All content at the New Village School is taught artistically and in context. By artistically we mean that we as teachers make ourselves fully aware of:
- The questions of our time or, in other words, the historical context within the children are growing up
- The geographical location where they are growing up and the implications Thereof culturally and socially
- The questions of our time or challenges that we as a species are facing
- The uniqueness of each individual child
We know that helping children learn how to ask questions or notice when a question needs to be asked is tremendously important. We do not deliver finished answers, which children then repeat back to us.
All lessons emerge through:
- The teacher bringing a thorough knowledge of the content in its freshest most up to date form. Children are not asked to learn from textbooks
- Conversations between teacher and children which are relevant and personal to each child
- Teachers able to orchestrate or choreograph the lessons according to the children’s responses or lack thereof as the case may be, and create an interaction that leaves each child feeling seen, heard, and acknowledged
- Lessons that take the form that they need to in order to serve the children
That is an artistic approach to creating atmospheres and situations in which learning can take place for each child and to the best of each child’s ability at that time! Children learn in a context like this to draw from their best energy and to take in as much as they can digest and process.
Teaching at the New Village School is organized in "blocks." The children work with their teachers for approximately three to six weeks on one particular subject. During each block, a book is created by the children. This book is a record of the essential aspects of the content. Our students learn to take the greatest of care of their books. They develop a sense for the symmetry and aesthetics of a written page.
Each child's progress is characterized thoroughly in parent-teacher conferences and in a written document at the end of each school year. As the students move towards High School age, they are made familiar with conventional tests and the grading system that goes along with them.
A very strong emphasis is placed upon the building of relationships between:
- The child and his/her/their teacher
- The child and the other children
- The child and the content of each lesson
Thus, learning becomes truly meaningful, and each child’s motivation remains an inner one. We educate our students so they will graduate from 8th grade with the following:
- A THOROUGH OVERVIEW OF CULTURAL DEVELOPMENTS FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME UNTIL THE PRESENT DAY
- A GOOD UNDERSTANDING OF THE PHENOMENA OF THE WORLD
- A RICH AND SOPHISTICATED LANGUAGE
They will be able to:
- Articulate any question that is on their mind
- Speak and write their thoughts, ideas, and feelings clearly with a strong awareness of “Self”
- Have a deep appreciation of who they are becoming, as well as respect for the world, everyone, and everything in it.
Our students engage in:
- The playing of instruments
The artistic engagement with all content is an intrinsic part of our lives here at the New Village School. These artistic forms of expression permeate everything we do.
Our Classroom Without Walls program, allows the children the opportunity to learn in the world at large by venturing off-campus at least once a week starting with walking to the local harbors and beaches in Kindergarten. In the grades we gradually explore further by:
- Walking thoughtfully through the local landscapes
- Visiting local beaches
- Observing wildlife
- Studying plant life
- Getting to know ocean life
- Going on overnight trips to our land that’s about 20 minutes from the Sausalito campus
- Exploring wilderness around Mt. Shasta
- Taking a two-week trip to Mexico where our students attend school in a small town or visit a country whose language the children are learning in 6th grade
- Taking a three-week self-financed trip to Europe and Morocco in 7th grade
- Embarking on a rite of passage “sit” in 8th grade during which students are asked to be on their own with water and a sleeping bag for an extended period of time – approximately 36-48 hours
The world is the best classroom – it has no walls, and its aspects and themes are so innumerable that life as a student is always meaningful and experienced as real and authentic. The Classroom Without Walls program and the travel involved is the context. It is the reality that the children have within which to experience firsthand what matters.
When inside classroom walls, our teachers strive to bring a vibrant, passionate tone, so the children experience excitement about the discoveries we’ve made in the world and understand that there is so much yet to discover as adults.
During their time at the New Village School, each child will have learned or at least become familiar with two languages alongside English. In Kindergarten they are immersed in many languages. Our KG teachers speak Japanese, Spanish, and English.
From 1st grade onwards, each child learns Spanish of course, and then one other language chosen for them for their journey from 1st through 8th Grade. Currently our children are learning either:
Working with our hands is important to all of us. Children especially benefit from doing:
All of the above offer each student a sense of orientation in the geographical space they find themselves in both in their own bodies and in their immediate surroundings.
These offerings leave the children with a sense of being capable, having agency and being independent in the world in which they are growing up.
If all has gone well, by 8th grade, our students will know how to clothe themselves, feed themselves, navigate, build a shelter and create objects that are necessary for everyday life.
Going with this sense into the immense world of High School and life itself adds confidence. The knowledge that you can sustain yourself in most circumstances is strengthening and healthy.
Here follows an overview of the other curriculum content and the developmental underpinnings for the choice of content. These are often reflected in the narratives we choose for the children to engage in over the course of their eight school years.
Kindergarten simulates as closely as possible a harmonious, nurturing, home-like environment. In this setting, imagination and creativity flourish with children participating in meaningful tasks that develop coordination and cooperative social skills while unfolding creative and imaginative capacities that build a strong foundation for life and later academics.
The program includes singing, movement, story telling, beeswax modeling, handwork, woodwork, gardening, ample time in nature and other artistic activities. Toys are made of natural materials, thus giving the children a strong sensory experience and an opportunity to use and develop their fine motor skills. Play as the best and most necessary learning experience in childhood is given a key place during the course of a Kindergarten day.
