There are over 800 Waldorf schools in the U.S. With his research into childhood and human development Rudolf Steiner started the movement known as Waldorf. His first school was established for children of factory workers at a cigarette factory in postwar Germany in 1919. The movement caught on and as of 2009 there are now almost 1,000 schools worldwide. Unlike Montessori schools which are usually preschool through 6th grade, Waldorf schools generally are K-12 schools.
Waldorf schools are child centered and teacher guided. A focus on the child is something which Waldorf schools share with Montessori and other progressive schools. Where Maria Montessori created materials for her students to work with, discover and learn, Waldorf depends on the students to develop their imaginations by creating their own materials. Another feature of Waldorf is that the teacher moves or grows with the class from 1st through 8th grades. In other words the class has the same teacher for those important, formative years. Unlike Montessori classes where the teacher is an observer the Waldorf teacher carefully guides and directs his students.
Waldorf schools are individually owned and operated. Waldorf schools are not a franchise operation. Each Waldorf school is individually owned and operated. Most schools are not for profit entities governed by a board of trustees. A unique aspect of a Waldorf school's governance is that the teachers run everything on a day to day basis. Parents are also actively involved in the school's life. All genuine Waldorf schools are authorized and accredited by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.
Waldorf schools are considered progressive schools. Like Montessori schools you won't find a regimented, traditional learning environment in a Waldorf school. The classes do follow the traditional grade structure. The Waldorf approach means that the same teacher will stay with the class from 1st through 8th grade.
The Waldorf curriculum emphasizes the arts and development of children's imaginations. Music and an artistic form peculiar to Waldorf schools known as eurythmy are integral parts of a curriculum centered on core subjects. English language and writing, poetry, drama, history, foreign languages, mathematics, geography and the sciences are all components in a Waldorf high school curriculum. AP courses and SAT preparation are not something which you will find in a Waldorf high school. A young adult accustomed to discovery and experiencing learning is the typical Waldorf graduate.