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Sixth Grade

It is not until the child reaches his twelfth year that he can fully grasp causality, that he can truly understand cause and effect. Before this time thought is purely the child’s imagination, pictorial rather than a conceptual nature, but the six grader now has the ability to form abstract concepts. This thinking that has ripened from a healthy imagination is a "warm and mobile thinking." This ability opens up a new way to approach the material of the curriculum. The curriculum and experiences in the sixth grade year transition the students into Middle School. Many of the core subjects, such as Math and Language Arts, take greater strides in both breadth and the skills necessary to work with them. A sixth grader studies History from Rome to the Middle Ages, and all the stories and details those vivid cultural epochs contain. From Economics, Geography, Geometry, and Mineralogy to the phenomenological science of Physics, the students are often invigorated by the challenges of this new level of thinking. Each course of study is brought by a teacher specialized in that area and member of the middle school team. The students transition from their class teacher that guided them first through fifth grades and are now held by a team of teachers that will follow them from sixth to eighth grade.


The sixth grade curriculum sees a transition in outlook from a compliant, energetic class which is ready to tackle anything put before them, to one that begins to question many aspects of their world, especially authority. While looking for confirmation of authority in their lives, they look for cracks therein as well as in the general meting out of just and fair behavior. They are particularly keen on discovering how their own behavior affects those around them. The curriculum expressly addresses these themes though main lesson blocks such as the rise and fall of democracy in Rome (justice and authority), physics, light and shadow drawing, and business math (cause and effect), as well as geology, geometry, astronomy, and essay writing (structure and order).


In Geology, the sixth graders not only sharpen their observations of the world at their feet but also study how the movement of the earth changes the landscape and its inhabitants, and how our actions in the present will shape the world in the future. In Geometry, the students learn what happens when the straight edge is not exactly straight or the consequences when the compass point has moved a fractional amount.

Historical study of the sixth grade year is Rome and the Medieval Ages. A sixth grader is often interested in establishing structure and order, and in finding lawful relationships; the study of Rome is the perfect background to explore these themes. The mood of the Middle Ages, with the focus on cloistered monks and chivalry, satisfies the sixth grader’s quest for beauty, contemplation, and uprightness. The children study European Geography as a complement to the History lessons. They look for lawfulness in the heavens through a study of Astronomy, and then delve deeply into the structure and make-up of the earth as they study Mineralogy. In Physics, the sixth graders study acoustics, heat, and optics; the dynamics of light, dark, and color are further explored through painting and charcoal drawing. Language Arts focuses on the rules and laws of grammar, while Math focuses on business math and percentages, thus rounding out the sixth grade curriculum.


The harmonious balanced Greek period of childhood is ending and a willful, muscular Roman period is beginning. At this time, there is a false dawn of intellectual consciousness as the child’s feeling perception passes over to the world of ideas. This is not the same as the critical, independent thinking and judging that will come after the age of fourteen: it is instead a feeling approach to thinking.
Lois Cusick, “The Waldorf Parenting Handbook”

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