When parents visit a Waldorf school, they are frequently in awe of its beautiful environment and reflective, calm teachers. They may observe children singing as they go about their activities and wonder how a school that avoids preschool education archetypes such as colorful classrooms, worksheets, and, increasingly, technology can have such happy and content young students. However, Waldorf-inspired schools are not a mysterious movement; they have a tradition and ideas that distinguish them from other programs.
Waldorf education is an extension of the early-20th century movement based on Rudolf Steiner’s teachings and insights. Waldorf education’s principles are based on human development and children’s changing needs. Waldorf students develop their intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual capacities to be individuals who know their path and serve the world.
It is common in Waldorf preschools to teach social-emotional learning through the five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship skills.
Children’s overall well-being is supported in Waldorf classrooms by making them feel at ease with learning. The use of secondary tones, natural fibers, and wooden toys, warm tones, and natural light is employed. Early childhood classrooms provide a safe, comfortable environment for children. Many Waldorf Inspired programs have features that psychologically align with more focused-based learning.
- Classrooms are filled with natural light
- Walls are decorated plainly or with warm colors to create a relaxing atmosphere.
- There are large open areas for building and a variety of educational and recreational activities.
- High-quality and purpose-built furniture, fixtures, and equipment make up the space.
- The floor is left open for mobility and movement activity.
- There are a wide range of learning options
- Tables and chairs are ergonomic.
- The room is flexible, and teachers can reconfigure the classroom at any time.
A Waldorf preschool or childcare can evoke feelings of warmth, simplicity, and comfort. Materials emphasize function. Young children feel focused on what matters most—imaginative play with peers and time with their teacher.
Waldorf Movement and Literacy
Physical movement and flow are considered necessary in brain development and learning. Waldorf educators teach the Waldorf movement art of Eurythmy. The goal of Eurythmy is to bring the artists’ expressive movement and the performers’ and audience’s emotional experience into harmony with a piece’s content. In connection to sonic learning, Waldor oral learning (speaking and listening) before writing (as in hieroglyphic writing) and reading. Learning to move, talk, and listen before reading and writing help a child’s development. The sequence in which children are taught to read has been shown to improve their comprehension and motivation, and enthusiasm for the task of reading.
Waldorf Imaginative Play and Math
Waldorf schools value creative and artistic expression discourage standard academic. However, the Waldorf curriculum does promote connections between creativity and substantive thinking. Waldorf teachers use art as a way to connect with developing math skills, and children may be encouraged to incorporate numbers and steps into their stories. Waldorf teachers generally help children learn core subjects like language, history, math, science, and geography through inquiry-based learning.
Waldorf or Waldorf-inspired schools have evolved today, from small family childcare to outdoor-only programs. Many children who attend Waldorf preschools matriculate to similar higher education.
What happens after a Waldorf early education?
Parents may wonder what a less formal early education may look like for their children. Will their child ever “learn” core subjects or integrate socially? Phase II of the Survey of Waldorf Graduates (2007) from the Research Institute for Waldorf Education shares the following:
- 94% of Waldorf graduates attended college or university
- 88% graduated from college
- 42% chose science as a major
- 47% chose humanities as a major
- 51% have studied beyond the undergraduate level
- 91% are active in lifelong education
The study mentions that the majority of parents who have received a Waldorf education wish to enroll their children in a Waldorf program. Waldorf-inspired schools have established themselves as a viable option among quality preschool styles, and parents can discern for themselves if a Waldorf preschool nearby is the best fit for their family.
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