Waldorf Education is not a new method. It has been used to teach children and aid in their development for nearly 100 years. While Waldorf does not subscribe to a particular religious denomination, many of its perspectives are firmly rooted in Christianity.
History of Waldorf
Waldorf was developed by a man named Rudolf Steiner in 1919. He believed that people were made of three separate things:
According to his philosophy there are also three developmental stages in the maturation process:
- Early childhood
- Middle childhood
In this way Steiner's educational philosophy is similar to the Trivium in Classical Education.
It was during a visit to post World War I Germany that Steiner was asked to start a school at the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory. It would be a school for the children of the workers. He agreed on four conditions:
- All children would be welcome
- It would be co-educational
- It would be a 12 year school
- The teachers would be completely in charge without interference by the government or anyone else
These items were agreed upon and met. The school opened its doors in September of 1919. The first Waldorf School was opened in the United States almost ten years later and the Waldorf education method continues to grow and be popular today.
How Waldorf Works
Waldorf is dependent on teachers igniting a love of learning in children. The children are not just taught subjects but are encouraged to experience them thoroughly. Waldorf philosophy of learning seeks to educate the whole child: mind, spirit, and body.
In order to do this the environment is kept bright, lively, and cheerful with colorful paints and fanciful murals on the walls. Children's artwork and projects may be displayed in many different areas and learning centers are in every spare corner. On the older students' desks may be notes from experiments they have done or on books they have read, but there will be few, if any, textbooks. Waldorf education stresses original material and learning and scoffs at textbooks and tests.
Basic Principles of Waldorf Education
- Students produce their own books by recording their thoughts and experiences with education and learning.
- Children learn a stringed instrument
- Learning is stress free and non-competitive; there are no grades given
- Academics are not emphasized in the early grades
- Children learn a multitude of subjects like:
- Playing recorder
Like the Charlotte Mason method there is a priority placed on nature, living books, and experience over rote memorization. Poetry, drama, and fine arts are considered to be an important part of the child's education rather than a supplement.
The Difference between Waldorf and Mason
It is easy to see that there are many similarities between Waldorf Education and Charlotte Mason's philosophy. There are, however, some important differences. The Waldorf method was created primarily for a classroom setting. This is not to say that it cannot be done at home; it can. It is dependent upon how the parent chooses to arrange the main lesson.
In the Charlotte Mason approach the child's day is broken up into a series of very short lessons, some as short as five minutes. The child will be taught to focus on one subject intently for a short period of time and then to move on to something else. With Waldorf there is the long main lesson, which can be as much as three hours long. In actuality this lesson is several Mason type short lessons on the same subject. For example, in Charlotte Mason a child might do handwriting, narration, math, history and science. Each would take only a few minutes. In Waldorf the child would have a main lesson on, for example, the Trojan horse. He would then write about it, tell the story back to the teacher, figure how big the horse might have been, read about the battle, and try to design a Trojan horse himself. Rather than the day being made up of many different things, it would have a cohesive thread.
Waldorf Education is multifaceted. In order to get the most understanding of the Waldorf method it is important to research and understand how to implement it properly. Some good places to start are:
Waldorf Education is child led learning. It is similar to both Charlotte Mason and Unschooling, and different from both of them. If you are comfortable with your homeschool rhythm being different from everyone else's and you want your child to learn to think for himself, the Waldorf method may be just the thing to try.