At WSL, the curriculum is carefully designed to optimize each developmental phase of childhood. Hence we do not begin formal reading instruction until first grade. The benefits of this are two-fold. One, children are free to spend their nursery and kindergarten years engaged in self-directed play, which is crucial for every aspect of their development. Two, when we begin teaching reading, students are ready, eager, and learn quickly and with confidence. While this approach is not common in the U.S., it is well regarded in other countries with highly successful academic programs, notably Finland. (See “The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergarteners of Finland” in The Atlantic.)
Reading and writing instruction in the early elementary grades is based on oral storytelling by the teacher—a timeless tradition that engages students and helps them build a bridge from mental pictures to the abstract world of letters and words. Starting in first grade, students record their work in a Main Lesson Book—a colorful compilation of drawings and writing that build language arts skills across the curriculum. By eighth grade the Main Lesson Books are sophisticated, in-depth records of students' learning.
In later years, emphasis is placed on developing skill in research, composition, creative writing, and self-expression. In addition to language arts blocks taught by the class teacher, students in grades 6–8 meet multiple times a week with an English specialist to develop and refine their capacity for written work, reading comprehension, other essential language arts skills.
History & World Cultures
The humanities curriculum takes a thematic approach to language arts and social studies. The program begins with fairy tales in the first grade and fables and legends in the second grade. Stories of the Old Testament in third grade, Norse mythology in fourth grade, and the ancient cultures of India, Egypt, Persia, Mesopotamia, and Greece in fifth grade are presented orally by the class teacher. Students also read excerpts from original texts, and literature of or about the period. By the end of eighth grade, the students have journeyed from the days of the Roman Empire through medieval history, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Discovery, the American, French, and Industrial Revolutions, the World Wars, the economic upheavals of the 20th century, on into the present day. Studies include geography and histories of Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America. Special emphasis is placed on the biographies of people who have altered the course of world history.