The Growing Awakening to the World
In the seven years of Lower School life, the Waldorf curriculum takes children through a journey that begins in the home environment and expands increasingly out into the local environment and eventually the wider world. This journey begins in Class 1 with the “Home Surroundings” main lesson, which is focused on the child’s immediate environment. The Class 3 child, being ready to look further afield, experiences the “Farming”, “House-building” and “People at Work” main lessons, which provide opportunities to explore and experience the various areas of work that contribute to the completion of a house, the food that we eat, and other tasks that contribute to a healthy society. In Class 4, the children explore further, into the history and geography of the Hutt and Wellington region in the “Local Geography” and “Local History” main lessons, which lead in Class 5 to a study of New Zealand History and Geography. Class 6 brings the “Australia and the Pacific” Geography main lesson, while Class 7, through their studies of the Age of Exploration, look at the Geography of some of the lands “discovered” or opened up by exploration during the Renaissance.
Recapitulation of the Development of Human Consciousness
As the children make their way through the Lower School, they are, without being made conscious of it, led through a progression of main lessons that recapitulate the development of human civilizations and the evolution of human consciousness. This series of main lessons unfolds in such a way as to dovetail beautifully with what the children are experiencing in their soul development at each particular class level.
Class 1 brings a focus on fairy stories, which present strong archetypal pictures of world development and encompass pre-history, human psychology, and human spiritual and social development. The images that the Fairy Stories bring are deeply satisfying to seven-year-old children, who understand on a soul level the significance of moral actions, good or bad.
In Class 2, a focus on fables and the stories of the saints continues to support the healthy development of a strong moral life within the students. Through stories that explore moral characteristics and noble deeds, the eight-year-olds are allowed to experience higher aspects of the human being. The stories are presented without moralising, and the children are awakened gently to their own moral behaviour through the underlying truths that the stories embody.
In Class 3, the Old Testament stories are woven into the curriculum. Adam and Eves’ expulsion from paradise resounds for Class 3 children, as it mirrors the soul feeling of nine-year-olds, who may experience themselves, like Adam and Eve, as being “thrust out” into the world. The goal here is to support the children into feeling themselves as being truly part of the world, and Old Testament stories that bring pictures of this simple, worldly work complement the Farming, House Building and People at Work main lessons.
In Class 4, Norse mythology brings rich stories of personalities and happenings that ten-year-old children can relate to. Throughout the stories, the trickster god Loki grows from naïve mischief-maker to perpetrator of conscious harm when he brings about the death of Baldur, the beautiful sun-god. The battle that follows results in the Norse gods leaving the earthly world – a separation that rings true for Class 4 students, who are experiencing their own increasing separation from the spiritual world that they were, in class 1, so close to.
The Class 5 curriculum carries students through a series of main lessons that begin in the realm of mythology but eventually explore the beginnings of recorded history. Ancient India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece all enter the classroom in a rich and experiential way, with an emphasis on the social, cultural and spiritual aspects of each civilisation’s development at their time of greatest influence. Each civilisation studied marks a shift in the development of human consciousness and a changing relationship to the spiritual world and life on Earth. The Greek epoch marks a time when human beings lived in balance between materialism and spirituality, and we often see this balance in class five students, who are said to be experiencing their own “golden age” before the onset of puberty.
Class 6 brings a study of Ancient Rome – a civilisation defined by its mastery of engineering, a very pragmatic view of the spiritual world and the development of laws that were not handed down by the gods but were developed by people for the good of the state. Ancient Rome represents materialism and a real distancing from the spiritual world, and is studied at a time when children are distancing themselves from the authority of adults and anything with too saccharine or earnest a tone. The emphasis on black and white law, logic and reasoning instead of spiritual maxims, mastery of and discipline in physical endeavour all appeal in a deep way to the twelve-year-old child.
In Class 7 the children experience something of a Renaissance, after the cool but epic materialism of Ancient Rome. The period of the Renaissance in Europe is studied, and the children learn of the flourishing of the arts in Europe, many brave journeys of discovery and the immense and diverse talents of some of the key figures who contributed world-changing inventions, discoveries and developments to society. Class Seven students are pushing out into the world themselves, keen to explore new things, develop new and diverse talents and expand their horizons, and with a renewed appreciation for beauty and art.