Waldorf Education is a world-wide independent school movement developed in Germany in 1919 by an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, and visionary named Rudolf Steiner. Among the fastest-growing educational movements in the world, Waldorf Education is based on the developmental stages of childhood. In a Waldorf school, each child is viewed as a whole being, with attention paid not only to the child’s intellectual capacities, but also to her physical, emotional, spiritual, and moral development. Waldorf Education is getting a lot of media coverage lately due to its rejection of high-stakes testing, its reverence for nature, and its interest in developing individuality and creativity in an otherwise increasingly mechanized world.
These two educational approaches began with a similar goal: to design a curriculum that was developmentally appropriate to the child and that addressed the child’s need to learn in a tactile as well as an intellectual way. The philosophies are otherwise very different.
Waldorf schools are non-sectarian and non-denominational. They educate all children, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. The pedagogical method is comprehensive, and, as part of its task, seeks to bring about recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions. Waldorf schools are not part of any church. They espouse no particular religious doctrine but are based on a belief that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life. Waldorf families come from a broad spectrum of religious traditions and interest.
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?
When children relate what they learn to their own experience, they are interested and fully engaged, and what they learn becomes their own. Waldorf schools are designed to foster this kind of learning.
Eurythmy is the art of movement that attempts to make visible the tone and feeling of music and speech. Eurythmy helps to develop concentration, self-discipline, and a sense of beauty. This training of moving artistically with a group stimulates sensitivity to the other as well as individual mastery. Eurythmy lessons follow the themes of the curriculum, exploring rhyme, meter, story, and geometric forms.
A Waldorf class teacher ideally stays with a group of children through the eight elementary school years. What if my child does not get along with the teacher?
This question often arises because of a parent’s experience of public school education. In most public schools, a teacher works with a class for one, maybe two years. It is difficult for teacher and child to develop the deep human relationship that is the basis for healthy learning if change is frequent.
If a teacher has a class for several years, the teacher and the children come to know and understand each other in a deep way. The children, feeling secure in a long-term relationship, are better able to learn. The interaction of teacher and parents also can become more deep and meaningful over time, and they can cooperate in helping the child.
Problems between teachers and children, and between teachers and parents, can and do arise. When this happens, the college of teachers studies the situation, involves the teacher and parents—and, if appropriate, the child—and tries to resolve the conflict. If the differences are irreconcilable, the parents might be asked to withdraw the child, or the teacher might be replaced.
In reality, these measures very rarely need to be taken. A Waldorf class is something like a family. If a mother in a family does not get along with her son during a certain time, she does not consider resigning or replacing him with another child. Rather, she looks at the situation and sees what can be done to improve the relationship. In other words, the adult assumes responsibility and tries to change. This same approach is expected of the Waldorf teacher in a difficult situation. In almost every case she must ask herself: “How can I change so that the relationship becomes more positive?” One cannot expect this of the child. With the goodwill and active support of the parents, the teacher concerned can make the necessary changes and restore the relationship to a healthy and productive state.
—From “Five Frequently Asked Questions” by Colin Price; originally printed in Renewal Magazine, Spring/Summer 2003
The class teacher is not the only teacher the children experience. Each day, specialty subject teachers teach the children eurythmy, handcrafts, a foreign language, instrumental music, and so on.
The class teacher is, however, responsible for the two-hour “main lesson” every morning and usually also for one or two lessons later in the day. In the main lesson, she brings all the main academic subjects to the children, including language arts, the sciences, history, and mathematics, as well as painting, music, clay modeling, and so on. The teacher does in fact deal with a wide range of subjects, and thus the question is a valid one.
A common misconception in our time is that education is merely the transfer of information. From the Waldorf point of view, true education also involves the awakening of capacities—the ability to think clearly and critically, to empathetically experience and understand phenomena in the world, to distinguish what is beautiful, good, and true. The class teacher walks a path of discovery with the children and guides them into an understanding of the world of meaning, rather than the world of cause and effect.
Waldorf class teachers work very hard to master the content of the various subjects that they teach. But the teacher’s ultimate success lies in his ability to work with those inner faculties that are still “in the bud,” so that they can grow, develop, and open up in a beautiful, balanced, and wholesome way. Through this approach to teaching, the children will be truly prepared for the real world. They are provided then with the tools to productively shape that world out of a free human spirit.
