Curriculum of Waldorf Schools

The curriculum of the Waldorf schools includes the following subjects.

Teaching of academic subjects as lesson "blocks"
In both the elementary school and secondary school, much of the education in academic subjects takes place in blocks, generally of 3-5 weeks duration. Each pupil generally writes and illustrates a self-created textbook representing the material learned in the block.

Language and literature
In Waldorf education writing and reading are introduced at age six or seven; Beginning with oral storytelling, a Waldorf child listens to and summarizes oral language. Then, using imaginative pictures of sounds (e.g. a snake shape for the letter "s"), the children gradually learn the abstract letter forms, and move on to phonetics, spelling, grammar and punctuation. After recording their own stories and illustrations in personal books, children learn to read from the words they wrote themselves. In secondary school, there is an increased focus on literature.

Formal instruction in numeracy begins at age 6/7 with the four primary operations of arithmetic. Fractions are introduced at age 9/10, decimal numbers and proportions at age 10/11, percentages and rates of interest at age 11/12, algebra at age 12/13. At the secondary level, topics include algebra, geometry, conics, trigonometry, probability, combinatorics and calculus. Descriptive geometry and projective geometry are introduced at age 15/16 and 16/17, respectively.

Nature and science
Life sciences begin from age 6 or 7 with stories of "the living world." Observation and description of "the living world" begins at age 9 or 10. The curriculum includes lesson blocks on farming (age 9 or 10), animals (age 10 or 11), plants (age 11 or 12), as well as geology, human biology and astronomy (age 12 or 13). Children are taught that they are interdependently connected with nature and the environment around them, and that as a result of that interdependence, how they treat nature and the environment is at least as important as how they treat themselves and each other.

At secondary school, Waldorf schools study the historical origins, cultural background, and philosophical roots and consequences of scientific discoveries. By the end of their secondary school education, students are expected to have a grasp of modern science equivalent to that achieved in other schools.

History and geography
History begins with "mythical and archetypal narrative" (age 6-9 years). At age 10 history lessons begin to draw upon the local environment in connection with local geography. Beginning at age 11, history is introduced as a formal subject.

Foreign languages
Generally, two foreign languages are taught from age six on. Foreign language instruction in the first two years is purely oral; reading and writing of foreign languages are generally introduced toward the end of third grade. Language teaching in the first three years aims to give the children a sense of a greater belonging and understanding of the other. This helps develop a relaxed relationship to things unknown, which is extremely important for all learning thereafter, especially for further foreign language training.

Art, crafts and handwork
In the elementary years, drawing is practised daily and painting weekly; in addition, children are taught modelling and sculpture with beeswax or clay. Also taught is an approach to drawing geometric and dynamic forms created by the early Waldorf pedagogue Hermann von Baravalle and known in the schools as "form drawing". Art instruction continues through the high school.

Handwork (including knitting, crochet, sewing and embroidery) is taught from age 6 on, with projects which may include cushions, socks, gloves and dolls. Woodworking normally begins during 5th or 6th grade. The secondary school crafts curriculum includes some combination of woodworking, basketry, weaving and book-binding.

In the elementary school, children sing daily with their class teacher. Generally, weekly singing lessons with a specialized music teacher begin at an early age and continue as choral instruction through the end of a child's Waldorf experience. Music is sometimesalso integrated into the teaching of subjects such as arithmetic, geography, history and science.

Recorders, usually pentatonic, are introduced in first grade, the familiar diatonic recorder in third or fourth grade, when the children also take up a string instrument: either violin, viola or cello. Waldorf pupils are generally required to take private music lessons when a class orchestra is formed, usually at age 10, although many already do. By age 11, the children may switch to or add to, learning other orchestral instruments such as the woodwind or brass to play in the school orchestra. Orchestral instruction continues through the end of a child's Waldorf experience, though in many schools it becomes elective at some point.

Eurythmy is a movement art, usually performed to poetry or music, created by Steiner and "meant to help children develop harmoniously with mind, body and soul". Eurythmy is a required subject in Waldorf schools in all years.