The second grade child stands on the edge of a new world. So far, the learning in a curriculum inspired by Waldorf pedagogy has been somewhat sleepy, with the dreamlike quality of the classical fairy tale. But now, as the children continue their practice with the basic skills and concepts presented in first grade, they eagerly take up the sword of responsibility for their new-found abilities. They write, they read, they calculate. Each child awakens to these milestones in his or her own time, yet, on the whole, this is usually a year when the child takes giant steps forward in capacity and understanding.
But it is not only in capacity that the child now meets a significant milestone in development — it is also in the quality of his or her own inwardness. Now the children come to know, quite delicately at first, and then more and more strongly, that they can be pulled in opposite directions. They know they can be kind, but they sometimes feel cruel; in one moment their mood may shift from one of peace and happiness to one of fear or anger. They begin to be aware they can tell a story truthfully, or that they can ‘mix up’ the facts to their own advantage. And, perhaps for the first time in their young lives, they experience the possibility of self control and of choice in these matters.
The literary focus of the year reflects this dawning of self-consciousness, with its surprising awakening to the inherent duality in every human soul. On the one hand the children hear stories of idealistic heroes and saints, and on the other hand, they hear Animal Fables. The latter have appeared in all cultures as traditional teaching stories; in them, animals take on human characteristics and foibles, interacting with one another and with human beings in often surprising, but always educational ways. And, finally, some teachers of Second Grade also tell the tale of The King of Ireland’s Son, in which the striving, struggling human being AND the magical, mythical animal characters both play their part.
From these stories arise exercises in recitation, group writing, and the beginnings of original composition. These exercises, and the spelling and grammar lessons associated with them, develop the children’s growing literacy. At the same time, the skills developed in First Grade are the firm basis for further studies in number. But now this work intensifies, as the children learn to solve word problems involving all four processes, and to bring these into written form. The children also continue their rhythmical practice of number patterns on a daily basis, with the recitation of times tables in combination with walking, clapping, stamping and jumping. The children also continue their practice of the pentatonic flute, beginning to recall and play their songs independently of their teacher’s lead, and beginning to associate familiar tunes they have learned to sing with the tones on the instrument.
Water color painting, beeswax modeling, creating artistic representations of the lessons and form drawing are further weekly exercises that arise out of the story content of the main lesson, and the children continue to develop their knitting skills in the handwork lessons. The games and movement lessons continue to be con-competitive, developing such essential skills as jumping rope, climbing, skipping, balancing and teamwork.
Grade Two curriculum in Outline
- Fables / legends / folk tales
- writing sentences
- plays / choral speaking
- basic arithmetic operations
- symmetry – mirror drawing
- painting animal forms
- folk songs
- modeling beeswax
- social exercises
- rhythmic games – jump rope