“Waldorf education addresses the child as no other education does. Learning, whether in chemistry, mathematics, history or geography, is imbued with life and so with joy, which is the only true basis for later study. The textures and colors of nature, the accomplishments and struggles of humankind fill the Waldorf students’ imaginations and the pages of their beautiful books. . . .
“. . . By the time they reach us at the college and university level, these students are grounded broadly and deeply and have a remarkable enthusiasm for learning.”
In Waldorf schools, each school day begins with a two-hour lesson called Main Lesson, which focuses on one academic subject for a period of four to six weeks. At the end of this block of time, a new topic is begun. This immersion approach allows the teacher ample time to integrate a wide variety of cultural, artistic, and practical activities into the presentation of the lessons, enabling the children to fully experience and deeply comprehend the subject material.
Main Lesson in the Classroom
Each day, Main Lesson begins with movement and rhythmic activities such as recitation, singing, or playing recorder, followed by a review of the previous day’s work and a presentation of new material. The students give artistic expression to all Main Lesson subjects – including mathematics and science – through drawing, painting, modeling, or sculpting.
With an interdisciplinary approach to education, the teacher may support Main Lesson by incorporating the subject material into activities that take place in the afternoon, bringing a strong cohesiveness to the day. For example, while studying North American culture, students may sew a Coast Salish button blanket in handwork class; while studying Medieval history, students may prepare and perform a traditional Mummer’s play in drama class.
Main Lesson Beyond the Classroom
Learning Main Lesson material also takes place outside the classroom. At Sunfield, many Main Lesson subjects are enhanced with agricultural and environment
al learning experiences that take place on the farm. See Overview of Our Integrated Curriculum. Venturing off the farm, field trips are made to relevant sites in the local area that give context to the students’ studies. Trips may include a a meditative retreat at a Buddhist monastery on Whidbey Island during the study of Buddha, a stay at a Benedictine convent on Shaw Island during the study of Medieval history, or a visit to a Seattle mosque during the study of Islamic culture.
In all Waldorf schools, certain Main Lesson subjects culminate in a special event in which regional Waldorf schools participate. At the end of Native American studies, fourth- and fifth-grade students attend a three-day potlatch on nearby Whidbey Island; while studying Ancient Greece, fifth- and sixth-grade students train for a weekend Olympiad held in the Seattle area. Sixth- and seventh-grade students attend a Medieval gathering, and seventh- and eighth-grade students participate in the Renaissance Fair.
Main Lessson Books
In Waldorf schools, textbooks are not used by the students as primary sources of information. Instead, the teacher orally presents Main Lesson and students create their own books, known as Main Lesson books.
On the first day of a new Main Lesson block, each student is presented with a book of blank, drawing-quality paper. At the end of each day’s lesson, the children record and illustrate what they have learned onto the pages. As the children’s writing skills progress, they write poetry, compositions, and research reports; these are all entered into their books. Main Lesson books will also include detailed diagrams and observations.
Each page of writing or observation is embellished with the child’s own illustrations, borders, and form drawings. Great effort and care is exercised while artistically crafting Main Lesson books, and each bound book becomes the student’s own textbook – a treasured record and artistic presentation of all that has been learned in the classroom.