A few years ago I had never heard of Waldorf education. I eventually had my first introduction through the blogosphere–as many mama writers raved about Waldorf’s philosophies and values.
Perhaps you’re experienced in Waldorf methodology and practice–if so I hope you’ll share with us in the comments.
But maybe you’re familiar with Waldorf by name only. If that’s the case, get ready for a brief overview.
Waldorf education began in Germany in the early 1900’s. Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, had written about three distinct phases of childhood development. He believed a healthy education should have these phases as its foundation.
Currently there are over 1,000 Waldorf schools worldwide, and many homeschooling families gain inspiration from Steiner’s ideas.
Waldorf educators seek to expose children to a wide variety of subjects and interests. There’s a determined effort to avoid gender stereotypes as well as a focus on setting the child up for success by introducing effective routines and habits. The goal is to provide a well-rounded education to aid the child’s development.
Three phases of childhood development provide the foundation to the Waldorf method.
1. Early Childhood (Birth – Age 7)
Photo by Celine
Children learn mostly through play during the early years of a Waldorf education. Play helps students develop a longer attention span as well as teaches children to work together, exposing them to appropriate socialization.
The Waldorf school of thought places a high priority on the importance of nature and the rhythm of the seasons. Children recognize and celebrate these through festivals, nature tables, poetry, and activities.
Simple, open-ended toys for this age encourage creative, imaginative play. Natural, home-like tools and materials allow children to learn practical skills.
2. Elementary Phase (Age 7 – 14)
This phase continues academic exposure without force, due to the belief that a child will master a concept or skill at his or her own pace. Few textbooks are used, instead stories and the arts make up a bulk of the instruction.
The performing and visual arts play a center role during this phase, allowing self-expression and imagination to develop more maturely. Cooperation, not competition, is the ideal value sought in relationships with others.
Photo by Yasuo Kida
3. Secondary Phase (Age 14 – 18)
Students dive more fully into academics during this developmental phase, though the arts continue to play an important educational role. Children are encouraged to become independent, creative thinkers.
There is also a high priority placed on social responsibility and ethics during the secondary years.
Waldorf educational principles offer depth and richness to families. If any of these ideas intrigue you, consider researching in more detail to discover if you’d like to implement them in your homeschool.
- Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out
- Beyond the Rainbow Bridge : Nurturing our children from birth to seven
- You Are Your Child’s First Teacher: What Parents Can Do With and For Their Chlldren from Birth to Age Six
- Creative Play for Your Toddler: Steiner Waldorf Expertise and Toy Projects for 2 – 4s
- Seven Times the Sun: Guiding Your Child Through the Rhythms of the Day
- Waldorf Education: A Family Guide
If you’ve experimented with Waldorf education in your homeschool, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.