A century old, but perfect for today.

Founded in Germany in the early 20th century, Waldorf education is an independent and inclusive pedagogy based on the insights and teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Based on a profound understanding of the human spirit and human development, Waldorf education has been successful in different cultures and regions, and has grown to include hundreds of schools worldwide.

For the Waldorf student, music, dance, and theater, writing, literature, legends and myths are not simply dry subjects to be read about, ingested, and tested. Rather, they are fully experienced. And through these experiences, Waldorf students cultivate a lifelong love of learning as well as the intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual capacities to be individuals certain of their paths and to be of service to the world.

The New York Times sparked national media coverage with its front page story on why Silicon Valley parents are turning to Waldorf education. "Preparing for Life" picks up where that story left off, taking viewers inside the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, where the focus is on developing the capacities for creativity, resilience, innovative thinking, and social and emotional intelligence over rote learning. Entrepreneurs, Stanford researchers, investment bankers, and parents who run some of the largest hi-tech companies in the world, weigh-in on what children need to navigate the challenges of the 21st Century in order to find success, purpose, and joy in their lives.

 

This film, entitled "Preparing for Life",  provides an glimpse inside the Waldorf School of the Peninsula. It shows how the school places its focus on developing the capacities for creativity, resilience, innovative thinking, and social and emotional intelligence over rote learning.

 

The Waldorf curriculum

The Waldorf curriculum spans from parent-child programs for children as young as 18 months old, through kindergarten (a combination of what other schools might call “preschool” and kindergarten), to elementary school, and then to middle school. And beyond its core, the curriculum offers instruction in specialty subjects and a rich schedule of festivals. This site includes more detailed information about all of those phases, as well as how to apply to our school.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

+ Is Waldorf similar to Montessori?

These two educational approaches began with a similar goal: to design a curriculum that was developmentally appropriate to the child and that addressed the child's need to learn in a tactile as well as an intellectual way. The philosophies are otherwise very different. Please see the article A Look at Waldorf and Montessori Education for further details.

+ Are Waldorf schools religious?

Waldorf schools are non-sectarian and non-denominational. They educate all children, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. The pedagogical method is comprehensive, and, as part of its task, seeks to bring about recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions. Waldorf schools are not part of any church. They espouse no particular religious doctrine but are based on a belief that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life. Waldorf families come from a broad spectrum of religious traditions and interest.

+ Why do Waldorf schools wait to teach reading until Grade school?

While there is no formal academic curriculum until first grade, the fundamental building blocks of reading, and all the academic skills, are part of the earliest school experience, including nurturing self-esteem, which has been proven to be critical in the development of reading skills, as well as storytelling, songs, verses and circle games. Waldorf Education begins with the oral tradition, followed by writing. In first grade, a story is developed for each letter, and the children work with the shape of each letter in several mediums. Printed textbooks do not appear in the curriculum; instead children make their own lesson books. While the timing of the development of reading skills differs from that followed in other schools, it results in a high level of reading comprehension and a deep appreciation of reading.

There is evidence that children who learn to read relatively late are much less likely to develop an apathy towards reading, which many children taught to read at a very early age can experience later on. Instead, there is lively interest in reading and learning that continues into adulthood. Early imposed formal instruction in reading can be a handicap in later years, when enthusiasm toward reading and learning may begin to falter.

+ How do public students fare when transferring to a Waldorf school, and vice-versa?

Children who transfer to a Waldorf school in the first four grades usually are up to grade in reading, math, and basic academic skills. However, they usually have much to learn in bodily coordination skills, posture, artistic and social activities, cursive handwriting, and listening skills. Listening well is particularly important since the teacher presents most of the curricular content orally in the classroom. The human relationship between the child and the teacher is the basis for healthy learning, for the acquiring of understanding and knowledge rather than just information.