—From “Five Frequently Asked Questions” by Colin Price; originally printed in Renewal Magazine, Spring/Summer 2003
During the first three classes, great care is taken in laying a thorough foundation for writing and reading. Children learn to write before they read. Letters of the alphabet are learned in the first class in capitals, as they originated in the evolution of our culture. Man perceived, then pictured, and out of the pictures he developed signs and written symbols. The children, with their naturally pictorial thinking, do likewise. In the shapes of natural objects, children re-discover the shapes of the letters: M in a series of mountain peaks, V in the valleys between, S in a sinuous snake. The experience is deepened and widened through speech and movement. This method of approach develops a sense for the qualifies of the letters and makes them come alive so that they are remembered. Phonetics are treated thoroughly and the first experiences in reading centre around that which the children know well and have copied from the board. The first printed reader is introduced during the second year.
It is generally recognised that the first experiences of arithmetic are crucial, and here Steiner made some interesting recommendations. By starting with “two plus two equals four”, the child meets
(i) a completely abstract proposition,
(ii) a reductionist view of the universe in which wholes are made up of parts, and
(iii) a problem with only one answer.
If he explores instead how to divide an apple or a cake and share it round the class, he starts from real life, from wholeness, and from a problem with several answers. Arithmetic is taught to children not as a method for computing, but as a powerful process which is inscribed into the world around them. They can see oneness in the image of the sun, twoness in the contrasts of day and night, fiveness in flower petals and sixness in the legs of beetles. Always, there is a sense of the reality underpinning the world.
Numbers are taught in movement, and through music before anything is committed to paper. They can be modelled in plasticine, clay or beeswax, together with the shapes in which they are found: the square, circle, pentagon and so on. Arithmetic tables are recited with much clapping and stamping, for unless the knowledge sinks deeper than the child’s conscious memory, very little has been achieved. As in so much else, in their early years the children need to learn by heart before they learn by head.
While the diversity of the curriculum demands specialist subject teachers, we aim at a balance between these specialists and the class teacher who becomes the pupils’ guide and friend. The class with its class teacher moves through the school as a single unit. This practice has many social advantages. It also takes account of the fact that a child’s speed or slowness in one subject or area of school life is almost always matched by an opposite in other areas. The class teacher’s connection with the class achieves four valuable educational objectives :
the teacher’s continuous and deepening knowledge of the children in his class;
an increasingly intimate connection between teachers and parents, fostering greater understanding of and security for the pupil;
the continued development of the teacher;
an interrelationship between subject matter taught in early and later years which enriches the curriculum even further.
We live in a highly scientific and technological age, and therefore the study of sciences plays a crucial role in preparing the young adult to understand and integrate into today’s world. An understanding of the discovery and workings of machinery, electronics and energy sources, and the implications these have for man’s life, is one of the most important aspects of life-long learning.
Two aspects make the Waldorf approach to science unique.
Firstly, pupils study the dramatic biographies of remarkable personalities whose discoveries changed and moulded the social conditions of our civilisation.
Secondly, the pupils study of science does not begin with the learning of pre-programmed, fixed laws of the text book, but through the development of their own observations to which they can apply their own creative thinking. They thus receive a truly scientific training – working from the phenomena and then engaging in deep thinking processes, finally coming to new insights and conclusions.
While requirements within individual schools may vary, as a rule Class Teachers will have both a university degree and teaching certification from a recognized Waldorf teacher education college or institute. Some Waldorf education programs can also grant B.A. and M.A. degrees in conjunction with Waldorf teaching certification. Typically, the course of study for teachers is from two to three years and includes practice teaching in a Waldorf school under the supervision of experienced Waldorf teachers. Teachers must also satisfy whatever state credential and licensing requirements might apply.
Rudolf Steiner, speaking in Oxford in 1922, defined “three golden rules” for teachers: “to receive the child in gratitude from the world it comes from; to educate the child with love; and to lead the child into the true freedom which belongs to man.”
This is a very common concern among parents when they first hear about the “Class Teacher” method. However, in practice, the situation seems to arise very rarely, especially so when the teacher has been able to establish a relationship with the class right from the first grade. Given the sort of person who is motivated to become a Waldorf teacher, incompatibility with a child is infrequent: understanding the child’s needs and temperament is central to the teacher’s role and training. If problems of this sort should occur, the faculty as a whole would work with the teacher and the family to determine and undertake whatever corrective action would be in the best interests of the child and of the class.
