Curriculum

Insights into the Curriculum

The Waldorf curriculum includes science, mathematics, humanities, language arts, geography, visual arts, foreign language, music, handwork, and physical education.  The integration of these subjects is a main tenet of Waldorf education, thereby providing the child a balanced and enriching educational experience.  The curriculum is conveyed with the hope of awakening within each child a love for, and interest in, the world.

Food

Please ensure that your child eats a healthy and substantial breakfast before coming to school.  Grade school students also need a substantial lunch every day, as well as snacks.  For food at school, we ask that you provide homemade fare rather than pre-packaged lunch products.  Sandwiches, leftovers, soup, etc. as well as fresh vegetables and fruits sent in reusable containers are best for school.  Be discriminating in your choice of food: diet and behavior can often be linked.

Sleep

Waldorf Education seeks to nourish the whole child, and only part of this nourishment occurs during waking hours.  A rich sleep experience is essential.  What children receive at school and during their waking hours is taken into their sleep life.  They need the time of sleep to help this become fully integrated into themselves.  Most children need at least nine or ten hours of sleep at night.  A child’s sleep is as important as is her awakening to a new day ready for life and learning.

Rhythm

Establishing healthy daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms is an essential consideration in the Waldorf approach to education.  The creation of a daily rhythm insures a balance of academic, artistic, and hands-on work in the structure of the day.  An important way parents can link school and home is through the establishment of a regular routine for meals, play, housekeeping tasks, and bedtime. Children flourish in environments that are not only loving, but are also predictable. Just knowing what is expected at different intervals during the day can help children feel safe and secure in the world.

Media

In our school, we make a conscious choice not to use electronic screen tools of instruction in the younger grades, since we want to encourage direct experience with the world rather than a world mediated by electronics.  The entire purpose of the Steiner-inspired curriculum is to engage the will and imagination of the student directly.  This practice is well-supported by research studies indicating the negative neurological impacts of screen-time for young children.

We also believe that it is very important that children have time to be actively involved in a variety of home projects, reading, and unstructured indoor and outdoor play.  Engaging in electronic entertainment reduces the time spent on personally creative activities that nurture intelligence.

Real multi-sensory experiences are the seeds of imagination and creativity, and the foundation of healthy neurological development.  It is important that your child be able to absorb the curriculum of the day, without electronic interference, in order to integrate and process it during sleeping hours.  Allowing your child to awake and attend to the tasks of the morning without the stimulation of electronic media will enhance their ability to focus and become immersed in the day’s curriculum.

In support of the education of your child, the faculty request that our families consciously and significantly reduce or eliminate the use of media for children.  We realize that limiting or eliminating media from your child’s life might be challenging in today’s world.  However, with support and community effort, families often find that more free time means more creative play and more quality time together.

The essence of science instruction in Waldorf schools is focusing on phenomena, such as the behavior of an animal or the formation of a snow flake.  By engaging children in pure phenomena first, they develop a sense of wonder, interest, love, and enthusiasm for the natural world.  These are later transformed into true care and stewardship for nature, as well as a genuine scientific interest in the world.

The study of nature in the early grades takes the form of stories and exploration.  While the children are still young and their consciousness is a participatory one, nature is brought alive: the waters and winds sing, plants and animals play and even argue, and the seasons are personified into qualitative characters.  As the children grow older, they experience not only wild nature, but the practical relations humans have with nature through gardening, farming, housing, building, and textiles.

The approach to science becomes more objective and abstract as the children mature.  The studies of animals, plants, stones, and stars in the progressing curriculum allow for natural history awareness and observation to develop with wonder and clarity.  In grades six, seven and eight, as the student’s abstract conceptual ability awakens, the sciences are presented with increasing rigor and discipline, adding physics, chemistry, physiology, and earth studies.  A phenomenological approach extends into exploration of evidence-based explanations, hypotheses, laws, concepts, and formulae, as well as the ability to ponder true mysteries that form the seeds of scientific exploration.

The mathematics curriculum introduces mathematical concepts from practical reality and imaginative pictures in developmentally appropriate ways.  The four processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are presented in the first grade with the qualitative character of each woven into imaginative games, stories, and exercises.  Rhythm, movement, and counting patterns involve the whole body in understanding and integrating math concepts.  Extended practice, mental arithmetic, and patterns (including multiplication tables) continue throughout the grades.  With growing complexity, concepts, and examples, the themes expand into fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios, powers, and algebra throughout the eighth grade.  The teacher is sensitive to each student’s ability and encourages each child to work to his or her fullest mathematical potential.

