Treow’s curriculum outlined
“The need for imagination, a sense of truth and a feeling of responsibility- the are the three forces which are the very nerve of education.” -Rudolf Steiner
Waldorf Inspired Education:
Treow is a Waldorf Inspired place of learning which aspires to follow the Waldorf curriculum as stipulated by Rudolf Steiner as best according to the growing needs of the children and the school. Rudolf Steiner was a scientist, artist and the founder of the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart Germany in 1919. Waldorf Education strives to meet the child where they are at, putting the child first and educating the child according to their developmental age. When educating the child, we do not only educate the head, we educate and develop the whole human being; the head, heart and hands. Our aim as Waldorf educators is to develop free human beings who can think independently for themselves by guiding them to come to their own conclusions, have a developed soul life by having empathy for others and the world around them and finally having the skills needed to use their hands and bodies to navigate efficiently and skillfully in the world as contributing human beings on earth.
Within Waldorf Schools, a two hour slot in the morning is dedicated to the Main Lesson. During Main Lesson, the children focus on a specific subject for a period of three to four weeks, depending on the time needed for the Main Lesson. Each class has their own Main Lessons which are stipulated in the curriculum according to the developmental needs of the growing child. These Main Lesson subjects could include; maths, english, history, geography, science, nature studies and seasonal festivals.
Within the main lesson, the class teacher ideally will start with rhythmic time where everyday skills in poetry, speech, movement, maths such as mental, tables and multiples are practiced and any other activities of use which help to wake up the body and get the blood flowing for learning. After rhythmic time the children are centered and are in an optimal state of mind for learning, ready to receive what it is which will be brought to them throughout the course of the Main Lesson. Rhythmic time can vary anywhere from twenty to forty minutes.
As Waldorf teachers, we teach using a two-day rhythm. We believe that the child should have time to sleep on whatever new concept has been brought to them throughout the day and the next day be able to recall on what it is which was introduced the previous day. This enables the child to breathe throughout day and the night enabling him or her to come up with his or her own concepts and conclusions the following day. The two-day rhythm works as follows,
- The teacher introduces the new concept pictorially, using a story or image which the child can easily relate to and draws the child in, capturing the child’s interest. As Waldorf educators, we never supply the children with hard, cold facts. The children need to feel inspired through an experience in order to relate and embody what it is which we are bringing to them.
- The following day, the teacher will recall from the previous day’s story, image or experience. From the recall, it is our aim as Waldorf Educators that the child will be able to remember what was brought to them, ponder and contemplate on their own thoughts from the experience, therefore having built their own concepts. The recall can take place in many different ways, sometimes each child will get a chance to share, other times the children can put their recall into writing and a favorite of many is when, the children get to re-enact the story for their classmates and teacher.
- After the recall, the teacher will then set an age-appropriate and subject-appropriate task, working with the new concept which has been taught. These tasks can include writing, drawing, projects and research to further develop the concept taught.
- Once the work has been completed, the teacher will introduce the next concept using a new image and then the Main Lesson will end. Thereafter at Treow, the children have an hour break to eat, play and socialize.
WHOLE TO THE PARTS APPROACH:
Waldorf teachers believe in the approach of introducing the whole concept to a child, giving them the whole picture and thereafter breaking it up into smaller pieces in order to make it easier for them to gain the concept. For example, when introducing maths in class one, in the sum: 7+3=10, Waldorf teachers will write: 10=7+3. The whole(10) is given and from the whole, the child can work out the following sum: 10=7+? The child knows he or she has 10 and that there is 10 on the one side of the equals sign and he or she needs to add something to the 7 to get 10 on the other side, what does he or she need to add? This way of teaching also helps the child to see that to get to 10 on both sides, there are endless possibilities. For example: 10=6=4 or 10=5+5 etc. This helps to create flexibility in maths.
