Our curriculum integrates arts and movement with a classically-based academic education to foster artistic expression, critical thinking, problem solving, athletic judgment, and sound intellectual reasoning. The Waldorf grade school curriculum is deliberately structured to compliment the student’s developmental stages. Each academic subject receives intense focus over the course of a year, is integrated with the other aspects of our curriculum, such as movement, painting, drama, etc., and taught in a way that involves the whole child. Waldorf graduates are creative and ethically aware young people intellectually prepared for the most demanding colleges, and eager to engage with the world around them.
Goals of Waldorf Grade School Education
Waldorf educators believe that education is a process of individual development and not a product to be tested. Yet, even with the process in mind, one can still look toward the academic and social goals in mind for each grade. Children stay together with the same-age group and the same teacher over the course of their education, grade 1-8. This long-term relationship pays off in social adeptness. Children learn to know themselves and to appreciate others. They become excellent problem solvers both through the benefit of long-term relationships and through many opportunities in play. They learn to be part of a team, to care about others and take responsibility for the well-functioning of a group. We value and develop the child’s strength of will and sense of freedom to take initiative. Handwork is only one example of that focus in our curriculum. Work habits are also developed, not through a system of grades to reward and punish, not through successes and failures on tests, but by learning responsibility for work.
Overview of our Teachers’ Essential Practices
There is a class teacher for every grade who teaches morning lessons and extra skills lessons, and may teach other special subjects, such as water color painting and modeling. It is a tradition within Waldorf pedagogy for a class teacher to foster long-term relationships with their students, through “looping” or multi-year instruction. Instructors at Madison Waldorf School begin with their students in Grade 1 and remain with the class until Grade 8, unless unforeseen circumstances interfere. In keeping with Waldorf pedagogy, we do not use traditional text books for instruction, but lead students through the process of creating a record of their work in an annual main lesson book, which they fill with writing and/or drawing from their lessons. Review of the main lesson book is one aspect of assessment.
Skills are developed through regular practice during main lesson and during regularly scheduled extra lessons with the main lesson teacher. Children are placed in a class according to age. Unless it is a combined class, birthdays usually fall within this format: the oldest children in any given class will have birthdays in late spring and summer. Our guideline is that a child is considered for first-grade readiness when they have turned 6 by June. Children entering the school in later grades will, in most cases, be placed with their age-mates rather than on a grade or academic achievement bases. Special learning needs, as well as unique talents, gifts and abilities are acknowledged through a variety of means. Parent teacher communication is essential when special planning is indicated.