The curriculum of Waldorf schools grows out of the work of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian scientist, philosopher, and educator who founded the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1919. While linked by Steiner's educational philosophy, each Waldorf school is autonomous and independently run. The faculty and staff work together to administer the school.
What sets the Waldorf curriculum apart is not necessarily what is taught but how it is taught. True learning is a process of discovery that engages the whole human being. Instead of passively receiving information, Waldorf students are involved in a dynamic process of exploration, both of the world and of themselves.
Waldorf education strengthens the child to meet not only the challenges of school but also of life. To face their futures with confidence, students need to develop a capacity for clear thinking, emotional stability, intellectual flexibility, and moral values. Our objective is to help all students to blossom into young adulthood with a balanced capacity for both thinking and feeling, so that they are prepared with self-confidence and inner resources to accept responsibility and to take their places as creative, self-directed members of society.
The Class Teacher
When the children enter grade one, they meet the person who will teach them their core curriculum for the next eight years. Waldorf schools recognize a basic need in children up to the age of 14 for genuine authority rooted in respect and love between the teacher and child. The class teacher strives to represent for the child a world of truth, beauty, and goodness and integrates these qualities in the presentation of the subjects taught. The fact that the class teacher must, year by year, present subjects to fit the growing consciousness and abilities of the children ensures that the teacher is constantly learning and developing, thereby modeling for the students the concept that learning is lifelong. The continuity of the teaching also allows the class teacher to know all the students' unique qualities in order to plan lessons that reach and motivate each child. The relationship between teacher and child is constantly evolving and deepening. By working together over long periods of time, the class teacher and the parents can orchestrate their efforts to meet the changing needs of the child.
The Rhythm of the Day
The school day begins with the Main Lesson, a two-hour period of concentrated activity focused on a particular topic. One subject is studied for three to four weeks and then a new topic is taken up. This uninterrupted time allows the students' intellectual understanding to merge with their experience, while also permitting the class teacher to cover a subject in depth, using a variety of approaches. The Main Lesson begins with movement and rhythmic activities such as speech, singing, and/or playing recorder followed by a review of the previous day's work and a presentation of new material. Textbooks are not used as primary information sources. Rather, the work is presented and received in a personal exchange between the teacher and child. A recess and shorter periods in subjects such as Spanish, German, mathematics, and English, which require regular practice and repetition, follow the Main Lesson. Later in the day, children devote themselves to instrumental and choral music, eurythmy, drama, painting, handwork, woodwork, gardening, clay, and physical education. Thus, the rhythm of the day starts with the work that requires intellectual focus and ends with the physical activities that engage the body and hands.
Main Lesson Books
Children instinctively wish to reproduce and form what they have learned. Students work with the content of the Main Lesson to create their own books, which contain original compositions, illustrations, observations, and diagrams. Great care is taken in crafting the Main Lesson book, with attention to detail and artistic presentation. The artist in the child is nurtured; each book becomes a treasured record of the child's own workmanship.
One of the many advantages of having a continuing class teacher for grades one through eight is the relationship that develops between these teachers and the parents. There is a definite sense of security for students, knowing the adults in their lives are working together. While there are two scheduled parent teacher conferences a year, there is always an open line of communication between school and home. Also, Lower School class meetings are held monthly to enable parents to deepen their understanding of Waldorf education and to keep abreast of their class's activities.
Monthly assemblies, to which all parents are invited, provide a picture of the curriculum of the whole school, as classes perform music, poetry, and drama from their ongoing work. In addition to participating in special activities with their child's class, parents are also welcome to become involved in the Holiday Bazaar, festival celebrations, school committees, social and educational evenings, and our Board of Trustees.
In our society, electronic media in all its forms is an ever-growing presence in our lives. As adults we face the difficult choice of deciding how much to let various media into our lives and how to use them wisely.
With growing children this question becomes even more urgent. Current research increasingly points to a direct adverse effect on brain development from watching television. We are confronted by many forms of attention deficit disorders and other puzzling learning disabilities; we see a fading of the powers of imagination and wonder. Young children are by nature "doers." Quite apart from the content of the electronic media, by their nature the media expose children to an artificial world that allows no engagement of their own will and imagination.
The content of most television programs, video games, and movies also shows a glaring disregard for what childhood is meant to be. There is little respect shown for children's temperaments or sensibilities, and in this way exposure to the media works at cross-purposes with the Waldorf curriculum.
For these reasons, the Lower and Middle Schools' teachers ask parents to protect their children from exposure to electronic media. Without efforts to keep the home a safe place for the vulnerable, developing soul of the child, it will be most difficult to educate and nurture children in the way they deserve. These are issues that are addressed regularly at class meetings.
In addition, it is the school's policy that electronic games, radios, tape players, Walkmen, etc., are not allowed in school or on class or athletic trips.
For more information about this issue, please visit the Alliance for Childhood website.