In Kindergarten, stories from around the world are shared with the children, bringing to life human qualities, such as courage, kindness and honesty. Through oral storytelling, the children create their own inner pictures free and uncluttered by adult intervention through illustrations or, worse, animated on a screen. They strengthen their listening skill, memory skills and vocabulary.
Artistic work in Kindergarten is an experience that guides young children toward abilities that can be transformed throughout life. For example, watercolor painting, sewing, finger-knitting, beeswax modeling, coloring, drawing, and seasonal craft activities help develop coordination and the ability to concentrate. Most importantly, however, they offer a rich sensory experience filled with joy and an easeful interaction with the world.
The teachers accompany the children, supporting their social interactions, helping them to play with each other when necessary and generally observing the children in order to ensure development towards well-being and health.
The New Village School Kindergarten children begin their day in movement and music with students from the other grades. They then go to their own space where they can engage in the activities described above. Meals are often shared with the older children, thus creating a strong sense of family and community.
The children are now moving into a phase of development in which they slowly become aware of their capacity to think and to use that capacity more and more consciously. The First Grade curriculum is rich in movement, music, language and thinking adventures of all kinds. At this time in their biographies, the children are ready to take on the more abstract world of learning to read, write, and work with written numbers.
Narrative: Folk Tales
Wisdoms carried in folk tales, nature stories and stories created by the teachers, are passed on to the children in First Grade. These kinds of stories are chosen since the characters tend to be simple representatives of certain human characteristics and thus accessible to a child of this age. The characters often remain without a name. They are not meant to be specific people but rather offer an opportunity for the children to interact with the characteristics in a freer and less confined way.
The morality in these stories tends to be uncomplicated and clear-cut, providing a basis upon which the child can develop an ever more complex and differentiated picture of the world and its people. They have a simple morality and give the children an opportunity to begin to discern certain qualities in human beings. Their apparent simplicity offers the children a transparent idea of what is “good” and what is “no longer good” or needs restoring to a balanced interaction with the world and the Self.
When the children are introduced to the letters of the alphabet, the teacher works from the sound to the abstract form – from the living movement of speech to the still written form. Thus, each letter is embedded in a story where this sound has an important part to play. Similarities in shape to the form of the letter are sought within the landscapes and beings in the story. It is of the utmost importance that the child forms a strong relationship to the sound before it dies onto the page.
In this way, it is the sound of the letter in the words used in the story that helps the children connect to what eventually becomes the abstract shape on the page. The love of speech and language is retained and the pictorial quality, which is now missing in Western script, is restored in the introductory phase.
Poems and stories are learned, and when the children have been introduced to all the letters, they begin to write the texts that they know – thus, the correct reading of especially a non-phonetic language like English is made possible. The first experience of reading is a positive one. An added effect is that the children associate reading with discovering the beautiful texts that they know, now in a written form.
Just as with the letters, the numbers are introduced in a context. Stories suggesting how human beings began writing down numbers are told. The quality of the numbers is introduced so that the relationship to numbers and counting is developed from a true understanding of what numbers are. The introduction of the actual symbol for the number comes at the end of a process of getting to know the use of numbers through stories.
The four processes are also presented to the children in such a way that they get a picture of the actual activity of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division before they work with the abstract form of:
30 = 5 x 6.
From First through Third Grade, the children always work with whole numbers, as they still experience themselves as one with the whole, i.e. as being in complete symbiosis with the world and the adults around them. Great care is taken to help the children from the very beginning to think accurately and clearly.
The first multiplication tables are learned rhythmically, chorally and then individually.
Form drawing gives the children a chance to move through variations on the theme, “straight and curved lines." The children draw simple forms, mirror the forms, transform forms and begin to create symmetrical forms. The more consciously they move the forms, the more beautiful they become. They begin to enjoy the ability of the human eye and hand to create forms on the page. Form drawing is one of the beginning experiences of geometry that the children will later study.
As the child grows and his/her/their personality becomes much more differentiated, they can grasp the more complex aspects of the world. During this developmental period, the children must get a sense of meaningfulness and a powerful sense of relationship to everything that they are doing before they move on to the developmental phase, often known as the “nine-year shift,” which signifies the stage in human development when the child moves out of the symbiosis with the adult world and begins to get a stronger sense of his/her/their own individuality.
Narrative: Legends and Fables
The Second Grade child is a much more differentiated being and shifts from the simple “good/no longer good/in need or restoring to balance” of the First Grade experience to a more sophisticated understanding of the world.
Legends, fables and stories are told to the children about men and women who have cared deeply, have lived in difficult, sometimes intense relationships with the world. The children can admire their courage and love for the world and gain a sense of wonder and awe at the possibilities of a human being living in a positive and helpful way. Hearing stories of people who had a more complex relationship to their world and time helps the growing child experience their own growing complexity in an unconscious but supportive way.
The Second Grade curriculum expands on the First Grade reading, writing, arithmetic and form drawing content.
The children begin to write and read longer texts with the guidance of the teacher. At this phase, many children begin to read age-appropriate books available in the classroom.
Long division is introduced and the children learn to work in all four processes with larger numbers.
All the multiplication tables up to the 13 times table are practiced and learned.
