What is Waldorf Education? Waldorf in a Nutshell

What is Waldorf Education? Waldorf in a Nutshell



Hi there, welcome to Sunday with Sarah!
I'm Sarah Baldwin and today I want to try to answer the question "what is
Waldorf education in a nutshell?" People always ask this question if they've
never heard of Waldorf, they want to know briefly what it is. It's so hard to
describe it in a nutshell because I've been studying Waldorf education for twenty
years and been involved for that long and it's so deep and multi-leveled, there's
so much to be said. But I'll try to give you just five examples of things that
make Waldorf education unique. Being an early childhood teacher myself, the first
thing I want to tell you about is that in early childhood—nursery and
kindergarten—it's a non-academic preschool environment so we're not
teaching numbers or math or the alphabet or reading. However, children are building
those pre-math and pre-reading skills through hearing stories, fairy tales,
doing circle games; enriched language. They're hearing poetry and memorizing it.
They're hearing it through repetition so they're building these big vocabularies but we're letting their imagination unfold and not pushing
it in an academic way. There's a misconception that because of this
Waldorf schools are anti-reading; this could not be further from the truth. I'll
talk about that in a further episode. It just comes later.
A lot of children aren't ready to read in the early childhood years if their
brains need to be ready to do the decoding work and that happens at
different ages for different children so we just let it unfold in time, just as a
child learns to walk without us giving them walking lessons. Another aspect that
makes Waldorf unique is the emphasis on storytelling. Starting in the early years, teachers tell stories by heart—I prefer to say "by
heart" rather than "memorized," which is a little colder—but we learn the story, we
tell it with eye contact, heart to heart, teacher to child. Throughout the
grades storytelling continues in the grade school. When children are studying
history or legends they're still hearing stories told by heart from their grade
school teacher. It makes subjects come alive. Another interesting aspect of
Waldorf education—and it's the first thing I remember ever hearing about
Waldorf education that made me want to learn more—is that the arts are
integrated into all subjects. Now coming from a theater background myself and
being a creative person, this really piqued my interest and appealed to me. I
thought if I had had that kind of education, how much richer my own
schooling experience would have been. Examples of this are when a
class is studying a subject, that one subject might be
approached through movement, it could be clapping games. They're drawing, creating
art, painting, drawing that subject. My son, Harper, who's now grown was just
sharing with me recently how learning math this way and color, he learned math
and numbers through color. Each number had a color associated with it. So
what's interesting about this approach, you may have heard of Howard Gardner and
his theory of multiple intelligences. Well Rudolf Steiner, many decades earlier
in the 1920s, prescribed this way of learning: approaching different subjects
through different arts which reach all those different kinds of learners. The
kinesthetic learners learn through movement,
maybe learning math through clapping and stomping games, visual learners will
learn by creating art in their main lesson books, which I'll talk more about
in a minute, and so on. Another thing that makes
Waldorf education unique is that, ideally, a class teacher will stay with the same
group of children from first grade through eighth grade. It doesn't always work out that way but that's the ideal. A lot of parents who are new to this idea
question it: "Well, what if you have a bad teacher?" I'm not going to lie, it does
happen occasionally, but more often the kinds of teachers who are drawn to
Waldorf education are so dedicated and the group becomes a family and that
teacher becomes an expert in those children and knows how they learn.
Traditionally, when you change year by year, grade by grade, teacher by teacher,
the teacher spends the better part of a year just getting to learn and know
your child and how they learn and how to reach them and maybe just when they're
making progress the child goes on to another teacher. The other benefit I see
to this is the class teacher always has to stay one step ahead of the children. They might spend their summer learning the subjects they're going to
be teaching in the upcoming grade, which makes it fresh for them. They're learning
too and convey that enthusiasm for the subject with the children and learning
together with the children. And now more and more public schools and mainstream
schools are incorporating this idea of "looping," they call it, of one teacher
staying with a group of children for multiple grades. One thing I should add
about that: in early childhood and kindergarten, the kindergarten
teachers stays with the younger children but once they get to grade school
they'll have a class teacher who moves up with them grade by grade. Finally,
there are no textbooks used in Waldorf education. Instead, children make their
own textbooks called "Main Lesson Books." Now, a main lesson—and this is another
thing that makes it unique—children, instead of having several subjects in a
day will have one main lesson block for typically three to four weeks, you know
maybe a month long, studying one subject. In sixth grade it might be Roman history,
in second grade it might be legends and heroes, but they will study that one
block for about two hours every morning when they're at their freshest and then
take those lessons and write and illustrate their own textbook which
makes it so much more meaningful, helps it go in at a deeper level where
they're really thinking about the subject and it's really embedded in
their their memory for life rather than just reading a pre-printed textbook
written by some textbook author that's quickly read, memorized and forgotten. So there's so much more that could be said on the subject, this is just my feeble
attempt at giving it to you in a nutshell. If you want to learn more
about Waldorf education, and I hope you do, there are lots of great books and
resources available. One book if you're a parent of a young child that I highly
recommend, it was my first introduction to Waldorf education, it's called You Are
Your Child's First Teacher written by my friend and colleague Rahima Baldwin
Dancy (no relation). It's a great introduction to the early years with
ideas for how to incorporate Waldorf into your home. I will do a future
video on how you can bring Waldorf education into your home if
you're not able to send your child to a Waldorf school or if you don't live near
one. Also, the website of AWSNA, the Association of Waldorf Schools of North
America has a great website with lots of links to resources, lots of information.
you'll find that at waldorfeducation.org You might also want to check out
waldorfshop.net which has a lot of resources, too: books and resources, art
supplies, toys, everything and anything related to Waldorf education. So I hope
that helps, I'll be back talking more about Waldorf related subjects and other
parenting and play subjects in future videos so don't forget to subscribe to
this YouTube channel and I'll see you next time. Have a day full of play!


