THE CORE ELEMENTS
A Rounded Curriculum.
A child’s work in the classroom is the foundation of their schooling but there are many other activities and lessons which are essential to any child’s education.
Rhythm and Balance in Education.
The daily rhythms and timetable in a Waldorf school are somewhat different than many other schools. The day begins with Main Lesson, a two hour lesson when the children immerse themselves in one main topic for a period of three to five weeks. This block system allows the children to deeply penetrate the subject and explore it’s many nuances. This concentrated learning experience provides many creative and imaginative learning opportunities which also strengthen skills with listening, reading, writing, and artistic expression.
Following Main Lesson and morning snack, the children have more standard classes through the remainder of the day. We try to schedule classes so more academic classes are alternated with movement and artistic classes to create a breathing rhythm to the day and to minimize the possibility of over taxing and tiring out the children. Everyday and through the course of the week, the children experience a wide range of lessons and activities which enliven and enrich their overall learning experience. Teachers communicate with one another to coordinate their efforts so, there is a cohesive wholeness to the rhythms of our school experience.
Our focus in a Waldorf school is on the overall development and honoring of each individual and the gifts they bring to our shared experience. Of course intellectual development is very important but there is more to being human than brain activity and proper attention is also given to the child’s physiological growth and health, their psychological well being, and appropriate social behavior. Through the nurturing of inner balance, self control, and positive self image, we encourage emulation over competition as a life affirming human virtue. Competition breeds egoism and selfishness while emulation encourages a readiness to honor and appreciate admirable traits in others and nurtures an inner desire to be worthy of the responsibility that comes with skill and prowess. Emulation is a moral and redeeming force in life which brings us together despite our differences while the over emphasis on competition divides and separates us into opposing factions. The ultimate task of any education is to encourage success in every individual that they may put their skills, talents and insights to practical use to make the world a better place.
In addition to the more academic Main Lesson, the school provides a wide range of learning opportunities appropriate for each stage of child development.
Twice per week at the beginning of the school day the grades meet for an all school assembly facilitated by the children in Grade X. This brief gathering is an opportunity for all the children to come together to hear short inspirational stories, current event news, and on a rotating basis, individual classes offer a song or poem from their studies. This sharing time and singing together helps to strengthen our bonds as community and provides an uplifting start to the day.
Twice per year, the school sponsors a special event, Darpan, a large assembly for the parents where each class gives a presentation from their school studies. This very popular event highlights the rich diversity of the curriculum and creates an opportunity where the children can really shine as they show off their skills and talents for the whole parent body and friends. Presentations range from songs and verses to short plays and eurythmy to activities from math and science classes. The enthusiasm of the children and their determined efforts are fully on display to the delight of all and for many, Darpan is one of the highlights of the school year.
The P.T. periods are a time of out breath when children are happy to romp and play a wide range of games and even practice some Yoga. These opportunities to stretch and work out are a welcome relief from sitting at a desk writing and reading and are refreshing, energizing, and enlivening to both mind and body.
Fifth Graders have a unique opportunity to participate in a special event which is connected to their study of ancient Greece. The Fifth Graders from the Waldorf schools in India come together in a day of athletics and pageantry which recreates the mood and events of the original Olympic Games. These games are significantly different from the imbalanced competition of the modern games for the virtues of beauty, style and grace are given proper emphasis and it is not just the winner who receives the greatest honors. Throughout the course of the year, the children practice and train to develop and refine their skills and at the grand event every child is honored for their striving and their effort. The rich imaginations of the history lessons, the determined efforts and work over many weeks come together in a most memorable and uplifting experience for the children.
Students have regular opportunities to make use of our school library which is well equipped with books for all ages. Students learn basic library skills, accessing library resources for research and pleasure, and how to make practical use of the material available to them.
The sciences are a part of every child’s education and the proper use of laboratory equipment and materials is essential. Through phenomenological methods, children learn the “hard” sciences of physics and chemistry as well as learning the care and use of materials in our well equipped laboratory.
Homework Assignments and Projects.
Younger students are not given academic homework but are encouraged to spend quality time with their families and engage themselves in meaningful work to help maintain household rhythms. The children have worked long and hard throughout the day at school and burdening them with academic work when they are the most tired is unhealthy. Generally a single, simple worksheet is given at the end of each week to help maintain something of the learning rhythm of the week over the weekend.
As students grow and mature, they begin to take on greater responsibility and the assigning of homework in various subjects increases. It is important that they have developed the emotional maturity and sense of responsibility to properly complete their assignments with care and effort. During adolescence it is important that children have adequate time to develop literary skills, pursue personal interests, and have adequate opportunities to engage their growing bodies in meaningful ways through sports and games. We strive to find a balance between the demands and responsibilities we must take on and the needs of growing bodies and minds.
In addition to homework, older students are assigned special projects on topics of their choice. These projects help students to expand and widen their horizons, explore more personal interests in greater depth, and provide opportunities to surpass set standards.