Math games and mental math play a very important role in the every day work of the children. Stories are used to contextualize the math questions. This gives the children an understanding of why human beings have developed these mathematical processes. It makes their math work meaningful and exciting.
For those who are not yet good at finding on paper what balances one side of the equals side with the other, math can still be colorful, feel safe and interesting, since they can still understand the concepts within their real-life contexts.
In this way, children can remain excited and love math while developing the ability to work more theoretically on paper.
Form drawing continues with ever more complex forms.
The age of around nine and a third years is the culmination of the first phase in human development, where the child moves out of the symbiosis with the adult world and begins to get a stronger sense of his/her/their own individuality.
This crisis, meant in the most positive sense of the word, is in some ways a small version of the larger crisis of puberty. It is met in the curriculum with:
- Creation stories from all over the world – offering ancient responses to how the world began and where the human stands within that world
- Exploration of hunter-gatherer societies
- Study of the transition to farming and settling communities with the implications thereof that a child of this age can understand. The responsibility we take on when we take the freedom of other animals and plants away to make life easier for us as humans is a fundamental and central theme
- Shelter building block
- Clothing block exploring how we use other animals and plants in order to cover ourselves since we have nothing to protect us from the elements
Thus, the child is given the opportunity to relate, on an unconscious level, to the idea of the creation of an individual human being on this earth and how he/she/they began to create his/her/their own hopefully safe space.
Narrative: Creation Stories from Around the World
As the child approaches the developmental phase of moving out of the symbiosis with the parent and adult world in general, the question,
“Where did I come from and how did it all begin?” begins to awaken in the child.
In order to offer the child an opportunity to find an echo for the unconscious questions, stories about the emergence of the world and all that there is in it are offered to them.
In their individualization process, the most varied, imaginative, multi-faceted ways to approach these questions from ancient civilizations to modern-day explanations in age-appropriate terms are provided.
Academic Content Overview
Math, reading and writing skills are further developed and are often related to the content of the agriculture/shelter building blocks. How we have come to measure the world and why we began to do that in the various parts of the world is explored.
Cursive handwriting is introduced, and the children get the opportunity to learn how to express themselves on paper in a beautiful way.
The content of what they are writing becomes much more complex and more independence from the teacher is encouraged in the reading and writing.
Books are offered in the classroom. Comprehension texts are given to the children to ensure that they are truly reading and not just decoding. So they understand not only literary texts but also more factual texts.
The first grammar block allows the children to become aware of the kinds of words that we use – nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs are the main focus in the Third Grade grammar block.
Vocabulary is expanded in beautiful, sophisticated and thoughtful contexts.
Each block (even the mathematic blocks) allows for the practicing of written and oral language.
Additional Blocks in Grade 3 are as mentioned above:
- Hunting and Gathering
- Settling and Farming
The four blocks mentioned here all serve to allow the 9-year-old child to understand how it came to be that we live in the way we do today. To develop a sense of capability around the questions:
“Now that I am no longer just a part of the whole, how will I survive? How do I go through this ‘first new birth of myself’ without succumbing to the anxieties and fears that can arise through this developmental upsurge?”
Third graders continue to work on long division and double-digit multiplication, as well as longer word questions. A focus on measurement, with lessons on linear measurement, liquid and dry volume, time and temperature, emphasizes the practical application of math. Students are expected to know their multiplication tables if they are developmentally able to; mental arithmetic games help strengthen math skills.
Form drawing continues to prepare children for their work in geometry but also offers the sense of the sacredness of forms which they also experience in nature all the time.
In Fourth Grade, when the transition to a still unconscious but strong sense of Self-hood is complete, work begins on learning how an individual becomes fully responsible within a social group, ensuring that he/she/they are safe and loved while ensuring the same for others.
Fourth Grade is a time to look around and see how one stands in relation to what surrounds us and to find security and uprightness through healthy relationships. It is beneficial to learn that contributing to the energy of a social group brings happiness and joy and that taking responsibility for everything you have taken from nature or others is simply your duty.
Narrative: Tribes and Their Histories
Even though children have now reached a certain degree of maturity, they still need the experience of living in a group, in a family, in the safety of a community.
Stories about tribal culture and customs allow the children to travel back through their DNA to the time when their ancestors lived in tribes or groups with specific ways of living. These groups, many of whom have survived to this day, more often than not, live in harmony with everything around them.
The chief or leader of the tribe still makes the decisions, but the members of the tribe have their responsibilities and specific tasks, which contribute enormously to the possibility of survival for that tribe.
Myths and legends from around the world shared by ancient peoples are shared with the children. Often in these stories, the gods or spirit energies are all-powerful, and humans are at their mercy if they are cruel or are still largely dependent on them if they are kind.
This reflects the relationship that the children experience with the adults in their lives, the authorities in their lives.
Independent writing and reading, comprehension texts and independent research projects become a part of the work in Fourth Grade.
Work continues in arithmetic with the introduction of fractions, now that the world has fractured for the child. In other words, they are no longer the whole but a part of the whole. Thus fractions offer a way to reflect this developmental phase when something that is whole is cut into equally sized pieces.
The study of Local Geography followed by pre-European colonization California allows the children to:
- Orientate in space and time
- Provide a sense of where they are walking and who walked there before them
That orientation in the flow of time and the opportunity to go back through their layers of ancestry gives them a sense of connectedness during a developmental phase that can feel like a large open space which can sometimes be frightening.
