“If you’ve had the experience of binding a book, knitting a sock, playing a recorder, then you feel that you can build a rocket ship – or learn a software program you’ve never touched. It’s not bravado, just a quiet confidence. There is nothing you can’t do. Why couldn’t you? Why couldn’t anybody?”
After Main Lesson, the remainder of the morning hours are filled with art, farm activities, and foreign language studies. In the afternoon, a weekly rhythm of handwork, music, art, drama, and physical education completes the school day. When possible, the class teacher incorporates Main Lesson content into these special subjects.
A Waldorf education provides children with a broad and stimulating depth of experience in many forms of art. Art is integrated into the entire academic curriculum, and the students fill their Main Lesson books with beautiful illustrations and designs. In addition, the teacher gives regular instruction in drawing and watercolor painting throughout the grades.
In the younger grades, children practice the freehand drawing of animals, human beings, and various objects. A myriad of forms with straight and curved lines are also drawn; these forms are the foundation for learning handwriting. By third grade, the forms become quite complicated and help to develop the child’s spatial orientation and sense of balance and proportion. In fifth grade, the children practice free-hand geometry, and as they reach the higher grades, more advanced artistic skills are introduced, including precise geometric compass drawing, perspective drawing, charcoal drawing, and pastel drawing.
Artistic activities also include modeling with beeswax in the younger grades and clay modeling in the older grades. Beginning in fifth grade, children learn the art of woodworking and carve various objects such as spoons or bowls.
At Sunfield, gardening and caring for animals are incorporated into the daily schedule of the entire Waldorf curriculum. Each class holds the responsibility for farm chores appropriate to its development. For example, younger children tend the flock of chickens and their own garden plots, while older children work with the sheep, milk goats, and assist the farmer in the commercial gardens – planting, cultivating and harvesting.
Throughout the grades, students learn to make artistic and practical products from farmed materials, including weaving and felting sheep’s wool and making yogurt and cheese from goat’s milk
Practical hands-on experiences on the farm provide healthy outdoor activity for the children and bring balance to the school day.
Foreign language is taught beginning in kindergarten or first grade. Children learn about another culture and foster a love of the language through songs, verses, stories, and games. Gradually the written language and its grammar are introduced, culminating in reading, writing, and conversation in the middle school years. Learning a foreign language is a natural way to develop respect for other cultures.
Handwork classes are an integral component of Waldorf schools from kindergarten through high school. Children learn to knit in first grade and crochet in second grade, creating items such as recorder cases, pencil bags, pot holders, and puppets.
As the children progress through the grades, their creativity is developed further through handwork activities such as cross-stitching, four-needle knitting, dollmaking, and hand- and machine-sewing.
Engaging in handwork activities encourages patience and perseverance while developing fine motor skills and coordination. Through this practical work, children appreciate the value of creating with one’s hands and gain a sense of accomplishment and pride as they create useful and beautiful items.
At Sunfield, the cultivation of each child’s natural sense of music is begun in kindergarten through singing simple songs. Beginning in first grade, the child’s musical abilities are further developed by learning how to play a wooden flute. Young children are naturally imitative; they easily learn how to play the flute by listening to the teacher play simple melodies and recreating what they hear. In Waldorf schools, learning to play music by ear is a skill that is believed to be an important development before learning musical notation, which is taught in third grade.
The flute is chosen in Waldorf schools not only for its beauty of tone and the joy it brings in ensemble playing but also for the strengthening effect playing a wind instrument has on a young child’s breathing. Recorders are introduced as the children progress through the grades, and by seventh grade, students play Renaissance quartet music with bass, tenor, alto, and soprano recorders.
Singing is also an integral part of the entire Waldorf curriculum. In first and second grades, children sing simple melodies in unison. By third grade, the children learn to sing in rounds, and by seventh grade, the children are able to sing complex choir harmonies with three or four parts.
Drama is woven throughout the entire Waldorf curriculum, serving to build self-confidence, develop strong social skills, and deepen the appreciation of Main Lesson subjects being studied.
First grade students may reenact a fairy tale heard in morning Main Lesson block; second graders may develop a skit based on the mathematical processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division; and seventh graders may reenact a debate between Renaissance astronomers during their Main Lesson block on the Renaissance.
Each class will put on an annual class play and participate in puppet shows and presentations for seasonal festivals. Older grades engage in exercises and theater games to develop their skills in acting and their abilities in theatrical character development.
In the early grades, children participate in traditional games, such as jump rope and hopscotch, that allow them to experience balance, rhythm, and movement in space. Such activities are linked to better performance in academics and foster the encouragement of healthy social interrelations.
In fifth grade, the class practices the five Greek exercises – running, long jumping, wrestling, and discus and javelin throwing – in preparation for the Olympiad, a once-a-year event in which fifth-grade students from regional Waldorf schools participate. From sixth grade on, the students may engage in sports such as archery or team sports.