Having crossed the metaphoric Rubicon in third grade, the ten-year-old child stands in a different relationship to the world.
The transition from early childhood is complete; the transition into puberty has not yet begun. The fourth grader feels, “I am here. The world is there.” In the midst of separateness and questioning, even defiance, the child’s newly emerging ego consciousness seeks reassurance and uprightness in the world around them. The ten-year-old’s zest for life, quest for knowledge and intense desire to socialize can present challenges to some of the established rhythms of the first three years.
The fourth grade curriculum provides the child with many expressions of conflict and separation, of confrontation, indicating paths for healthy resolution and integration. The curriculum draws from two streams: the Book of Humanity and the Book of Nature. In such subjects as history, the child explores the question, “Who am I?” while science allows them to ask, “What is the world?” Some subjects, such as geography, incorporate both, stimulating a healthy “breathing” that can bring inspiration.
In third grade, the children felt the warmth of the group and identified with the Israelites and accepted the guidance of the chosen leader empowered by God Almighty—the teacher. In fourth grade, the teacher is no longer the chosen, undisputed one. The story curriculum moves from the monotheism of the Old Testament to the polytheism of Norse Mythology. Yes, there is the Allfather Odin who sees everything from his high throne, but he still has challenges to meet, has to work for his wisdom and is always in dialogue with the other gods. The gods, goddesses and giants all embody different personality characteristics. Thor is known for his temper and his strength in the fight against evil, Loki for his cleverness and mischief-loving ways that eventually turn poisonous. Through the Norse myths, the children experience courage and strength, a taming of the wild, undisciplined element and a transformation beyond that state. The story of Baldur and Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods, portrays a change in man’s consciousness that now takes place in the individual history of the children. At the end of the Edda, the dawn of a new world is indicated, serving as confirmation of the successful crossing of the Rubicon for the children. Although the Edda serves as the primary source for story material in the fourth grade, the Finnish Kalevala and stories of Vikings may also be used.
Fourth Grade Curriculum
Rhythm of the Day
Each day begins with Main Lesson. The main subjects, such as history, language arts, science and mathematics are taught in blocks of 2 hours per day, with each block lasting from 3 to 6 or even 8 weeks long.
For the fourth grader, the Main Lesson may or may not begin with a formal circle. However, movement is still an integral part of the day’s beginning. Body geography, remedial exercises, jumping rope, practicing times tables with bean bags and games, moving as various animals, walking a long-short-short rhythm to Nordic verses—the list of activities is long and varied and serves to wake up the children for the lesson to come, as well as address areas of need.
After Main Lesson the children have a hearty snack (brought from home) and time to play outdoors.
The afternoon consists of subject classes including handwork, movement, french, music and art, as well as lunch (brought from home) and more time to play outdoors.