How is Waldorf education different from other educational systems?
Waldorf education is completely child centered and meets the child where they are in their stage of development rather than forcing them to conform and adapt too early or too quickly to the pressures and demands of the adult world. We believe that childhood is a precious gift which should be protected and cherished for it lays a solid and healthy foundation for life – socially, creatively, and intellectually.
Waldorf education teaches to the whole human being; head, heart, and hands, developing individual capacities for thinking feeling, and engaging the will, while most educational systems focus only on brain development. We value the gifts and talents of every child who is entrusted into our care rather than solely valuing their intellectual achievements. There’s more to being a human being than simply accumulating and processing information.
Is Waldorf similar to Montessori?
Both systems have the same goal, to provide an education that is developmentally appropriate and incorporates tactile learning methods and other methods which are not solely intellectually based. Both systems encourage artistic working and creativity but there are also many significant differences.
Montessori has a much stronger emphasis on individual achievement which is often self determined and self directed and encourages academic work at a very early age. Waldorf education does not promote early academics, rather we encourage the imagination and playful explorations of young children, allowing the child to more fully incarnate before introducing academic and intellectual working.
Certainly we honor the individual, their gifts, and their striving but we also encourage a healthy and cooperative social atmosphere inclusive of everyone. The role of the teacher is one of a loving authority who helps guide the children to develop their capacities for discernment, balance in judgement, and eventually, abstract thinking. Being a teacher is much more than a technician who conveys pre-approved information. The knowledge and respect that a child develops for a fair and loving authority forms the basis for self discipline in later years.
Waldorf schools also acknowledge that human beings are three-fold in nature; we have a physical body, an inner soul (feeling) life, and that we are beings of spirit with individual destinies. This is a significant difference between the two systems.
Is Waldorf education religious?
Waldorf schools are non-sectarian, non-denominational and do not adhere to any religious doctrine or path but they did develop out of the Christian traditions of Europe where they began.There is no religious instruction in a Waldorf school but we do believe that there is a spiritual dimension to human beings and all life. We warmly embrace all faiths and creeds, joyfully celebrating the festivals of all the religions of our community, whether they be Hindu, Muslim, or Christian.
What is Anthroposophy?
Anthroposophy literally means the “wisdom of man” and is a philosophical world view articulated by Rudolf Steiner, who developed the Waldorf curriculum. It is also called spiritual science for it is a practice which encourages a systematic exploration of spiritual phenomena encouraging greater reverence and wonder for the relationships between our inner life and the outer world. Teachers work out of the picture of child development outlined by anthroposophy, but in no way is this philosophy taught in the classroom. The human being must be left free to develop their own individual philosophy of life when they are old enough and mature enough to make such decisions for themselves.
What is Eurythmy?
Eurythmy is an artistic form of movement developed by Rudolf Steiner and is taught in all Waldorf schools throughout the world. It provides a meaningful way to express musical tones and human speech through movement. Practice of this new art help students with physical coordination, body geography, spacial awareness, sensitivity and accuracy in their listening skills, as well as providing a controlled and meaningful form of personal expression.
How do Waldorf schools assess students?
In the early grades we do not make use of grading systems which usually have the effect of reinforcing what the student doesn’t know and what they have gotten wrong. In place of letter grades or percentage scores, teachers keep extensive notes and write a full narrative report on every student emphasizing their progress and successes as well as any challenges. These reports, which are openly available for review by parents and are presented at regular parent/teacher conferences, evaluate academic, artistic, and social development, providing a full, well-rounded picture of the child.
As children grow, simple tests and quizzes are introduced and as the children awaken in their consciousness, such methods become more significant and frequent. Many studies show that standardized tests are not a reliable means of evaluating a student’s abilities and skills for commonly, over reliance on testing results in increased anxiety and stress in children. Of course, such testing is a reality in life and we are diligent in preparing students for this flawed evaluation system, but at an appropriate age.
How do students do when they leave a Waldorf school?
Waldorf students graduate with a wide set of well developed skills and studies show that they are very successful after their schooling. Many colleges and businesses report how much they value Waldorf students because they demonstrate great flexibility with critical thinking skills and have strong, healthy social skills, in particular.
The following is a profile of a typical Waldorf graduate from statistics compiled by the Denver Waldorf School in the US.
