand, appreciate, and respect cultures and civilizations of the Spanish-speaking world and to develop a broad worldview that will contribute value to their future work and active participation in a global society. Spanish classes are taught in mixed grade level, divided according to skill.
Working in the biodynamic garden provides students an ongoing opportunity to develop an innate, harmonious sense of being at home on the Earth. The children experience each contribution they make to the garden as a link in a long chain of contributions by others. They learn to work for the love of work, and for the sake of the whole rather than for personal gain. This gives them a basis for building true community. Other gardening themes include nature observation, development of gardening skills and craft skills.
Movement / Games
The Movement curriculum brings children into harmony with their physical bodies, building their senses of self, movement and balance in time and space. Grades one through five are led through games to aid in the completion of their physical development, which will serve them well in the competitive realm of sports in the middle and high school years.
The curriculum develops individual and team skills in fine and gross motor work with throwing, catching, running, climbing, gymnastics, circus arts and sports. Pentathlon skills are introduced in the fifth grade, archery in sixth, and activities in middle and high school include orienteering and track and field. The students are encouraged to develop new games and build capacities to organize groups, cooperate with teams, and umpire activities in a fair and balanced way.
Music is a core subject and permeates and inspires every aspect of our school life. Music flows through the curriculum, from music class to main lesson and subjects classes. Musical growth comes through experiences in listening, singing, playing, moving, creating, reading and performing music. From first grade on children also play musical instruments—Choroi flutes in the early grades, violin in fourth and fifth grade, and the family of recorders, developing into a full orchestra of instruments in the middle and high school grades. The experience of tone, beat and rhythm comes first, and this joyful immersion leads to an understanding and awareness of these elements and of the art of music.
Drawing & Handwork
The Waldorf curriculum reflects what current neuroscience acknowledges: the hand engages the brain just as surely as the brain engages the hand. Working with the hands improves many aspects of learning including fine motor coordination, visual processing, pattern recognition, managing and storing information, and the quality and expression of ideas.
Every day, Waldorf students work with their hands in multiple ways, including handwriting, form drawing, artistic drawing, painting, handwork and crafts.
Form drawing is in activity unique to Waldorf schools and one that provides an artistic basis for geometric work, mathematical patterning, and preparatory forms for letters and handwriting. Form drawing also includes precise instruction in the grip of writing tools, posture, left to right flow and sequencing. Visual memory and discrimination are other important skills fostered by form drawing.
Knitting and other handwork projects play an important role in the development of fine motor skills, inner calm and intellectual clarity. Handwork offers many opportunities for reinforcing math skills in practical, challenging and enjoyable ways. Author and Waldorf teacher, Eugene Schwartz, points out an even more valuable result: “We cannot underestimate the self-esteem and joy that arises in the child as the result of having made something practical and beautiful – something which has arisen as the result of a skill that has been learned. In an age when children are often passive consumers, who as Oscar Wilde once said ‘know the price of everything and the value of nothing,’ learning to knit can be a powerful way of bringing meaning into a child’s life.”
Note to prospective parents and students.
Please do not be intimidated if you are a newcomer! We frequently hear parents (and older students) express the concern that “my child can’t do those things; how can they be successful at your school?” Each year, we integrate new students at all grade levels, most of whom have never participated in these Waldorf subjects before. Very quickly they discover that, with effort and practice, a certain ability and style emerges from within. We believe that everyone is an artist and the focus is on the process rather than the end result.