The Whole Child
Waldorf schools emphasize educating the “whole” child by integrating creative, academic and practical work. All Waldorf curricula, ranging from pre-school through twelfth grade, emphasizes developing equally the students’ intellectual, physical and social skills while also recognizing their inherently spiritual nature. The phrase, “educating the head, heart and hands” is frequently used to describe the Waldorf approach. Waldorf schools view teaching as a “lively art.” Every subject, including the sciences, mathematics, languages, physical education and history, is presented in a manner that incorporates images (visual art) sounds (music) narrative (drama) and movement that speaks to the child’s developmental stage.
A Waldorf education is intended to develop confident, freethinking individuals who are capable of directing their own lives, realizing their own destinies and living constructively and cooperatively with other human beings and Nature. Waldorf schools aim to create adults who set their own paths, often in service to others, and who develop a lifelong love of learning.
Rudolf Steiner’s Encompassing View
Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the first Waldorf school, hoped that his approach to educating the “whole child” would eventually lead to the formation of a society of free individuals capable of directing their own lives. He wanted to disengage education from oppressive government, such as he experienced in Europe in the early 20th century, or the undue (and often self-serving) influence of industrial or religious entities. He envisioned independent schools, operated by their own faculties and committed to their own communities in which balanced curriculums would reflect the true breadth and depth of human curiosity and achievement. Above all, he believed in the possibility of human beings to develop their higher selves and thus influence for the better the way in which people conduct themselves in relation to Nature, each other and such other higher powers as there may be.
Waldorf Schools Today
Today, the Waldorf movement is the fastest growing independent school movement in the world. But each school in independent—not part of a franchise or governed by a remote entity—and free to adapt the principles of Waldorf education to its unique circumstances. Thus, while sharing a view of the potential of human beings and the use of integrated curricula, Waldorf schools worldwide develop strong roots in their own communities and reflect the histories, cultures, values and ambitions of the regions in which they are formed. The ideal Waldorf school is not prescriptive, dogmatic, religious, intractable or cultish. Rather, it is committed to cultural development that results from the thoughtful and responsible activities of free people.