Academic Program

Live Oak’s Educational Approach

Live Oak offers an integrated developmental program inspired by Waldorf Education. Our approach has its roots in the studies of Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher and educational reformer from the first half of the 20th century.  Steiner's educational pedagogy stressed the importance of building an education that resonates with the different stages and threads of human development.  Steiner's picture of human development has been refined over time, and is in dynamic conversation with modern research and practice.  It is the inspiration to understand and best support the unfolding child that drives Live Oak's work.  Live Oak strives to bring forth the best of our students’ academic, artistic, physical, social and emotional capacities to prepare them to engage their future with confidence and enthusiasm.

What is “Whole Child” Education?

Head, Heart and Hands

A whole child education integrates the many capacities, skills, and awareness of the child.  In Waldorf education, we often refer to this complex picture through three domains; head, heart and hands. Steiner himself saw the human as having three major spheres of development; Will (hands), feeling (heart), and Thinking (head).  In our curriculum, movement and handwork activities support the achievement of foundational neurological milestones required for academic success. Daily encounters with art and music contribute to a healthy imagination and feeling life. Thinking blossoms. Since our dedicated teachers purposefully cultivate the interrelationship of the child’s physical, emotional and intellectual abilities, our students develop a love of learning.

Age-Appropriate Curriculum

A whole child education offers an invigorating curriculum that nourishes the student’s growing capacities for creativity, academic skill, and social awareness at each unique stage of human development. While the younger child’s inner life is stimulated via the framework of the fairy tale, folk tale or myth, older students relish the visceral examples of human striving found in biographies of accomplished individuals throughout history.  

Experiential Learning

A whole child education provides life experiences that inspire curiosity and competency.  Third graders plant and harvest wheat, grind the grain and bake bread. 11-year olds on the threshold of adolescence wrestle with virtue and service during a Middle Ages studies knighting task. Middle schoolers conduct physics and organic chemistry experiments that reveal the principles of light and matter.  Students across the grades try on mythological or historical characters and encounter complex social dramas via much loved class plays.

From the Local to the Global

Whole child education starts with the personal and moves outward towards the planetary. Live Oak is a vital and supportive learning community that provides the child with a secure sense of place in the world. Our highly trained teachers ground the students in the unique cultural, historical, and natural attributes of Petaluma’s locale and gently lead them outward towards global awareness. Cultivating this sense of place includes providing experiences of seasonal rhythms and life cycles via community festivals, school-based and local agriculture and outdoor adventures informed by the natural sciences.

As the world “shrinks” and global interconnectedness increases, our educational efforts help children learn to recognize, appreciate, and navigate the diversity of human experience and culture.

Preparation for Life

By the end of eighth grade, Live Oak students have received a broad education in science, mathematics, humanities, and the arts. Their social skills have been honed by years of working in and for community. Our graduates stand poised to thrive in high school and beyond with undiminished zest for learning and the knowledge that they are capable of making a difference in the world.

A Brief History

Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, established Waldorf pedagogy in 1919 in the wake of World War I. His goal was to foster free thinking individuals who could reinvigorate culture and find a less catastrophic way of resolving social conflict.  Established in 2001, Live Oak’s founders set out to create a public school inspired by Waldorf education that conformed with the academic requirements of the California State standards.From humble beginnings to its current location on the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, the school has grown from 42 students to an enrollment of 270. We offer a full K-8 program that includes an increasingly dynamic middle-school for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

Operating as an independent, non-profit 501c3 corporation,  Live Oak is chartered by the Petaluma City School District and funded from local, state, and federal tax  dollars.  We are also supported by tax-deductible parent contributions, and through the work of Friends of Live Oak, our sister foundation.