Waldorf Education: These Are The Differences To The Regular School

The first Waldorf school was founded by Rudolf Steiner in Stuttgart The name Waldorf School is derived from the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. This may seem strange at first glance, but becomes a little clearer with the following background: the owner of this cigarette factory, Emil Molt saw himself as a socially committed person. So he wanted to establish a school for the children of his workers. This factory school offered Rudolf Steiner, a pedagogue by trade, the opportunity to put his ideas into practice. With the opening of the first Waldorf school the principle of social justice was taken up in this way for the first time. All people were to receive a common education here – regardless of their social background and talents. This comprehensive school was based on the principle of promotion. There was no selection. Instead, children were to learn together regardless of their later occupation.

Anthroposophy As A Basis

The concept of anthroposophy forms the basis of the Waldorf concept. It was founded by Rudolf Steiner. He understood it as follows:

  • Cosmological” (comprehensive) view of the human being.
  • Scientific” method for the investigation of the spiritual.
  • Contrast concept to anthropology.
  • Deals with that which can be experienced by the human being through sensory observation.

What Makes The Waldorf School

At the Waldorf School children are educated to become social, artistic-creative, independent people. While tailoring, sewing, knitting and hammering together, they learn practical as well as social skills that are usually neglected in regular schools. A play is rehearsed at regular intervals. There are two subjects in Waldorf lessons that are not taught in regular schools: Horticulture and Eurythmy. Eurythmy, a rather unknown subject, has to do with dance and gymnastics, but it goes beyond that. Eurythmy has nothing to do with free movement, but teaches the representation of letters and sounds according to certain laws. This nevertheless very alternative school form raises questions again and again. Interested parents are initially somewhat reluctant to actually send their children to a Waldorf school. The following section is intended to make the picture of Waldorf education a little clearer and to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

No Sitting Out Of School

Regardless of their performance, all Waldorf students go through 12 years of schooling. No one is “left behind” in a Waldorf school. Thus, even if their performance drops temporarily, they do not have to break away from their usual class.

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Flexible Curriculum

Artistic instruction is emphasized in Waldorf schools from the very beginning. The aim is to develop the creative abilities of the individual as well as those of society. The curriculum is geared to the developmental level of the students. In this way, the entire teaching is adapted to the stage of the child’s learning process. The overriding principle here is the emphasis on human freedom, which should be given to children just as it is given to adults. In the first years of school, pictorial teaching is the predominant teaching principle. In this way, students can learn to understand the nature of things in a vivid way. In science classes, children learn from the age of 14, similar content to that taught to children in mainstream schools between the 9th and 12th grades. Unlike regular schools, however, Waldorf schools do not aim to prepare children for further education, such as university studies. Its goal is for the child to be able to answer his or her questions about life and find his or her way in the world.

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Problem Performance Evaluation

Waldorf students are not graded. Nevertheless, teachers correct all homework and classwork. Instead of grades, individual assessments are then written to give the child a nudge in the right direction, so to speak. Waldorf students do receive report cards. In them, the teachers formulate in great detail how the child is doing in its in his or her Personality has developed. Here it is not the amount of accumulated knowledge that is important. Rather, the overall development of the child is assessed.

Educational Methods

Many parents are afraid that things would be rather wild and entirely anti-authoritarian at the Waldorf School. The Waldorf teachers themselves, however, state that they do educate their students in an authoritarian manner. However, they always take a loving approach and are aware that children constantly seek boundaries of their own accord without being inherently delinquent or mischievous. In the Waldorf School, children learn their limits, but are still allowed to feel a free, independent personality. The older the child gets and the better he or she develops, the more the teacher-student relationship changes until finally one is almost at eye level (in the truest sense of the word) with the other.

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Parental Contributions

Waldorf schools generally rely on parent contributions. This is mainly due to the fact that the subsidies from the state for private institutions – despite the free choice of school – are quite small. After discussing the needs of the school, parents can set their own contributions. This should at least cover the running costs of the school. At the same time, the contribution must always correspond to the financial possibilities of the parents, which is why the amount of the contribution can be freely chosen. At Waldorf schools, no child should be rejected for financial reasons. After all, this would contradict the egalitarian basic principle.

