People who know my husband and I in “real life” were somewhat surprised to hear we had chosen a Waldorf-inspired path for the home education of our two children. Most people who know a little about Waldorf say, “Isn’t that the method where children do not learn to read until they are nine?” Other parents we knew who had actually visited a Waldorf school usually only visited a Waldorf Kindergarten, and the “pink bubble” of the Kindergarten did not impress them as setting the stage for an academically rigorous education. These are a few of the common but pervasive myths surrounding Waldorf education that I would like to bust today in this post.
I would like to list for you all the 10 most wonderful things I have found about Waldorf education, why I consider it the best way to educate a child, and why you truly should consider it for your own family.
1. No other curriculum I have found takes on the task of educating the entire child – body, mind, soul and spirit – and also takes into account what the adult who went through this kind of educational process will be like as a result. In Waldorf Education, what kind of adult the child will be in thirty or forty years really matters. The health of the child and the future adult the child will become is of utmost importance.
The “con” to this is that Rudolf Steiner based this upon his way of seeing the child, which may or may not be in agreement with your religious or spiritual views. Some people would say they cannot work with Waldorf at all because the curriculum is based upon that. I feel the curriculum is well coordinated with Piaget, Gesell and often does things that are done in European education, irrespective of Steiner’s spiritual base. I leave that to you to decide and wade through.
2. Waldorf education respects the stages of childhood development. This is why formal academics are delayed until the first grade, why a nine year old in the third grade studies house building and farming, why a fifth grader studies the Greeks and Ancient History. I appreciate the fact that nothing is random within the curriculum, and that the curriculum is built upon what will feed the child’s soul at each and every age.
3. I am glad to see a high emphasis placed upon the arts and teaching through the arts throughout the grades. This resonates within me that we as human beings should be close to the wonderful and beautiful things that we can create – art, music, handwork.
4. Waldorf is one of the only methods I know that looks at what Steiner termed “soul economy.” Steiner’s thought was this, as written in the lecture “The Waldorf School“ in the lectures compiled in Soul Economy: “The aim of Waldorf education is to arrange all of the teaching so that in the shortest possible time the maximum amount of material can be presented to students by the simplest means possible.” He goes on to say: “This helps children retain an overall view of their subjects – not so much intellectually, but very much in their feeling life.” Some may read this last statement as evidence that Steiner did not mean for Waldorf education to be academically rigorous. I view this as evidence that Waldorf education is more than just the rampant “Factoid-ization” that is occurring within our educational system today and causing the United States to be behind in nearly all educational standards by the time our children graduate from high school. Memorizing facts does not equate to knowledge and the ability to problem –solve. Waldorf education does require a lot of memorization – verses, songs, rhymes, multiplication tables, addition tables, scientific facts – but it also looks at the memorization of these facts within a bigger picture of understanding and knowledge.
5. The beauty of music resonates throughout the kindergarten years with the pentatonic scales and rich singing through the use of a blowing instrument in the early grades leading up to use of a stringed instrument in the third grade and going through a History of Music in high school. Music has important ties to math and should hold a high place within educational standards.
6. The way Waldorf education approaches reading makes perfect sense to me. Oral storytelling, verses and singing within the Kindergarten years provide that deep, rich basis for language. Waiting until a child is likely to have the attention, handwriting skills and visual tracking abilities to successfully read also makes perfect sense. In Waldorf schools, children learn to read by reading what they themselves have written and drawn in a main lesson book. Waldorf education traces the letters through how people long ago may have started to devise symbols for things and how that translates into the alphabet. The pictures of stories of the letters really stick in the children’s minds, as opposed to them just trying to remember which way a “g” goes and how is that different than a “j”?
There probably are always children within a Waldorf Kindergarten who have taught themselves to read, and that is fine and much different than having phonics lessons shoved down your child’s throat. Many of the children who have taught themselves to read literally go from reading nothing to being able to read whatever they want. It is innate and inborn, and guess what? They still enjoy hearing the stories of the letters in first grade just as much as the other children! Waldorf education focuses on not just the academic education needed for life, but the stories that build a child’s soul for where they are. First Grade is still just the bridge between Kindergarten and the more rigorous work to come.
7. Waldorf’s approach to science focuses on moving from whole to parts and involves more than giving a child a hypothesis to prove with an experiment. For more information regarding the Gothean approach to science that Waldorf utilizes, please see the following website: www.natureinstitute.org
8. Throughout all of the school years, Waldorf education places utmost importance upon the child developing into a moral human. In this day and age, how can anything be more important than that? This is to me what schools try to approach through “character development” classes but far misses the mark compared to the beauty and morality that rings throughout all of Waldorf education in EVERY subject – including math and science!
9. Waldorf education takes the tiny, delicate wings of a child’s imagination and makes them fly and soar like an eagle. The world our children will inherit will be even more fast-paced than today most likely. The adults who will succeed in this world will be the ones who will be imaginative, creative, out-of the box problem solvers. Will your child be one of those adults?
10. Waldorf education, through the use of its shared values, celebration of festivals and rites of passage within the curriculum, promotes a wonderful and close knit community that families are glad and proud to be a part of!
If you would like more information regarding Waldorf Education, please visit one of the following websites:
For use of Waldorf within the home environment, please see the following:
David Darcy: www.ddarcy.com
Barbara Dewey: www.waldorfwithoutwalls.com
Marsha Johnson’s Yahoo! Group
Melisa Nielsen’s website (she is also a reader of this blog!) (she also has a Yahoo! Group): http://www.alittlegardenflower.com/
Eugene Schwartz: www.millennialchild.org
For general information regarding Waldorf, please see the following:
Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.