“The Waldorf approach to educating the child strives to achieve rhythm and balance in every school day and throughout the school year.  The presentation of each subject directly connects with the child, head, heart and limbs.”
                               

from Rudolf Steiner Education – The Primary Years by Carl Hoffmann

As children enter a Waldorf elementary school they are guided by a class teacher who carries the class and journeys with them through the grades.  The children and teacher develop a deep and enduring relationship through their shared experiences of the main lesson curriculum. The curriculum in the grades is very rich and fulfilling.  It meets the children where they are in their development mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Main Lesson
The heart of Waldorf education during the elementary school years is the main lesson.  First each morning, the main lesson centers on one subject for “blocks” of three or four weeks in length.  This arrangement allows for an intensive, uninterrupted study.  When the block concludes, another main lesson subject takes its place.  The previous study goes to “sleep,” and reawakens later in the year.
   
The main lesson takes into account the subconscious life.  It is frequently observed that a child who may, for example, have difficulty in understanding an arithmetic problem will, during the next main lesson block of the same subject several months later, have solved his problem.
The daily main lesson follows the beneficial rhythm of breathing in and out:  concentration and relaxation, formal instruction and individual activities.  Thinking, feeling, and doing are kept in balance.  The teacher’s artistic, imaginative faculties make the lessons living and exciting. Rather than relying on text books that make for a common denominator, the students write and illustrate their own workbooks.


Topics

Form Drawing: Rudolf Steiner created form drawing; it is done in all the elementary grades.  The children begin with straights and curves, and gradually move on to running forms and freehand geometric designs.  Form drawing strengthens their manual dexterity, and trains the child’s sense for form.

Language Arts: Writing comes before reading.  The children learn the sounds and shapes of the letters of the alphabet through stories, poetry, drama, and many lively activities.  Reading happens individually when each child is ready.  The children read from material they have copied into their own books from the chalkboards.  (It is a phonics approach with rhythm, repetition, and speech.)  First graders make their own “readers.”  From second grade on, well-selected books serve as readers along with other material supplied by the teachers.  Most children are reading by third grade.

Arithmetic: The first graders are introduced to the numbers from one to twelve through stories and active counting games.  They learn to write the numbers and to count by ones, fives, tens, and so forth.  The four arithmetic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) are introduced pictorially, and are related to each other.  The children recite number rhymes, discover number patterns, and begin to learn the times tables “by heart.”  Developing skill through imaginative drill strengthens their abilities.  The work in arithmetic builds each year on what was done the previous year, so the work grows more complicated as the children develop new capacities.  Mental arithmetic is done daily in the morning exercises.

Nature Study and Science: Experience of nature is strengthened by walks, seasonal observations, gardening, and through stories that help explain natural phenomena in a living and imaginative way.  In second grade, Native American tales are included.  In all grades, the children spend a portion of every day outside, and are encouraged to become keen observers of the world around them.

Specialty Classes
Subjects needing regular practice — foreign languages, music, eurythmy, handwork, and games — are given after the main lesson, usually by specialist teachers and in shorter periods of time.

Music: 
The children sing daily.  They play pentatonic flutes into third grade, and then learn to play diatonic recorders.  Music notation is learned after the switch to the diatonic scale.

Eurythmy: 
This movement class was created by Rudolf Steiner, and is unique to Waldorf schools.  It is connected to speech and tone.  In the grades eurythmy is done weekly or in blocks.

Foreign Language: 
Spanish is taught through artistic activities, listening, and repetition.  The approach is conversational and very lively.  After the nine-year change, the children also begin to write the language.  The class meets twice a week.

Handwork: 
The first graders learn to knit on wooden needles they make themselves.  They knit practical items such as flute bags and scarves.  In grade two they learn to purl, and the projects become more challenging.

Woodwork: 
From time to time in the early grades, the children sand, drill, saw, and hammer simple items for gifts.

Drawing, Painting, Modeling Beeswax and Clay: 
These activities are connected to main lesson studies as much as possible.  The children draw on a daily basis, and paint once a week.  Modeling classes vary in relationship to what is being studied.

Games: 
The children have games class once or twice a week.  They learn to cooperate with each other while developing balance, dexterity, and coordination.

Gardening and Crafts
: Both classes are seasonal and complement each other.  When the weather is suitable, the children work outside, digging and planting in the school garden.  In the colder months when the Earth is sleeping, they work on various indoor projects connected to the seasons.  Each grade does different craft projects based on the needs of the class and the talents of the teachers.  Baking, cooking, and indoor gardening may be included in these activities.