A Head, Heart, and Hands Education
A Head, Heart, and Hands Education – our way of describing how the school teaches the whole child through a program that meets them where they are developmentally.
Main Lesson is taught by the Class Teacher. Teachers are California credentialed and are Waldorf certificated or receive training in Waldorf methods.
In addition to the main lesson, subject teachers provide the following:
- Fiber arts and other handwork skills
- Physical education and field games (referred to as Games Class)
- Spanish in grades 1st-6th, and 7th and 8th in the following 2 years
- Music and singing instruction in all grades
- Study Skills, Orchestra, and Forging in grades 6th-8th
Middle School activities offered (grades 6th-8th):
- Fine Art
- Student Council
- Circus skills (6th grade) like uni-cycling, juggling, and stilt walking
- Co-ed League Sports: flag football, volleyball, bowling, basketball, track & field and soccer
- Musical theater and choral productions
- MathCounts competition
- PSAT preparation
- Model U.N.
- Student Council
- Math homework help
- Running Club
A Play-Based Approach to Learning
Music, games and finger play develop rhythm and counting skills. The hands-on activities of gardening, cooking, nature walks, seasonal activities, etc., introduce science, math and geography skills, concepts and vocabulary. Multicultural stories give the child an introduction to social studies.
Social development and cooperative learning are also emphasized in kindergarten. In particular, acquiring the skills of concentration, courtesy, social habits, classroom habits and spatial awareness are important goals. Story, song, activities and celebrations carry us through the cycle of the year. Within the rhythm of each week, the children engage in these activities: painting, baking, sewing, drawing, and beeswax modeling.
A play-based approach is what kindergarten was before academic testing and homework became the norm in public kindergarten classrooms. However, the way 5 to 6 year olds learn has not changed. Movement, intuition, images, and rhythm are mostly associated with the right side of the brain, and reading, writing, and math are mostly associated with the left side. The right side has a burst of development between the ages of four to seven, whereas the left side develops between the ages seven and nine. At MBCS, reading and writing instruction begins in 1st grade, when children are ready for it and is presented in a way that engages their imaginations and bodies. If children are pushed to read too early they might learn how but research suggests they are also more likely to become disinterested in reading by the age of eight. There are many important skills, social and pre-academic, that kindergarteners need to learn at this age. Play is an important ingredient in all grades at MBCS!
The goal of our kindergarten program is to lay a strong foundation for the formal academic curriculum of the grades. Many preliminary academic skills are practiced daily. This material is not presented through a formal academic lesson, but rather is embedded in the activities and rhythms of each day. The kindergarten program also allows children to fully develop their creativity, imagination, and self-confidence in preparation for the higher level of cognitive thinking in the later grades.
One and Two-Year Programs
Student turning five (5) between September 1st and December 2nd
Student turning 5 years old on or before September 1st.
The Straight and The Curved Line
The first grade is a bridge between the kindergarten and the grades. Children should be turning seven years old in first grade. The year begins with the discovery that behind all forms lie two basic principles: the straight and the curved line. The children find these shapes in their own bodies, in the classroom, and in the world beyond. The straight and curved line are then practiced through walking, drawing in the air and sand, on the blackboard, and finally, on paper. These form drawings train motor skills, awaken the children’s powers of observation, and provide a foundation for the introduction of the alphabet. Through fairy tales and stories the children are introduced to each letter of the alphabet. In this way the children experience the development of language in a very concrete yet creative way: instead of abstract symbols the letters become actual characters that the children have a real relationship with.
In a similar way, the children first experience the qualities of numbers before learning addition or subtraction: What is “oneness”? What is there only one of in the world? The four processes may be introduced as four princesses who are searching for jewels—Princess Plus always tries to carry more jewels than her pockets will hold; Miss Minus, on the other hand, is always losing her jewels. Stones, acorns, or other natural objects are used to introduce counting. Only after considerable practical experience in adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing are the written symbols for these operations introduced.
First graders enter the world of music through the pentatonic scale. In this scale all the notes have a harmonious sound in any order they are played. Songs are based on seasonal themes; the playing of the pentatonic flute develops finger coordination, concentration, and breath control. Painting in the first grade is intended to give the children an experience of working with color rather than attempting to create formed “pictures.” The children’s feelings for form are encouraged through beeswax modeling and crayon illustrations. In coloring the children imitate the teacher’s work, attempting to draw whole shapes rather than filling in outlines.
