What is the Waldorf Method of Education?
While all teaching methods are aimed at educating children as they grow, there are many different options available for today's students. How do you know which one is right for your child? Information is an essential part of the decision-making process. Lately, you may have heard buzz about the increasingly popular Waldorf Education method and wondered what it's all about. Let's take a closer look.
The History of Waldorf Education
Waldorf's origins date back to 1919, when Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and teacher, first conceived of a philosophy in which a person's development was informed across the full spectrum of human behaviour -- from art and agriculture to economics and medicine. Known as "anthroposophy," this way of thinking informs the modern-day Waldorf approach aimed at educating the whole child: head, heart and hands.
Today's Waldorf curriculum educates students according to distinct developmental phases: from birth through the age of 6 or 7; from ages 7 to 14; and the later years between the ages of 14 and 18. "Age appropriate" content is designed to help students gracefully transition through each phase and into adulthood. While Waldorf philosophy incorporates a "play-based" approach with an emphasis on creative learning, a predictable routine is also part of the Walford experience. The Waldorf method strives to teach children by more than just reading about topics. Instead, students are immersed in a comprehensive range of subjects, including music, dance, mythology, theatre, and other areas of enrichment. The goal is not simply to promote exposure, but to foster meaningful experiences which cultivate intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual growth. More conventional "academic" subjects, such as reading, may be introduced at a much later age in Waldorf than in traditional settings.
Waldorf Teachers and Classrooms
Waldorf teachers are trained to connect with each child as individuals. Their goal? To help each child reach his/her individual levels of academic achievement; to promote enthusiasm for learning as well as respect for self, fellow humans, and the world; and to encourage students to find greater meaning in their lives. Waldorf schools can be recognised by their peaceful classroom environments. In addition to actively incorporating colour and natural materials, the typical Waldorf setting stands out in another significant way: technology, including all forms of electronic media, is not part of the classroom or curriculum. Homework and standardized tests are also noticeably absent from the Waldorf method.
Waldorf Vs. Montessori?
While Waldorf and Montessori methods share a commitment to addressing the educational needs of children in a tactile way, they differ in some significant ways. For example, while Waldorf uses a teacher-directed approach, the Montessori method is centred around child-led learning in which teachers act as guides. Many people find that the best way to truly understand the differences between these two similar yet disparate approaches is through direct observation. Classroom visits, along with discussions with administrators, teachers and parents, can yield valuable insights into what makes each method unique. Waldorf founder Steiner said,
"Our highest endeavour must be to develop free human beings, who are able out of their own initiative to impart purpose and direction in their lives." Ultimately, whether parents choose Waldorf or an alternate method, the goal remains the same: creating safe, happy, educational environments in which each individual child is empowered to learn, grow and thrive.