When we teach reading and writing, in class one we start by teaching the children to write before they read. After learning all of the letters, the children write sentences and from those sentences, they start to read, recognizing the letters they’ve learnt and reading familiar words they have written down from the board and spoken. In class two the teacher creates the children’s first reader from the stories she has told them. The children practice reading these readers and have a connection to the words and stories, as they recognize them from the stories they’ve heard and the words and sentences they’ve copied and read from the board. When reading new and old words, Waldorf teachers will provide the whole word to the child when they are unsure of the word to keep the flow and fluency when reading. This also helps the child to feel more confident and able to comprehend what it is he or she has read.
MAIN LESSON BOOKS:
In Waldorf schools, the use of text books is sparse. During the main lesson, the children create their own ‘text books’, known as Main Lesson books where the children document most of what they have experienced and learnt during the Main Lesson. These Main Lesson books are filled with colour and beauty and are handwritten. They are a work of art, leaving the children with a great sense of accomplishment of all they have achieved throughout the main lesson.
At Treow, we have made the decision to make use of some of the Trumpeter books. Most of the ones we use are for maths running lessons. They are a great help to the children and teachers for ongoing math practice and are a huge convenience as each child can focus on their own individual math progression by moving ahead in practice of already learnt math concepts. All new concepts are introduced in the Maths main lessons. The Trumpeter text books are purely for everyday maths practice of already learned concepts.
After break, the children have three running lessons a day. English and maths running lessons are not used to teach new concepts, instead they are used to practice already learnt concepts, daily practice. These running lessons are normally forty minutes each. Every day the children start off with a maths running lesson and mostly use their Trumpeter books during these lessons. The teacher will choose which skills need to be practiced according to the children’s developing skills and needs.
The timetable is well thought-out according to the breathing rhythm of the child. We refer to it as ‘ the child’s breathing in and breathing out’. When maths is done, the child is breathes in and has to completely focus and when a subject such as music is done, such as singing the child is breathes out and can relax a bit more. We need there to be a good breathing in and breathing out rhythm in order to not tire the children throughout the school day. If there is too much breathing in the child will be exhausted and if there is too much breathing out there will not be enough holding, structure and the children will likely be wild and not able to take in anything new.
Other running lessons at Treow include; isiZulu, Afrikaans, Handwork, music
(singing, violin, recorder), painting and form drawing.
The theme which is carried throughout class one is Fairy Tales. Steiner chose fairy tales as he believed they were psychologically appropriate for the class one child. Usually in a fairy tale a pure of heart character such as, the prince or princess needs to overcome the evil or wicked deed done by another and then can achieve his or her goal. As the class one child is at one with the world around them, he or she identifies with the good of heart character and sees that they too can be the hero in their own story and go forward in life overcoming challenges and live happily ever after just as the prince or princess in the fairy tale.
The fairy tales are told to the children throughout the year and are chosen specifically according to the subject content they are learning and the seasons.
The Main Lesson subjects taught in class one are; Maths (the quality of numbers and four processes), English (learning the Capital letters, vowels and how to write) and environmental studies (learning about nature around them and the seasons).
In class one, the teacher sometimes chooses to start with a Roman Numeral math Main Lesson where he or she uses the roman numerals to introduce the numbers, relating the symbols to the hands and fingers. In another math Main Lesson, the children will be introduced to the Arabic numbers and will relate them to the world around them for example, the body; one nose, two eyes, five fingers or one sun and four seasons etc. The third math Main Lesson, is the four processes Main Lesson, where the teacher introduces the four processes to the children; plus, minus, divide and times. The teacher will also introduce the concept of equals. Traditionally, the teacher will use gnomes to introduce the four processes and assign a temperament to each one according to Steiner’s four temperaments. The children usually are able to identify with at least one of the temperaments and therefore get attached and favor one of the gnomes. The fourth math Main Lesson is usually used to reinforce and to deepen the four processes, working more with the counters and getting accustomed to doing maths sums.
The main focus in English in class one is learning the letters and the beginning stages of reading. The children are introduced to the straight line and curved line which helps with the formation of their letters. Each Capital letter is introduced using a story. From the story the teacher draws a picture which can depict the shape of the letter. Thereafter the child finds the letter within the drawing which helps the child to form a connection with the letter. The teacher then works on the formation of the letter with the child by helping the child to get the letter formation into the body for writing. The child will draw their own picture and thereafter write the letter into their Main Lesson book.