Children who transfer out of a Waldorf school into a public school during the earlier grades probably have to upgrade their reading ability and to approach the science lessons differently. Science in a Waldorf school emphasizes the observation of natural phenomena rather than the formulation of abstract concepts and laws. On the other hand, the Waldorf transferees are usually well prepared for social studies, practical and artistic activities, and mathematics. Children moving during the middle grades should experience no problems. In fact, in most cases, transferring students of this age group find themselves ahead of their classmates. The departing Waldorf student is likely to take along into the new school a distinguishing individual strength, personal confidence, and love of learning.

-- From "Five Frequently Asked Questions" by Colin Price; originally printed in Renewal Magazine, Spring/Summer 2003

+ Why do Waldorf schools recommend the limiting of media, particularly TV, for young children?

Television is discouraged because it tends to close down the creative pathways and processes within the child that Waldorf education nurtures. Its hypnotic influence leaves children sitting passively when they would otherwise be moving and actively creating their own play. The school asks that families refrain from television and video watching, computer activities and radio on school nights.

+ What about computers and Waldorf Education?

Waldorf teachers feel the appropriate age for computer use in the classroom and by students is in high school. We feel it is more important for students to have the opportunity to interact with one another and with teachers in exploring the world of ideas, participating in the creative process, and developing their knowledge, skills, abilities, and inner qualities. Waldorf students have a love of learning, an ongoing curiosity, and interest in life. As older students, they quickly master computer technology, and graduates have successful careers in the computer industry.

For additional reading, please see Fools Gold, a special report from the Alliance For Childhood.

+ How do Waldorf graduates do after graduation?

Waldorf students have been accepted in and graduated from a broad spectrum of colleges and universities including Stanford, UC Berkeley, Harvard, Yale, and Brown. Waldorf graduates reflect a wide diversity of professions and occupations including medicine, law, science, engineering, computer technology, the arts, social science, government, and teaching at all levels.

According to a recent study of Waldorf graduates:

  • 94% attended college or university
  • 47% chose humanities or arts as a major
  • 42% chose sciences or math as a major
  • 89% are highly satisfied in choice of occupation
  • 91% are active in lifelong education
  • 92% placed a high value on critical thinking
  • 90% highly value tolerance of other viewpoints

For more information about Waldorf graduates, read this article by longtime Waldorf parent Abraham Enten.

+ What is Eurythmy?

Eurythmy is the art of movement that attempts to make visible the tone and feeling of music and speech. Eurythmy helps to develop concentration, self-discipline, and a sense of beauty. This training of moving artistically with a group stimulates sensitivity to the other as well as individual mastery. Eurythmy lessons follow the themes of the curriculum, exploring rhyme, meter, story, and geometric forms.

+ What happens if my child doesn't get along with her teacher, considering they are together throughout the grades?

This question often arises because of a parent's experience of public school education. In most public schools, a teacher works with a class for one, maybe two years. It is difficult for teacher and child to develop the deep human relationship that is the basis for healthy learning if change is frequent.

If a teacher has a class for several years, the teacher and the children come to know and understand each other in a deep way. The children, feeling secure in a long-term relationship, are better able to learn. The interaction of teacher and parents also can become more deep and meaningful over time, and they can cooperate in helping the child.

-- From "Five Frequently Asked Questions" by Colin Price; originally printed in Renewal Magazine, Spring/Summer 2003

+ How can a Waldorf class teacher teach all the subjects through the eight years of elementary schooling?

While the class teacher is responsible for the two-hour "main lesson" every morning and usually also for one or two lessons later in the school day, s/he is not the only teacher the children experience. Each day, specialty subject teachers teach the children Eurythmy, handcrafts, a foreign language, instrumental music, and so on.

Waldorf class teachers work very hard to master the content of the various subjects that they teach. But the teacher's ultimate success lies in his ability to work with those inner faculties that are still "in the bud," so that they can grow, develop, and open up in a beautiful, balanced, and wholesome way. Through this approach to teaching, the children will be truly prepared for the real world. They are provided then with the tools to productively shape that world out of a free human spirit.

-- From "Five Frequently Asked Questions" by Colin Price; originally printed in Renewal Magazine, Spring/Summer 2003

Don't see your question about? Ask us!

You can also learn more about Waldorf education from the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA).