What is Waldorf Education?
Waldorf Education was developed by Rudolf Steiner (1865-1925) who was a highly respected scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar. Founded on his insights, Waldorf schools teach a curriculum based on that human beings are three-fold in nature, comprising of body, soul, and spirit.
One of his supporters was the industrialist, Emil Molt who invited Steiner to form a new school for the children of his workers at the Waldorf-Astoria factory. In the fall of 1919, the first Waldorf school opened its doors in Stuttgart, Germany.
It is now the fastest growing holistic schooling system worldwide.
I like to use the analogy of a Waldorf School as a garden and the teacher as the gardener. Our job is not to turn a cabbage into a rose or a rose into a cabbage, but to weed and mulch so the cabbage is the healthiest and best you’ve ever seen and the rose is the most beautiful and the best you’ve ever seen.
One of the chief tasks of Waldorf education is to bring life to knowledge,” said Waldorf education founder Rudolf Steiner, in “Deeper Insights into Education.” He believed teaching could never be boring if it was related directly to life. Thus, Waldorf students learn the same main subjects as those of traditional schools — language arts, math, science, geography, and history — but they stray from traditional schools in how and when they are taught. The subjects are taught in a hands-on experiential style, without textbooks. Waldorf classrooms use the arts, storytelling, rhythmic work, and music so that students use all their senses to achieve a deeper and more meaningful learning experience.
Waldorf is the fastest-growing group of independent schools in the world, with more than 1100 independent schools educating children in more than 80 countries, including such divergent cultural environments as China, Israel, Kenya, and Brazil. Waldorf education is 100 years old and is frequently referred to as “the best kept secret in education.”
In addition, the Waldorf curriculum is based on children’s developmental stages. Steiner believed students go through three major developmental stages. The first, early childhood, lasts until about seven, when children start to get their permanent teeth. During this stage, Steiner posits that children learn best through physical activity and play. The second stage is said to go from seven to fourteen, when children learn through feeling and imagination and the arts speak deeply to them. The final stage is the thinking stage, when students are expected to begin developing their intellectual abilities.
Steiner accused traditional education of focusing too much on the intellectual and dry textbook-style of learning, and noted that children who only learn on one level become bored.From the Waldorf point of view, the absence of fantasy in the early years leads directly to the problems of stress, burnout, and inability to think that now plague so many students all over the world.There is no selection in a Waldorf class, no tests in the first years, no marks,no notes. At the end of each school year, in high school also sometimes twice a year,students get their report. It is a written one which shows how the child is in the class, how their progress is, it’s about their strengths and what the child will learn soon. It is positive, always supporting the progress of learning, of developing the individual way of the child.
The Roots of Waldorf Education
Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was an Austrian scientist and philosopher and the founder of anthroposophy, a philosophy with a spiritually-based world view. Steiner started the first Waldorf School in 1919, for the children of factory workers at the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. While Waldorf education is based on anthroposophical beliefs, the schools are non-denominational and do not teach anthroposophy.
The Waldorf World List contains current addresses of all Waldorf- and Steiner Schools (1.149 in 66 countries), Waldorfkindergartens (1.857 in more than 70 countries), Waldorf associations and Teacher-Training Centres for Waldorf educators and Waldorf teachers around the world, updated at least once a year.
The Waldorf Approach
Waldorf’s richly diverse and varied curriculum includes an immersion in a wide variety of artistic disciplines as well as rigorous academic work. This fully integrated approach to education engages the whole child, head, heart, and hands.
As they progress through the primary years, the student’s capacity for independent and critical thinking is carefully developed.