Six Points About Waldorf Education
A Waldorf education nurtures in a holistic and systematic manner the healthy, unhurried unfolding of a child's potential.
1. Learning is balanced. It addresses the needs of the whole child: the body and heart, as well as the mind and spirit.
Reading and computation, history and science, are taught not simply as ends in themselves but as ways to develop creative, competent and confident learners. The curriculum is designed to be stimulating, engaging, and developmentally appropriate. Learning in the early grades emphasizes movement, imagination, and art. Activities such as breadmaking in kindergarten and woodworking in the upper grades help to ground the child in the physical world.
The emphasis for the elementary and middle grades is on developing the social and emotional life of the child through stories that teach ethical responsibility and social awareness. Moral lessons are drawn from stories told throughout the children's education. Later grades use stories to teach history in a way that engages and connects thinking and feeling. The cultivation of critical thinking and analysis is generally deferred until high school.
2. Art, music, and movement are integral to everything the child learns, especially in the earlier grades.
Starting in first grade, children learn letters though pictures, story, and movement. Knitting helps children strengthen their relationship to mathematics while creating something useful and beautiful with their hands. Children create and illustrate their own books. Through such means, children assimilate new concepts and information with their whole being not just with their minds.
3. Waldorf schools provide a learning environment that bolsters the confidence of all children and builds on their innate curiosity. No emphasis is placed on grades, ranking, competition, and testing.
Student progress is evaluated through compiling portfolios of the student's work and the careful observations of the teacher throughout each day of each school year. The teacher shares his or her impressions and evaluations through parent-teacher conferences and a year-end narrative report.
4. So that learning in its fullest sense can occur, teachers are nurturers as well as instructors.
Students in Waldorf schools ideally have the same class teacher from grades 1-8. The resulting continuity enables the teacher to acquire and build on an in-depth understanding of each child's essential being and character, of his or her strengths and emotional needs. Waldorf teachers typically develop a deep relationship with the entire family.
5. Behavior is managed in a creative, non-coercive manner.
Thanks to the bond of respect and understanding that typically develops between teachers and students, discipline problems are few and quickly resolved. The curriculum itself supports constructive behavior because it has been designed to respond to the needs of children at each development stage.
6. Waldorf provides a framework that supports parents who desire to shield their children from the excessive stimulation and consumerism that characterize popular culture.
Waldorf schools strongly discourage exposing children to television, videos, and computer games. By stimulating a child's curiosity and creativity, a Waldorf education fosters a mind-set that is the exact opposite of passive consumerism. It equips children to make a creative contribution to the world, not simply to fit into an established order.