Fairy tales, folk tales and nature stories, pictorial and phonetic introduction to letters, reading approached through writing, form (i.e., freehand geometric) drawing, qualities of numbers, introduction of the four processes in arithmetic, lower multiplication tables.
Development of Writing Skills
Children entering their eighth year still carry with them much of the imaginative consciousness of early childhood, and they are beginning to be more aware of themselves and others. They start to recognize that they have their own personalities and emotions, some of which are positive and others that are negative. Honesty and deceit, trust and betrayal, kindness and cruelty-many traditional fables show these positive and negative qualities in sharp contrast. The animals in the fables have little control over these qualities that they represent: the lion must be fierce, the wolf greedy, the fox cunning. In a similar way the young child must sometimes feel that he or she is helpless to control these strong impulses and emotions. In this context, the stories of the saints can be understood as offering the children a picture of the element of choice that separates us from the animals.
The children see that they, like the characters in the fables, have desires, likes, dislikes, good qualities, and even some of the negative qualities that get those characters (and the children) into trouble. The picture of the saints provided the children with an example of what the human being can achieve when he or she dedicates him- or herself to a higher purpose. The children in second grade begin to see that there are choices to be made in life. They can follow their own desires, for which they see the consequences experienced by the animals in the fables; or, they can align themselves with a higher purpose, and gain control over their “animal” nature, just as Saint Francis was able to tame the fierce wolf.
During the second grade much attention is given to the development of writing skills. The children’s first reading experience comes through reading what they themselves have written in their main lesson books. This may be a short verse that helps them review a letter sound, or perhaps a simple retelling of one of the fables they have heard. In this way the children experience the way written language actually developed over, the course of human history. The learning of arithmetic concepts and skills continues in the second grade through stories and games. The children practice using the four arithmetical processes and explore the nature of place value. Rhythmical counting by ones, twos, threes, and so on provides the basis for learning the times tables.
Legends and fables, reading, writing, arithmetic (whole numbers and number patterns, multiplication tables, column addition and subtraction, mental math problems), elements of grammar.
The Fundamentals of Grammar
As the children enter their ninth year they start to see the world differently. No longer are they content to be a part of life without doubts and questions. Before this time the children fundamentally experience little separation between themselves and their environment. As this new consciousness develops, they suddenly begin to realize that they are individuals. Parents may notice children becoming more critical, and beginning to question everything.
The children develop an appreciation of the important work of the farmer in nurturing, cultivating, and protecting the different elements of nature. Experiences may include baking, canning, and an overnight visit to a working farm. The children plant and harvest a small garden at the School.
The study of housebuilding starts with the discovery that our first home on earth is our body. The children learn about many different dwellings that people have built over the course of time and in different parts of the world. The children may work on a small housebuilding project in class.
The children learn the ways that we human beings have developed to orient ourselves on the earth through the study of measurement. The class discovers that ancient peoples marked the passage of time by observing the cycles of nature. They relive the invention of various devises to measure time, and may make their own sundial or water clock. This leads naturally to a discussion of how distance was originally measured by time: a day’s journey, etc. The children learn that modern units of distance measure originated in the human body: the king’s foot became our foot and the king’s thumb width became our inch. Thus the third graders see that “the human being is the measure of all things.”
In the third grade the fundamentals of grammar are taught. Regular reading practice becomes part of the class rhythm; cursive writing skills are strengthened. The third-grade child is ready to experience the full diatonic scale in music.
Stories of creation from all cultures, with an emphasis on Hebrew mythology and history; study of practical life, farming, housing, clothing; the calendar and time; reading, spelling, writing, original compositions; grammar, punctuation and parts of speech; cursive writing; higher multiplication tables; weight, measure and money. The culmination of the Third Grade year is a five-day field trip to Emandal Farm’s Environmental Camp in Willits, California.
The Importance of Human Deeds
Fourth graders are passing through the midst of the nine-year-old change. They still wish to revere, but their reverence must be justified. They become more self-confident as their perception of the world sharpens, but at the same time their experience of separation from their surroundings can be quite painful. The children begin to form their own personality in response to their experience of the world, consciously choosing those qualities that will go into their characters.
It is this faculty of conscious choice that the Norse myths strongly echo for the children. The gods of Asgard are portrayed as individuals with distinct personalities; the children learn from Loki the consequences of amoral cleverness and receive a contrasting image from the story of Siguna’s compassion and faithfulness. The Norse tales convey to the children the twin values of courage and sacrifice. Thor faces seemingly insurmountable odds, yet through perseverance is at last triumphant.