32 thoughts on “What is Waldorf Education? Waldorf in a Nutshell

  1. So lovely to see you back! I love your Sundays with Sarah and re watch often. My son is almost grown now – almost 16, and we've just come to the end of waldorf inspired home education in the UK. He's off to college in September. I regret very much that we didn't home educate from the start and that I didn't know about Waldorf when he was infant age. I wanted to say that what you said about the teacher staying with the children all through school really chimed with me; we found that each year my son was in school, the teachers would start the year almost disbelieving that my son needed extra help (dyslexia, hypermobility) and by the time they'd got to know him and realised yes, he did need help, he was off to the next year and a new teacher, and that whole process started again. Hence, eventually, we gave up and home educated!

    I hope you'll post more Sundays with Sarah soon 🙂

  2. As a Montessori teacher and a person who minored in art studio, these two philosophies sound brilliant! I have always loved reading math as a child but I loved to create and imagine as well. I would love to see a classroom that finds a way to combine both aspects equally. Academics and arts are equally important in a child in my opinion and I really would like to find a happy medium in my classroom. I have seen kids excel beyond my wildest dreams academically since I started working at a Montessori classroom and was blown away the first time I saw a 3 year old read. I constantly learn new things with the students and love that they just soak it all in eagerly. But growing up like you I feel I would've benefited so much in and out of the classroom if someone would've encouraged and nurtured my artistic love. I believe that's why I loved reading so much as a kid because that's where I could really let my imagination be free. Thank you for explaining this way of teaching to me. I will work on applying both in my classroom

  3. I wish I went to a Waldorf school 😞. I would have been so much a better person.

    They didn’t exist where and when I went to school and even if I could have it is very expensive as they are private.

  4. I'm a Waldorf kid, having attended the Marburg Germany school. You did a great job explaining it, as I've always struggled to help my American friends to understand what it was about. You actually made me understand where some parts of me were made, and why I am so lucky to have had such a great educational experience. 35 years later, most all my class is still in close contact. Virtually all of us have led successful, fulfilling lives.

  5. Hi Sarah! I just discovered you and wow I just love your videos. You exude such beauty, softness and intelligence. I need to learn what you do to have such perfect skin! You're glowing! Anywho, I have a 5.5 year old and a 2.5 year old. My 5.5 has always seemed 2 years ahead intellectually however I still want to respect her emotional intelligence. I am very new to Waldorf but I love what I am learning and feel it aligns with my goals. I plan to homeschool and would like to know what you would recommend. Do I continue down an age 5 path of just play even though she is already reading writing and doing math or do I move her on to elementary level bc I am having such a hard time challenging her. She loves math, science, engineering and technology even though we don't have tv or tablet time except on rare occasions or special nights. Hope you can help guide me. I'll continue watching your videos to learn more.

  6. The only thing I don't like about Waldorf is it's not cruelty free. Many of the traditional materials involve animal products such as beeswax, wool, leather and silk. I love the philosophy and just swap out materials for cheaper vegan versions.

  7. On the main lesson book I like the concept. What if the child is not interested in that subject. Are they to tolerate it. Is that not a waste of their energy and time when they have a choice to do something that has their interest.

  8. Thank you for the short info. It helps me to know resources for Waldorf education. Anybody know that, Waldorf education is good for high functioning Autistic kid? If you have experience, please share….. Thank you.🙏

  9. Love this! I was wondering you could do a video on living Waldorf/ Waldorf homeschool in a small space? My daughter is almost 2 and we live in a small apartment, and that likely won't change any time soon. I feel like I'm always struggling to find a good rhythm and organization for different toys and activities. We've already minimized our general possessions and try to keep things simple, but it feels like a challenge to create a rhythmic space for my daughter. Any insight would be so very appreciated!

  10. I am thrilled to see the return of these videos. My son will be 3 in a month and we already have a rhythm in place. I am so excited to begin more preschool type Waldorf activities with him. 🌞

  11. So nice to watch a video about Waldorf education! I went to Waldorf School from children garden to high school, such a beautiful and magical school, I feel so lucky for getting the change to experience it. And I love how you described it, it's very difficult to summarise such a big thing in a nutshell, you did it amazingly 🖤

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *