In first grade we take advantage of the child’s imagination and natural ability to see pictures in everything as we introduce written language and mathematics. We lead our students to write, read, and discover arithmetic through nature stories, folk and fairy tales. Students experience the qualities of numbers, rather than seeing them only as abstract symbols. This immersion in the world of story creates meaning and context for our students, leading to greater enthusiasm, involvement and retention.
Our students learn through doing by letting writing guide the way to reading and by using practical objects and stories to introduce the four mathematical processes. Activities are designed to build a reverence for the environment and respect for others. Our curriculum is enriched and supported by daily works in the arts: painting, drawing, singing, pentatonic flute, and movement.
The class puts on their first class play, beginning a tradition that will continue almost every year until graduation in 12th grade. Every child also participates in weekly classes in French, German, movement, and handwork.
In second grade we build on the academic foundations built in first grade, continuing to bring life and meaning to the curriculum through story. This is an exciting time because the children begin to ask their own questions and probe more deeply as they become increasingly aware of themselves and their relation to the world.
Each subject gains complexity: students focus on writing solid sentences and discovering spelling and phonics rules out of word families and poetry. In math, students explore the multiplication tables through rhythmical movement and discover the various patterns found in each table. Multiple-digit problems are introduced, and students learn place value along with carrying and borrowing. Singing and circle games serve to enrich the curriculum, along with the pentatonic recorder, watercolor painting, drawing, beeswax modeling, knitting, form drawing, music, movement, Nordic skiing and twice-weekly French and German.
In the third grade, children begin to look more closely at the world around them. Third graders are developing a sense of individuality and separateness from others and need a curriculum that helps them stay grounded during an important childhood transition. The dreamy fairy and folk tales of previous years lead into a study of the complex relationships found in the Old Testament and Midrash stories of the Hebrew tradition. We introduce lively stories from the various indigenous tribes of North America. In response to these stories, students develop skills in descriptive writing and composition, deepen their reading comprehension and continue to build spelling and vocabulary skills.
Cursive writing is introduced in third grade and is used on a daily basis thereafter. Practical, hands-on activities like farming and building appeal to this age group. We examine the traditional vocations of our region—such as farming, cloth production, and house building—as a means to learn more about measurement of time, natural cycles, distance, weight, money, volume, and higher multiplication. These studies culminate in a class building project where students can put to practice what they have learned across disciplines. The third graders are also in charge of a class vegetable and flower garden.
They start playing the diatonic recorder as well as string instruments, learn crochet, and continue with both languages, art, movement and music classes.
In the fourth grade, as students become more aware of the world around them and their place in it, they become more confident, independent and eager to take on new challenges. They study the gods of Norse mythology, who are full of vigor and strength. Norse myths form the basis of the story curriculum, giving joyful context to further studies in composition, spelling and grammar.
Students learn about animals in relation to humans and advance to a formal exploration of nature through zoology, out of which they begin the process of research and report writing. The study of mythology begins to transition to history when students study both the actual and folktale versions of Maine’s past. They also study local geography and topography, along with mapmaking. In math, fractions are introduced along with an expansion of concepts learned in previous grades. Classes continue in embroidery and cross-stitch, French, German, woodworking, movement and music. The class play is often a lively and exuberant interpretation of one of the exciting Norse myths.
In the fifth grade, we often say our students are in “the golden year of childhood.” As fifth graders, students are poised between childhood and adolescence; they move with agility and harmony through their interpersonal relationships and surroundings. Their comprehension is growing along with their capacities for understanding abstract concepts; the perfect time to transition from mythology to history. Throughout the year students are immersed in the culture and lore of ancient India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece. Their class play is often drawn from this study, and the year culminates in the Maine Pentathlon Celebration where Waldorf schools from Maine and Quebec gather to compete in the Greek Olympic disciplines of javelin, discus, Greek wrestling, running, and long jump.