The children continue their exploration of the world around them through the study of local geography. They may start by determining the “geography” of their own bodies: front-back, up-down, right-left. The children learn how to find the four points of the compass by observing the sun and stars. They study and make maps of their classroom, the school, the neighborhood, the city, and the state of California. Expeditions by foot and bus around the city help them to consciously link themselves to their surroundings.
The fourth grade curriculum repeatedly emphasizes the importance of human deeds. Thus the study of California history focuses on the men and women who played a part in creating the culture we live in. The teacher attempts to give the children a sense for the world of the first Californians, the Native Americans, including our local Miwok tribe. The children relive the coming of the Spanish explorers, the founding of the missions, and the Gold Rush, which transformed San Francisco from a sleepy little village into a boom town almost overnight. The fourth grade often embarks upon a field trip of several days to give the children a first-hand experience of the Mother Lode or other historic sites.
Through detailed study of the forms and habitats of animals (beavers, bats, lions, foxes, etc.) through poetry, through clay modeling, and through play-acting, the children begin to get a feeling for the fascinating assortment of skills and qualities that the animals possess. At the same time, the children begin to see the unique and responsible position they hold as human beings upon the earth.
By cutting up apples, baking and cutting pies and pizzas, and creating parts of a whole, the children are given a visual experience of fractions before forming mental concepts. The children learn to add, subtract, multiply, reduce and expand fractions, and to change improper fractions into mixed numbers.
Norse mythology and sagas; Native American history and culture; composition, letter writing; local and state geography, history, and map-making; study of the animal kingdom; fractions. Field trips have included California’s gold country, missions, Wild Things in Salinas, Tomales Bay Native American history program, Monterey history, etc.
The Dawn of Human Civilization
The fifth grade children journey with their teacher back to the dawn of human civilization, in ancient India. Through mythology, music, and art the children are given a taste of how the ancient Indians, Persians, Egyptians, and Greeks viewed the world. The teacher attempts to give the children a sense for the differences between each cultural epoch so that they may begin to understand how human consciousness has evolved through time.
The study of geography serves to complement the study of ancient cultures. While history leads the children deeper into themselves, geography takes them to the farthest reaches of the earth. Once again, the teacher strives to give the children a sense for the great contrasts between different geographical regions: the North American continent is studied in terms of north and south, east and west, and the human and economic use of the resources in these contrasting places. Geography awakens in the child a feeling of relatedness with fellow human beings living in all other parts of the world.
Beside the discovery of the physical characteristics of the earth is the study of the plant life that grows upon its surface. The children learn that there is order and structure in all that surround them in the natural world. Just as the children at this age have within them the potential for all that they are to become in their later life, so they see that the seed contains within it the mighty oak tree. The children study the monocotyledon and dicotyledon, algae, mosses, and investigate how climate and geography affect plant growth.
Ancient civilizations and mythology (India, Persia, Egypt); Greek mythology and history, American geography related to vegetation, agriculture, and economics; composition, grammar, spelling, reading; arithmetic – decimals, ration and proportion; botany. In May, the class participates in the Pentathlon, a reenactment of the Ancient Greek Olympic games.
Awareness of The Physical Bodies
The children entering their twelfth year begin to experience an important change in their physical bodies. Whereas before their movements were naturally graceful (generally speaking), now a certain clumsiness often appears, as if the children don’t know quite what to do with their bodies. On an inner level the children are entering strongly into their skeletal system. It is at this stage that concepts based on the laws of mechanics are introduced.
The Roman epoch epitomizes in an historical sense what the children are experiencing in their bodies. Of all the ancient peoples the Romans most strongly dominated the physical world. Their cities, roads, aqueducts, the Roman army, and their conquest of the Western world – all these accomplishments match a feeling of omnipotence that the sixth grader has: I can do anything! Yet equally important for the children is the example of how the excesses of the Roman period led to the eradication of native cultures and the fall of the Roman empire.
With the children’s increasing awareness of their physical bodies the time is right for the study of the physical body of the earth. Geology is introduced first in a comparative way. For example, the granite peaks of the Sierras may be contrasted with the worn limestone hills of the eastern United States.
In the sixth grade the children are introduced to concepts of physics. Acoustics comes through observing how music is made; the children discover that they too have a musical instrument within them, the larynx. Optics are introduced through contemplating the qualities of color.
