Developed in 1919 by scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf EducationSM is based on a model of child development that addresses the needs of the growing child and maturing adolescent. Waldorf teachers see education as an art form, the goal of which is to balance and engage all of their students’ developing faculties. Rather than just accumulating facts, Waldorf students are taught to think, reason, examine and question, while an equally high value is placed on creativity and imagination – thinking “outside the box.” The child’s natural idealism is protected and valued in part because it is a great source of future possibility and enrichment for our society.
The philosophies are very different, though both are child-centered in that the curriculum was designed to be developmentally appropriate and to address the child's need to learn in a hands-on way.
We are not an art school, but all Waldorf students can play a musical instrument, paint, draw, sculpt, act and work in the handcrafts, because the arts are integrated into every subject. Using movement, music, storytelling, and a rhythmical structure, our teachers bring the material to life and help students develop a lifelong sense of wonder and joy in learning. By pairing the academic and the aesthetic, students are invigorated by the learning process.
Our math and science curriculum is very challenging and comprehensive, and students are engaged in a way that is practical in the real world. Waldorf graduates are critical thinkers and problem-solvers, and have found that their math and science foundation prepares them to go into any field they choose. A 2007 research study found that, compared to their non-Waldorf educated peers, up to twice as many Waldorf students go on to study science in college.
Waldorf students become voracious readers. Formal reading instruction is not imposed too early, but is learned comparatively quickly when the child is ready. Beginning in our early childhood program, teachers actively seek to develop an enthusiasm for literature, so that the student develops in a manner supportive of a long-term love of reading.
Homework is introduced in fourth grade, gradually teaching students to develop good work habits and organizational skills. Research has shown that the impact of homework on achievement increases as students move through the grades, and by middle school homework loads are comparable to other schools.
While most of our students begin at SWS in early childhood and stay with us throughout their academic careers, plenty of families come to us from other schools and at various ages. Transfer students are carefully nurtured during the transition, until any areas that were previously under-nourished are brought up to speed.
Many graduates say Waldorf school prepared them well for the transition to college. Further, when asked to rate the influence that Waldorf education had on other aspects of life besides school, graduates noted that their education helped them to develop creative capacities, love for learning, self-expression, interest in different points of view, and the ability to work with others. Waldorf students have been accepted into and graduated from a broad spectrum of colleges and universities including Stanford, UC Berkeley, Harvard, Yale, and Brown. 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:
A central aim of Waldorf education is to stimulate the healthy development of the child's own imagination. Waldorf teachers are concerned that electronic media hampers this development. We are concerned about the physical effects of media on the developing child as well as the content of much of the programming. Many parents see a profoundly positive effect on their own children when they eliminate media from their young child's environment.
Waldorf teachers feel the appropriate age for computer use in the classroom and by students is in high school. We feel it is more important for students to have the opportunity to interact with one another and with teachers in exploring the world of ideas, participating in the creative process, and developing their knowledge, skills, abilities, and inner qualities. Waldorf students have a love of learning, an ongoing curiosity, and interest in life. As older students, they quickly master computer technology, and graduates have successful careers in the computer industry.
Waldorf education speaks to each developmental stage, and a common thread runs through grades one through twelve: the development of our students’ physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual capacities. As students grow and change through the years, so do their Waldorf classes and environment. High school students are increasingly more engaged in the world, and both their course of study and the high school culture reflect this evolution. High school students experience an expansion of both freedom and responsibility in all areas: personal, academic, and social. Collaboration and individual expression is deepened and strengthened, and individual initiative is encouraged and valued. The physical classroom environment, technology, and equipment depart from the grade school’s warm and homey style to move towards a more adult environment.
Waldorf students come from a broad spectrum of religious traditions and interests, and we seek to bring about a recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions. While Waldorf education is not affiliated with any church and does not espouse or reject any religious beliefs, it does acknowledge a spiritual dimension—that there is more to the world beyond what we see.
Eurythmy is an art form that combines movement, music, rhyme, story, and geometric shapes to develop concentration, self-discipline, and a sense of beauty. This training of moving artistically with a group stimulates sensitivity to others and coordination skills.
While we don't require uniforms, we do have a dress code designed to support the learning environment. The policy varies from the early childhood program, lower, middle, and high school, and is available from our office.