Inspired most deeply through their feelings, grade school children respond powerfully to what is beautiful in the world, this feeling for beauty is cultivated by the tools and approaches used in their main lesson work. From Grades 1 through 8 each student begins the school day with an individual greeting and a firm handshake from their Class Teacher. The morning lesson begins with music and verse and then moves into a two-hour main lesson. Each main lesson block is an immersion in a particular academic subject from English, history or geography to mathematics, botany or astronomy. The block, lasting three to four weeks, is shaped and enlivened by the teacher through the arts of music, poetry, painting, drawing, movement and drama. This allows the whole child to become absorbed in the subject matter: head, heart and hands.
At SWS, the class teacher leads his or her class through each day’s morning main lesson. This main lesson teacher follows the class up through the grades from first through eighth grade. This continuity enables a deep understanding of each student’s strengths and challenges and supports the development of a rich social dynamic in the class. The class teacher is also able to bring continuity to the curriculum unifying the various disciplines over the years, while providing an opportunity for forging deep, meaningful relationships between the students, their families, and the teacher. At the same time, working with new subject matter at every grade level inspires class teachers with enthusiasm.
As a vital part of learning, the children create their own main lesson books; observations, compositions, diagrams and drawings are recorded illustrating their studies. These colourful, very individualized books reflect the progress of each student and are not only a record of what has been studied, but a method of inquiry, increasing the students’ capacities for creativity and for knowledge. They are a unique and vital part of Waldorf education.