In his many lectures on education, Rudolf Steiner delivered a method that helps the child develop faculties which unfold at specific times of life. At each stage of development, the curriculum is designed to engage the abilities of the growing child. For example, during the kindergarten years it is play which engages the limbs and body actively. At the primary school level, children learn through the imagination as a means to mainfest feelings. Music, poetry, the rhythm of the day all provide a basis for this to happen. The secondary school years bring the opportunity for clarity of thinking and a capacity for judgement as the intellect develops. In this way the Steiner curriculum responds to the developmental needs of the students at each level. It has proved to be a relevant and contemporary curriculum for over 80 years, largely because it is broadly based, integrated, interdisciplinary and comprehensive.
The building blocks of the curriculum are the Main Lessons, which commence in Class 1 and continue right through to Class 12. The day begins in any Steiner school around the world with the Main Lesson period — an extended lesson which lasts approximately 2 hours. The content of the lesson will be drawn from one of the main academic subjects (English, Mathematics, Science, History, etc.) These subjects are taught in thematic block periods of 3 or 4 weeks in a horizontal sequence across the year. There is also a vertical sequence from year to year within a subject area (ie. the same theme may be taught on a deeper level) so there is an ascending spiral of knowledge.
The long Main Lesson period allows the Class Teacher to develop a wide range of integrated activities around the central theme which allow for a variety of learning strategies — movement, speech, music and practical activities – as well as formal academic work. Main Lessons also incorporate a three-fold approach — physical, artistic and intellectual — to consciously work with the whole child. In addition, there is also a 3-day rhythm which enhances the learning process — by building continuity, incorporating an element of review and recall, and allowing for a depth of understanding which incorporates feelings and will as well as intellectual comprehension.
After Main Lesson, the day continues with shorter practice lessons from a wide range of subjects in the Class Teacher Period (Primary), including Foreign Languages, Music, Eurythmy, Physical Education, Craft and Art. Throughout the daily rhythm a balance is sought between the academic, artistic and practical. In the High School, there may be a wider range of subjects on offer, depending on the State curricula.