- Attends college after graduating from a Waldorf high school (94%)
- Undergraduate majors: Arts/Humanities (47%), Math/Sciences (42%)
- Graduates or is about to graduate (88%)
- Practices and values life-long learning (91%)
- Is self reliant and highly values self confidence (94%)
- Expresses a high level of consciousness in making relationships work – both at home and on the job, highly valuing verbal expression (93%) and critical thinking (92%)
- Is highly satisfied with choice of occupation (89%)
- Highly values interpersonal relationships (96%)
- Highly values tolerance of other viewpoints (90%)
- At work, cares most about ethical principles (82%) and values helping others (82%)
Waldorf graduates attend many of the most prestigious colleges and universities around the world and continue on to lead successful and meaningful lives. Waldorf graduates can be found in all professional fields and some have even gone on to be Nobel Prize winners, world leaders, and heads of state.
How do Waldorf students fair when they change schools?
When students shift from one schooling system to another there are obviously some adjustments they must make and generally, Waldorf students who transfer to mainstream schools do quite well. Sometimes, particularly in the earlier grades, they may need to catch up a little with reading and the sciences, for Waldorf schools do not fast track children too early into intellectual working.
In the middle grades Waldorf students are consistently working at grade level in their basic academic skills and often are ahead of their mainstream peers not only in some academics but tend to excel in bodily coordination, artistic skills and expression, and most importantly, in their listening skills.
Mainstream students who transfer to Waldorf schools often come with a great deal of information about the world but lag behind in social skills, artistic expression, physical coordination, and listening skills. Very commonly, children coming from the mainstream express new enthusiasm for working and learning and parents often comment that their children become more relaxed and settled in themselves after some time in a Waldorf classroom.
Is it worthwhile to transfers to a Waldorf school in the later grades?
While we often emphasize the importance of early childhood, there are many benefits to be gained from Waldorf education at any age. We fully engage the child in every step of the learning process rather than training them to be passive recipients of pre-approved information. This results in students with strong critical thinking skills and who are resourceful, creative, and eager learners for life.
Such methods help to build self esteem and greater self confidence which are capacities which will serve the child no matter what path they choose for success in life is much more than how many facts one knows. The diverse skills learned in a Waldorf school help children to become well balanced human beings who carry themselves with confidence, have a positive self image, and are non-linear thinkers with an inner impulse to seek the truth. It is never too late to begin developing such capacities.
How do Waldorf schools work with competition?
Competition is a natural human trait but has become disproportionately emphasized in today’s fast paced world. Children naturally rank themselves within their social group but Waldorf children also learn to be inclusive of others. One may be admiring of another’s talents and skills and that admiration should develop into an attitude of active emulation rather than becoming divisive jealousy. Every person has something to offer others and from which we all can learn, By encouraging a healthy balance between cooperation and competition, we can create an environment which honors every child and is beneficial to all.
How do Waldorf schools handle discipline?
Methods of discipline in a Waldorf school vary according to the stage of child development and take into consideration the soul condition of the individual. We avoid punitive and authoritarian consequences which shame or belittle the child for these methods negatively impact self image and self confidence. It is much more effective to appeal to the child’s innate desire to “do the right thing” and provide opportunities to meaningfully make up for an infraction or poor choice. There are no “bad” children, just bad choices and inappropriate habits. Any consequence given must have a meaningful connection to the infraction. When a child feels honored for who they are as a person, feels understood, and given a meaningful way to make up for poor choices, most negative behaviors do not reoccur.
How are Waldorf teachers trained?
Waldorf teachers go through an extensive training in Waldorf methodology and the philosophical underpinnings of the curriculum in addition to meeting all state requirements for a teaching position. It is important that we all teach out of the same picture of child development and work in a mutually supportive way in the spirit of collaboration and colleagueship.
Typically, teachers spend several months in the classroom, observing and assisting the class teacher who often also serves as one of their mentors. Aspiring teachers are expected to attend all pedagogical meetings, study sessions, and training workshops in addition to their individual research and study. If they have been successful in working with the children and their colleagues, the aspiring teacher may be offered a position if one is open.
All teachers, experienced as well as new ones, have a mentor with whom they can converse, share ideas, and seek practical advice as needed. All teachers are regularly evaluated and required to participate in on-going professional development programs and workshops. Waldorf teachers realize that teaching is much more than a job, it is a calling in which one helps to sculpt the future.