What Are Waldorf Schools?
Waldorf schools follow the educational philosophies of Austrian scientist Rudolf Steiner. Steiner believed in holistic education, one that encompasses the heart, head, and hands or mind, spirit, and body.
Steiner believed that young children, up to the age of seven or eight, exist in an almost dreamlike state. He further believed that kids of that age are in tune with nature and their surroundings, and are particularly sensitive to sensory stimulation. For this reason, Waldorf espouses a gentle education, one that will not "wake kids up" too soon.
Waldorf schools do not encourage early academics, and instead focus on activities that engage the entire body. Common activities in a Waldorf classroom include:
- Bread making
- Modelling clay
- Working with beeswax
- Wet on wet painting
- Knitting, crocheting, and other handicrafts
- Recorder or pentatonic flute playing
Emphasis on Storytelling
In the early years, most teaching is done through storytelling and hands-on activities. Even in math, students learn through exciting fairy tales and stories. Gnomes and garden fairies come to life for the students, bringing the numbers and operations of mathematics to the real world. Letters, too, are taught through imaginative stories and colorful paintings.
Importance of Nature
Waldorf education also emphasizes the beauty and continuity of nature. Students spend much time outdoors, simply experiencing the natural world. They play with water, dirt, rocks, and logs. Daily nature walks are an important aspect of a Waldorf education. These walks, in themselves, are the event. There is no drilling the students about the types of trees or animals seen; there is no official "observation" of plantlife. The walks are gentle, peaceful, and reflective.
Waldorf schools rely heavily on balance, carefully transitioning between times of activity and times of rest, times of music and times of silence. Steiner believed that children had great difficulty with transitions between activities, and Waldorf schools make these transitions special and gentle. All Waldorf teachers create transition routines that usually include songs, humming, or the use of candles.
Waldorf Schools in America
- Waldorf School (Alabama)
- Anchorage Waldorf School (Alaska)
- Westside Waldorf (California)
- The Waldorf School of Orange County (California)
- Tara Performing Arts High School (Colorado)
- Waldorf Atlanta (Georgia)
- Honolulu Waldorf (Hawaii)
- Four Winds (Illinois)
- The Bay School (Maine)
- Shining Star School (Texas)
For even more Waldorf schools in America, Canada, and Mexico, visit the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA).
Waldorf Home Schools
There has been a movement in recent years towards a Waldorf education at home. While many parents opt to create their own Waldorf curriculum from a variety of sources, others desire a more formal plan. Established Waldorf home schools can be valuable resources, especially for those new to Waldorf or new to home schooling. Keep in mind, however, that part of the beauty of Waldorf lies in its understanding of each child's unique development. Use these schools as guides, but do not be afraid to change or adapt the curriculum to suit your child, your family, and your circumstances.
Considered a "true" Waldorf curriculum, Live Education was created by two former Waldorf educators. The site offers a packaged Waldorf curriculum for each grade from kindergarten to eighth. In addition, Live Education offers phone consultations. Although it is a compete curriculum, Live Education does not give a step-by-step, day-by-day list of instructions for parents. Instead, it is meant to inspire and guide parents to the approach that will work for their family. Despite this, Live Education is concerned to be the premier home school education for Waldorf purists.
Although Oak Meadow was founded by Waldorf educators, it is no longer considered a true Waldorf program. The Waldorf-inspired curriculum takes much of the good of Waldorf and combines it with more Western educational practices. For example, Oak Meadow includes time for nature walks, storytelling, bedtime routines, and housework in its curriculum. It is much gentler than a rigorous school-in-a-box curriculum. On the other hand, Oak Meadow begins teaching the letters and light phonics in kindergarten, something Waldorf purists do not believe in. Because it is more in keeping with American educational ideals, Oak Meadow may be a good compromise for home schoolers in states with strict recordkeeping requirements. Just don't expect a pure Waldorf experience; think of it as a traditional education with Waldorf flavor and you won't be disappointed.
Other Waldorf Home School Resources
- Christopherus offers many books and articles for the Waldorf home schoolers. They also offer a kindergarten guidebook and a complete first grade curriculum. In addition, the site owner, Donna Simmons, offers a first-rate consultation service.
- Enki promises a multicultural education, and combines elements of Waldorf, Montessori, Western studies, thematic studies, and aspects of the United Nations International School.
- Waldorf Homeschoolers is an informative site, with articles, curriculum reviews, products, and more. This site is helpful for parents who choose to create their own curriculum, as it offers guides, printables, and sample lesson plans for each grade level.