As you explore your elementary school options, take time to find out about Waldorf education. Waldorf schools, or Steiner schools as they are often called, had their genesis in the writings and philosophy of Austrian philosopher and social reformer Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). To put Steiner into some sort of context, think of him as northern Europe's equivalent of Dr. Maria Montessori.
These two remarkable people shared something in common which would ultimately lead to the establishment of educational movements based on their philosophies and approaches: namely that children from the less-privileged stratae of society were capable of achieving the same levels of academic accomplishment as children from more privileged homes. The key to success was their approach to teaching children as well as their insistence that the traditional ways of educating children not be used. In addition both Montessori and Steiner insisted on complete control of their schools. No state or local government interference would be tolerated.
Maria Montessori established her school in the poorest neighborhood of Rome because she was convinced that every child, no matter what his social circumstances, was capable of learning. Dr. Montessori carefully observed the children in her school and recorded the results of her experiment.
Rudolf Steiner like Dr. Montessori earned a doctoral degree. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Rostock in 1891 and established his first school for the children of factory workers in 1919.
Today Waldorf schools offer an alternative to traditional K-12 schools. Whereas in many traditional schools subjects are taught, in a Waldorf school subjects are experienced. Waldorf schools incorporate the arts into every subject which is taught.
Here are five facts about Waldorf schools to help you find the right school for your child.
1. Waldorf schools can be found world-wide.
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 name Waldorf came from the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company which was owned by Emil Molt. Molt had asked Steiner to lecture his factory workers on education and then to establish a school for their children. Steiner schools were then founded in other European countries. There are now over 1,000 Waldorf schools world-wide.
Unlike Montessori schools which have multiage classes, Waldorf schools generally are K-12 schools. The Steiner method calls for three levels of education following a child's natural growth and developmental patterns. The Montessori teacher guides a multi-age classroom. The Waldorf teacher stays with her class across several years, as a rule seven years.
2. Child-centered and teacher-guided instruction is a hallmark of Waldorf education.
Teaching in Waldorf schools is 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. The arts are integrated into every lesson and assignment in a Waldorf classroom.
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.An Ascending Spiral of Knowledge explains the Waldorf curriculum and how it is taught. What is important to you and me as we evaluate a Waldorf school for our children is to understand that Waldorf schools are progressive schools. You will not find teachers teaching to a test or issuing grades to students. That approach does not fit into the Steiner philosophy of education.
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.
How do Waldorf students fare with college acceptances?