We often hear: “The school is our second home”, which means a place where we are loved and welcomed. However, often, the family deals with the problem of the child’s unwillingness to go to school. While some parents criticize the school and go to search for a new one, others, cherishing imposed stereotypes and firmly believing that the school is the sower of reasonable, good, eternal, accuse of laziness their child. And yet, if the child does not want to learn – it is a reason to think not only for parents, but also, above all, for the school itself: its administration and teachers. However, there are educational institutions that have never faced such problems. Happy children and gifted teachers have always been prided by Waldorf School. Today, there are more than 1,000 of such schools. Immediately it should be noted that all Waldorf schools have a state license and certificates that are issued to graduates and entitle to enroll in higher education institution.
For its appearance Waldorf pedagogy must be grateful to an Austrian philosopher, scientist and teacher – Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925). In 1919 in Stuttgart (Germany) Emil Molten, the supervisor of Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory, decided to open a school for the workers’ children. With this proposal he addressed to Rudolf Steiner, who at that time had the idea of anthroposophy – teaching, of which he was a founder – to put into practice. Steiner accepted Molten’s proposal, so the first “free school” (another name for a Waldorf School) was established.
Principles and methods of Waldorf education
Leo Tolstoy said about free school in this way:
“Free school is not the one where there is a freedom from education, but where there is great teaching, so students are free”.
The basic principle of Waldorf education is the knowledge of the world by children without internal resistance, naturally, based on their feelings and perception, to gain experience during self-study of the world. To arose the curiosity in the children’s souls, and then satisfy it – is the main task of teaching. Teaching is the answer to the question, which is born in the process of cognitive activity. The respect to the child’s personality and individuality is the fundamental idea of the Waldorf School.
Anthroposophy, which is the basis of the Waldorf education methodology, is the individuality development as an iterative process, that is, some knowledge can be assimilated in a certain time. Wanting to teach a child prematurely, you can only damage the developing personality. Hence the negative attitude of Waldorf movement teachers to methods of early child development. According to them, a person can become a harmonious, just fully tastes the charm of childhood. “All in good time” – this is the basic idea of the Waldorf school.
Will, feelings and thinking are the qualities of the soul, which teachers tend to develop in the process of training and education. To see, to gain experience and to be surprised – learning process starts with them. Maximum proximity to the natural is the other principle of Waldorf education. This school does not recognize artificial fabrics, all the furniture and toys are made of natural materials.
Education in the Waldorf School
Daily schedule at this school is also different from the usual educational institutions. So, in the morning there is academic work in the classroom, the middle of the day is dedicated to the art and languages, practical lessons that require physical activity are held in the afternoon.
The day begins with the fact that the teacher personally welcomes each child, and then reads the morning poem, followed by singing, recitation and playing musical instruments. This approach, according to the school founders, provides a smooth transition from the outside world to the subject matter.
Feature of the Waldorf School is a presentation of training material, which is divided into “eras” as follows: during 3 – 5 weeks, and it is so much need for total immersion in the studied subject, one subject is studied thoroughly for 2 – 3 hours a day, in the morning at the main lesson. For example, three weeks is devoted to the study of history, then 4 weeks – geometry, this approach provides a gradual comprehension of concepts and ideas, helps not only the development of memory, but also beneficially influence the maintaining enthusiasm for learning.
After the main lesson there are lessons by 45 minutes. These are lessons that require repetition: foreign languages, mathematics, art, music, etc. The afternoon is devoted to manual labor (knitting, embroidery, etc.), physical exercises, games, and other practical activities. Due to this mode and variety of activities in one day, the kids at school do not get tired, and their educational interest only increases by the end of the day. Interdisciplinary approach in learning helps the child to disclose a complete picture of the world, teaches to set complex relationships between different concepts and phenomena independently.
Holidays, which are seen as an art with beneficial effect on the young soul formation, take a special place in Waldorf schools. Most of the celebrations are devoted to changes in the nature and have ritual character, so in all schools there is the final concert, an exhibition of children’s works, at the end of the school year.
Another feature of the Waldorf School is the absence of assessment in the classroom. It is believed that the teacher knows each child so good, that additional testing of learnt material is a waste of time. From grade to grade children pass with teacher’s characteristics and the package of creative works. Only high school may be an exception, because there productive preparation for entrance exams to universities begins.
Homework in Waldorf schools is given only from third grade, and its nature is that spent on it time gives the maximum benefit for the child, and the result is in his pride. Students don’t have any textbooks in elementary and middle school, only workbooks that are presented in the form of big albums, where, if desired, student can write notes and sketches. That is the kind of album-notebook becomes a textbook for a child made on his personal experience and observations.
Teacher in the Waldorf School
Special attention is paid to the Waldorf School teacher’s personality. The teacher, according to Steiner, is the main person in the school. All education is based on the principle of teacher’s personal example and its direct impact on the student’s personality development. The teacher decides on his own: how and what to teach the child in a certain stage of development according to child’s creativity. In Steiner’s opinion, “the teacher should be able to feel the nature of the child … he must have a sense of humor and avoid a bad mood – gloom”. There is no administration in the “free school” and the director’s role is in economic activity. All decisions are taken collectively by teachers at school councils. From 1 to 8 grade all subjects in school are held by one teacher that allows maximally learning the individual peculiarities of each child and giving him the opportunity to develop at his own pace.
Learning outcomes in the Waldorf School
Graduates of the Waldorf School have an exceptional creativity and a well-developed imagination. These are young people who carefully and with love relate to the environment, are free to express their inner desires and beliefs, responsible and disciplined, able to tough the difficulties of life. They are not afraid to learn and do it with great pleasure. Most of them without much difficulty enter higher education institution and become good specialists in their field.
The famous graduates are: Jennifer Aniston (actress), Sandra Bullock (actress), William Lee Scott (actor), Dr. Freimut Duve (Politician and journalist), Ferdinand Alexander Porsche (engineer) and others.
Disadvantages of Waldorf School
However, fly in the ointment can be found. And Waldorf pedagogy is no exception. This education system has its disadvantages:
ü Successful training in Waldorf School depends on the personality and talent of the teacher.
ü Anthroposophy, with its mystical view of the world, will have not the last effect on the child’s personality development. Therefore, parents should carefully study the basic principles of this education system, making its final decision.
ü When a child watches television and spends time on the computer are not welcomed at the Waldorf School, which means that the family must be ready to certain changes in usual way of life. The same concerns the surrounding society; you should be ready for trial and misunderstanding on the part of others.
ü The fact that in the Waldorf kindergarten children are not taught to read and write should be considered. Therefore, if in the future the parents intend to send their children to a regular school, they should be aware of this feature.
Waldorf School does not set a goal to prepare students for subsequent entry to higher education in contrast to the standard school system; its purpose is a holistic knowledge of the world by the child.
So, making a decision: where, how and what your child should learn, think, first of all, about whom in the future you want to see as your son or daughter. Educated person, who is hard fighting for the “place in the sun”, or free, creatively developed personality, who loves the world and easily makes decisions.
Mark Twain said: “Twenty years later, you’ll be better to regret what you did not do than about what you did. Therefore, throw doubts. Swim away from the safe harbor. Catch the tailwind with your sails. Research! Dream! Discover!”