What is Waldorf Education?

Waldorf education is rooted in Rudolf Steiner’s picture of the child as a being of body, soul, and spirit. His intention was to found a school movement, based on spiritual wisdom, to renew the art of education so that modern children could develop the full range of their capacities and become free, self-reliant individuals capable of contributing fresh insights and cultural initiatives to the world.

Steiner developed the Waldorf curriculum as a means of helping the child’s spirit and soul to take proper hold of the body, to unfold fully the functions of thinking, feeling and willing and thereby to learn about the world and be active in it in a healthy and constructive way.

Waldorf education proceeds in three major steps as the child’s consciousness develops. Up to age 12, it is largely a pictorial and imaginative consciousness; from then on the element of reason arises.

Until age 12, the Waldorf curriculum works with the child’s imagination, utilizing fairy tales, legends, fables, Bible stories, ancient mythology and stories from many cultures. In the fifth and sixth grade, the transition is made to actual history and science. From then on, without losing its imaginative and artistic elements, the curriculum is presented in a more scientific manner, increasingly relying on direct observation, objective description and reflection in all subjects.

In developing the first Waldorf School, Steiner set four conditions which are still characteristic today:

1) the school should be open to all children
2) the school should be coeducational
3) the school should be a unified 12-year school
4) the teachers should have primary control of the school, with minimal interference from the state or economic sources.

Sources:
Waldorf Education…An Introduction by Henry Barnes, http://www.awsna.org/education-intro.html

Pine Hill Waldorf School Parent Handbook, http://www.jlc.net/~faiman/waldorf/handbook_philosophy.html

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