The elementary-age child remains enthusiastic about play, yet is
also hungry to learn. S/he is ready for the structured environment and
widening horizons of grade school, and secure enough to stay away from
parents for a full school day. Equally important to cognitive
development is social development: being with others and working
together is as important as writing and reading! While younger children
may still be content to play alongside one another, elementary-age
children engage fully with their peers, creatively and eagerly playing
in many different ways, often developing their own rules as they go. The
distinction between self and world slowly begins to change, most
noticeably when the child turns nine and begins to separate from the
world and to question it.
The child entering the elementary
school begins the second seven-year phase of life with several
noticeable physical changes. The typical roundness of the Early
Childhood student is gone. The head becomes narrower and more
oval-shaped with each year, and the limbs grow thinner, longer, and more
adept at meeting challenges. Baby teeth fall out as permanent teeth
The intellect undergoes a
pronounced change between Early Childhood and the elementary years.
Elementary-age children are increasingly able to focus and form strong
imaginative pictures. Their memory is strong, and they are most open to
learning. They can recall and recreate what they have learned verbally,
in writing, drawing, music, or mathematics. Their intellectual
development lies firmly in their life of feelings; they learn deeply
when they are engaged through their senses and direct experience.
The child’s developmental stage is the basis for each Grade’s curriculum design and content.
In 1st Grade the children meet their Class
Teacher, who quickly becomes a beloved authority figure who the students
view with affection and reverence, and who will ideally accompany them
through 8th Grade. They also encounter many special-subject teachers.
The school’s Educational Support Group (ESG) is available to support
students in all grades in overcoming learning challenges.
In every grade, the Waldorf curriculum
features Main Lesson blocks in which the students concentrate on one
subject (for example Arithmetic or Language Arts) daily from 8:30 to
10:30 a.m., over a span of several weeks. At the end of a block, the
subject “goes to sleep” in the child before being revisited later that
year, or in subsequent years. The subject is experienced through
hands-on activities, stories, songs, color, movement, poetry, games,
drama, and other artistic representations. This dynamic, multi-sensory,
creative approach allows the content to come to life within the
children, making it a memorable and joyful experience and nourishing
their imaginations and sense of morality.
A widening range of specialty subjects rounds out the school day. The
delightful world of foreign languages opens up with playful Spanish and
German lessons full of games, songs, and poems. Practical Arts
(Handwork) lessons develop fine motor skills and concentration through
knitting, crocheting, sewing, and cross-stitch. Drawing, wet-on-wet
watercolor painting, beeswax modeling, and writing nourish the artist in
each child. Every day brings music: singing, recorder playing, and (in
3rd Grade) a stringed instrument. Outdoor play refreshes the children
several times a day and provides a foundation for social cognitive
skills—the art of getting along with others.
All lessons are taught without textbooks for the children, relying
instead on the warm and vibrant relationship between student and
teacher. Students write and illustrate their own Main Lesson books
summarizing the curriculum content. Every aspect of the Waldorf
curriculum emphasizes what it means to be human and whole. No homework
is given in the early grades. Instead of letter and number grades, each
teacher writes a narrative year-end report. There is no standardized
An aesthetically nourishing environment is as important to students’
learning as is their physical health. Classrooms feature beautifully
colored walls, lively chalkboard drawings, wooden desks and chairs, and
student artwork (visual, sculptural, and practical), all intended to
bring beauty and wholesomeness.