Waldorf Education - FAQ
What is Waldorf education?
Waldorf education is a pedagogy developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner based upon a profound understanding of human development and the needs of growing child. For the Waldorf student, learning is not simply ingested and tested. Through experiences, Waldorf students cultivate a lifelong love of learning as well as the intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual capacities to be individuals certain of their paths and to be of service to the world.
What is unique about Waldorf education? What is the philosophy behind Waldorf education?
The best overall statement on what is unique about Waldorf education is "to produce individuals who are able, in and of themselves, to impart meaning to their lives". The aim of Waldorf schooling is to educate the whole child - "head, heart and hands".
Rudolf Steiner designed a curriculum responsive to the developmental phases in childhood and nurturing of children's imaginations. He thought that schools should cater to the needs of children, so he developed schools that encourage creativity and free-thinking.
Waldorf teachers are dedicated to creating a genuine love of learning within every child and trying to bring the child’s whole being into balance. By freely using arts and activities in the service of teaching academics, an internal motivation to learn is developed in the students, doing away with the need for competitive testing and grading.
Academics are de-emphasized in the early years of schooling. There is no academic content in the Waldorf kindergarten experience but a good deal of cultivation of pre-academic skills. Minimal academics introduce gradually in grade 1. Literacy readiness begins in kindergarten with formal reading instruction beginning in grade 1. Most Waldorf students are reading independently by the middle or end of grade 2.
In the younger grades, all subjects are introduced through artistic mediums which children respond better than dry lecturing and rote learning. There are no textbooks as such in grades 1-5. Students essentially produce their own "textbooks" which record their experiences and what they've learned. In upper grades, textbooks use to supplement skills development, especially in mathematics and grammar.
Learning in a Waldorf school is noncompetitive. There are no grades given at the elementary level and the teacher writes a detailed evaluation of the child at the end of each school year.
What is the curriculum at a Waldorf school like?
The Waldorf curriculum is broad and comprehensive, and balances academics subjects with artistic and practical activities. The curriculum is structured to respond the three developmental phases of childhood: from birth to approximately 6 or 7 years, from 7 to 14 years and from 14 to 18 years.
What You Will Find in a Waldorf Kindergarten
A Waldorf kindergarten is designed to respond to the developmental needs of 3 to 6 year old children. The key elements in the program are:
- Regular daily rhythms. Predictability and repetition are profoundly soothing to children. For this reason, life in the Waldorf kindergarten follows a predictable rhythm – Monday is always baking day, Tuesday is painting day, Wednesday is soup day, and so on – adapting the daily schedule to the changing seasons and festivals of the year. The annual cycles of the seasons and holidays like Christmas and Chinese New Year are celebrated with stories, songs, and art.
- Learning through practical activities. Young children before the age of seven learn primarily by trying things out, using their bodies, and imitating the adults around them. The Waldorf kindergarten responds to these drives by focusing on practical activities, such as baking, painting, gardening, and finger knitting. Teachers prepare the daily snack right in the classroom. The children help by mixing the flour, cutting carrots for vegetable soup, and fruits for salad and kneading dough on bread day.
- Art. Art is a vital part of the Waldorf curriculum from the very beginning. In kindergarten, the children paint with water colors in the three primary colors, red, yellow, and blue, to learn the basic relationships between the colors. They model with beeswax and draw with beeswax crayons.
- Singing, movement, and storytelling in groups. During daily circle time, the children sing, do finger plays, and recite poems. The teacher also tells the children fairy tales – always telling them, never reading from a book. The same story is repeated every day for as long as three weeks so the children can absorb the images deeply. At the end of the story cycle, the fairy tale is performed as a puppet show or a play with children acting out the parts and the teacher narrating the story.
- Free play, both indoors and outdoors. According to David Elkind, author of The Power of Play [Da Capo Press, 2006], imaginative play is the catalyst for social, physical, emotional, and moral development in young children. Play based on the children’s own spontaneous ideas is one of the Waldorf kindergarten’s primary activities. The simple, open-ended toys in the classroom lend themselves to that kind of play. A piece of driftwood can become a car one minute, and a house the next. Often children will act out the fairy tales they hear during story time.
What You Won't Find in a Waldorf Kindergarten
- No plastic. Everything in the classroom is made of natural materials – wood, stone, metal, cotton, silk, and wool.
- No electronics. Waldorf educators believe that computers have no place in the three-dimensional, sensory, and open-ended classroom appropriate for the young child.
- No reading, writing, or arithmetic. No drills, worksheets, or homework. Teaching of academic subjects doesn’t start in Waldorf schools until first grade at age 7. Reading at home is not discouraged – and some children do begin to read – but it is not taught in the classroom. There are two reasons for this. One is that many children at 5 or 6 haven’t developed the fine motor tracking or intellectual focus needed to be successful readers. And even among those who have, Waldorf educators believe that early academics take the child’s energy away from his or her real developmental task, which is learning through play.
Quoted from more creative life
Waldorf kindergartens help children build basic skills such as sequencing, sensory integration, eye-hand coordination tracking, and enjoying the beauty of the spoken word, so they will be fully ready when they enter the academic phase of school life.
How many Waldorf schools are there?
In 2010, there were about 995 independent Waldorf schools located in sixty countries throughout the world.
Waldorf schools can be located through the site of the Waldorf world, the Bund der Freien Waldorfschulen (Federation of Free Waldorf Schools), in Stuttgart, Germany.
World list of Waldorf schools (Nov 2010)
How did Waldorf education get started?
In 1919, Rudolf Steiner, was invited to give a series of lectures to the workers of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. As a result, the factory's owner asked Steiner to establish and lead a school based on his educational philosophy for the children of the factory's employees.
Are Waldorf schools religious?
Classes in religious doctrine are not part of the Waldorf curriculum, and children of all religious backgrounds are welcomed to the Waldorf schools. Waldorf schools are found in countries with varied religions, such as Muslim, Jewish, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism and Christianity. Spiritual guidance is aimed at awakening the child's natural reverence for the wonder and beauty of life.