Once the children have learnt all of the consonants, the teacher will do an Angel letter (Vowel) Main Lesson. During this main lesson the teacher will introduce the different vowel sounds using the Angels and their qualities. When they are on earth they have a different quality and sound as to when they are in heaven. Their naming sound is also different. Once they’ve been introduced and have written all of the angel letters (vowels) they then discover which angel letters are used to spell their own names. Once they’ve discovered this, they then begin to form words and begin see the importance of the angel letters. This is when the magic happens, as the teacher will write three sentences on the board which the class will read and then write.
An appropriate symbol to represent the class one child can be seen as the circle. The circle represents the child’s wholeness and openness to the world around them. The child also sees everyone as on the same level and is close with his or her peers and teacher.
In class two the children face a time of polarities within themselves. This is why Steiner chose Aesop’s fables and the stories of the Saints as age appropriate stories for the children. In the Aesop fables there are animal characters and the children are able to identify with the intrinsic animal qualities they have within themselves, such as the greedy hyena, the cunning fox who wouldn’t give up on getting his grapes or the boastful hare who thought he would win the race as he was faster than the tortoise. From the fables there are morals to be learnt, instead of moralizing from the story, Waldorf teachers allow the children to come to their own realizations of moral compass. The Saint stories show the complete polarity to the Fables, in that the Saints are people with a good moral compass who treat everyone and every being with respect and love. They could care less for material possessions and live their lives to serve. From these stories the children are able to identify and see both the good and bad in the world, deciding for themselves which character traits would be the best to portray.
Much of class two builds upon what was learnt in class one. The teacher uses poetry to cultivate the child’s memory. A lot of speech work is also carried out in class two which helps to build’s the child’s confidence and clearer speaking voice. The speech work has a ripple effect on the child’s; reading, writing and spelling.
The teacher (as mentioned above) uses the Fable stories to create a class reader. This is the first reader the child gets, something which is familiar to them where they are able to recognize words and have built a relationship to the characters. The words they are reading are in context and new sounds are sometimes highlighted and identified by the children as part of the children learning phonics. Lots of phonic games are played while discovering new sounds.
The children now progress from learning the Capital letters in class one to learning the lower case letters in class two. News writing begins, where the children now start to write their own account on one or two sentences, with the help of their teacher of what happened.
Reading is highly encouraged by the teacher and is practiced daily. The children read from; the board, their main lesson books, play silly games and begin to read books in the classroom. Each child is told that one day their reading angel will come and visit them, when the time is right. This helps them to know that it will happen when they are ready and when the time is just right.
One of the main skills the class two child learns in maths are the tables. The teacher plays many games with them, sings songs and does plenty movement to help the children to learn their tables. Tables from two times to six times are learnt as well as nine times and 11 times. The tables should be so well known that they are on the tip of the children’s tongue. Mental number agility is encouraged by the teacher by playing many number games and cultivating a love for numbers.
The children learn place value in class two. This involves them learning how to work with units, tens and hundreds, knowing the values allowed in each place value and where they belong. Many stories from the class one four processes math gnomes are used during the math lessons which often have the children in hysterics. The children strive to help the gnomes as best they can during the lessons, helping them to solve all of their math problems. The children are extended in their maths and are able to complete a multitude of sums in the math lessons, cultivating a love for numbers.
A double arrow can be seen as an appropriate symbol for class two. The class two child experiences two polarities within themselves, helping them to identify well with the fables and saint stories. The teacher also extends the child in many ways, expecting them to do more and extends the quality of the work that they do.
The class three child is now in a feeling ‘sub-phase’ where they are more connected with their feeling life and they are becoming more themselves. Beforehand the child was at one with the world and didn’t see him or herself different to others, the child has now changed and is now more critical of him or herself as well as others. With this new sense of self-awareness the child needs to re-establish his or her relationship with the world around him or her and needs to releearn how to be in the world again. They feel self-conscious and alone. They no longer feel at one wioth the world and they are out of their safety bubble. Everything feels and seems different to jow it was before. The reality of death can become quite overwhelming to comprehend. Instead of the child being a butterfly flying freeling from its cocoon, the child is now making its way back down to earth.
