For the Waldorf student, music, dance, and theater, writing, literature, legends and myths are not simply subjects to be read about, ingested and tested. They are experienced. Through these 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.
Developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, Waldorf Education is based on a profound understanding of human development that addresses the needs of the growing child. Waldorf teachers strive to transform education into an art that educates the whole child—the heart and the hands, as well as the head.
When you enter a Waldorf school, the first thing you may notice is the care given to the building. The walls are usually painted in lively colors and are adorned with student artwork. Evidence of student activity is everywhere to be found and every desk holds a uniquely created main lesson book.
Another first impression may be the enthusiasm and commitment of the teachers you meet. These teachers are interested in the students as individuals. They are interested in the questions:
- How do we establish within each child his or her own high level of academic excellence?
- How do we call forth enthusiasm for learning and work, a healthy self-awareness, interest and concern for fellow human beings, and a respect for the world?
- How can we help pupils find meaning in their lives?
Teachers in Waldorf schools are dedicated to generating an inner enthusiasm for learning within every child. They achieve this in a variety of ways. Even seemingly dry and academic subjects are presented in a pictorial and dynamic manner. This eliminates the need for competitive testing, academic placement, and behavioristic rewards to motivate learning. It allows motivation to arise from within and helps engender the capacity for joyful lifelong learning.
The Waldorf curriculum is broad and comprehensive, structured to respond to 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. Rudolf Steiner stressed to teachers that the best way to provide meaningful support for the child is to comprehend these phases fully and to bring “age appropriate” content to the children that nourishes healthy growth.
This article originally appeared in the AWSNA publication, Windows into Waldorf: An Introduction to Waldorf Education. Many thanks to the author David Mitchell who generously allowed for its use.
Who was Rudolph Steiner?
In the aftermath of World War I, Rudolf Steiner was asked to develop a curriculum for the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Germany based on his spiritual understanding of the human being. Dr. Steiner, a scholar, had already established innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, science, economics, philosophy, agriculture (biodynamic farming) and the arts (Eurythmy).
Steiner believed that children should receive a balanced education, one that not only engages the intellect of the child but engages the whole child: head, heart and hands. While it is important to obtain skills to earn a living, one also needs to have a healthy development in sensitivity of feeling (emotions, aesthetics, social sensibility) and the strength of will (volition and the ability to get things done).
Each Waldorf school is run autonomously with values meeting local needs, yet all Waldorf schools are dedicated to realizing and developing the educational aims Steiner recognized as vital for all people.
Learning at the Waldorf School is a dynamic process, permeated with the power of imagination and working with spiritual, emotional and physical development of the individual within the social context. Reverence and awe for the wonders of Nature, gratitude and respect for the efforts and accomplishments of others, and responsibilities of self-discipline are guiding principles.
We are associated with the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. Teachers receive training at several Waldorf teacher training sites in the United States. While the Internet can provide a wealth of information, we invite you to visit our school and experience Waldorf education firsthand.
Rudolf Steiner’s Philosophy
Waldorf has become the largest independent, non-denominational education movement in the world, with over 800 schools (more than 300 in the U.S.). Waldorf education seeks to enable children to become lifelong learners who take initiative in the world.
Each school is run autonomously with values meeting local needs, yet all Waldorf schools are dedicated to realizing and developing the educational aims that Waldorf recognizes as vital for all people.
The Waldorf schools acknowledge and respect the natural gifts of each person, encouraging and challenging students to achieve their fullest human potential. The goal is to awaken and foster in students:
- A sense of wonder
- Creative and inquiring minds
- A well rounded belief in their capacities
- Strength of will, character, and intellect
- Compassion for and interest in all life
The Waldorf child learns about the world through the experience of the hands and the heart, as well as the mind. In so doing, the child acquires a living wisdom that enriches the intellect and deepens the natural joy and wonder of learning. Students are also introduced to a non-religious spirituality—a reverence for nature and universal humanity—as an intrinsic value in their progress toward successful futures.
Intellectual flexibility, independent judgment, moral courage, and the ability to work effectively in a group environment are essential to the child’s success as a creative and responsible human being.
The Waldorf curriculum carefully balances academic, artistic and practical activities to prepare the child as thoroughly as possible for life experiences. Waldorf schooling also focuses upon nurturing the child’s self-confidence and self-reliance, while fostering his or her personal integrity and sense of social and environmental responsibility.
At the heart of the Waldorf approach is the recognition that children pass through distinct stages of development, and that both the subject matter and the way it is taught need to be specific to the age of the growing child.
Waldorf teachers view teaching as the art of recognizing and awakening the child’s capacities and interests. Their goal is not merely to prepare their students for the next phase of learning, but to kindle in them a passion for discovery that will last a lifetime.
For information on other Waldorf schools and resources, please see the Waldorf Links Page.