The New Village School in Sausalito, Waldorf-Inspired, Screen-Free | Elementary School
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Elementary School

Grade 1

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.

Academic Content

Letters

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.

Arithmetic

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

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.

Grade 2

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.

Academic Content

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.

Grade 3

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.

Grammar

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
  • Shelters
  • Clothing

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?”

Arithmetic

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.

Grade 4

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.

Academic Content

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

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.

Local Geography

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.

Local History

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.

Arithmetic

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.

Form Drawing

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.