FAQs: About Waldorf Education

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If you have a question that is not addressed here, please ​contact AWSNA or your local Waldorf school - we'll be glad to answer them!

What is Anthroposophy and how does it inspire Waldorf Education?
Waldorf Education, established by Rudolf Steiner and Emil Molt in 1919, has its foundations in Anthroposophy.  At the heart of Anthroposophy is the belief that humanity has the wisdom to transform itself and the world, through one’s own spiritual development.  To that end, Waldorf Education holds as its primary intention the ideal of bringing forth—in every child—his or her unique potential in a way that serves the further development of humanity.  The curriculum, pedagogy, and teaching methods are designed to nurture this potential.

Are Waldorf schools religious?
Waldorf schools are non-sectarian and non-denominational. They educate all children, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. The pedagogical method is comprehensive, and, as part of its task, seeks to bring about recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions. Waldorf schools are not part of any church. They espouse no particular religious doctrine but are based on a belief that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life. Waldorf families come from a broad spectrum of religious traditions and interest.

Is Waldorf similar to Montessori?
These two educational approaches began with a similar goal: to design a curriculum that was developmentally appropriate to the child and that addressed the child's need to learn in a tactile as well as an intellectual way. The philosophies are otherwise very different.  For more information, please see ​here.

When do Waldorf schools introduce reading?
Our goal is to foster passionate readers who continue reading for pleasure throughout their lifetimes. To that end, we introduce reading in a developmentally appropriate way, when students are more comfortable with the written word and fully ready to engage with them.
Waldorf teachers begin teaching reading in the first couple months of first grade by teaching consonants and vowel names and sounds through an artistic approach of drawing, painting, movement, and speech. This artistic, deliberate process engages the children with great interest, and by the end of first grade, children are writing and reading sentences and short texts.  Students typically begin reading printed readers with their teacher during the second half of second grade. This thorough and artistic approach to teaching literacy has been proven to build a solid base for advanced comprehension and vocabulary skills in later years.

Are Waldorf schools art schools?
Waldorf schools are not art schools. The curriculum offers a classical education in all academic disciplines that fully integrates the arts into its teaching methodology. Why? Because research continues to show that the inclusion of the arts in academia increases aptitude and creative thinking in areas such as math and science, and has a positive effect on emotional development as well.

What does the music curriculum in a Waldorf school look like?
Music education plays a significant role in Waldorf schools from grade one through high school.  All students learn to play flute or recorder in first grade, and are encouraged to take up an orchestral instrument beginning in grade three. In many schools, wind instruments are offered as an alternative to strings in the middle grades. Vocal music is also introduced in Grade l, with the complexity of choral material increasing by age level.  High school music programs vary, but often include students' musical performances in theater, orchestra, jazz band, and chorus.

What is Eurythmy?
Eurythmy is the art of movement that attempts to make visible the tone and feeling of music and speech. Eurythmy helps to develop concentration, self-discipline, and a sense of beauty. This training of moving artistically with a group stimulates sensitivity to the other as well as individual mastery. Eurythmy lessons follow the themes of the curriculum, exploring rhyme, meter, story, and geometric forms.

When do children begin learning World Languages?
People assimilate language most easily when young. This language ‘window’ is recognized in Waldorf schools, and virtually all schools teach one or two ​world languages beginning in first grade.

What is Waldorf’s approach to teaching science?
All sciences begin with simple nature experiences in kindergarten and the early grades, and advance with the study of acoustics, heat, magnetism and electricity in Middle School to chemistry, biology, botany, zoology and modern physics in High School. The emphasis is on direct encounters with observable phenomena -“Describe what happened. Evaluate what you have observed. What are the conditions under which the phenomena appear? How does this relate to what you already know?” Then students are asked to think through the experiment and discover the natural law that stands behind and within the phenomena.