Through their cultural studies, students continue to build skills in reading comprehension and analysis, spelling, grammar, composition, poetry and letter writing. In math, students build on their understanding of fractions, converting them to decimals and back again, and freehand geometry opens the door to more abstract studies of numbers. Students also study botany, focusing on developing skills of accurate observation and faithful rendering. They study the physical, cultural and economic geography of North America, along with the development of American folk music and lore.
Students begin part-singing in chorus, study the major and minor scales, learn to knit socks and mittens, and continue with their recorder and stringed instruments. Classes continue in French and German, movement, and woodworking.
In sixth grade, cause and effect become increasingly important factors in the understanding of history, science, and human motivation. Sixth graders question everything and seek to overthrow authority. They want all things to be clear and fair. To help them learn to observe carefully before jumping to conclusions, new subjects such as physics, geology and geometry are introduced.
In history, students study Ancient Rome, the Dark Ages, and Medieval Europe. A look around the world during this time period may include Ancient China and Japan, as well as the birth of Christianity and the Muslim faith. Various styles of calligraphy are often taught at this time, as a way of connecting with the artistic importance of the written word before the invention of the printing press.
During the sixth grade year, we emphasize rigor and accuracy in observation. Freehand geometry evolves into the use of precision tools and the study of geometry proper. Students explore more subtle elements of grammar, and expand their composition skills through essays, creative fiction and nonfiction, poetry and scientific lab reports. In science, students study geology, mineralogy and astronomy, and examine the geography of Central and South America. Through the physics block, they transition to scientific experimentation. The class works together to recreate and thus, rediscover important scientific discoveries related to the world around us in light, sound, heat, magnetism and static electricity.
In math, students take a practical look at business math by developing their own businesses. This block is complemented by geometry and pre-algebra, along with a thorough review of all of the concepts taught in previous years.
In music, part-singing is enhanced through an exploration of medieval music. Alto and tenor recorders are introduced and students take their stringed instruments into the orchestra. Classes continue in visual art, music, movement, hand-sewing (creating dolls and animals), French, German, and woodworking.
Seventh grade is a year of discovery and renewal. The 13-year-old is becoming more self-conscious and developing new capacities to form judgments about themselves and the world. They are yearning for independence, but still need guidance and structure. The theme of “exploration” permeates the curriculum: from physiology to poetry. Students immerse themselves in the study of world history from 1400-1700, including the Renaissance, Reformation, and Age of Discovery. Along with this, a study of the cultural geography of Asia and Europe and the development of map-making serve to further skills in research, grammar and essay writing. The students read literature, including poetry, while they begin to do more creative writing.
Students also continue with algebra, geometry, physics, astronomy, and chemistry, human physiology, and health are introduced. Each of the studies continues to have a strong experimental and experiential element. From this, students learn to accurately portray and explain what they have learned, finishing the year with self-made lab and block books that reveal the emphasis we have laid over the years on accurate and precise observation.
Students learn perspective drawing, quilting, and continue with their classes in music, orchestra, and foreign language.
In the eighth grade, students are experiencing the end of childhood. Their intellectual powers are getting stronger and they can now see the big picture. Subjects emphasize the relationship between: people and the environment, science and history. The human struggle for freedom and equality is explored through various revolutions: American, French, and Industrial. An emphasis on the biographies of influential individuals in a rapidly changing world is used as a platform for students to consider ways they would like to contribute to society. This study of history brings students up to the present time, emphasizing trends in world development, including the World Wars and globalization.An emphasis is placed on biography, which allows students to learn about complex political landscapes through the eyes of historical figures. This lends a very human, relatable quality to the study of history.
In eighth grade, students expand their study of literature to include Shakespeare, the short story and influential modern writers. They study the geography and cultures of Africa, along with chemistry, anatomy, and physics. Algebra and geometry continue in eighth grade, along with a hands-on exploration of the Platonic solids. Students continue their studies of languages focusing on culture, reading, writing and grammar; as well as music, orchestra, movement, sports, woodworking and machine sewing.