We only study pre-European colonization California history since what came afterwards is modern history, is terrifyingly brutal and the children are not yet ready to truly grasp the barbarity of it at that age. The glorification of panning for gold and going West is avoided since it meant the genocide of so many who were living here already long before the Europeans came.
Explorations then of how the geography of this region informed the history, story and ways of life of the indigenous peoples is essential in and of themselves and serve to give a context to what then happened, when the invaders came.
Grammar blocks continue with the addition of work on adverbs, prepositions and tenses.
Children learn that adjectives and adverbs are always subjective and do not describe the living being, object, phenomenon, or the activity they perceive as taking place that humans attach them to. Rather, they tell us how that human is experiencing the living being, object, phenomenon, or the activity that they are perceiving.
This is essential work as children become more aware of others in relation to themselves. Adjectives and adverbs can be used as powerful weapons. Understanding that they do not describe you but only reveal something about the person using them, can protect children from those who are either thoughtless or intentionally cruel with words.
Reading and writing becomes more complex as the children, too, become more and more able to grasp complex concepts. The writing skills are applied when creating the content for projects or for capturing the essence of the content of blocks.
Writing skills are practiced in context – spelling of words that the children need for their class reports, punctuation, grammar – all these aspects of writing are worked on in the blocks and separately in language arts skills classes.
Of course, children also learn that English spelling is archaic and that when they still write phonetically, it is not wrong. In fact, it is correct. However, we do have the “agreed spelling,” which reflects an old English pronunciation much closer to its Germanic origins. Over time they should work hard to internalize the agreed spelling as well.
Additional Blocks in Grade 4 are:
The Study of Other Animals on the Earth with Us
The Study of other Animals allows for exploring how other animals live, their habitats, their needs, their young. This work emphasizes very clearly where our similarities lie, where our needs overlap, what we have in common, what differentiates us and how we can be filled with awe when we experience the intelligence, abilities, and capacities of all the living beings around us.
Individual research and reports are a very important part of this block. Each child chooses an animal or animals and writes a report, including drawings and illustrations. The content is presented in a colloquium during which parents and guests can ask questions. This gives the child the opportunity to learn how to speak in public while sharing the excitement of what he/she/they have discovered and learned.
The growing complexity and insecurity of the lives of other animals as the human being takes over more and more of their habitats is explored. The responsibility that we have for their well-being as well as our own is discussed and studied.
The children learn from each other - not only from the teacher. This is the beginning of the road to becoming an independent learner who is motivated by the passion for finding out more and more about life on Earth.
As the child begins to move out into the world more and the individualization process moves forward, being able to orientate in the world, know where one is, geographically speaking, helps stabilize the child in the newfound freedom of expanding spaces.
The children will have experienced the local terrain in their outdoor Classroom Without Walls adventures. Now it is time to reflect on the terrain that they know and see it in the context of California, and the world as a whole.
Individual research is a large part of this block. Each child chooses a region of California to study in depth and presents a written, artistic and oral report.
Our local history gives the children another orientation in time – the story of their region is told. They can see how the geography of the region has influenced its history and how human beings have used the land has influenced the environment.
The children must learn at this age how the indigenous peoples of what we now call California lived before the colonizers came. So that they treasure the ways of life and customs of these people before they learn later when they are old enough for the truth, how the settlers displaced them.
It is critical that the children experience the connections between all the subjects. The world begins to make sense. The children are beginning to understand cause and effect. The inner logic of one phenomenon influencing another begins to become obvious.
Now that the child has moved out of the symbiosis to a certain degree, the work on fractions begins. The child experiences on an unconscious level that she/he/they are not “the world” but a part of the world – thus, it is no longer necessary to work only with whole numbers. All four processes are learned and practiced. Mental math continues with whole numbers and fractions, multiplication tables are practiced and used, and all other math that the children have learned continues to progress.
Complex forms such as Celtic Knots are introduced to the children and they attempt to copy them. They also work on labyrinths and other complex forms, which they create themselves.
Developmentally, the children are reaching the pinnacle of childhood. It is as if they are standing on a tall mountain looking out on a large open space that they somehow know they must venture into and explore. They are experiencing the moment of peace and balance and the hopefully joyful memories of a childhood that has been full of sensory experiences that were colorful, rich, and meaningful. If that has not been the case, there will be a sad, nostalgic sense to this moment of ending childhood.
Physically, they are usually balanced and move gracefully and elegantly. Their bodies and musculature are still light. If all has gone well in their younger years, this is a pivotal time when the children feel themselves bathed in beauty and excited at what is to come.
Narrative: Stories from Ancient Civilizations
The curriculum supports this phase of development by beginning to explore how people in Ancient Persia, India, China, Mesoamerica, Greece parts of Africa, and any other cultures that children in the classrooms are descended from, lived. We explore how they began to settle and develop structural changes to the environment in a dramatic way and give up their hunter/gatherer ways. This is the time, it seems, that agriculture truly began, when writing began to emerge and develop, astonishing architectural structures were built, and people worshipped their gods in complex and formalized ways.
We are very clear with the children that settling, so called progress, and civilizations had an enormous impact on all other beings on the planet.
Ancient Greek mythologies and other mythologies, illustrate how humans were beginning to have relationships to the gods much different to those of the Fourth Grade curriculum.