Epochal Teaching

In the morning of each school day (in the first two lessons) a subject area is dealt with in epochs. This epoch lasts for several weeks. Example: Students have two hours of math in the morning for three weeks. At the end of the three weeks, they are taught history in the first two lessons. This allows the children to study one area of knowledge intensively without a long interruption. After the epoch lessons, the children consolidate their skills, for example in reading and writing, during the rest of the morning.

Large Classes

Some Waldorf schools have very large classes. Generally, the class size can grow to 30 students. However, in some subjects the students are divided into several groups and are given exercises of varying difficulty depending on their level of knowledge. The focus in the learning groups is on learning from each other. In this way, more advanced students help the “weaker” ones.

A Question Of Motivation

Outsiders often ask themselves whether children and young people are motivated at all when there are neither grades nor “staying in school”. Waldorf educators comment on this as follows: Because the lessons are adapted to the developmental stages of the children, they are usually motivated by themselves. In addition, they develop a lot of initiative and recognize the meaning behind the subject matter. So, at best, these students are actually intrinsically (of their own accord) motivated.

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A School For All

Those who attend a Waldorf school do not necessarily have to be musically gifted. It is true that artistic activities have a high priority in the curriculum of these schools – but this is more about the process itself than the end result. This is because Waldorf education assumes that the mind and personality as well as creativity develop during the creative process.

Prejudice: Waldorf Students Are Low Achievers

The Waldorf school is not a gathering place for children with partial performance weaknesses such as dyscalculia or dyslexia. Nor is this type of school designed for children with behavioral disorders. There are separate special schools for this in the Waldorf system as well. So there is a distinction between “normal” Waldorf schools as well as special Waldorf schools. That is why the prejudice that underachieving children go to Waldorf schools is wrong.

More than just imparting knowledge.

In the Waldorf school not only the intellect of the child is trained. In contrast to the regular school, here one also devotes oneself intensively to handicraft, artistic and social skills.

The Ideal World

Some parents are afraid that the Waldorf School will present the child with an ideal world. Children would hardly be prepared here for the “hard” life of adult reality. To what extent this view is true, everyone must find out for themselves. The fact is, however, that educators and employers often appreciate (former) Waldorf students. This is due to the fact that they have learned important competencies such as the ability to work in a team, creative expression, and process and networked thinking during their time at school.

Preparation For Abi Or Matura

As already mentioned, schooling at the Waldorf School basically lasts 12 years. After that, young people are free to prepare for the Abitur or Matura in a 13th school year. Alternatively, the 8th grade of a Gymnasium can be attended in order to take the Abitur or Matura.

One Class – One Teacher

The Waldorf class is led by one and the same teacher for eight school years. During this time, the teacher takes over the main lessons during the first two morning lessons. This gives him a good long-term picture of his students. He gets to know their strengths and weaknesses and can respond better to them accordingly. The rest of the time is devoted to specialized lessons in sports, foreign languages, eurythmy, handicrafts, religion and music. Here the kids are taught by specialist teachers.

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Preparation For Professional Life

In the upper school, the children learn similar things in subject lessons as other children in the Gymnasium. In addition, the practical skills acquired up to that point are to be supplemented in various internships in the 8th grade. In addition to a forestry internship and an agricultural internship, there are field measurement, business and social internships. This gives the children a real-life insight into working life. They can acquire new social skills and learn according to the principle of “learning by doing”

Graduation at the Waldorf School

Graduation in the 12th and 13th school year is a sometimes stressful time for the children. In addition to the many artistic and craft activities, they must prepare intensively for the Abitur or Matura or Waldorf School graduation. Nevertheless, Waldorf students usually achieve very similarly good or even better final results than children at regular schools.

Religion At School

Waldorf schools are not bound to any particular religion. Nevertheless, there is religious instruction. The parents decide which religion classes the child should attend. Later, the young people are allowed to decide for themselves. By the way, Rudolf Steiner’s views and insights are not part of the curriculum at Waldorf schools.

Waldorf Education And Science

As in other schools, children learn everything they need to know about science subjects. In computer science classes they acquire the necessary skills in using computers Waldorf teachers themselves always emphasize that science subjects are basically recognized as equal to all other subjects taught. The goal of Waldorf education, they say, is ultimately to provide an education that does not exclude any area of life. Everything important is to be taught equally. That is why the natural sciences are included in the curriculum just as much as artistic, craft and creative subjects.

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