The Waldorf curriculum is not arbitrary–it is founded on the clear and consistent progression of development that every child, every human being, goes through. Of course there are individual differences, but with open minded observation of children over time, one can clearly see lawful patterns of growth.
It is extremely important that children are either in the grade designed for their stage of growth OR that they receive the story/history curriculum appropriate to that age whilst actually in a different grade. This latter situation might be felt best for a particular child who has learning difficulties or has been at public (or other) school or is new to Waldorf and might be ‘officially’ in a different grade.
Because the Waldorf curriculum speaks to the soul development of the child, not merely to her acquisition of skills, she needs the material that speaks most profoundly to her deepest journey on the path of human development, at the stage where she is on an inner level (even if her skills are ‘behind’ or ‘advanced’). She needs the wonders of the fairy tales, myths, legends and history that are a focus of each year’s curriculum. In an unclear situation where there might be a straddling of grades, one could purchase the curriculum for the grade above or below for her skills whilst also purchasing her grade-appropriate curriculum to feed her soul development. The parent can then focus on the story curriculum whilst tweaking her language arts and math, for instance, to meet her where she is. Such an approach also allows the parent to go back and help her child transition to a new way of homeschooling.
Having said this, we do make a real effort in all our full Christopherus curriculums to allow for the huge natural differences between children of each grade in terms of reading, writing and math (as well as other subjects such as handwork and form drawing). So it might be best for you to purchase the grade curriculum for your child’s age (see chart below) and see if it has enough material in for you. The previous or subsequent curriculums can be purchased a later date if necessary.
If you are homeschooling any child between birth and about age 11/12, especially if you are new to Waldorf education, we cannot emphasize strongly enough the need to get a copy of Joyful Movement.
Form Drawing is also a key foundation to your child’s healthy relationship to education: even if you have an older child, you can work with our form drawing book. We strongly advise those new to this therapeutic art to also consider purchasing our form drawing video which not only walks one through the forms, but gives pedagogical help with form drawing.
Our free audio download The Therapeutic Basis of Waldorf Education could be very important to those of you whose child has some challenges. There are also a number of other free audio downloads and videos available to help parents. Our audio downloads and videos for purchase also go into more depth as they are longer and less informal.
In our Bookstore each curriculum page has a free video which will ‘walk you through’ what is contained in that grade’s curriculum. On those Bookstore pages you will also find sample pages that will hopefully give you a good taste of what that year is about.
On our Articles page there are a number of important essays on why one should not begin academic work before age 6 at the earliest (and please be aware that there are curriculum providers with a tenuous relationship to Waldorf education that do just that).
Have a good read through our Early Years page for an orientation to living and growing with your little one from birth through about age 6.
Our Your Questions Answered page will also be helpful to new people.
Age Guide Chart
Early years–absolutely no early learning,formal lessons, informal academic lessons or anything other than learning to play, explore, be here on this Earth, love other people and our surroundings…and similar (see The Journey Begins at Home)
First grade–preferably the child is as near to 7 years of age as possible. 6 1/2 is about the youngest for first grade.
Second grade–7 1/2 to almost 9.
Third grade–this is the year of the Nine Year Change,an important watershed in child development (see our third grade curriculum and Joyful Movement for more information). The Nine Year Change takes place between about 8 1/2and 10–during third grade, the year which has content exquisitely crafted to meet this new stage of child development.
Fourth grade–age 10 is optimal.
Fifth grade–age 11.
Sixth grade–age 12.
Seventh grade–age 13.
Eighth grade–age 14.
Sometimes homeschoolers combine grades 7 and 8, especially if the child is going to go to public high school and is ‘older’. However, the opposite approach could also be considered–does one really want a younger child to be in public high school?
Another possibility is, especially if your child has been a bit young for each grade, to take a year off, consolidating lessons and experiences from previous years and deepening and exploring new interests.
This ‘year off’ approach can also work very well at the end of the high school years, when a young person can work, travel, explore and generally take her time before committing to her next steps.
Need more help with all of this? We now have several Christopherus families willing to talk such things through with new homeschoolers. Find out more here.