Rudolf Steiner was an early proponent of a whole-child education in which the physical, emotional, and cognitive needs of children are addressed. He believed people move through three developmental stages on their way to maturity: early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence. The Waldorf philosophy is designed to nurture the whole child while being mindful of each developmental stage's learning strengths.
Through an arts-based, multi-sensory curriculum, the Waldorf philosophy attempts to address each individual child's developmental level, gifts, talents, temperament, and learning style. The arts, life skills, movement activities, and academics are integrated throughout the curriculum. Each is considered equally important to growth and development.
During the early childhood stage (ages birth through seven), computer-usage, television, and extreme focus to learn to read or master academic skills are not encouraged. The main emphasis is to provide activities in which the child explores the environment through physical, creative, and sensory activities. At this level it emphasizes a rich, oral language environment; free play; fantasy; imitation; poetry; fingerplays; puppet shows; singing and rhythm activities; movement games; celebrations of festivals; arts and crafts activities; cooking and baking; gardening; cleaning; sewing; finger knitting; construction activities; nature studies; etc.
In the middle childhood stage (ages seven to fourteen), the child is encouraged to learn through his/her imaginative and artistic faculties. Academics are taught through creative, artistic, imaginative activities. Textbooks, flashcards, and worksheets are limited. Typically students record their learning experience in lesson books.
At the adolescent stage, (ages fourteen through twenty-one), the philosophy emphasizes the development of intellectual and conceptualization abilities. It is believed that students at this stage are developmentally ready for such academic endeavors. The student is encouraged to develop a sense of responsibility for the world and a sensitivity to self and others. Textbooks are likely to be used only as supplements to regular lessons. The teacher provides experiential lessons, hands-on experiments, primary sources for literature and history, etc. The adolescent is purposefully exposed to a wide variety of experiences and encouraged to explore various interests, capacities, and life circumstances in preparation for adulthood.
Approved Vendors that Carry Waldorf Curriculum
- Oak Meadow
- Paper Scissors Stone - Charter approved materials only.
- The BEarth Institute
- The Waldorf Connection
Specific Curriculum that Aligns with Waldorf
Key Elements for Choosing Waldorf
- Nature-based education
- Screen-free education
- Teaching the whole child at each developmental level
- Developing the imagination of the child
- Focuses on the interests of the child
Life skills and the arts
Factors to Consider When Choosing Waldorf
Age of child and their developmental level
Parent/teacher intensive to create learning experiences
Nature and art-based with integrating academics
Location to nature and ability to be out in nature often
Finding a good relationship with school required items and the Waldorf philosophy can be challenging...such as required work samples and state testing. Using Oak Meadow curriculum can help strengthen that relationship.
Day to Day Notes
These elements would be included in the day-to-day teaching using this method.
- Circle Time
- Story Telling
- Academics through play/art/nature whenever possible
- Art incorporated into academics
- ELA and Math are done with a variety of methods...play, exploration, narrative, storytelling, worksheets, art.