Waldorf 101: Main Lesson Books, Block Teaching, and The Three Day Rhythm

NOTE:  This is NOT for Kindergarten aged children!  This is for children in the grades, who should be seven for most of Grade One, eight for most of Grade Two, etc.

Kindergarten aged children (traditionally ages 3-6 at a Waldorf school, at home perhaps ages 5 and 6) do not follow three day rhythms, nor block teaching, nor have Main Lesson Books.  They follow a strong rhythm, a story that changes once a month, singing and verses and practical work.

Main Lesson Books: These are stapled or spiral bound blank books.  One Main Lesson Book is for each block  (see below) or for a certain subject throughout the whole year.  For example, you may have one Main Lesson Book for October’s Language Arts block on Aesop’s Fables in Second Grade or perhaps you have a Nature Main Lesson book where you draw the same tree once a month on the first day of the month.

Where to find them:  Through A Little Garden Flower http://www.alittlegardenflower.com/store/  , through Paper Scissor Stone http://waldorfsupplies.com/   or through here:  http://www.raand.com/supplies-waldorf-schools.html

Block Teaching: In Waldorf Education, we teach a Main Lesson on a focal subject for 3-6 weeks.  Many home educators work with one month time frames for ease.  A typical school year may include 3-4 Language Arts Blocks, 3 Math Blocks, 2 Science Blocks, perhaps Form Drawing as a block or two.

Here is an example of my own personal plan for Second Grade:

September – Form Drawing from Cherokee Trickster Tales for 2 weeks, Math for 2 weeks

October – Language Arts from Fables (this includes word families, spelling, vocabulary, handwriting, punctuation, grammar)

November – Math

December – Language Arts/Nature  from Saint Stories

January – Math

February – Language Arts from Saint Stories

March – Nature Block

April – Math Block

May – Form Drawing from Jataka Tales

June – Language Arts from Saint Stories

Separate from the Blocks include things such as foreign languages (usually two languages; we do Spanish and German); Handwork; Games; Music, Painting, Eurythmy, Form Drawing.  These are typically worked  in several times a week, and also sometimes within a Main Lesson as part of the three-day rhythm.  As the children becomes older, typically there is also extra lessons and practice for spelling and math.

Three-Day Rhythm:  Waldorf is the ONLY educational method to use sleep as a learning aid.  Typically it looks like this:

Monday – Perhaps practice something from last week, perhaps Form Drawing, TELL new story and let it rest

Tuesday – Hands on piece – re-visit story, pick out elements of story and work with poetry, crafts, painting, building, modeling, etc from story

Wednesday – Re-visit story, work on academic pieces such as grammar, writing summaries in Main Lesson Book, etc.  Tell new story if doing five days of school a week.  (If not, stop here and make Thursday a painting day or such with Fridays off).

Thursday – Re-visit story, hands-on pieces

Friday – Re-visit story, academic pieces

Hope this helps clarify a few basics of Waldorf Education for the grades.



10 thoughts on “Waldorf 101: Main Lesson Books, Block Teaching, and The Three Day Rhythm

  1. This is helpful in giving a bigger picture of what a school day/week might look like for a grades child – thank you!

    Regarding children being 7 for most of first grade, 8 for most of 2nd, etc…. is there an approximate month cut-off? A child who turns seven in March, for instance, would be six for most of the school year, but in a traditional school setting would be in first grade… would a child with a birthday in the second half of the year still be in K and begin 1st grade as a seven year old?

    • This is very hot debate in the Waldorf schools and on Waldorf Homeschooling lists. In homeschooling, with the Spring birthdays one could consider the January start date as opposed to fall (ie, last half of six year old Kindy in the fall, first part of First Grade in January). With summer birthdays, no problem, wait until they turn 7. 6 truly is a ramped up 4 in many cases and the kids seem so immature for the most part – you can head into first grade knowing that, but the fairy tales really speak to a 7 year old, the Saints to an 8 year old, etc
      Hard choices sometimes!

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  3. Hi Carrie,
    Do you yourself follow a 3-day rhythm for homeschool? I like the 3-day rhythm (we do a 4-day school week) but it seems all of the major waldorf homeschool curricula follow a 2, 2-day rhythm. I feel like a 3-day rhythm would give us more time to work with a story but worry we wouldn’t fit enough in in a year (this is my first year homeschooling). In first grade, would you just introduce one letter or number per week (with a 3-day rhythm) or would you cover more than that? I’m currently using Christopherus but would like to tweak it to suit us a little better.

    Thanks, Carrie!


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  5. I have children in a Waldorf school in the city of Minneapolis. I would like to hear more about how sleep is/should be used as a learning aid. Is it as simple as working to protect the night-time sleep rhythms? I wondered how much more there could be to this when you are mentioning it in relation to the 3-day rhythms.

    • Hi Rachel!
      THere is a lot to sleep from a Waldorf perspective; you may want to try some of the articles available about sleep on this blog and those by Susan Johnson, MD available at the Waldorf On Line Library. The sleep as a learning aid is built into the rhythm of teaching by the teacher in the way the lessons are structured, this mainly has to do with way Steiner himself saw the human being and memory and such..

      Hope that helps!

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