The gods now had children with humans, Prometheus took fire for the humans for example – there is a distinct shift in the balance of power between the gods and the people who are there to worship them. So it is with a child at this stage in his/her/their life. There is an arising sense of one’s own power, one’s own abilities, one’s own story. The adults still are in authorship, but, the child’s own sense of individuality is much stronger and much more available for learning than it ever was before. The balance then between the child and the adult is shifting and there is a distinct step into a new relationship and a growing balance of strength between the two worlds.
The study of the emergence of writing is a perfect opportunity to step back and look at why we write, why it is important that we write beautifully, why is it important to write in the agreed form (spelling).
It is only now that this has real relevance for the child. Studying early forms of writing and realizing that writing is an extension of memory is a very helpful insight for children of this age. They can also begin to see that with the emergence of writing, our reliance on memory alone decreases. That is, once we delegate what we want to remember to a page, we do not have to make the effort to remember any more. Writing, as with everything else, has to be done with a great sense of responsibility and awareness. What is worth remembering and what is worth writing about? If it is worth writing about, how can I write and illustrate my thoughts and ideas beautifully as did the scribes of the past? These are important questions in the language arts classes.
Language arts classes include poetic writing, narratives written with a differentiated and beautiful choice of vocabulary, and carefully executed handwriting. These themes become meaningful in connection with the cultural epochs now being studied.
The children have recited poetry from the very beginning of their school life. Now the beautiful meters of poetry from all over the world are learned and recited.
A new relationship to the spoken word is developed by speaking ancient texts, preferably, if possible, in the original, but also in translation.
All the work on reading and writing that has been done before, now begins to take on a real meaning as the children reach a new level of consciousness.
In the grammar blocks, attention is paid to the use of tenses. Comparative work is done with Spanish and the other language that was chosen for that particular grade to study.
Decimals are added to the work on fractions. The children continue to calculate using the four processes. Fifth Grade is the last time that the children will only be working with arithmetic. Again, from the new perspective of the Fifth Grader, a study of how mathematics emerged is an exciting and helpful activity. Looking consciously at how numbers emerged, revisiting what was told in a story in the First Grade, and seeing that it all makes sense, is a very satisfying experience for the children.
Geometry is introduced in an artistic and meaningful way. Looking at how the straight line and the curve of First Grade lessons are used in the patterns and decorations in ancient temples allows them to experience a sense of meaningfulness in what they are learning.
They learn how in Ancient Greece, Pythagoras put words to the apparent phenomenon in ancient temple alter designs. We now call it Pythagoras’ Theorem. When we begin to step back and look, they see how there is a lawfulness in the way lines and curves work. These lines and curves were always there, but the students look, observe, think, and create a theory around what is real.
The children work with lines and curves, creating shapes and learning the names we give to the shapes and why. The emphasis is on the beauty of these constructions.
Working with geometrical forms with their exactness is a wonderful way of supporting the inner balance of the child as they get ready to move into the more turbulent phase of pre-puberty and puberty.
The study of patterns in nature discovered by Fibonacci, add an element of sheer breathtaking beauty to the work on Geometry. The discovery of the Golden Ratio and the creation of the Nautilus form help the children see math in a new light.
Additional Blocks for Grade 5:
The children move from the Fourth Grade during which they study animals to the study of plants. The botany block is one of the first explicitly scientific blocks in the curriculum. The children study the stunningly varied plant life of California and other parts of the world. Through the study of how plants are nourished (e.g., through healthy soil and water), the children learn implicitly how important it is for us, as human beings, to nourish them and ourselves in ways that keep us healthy. The colors, the variations of plants and the beauty of the plant world, evokes a response in the child, helping them feel satisfied and calm in the relationship to their surroundings. We are particularly fortunate in this part of the world to be surrounded by extremely bountiful and varied examples of healthy plant life.
The children learn that plants respond to each other, help each other, and signal to each other when there is danger. Thus, added to the realization that other animals feel, protect, need, and care comes with the realization that in their plant way, plants do too.
Alongside the narratives from the ancient civilizations, we ensure that each child has a sense that their story is also studied.
The history of Africa is of course a significant part of the human story and as such always finds its place from now on in the history curriculum.
We begin to look at how humans, started dividing the earth into territories and began “defending” what was “theirs.” We look at the implications of that for others.
We move out of California into the whole of what is now called the United States, Canada and Central America. We look at the landscapes of these areas of the world, mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, forests, and the ocean around them. We allow the children to experience the incredible creative force at work when these features emerge.
As the children begin to move out of their own “home territories” into the larger world. We offer stories of those who have left home or a place of safety to:
- Offer orientation points
- Demonstrate what characteristics one needs in order to move through time and space with courage and respect
- Show what characteristics can negatively impact the spaces you are moving through
Speaking about these themes and hearing the stories are fruitful and meaningful ways of giving the pre-pubescent child a sense of clarity and a training ground for their own arguments. This allows more freedom and more authorship in their own stories.
By this time, the student will have watched the teachers extrapolate, deduce, make connections, and characterize concepts. Hopefully, the Sixth Grader will be able to feel and, from there, think and abstract. Feel, and then think logically to more independently describe concepts that are being introduced.
The continuing work on history offers the study of various empires and leaders of such empires so that the student, now entering into the larger world, can see, as described above, how the way one enters into a space can negatively or positively affect it.