The goals of teaching mathematics are:

  • To create favorable attitude toward and stimulate interest in mathematics
  • To lay a sound foundation for future studies
  • To develop:
    1. Competency in fundamental ideas of numbers, measurements, and shapes
    2. Knowledge of language and relationships
    3. Skill in computation and concept application
    4. Problem solving in mental and written form
  • To show the contribution and historical development of mathematics
  • To develop an age appropriate transition from concrete and imaginative picture thinking to abstract concept development
  • To assist the child in making mathematics his or her own

The story of humanity is told throughout the grades.  Through the imaginative and artistic rendering in the oral tradition of story telling, these great cultural tales reflect the evolving human consciousness and are conveyed at specific times according to the appropriate developmental stages of the child.

These stories include:

  • Kindergarten: Fairy tales
  • Grade 1: Fairy and folk tales
  • Grade 2: Legends of noble people, and fables
  • Grade 3: The history of the Hebrew people as told through the Old Testament
  • Grade 4: Norse mythology,  and Native American myths and legends
  • Grade 5: Ancient Indian, Persian, Egyptian and Greek mythology, and the Golden Age of Greece up to the time of Alexander the Great
  • Grade 6: Roman mythology and history, Arthurian and Grail Legends, and the Middle Ages
  • Grade 7: Renaissance history, Ancient Cultures of Africa, Asia, and the Americas,  Voyages of Discovery
  • Grade 8: The American, French and Industrial Revolutions, United States history, and modern world history.

The humanities are the basis from which many other curriculum studies arise.  From these studies stem a multitude of opportunities for developing self expression.

Historically, writing arose among humanity from picture writing and hieroglyphics.  Accordingly, writing develops in the first grade from pictorial representations.  In learning to form the different letters, the whole body is brought into action in walking, marching, running, and whole arm movements.  The children then learn to read from their own writing.  In Waldorf schools, encoding is taught before decoding, that is, children learn to write first, then read their own and others’ writing.  In this way, each child has a very direct relationship to the meaning of each symbol they learn to read.

Through the practice and repetition of writing complete words and sentences, children learn to read in a lively and self-creating fashion.  This is followed by an introduction to reading books, and gradually the students read to learn as the rich world of literature opens up to the students.  Main Lesson themes serve as inspiration for literature, and as the years pass, children inspire each other through animated sharing of their favorite books and their own book reports.  Reading comprehension is further fostered by thoughtful class conversation and assignments.

Beauty is encouraged in the written word, both in meaning and in appearance.  Printing is followed by cursive in second and third grade, and calligraphy or italic writing is taught in the upper grades.  By writing poems and stories, by composing descriptions of their own experiences, and by scripting dictations from the teacher, the children’s writing activities intensify through the years as they achieve fluency and confidence.  In grade four, grammar lessons accompany this increasing skill as the teacher gradually makes the students aware of language principles that have hitherto been unconscious.  Composition styles are developed in the older grades, as well as report writing, which the students gradually incorporate into the main lesson work, as well as special projects and assignments.

Speech is primary in all language skills.  Accurate listening is fundamental to accurate speaking, and both lead to better spelling and sentence construction.  Speech patterns form the basis for clear thinking processes.  Research indicates that the pictorial nature and mental imagery associated with the listening to and telling of stories is characteristic of creative as well as logical thinking.  Therefore, Waldorf teachers place extraordinary importance on teaching in the oral traditions of lively storytelling, rich recitation, and active sharing by students.  Through example and friendly guidance, children’s speaking and listening habits are cultivated, and greater attention spans are developed.  All of these capacities are broadly fostered throughout the grades.  While the kindergarten and younger grades include more recitation and poems, the older grades utilize individual oral speaking as well as choral work.

Geography offers qualities of wholeness and ecology: it connects land, climate, and ecosystems with human nature.  It unites the sciences, humanities and arts.  As it is clearly an integration of several subjects, each teacher will approach this somewhat differently.  With the world economy, communications, and global concerns, the teacher of geography is more important than ever before.