Waldorf teachers share an interest in the development of the human being, a desire to help young people develop their innate potential, and a wish to be of service to the world. The important thing to remember is that Waldorf teaching is not about being the best at everything, but about continually striving to become better.
Among the key differences are these:
- Waldorf Early Childhood classes are play-based. Formal academic instruction does not begin until the first grade.
- Each school day in grades one through twelve starts out with a Main Lesson block — an opportunity for students to study one subject (within the humanities, math, and science disciplines) in great depth for a three- to four- week period.
- Waldorf elementary teachers (or “class teachers”) stay with the same students for a number of years, developing strong relationships and meeting each student’s needs.
- Waldorf teachers teach out of their own education, without the use of textbooks. It is from their lessons that students construct their own textbooks.
- Waldorf schools are self-governed, giving the same individuals who teach the children the authority to shape curriculum and school policy.
Five Reasons Why Parents Choose a Waldorf Education for Their Child
As a parent you can be sure that choosing a Waldorf education for your child is a safe and smart choice.
Your homework has already been done by millions of parents who’ve sent their own children to Waldorf schools across the globe. Here are 5 reasons why, over the past century, parents have made Waldorf one of the world’s largest independent schools systems:
1) Waldorf parents can be sure their child will be prepared and successful
Research shows that 94% of North American Waldorf graduates attend university and an incredible 50% attain a Masters or PhD. University professors speak very highly of the assertive and engaged Waldorf graduates in their classes. Yet, leaders and employers are not looking for people who can simply pass tests and follow orders. Waldorf graduates are successful because they are confident, creative thinking individuals with the courage to change the world. Our alumni go on to rewarding careers and continue to value learning, work, relationships and an ethical approach to their chosen path.
2) Waldorf teachers are personable, insightful and committed
Waldorf teachers are well trained professionals whom are experts at understanding what makes children tick. We know how to orchestrate a class of diverse learning styles and temperaments, using multiple methods of teaching to ensure that each child is warmed in their heart, skilled with their hands and sees clearly with their mind before advancing to the next thing. In the classroom Waldorf teachers interact with others with thoughtfulness and compassion, are capable and interested in many things and they make good decisions. They are like this so that every day your child has an exemplary role model working alongside of them. Waldorf teachers are continuously developing their skills, studying teaching practices, student learning styles and insight into the changing relationship between human beings, the world around us and how that effects student learning. Finally, our teachers make themselves available to parents as much as reasonably possible, hosting nearly monthly meetings with the parents of their class, regular parent-teacher interviews and crafting detailed, individualized reports on the progress of your child.
3) Waldorf teachers focus on the unique needs of your child
As every parent knows, each child learns and acts in their own unique way. Waldorf teachers work with your child according to their own gifts and challenges, nurturing and encouraging them just the right amount so that your child will want to be interested in and skilled at the many things they care about. Waldorf teachers know that education is not a competition and young students don’t need more pressure. Instead, we use the philosophy “the right thing at the right time,” meaning that we take the necessary time to discern how your child learns, what they need and when and we know how to draw out their desire to reach for and attain it themselves. Our teachers are ready when your child is, and when we let you know how your child is doing, it is relative primarily to their own development and expectations, not just to the other students.
4) Academic excellence is only the surface of Waldorf education
Waldorf teachers have a century of student observation at their disposal and they use proven learning techniques based on insight into brain and physical development, kinesthetic learning and emotional intelligence. By engaging their minds, emotions and bodies, students take in more, and they take it in much deeper. When Waldorf students excel at math, science and languages it is because they learn them experientially, integrated with physical education, music, arts, drama, woodwork, fiber arts and, yes, recess. Rather than simply teaching to the test, we make sure our students are happy, healthy, interested and motivated to create things as they learn, making sure they are not only prepared for university, but for life as well.
5) Waldorf schools are virbrant cultural communities
While Waldorf schools are largely independent from governments and therefore must charge tuition, they are not-for-profit and known for supporting many families that couldn’t otherwise afford to attend. This economic diversity, as well as gender, racial, religious diversity are the thread of the social fabric that Waldorf schools thrive on. Although Waldorf schools are not religious the movement was born out of a spiritual idea that humanity has evolved due to the dynamic between spiritual wisdom and earthly work and that each child will also develop on this path before having their own capacity to advance it themselves. We celebrate the changing seasons, rites of passage, diverse cultural festivities and more human ways of working together in order to show children that we are all equal under the sun, we all develop wisdom, have something to share and are part of a much larger whole…and that is something worth celebrating.
