The first Waldorf school was initiated in 1919 by the Austrian spiritual scientist, Rudolf Steiner. Today there are over a thousand schools in over sixty countries around the globe.
�The Waldorf approach emphasizes the role of the imagination in learning, developing thinking that includes a creative as well as an analytic component. Studies of the education describe its overarching goal as providing young people the basis on which to develop into free, moral and integrated individuals, and to help every child fulfill his or her unique destiny.�
If a creative soul wanted to originate a system of education that developed the potential of its students in an optimal way, that person would base the model on a deep understanding of the human being. Such an understanding would have to entail the whole human being, especially the deeper, spiritual aspects. That is why our current, mainstream forms of education fail so miserably - we live in a materialistic age, and most of the people in charge of education have little knowledge of the more substantial aspects of humanity.
Because the Waldorf system is, in a sense, a deep pool to enter, in terms of coming to understand it, several points need to be considered. Some of the main aspects are presented below.
Considerations Regarding Waldorf Education:
Waldorf Education strives to focus holistically, that is, to develop all three functions of the human soul - thinking, feeling and willing - on an equal basis. Thus, in addition to academic training, art, music, and drama are presented (the feeling arena), as well as the doing of things - fine motor activity such as handwork, and agility/coordination exercises (the willing arena).
By comprehending the long term social/spiritual evolution of humanity, Steiner was able to re-capitulate that development in his educational vision, and to align it in such a way as to match the particular age of a child directly with the curriculum. Steiner fine-tuned this so that the body of story content presented to any given age resonates with the consciousness of the child, as it changes and advances through the grades. Norse myths, for example, meet the specific nature of the child�s consciousness in Grade Four in an abiding way.
The stories reside in the main lesson material in a core manner. They are the heart of the lessons, from which the various subjects are integrated and counter-woven.
The Waldorf teacher strives to present content from the whole to the parts. As much as possible, reductionist approaches are avoided, and holism prevails.
Of utmost importance is avoiding over-taxing the natural unfolding of the child�s etheric constitution. Overly intellectual activity in a child before age 9, and especially before age 7 - such as reading, with it�s excessive mental demand (coding, de-coding, culturally contrived mental gymnastics) - not only can damage the child�s health in subsequent years, due to excessive drain on the constitution-forming etheric forces, but proves to be of no long term value (see next point). The debilitating effects of such practices are experienced in eyesight, constitutional energetics, the immune system, and later on in life, a variety of hardening effects (sclerotic conditions, hardening of arteries, etc.).
Studies comparing Waldorf students with mainstream students reveal that while mainstream children are ahead in some academic areas (not usually in mathematics, for example) during the first few years of grade school (and not in the other two arenas - feeling and willing development), Waldorf children surpass them in the later grades, in all three arenas. This evidence suggests that the much touted early reading focus not only serves no purpose, but actually degrades development, in terms of both educational development and health/well-being. Mainstream children tend to become reading machines, so to speak, versus Waldorf children, who end up with more freed up thinking, meaning they are able to reflect on what they are reading in an independent way. As well, a Waldorf child gets to benefit from a fully developed etheric constitution, which will serve to optimize their health the rest of their days.
Much of the Waldorf teacher�s role could be described as getting out of the way of the natural development of the child. Children have a natural tendency to unfold, if not impeded by extraneous factors. Provide them with enough structure, materials, and an environment that is conducive to letting them proceed, and the teacher becomes, in a sense, a shepherd of the process.
The sensitivity of the teacher will read the needs of students. It is the being of the teacher that most prevails in the classroom, although appropriate knowledge and action on the teacher�s part, in the right way and place, also facilitates the process.
The Waldorf teacher becomes, in a sense, a third parent to the children. The teacher stays with the same class through grade school, developing an intimate relationship. She/he comes to know the strengths and weaknesses of each child, and responds to changing needs through the years.
Using computers, television, and video games before an optimal age (approximately Grade 10) is considered to have more harmful than beneficial effects, especially given an overview of the child�s development.
Waldorf teachers apply modes of understanding to deepen their work, such as, the study of anthroposophy (�knowledge of the nature of humanity�), and the four temperaments.
The subject of Waldorf Education is a deep pool. The forgoing is only a sketch of the whole picture. Readers are recommended to study the Waldorf system at length.
Waldorf Education/Rudolf Steiner College:
An Introduction to Steiner Schools - an online book resource:
Why Waldorf Works:
Adventures in Steiner Education - an online book resource:
example of a Waldorf school, located in Cowichan Valley:
One example of a Waldorf school, located in Cowichan Valley:
Oak High School
Island Oak High School