Waldorf/Steiner

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From the brochure …

This curriculum was designed to encourage free-thinking within children, transforming education in to an art that educates the whole child.

The Waldorf model is based on a Steiner-developed spiritual science, ‘anthroposophy’ (human wisdom). It is designed to provide “the right impetus, at the right time”.

  • Up to age 7 – learning is based on imitation
  • 7-14yo – an artistic, imaginative approach to all lessons
  • 14 and up – the focus is on rigorous intellectual content (but never neglecting the artistic)

Waldorf encourages in children an appreciation for their place in the world, as world citizens, rather than part of a race or nation.


To Elaborate …

Rudolph Steiner was himself a classical scholar, mathematician, scientist and historian, as well as an accomplished linguist and an experienced tutor. This background perhaps influenced his systematic approach to education as much as his studies of anthroposophy.

It should be noted, however, that he decried any teaching of anthroposophy to his Waldorf students as a potential violation of their freedoms.

Education, from Steiner’s perspective, should be shaped to meet the developing needs of the child, physically, mentally and emotionally. The child should be helped to fulfil their full potential, but not pushed towards goals imposed on them by adults or society.

His overall passion envisioned a government system based on justice, compassion and fairness for all – culture, economics and politics would be equally significant and all people equally respected.

Steiner was personally well-regarded, giving well-attended lectures across Germany. In Stuttgart, a group of industrialists merged their factories based on Steiner’s economic principles. One, the owner of the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory, asked Steiner to found a school for the children of the factory workers. Hence, many schools which follow Steiner principles are called Waldorf schools.

While many of his other ideas foundered by the 1920s, Steiner determined that the school in Stuttgart would thrive. He made specific curriculum suggestions for a wide variety of subjects that were taught in the school. While the relevance in some subjects requires adaptation to today’s conditions, the principles of Steiner’s methods are considered by many to be timeless.

Principles of Steiner Education at Home

  • Young Children (up to age 7)
    • concentrate on providing a stimulating environment
    • emphasise natural materials – toys made of wood, dolls made of cloth, wooden furniture, no television, computers, plastic toys
    • provide good food
    • have lots of contact with nature
    • do lots of drawing and painting
    • ready fairy stories
    • no pressure to read or right
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  • Older Children
    • establish a rhythm to study time
    • do the same sorts of things at the same time each day
    • do academic work in the mornings
    • study one subject at a time – concentrate on (say) history each day for 2-3 weeks, then (say) geography each day for 2-3 weeks
    • do a lot of drawing and story telling
    • put everything into a clear historical context
    • maintain contact with nature – gardening, nature study
    • do crafts, art and music
    • classical approach to mathematics
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Some Advantages

  • emphasises the whole child, not just academics
  • beauty of the natural world is emphasised
  • reverence for all forms of life is encouraged
  • personal responsibility for actions is encouraged
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Some Disadvantages

  • rejection of technology in early years may be increasingly difficult in the modern world
  • lack of emphasis on academics (in some applications) may concern some parents
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Personal Comments

An article by Gareth Lewis comments: “Rudolph Steiner … simply sought to discover the methods most appropriate to the children in his care. … For the modern home educator, one of the greatest sources of comfort that his example provides, is that he flew in the face of all the advice given by the educational establishment, and was still, in the end, proved to be in the right.” I have no personal experience of this approach to home education, however.
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Useful Links

  • Christopherus Homeschool Resources
    A US family website with lots of resources for using a Waldorf approach at home.
  • Live Education
    Another US site which produces home education supplies and individualised curriculum inspired by a Waldorf perspective.
  • Waldorf Without Walls
    Ongoing, interactive Waldorf curriculum consultation, allowing you to respond to your child’s needs as they emerge.
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An internet search will yield additional resources, which you will be able to assess according to your own criteria.
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The universe is full of magical things
patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
~ Eden Phillpotts

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