Ten-year-olds are “out in the world” much more than they were even a year ago. They seek independence, objectivity, a sense of direction and spatial orientation, and empathy with others. Eleven-year-olds are poised between the early grades and the upper grades, having achieved a newly easygoing, cool, calm and collected demeanor—“the calm before the storm” (of adolescence).
The ten-year-old grows quickly. Limbs lengthen and grow more capable. At some point before turning twelve, the child achieves a balanced, perfectly proportioned stage of physical development, sometimes called the “Golden Age of Childhood.”
Fourth and fifth graders are balanced between past and future in terms of their ability to think, which develops rapidly yet is still colored and shaped by strong imaginative capacities. The uncompromising logic of the upper grades has not yet appeared.
How the Waldorf Curriculum Supports Each Stage
Fourth and fifth grades are pivotal years. The curriculum is increasingly wide-ranging and challenging:
The subject matter grows more intellectually demanding, but learning continues to be an engaging, multi-sensory, whole-child process that addresses all learning styles. The rich, colorful curriculum incorporates music, art, poetry, drama, crafts, and movement. Homework now appears, consisting primarily of creative projects, reading, completing class work, practicing one’s stringed instrument, or a challenging math problem.
- spatially, it leads students ever further into the world—from their local sphere of reference (their rooms) out to the continental level (North America), from where it will continue to grow each year until it reaches the global level by eighth grade;
- temporally, it leads them ever closer to the present moment—from an ancient mythological consciousness onto the stage of history, a journey culminating in the modern day in eighth grade.