Children at Raphael House Rudolf Steiner School begin the school stage of their journey when they leave Kindergarten and join the Lower School.
They meet their class teacher who may accompany them through the next seven years of their schooling – from age six or seven through to the beginning of adolescence. Sometimes though the class teachers do a loop of the first three or four years and then hand the class on to another teacher wo will do the second loop of three or four years.
During this time, emphasis is given to fostering a real sense of and connection to the beauty of the world and supporting children into become more “at home” in the world.
As with the rest of the curriculum, learning is guided according to the stage of child development. In this way the children maintain their thirst for learning and have learning experiences that really “ring true” to where they are in their development, or that support them through a particular stage. This understanding of child development not only informs the content of learning experiences in the Lower School, but also teaching style, engagement with the students, work on the social health of the class, interactions and expectations between home and school and the classroom environment.
The Rhythms of Lower School Life
The pattern of the day consists of three main blocks, separated by morning tea and lunch breaks: the ‘main lesson’ in the first two hours, two practice or specialist lessons in the middle of the day and then two more practice or specialist lessons at the end of the day. The daily timetable takes account of the ebb and flow of the children’s energy, and is varied accordingly.
The main lesson is an opportunity for new learning and experiences, and more rigorous and focused work and exploration. Key subjects are taught in these main lessons, usually in units of three to four weeks. This provides plenty of opportunity for the children to enter deeply into the themes, to recollect the previous day’s experiences and to anticipate the new developments each day. Main lessons should involve ‘the head, the heart and the hand’ in listening, in imaginative and artistic work, written work and movement-based activities. Children’s Main Lesson books often record these theme journeys, and when they do, much care and enthusiasm is devoted to their presentation. Children can feel that the work they present really matters and is valued.
The middle session of the day is often used for practice and revision of skills and knowledge already learnt, though specialist lessons also often take place during this and the last block. Specialist lessons in the Lower School include Handwork (knitting, crocheting and sewing), Woodwork (carving, whittling and simple carpentry), German, Eurythmy and Religion.
Afternoon lessons are generally more relaxed, with an emphasis on games, artistic and practical activities.
The Parent and Wider School Community
The Lower School years are an exciting voyage of discovery for the child, the parents and the teacher alike, who form a bond that enables learning to take place on all three sides. This link is crucial. A child who is fully supported in their educational journey by both teachers and parents will have the support and encouragement needed to navigate the many changes and challenges ahead.
Regular parent-teacher meetings, whole-class meetings, and social and cultural events are part of wider school life.