Whether it be Roman generals and emperors, Genghis Khan and his warriors, or other examples of powerful dominating forces, the students can see how NOT to move into a space. Leaving behind what is often seen as incredible pieces of architecture or engineering, leaving behind cultures destroyed and subjugated, leaving behind land burnt and pillaged, these powerful kinds of dominating forces are NOT what we want our children to cultivate. By allowing them to explore their ancestral lineages and how they moved into spaces, or NOT as the case may be, gives the children a clear choice and orientation around questions of how they intend to enter the space of others.
By examining how peaceful cultures and dominating cultures developed in the past and how that relates to how life is today, we begin to lay the groundwork for the students to grasp how each person is a space. They develop an understanding of how each group is a space into which I need to be asked to enter, and when I do enter, I always enter with respect.
We teach that when Europe was in the throes of the Dark Ages, other cultures were alit with learning. Students learn that religions followed in many European countries were used to subjugate and oppress and were used to dominate others mercilessly. How these religions emerged is essential to understand at this time when students are looking to us, as adults, to show them how to be open, respectful, dignified, and gentle in our interactions with the world.
Understanding that religious teachings that are filled with love and the dignity of the all-powerful can be misused and misinterpreted is hugely helpful to the awakening child. It helps them be wary and cautious in their interactions, especially given how powerful the internet and the world of technology have come to be for so many people around the globe. It is the time when their interest in what is taking place in THEIR era is growing; being equipped to meet with that reality is vital.
The language arts blocks continue to refine and expand on writing skills. Both orally and in written form, the children practice creating arguments for and against a theme. They learn how to justify an argument and so on.
Oral debates are often used as a practice for the formulation of strong arguments and for the chance to step into the perspective of another with whom one might not agree.
The students see how much better it is to enter a conversation about urgent issues with the intention of coming to an agreement rather than being right and winning an argument.
The grammar blocks address themes such as the “passive form” of the verb, indirect speech, and practice awareness of grammatical phenomena. The use of the “passive voice” is beneficial in describing scientific experiments where who is doing what is not as interesting and what is being done!
An Origins of English Block also adds a new dimension to the understanding of the English language. Knowing that it is a mélange from the Germanic stream, the Latin stream, and the subsequent French stream is hugely important for their understanding of how languages shift and change over time, often because of colonization and subjugation on the part of invading forces.
Again, this helps them move carefully into a language space that is not theirs and to treat that space with the utmost respect and care.
Business math is introduced. The children learn how to do simple bookkeeping and learn how to calculate interest and percentages. Work is continued with all four processes.
Pre-algebra is introduced.
Work begins on ethical entrepreneurship by running a café at school and earning money to fund the Seventh Grade trip to Europe and Morocco.
The children learn to precisely construct geometrical forms with rulers, compasses and protractors. They learn to work with angles, areas of geometrical forms and continue to expand their knowledge of geometry.
For the first time, the children are introduced to the idea of physics as an area of study. Now that they have thoroughly experienced and observed the world, learned how to be a scientist and philosopher in their study of Ancient Civilizations, they can begin, with their teacher, to describe and put words to theories about reality.
Optics is an important theme in Sixth Grade. As the children move into puberty, it is important for them to have a foundational understanding of how we see, how things are perceived and how things really are. Again, this lawfulness, this exactness of explanation, gives a certain security as they move towards the “un-securing” of puberty and hormonal changes.
A block on the Senses in Humans and Other Organisms is a fascinating way for them to explore how they interact with the world and Self.
They can see how important it is to notice that you are hearing, tasting, seeing, touching, smelling, and so much more through all the other senses that do not have external organs. This allows them to walk through the world and experience all its wonders, to quiver with amazement, to deepen one’s understanding of self and others.
When we allow ourselves to be aware of what stories our senses are bringing to us from the world, we are filled with awe and the deepest sense of respect for everything.
The huge questions, “Who is doing the noticing? Who is making me aware? Who is this ‘me’?” Plays a fundamental role in the discovery of one’s own authentic original being.
Beginning now to speak about this theme lays the foundation for the birth of the authentic Self after puberty or gestation period. This birth is over at around the age of 16.
The children leave the U.S., Canada, and Central America and move to the Americas of the South. Students choose a country to study in-depth and share their knowledge with the rest of the class, thus allowing the class to get to know the countries of what is now often called South America as thoroughly as possible.
The idea of humans looking at the sky and seeing stars and planets rather than gods or goddesses governing our lives, is important as the students begin to get a sense of how they can rely on their observational skills and their ability to understand theories. The children will have heard many stories of how people in ancient times studied the stars and drew conclusions about their lives from the movement of the stars. They will know that there were movements, which were seen as good omens and others as evil ones.
The children sense the changes occurring in their bodies and emotional lives. They need to see that although the stars and planets influence many aspects of our lives, through their own stability, balance, clear feeling, and thinking, they can navigate situations that seem to pull and push them in many directions. Again, stars and planets' regularities and predictable movements give a sense of stability in a life that is becoming "un-anchored."
The children, by now, are moving quickly into the first large crisis of a human life: puberty. Crisis here, again, is meant in the most positive sense possible.
Helping children to move through the puberty crisis is one of the most important tasks of school. Without a healthy puberty crisis, adulthood can be a difficult challenge. As they go through this “gestation period” before giving birth to their authentic SELF independent of their hereditary stream, upbringing, education, and social context, we, the adults, need to clear the space completely.