Steiner suggested that teachers tell stories from the Old Testament where the children can identify with the characters. In the garden of Eden, all is well until they sin and they are driven out of the garden of paradise, metaphorically just how they have transformed themselves and become more independent and self-aware and conscious of the world around them, the world is not how it was before in paradise. The children also identify with the Hebrews who had to find new homes nad put their trust in God, the authority who protected them and hekped all to be well again. These stories help the class three child to see that they are not alone and that with trust in authority, all will be fine and well again.
The first English Main Lesson is the Creation Main Lesson, where the children experience the seven days of creation and paradise. During this Main Lesson the children paint each day of Creation and write about each day. Writing becomes more in volume and the teacher demands more from the children. Sometimes, the teacher introduces the children to Hebrew as part of the Old Testament theme and the children enjoy learning how to write their names in Hebrew.
In the second English Main Lesson, the children start to learn grammar very unconsciously. They learn parts of speech such as; naming words (nouns), doing words (verbs) and describing words (adjectives). They use different colours to differentiate and identify the different parts of speech and learn how to use them in sentences.
At some point throughout the year, the children learn how to write in cursive. This is excting as we like to staret by teaching the children hoew to write with a quill and an ink pot, encouraging them to press lightly. Once they’ve gotten the art of writing wioth a quill, they move on to write with a fountain pen in cursive and this vcontinues throughout their waldorf scghooloh journey.
Throughout the year, more emphaisis is placed on reading, reading groups are establiushed and readers are sent home on a weekly basis. Children are encouraged to read during their free time and read individually to their teacher. Children alsp learn punctuation and start practicing spelling of words.
The class three year is a very practical one.There are many Math Main Lessons. One of which is Time. During the Time Main Lesson the children learn all about time, how to read an analogue clock, how to tell the hours, minue and seconds,, how to tell the time according to e seasons, according to the sun and according to nature.
Another Main Lesson theme is Money. The children learn how people bartered and traded in ancient times. The children learn the value of money and how it was used in the past and what it looked like in the past and how it has evolved today. They come to know how money became a necessity in the world we live in today. The class threes enjoy working opractically wityh money, when they learn how to use it in the real sense. Each child alone or in pairs, decides upon homemasde food goods they’d like to sell at a market day and experiences a day as a shopkeeper. During the year, they practice money story sums and learn how to navigate change.
Weight and Measurement is another math Main Lesson the class threes do. During this Main Lesson, the children learn all aboiut the metric weight system, how to weigh, how to measure. They have fun weighing many items, solids and liquids and compare them and they enjoy learning bout and measuring in feet and hands. They create a metre stick and learn how to use a ruler and compare the heights of all of their peers and teacher.
Throughout the course of the year, the children work on story sums and gain more confidence in daily maths practicing of skills.
GARDENING AND FARMING:
During the class three year, the children experience working on a farm, preparing beds, making compost, sowing seeds, tending to them and harvesting the final product. They sow their wheat and harvest it, mill it into flur and bake their own bread. The children take on responsibility on the farm and work hard to maintain it and harvest their veggies or grains. They discover the different types of farming we have in South Africa and the world around us and the importance of the creatures on the farm from tiny to huge (the earth worm to the cow) and the value each one brings.
In class three the children do a Housebuilding Main Lesson where they learn about all the different homes people around the world live in, creatures create and live in and they get to build a little model house of their own. In the Old Testament stories, Adam and Eve find a cave which they live in after eing banished from the Garden of Eden. The class three child needs to find a sense of security again during this time of transformation and new self-consciousness of themselves and the world around them. They are challeneged with the task of uilding a fort of their own with a group of friends where they can create a space of security and warmth. Sometimes the children get to sleep in the forts they’ve builkt which is a thrilling experience.
As part of the Housebuilding Main Lesson, the children build something of meaning for the school. They do this with the help of their teacher and parents. They see thr project through from egining to end, starting off woth drawing a plan and ending off with a masterpiece which will serve the school for years to come.