Grade School 1-8

The TeacherGrades 1-3Grades 4 & 5Grades 6-8

Between the ages of seven and fourteen, the student's specific developmental needs are addressed in a structured, socially cooperative and non-competitive environment. In addition to comprehensive language arts, math, science, and social studies, each student attends continuing classes in German and Spanish, vocal and instrumental music, speech and drama, eurythmy (an art of movement), painting, drawing, modeling, and handwork. The school also provides a complete games and physical education program, which in the middle school expands into competitive team sports.

The day begins with a two-hour period called the main lesson, devoted to the study of a particular academic discipline, taught in blocks lasting from three to five weeks. This rotation of subjects allows for a concentrated, in-depth study while recognizing students' need for variety and time to digest the subject matter. Main lesson is a lively, interactive time, moving between artistic and intellectual activities that engage each student's faculties of thinking, feeling, and willing. Their interest and enthusiasm is reflected in their main lesson books, an artistic representation of what has been learned.

After the morning academic work come the artistic, practical, and physical education classes, as well as continuing skills work in English, mathematics and foreign languages.

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Student Evaluation and Reporting

Students are evaluated through comprehensive written reports sent to parents twice a year. Formal parent/teacher conferences are held at mid-year. With the exception of skill quizzes in grades 6 through 8, students are not graded in elementary school nor required to take standardized tests. Formal grading begins in the high school.

 The Teacher - the center

The Waldorf class teacher stands at the center of the grade school years.

Ideally he or she accompanies the same class of children through the elementary years, teaching core academic subjects. Note: In seventh and eighth grades, other qualified teachers often teach one or two blocks as well as mathematics.

This continuity gives the teacher an intimate understanding of each student's strengths and needs over time and fosters a warm and trusting relationship between them.

At the same time, parents and teachers develop a similar rapport that supports the student's learning process.

Early Grades (grades 1-3) 

In these years the children's still vigorous forces of imitation and delight in learning are employed to their fullest. The creation of a rich language environment draws the students forward to mastery of reading and writing skills. In early lessons the vitality of language is preserved through the recitation of playful verses and masterful poetry. Writing down well-loved stories addresses the students' need to be active in the learning process. Consequently, reading follows naturally when the content is already intimately connected to the students. Learning is less stressful, and all levels of literacy are addressed.

Movement and math go hand in hand as students step and clap rhythmically through the times tables. Numbers likewise begin with the children's immediate experience and are made concrete by counting shells or beans kept in a special hand-made pouch.

Knitting and flute playing develop dexterity in head and hand. Exposure to the contrasting sounds of German and Spanish develops inner flexibility, setting the tone for later interest in and appreciation for other cultures and peoples.

In third grade, children begin to separate themselves from their environment and begin to look more critically and consciously at their environment. Practical skills, such as farming, house building and measurement, are studied; and students trace everyday materials to their origins. At this time, carefully chosen stories provide reassurance and support for the inner stages of growth.

Heart of Childhood (grades 4 & 5)

Fourth graders meet the world with new capacities of thinking and feeling. The students wish to have experiences of self that are wider than the family. The curriculum addresses their need to move beyond themselves while cultivating a warm, human connection with the environment. For example, early science lessons introduce them to the animal kingdom in relation to the human being.

Geography lessons begin with a map of the classroom and expand outward to encompass the local community and countryside, and later to the whole of the United States. Students learn to ask, "What is it about the natural resources of this particular place that led human beings to settle here?"

Botany follows in fifth grade as they learn to observe the characteristics of various plants and the environmental conditions in which they thrive. Students observe, draw, and paint the unfolding phases of plant growth from root to leaf to flower. Hero stories from the great mythological traditions of the world form the thematic heart of the language arts curriculum. Students learn about ancient world culture through the literature and history of the peoples of Scandinavia, India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece.

In their academic skills classes, the children are introduced to fractions and decimals in fourth and fifth grades respectively. Through their work with fractions, the students learn that what were once seemingly whole numbers can be broken apart and scattered into countless fragments. Yet the same rules underlying this breaking apart will also bring these numbers back together. The formal study of grammar also begins at this age; All parts of speech are studied. Elementary patterns of our language are introduced, and for the first time students explore the rules that govern how we understand the transformation that words undergo as they move from place to place in the sentence.

Middle School (grades 6 to 8)

With sixth grade the content and quantity of subjects expand significantly to meet the needs of the preadolescent. In addition to deepening the work with previously encountered material, many new subjects are introduced, all with the goal of helping the student maintain a healthy interest in the world. The curriculum encourages preadolescents to direct their gaze enthusiastically and sympathetically out into the world and thereby come to a deeper understanding of self.

Dramatic inner changes are set in motion during this period. Biographies of men and women who struggled with the challenges of their times provide the perspective from which history is viewed. Over the course of sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, the history of European and American civilization is surveyed from ancient to modern times. In seventh grade, students are able to see a reflection of their struggle for individual identity in Renaissance studies, from Italian artists capturing new visions to scientists and religious reformers grappling with the constrictions of long held beliefs, to bold explorers venturing into the unknown.

A new capacity for exact observation is cultivated through the physics lessons, in which students move from the mystery of phenomena to its exact measurement. Inorganic chemistry is a highlight of seventh grade as is the chemistry of foods in eighth.

The physical changes of this age lead naturally to a study of human physiology, which is taught from the hygienic perspective of responsibility for the integrity and health of our bodies. Earth science supports the ever-expanding geographic studies of Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and the planet as a whole.

Business arithmetic, algebra and geometry become formal disciplines and are studied over the course of all middle school grades. The language arts curriculum expands into the interweaving branches of literature, grammar and composition and along with mathematics, occupies both main lesson and ongoing skills classes.

Click here for Grade by Grade Curriculum

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Click here for a tabular summary of the High School Curriculum.

"If there is any one thing that the Waldorf system does, it nurtures, protects, 
and develops beautifully the intelligence of the true child."
- Joseph Chilton Pearce, Author - Evolution's End

The Austin Waldorf School is a non-profit educational institution, 501(c)3, that welcomes students and families of any religion, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, national or ethnic origin.
The Austin Waldorf School is a full member of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA)
Celebrating Educational Excellence Since 1980 - Acknowledgements