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
There is evidence that normal, healthy children who learn to read relatively late are not disadvantaged by this, but rather are able quickly to catch up with, and may overtake, children who have learned to read early. Additionally, they are much less likely to develop the “tiredness toward reading” that many children taught to read at a very early age experience later on. Instead there is lively interest in reading and learning that continues into adulthood. Some children will, out of themselves, want to learn to read at an early age. This interest can and should be met, as long as it comes in fact from the child. Early imposed formal instruction in reading can be a handicap in later years, when enthusiasm toward reading and learning may begin to falter.
If reading is not pushed, a healthy child will pick it up quite quickly and easily. Some Waldorf parents become anxious if their child is slow to learn to read. Eventually these same parents are overjoyed at seeing their child pick up a book and not put it down and become from that moment a voracious reader. Each child has his or her own optimal time for “taking off.” Feelings of anxiety and inferiority may develop in a child who is not reading as well as her peers. Often this anxiety is picked up from parents concerned about the child’s progress. It is important that parents should deal with their own and their child’s apprehensions.
Human growth and development do not occur in a linear fashion, nor can they be measured. What lives, grows, and has its being in human life can only be grasped with that same human faculty that can grasp the invisible metamorphic laws of living nature.
Children who transfer to a Waldorf school in the first four grades usually are up to grade in reading, math, and basic academic skills. However, they usually have much to learn in bodily coordination skills, posture, artistic and social activities, cursive handwriting, and listening skills. Listening well is particularly important since most of the curricular content is presented orally in the classroom by the teacher. The human relationship between the child and the teacher is the basis for healthy learning, for the acquiring of understanding and knowledge rather than just information. Children who are used to learning from computers and other electronic media will have to adjust.
Those children who enter a Waldorf school in the middle grades often bring much information about the world. This contribution should be recognized and received with interest by the class. However, these children often have to unlearn some social habits, such as the tendency to experience learning as a competitive activity. They have to learn to approach the arts in a more objective way, not simply as a means for personal expression. In contrast, in their study of nature, history, and the world, they need to relate what they learn to their own life and being. The popular ideal of “objectivity” in learning is misguided when applied to elementary school children. At their stage of development, the subjective element is essential for healthy learning. Involvement in what is learned about the world makes the world truly meaningful to them.
Children who transfer out of a Waldorf school into a public school during the earlier grades probably have to upgrade their reading ability and to approach the science lessons differently. Science in a Waldorf school emphasizes the observation of natural phenomena rather than the formulation of abstract concepts and laws. On the other hand, the Waldorf transferees are usually well prepared for social studies, practical and artistic activities, and mathematics. Children moving during the middle grades should experience no problems. In fact, in most cases, transferring students of this age group find themselves ahead of their classmates. The departing Waldorf student is likely to take along into the new school a distinguishing individual strength, personal confidence, and love of learning.
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
华德福教育不是在形式上模范就“华德福”了，用世界华德福幼儿园联盟主席Susan Howard的话说：华德福教育的本质因素实际上是教育者本身，她塑造和影响着儿童的环境，她不仅是通过各种布置、活动以及一天的节奏来，最重要的是教师 个人的特质以及她与外界的关系，包括她与儿童、幼儿园里的其他成人、家长和幼儿园的日常生活以及自然界的各种生命活动之间的联系。
这些特质，包 括外在和内在的态度和表现，渗透在儿童早期教育的设置之中并深刻地影响着儿童，而她们是通过模仿过程来吸收这一切的。这些童年经历的后果会在儿童成长的后 期通过其身体素质、行为倾向以及对待生活中的机遇和挑战的态度上表现出来。如把教室布置成华德福教室，课程按华德福的走，就能达到这种效果，那么，华德福教育也就太容易了。
目前，大多数普通大学毕业生都感觉到很难进入现代社会生活，不适应社会也得要适应，还没听说有人回去找学校算账，因为他们当时，无论是小学，中学或大学，都说是为了培养现代社会需要的人才而吸引到学生的。为什么，要华德福学校来保证华德福出来的孩子要能适应考试，能适应现代社会生活呢？ 那么学校保证了又能说明什么呢？最近，美国又对华德福毕业生做了一次大规模的调查，结果非常令人吃惊。请http://www.whywaldor/fworks.org/documents /Survey_WaldorfGradu ates.pdf