- What are Waldorf schools?
- What ages do Waldorf schools teach?
- What role does music and art play in Waldorf schools?
- How do Waldorf schools differ from traditional schools?
- How many Waldorf schools are there?
As a parent, you have to make many choices – and one important decision is about your child’s schooling. With several different types of schools available in the UK, you’ll need to decide what the best school educational system for your child is. In this guide, we’ll give you a comprehensive overview of what Waldorf schools are all about, so you can decide whether it’s a good fit.
What are Waldorf schools?
The term "Waldorf School" refers to a school that places value on imagination during learning and offers a holistic approach to student development. The schools devoted to Waldorf teaching are also known as Steiner schools or Waldorf Steiner schools. These schools focus on encouraging artistic skills as well as intellectual development.
Waldorf schools offer an alternative educational system to mainstream schooling. Along with Montessori education, Waldorf schools represent the most popular and widely used independent educational systems. Waldorf education is the largest independent school system in the world today, and it’s growing fast.
Waldorf education was founded in the early 20th century, and is based on the teachings and philosophy of the Austrian philosopher and scientist, Rudolf Steiner. Steiner’s philosophy when it comes to educational methods is focused on meeting the needs of growing children throughout their school years. Waldorf schools aim to encourage kids to develop their own interests and skills, with the goal of inspiring a joy for learning that will last a lifetime. 🧑🎓
Within Waldorf schools, teachers are committed to fostering a love of learning in each child they teach. With a focus on inner motivation for learning and development, this educational system shies away from competitive testing and doesn’t push for academic success for young children.
What ages do Waldorf schools teach?
Waldorf teaching focuses on three stages of child development and educate infants through to those at high school.
During the first stage, from when a child is born up to age seven, they primarily learn through their senses and through imitation. Waldorf schools provide gentle, sensory-rich environments with play-based activities that encourage young children to investigate the world.
The second stage is for children aged seven through to fourteen. At this age, children learn best through emotions and creativity. In this stage, education focuses on artistic expression and social skills and is for those in elementary education.
The final third stage is for students aged fourteen to twenty-one. During this stage, students are encouraged to think more critically and have more empathic understanding. High school students in Waldorf schools are given a lot of independence under the close eye of their teachers.
What role does music and art play in Waldorf schools?
Music and art play important roles in Waldorf education. Children are taught to express their thoughts and emotions through these many different creative and artistic methods.
At Waldorf schools, children are taught musical instruments and how to write music. Art and creative pursuits are at the forefront of the children’s education, and the kids are encouraged to explore their artistic interests in terms of drawing, painting and much more. 🎨
Movement is also a key factor in Waldorf schools. In fact, Rudolf Steiner created an art of movement called Eurythmy. Eurythmy is an expressive performance art developed by Steiner along with Marie von Sivers. This art of movement is used in Waldorf schools across the world, and eurythmy is unique to Waldorf education. The practice draws on the traditions of dance, music, and poetry.
How do Waldorf schools differ from traditional schools?
The biggest difference between a Waldorf school and a traditional one is the use of a more creative curriculum. Waldorf schools don’t follow the national curriculum the way mainstream schools do – they teach their own curriculum.
At Waldorf schools, children are encouraged to use their imagination in the process of learning and discovery, whereas in a traditional school children will just be given toys and objects to play with. In Waldorf schools, children will also create their own toys in order to gain a deeper understanding of the world.
Another key difference is that Waldorf teachers do not grade the children’s work. The teacher will evaluate the progress of the child and discuss any areas of concern with the parents at parent's evenings. This allows them to focus more on the child’s growth, instead of on numbers and whether they are hitting specific grades. This is a fairly big departure from mainstream schooling which involves graded assignments and assessments. ✔️
How many Waldorf schools are there?
Currently, there are more than 1000 independent Waldorf schools in the world. Most of these specialize in the first stage of child development, but there’s a variety of different schools in operation.
Waldorf education is most popular in European countries, but has influenced many public schools around the world. Some Waldorf schools in Europe receive state funding and are heavily supported by the government. Waldorf schools are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, with many parents choosing to send their students to these independent schools.
Steiner schools are quite popular in the UK, and these establishments often receive favourable evaluations by the Ofsted. In fact, an Ofsted report from October 2021 had plenty of praise for Brighton Waldorf School. Their assessment began, “Pupils love school, finding it calm, supportive and nurturing. You are never far from stunning artwork or the sound of music. Pupils develop strong personal qualities and value the rich range of learning, from botany to woodwork.”
Homework in Waldorf Schools
During the last ten years, homework has been the focus of many child development discussions and research projects. There’s been a lot of debate on whether homework is beneficial for school children, whether it’s a helpful tool or is best avoided.
In Waldorf schools, homework is limited. Daily homework usually doesn’t start until the children are deemed developmentally ready for it, usually around year 5.
The Waldorf school philosophy involves a concern that homework given to young children may have an adverse affect on them. The idea is that children in their early years need to learn and explore the world through active learning, play and socialising with other kids. Adding homework to the mix during this important time could negatively impact the child’s development by lessening the time they get to explore and play freely.
When homework is introduced for Waldorf school children, the teachers make efforts to assign homework that brings value to the students. Homework should be a natural extension of what the child learned in their lessons at school, and shouldn’t be an element of stress and worry for the kids. The homework that’s being assigned may be to pratice playing an instrument, draw an illustration, or read a book before bed. At Waldorf schools, there is a focus on homework not interfering with students’ time to rest and relax, because quality downtime is key for healthy and happy kids.
Since research has found that students often suffer with higher stress and physical health problems when they’re assigned a lot of homework, Waldorf schools aim to avoid making their pupils feel alienated and overworked. No matter how you feel about homework, it’s important that you prepare to help your kid with any work they need to do at home after school. As a parent, it’s a great idea for you to look into how you can provide the best support for your child when they’re doing their homework. 📚
Why do Waldorf schools suggest limited media?
Waldorf schools generally operate with limited media use. Waldorf teachers appreciate that technology must have a role in education, but they don’t believe this is helpful during early years. Waldorf schools believe that children’s natural, instinctive, creative and curious way of relating to the world may be repressed when technology is introduced into learning environments at an early age.
They believe media and technology should be introduced at the appropriate developmental stage, when a young person has reached the intellectual maturity to reason abstractly and process concretely on his or her own, which is at around the age of 14.
Many people may disagree with this idea, since many young children are perfectly capable of completing sophisticated tasks on a computer, but the Waldorf perspective is that computer exposure should not be based on capability but on developmental appropriateness.
How is technology integrated into the Waldorf curriculum?
Computers and digital technology are not part of the early grades curriculum in Steiner schools, although mechanical technology and the practical arts are incorporated at all levels.
For young children, they are encouraged to play freely, use their hands to explore the world around them, and read or look in picture books instead of using gadgets outside of school hours. It’s no secret that most kids love using devices for movies, TV and games, but at Waldorf schools, children are taught that there should be limits to our use of technology – and they’re encouraged to try out other fun ways to spend their time.
In high school, students at Waldorf schools will begin to use more technology. Computers and digital aids are used in the classroom as teaching tools across different disciplines, and computer-specific courses may also be taught. All high school students use computers and digital equipment at home for research, to aid in their schoolwork and for in-class or school-wide presentations. 💻
There’s been a lot of talk about the possible negative impact technology may be having on our kids. If you’d like to limit how much your child uses technology, a Waldorf school may be a great option for you. Either way, we’d recommend that you pick up some great technology habits to teach your children!