Waldorf education was developed by Austrian philosopher and scientist Rudolf Steiner at the beginning of the 20th century.
Waldorf methods derive from an instructional model that recognizes the specific developmental stages of the child. The Waldorf philosophy views education as an art, so each subject, whether math, biology or English, is presented in a way that addresses the child’s developmental stage. Each subject is presented through direct experience and is often augmented with art, poetry, music, or drama.
In the early grades, the curriculum inspired by Waldorf provides an unhurried way of learning that minimizes modern stressors and protects childhood while encouraging children’s creative expression and fostering their imagination. As children mature, the learning process accelerates and provides a program that meets students where they are developmentally.
The teacher’s aim is to draw out the child’s inherent capacities by creating an atmosphere in the classroom that fills the children with interest, wonder, and enthusiasm.
Waldorf education strives to guide each child to develop his or her innate talents and abilities and grow into a balanced adult capable of contributing to community life. In the past decade, Waldorf education in the United States has begun to move into the public sector, with many charter schools finding their inspiration in the work of Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf curriculum.
Some introductory highlights of the Waldorf approach to teaching:
- Music, art, and movement are greatly employed in the learning process. Those emphasized are dance/eurhythmy, watercolors, flute/recorder and in later years violin/cello, songs in the round, knitting and crocheting, wood carving and nature crafts.
- Storytelling: Storytelling is used to awaken imagination, build vocabulary and oral language, retain attention and teach subjects such as math, history, geography, social studies, writing and reading.
- Nature: The Waldorf method emphasizes nature and environmental stewardship. Children spend time outside exploring the world around them gaining a deeper understanding of science and nature studies.
- Real Life: Children learn real-life tasks such as housekeeping, cooking, fiber arts and gardening.
- Limited Technology: Technology is de-emphasized in the early years at school and at home. Parents of enrolled children will be expected to greatly limit their children’s exposure to computers, TV, and video games.
- Spanish: Spanish immersion begins for students in the first grade.
- Teacher Looping: Teachers follow their students from first grade through middle school. This allows teachers to develop a stronger relationship with their students and develop a curriculum based on their students’ needs and strengths.
- Main Lessons: Main lessons include all traditional subjects and are typically taught in 6-week sessions, thereby allowing children to gain a deep and personal relationship with the material and therefore retain it longer.
- Seasonal Study: Seasonal studies and festivals are taught and celebrated throughout the year.
The Waldorf method of education offers an academically rigorous curriculum presented in a developmentally appropriate and arts-integrated context. This holistic, balanced approach has been shown to produce better academic results. In fact, Waldorf educated students have been found to equal or surpass their peers on studied parameters such as math, science and reading achievement. Equally imperative, are the observed but less easily documented cognitive capacities such as emotional intelligence, social interaction, flexibility and tenacity that these students exhibit.
Syringa Mountain School offers a rigorous and relevant curriculum that will allow students to excel academically and transition gracefully into upper level public high school settings.