Geography is taught in step with developmental levels of the children.  In the kindergarten and early grades stories, songs, poems, exploration, art, and games awaken loving interest in the surroundings.  Practical aspects of the community and land are fostered in gardening, farming, clothing, building, and cooking.  The formal study of geography begins with pictorial/descriptive approach beginning locally.  Children draw and shape simple maps with landscape features artistically represented while local history and contemporary elemental are woven into the lessons.  The curriculum expands from the immediate community to state, regional, national, and global studies.  Economic geography and regional living conditions are presented, with the close relationship between humans and nature highlighted.  In the upper grades, the great sweeps of history are tied to the colorful characteristics of the sea and land with their respective environmental influences on civilizations.  Students become versed in the technical aspects of map making and reading as well as global phenomena such as oceans currents, climate and weather.  Feelings of social responsibility and international goodwill are awakened through focusing on many different cultures and lands around the world.  Gradually, a sense that the earth is “home” matures into a thoughtful understanding and interest in the broader word.

Starting in the first grade, Mountain Song students learn Spanish by imitating not only the outer sounds and tones of the new language, but also its inner soul element.  When learning another language, the process itself demands lateral (versus linear) thinking and influences the flexibility and development of the speech organs.  In the older grades, written work, grammar, and syntax are emphasized as well.  The world language curriculum also strives to nurture within the child an interest in and an understanding of other people and their cultures.

“Joy and happiness in living, a love for all existence, a power and
Energy for work, such are the life results of a right cultivation of
the feeling for beauty and for art.”

~Rudolf Steiner
The visual arts program is an integral part of the total curriculum.  In the kindergarten and younger grades a sense for color is carefully cultivated as a fundamental training in aesthetics.  Through the wet-on-wet watercolor painting technique, the students experience a personal sense for the nature of each color.  Children learn balance and harmony in blending the colors, as well as flexibility.  Teachers gradually guide the students in creating form out of the colors themselves.

Drawings are created with large block and stick crayons in the kindergarten and younger grades, followed by stick crayons and colored pencils, as the children grow older.  The tools become more refined as do the children’s motor skills.  The specific subject of form drawing develops the sense for lines and curves.  Symmetry, balance, centering, rhythmical repetition, patterns, and metamorphosis are all experienced through form drawing.

“Modeling can help to overcome the problem of passive taking of sense perception so prevalent in today’s world, by bringing about a lovely, healthy connection between the three realms of thinking, feeling, and willing.”

~Rudolf Steiner
Through the media of beeswax, plasticine, clay, and wood, children develop a tangible sense of form.  By molding and shaping with fingers and hands, pupils gain a tactile, spatial orientation to their environment.  Neurologists indicate the importance of this in such diverse realms as reading and mechanics.  Students also cultivate a qualitative feeling for different natural substances and thus refine and integrate their many senses, which come into play such as touch, warmth, smell, weight, movement and balance. Modeling is an activity that strengthens attention span and imaginative creativity as well as practical skill.

Music permeates a Waldorf school and is taught not only for its own sake and the joy it engenders but also for the strong harmonizing and humanizing force it brings into a students life.  In the Waldorf School, each student is given the opportunity to experience great richness and variety of music.  We strive to give students a “live” music experience where feeling and understanding of the beauty of musical work is cultivated.  The teachers sing with the children from the earliest years, and singing remains a vital part of the child’s education throughout the grades. 

“Nimble finger make nimble minds!” This old cliché refers to the mysterious link between hands on activity and thinking, which contemporary child development specialists now recognize as well.  Handwork activities such as spinning, knitting, hand stitching, embroidery, crochet, weaving, doll and puppet making, papermaking, clothing construction, form the handwork curriculum.  In designing and creating handwork pieces children develop a sense of color, concentration, manual dexterity and coordination.  Each child expresses his or her personality through individual choices in design and color.  Positive habits are developed in self-direction, cooperation, support of others and responsibility in carrying a project through to completion.  The child experiences the value of planning, the efficient use of tools and the beauty of natural materials.  It is hoped that each child will gain through the handwork curriculum a respect for killed crafts people and develop pride in ones own abilities and accomplishments.  Handwork is taught throughout the grades.

Spatial orientation, strength, skill, balance, coordination and speed are developed in physical education.  Besides bodily skill, children experience interplay with timidity, courage, daring, fairness, team skills, discipline and confidence.  Exercises in the younger grades are little removed from the realm of play, employing games of various kinds.  The children are gradually led over from play activity to conscious, controlled and precise movements through more technical training, games, and sports in the upper grades.

© 2019 Mountain Song Community School Public Charter School. Mountain Song Community School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or age in its programs and activities.

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