Waldorf schools offer a developmentally appropriate, experiential approach to education. They integrate the arts and academics for children of all ages. Waldorf ® Education aims to inspire life-long learning in all students and to enable them to fully develop their unique capacities. Founded in the early 20th century, Waldorf Education is based on the insights, teachings and principles of education outlined by the world-renowned anthroposophist, artist, and scientist, Rudolf Steiner. The principles of Waldorf Education evolve from a profound understanding of human development that addresses the needs of the growing child. These principles inspire and guide teachers, administrators, trustees, and parents today.
The Waldorf curriculum is broad and comprehensive. Structured to respond to the three developmental phases of childhood – birth to 6 or 7 years, 7 to 14 years and 14 to 21 years – Rudolf Steiner stressed to teachers that the best way to provide meaningful support for the child is to comprehend these phases fully and to bring “age appropriate” content that nourishes healthy growth for the Waldorf student. Music, dance, and theater, writing, literature, legends, and myths are not simply subjects to be read about and tested. They are experienced. Through these experiences, Waldorf students cultivate their intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual capacities and academic skills to be individuals certain of their paths and to be of service to the world.
Waldorf based programs and schools may differ according to geography, culture, group size, age-range, and individual teaching approach. Granting these differences, Waldorf programs share certain fundamental characteristics:
- Loving interest in and acceptance of each child
- Opportunities for self-initiated play with simple play materials as the essential activity for young children.
- This is the young child’s work and makes it possible for them to digest and understand their experiences.
- Awareness that young children learn through imitation, through the experience of diverse sensory impressions, and through movement. Their natural inclination is to actively explore their physical and social environment. The surroundings offer limits, structure, and protection, as well as the possibility to take risks and meet challenges.
- A focus on real rather than virtual experiences to support the child in forming a healthy relationship to the world.
- Artistic activities such as storytelling, music, drawing and painting, rhythmic games, and modeling that foster the healthy development of imagination and creativity.
- Meaningful practical work such as cooking, baking, gardening, handwork and domestic activity that provide opportunities to develop unfolding human capacities. Here the emphasis is on the processes of life rather than on learning outcomes.
- Predictable rhythms through the day, week and year that provide security and a sense of the interrelationships and wholeness of life. Seasonal and other festivals are celebrated according to the cultural and geographical surroundings.
We recognize that healthy child development unfolds most fully in the context of a community with healthy social relationships among parents, teachers, and children. Waldorf educators strive to create such conscious, collaborative communities around the children in their care and see their activity as part of a worldwide cultural impulse. Teachers in Waldorf schools are dedicated to generating an inner enthusiasm for learning within every child. This eliminates the need for competitive testing, academic placement, and behavioristic rewards to motivate learning and allows motivation to arise from within. It helps engender the capacity for joyful life-long learning.
Waldorf Education is independent and inclusive. It upholds the principles of freedom in education and engages independent administration locally, continentally and internationally. It is regionally appropriate education with hundreds of schools worldwide today.