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Waldorf Education

“Based on a comprehensive, integrated understanding of the human being, a detailed account of child development, and with a curriculum and teaching practice that seeks unity of intellectual, emotional and ethical development at every point, Waldorf Education deserves the attention of all concerned with education and the human future.”

— Douglas Sloan, PhD, Professor [Emeritus] of Education
Teachers College, Columbia University

About Waldorf ® Education

Waldorf schools offer a developmentally appropriate, experiential approach to education. They integrate the arts and academics for children from preschool through twelfth grade. Waldorf ® Education aims to inspire life-long learning in all students and to enable them to fully develop their unique capacities. Founded in the early 20th century, Waldorf Education is based on the insights, teachings and principles of education outlined by the world renowned anthroposophist, artist, and scientist, Rudolf Steiner. The principles of Waldorf Education evolve from a profound understanding of human development that address the needs of the growing child. These principles inspire and guide teachers, administrators, trustees and parents today.

The Waldorf curriculum is broad and comprehensive. Structured to respond to the three developmental phases of childhood – birth to 6 or 7 years, 7 to 14 years and 14 to 21 years – Rudolf Steiner stressed to teachers that the best way to provide meaningful support for the child is to comprehend these phases fully and to bring “age appropriate” content that nourishes healthy growth for the Waldorf student. Music, dance and theater, writing, literature, legends and myths are not simply subjects to be read about and tested. They are experienced. Through these experiences, Waldorf students cultivate their intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual capacities and academic skills to be individuals certain of their paths and to be of service to the world.

Teachers in Waldorf schools are dedicated to generating an inner enthusiasm for learning within every child. This eliminates the need for competitive testing, academic placement, and behavioristic rewards to motivate learning and allows motivation to arise from within. It helps engender the capacity for joyful life-long learning.

Waldorf Education is independent and inclusive. It upholds the principles of freedom in education and engages independent administration locally, continentally and internationally. It is regionally appropriate education with hundreds of schools worldwide today.

Waldorf Education is truly Inspired Learning.

—The Association for Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA)

“What I like about the Waldorf School is, quite simply, its graduates…They are interesting people. They can converse intelligently on almost any issue, because they have been taught to examine. They can be enormously sympathetic to almost anyone’s plight because they have been taught to tolerate. They can gracefully dance or score a goal because they have been taught to move. They can circulate among the various groups on campus and engage in a variety of activities because they have been taught to harmonize.”

— James Shipman History Department
Marin Academy, San Raphael, California

AWSNA Principles for Waldorf Schools

Founded in the early 20th century, Waldorf Education is based on the insights and teachings of world-renowned artist and scientist, Rudolf Steiner. Guided by these insights, AWSNA members have adopted the following seven AWSNA Principles for Waldorf Schools. These principles articulate the most important values that inform the policies and practices of Waldorf schools in North America and are held as a central tenet of our schools’ accreditation process.

1. THE IMAGE OF THE HUMAN BEING AS A SPIRITUAL BEING INFORMS EVERY ASPECT OF THE SCHOOL.

Waldorf schools work actively with insights from Rudolf Steiner about the incarnating human being. One core insight is that the human being is a threefold being of body, soul, and spirit. Waldorf Education enlivens the physical, emotional, intellectual, social, artistic, and spiritual capacities of the human being as the individual moves through the phases of this life.

2. WALDORF SCHOOLS FOSTER SOCIAL RENEWAL BY CULTIVATING HUMAN CAPACITIES IN SERVICE TO THE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY.

Waldorf schools foster development so that, throughout life, individuals are motivated to serve humanity with strength of will, depth of feeling, clarity of thought, and the ability to work with others. The educational program is designed to strengthen these fundamental human capacities in our students.

3. ANTHROPOSOPHICAL UNDERSTANDING OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT GUIDES THE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM.

Waldorf schools work with the gradual development of the human being from child to adult. This development follows an archetypal sequence of three seven-year phases. During this time, the soul and spirit progressively take hold of the physical body. Each child’s development is a unique expression of the human archetype. Each phase has characteristic physical, emotional, and intellectual dimensions. The educational program is developed out of this understanding. Core components of the educational program include the student-teacher relationship; the artistic approach; working from experience to concept; working from whole to parts; use of rhythm and repetition; and observation as the foundation for assessment. Each approach is tailored to meet the students in each phase of child development. Thus it is essential that teachers have formal preparation in Waldorf pedagogy or are engaged in such preparation.

4. WALDORF SCHOOLS SUPPORT FREEDOM IN TEACHING WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE SCHOOL’S SHARED AGREEMENTS.

The educational program of each Waldorf school is founded on Rudolf Steiner’s insights about the growing child, informed by the teachers’ ongoing study of anthroposophy and their professional development in Waldorf Education. The faculty of the school works collaboratively and cooperatively to develop, refine, and periodically review the educational program. Individual teachers work creatively with curricular, pedagogical, and assessment components of the program out of freedom and in a way that serves their individual students, the class as a whole, and the school community. This work reflects and respects the shared educational understandings and agreements of the faculty.

5. THE CONSCIOUS DEVELOPMENT OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS FOSTERS INDIVIDUAL AND COMMUNITY HEALTH.

Enduring human relationships between students and their teachers and among the children themselves are at the heart of Waldorf Education. The teacher’s task is to work with the developing individuality of each student and with each class as a whole within the context of the entire school. These relationships gain in depth and stability when they are cultivated over multiple years. Healthy human relationships with and among parents and colleagues are essential to the well-being of the school. Members of the community are invited to join in developing meaningful, collaborative, transparent forms for working together. Each individual’s self-development is encouraged since it is key to the well-being of the whole.

6. SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT IN SUPPORT OF PROFESSIONAL GROWTH IS AN ONGOING ACTIVITY FOR THE FACULTY, STAFF, AND BOARD.

Members of the faculty, staff, and board work in an ongoing way to cultivate their spiritual development with the help of anthroposophical and other study. Waldorf schools create opportunities for shared educational study, artistic activity, mentoring, and research to further this growth and development in service to the students.

7. COLLABORATION AND SHARED RESPONSIBILITY PROVIDE THE FOUNDATIONS OF SCHOOL LEADERSHIP AND GOVERNANCE. Waldorf schools are self-administered. This work is strengthened by cultivating a shared anthroposophical understanding of social interaction. Faculty, staff, and the board share responsibility for guiding and leading the school in the following manner:

a) The educational program is developed by the faculty under the guidance of the pedagogical leadership of the school.

b) Administrative activities further the educational program.

c) The board works strategically to enable legal and financial health in order to realize the mission and vision of the school.

Governance of the school is structured and implemented in a manner that both cultivates collaboration and is effective.