The Waldorf Education

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In the Waldorf Kindergarten we cultivate and work in support of the pre-school child's deep, inborn natural attitude, belief and trust in, and basic reverence for, the world as an interesting and good place to live. We work with repetition and the rhythms of Nature -expansiveness (play)and contraction (focused activity) - necessary for the child to gain a sense of security, and with the materials of Nature as opposed to ready-made plastic toys which leave nothing to the imagination. As teachers, we sit quietly and focus on handwork while the children go about the serious work of childhood - play.

In the lower classes of the primary school, this leads over to more emphasis on using artistic elements in different forms (rhythm, movement, colour, form, recitation, song, music), not primarily as a means of personal self-expression, but as a means to learn to understand and relate to the world. A Waldorf teacher is said to be worth his salt when, in the space of one day, he has made the children laugh and cry (e.g. at some element in a story) - although this isn't actually taken literally! The idea is that the children learn to feel comfortable with the full spectrum of human emotions, having , in school, integrated ‘head, heart and hands', rather than learned to separate and, by definition, repress, one or more of them. For example, ‘separating business from sentiment' often simply justifies a lack of compassion in decisions later in life adversely affecting the lives of others.

In the upper classes of primary school and then on into secondary school, this leads in steps to an ever more conscious cultivation of an observing, reflecting and experimental scientific attitude to the world, focusing on building understanding of what is true, based on personal experience, thinking and judgment.

All children come into the world with these attributes as potential within them. The whole focus of Waldorf Education is to awaken these capacities and draw them forth within the framework of a grounded academic school experience.

The curriculum comprises all the traditional subjects and speaks to the child at each exact stage of her development, with the emphasis on learning from engaging primary experience rather than by means of secondary information. Informing Waldorf pedagogy comes an enormous body of knowledge, originating with arguably one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, Rudolf Steiner (1861 - 1925), and echoed ever more by modern researchers and psychologists. Deeper immersion reveals a quite comprehensive understanding of the human being and human development and how, by means of this particular educational approach, we can hope to transform the ills of society rather than perpetuate them. Rather than ‘prepping' children to regurgitate answers we already know, for example, and leaving them unprepared for the questions we can as yet not even imagine, this innovative approach systematically encourages children to creatively and confidently think ‘outside the box'.

In Waldorf kindergartens creative play lays the indispensable and comprehensive foundation for all motor, cognitive and social skills. Formal instruction awaits the natural maturation of the necessary faculties around year seven. The ‘quicker' is not always the ‘better': in fact, with regard to human development, the premature introduction of abstract symbols (numeracy and literacy) is seriously contraindicated, supported by UK government-backed research among many others. Exam results in Waldorf schools world wide as well as professional testimonials attest to the fact that this approach produces extraordinary graduates....

By engaging the whole child - physically and emotionally as well as intellectually - through the liberal use of the arts in the service of teaching academics, an internal motivation to learn is developed in the students, which persists throughout life, and makes excessive testing, for example, unnecessary. Thus, by developing emotional intelligence and fostering lasting self-esteem, Waldorf Education prepares children for their most important tests, the challenges they will face once they've left school.

Education founded on Love

There are three ways in which a teacher can motivate a child to learn: fear, ambition or love.

In Waldorf education we dispense on the whole with the first two and attempt to waken in pupils a feeling of love for the subject at hand. Only this can in turn awaken in pupils an interest for the subject itself and not merely the wish to gain good grades or personal advantages.

The loving interest the pupils can have for what they are learning proves to be much more effective motivation that any form of outer compulsion. The obligation pupils feel toward their work in the school must grow out of the enthusiasm for that which they are learning. This is only possible if teachers themselves are as enthusiastic about what they are teaching as they feel the pupils should be.

Artistic education is more than just doing art

In teaching, knowledge must become alive. The educator's scientific understanding of their task must be transformed into an art of teaching which can allow pupils to build up a living relationship to what they are learning. Children respond to the world through feelings long before they begin to think consciously. This should be an intrinsic element in all teaching; the realization that the aesthetic nature of the lesson is as important for the child as the content.

A good lesson is a work of art. The ability to enthuse the students and impart to them the love of learning is something that will remain with them their whole lives.

"Our highest endeavour must be to develop free human beings, who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives" - Rudolf Steiner Founder of Waldorf Education