The Waldorf education system was developed at the beginning of the 20th century. This method is one of the best known alternative educational systems nowadays.
It comes from the research and teachings of German philosopher Rudolf Steiner. He sought a development-based learning program appropriate for each age range. That is, it’s a balanced education system adapted to the development of each child.
Its methodology promotes the formation of each child’s individual abilities. The contents the students study isn’t the only focus. It also focuses on the processes used to teach the children.
To do this, it divides educational development into four stages, each one with different activities.
5 Keys to Waldorf Education
“In life, the journey to knowledge is more valuable that the knowledge itself.”
The Waldorf method is very unique and therefore has many critics. It proposes a much freer educational system than the traditional approach. This is because it believes that evaluating children by their level of knowledge can hurt their self-esteem. The keys to the Waldorf education system are:
- Emphasizing the development of artistic skills and imagination. According to Waldorf education, these skills embrace the natural way children express themselves. It believes these are the best ways to develop and gain knowledge.
- No exams. This method promotes motivation and the personal growth of each student. They believe this protects their self-esteem. By moving at their own pace, children enjoy learning more and can discover what interests them.
- Children create their own textbook. Following the principles of key #2, there are no textbooks. Each student makes his own personalized book from his daily work and personal experiences.
- The school environment is an extension of the home. It’s not just about its warm colors, open spaces, lots of nature and handmade toys. A tutor accompanies the child at every stage, bonding with both the child and his family. This helps the teacher understand and help the child in the best way possible.
- Promoting free, spontaneous, and natural teaching and learning. The student’s interaction with his environment is so important. Teaching is not limited to simply instructing certain concepts, but to the “how” and “why” behind them. This motivates students to form their own opinions of their environment as they grow.
The Stages of Waldorf Education
Just like in other educational systems, Waldorf Education begins instruction from preschool. This stage, marked by children’s first steps, aims for a safe, affectionate, and structured environment. In it, children can feel free to experiment.
They will learn through imitation and play, with activities added in. This way, they learn in a familiar environment. In addition to developing their motor skills, they will learn to relate and gain creativity, imagination, and initiative. They will also improve their memory, organization skills, and above all, curiosity and enjoyment of the natural world.
The Educational Cycle in 12 Grades
Schools today generally have 5 years of primary school, 3 years of middle school, and 4 years of high school. However, in the Waldorf pedagogy, primary lasts 8 years, junior high is 2 years, and high school is 2. Each of these stages focuses on various activities that adapt to each individual child.
“Everything a child learns in their school years should be able to extend into their practical life.”
Primary school focuses on the child discovering the world, feeding his interest and enthusiasm. The concepts are taught in an artistic way. It prioritizes the learning process, processing capacity, and overall comprehension.
On the other hand, in middle school, the main goal is to motivate students so they can have their own points of view. Instead of limiting themselves to the “what” to learn a concept, they will explore the “how” as well.
Classroom activities are centered on experimenting and research. They have more scientific, precise, and objective goals, but without forgetting the arts.
Finally, in high school, children can choose between focusing on technology, social sciences, humanities and art. This phase shows teenagers how they can make a difference in the world. They learn that they can change things that aren’t right or need improvement. The activities combine studies with industrial and social work.