We need to make sure the space is as safe as possible while allowing the students to explore their own capacities for feeling, thinking, and making decisions based on criteria they have learned to gather through their school and home lives.
The space within which to question established thinking often represented by adults in the student’s lives, as for example Galileo did with the Catholic Church, is sacred. The students need to have that space.
Of course, Galileo recanted and continued to question in secret. Our wish is that the students dare to speak clearly and to articulate any questions they have with the deepest respect for those who have gone before them – their teachers, parents and others they meet along the way.
They are learning to rely on their ability to calm their emotions so that they can come to transparent thinking and see and observe Senses Block to come to their own authentic picture of what there is to experience.
Exploring the world through self-financed trips as far afield as Europe and North Africa, visiting refugee camps on Lesvos in Greece, meeting with people from all walks of life add to their capacity to see the world in all its realities.
Narrative: Observational Thinkers
We study stories about people who relied on their own observational capabilities.
- People who were true scientists in that they observed and did not assume
- People who realized that through their ability to be calm in their feeling world could find a path to clear thinking to come to conclusions that were vastly different from those put forth even by the mightiest of establishments
Now that the students are feeling the new potential heaviness of their physicality or other physical change and shifts in their feeling life, it is critical to help them keep a strong and healthy relationship to their feelings, thoughts and ideas. The latent and not yet conscious question is, “As I move away from my parents, from my hereditary stream and into my own individual story, how can I be sure that I can rely on myself?” Helping the students become more and more aware of their own feeling and thinking and how they feel, and think is essential.
It is crucial to offer stories about characters who were able to create a healthy balance in their interactions with the world:
- Who had the courage of their convictions
- Who perhaps went through huge challenges because of their inability to be courageous and orientated in their feeling realms
- Who struggled and overcame suppression and domination by others
Children of this age often do not naturally want to speak in front of adults about their feelings and what they think. Speaking about characters in plays and books is an excellent way to explore and talk about others, thus giving the students a chance to find strategies and opportunities to work with their own feelings and thoughts.
Giving the children the opportunity to use their – by this time rich and differentiated – vocabulary in poetry and prose helps them express who they are in the best possible way. They will have learned in the grammar blocks and in the language arts blocks that what words we choose, what expressions we use, the tone of voice, and the beauty of how our languages show who we are.
Poetry becomes very important at this age. Love is an incredibly important theme. The students will have heard many stories of men and women who have loved and will have been able to glean wisdom from the stories. Now, it becomes critical to speak more overtly about love. The sexual aspect of love is becoming more and more apparent to the students, and they need support in dealing with this new range of feelings.
Literature of all kinds, conversations about love, poetry that speak of love, painful and joyous love – all of this and, of course, explicit discussions about the implications of sexual love, is key at this age.
Of course, in English, Shakespeare's works are invaluable for exploring a wide range of human emotions and their effect on our ability to be discerning and be healthy in our decision-making processes.
Performing plays on the stage is a wonderful way to really understand what others feel by speaking for them. Articulating clearly, forgetting oneself on the stage and lending one’s body to a different character is wonderful practice for flexibility and confidence.
It is essential that the students can speak in a protected and intimate environment with teachers they have known for a long time. They will have been with their classmates for quite a long time, too. This gives an added sense of safety if such conversations are led and held in a caring and careful way.
The language arts blocks deal with creative writing of all kinds, while the grammar blocks focus more on style questions as well as more subtle grammatical nuances.
Thus, the students have at their disposal a wide range of themes that are meaningful to them that they want to write about, and they can write in a sophisticated and nuanced way that gives them a great deal of satisfaction. If they cannot do that yet, having the opportunity to articulate complex thoughts orally is a wonderful alternative and much more authentic often than what they can write.
Ratios and proportions are introduced. Compound interest is practiced. Work is continued in geometry. Algebra is introduced and practiced.
The European Renaissance and cultural developments of this time in Europe are studied so that there is a better understanding of modern US history.
The newly discovered love of Art by the wealthy brought forth, as we know, some magnificent artistic work. However, we explore at length the fact that white European man created God in his own image in the Sistine Chapels of that world, the overestimation of European cultures, and the tendency of its peoples to dominate others.
An exploration of why people felt compelled to search new lands and why they behaved in the way they did when they reached these shores, is essential to the understanding of this part of the world today.
The study of the Post-Columbian Era and on into the industrialized world of the US plays a vital role. We simultaneously explore the rich cultures of those who were dominated by western expansion, including Africa and the indigenous people of the Americas.
Vital aspects of the History classes at this age are:
- Slavery - How we were able to capture people and bring them as slaves to serve and suffer
- How the idea of “race” is our pitiful excuse for the exploitation of others, and how the story of the victor is the story we mostly hear.
- How oppression through the forbidding of languages and cultures around the globe is studied to better understand why the world was becoming the way it is today already then, and is key to understanding current affairs in 8th Grade
Knowing those who fought for the dignity and absolute rights of the oppressed and exploited and who fought for beauty and exchange of knowledge, cultures, music, and strategies for living a healthy, well-balanced, and contributive life is essential. In a time when it is not clear to the students how to be, especially in a 21st century world, where being liked online can be the only life force some have, being surrounded by those who found ways to be in their dignity and courage, is extremely helpful.
Developments in the field of astronomy are examined. We look at how sailors navigated using their knowledge of the stars. This can be seen as a metaphor for how we as humans can learn to navigate our lives through the waves and storms of a biography through observation and listening to our inner compasses.
Work on studying the other continents of Africa, Australia, Asia and Europe is started.
The students are introduced to the idea that everything is made of something. They begin to explore how substances affect each other and cause changes to come about. Experiments are carried out, the students observe, note what they observe, and learn how to draw conclusions from what they observe. They learn that doing an experiment once does not allow for a conclusion. They see how important it is to work exactly, to observe exactly, to be as objective as possible and to note exactly.
This not only gives them an excellent introduction to the world of chemistry but also gives them a format by which to observe and come to conclusions about their own inner life and the inner life of others. Patience, objectivity, passionate interest, and the ability to be connected to what one is observing – these abilities are good in chemistry classes and life in general.
The work in physics is deepened with themes such as mechanics. “How do I move something that is much larger than myself? How do I find out why something is the way it is? How does gravity work? Who was Newton and Copernicus? Why did Galileo Galilei recant?” The students learn about the work of scientists of this era from around the globe. “How can I be sure? Can I ever be sure? Does it matter that I can never be sure? How do I live with questions and not always have an answer? Is it good to have an answer?” The students are helped to be aware of these questions through the study of people who have struggled with similar inner dilemmas.
The study of the body and what it needs to be healthy is a part of the preparation for a conscious relationship to one’s body – one based on knowledge of how the body functions.
“How do I feed this body of mine? How do I ensure that this ‘vehicle’ within which I move through the world remains as healthy and as agile as possible?” Those are key questions in a young person's life in a world where manipulated and processed foods and meats produced by the cruelest farming methods are readily available. “How does the way I eat affect other animals and the planet itself?” We have to ask these questions as a budding young adult!
Narrative: Autobiographies and Biographies
Now is the time to give the students many opportunities to see how people who have had exciting, challenging, and/or privileged lives have dealt with what came towards them. Well-known people such as Mahatma Gandhi, Che Guevara, Mao Tse Tung, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Jaques Lusseyran, to name but a few, are the subject of conversation in the 8th Grade.
Students are asked to read and write about a person of their choice and bring back their findings. They are offered opportunities to discuss in class why someone behaved the way they did and the implications of their choices. This, again, is an ideal way to allow the students to explore their own questions and struggles without forcing them to share something that they might not be able to (or might not be ready to) from their personal experience.
Love stories are of course very important. Conversations about relationships within stories, and what love might really be is wonderful preparation for relationships they will be having in high school and the future.
As they draw near to the phase in their lives when they ask, “Who am I?” A question posed at the latest in 9th grade. The space has to be kept clean by the adults, within which that question can be asked fully and without fear. Giving birth to oneself is hard work and can be overwhelming. Being in a space cleansed of adult emotions and fears is essential for this process to unfold in the way it needs to.
Creative writing, writing reports, and the difference between scientific writing and storytelling is explored. Each student's style is examined, and suggestions are made on how to improve and enhance one's writing abilities.
Essay writing in the more traditional sense asked for often in High Schools is practiced. Still, the students are fully aware that a 5-paragraph essay is a formula and not what can naturally emerge when one writes when one really cares about a theme.
All grammatical phenomena will have been examined by the end of 8th Grade, and comparisons will have been made to the grammars of the other two languages the students are learning.
- Algebra 1 and if the group or members of the group are ready, Algebra 2
- Solid geometry
- Continued work on Arithmetic
A sweep of history up to the present day, including the Industrial Revolution and its consequences, Nazi Germany, the Vietnam War, and other wars, especially with American involvement, up to modern times is undertaken.
Current affairs are put into context and connected to the histories of the people of the world.
The remaining work on world geography.
Magnetism, electricity and modern inventions
Chemistry and Environmental Sciences
The experiences the students have had during the eight years outside in the environment are used as a basis to study the impact of our human life on the planet. Unnatural substances that we create, how they are created, and their impact on the earth are important parts of this work.
The local and global climate is studied. We ask:
- How does weather ‘comes about’?
- What are we doing to affect the weather?
- What occurs naturally?
- How do I recognize what the weather is going to be like?
- What is changing significantly in the global climate and weather patterns?
The human body is further studied so that the students have a thorough and clear picture of their bodies and a good understanding of how to keep the body healthy. The question of sexuality, reproduction, and all the implications of this is a part of the conversations in this block.
These questions are addressed so the students feel comfortable coming to the teachers with any theme that is causing them unease or distress of any kind.
THE PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, INTELLECTUAL, AND SPIRITUAL HEALTH OF THE CHILD WILL HAVE BEEN AT THE HEART OF THE TEACHER'S WORK
Hopefully, the curriculum will have supported the children throughout their time in the grades. The child's physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health will have been at the heart of the teacher's work. Thus, we hope that there will have been tremendous preventative work done – unobtrusively but thoroughly – so that when the questions of substance abuse arise, the children will be able to ask. They will be able to listen to information with open minds and have inner responses to any situation in which they will be offered a harmful substance.
Information on substances that are available will, of course, be given to the children. The emphasis is, however, on prevention and preparation.