About Waldorf Education

Waldorf education is a fully integrated and holistic education which teaches to the whole human being; head, heart, and hands, and embraces, honors, and celebrates our social and cultural diversity.

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early childhood programs
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It is one of the fastest growing independent school movements in the world with over 1100 schools in over 75 countries, more than 2000 early childhood programs on six continents, and over 600 institutions for curative education.

What is Waldorf Education?

Waldorf education is a fully integrated and holistic education which teaches to the whole human being; head, heart, and hands, and embraces, honors, and celebrates our social and cultural diversity.

Waldorf education recognizes that human capacities unfold in three distinct developmental stages; early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence. While there can be some minor variation in the timing of these phases, they roughly correspond to the first three, seven-year cycles of life.

Early childhood is the time from birth to approximately age 7 and the change of teeth. Middle childhood encompasses the grade school years from 7 to 14 and is a time of tremendous growth and changes in the child’s physical body as well as in their consciousness. One might say this is the heart of childhood. Adolescence has its earliest beginnings with the start of puberty but does not reach its fullest expression until the third seven year cycle of ages 14-21.

This is not a fixed or rigid timetable and there is some overlapping and variation with different individuals. Within each of these periods, there are highly predictable and recurring patterns in the child’s physical growth and soul development which is reflected in their mood, personal needs, and of course, their changing capacities for learning, comprehending, and working. Waldorf education honors these stages of human development to encourage healthy growth and maintain a truthfulness to the emerging individual.

Waldorf’s richly diverse and varied curriculum includes a thorough immersion in a wide variety of artistic disciplines as well as rigorous academic work according to the age of the child. This fully integrated approach to education engages the whole child, head, heart, and hands, in a host of age appropriate ways.

Our mission is to teach to the whole human being and promote human development, not simply just brain development. Mainstream systems of education teach primarily to the head encouraging and rewarding only the accumulation of factual data and one’s ability to meet the demands of a test. Waldorf education of course develops intellectual capacities but also embraces the qualitative aspects of our being, recognizing that much of our humanness cannot be reduced to quantifiable data. Virtues such as beauty, love, or truth cannot be translated into numbers that fit onto a spread sheet and while our intellectual capacities are of great importance, there is much more to being a human being than just impressive test scores.

All children grow according to predictable phases of development and in Waldorf education we work with these natural phases, maximizing the learning process, allowing for the healthy unfolding of childhood and growth into young adulthood.

Grade by grade, year by year, the curriculum meets the changing consciousness of the child, increasing in complexity and depth with each step, resulting in students who are self confident, self motivated, and fully capable of meeting the diverse challenges of a fast paced world.

For centuries, India has been the center of different cultures and their arts and traditions. Over time and with modernization, there have been significant changes in teaching and the learning process, to the point where emphasis has shifted from the pursuit of knowledge to exam-oriented study.

Young children are no longer given the opportunities to explore and learn about the world through play, and there is little time to nurture a sense of wonder and imagination. The rapid accumulation of facts and accelerated intellectualization is praised as an improvement on time-proven methods that honor and nurture the emerging human being, treating young children as little more than miniature adults whose worth and value are gauged by how quickly they fit into someone’s preconceived mold.

Indian toddlers in our sophisticated new-age schools no longer draw on paper but only find opportunities for creative expression on the computer screen with a mouse. With computers in the classrooms, stories are not told any longer but are shown on CDs, and human creativity is limited to a set of established and pre-approved options. With children becoming more and more reliant upon technology, they are becoming that much more isolated and have become merely consumers enchanted with their video games, TV, and iPads.

With the latest interactive electronic games and the dominance of electronic media, children are increasingly estranged from the natural world. While they have access to much greater volumes of information, they display little understanding of how those isolated facts are interconnected and woven together in the grand tapestry of life.

