Curriculum — 31 August 2002
Mains, Blocks and Middle Lessons

Alan Whitehead of Spiritual Syllabus & Golden Beetle Books Speaks on Mains, Blocks and Middle Lessons

QUESTION: I just recently purchase 3 of Alan Whitehead’s SSS: Genii of Lanugage & Numeria (both for class 1&2) and A Steiner Homeschool? My question is this, Mr. Whitehead speaks of 3 lesson streams: mains, middles & blocks. I think most of us are familiar with the idea of a “main lesson” that lasts 3-5 weeks. It seems that at our local schools, other ongoing subjects are then organized for the late morning & afternoon hours (handwork, music, eurthymy, games, etc.) But Mr. Whitehead’s book seems to organize all the other subjects into the ‘middle’ or ‘block’ lesson (late a.m. and afternoon); and they rotate in their emphasis (such as numeracy, literacy, etc.) similarly to the main lessons. Do you know where I can get more info on this method? Is this method specific to Australia? Any feedback on pros/cons of organizing lessons in this manner?

ANSWER: Rudolf Steiner originally intended the sequential ‘main lesson’ system, as opposed to ‘period’ teaching, for all lessons morning, middle and afternoon. Alas, bureaucratic demands, like being forced to have one or two periods each week of things like languages, religion, gym and so on, prevented this. In fact he was lucky to be able to

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institute the morning mains. On many occasions he cites the whole-day advantages of this most economic and effective method; just one quote to demonstrate (June 14, 1921, Stuttgart):

“… the timetable allows for the same subject to be continued over a considerable period. … To arrange the WHOLE curriculum on this ideal basis is of course a difficult matter, but we can at any rate see that we approach the IDEAL where-ever possible. If you study our timetable, you will find that this has been our endeavour throughout.”

Well, in our school we had no such departmental constraints, and over the last 30 years have fully realized Steiner’s “ideal”. As well, lots of other schools, especially in Australia, do likewise; not to mention Steiner home schoolers world-wide, many of whom enjoy the legion benefits of this method. Two other of my books which may further elucidate are: La Pleroma, which contains a whole Primary curriculum, and A Steiner Primary School. If your enquirer wants to read the story of how we incarnated this Steiner ideal into the world, see my memoirs, “A Creative Life”.

I have worked with both systems, the Steiner-discredited ‘period’ teaching, and the ‘blocks’. Like so many of my colleagues, I would never consider going back to the old form (Games/Sport excepted).

I hope this helps in answering the question.

Sincerely,

Alan Whitehead

COMMENT:

Thank you Kytka & Mr. Whitehead for getting a direct answer to my question! It’s amazing how much I am learning as a new Steiner home schooler even though I was a Waldorf parent (of children in local Waldorf school) for so many years. I recently purchased 3 of their books: “A Steiner Homeschool” (which I highly recommend), “Genii of Language” and “Journey to Numeria” (both for grades 1 & 2). These books focus on the ‘main’ and ‘middle’ lessons.

It seems to me that in the U.S., there has been a lack of evolvement, or movement/growth, of Waldorf education – in terms of the stories, the approach, etc. I guess you could say a lack of true creativity. Rather than going inside and truly developing one’s OWN creativity, there is simply a lot of regurgitating what’s already been done or what Steiner did in Germany in the early 20th century. I think Mr. Whitehead emphasizes that we draw on our own culture’s stories and moreover, that we create our own stories. I personally, have always felt weak in this area, but am starting to just ‘go for it’ and see what comes. It seems that in the process of simply doing/telling, the ‘right’ thing does come even if I don’t necessarily know where the story is going to go! There is a lot in the states that we just take for granted about Waldorf education as the ‘norm.’ Alan Whitehead and his series is such a breath of fresh air. With Blessings~ Sandi

*To contact Alan or Susan directly, click goldenbeetlebooks@bigpond.com or visit their web site (click banner)

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