FAQ about Waldorf Education
 

What is Waldorf education?

 

Developed in Europe by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, Waldorf education is based on a developmental approach that addresses the needs of the growing child and maturing adolescent. The curriculum is carefully designed to strengthen a child’s moral purpose, creativity, and intellectual abilities toward a balanced whole. Waldorf teachers strive to artistically transform concepts in learning to living realities so that the whole child –including their intellect, their heart, and their volition – is enhanced.

 

What is the curriculum like in a Waldorf school?

Waldorf Education approaches all aspects of schooling in a unique and comprehensive way. The curriculum is designed to meet the various stages of child development. Waldorf teachers are dedicated to creating a genuine inner enthusiasm for learning that is essential for educational success.

Waldorf Education recognizes and honors the full range of human potentialities. It addresses the whole child by striving to awaken and ennoble all the latent capacities. The children learn to read, write, and do math; they study history, geography, and the sciences. In addition, all children learn to sing, play a musical instrument, draw, paint, model clay, carve and work with wood, speak clearly and act in a play, think independently, and work harmoniously and respectfully with others. The development of these various capacities is interrelated. For example, both boys and girls learn to knit in grade one. Acquiring this basic and enjoyable human skill helps them develop a manual dexterity, which after puberty will be transformed into an ability to think clearly and to "knit" their thoughts into a coherent whole.

Preschool and Kindergarten children learn primarily through imitation and imagination. The goal of the kindergarten is to develop a sense of wonder in the young child and reverence for all living things. This creates an eagerness for the academics that follow in the grades. Preschool and Kindergarten activities include:

  • storytelling, puppetry, creative play
  • singing, eurythmy (movement)
  • games and finger plays
  • painting, drawing and beeswax modeling
  • baking and cooking, nature walks
  • circle time for festival and seasonal celebrations

Elementary and Middle-School children

learn through the guidance of a class teacher who stays with the class ideally for eight years. The curriculum includes:

  • English based on world literature, myths, and legends
  • history that is chronological and inclusive of the world's great civilizations
  • science that surveys geography, astronomy, meteorology, physical and life sciences
  • mathematics that develops competence in arithmetic, algebra, and geometry
  • foreign languages; physical education; gardening
  • arts including music, painting, sculpture, drama, eurythmy, sketching
  • handwork such as knitting, weaving, and woodworking

 

There are a lot of Waldorf schools around the world. Are they all the same?

Each Waldorf school is unique and appropriate to the demographics of its community. There are large city Waldorf schools in Manhattan and San Francisco, rural schools in New Hampshire and Wisconsin. There are Waldorf schools centered on farm experiences in New York and California. All Waldorf schools, however, have the
same core curriculum, all have specific training for the teachers, and all have the same methodology and reverence for childhood.



How do Waldorf schools teach reading?

The training of the powers of the intellect begins in Kindergarten with the cultivation of pictorial thinking. This foundation for reading begins by hearing stories and afterwards capturing the inner images in large colorful pictures with crayons. This enriches and encourages the rich landscape of the child’s imagination and gives him/her confidence in their own abilities of cognition. Developmentally this process becomes focused within each child as an individual. Waldorf schools have no requirement when a child must read. Instead, the love of reading is encouraged through analytic, global, phonemic awareness and whole language approaches. The child is led from the whole to the parts. They hear a story, become inwardly connected with the content and then they write a summary which becomes their “reader.” Next, books with controlled vocabulary are introduced and the children exercise their skills in small reading groups until they are able to read independently.


Why do Waldorf schools recommend the limiting screen time (TV, videos, iPads, etc.) for young children?

A central aim of Waldorf education is to stimulate the healthy development of the child’s own imagination. Waldorf teachers experience that electronic media hampers the development of the child’s imagination. They are concerned about the physical effects of the medium on the developing child as well as the content of much of the programming. There is a growing body of evidence substantiates these concerns. 

What does Waldorf say about computers in education?

Waldorf teachers feel the appropriate age for computer use in the classroom and by students is in high school. They feel it is more important for students to have the opportunity to interact with one another and with teachers in exploring the world of ideas, participating in the creative process, and developing their knowledge, skills, abilities, and inner qualities. Waldorf students have a love of learning, an ongoing curiosity, and interest in life. As older students, they quickly master computer technology, and graduates have successful careers in the computer industry.

For additional reading, please see Fool's Gold on the Alliance For Childhood’s web site and "The Future Does Not Compute" by Stephen L. Talbot.
 

Are Waldorf schools accredited?

The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) is an accrediting body under the National Council for Private School Accreditation (NCPSA). Waldorf schools can elect to become accredited by completing a formal evaluation process. Joint accreditation between AWSNA and the regional accreditation team such as ISACS (Independent Schools Association Central States) or NESC (New England Schools and Colleges), to name two of the seventeen approved crediting agencies in North America, are also possible.


Is Waldorf education available around the world?

Waldorf is the fastest growing independent school movement in the world with over 900 schools existing on every continent except Antarctica. There are over 140 schools in North America. For a list of North American schools, see the
AWSNA Member School List


Are Waldorf schools religious?

Waldorf schools are non-sectarian and non-denominational. They educate all children, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. The pedagogical method is comprehensive, and, as part of its task, seeks to bring about recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions. Waldorf schools are not part of any church. They espouse no particular religious doctrine but are based on a belief that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life. Waldorf families come from a broad spectrum of religious traditions and interest. Waldorf schools do, however, recognize and honor the child as an evolving spiritual being and they do recognize the four turning points of the year  (Michaelmas/Hannakah, Winter Solstice/Christmas, Spring Equinox/Easter, Summer Solstice/St. John’s Tide) and their festivals. (See AWSNA position statement.)


Who was Rudolf Steiner?

Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in Austria and took a degree in mathematics, physics and chemistry at the technical university in Vienna. In 1894 he wrote a philosophical thesis to earn his Ph.D. This thesis was transformed into a book The Philosophy of Freedom, one of Steiner’s seminal works. Next he was selected to edit Goethe’s scientific writings at Weimar. Later he began to speak about his spiritual experiences and described how he was able to make use of his scientific training in such a way that his spiritual investigations could become a science in their own right. During the course of his life he wrote many books, gave over 6,000 lectures (many transcribed into books) and made significant contributions to medicine, education (both Waldorf and curative), agriculture (Biodynamics), drama, dance (eurythmy), sculpture, architecture, religion (the Christian Community), and philosophy (spiritual science).


-- adapted from the Why Waldorf Works FAQ