What is Waldorf Education?
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.
- In Waldorf schools, to understand the universe, one must first understand humanity. Waldorf schools work with an integrated balance of artistic, practical and intellectual content in the curriculum, with an emphasis on developing social skills and community values in their students.
- The Waldorf approach works from the inside out, focusing on giving children a deep confidence in their own learning process, and having a profound sense of wonder and respect for life and learning.
- Waldorf education is founded on the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian scientist, philosopher, educator, writer, architect, and social reformer. The Kelowna Waldorf School is part of a growing network of nearly 2,500 schools around the world that deliver the renowned Waldorf education model.
- Waldorf schools emphasize the importance of imagination and play-based pedagogy, which allows for the natural progression of key skills, including literacy, numeracy, social and emotional competence at a pace appropriate to a child’s development.
- Two modern languages (French and German) are taught from the age of 5.
- Waldorf schools work with the belief that education should be accessible to all, regardless of ethnicity, creed or financial circumstances.
- The Waldorf school is an extended learning environment for parents and teachers to work co-operatively in support of children’s education. A strong community is highly valued at a Waldorf school.
A History of Waldorf Education
In the Beginning…Waldorf education is an independent, worldwide educational system developed by Rudolf Steiner and enriched by the practical experience of Waldorf teachers during the past eighty years. Waldorf education originated in Germany in 1919 in the aftermath of the First World War. Emil Molt, owner of the Waldorf cigarette factory, saw that the children of his workers were not receiving the education they should receive. He sought out Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), a respected Austrian educator, scientist and philosopher, to develop a new curriculum for his school.
Now, there are 12 schools across Canada and more than 1,000 schools worldwide.Each is autonomous, reflecting local geography and culture while sharing the core foundations of curriculum, methods and beliefs.
Rudolph Steiner was a pioneer in the field of developmentally based, age-appropriate learning. He sought to develop a balanced education for the “whole child”, one which would engage the child’s thinking, feeling and willing (doing): an education for the head, heart and hands. From early childhood through high school, Waldorf educators teach according to the changing inner development of the child.
Our Children – A Waldorf Perspective
The First Seven Years – Imitation
The milestones achieved in these first years – to stand, to talk, to think – are all achieved through imitation. In the preschool and kindergarten, an atmosphere much like home is created to provide a gentle transition from home to school life. The teacher engages in domestic, practical and artistic activities (for example, baking, painting, gardening and handicrafts) which the children readily imitate. Their power of fantasy is nurtured with storytelling and encouraged through free play. Through songs and rhymes, the children learn to enjoy language.
The Heart Of Childhood – Imagination
When children are ready to enter grade one, they are eager to explore the world at a more conscious level. They do this through – the ability to “see” a picture, “hear” a story, and “divine” meanings.
“When you have a book you just can’t put down, it magics you. It puts a spell on you and you can’t stop reading.” Samantha, Class 4
When seen through the lens of the imagination, nature, the world of numbers, mathematics, geometrical form etc. come alive. Everything that speaks to the child’s imagination in pictures and stories in colour, rhythm, and music, is learned and remembered in such a way that it becomes a living part of the child.
The teacher appeals primarily to the feelings of the child between 7 and 14. Whether the subject is arithmetic, history or physics, the presentation must live – it must speak to the child. For this reason, all things in a Waldorf school are both functional and beautiful.
Towards Adulthood – Rational Thinking
During the third development stage – adolescence, imaginative learning undergoes a metamorphosis and emerges with the rise of the intellect. The students are searching for truth and they begin to experience their power of thinking. Focus is now placed on intellectual work.
What’s The Next Step?
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