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  • Should I Enroll My Child In A Waldorf School? Here's Everything Parents Need to Know

    Child-centered and teacher-guided instructions are the hallmarks of Waldorf education.
    by Kaydee Dela Buena .
Should I Enroll My Child In A Waldorf School? Here's Everything Parents Need to Know
PHOTO BY Natz Bade
  • With the abundance of options in education today, parents are often left in a predicament over how to choose the right environment for their children —will they go for a traditional approach or a progressive approach like Montessori, Reggio Emilia or Waldorf schools?

    The first step is to define your child’s unique needs. What are his strengths, interests, social temperament, and areas for improvement? In some cases, an alternative academic institution that offers specialized instructions may be beneficial. Here is where the Waldorf education is worth looking into. 

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    Defining the Waldorf/Steiner method

    Also known as the Steiner Method, the Waldorf education was developed by Austrian philosopher, social reformer, and visionary Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century.  An understanding of human development that addresses a child’s needs is one of the core principles of Waldorf education, which evolved from Steiner’s anthroposophical view of the human being — that is, as a being of body, soul, and spirit. The approach focuses primarily on the cultivation of each child’s imagination and creativity.  Music, theater, literature, and dance, among other things, are simply not just to be read, but rather experienced. Through these experiences, the child develops intellectual, artistic, and practical skills in an integrated and holistic manner.

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    Educational structure

    According to Steiner, human beings develop in seven-year-long spiritual cycles. Because of this, he devised a theory of child development that utilizes three learning strategies for three distinct developmental stages. Each stage lasts for seven years: birth to age seven (early childhood), seven to 14 (middle childhood), and 14 to 21 (adolescence). 

    1. Early childhood: Physical development through doing

    Children from birth to age seven rely heavily on their senses and learn best through imitation. At this stage, it is vital that the child be put in a sensory rich environment and participate in play-based activities to encourage curiosity, explore social relationships, and expand imaginative capacities. 

    2. Middle Childhood: Emotional development through imagination 

    From ages seven to 14, children are more aware of their surroundings thus prefer lessons that connect with their feelings and pushes them to be more creative. Storytelling, theater, music, etc. are integrated into the curriculum, which creates experiences influencing the child’s thinking, feeling, and willing.

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    3. Adolescence: Intellectual development through discernment 

    Between the ages 14 to 21, there’s already development of the independent intellect and the ability to exercise judgement and critical thinking after careful observation and discernment. Waldorf high school students are given opportunities to be more independent starting with gaining autonomy over their education and having the freedom to choose mentors to help them with their chosen fields. 

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    What Makes Waldorf Schools Ideal? 

    Age Appropriate Learning

    Stepping inside an early childhood Waldorf class, most parents would be shocked by the unusual classroom setup: ergonomic chairs and desks, lack of posters and charts on the wall, and a large area of free space, among others. Waldorf encourages freedom among kids to explore and makes it a point to help them realize that they don’t have to compromise the joys of childhood unlike the “hurry up or fall behind” norm that most schools are used to.

    Learning is an experiential activity which is introduced at the right time in their development so as to not feel pressured. Creativity expert Ken Robinson explains in a TEDTalk, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this, by the way. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make.” Waldorf education fosters knowledge, self-awareness, and creativity in problem-solving through hands-on activities at your own pace. 

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    Non-Competitive Environment

    At a Waldorf school, a child’s skills are not measured by competition and test scores. Being constantly evaluated and tested does not bear well for a child’s confidence which can pose a threat to his or her development. Learning is specific to a child, after all. Waldorf educators are careful not to focus on one trait or skill set over the other. The goal is to expose them to a wide range of learning opportunities and experiences to help them develop interests and capabilities. This, in turn, makes them well-rounded individuals.

    Holistic Approach

    One of the key defining features of Waldorf schools is their holistic view of education. Waldorf recognizes people not just as “beings,” but as creatures of emotion and intellect. The curriculum engages the senses, nurtures the importance of observation, and sparks the imagination. For example, artistic activities such as theater, playing instruments, and painting are all part of the curriculum because young kids connect more to lessons through their emotions. Practical work such as cooking, house building, and other social projects are integrated to help them make sense of the world and their roles in it. Children thrive when all aspects of the self are acknowledged and taken care of.

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    To raise a child who feels free and attuned to his strengths and emotions, the Waldorf education may be an academic approach parents may be interested in pursuing.

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