Receive the child in reverence. Educate the child in love. Send the child forth in freedom. - Rudolf Steiner, Founder of Waldorf Education
Grade by grade, the Lower School curriculum follows the development of the child, considering his or her physical, emotional, and intellectual growth. This makes the educational experience relevant, engaging, and satisfying.
Ideally, the class teacher moves with the class from 1st grade through eighth grade enabling a deep understanding of the child as an individual and the class as a community. This continuity enhances the children's learning in both the academic and social realms. The day begins with the class teacher and a lively two hour Main Lesson which concentrates on one subject for a period of 3 to 4 weeks everyday. This can be a lesson on any subject: math, science, history, English, or geography. In these classes the students create an ongoing record of work in their own "main lesson books" which are filled with observations, diagrams, essays, and illustrations. In addition to the main lesson, the student's day is enriched with a variety of special subject and skills classes taught by teachers who are experts in their fields. Main lessons are indicated below in bold type. The number of times per week a special subject class is held is indicated beside the subject.
Spanish instruction begins in the 1st grade. At the end of 6th grade, students may switch to German or continue with Spanish.
Eurythmy, taught throughout the grades, is a form of movement unique to Waldorf schools. It is a graceful and beautiful art form where the participants move in a group to music or poetry. In Eurythmy, certain gestures or movements correspond to musical tones and sounds in language such as letter sounds. It is an effective and artistic means of helping children to develop body integration and physical coordination.
Music curriculum beigins in the 1st grade as group singing and instruction on the recorder and lyre in Grades 1-3. Each student chooses a string instrument at the end of 3rd grade. They may switch to a woodwind or brass instrument at the end of 6th grade. Private lessons are required in 4th through 8th grade. Students are expected to devote time to instrument practice each day.
Class trips begin in 3rd grade with a trip to a farm in upstate New York. Each grade takes a trip during the school year. These trips into the woods and mountains are designed to meet the children's developmental level, help them gain self-confidence, and encourage their connection to the natural world and to each other. In 5th grade, students travel to a Waldorf school within our AWSNA (Association of Waldorf Schools of North America) region to participate in an Olympiad competition with 5th graders from other Waldorf schools. Examples of uppergrade trips include canoeing in Everglades, rafting in West Virginia, hiking and rock-climbing in the south west.
English and math skills classes with specialists begin in 6th grade and continue through 8th grade, augmenting the math and English work done with the class teacher during main lessons.
Sports programs begin in 5th grade. Students may participate in soccer, basketball, baseball/softball, or cross country. In the early grades, movement curriculum focuses on cooperative games and fine motor skills.
Homework begins in the 3rd or 4th grade. At this time, the focus is on building good homework habits. The complexity of the homework and the time required to complete it will increase as the students move up through the grades. By 7th and 8th grades, increased academic demands may require students to devote an hour or so each night to homework. Special projects could demand time during the weekends for completion. The time required to complete homework will, of course, vary from student to student.
Student progress reports come in the form of narrative reports beginning in the 1st grade with the class teacher and each special subject teacher contributing their observations. These reports are sent at the end of the school year in June. Parent teacher conferences are held in January and teachers are generous with their time throughout the school year for discussion with parents. Letter grades are included in the narrative reports beginning in 8th grade. Students get ample feedback on their work in daily conversation with their teachers, through frequent main lesson book checks, and in grades four and higher, ample quizzes and exams. We do not administer standardized tests until the PSAT and SAT in high school. Our students perform above the local public school average on the SAT.
Parent evenings are held three to four times per school year and offer the opportunity to meet with the teacher and fellow parents to see the children's work, learn more about the curriculum, plan class events or trips, and build the class community.
Media exposure is discouraged for children in fourth grade and below. While we do not desire to monitor your child's media use, we strongly encourage you to do so. Children who regularly use media have more difficulty attending to and engaging in our curriculum. More information can be found in the Lower School Handbook.
Practical matters - Children may choose to bring a snack and lunch each day or they may purchase lunch from our lunch program for $5 per day. The menu is available on our website. They will have two recess periods each day after snack and lunch. We feel it is important for children to be outdoors for part of each day and so they will need the proper gear to be outdoors in wet and cold weather.