THE FIFTH GRADE leads children into a wider world, and they are encouraged to develop a broader perspective. They study American geography and botany, and in mathematics they continue with fractions and begin decimals. Building on the years of form drawing, freehand geometry is introduced. Choral singing and four needle knitting are introduced as well.
History has until now been only pictorial or personal in nature, with no attempt made to introduce exact temporal concepts or to proceed in strict sequences. Now history becomes a special Main Lesson subject, as does geography. History, telling of human beings’ deeds and strivings, stirs children to a more intense experience of their own humanness. Geography does exactly the opposite: it leads children away from themselves out into the ever wider spaces from the familiar to the unfamiliar. History brings the child to him or her self; geography brings the child into the world.
Ancient history starts with the childhood of civilized humanity in ancient India, where human beings experienced earthly life as an illusion or “maya”. The ancient Persian culture that followed the Indian culture felt the impulse to transform the earth, till the soil, and domesticate animals while helping the sun-god conquer the spirit of darkness. The great cultures of Mesopotamia (the Chaldeans, the Hebrews, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians) reveal the origins of written language on clay tablets. The Egyptian civilization of pyramids and pharaohs precedes the civilization of the ancient Greeks.
Every means is used to give the children a vivid impression of these five ancient cultures. They read translations of poetry, study hieroglyphic symbols of the Egyptians, and try their hands at the arts and crafts of the various ancient peoples. History is here an education of the children’s feelings rather than of their memory for facts and figures. Through studies in art, science, government, and Olympic games, children have an opportunity to experience the balanced harmony and beauty of the Greeks. In the spring a Greek pentathlon is reenacted. where Fifth grade students from Waldorf schools throughout the region come together to compete. Grace, beauty, form, and sportsmanship are lauded along with individual achievements of speed and accuracy.