Waldorf schools offer a developmentally appropriate, experiential approach to education. They integrate the arts and academics for children from preschool through twelfth grade. Waldorf ® Education aims to inspire life-long learning in all students and to enable them to fully develop their unique capacities. Founded in the early 20th century, Waldorf Education is based on the insights, teachings and principles of education outlined by the world renowned anthroposophist, artist, and scientist, Rudolf Steiner. The principles of Waldorf Education evolve from a profound understanding of human development that address the needs of the growing child. These principles inspire and guide teachers, administrators, trustees and parents today.
The Waldorf curriculum is broad and comprehensive. Structured to respond to the three developmental phases of childhood – birth to 6 or 7 years, 7 to 14 years and 14 to 21 years – Rudolf Steiner stressed to teachers that the best way to provide meaningful support for the child is to comprehend these phases fully and to bring “age appropriate” content that nourishes healthy growth for the Waldorf student. Music, dance and theater, writing, literature, legends and myths are not simply subjects to be read about and tested. They are experienced. Through these experiences, Waldorf students cultivate their intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual capacities and academic skills to be individuals certain of their paths and to be of service to the world.
Teachers in Waldorf schools are dedicated to generating an inner enthusiasm for learning within every child. This eliminates the need for competitive testing, academic placement, and behavioristic rewards to motivate learning and allows motivation to arise from within. It helps engender the capacity for joyful life-long learning.
Waldorf Education is independent and inclusive. It upholds the principles of freedom in education and engages independent administration locally, continentally and internationally. It is regionally appropriate education with hundreds of schools worldwide today.
Waldorf Education is truly Inspired Learning.
Charlottesville Waldorf School opened its doors as Crossroads Waldorf School in September 1982, welcoming a class of twelve kindergarten-age children to a farmhouse at "The Crossroads" in southern Albemarle County. This first day of school represented the culmination of a two-year study of Waldorf education and the works of Rudolf Steiner undertaken by a group of parents and grandparents. The founding teacher was Sharifa Oppenheimer, who continued in our early childhood program for 21 years.
One year after it opened, the fledgling school added a first grade, and the year after that outgrew its space in the renovated farmhouse and moved into rented space at St. Paul’s Memorial Church across from the Rotunda at the heart of Charlottesville’s university district. Throughout the 1980s, CWS experienced steady growth in enrollment and programs, adding specialty classes in handwork (1983) and foreign language (1984) and later stringed instruments (1987), recorder and music (1988), physical education (1992) and games (1999). In 1995, CWS graduated its first eighth grade.
As it expanded in size and programs, the school also outgrew its St. Paul’s location. In 1986, the grade school moved into rented space at Saint Thomas Aquinas Church while the kindergarten and nursery classes remained at St. Paul’s, where a presence was maintained until June 2001. In 1988, the grade school moved into cabins at Camp Holiday Trails near the Ragged Mountain Reservoir where it remained for three years, adding a second kindergarten class there in 1990. In 1991, the school moved to Crozet, renting the old Crozet Elementary School building from Albemarle County, while maintaining its Early childhood Program in several locations in Charlottesville over the years.
Throughout its history, CWS has sought to find and fund a permanent location with the expressed intent of having the school in quarters that embody its mission. That goal was attained in the spring of 2002, when a group of parents, grandparents and friends of the school purchased a 13-acre property on Rio Road for the school’s permanent home. In December 2002, friends of the school purchased the Little Red House, which stands in front of our Rio Road property, to lease to the school for its in-town Early Childhood Center. In April of 2003, the CWS Board of Trustees, with the agreement of the College of Teachers and the CWS Board of Trustees, created the Charlottesville Waldorf Foundation, whose mission is to raise funds to build a permanent home for the school.
On September 4, 2007 CWS opened Phase I of our building project on our property on Rio Road. The building has eight classrooms. In addition, we purchased the property where our Early Childhood Center is in the summer of 2012.
The most recent addition to the campus in town has been a newly-built, eco-friendly assembly hall, music room, library, and outdoor pavilion, which we have enjoyed since 2010.