Founded in Europe in 1919, Waldorf Education is based on a profound understanding of human development that addresses the needs of the growing child. Waldorf’s time-tested pedagogy is designed to address the whole child: head, heart and hands. It stimulates the mind with the full spectrum of traditional academic subjects. It nurtures health emotional development by conveying knowledge experientially as well as academically. And it works with the hands throughout every day, both in primary academic subjects and in a broad range of artistic handwork and craft activities.
For the Waldorf student, music, dance, and theater, writing, literature and nature are not simply subjects to be read about, ingested and tested. They are experienced every day in a warm, nurturing and accepting environment. Through these experiences, Waldorf students cultivate a lifelong love of learning as well as the intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual tools to succeed in whatever path they choose.
The heart of Waldorf Education is the enthusiasm and commitment of the teachers. These teachers come to Waldorf education because they are interested in helping students as individuals. They teach to establish within each child his or her own high level of academic excellence, enthusiasm for learning and work, a healthy self-awareness, concern for fellow human beings, and a respect for the world.
Waldorf Early Childhood Education lays the foundation for a joyful and fulfilling educational experience. Waldorf Early Childhood teachers try to keep alive children’s natural sense of wonder and their sense of oneness and unselfconscious participation with the world. Because young children respond strongly to rhythm and regularity in their lives, Waldorf early childhood programs are based on a strong rhythmic element. The morning might begin with a period for play and work followed by circle time, consisting of verses, nursery rhymes, songs, and circle games. This is often followed by a session of outdoor play and then a nature story or a folk or fairy tale. Each week has its rhythm as well -- one day for baking, another for painting, and a third for crafts. Seasonal activities and festivals may celebrate the bounty of the autumn or the advent of spring and foster a connection to the cycle of the year. Since the surroundings in which children are raised and educated affect them deeply, particularly an early age, great care is taken to create an environment that is nourishing to the senses. The walls of the early childhood classroom are usually painted with luminous washes of watercolor; the window curtains are made from plant-dyed fabric; sturdy tables and chairs are constructed of solid wood; and most of the imaginative toys and playthings are handcrafted from natural materials. These beautiful surroundings are simple and calming and promote the child’s physical growth and health. Because the materials used in the kindergarten are natural and real, they help the child develop a healthy relationship to the material world.
Young children of course love to play. In Waldorf early childhood education, Children often are encouraged to play by participating in the traditional activities that might take place in a home: cooking and baking, cleaning and washing, sewing and ironing, gardening and building. Because these activities are done rhythmically, they create a feeling of well-being and a sense of security in the child. Because they are real, they help a child become grounded in the realities of life. Because they serve a purpose and are filled with meaning, they help the child enter more fully into life at a later age.
Waldorf Education now includes schools on every continent and has grown to become the world’s largest, independent non-denominational school system that goes through all grades.