Why do Waldorf Schools suggest limiting media?
Waldorf teachers appreciate that technology must assume a role in education, but at the appropriate developmental stage, when a young person has reached the intellectual maturity to reason abstractly and process concretely on his or her own, ​which is at around the age of 14. Society might challenge this principle, as many young children are well able to complete sophisticated tasks on a computer; the Waldorf perspective is that computer exposure should not be based on capability but on developmental appropriateness. While many applaud adult-like thinking in young children, we observe that a child’s natural, instinctive, creative and curious way of relating to the world may be repressed when technology is introduced into learning environments at an early age.

Excerpt from NYTimes Opinion, 5/2014, Author, Beverly Amico

How is technology integrated into the Waldorf curriculum?
Computers and digital technology are not part of the early grades curriculum, although mechanical technology and the practical arts are incorporated at all levels. In high school, computers and digital aids are used in the classroom as teaching tools across disciplines, and computer-specific courses may be taught. All high school students utilize computers and digital equipment at home for research, to aid in their schoolwork and for in-class or school-wide presentations.

How do children do when they transfer to a Waldorf school?
Children who transfer to a Waldorf classroom from a more traditional setting are typically up to grade in basic academic skills, and have little problem adapting academically. Those entering in the middle school and high school will need to learn to approach the arts in an objective and integrated way and may be required to take music lessons or world language classes, for example, to prepare them for classroom work. We find that most students new to Waldorf Education embrace this engaging and artistic style of learning with excitement and enthusiasm regardless of grade level.

How do children do when they transfer from a Waldorf school?
Children who transfer from a Waldorf school into a more traditional school setting during grades 1-3 will likely need to spend time over the summer refining their reading skills, as Waldorf schools' approach to teaching reading is a more graduated approach. On the other hand, students often find they are more advanced in speech and language, social studies, mathematics, and artistic activities. Children moving during the middle and upper grades should experience no academic problems. In fact, in most cases, transferring students of this age group find themselves ahead of their classmates and with an eagerness to learn.

Why does a Waldorf class teacher stay with their class for multiple years?
A Waldorf teacher typically remains with the same class for five to eight years.  In this way, the teacher is better able to assess each individual’s development, needs, and learning style—and the children, feeling secure in this long-term relationship, are more comfortable in their learning environment.

What if the teacher is not a fit for my child?
A Waldorf class is something like a family.  Problems between teachers and children, and between teachers and parents, can and do arise.  Schools typically work to resolve such problems through a conflict resolution or grievance procedure.  With the goodwill and active support of the parents and the teacher concerned, schools do make the necessary changes needed to ensure the best situation for all concerned.

How does grading work?
Assessment may vary slightly from school to school, but in most cases, a full assessment of each student’s progress is provided in the form of a year-end narrative assessment in all subject areas. These assessments are supported by teacher conferences and class meetings throughout the year. In high school, GPAs are included in unofficial transcripts to indicate a student's academic standing to colleges and universities.

How do Waldorf students perform on standardized tests?
We believe that standardized testing is not an accurate or complete reflection of a student’s knowledge, intellectual capacities, or ability to learn. Thus our curriculum does not put focus on standardized test-taking preparation, particularly in the lower and middle grades.  In high school, SAT and ACT preparation courses may be offered, or interested students may pursue independent or external preparation coordinated through college counselors.

How do Waldorf graduates do after graduation?
Waldorf students have been accepted in and graduated from a broad spectrum of notable colleges and universities. Waldorf graduates reflect a wide diversity of professions and occupations including medicine, law, science, engineering, computer technology, the arts, social science, government, and teaching at all levels.
According to a recent study of Waldorf graduates:
  • 94% attended college or university
  • 47% chose humanities or arts as a major
  • 42% chose sciences or math as a major
  • 89% are highly satisfied in choice of occupation
  • 91% are active in lifelong education
  • 92% placed a high value on critical thinking
  • 90% highly values tolerance of other viewpoints

What is the tuition at a Waldorf school? Is there financial assistance available?
Tuition costs vary from school to school and are comparable to other private schools in the same geographic location.  All of our schools offer some kind of needs-based financial assistance.  For the most current tuition and financial aid information, contact individual schools directly through our Find A School directory list.
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