“I am struck by the fact that the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings. We do not wish to see children precocious, making great strides in their early years like sprouts, producing soft perishable timber, but better if they expand slowly at first, as if contending with difficulties, and so are solidified and perfected. Such trees continue to expand with nearly equal rapidity to extreme old age.” — Henry David Thoreau
The primary goal of CWS is to nurture the gradual unfolding of the young child into a capable, caring, and creative adolescent. Rules, guidelines, policies, and classroom activities are designed to support that goal. We recognize that the school can reach its goal only with the active participation and advocacy of the parents; therefore, we ask every family enrolling a child in CWS to deeply consider the unique mission and purpose of our school, and to actively sustain our guidelines and shared expectations from the home.
As children are most secure in a predictable environment, we stress rhythm in our daily, weekly, and yearly schedules. Regular and timely attendance at school is important to the child’s development, to his or her relationship with classmates, and to the academic and social progress of the class as a whole. We ask that parents establish regular home routines in support of their children and the school.
Experience has shown that the following home routines are helpful to our students: regular bedtimes, mealtimes, and tasks; celebration of family festivals; adequate sleep; outdoor play; a quiet time and place for homework and music practice.
Our dress code stresses functional, plain, modest, and neat clothing that is appropriate for the weather conditions. CWS encourages the home standard to support the spirit of the school standard.
Recognizing that the presence and influence of television, computers, mp3 players, computer and video games, films, etc., are endemic in our society, we do not require parents to sign a “media agreement” as do some Waldorf schools; however, as children are highly sensitive to their environments, and as one of the goals of Waldorf education is to foster the child’s innate power of imagination, we ask that parents work as hard as they can to eliminate their child’s exposure to media.
As children work best when they are not hungry, we ask that parents ensure that their children eat a wholesome, satisfying breakfast before school.
Because we want the children to be alert, engaged, and appropriately energetic at school, we ask that parents send children to school with lunches in which every calorie counts. Research has shown that this means focusing on proteins, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Your child’s teacher may have additional suggestions and or restrictions, which will be included in the classroom orientation.
School Work and Assessments
We expect each child to create his or her best work for each assignment. When a child does this and the teacher recognizes this effort, the child feels deep satisfaction as well as the motivation to continue to work in this way. In Waldorf education, not only are letter and number grades unnecessary, they defeat our goal of helping the child develop self-motivation from the inner sense of being engaged in worthwhile work.
Teachers regularly assess students. Parents are informed of the results of these assessments during two 30-minute conferences each year in addition to a mid-year report and more extensive narrative report at the end of the year. We ask parents and teachers to speak with each other concerning the child and the class regularly throughout the year. Our students are rarely tested until they are in grades 6-8, during which years the number and frequency of tests gradually increase. This practice provides the middle school children with the experience of testing that develops capacities to excel and show mastery across the broad spectrum of measurement models.
Many studies have shown that students learn best from their in-class time with teachers and peers and that several hours of homework are unnecessary— even counterproductive—for long-term learning. Our students work hard every day. We believe that when they are at home they should spend their time with their families and friends. We, therefore, limit homework assignments and only assign the most meaningful work.
Students at CWS generally begin to receive some form of homework in the third grade with gradual increases at each grade level. Students in sixth through eighth grades usually receive nightly assignments, including musical instrument practice and assignments from specialty teachers. Teachers expect that homework will be completed in a timely and responsible manner.
Music Lessons and Instrument Practice
Waldorf students make music every day. The youngest of children sing and play tuneful, rhythmic games. In first and second grades, students experience music in song and pentatonic flute playing. In third grade, the soprano recorder is introduced, and stringed instruments are briefly introduced. For the next two years, all students play in class orchestras, while in grades five, six, seven, and eight, they join together to form mixed-grade orchestras. In addition to their orchestral work, middle school students also participate in a choir class.
Beginning in grade four, students are expected either to take private lessons or to participate in sectionals and to practice five days a week. Parents will need to rent or purchase the appropriate instruments for their children and arrange for either private lessons or after-school sectionals. The music teachers can supply information about lessons and rentals.
We stress cooperation rather than competition in the social realm.
This is true of the games chosen for outdoor play as well as classroom activities and even casual interactions. Each child is honored for his or her individual gifts; each child is expected to learn to value the gifts of schoolmates.
We encourage parents to arrange play dates with classmates so the children will have an opportunity to know and interact with one another outside of school.
We expect children to respectfully respond to all adults in the school setting. Children are expected to follow rules and directions, which are in place to support an orderly and courteous community life.
Recognizing that we are also a community of adults, we ask teachers and parents to model appropriate behavior for the children. We strive daily to maintain a community based on mutual respect, trust, and support. We promote person-to-person contact, utilizing electronic communication only to impart specific, logistical information.