In India, where tradition honors education as sacred, parents and society at large have rightfully placed the education of our children as one of life’s highest priorities. These new values and trends place the child under excessive pressure to perform right from kindergarten, and the rapid accumulation of information is becoming more important than the child himself or the healthy development of all their capacities. Of course, the child must learn and will need to face the demands of the material world, but what is crucial is that this aspect of learning should come at appropriate times. The child lives in a world of limitless possibilities born out of their innate imagination, forcing them to perform and prematurely reducing the wonders of the world to dry abstractions and intellectualized data, which not only damages their creativity but also causes them to lose some of their humanity.

In this pressure filled, fiercely competitive world, Waldorf education strives to preserve and nurture our humanity by honoring every child for their unique gifts and talents. We certainly encourage academic excellence but our intellectual capacities and ability to retain factual data is only one component of being a human being. In a  world of bits and pixels, we must be on guard to preserve a place for art, music, human creativity, and imagination. The Indian educational system is going through major changes which challenge our very humanity and in these congested and accelerated times, Waldorf education is like a breath of fresh air.

Eventually, every child must must leave the nest and embrace their individual destiny by begin making independent decisions for themselves. If we as educators and parents inculcate in them self-belief, a positive self image, and trust in others  they will make meaningful contributions no matter what they do or where they are. It is essential to create an environment for children in which they can develop and grow naturally in their own personal ways and where they are honored and appreciated for their individual capacities whether it is academic ability, artistic skill, or kindness and warmth of heart.

This raises interesting questions: Just what is education and how is being educated different from being literate? If literacy is simply the ability to read and write, aren’t all literates educated?

Surprisingly, the answer is not necessarily, yes. Waldorf education helps the child to find meaning and nuance in life. Our focus is on comprehension and connectedness, creativity and imagination to consider the limitless possibilities of what could be. A balanced and objective understanding of self, one’s cosmic individuality, and destiny is necessary for the fuller realization of personal potential and one’s spiritual and academic goals and aspirations. Waldorf education works on time-tested and proven principles of nurturing, supporting, and encouraging the humanity of every child. By encouraging creative potential, social responsibility, and clear objective thinking, Waldorf education helps in the development of human beings who are balanced in their being and make meaningful contributions to the world. We hold to the truth that education of the human will to fully engage one’s self with determination and creative effort to foster greater compassion, tolerance, and inclusiveness is more important for nurturing the potential in every individual than simply just educating the brain.

Rudolf Steiner (1865-1925) was a highly respected scientific, literary, and philosophical thinker and scholar, well known for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings and as a progressive innovator. Founded on his insights, Waldorf schools teach out of a curriculum based on the fundamental truth that human beings are three fold in nature, comprising of body, soul, and spirit.

He developed various methods of research into psychological and spiritual phenomena and in 1913 founded the anthroposophical movement. Anthroposophy, literally meaning the wisdom of man, has at it’s core the social and cultural renewal of man and society as a whole. Steiner’s innovative and insightful research led to achievements in education, (including education of children with special needs), medicine, science, history, religion, philosophy, economics, agriculture, architecture, visual arts, drama, the new art of eurythmy, and other fields.

Most prominent and perhaps the most well known of his achievements is the development of Waldorf education and it’s comprehensive curriculum. 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, less than a year after the end of World War I, the first Waldorf school opened it’s doors in Stuttgart, Germany. Within a few years, other schools opened elsewhere in Germany and in other countries such as Switzerland, Holland, Britain, Scandinavia, and the United States. The rapidly growing movement suffered set backs in the 1930’s when the Nazis closed all Waldorf schools in Germany but in 1945 with the end of WWII, many schools reopened. The rapid growth of schools continues to this day, serving the needs of children from ages 3 to 18 in all corners of the globe.

We should not ask what does a person need to know or be able to do in order to fit into the existing social order. Instead we should ask what lives in each human being and what can be developed in him or her. Only then will it be possible to direct the new qualities of each emerging generation into society. The society will become what the young people as whole beings make out of the existing conditions. The new generation should not just be made to be what the present society wants it to become.