Whereas geometric shapes have in the prior grades been drawn freehand as artistic exercises, the sixth grader learns the mathematical properties of these forms and strives to construct them with great accuracy using ruler and compass.
Roman and medieval history; European and African geography; Arthurian legends; mineralogy; physics (acoustics, electricity, magnetism, optics and heat); composition, grammar, spelling, biographies; introduction to algebra; geometric drawing with instruments; botany, astronomy. In May the class participates in the Medieval Tournament hosted by a central coast Waldorf school.
Algebra and Plane Geometry
The seventh grade can be a tremendously challenging and rewarding year for the children. The seventh grader stands on the brink of puberty. Not only are great physical changes taking place, but a major shift in cognitive development is also under way. The children are enthusiastic to express themselves and to assert their independence more strongly. Social relationships become a primary focus.
Historically a similar period of change took place in Western civilization around the end of the fifteenth century .The study of the Renaissance, Reformation, and the Age of Exploration thus echo what the children are experiencing within themselves. The Renaissance was not only an artistic event, but was the beginning of a whole new way of looking at the world. During this time, the principle of learning through observation of phenomena emerged; leading directly to the development of our modern scientific method.
In chemistry the children discover through observation the properties of various substances and the way in which they interrelate. They examine the phenomena of combustion, the water cycle, and the nature of acids and bases. In physics the children study the laws of refraction, reflection, heat, and electricity.
At this age the children are particularly able to look at issues of health and nutrition in an objective way. The class considers those factors that foster health or illness in the human being, including an exploration of how various substances can promote one or the other condition.
In mathematics the basic concepts of algebra and plane geometry are introduced. The children learn how the Renaissance artists used geometric principles to develop the laws of perspective, and practice the application of these laws in their own drawings.
The children learn biographies of great figures who went against the prevailing views of their day in their own search for truth, freedom, and self-expression. Through studying the lives of Galileo, Martin Luther, Christopher Columbus, Elizabeth I, and others, the children find reassurance that in their struggle to become themselves they also can contribute to the world.
Voyages of discovery; Renaissance and Reformation; world geography; physics (mechanics); physiology (blood and muscles), astronomy, inorganic chemistry; composition, grammar, spelling, literature; arithmetic.
The Human Being as a Microcosm
With the advent of puberty the children’s capacity for logical thinking and independent judgment fully awakens. The authority of the class teacher gives way to the individual student’s search for truth. The children stand at the doorway to adulthood and prepare to leave our school.
As the children become physically and intellectually mature, it is important that they gain a clear picture of history up to the present day. The eighth grade history curriculum covers the period from the Renaissance through the twentieth century. Special attention is given to the emergence of the ideals of human freedom that led to the American, French, and Russian revolutions, and the way those ideals manifested differently in each nation, and to the pivotal role of individuals such as Charles Darwin, in laying the foundation for the modern scientific world view.
The eighth-grade science curriculum seeks to give the children a picture of the human being as a microcosm of the elements of nature. The teacher now talks about the human being in the terms of physical science; the class will look at the way in which the digestive, respiratory, circulatory, and skeletal system, and the various organs of the body cooperate and interrelate.
The study of physics continues in the eighth grade with hydraulics, aerodynamics, and meteorology.The teacher tries to show how the discovery of mechanical principles contributed directly to the development of our modern technological society; for example, how the invention of the steam engine made the Industrial Revolution possible.
In chemistry the children engage in the analysis of organic substances and investigate their role in human nutrition. The chemistry curriculum focuses on those processes by which organic substances are formed (e.g., photosynthesis) and transformed (as in digestion). The children seek to discover how the classical substances of earth, air, fire, and water can be understood and observed in physical processes; for example, in the various influences that create weather or ocean currents.
Algebra studies continue in the eighth grade. The children are introduced to the binary system, which made possible the development of computers. They learn the principles of solid geometry, and actually construct the five platonic solids.
During puberty the children become filled with creative forces. It is the task of the teacher to nurture the forces of inner creativity so that the child becomes the adult who is able to express him or herself to a highest potential.
Literature (short story, letters, dramatic contrast in Shakespearean drama), composition, grammar, spelling; arithmetic (review of solids and measurement), algebra, geometry; world economic geography; American history from the Revolution through the Civil War and into modern times; physics (hydraulics), organic chemistry, physiology. The class participates in the Eighth Grade Waldorf Track Meet. Graduating Eighth graders take a class trip to celebrate their last year together. A formal graduation is held that features speeches from each graduate.
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