Waldorf School of Santa Barbara is a private school providing education to children in parent-toddler, nursery, preschool, kindergarten, elementary school (grades 1-6) and middle school (grades 7-8). It is in elementary school and middle school that the child's world begins to open up beyond themselves and their immediate circle. This is middle childhood, the ages of about seven to fourteen, the second stage of development. It is during these years that children leave the realm of learning mainly through imitation. Instead that which speaks to the imagination, and is deeply experienced, is learned and remembered.
Thus the teacher's task is to transform all that the child needs to know about the world into the language of imagination, a language that is as accurate and as responsible to reality as intellectual analysis is in the adult. The world of nature, words, numbers, history and science are readily taken in when presented in this way. In first grade the four arithmetical operations are presented not as dry theoretical facts, but introduced as characters in a drama that is then acted out. Seventh graders awakening into puberty learn about the Renaissance and Reformation, a time when many a dauntless quest into the unknown was made.
Textbooks are rarely used. Instead, lessons are taught through rich stories and conversations. Students then create their own textbooks, known as main lesson books, which become written and artistic records of what they have experienced in class and learned in each subject.
The Waldorf philosophy recognizes a basic need in elementary school and middle school-aged children for genuine authority rooted in love and respect. This need of authority leads to one of the most distinctive features of Waldorf education, the class teacher who ideally advances with the students from first through eighth grade. The class teacher presents the main academic subjects, coordinates with the special subject teachers, and provides the link between home and school, thereby carefully nurturing each child's potential.
Up until about the sixth grade the child's progress is monitored not by way of tests and report cards. Instead teachers have an ongoing dialogue with their students and meet regularly with parents to talk about the children's progress. In this way strong community is developed, with parents and teachers working together to support the children's education. At the end of each year the teachers write a thorough evaluation of each child, which is shared with the children's families.