With more than 900 Waldorf schools and 1,600 Waldorf early childhood programs on five continents, Waldorf education is truly global – not only in its scope, but also in its approach. Wherever it is found, the Waldorf curriculum cultivates within its students a deep appreciation for cultural traditions from around the world while all the while being deeply rooted in its local culture and context.
Waldorf schools offer a developmentally appropriate, balanced approach to education that integrates the arts and academics for children from preschool through twelfth grade. It encourages the development of each child’s sense of truth, beauty, and goodness, and provides an antidote to violence, alienation, and cynicism. The aim of the education is to inspire in each student a lifelong love of learning and to enable them to fully develop their unique capacities.
For the Waldorf student, music, dance, and theatre, writing, literature, legends and myths are not simply subjects to be ingested and tested. They are experienced. Through these experiences, Waldorf students cultivate a lifelong love of learning as well as the intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual capacities to be individuals certain of their paths and to be of service to the world.
Developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, Waldorf education is based on a profound understanding of human development that addresses the needs of the growing child. Waldorf teachers strive to transform education into an art that educates the whole child—the heart and the hands, as well as the head.
The enthusiasm and commitment of the teachers you meet is common in Waldorf schools. These teachers are interested in the students as individuals. They are interested in the questions:
* How do we establish within each child his or her own high level of academic excellence?
* How do we call forth enthusiasm for learning and work, a healthy self-awareness, interest and concern for fellow human beings, and a respect for the world?
* How can we help pupils find meaning in their lives?
Teachers in Waldorf schools are dedicated to generating an inner enthusiasm for learning within every child. They achieve this in a variety of ways. Even seemingly dry and academic subjects are presented in a pictorial and dynamic manner. This eliminates the need for competitive testing, academic placement, and behavioristic rewards to motivate learning. It allows motivation to arise from within and helps engender the capacity for joyful lifelong learning.
The Waldorf curriculum is broad and comprehensive, structured to respond to the three developmental phases of childhood: from birth to approximately 6 or 7 years, from 7 to 14 years and from 14 to 18 years.
Waldorf schools are part of an international movement, though not part of a regulated organization. The schools are united by the shared dedication to the Waldorf curriculum and pedagogy and a conviction that this schooling can help children to become freethinking, socially responsible, and strong-willed adults. In this way families have found Waldorf education as a truly global curriculum united around the world in its unique view of child development. Each school, however, is independent and self-governing, and has its own distinct characteristics.
When the first Waldorf school was founded in 1919, there was no headmaster. Instead, the responsibility for running the school was shared by the faculty. Today teachers and staff meet weekly and with a chairperson, elected for a limited term. They make decisions regarding the social, administrative, and educational life of the school. The faculty and staff also study together particular aspects of Waldorf education. The College of Teachers is composed of faculty members and staff members who are particularly committed to the destiny of the school. This group is responsible for the educational policies and management of human and material resources.
To maintain the freedom to provide the Waldorf curriculum and to retain this governance of collaborative leadership, Waldorf schools are independent of the state. Thus operational cost must be covered by parent tuition payments, grants, and gifts. The Waldorf movement is concerned, however, that the education should be available to all committed parents without any financial barriers. Information about admissions, tuition assistance, and other aspects of a particular Waldorf school can be obtained from that school’s office.
(Excerpts from Why Waldorf Works (www.whywaldorfworks.org)