What is Waldorf Education?
Developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, Waldorf Education is based on a developmental approach that addresses the needs of the growing child and maturing adolescent. Waldorf teachers strive to transform education in to an art that educates the whole child—the heart and the hands, as well as the head. For more information, please go to Waldorf Education: An Introduction.
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.
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
- foreign language and 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
The Waldorf high school is dedicated to helping students develop their full potential as scholars, artists, athletes, and community members. The course of study includes:
- a humanities curriculum that integrates history, literature, and knowledge of world cultures
- a science curriculum that includes physics, biology, chemistry, geology, and a four-year college preparatory mathematics program
- an arts and crafts program that includes calligraphy, drawing, painting, sculpture, pottery, weaving, block printing and bookbinding
- a performing arts program offering orchestra, choir, eurythmy and drama
- a foreign language program
- a physical education program
For a more in-depth examination of the Waldorf curriculum, visit What is Waldorf Education?
Does Waldorf Education prepare children for the "real" world; and, if so, how does it do it?
It is easy to fall into the error of believing that education must make our children fit into society. Although we are certainly influenced by what the world brings us, the fact is that the world is shaped by people, not people by the world. However, that shaping of the world is possible in a healthy way only if the shapers are themselves in possession of their full nature as human beings.
Education in our materialistic, Western society focuses on the intellectual aspect of the human being and has chosen largely to ignore the several other parts that are essential to our well-being. These include our life of feeling (emotions, aesthetics, and social sensitivity), our willpower (the ability to get things done), and our moral nature (being clear about right and wrong). Without having these developed, we are incomplete—a fact that may become obvious in our later years, when a feeling of emptiness begins to set in. That is why in a Waldorf school, the practical and artistic subjects play as important a role as the full spectrum of traditional academic subjects that the school offers. The practical and artistic are essential in achieving a preparation for life in the "real" world.
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.
Preparation for life includes the development of the well-rounded person. Waldorf Education has as its ideal a person who is knowledgeable about the world and human history and culture, who has many varied practical and artistic abilities, who feels a deep reverence for and communion with the natural world, and who can act with initiative and in freedom in the face of economic and political pressures.
There are many Waldorf graduates of all ages who embody this ideal and who are perhaps the best proof of the efficacy of the education.
—From "Five Frequently Asked Questions" by Colin Price; originally printed in Renewal Magazine, Spring/Summer 2003
Why do Waldorf schools recommend the limiting of television, videos, and radio for young children?
A central aim of Waldorf Education is to stimulate the healthy development of the child's own imagination. Waldorf teachers are concerned 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 more and more research to substantiate these concerns. See:
- Endangered Minds: Why Our Children Don't Think by Jane Healy
- Failure To Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds For Better and Worse by Jane Healy
- Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander
- The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn
- Evolution's End: Claiming The Potential of Our Intelligence by Joseph Chilton Pearce
Adapted from www.whywaldorfworks.org