Summary of the Needs and Rhythms of Each Age from Preschool to Grade Eight

Preschool
Theme: Rhythm, Repetition and Parent Modeling. Cultivate Parent Attachment.

A toddler longs for rhythm, repetition and activities which feel safe. As a parent, you should continue on your daily rhythm or schedule and then slowly add a child, or two, or three within your daily activity. Contact other mothers while your toddler is napping and arrange a play date at the park, or some other place where there is freedom to move about and nature or animals to explore. They key is that this is a natural event. Being a part of regular activitieswhich the child is used to is calming to the child. The mother doesn’t need to feel stressed that she needs to make a certain appearance and that she is “locked in” to a set period of time. This makes everyone a lot more comfortable, and when you are more comfortable and stress free, you enjoy the time more. Up until about 20 years ago, most children this age spent all of their time at home with mother and siblings. Play dates and groups are a relatively new concept.

The age appropriate behavior for a child this age is to observe and learn by modeling YOUR behavior. Toddlers don’t want friends, they want to do what you do! They enjoy hanging on your hip or standing along side of you doing the dishes, the laundry, going to the market, etc. These daily activities are learning experiences and a joy for children of this age to participate in. Reassure yourself that there is plenty of time for friends later. They will have the rest of their lives to socially interact with other children, and in a few short years, they will rather run off to play with children than to spend time at your side. Don’t worry about your child getting socialized. The same way they learned to talk and walk, they will learn to play and be social.

It is not just all about “playing with the child”. The child also needs to enjoy and learn by watching you work. Doing work that has to be done over and over again helps us to recognize the natural cycles of growth and decay, of birth and death, and thus become aware of the dynamic order of the universe. – Fritjof Capra

Kindergarten
Theme: The Bridge Between Family and Social Life. Cultivate Social Skills

The Waldorf Kindergarten is the bridge between family and school life. The Kindergarten child learns through imitative and creative play in a warm, homelike environment, using cloths and simple natural materials. Social skills are developed as children play side by side, listening and sharing and helping one another.Rest and circle time follow morning free play and cleanup. The teacher leads games, poems, seasonal songs and little dramas, which work in the children to integrate their whole being. A snack at the lovely table set with candles is preceded by a blessing, then everyone moves outside for playtime. Each day has an artistic activity which creates a soothing weekly rhythm for the child. Activities include watercolor painting, drawing, beeswax modeling, seasonal crafts, sewing and finger knitting. Hearing a fairy tale, acting it out, or seeing a puppet play completes the morning. Capable and loving teachers specializing in education for the early years plan the school life with the child’s special talents and needs in mind.

Nurturing and protecting childhood in a beautiful, warm, homelike setting is a key element of the Waldorf early childhood program. Reflecting a deep belief that child’s natural creative play contains the cornerstones of academic ability, the rhythm of the school day flows between lively social and quiet individual activities. In the first seven years, the child seeks to see that the world is a place of goodness. These early years are a period of joy and exuberance during which the child will absorb and imitate everything he or she sees, and during which learning will flow through the movements of the child. Therefore, the teacher seeks to lead the work of the class in a kind, conscious, loving manner that is worthy of imitation … and the child learns by doing.

Great care is taken in planning and providing an entry into school life that fosters wonder, joy and possibility … the early foundations for a life-long love of learning. The Waldorf preschool and kindergarten experience is meant to enliven the imagination and lovingly guide each child toward an understanding of the world … to plant the seeds for a successful school career and adult life.

First Grade
Theme: Ability to Build Vivid Inner Pictures. Cultivate the Imagination to Plant Seeds for Future Learning

All children are carefully assessed as to whether they are ready to embark on this journey. Are they ready to learn to write and later read and do arithmetic without thwarting some other part of their development? Are the growth forces all still needed for growing and playing or are some growth forces freed so that they can be used for their next tasks? The children around about seven years should have the concentration to build their own vivid inner pictures when being told a story, and through such imagery will continue learning in the following years. Fairy tales are told by the teacher then retold and dramatized by members of the class. This cultivates the children’s imagination. Starting with simple artwork the children learn to draw forms, which lead to letters and numbers. The four basic mathematic processes are introducedaddition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Nature stories provide an imaginative introduction to the natural world. These stories provide the basis for drawing, writing and the beginnings of reading and science. Elementary German and Spanish are introduced through songs and games. Even simple numbers come to life by the way they are presented. A triangle has a neat quality of “threeness” that is qualitatively different from a square’s blocky “fourness.” Numbers become more than simply abstractions in sequence.

Second Grade
Theme: Strong Likes and Dislikes. React Strongly to Images. Cultivating and Guiding the Will

Second graders are at the age when they begin to have strong likes and dislikes. Eight year olds react strongly to imagery in the fables and in stories of saints. They hear fables and stories of legendary characters such as saints. These stories teach of human fallibility and present a model for overcoming adversity. Reading opens a new world of words, and the children begin to master the multiplication tables. Second graders continue to paint and explore Nature, and present their first dramatic play. They learn to crochet and play the pentatonic flute.

Third Grade
Theme: Difference Between Self and Others – Where Do I Belong? Cultivate Confidence and Security

By the third grade, children are beginning to comprehend the difference between self and other and wonder where in the scheme of things they belong. To fortify their growing personal identity, they read creation and Old Testament stories. Around the age of nine comes a very important psychological change. The child has a stronger experience of its own individuality or identity (ego) and therefore begins to question adult authority. it may feel isolated from family and friends and therefore need more sympathy and firmness from teachers and parents. Again, the subjects given to Class Three are carefully chosen and timed to relate to this inner psychological change.

The Hebrew Old Testament stories give the nine-year-old an inner picture of the security of a God who looks after His chosen people. The Old Testament story of the Fall from Paradise is a vivid image of what the nine-year-old is experiencing in its soul. (Other religious traditions may also wish to add things here). In handwork the children crochet a hat, a visible form of something protecting them. In the main lesson they learn about occupations such as house building, farming and traditional crafts. How do farmers provide our food. Unforgettable is an early morning visit to a cowshed with its characteristic sounds and smells, seeing the cows milked, feeling their warm breath, tasting the fresh milk! Farming, housing, building, measurement, and mastery of
the multiplication tables and four arithmetic processes provide a practical foundation for scientific study and help ground the children. They go away together to spend a week on a farm. The study of grammar helps them to develop rational thinking. Each child takes up a stringed instrument: violin, viola or cello.

Fourth Grade
Theme: Individuality. What is my place in the world? Cultivate Awareness of Local Environment and Character.

From Class Four children have developed to a point where they can be led into the history and geography of their locality. Tumultuous stories of Norse mythology teach about character and individuality in a complex world. Children begin to learn about their place in the surrounding environment with the study of local geography and map making. They write their own compositions and increase math skills by learning fractions and long division. In music they must hold their own in playing or singing a round.

Students will complete the lesson block on humans and animals, which covers the relationship between the human and animal kingdom. The students find strength and comfort in the comparison of the one-sidedness of various animals with well-roundedness of humans. They create the figure of human form and then follow a detailed study of forms and habitats of animals (beavers, bats, lions, foxes, etc.) through poetry, clay modeling and play-acting to feel fascinating skills and qualities that animals possess. The students see the unique and responsible position humans hold.

Fifth Grade
Theme: Who am I? Coming into Oneself. Cultivate Awareness of the Macrocosm of World History and How it Compares to the Microcosm of Child’s Development.

Fifth graders begin to come to grips with the history of humanity with the study of ancient cultures from India, Persia, Egypt and Greece. They connect history lessons with their growing athletic prowess in a Greek-style Olympics in the spring. In geography they expand out to the United States and North America. In science they study plant life with botany. The math curriculum now includes decimals, percentages, and practical business math skills, as well as the introduction of geometry. Music, handwork and foreign language study become increasingly challenging.

The study of history brings the child into him or herself by beginning in ancient times and working up to the present day. Geography brings the child into the world by starting locally and expanding to the whole planet.

Sixth Grade
Theme: “Reality” – Thoughts Switch from Imagination to Intellectual (Cause and Effect). Cultivate Skills to Guide them in their New Thought Processes.

Children at this age are gaining a firmer relationship with the world they inhabit and want a more solid grasp on reality. At twelve, the child experiences another change At this age the thinking begins to change from the picture building of the child to the intellectual (logical or cause and effect thinking) of the adult. However, it is only beginning, and science makes a memorable gateway to the awakening intellect for the child in pre-puberty. They study geology and begin physics with the exploration of optics and acoustics and the properties of heat, magnetism and electricity. In mathematics they learn to apply the basic processes to practical situations. They study ratios and begin algebra. English covers the writing of business and personal letters. Geography covers Central and South America. Sixth graders learn about the structural basis of modern society with the study of Roman law.

Seventh Grade

Theme: Looking Towards Adult Life and Larger Issues in Life. Cultivate Awareness of Historical Periods of Change and Current Events.

By seventh grade the young adolescent is beginning to consider larger issues that will shape the course of adult life. Seventh graders study the major changes in civilization of the Renaissance and the Reformation, which are coordinated with principles of science of those times such as mechanics, astronomy and physiology. Geography lessons also focus on Europe. Math covers more advanced algebra. In English the students writing requires deeper levels of thought and personal self -expression. They play on the school’s boys and girls basketball teams. The arts– painting, drawing, singing and instrumental music–as well as drama, handwork and movement stay with the children through to eighth grade growing ever more complex and demanding along the way.

Eighth Grade
Theme: Asserting Oneself into the World. Cultivate Awareness of Powerful Historical Movements and Methods of Forming and Expressing Their One’s Own Opinions

By eighth grade students are ready to assert themselves more in the world. They study the American and French Revolutions and the Industrial Revolution and their consequences. They are encouraged to form more of their own opinions. They learn about the lives of key figures of the 20th Century and write a research paper. Science and math touch on such diverse fields as organic chemistry, meteorology, ecology, aerodynamics, solid geometry and algebra. At the end of the year, the whole class goes on a field trip to a distant destination. By the time young people have finished all eight grades at a Waldorf school, they understand something about many aspects of the world they inhabit. Words, numbers, and a cross-section of the sciences have been covered. Many subjects have been coordinated with one another so that the student comprehends how different aspects of the world fit together. Most have been introduced through the arts, so that he or she knows them on a feeling as well as purely intellectual level. The young person is prepared, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to face young adulthood with enthusiasm and confidence.

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