Where did Waldorf education originate?
Waldorf education has its roots in the research of the Austrian scientist and thinker Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). According to Steiner’s philosophy, a human is a threefold being of spirit, soul, and body whose capacities unfold in three developmental stages on the path to adulthood: early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence. The Waldorf curriculum is broad and comprehensive and designed to bring age appropriate subjects that support each of these developmental phases.
Is Waldorf similar to Montessori?
These two educational approaches began with a similar goal: to design a curriculum that was developmentally appropriate to the child and that addressed the child’s need to learn in a tactile as well as an intellectual way. The philosophies are otherwise very different.
Are Waldorf schools religious?
While no formal religious instruction takes place in the Waldorf school curriculum, parents should be aware that reverence and an appreciation and respect for the natural environment are present in the day-to-day activities of the school. We live in a Christian-Judeo influenced society and some of the celebrations and festivals of the year reflect that. Families who celebrate other religious festivities are encouraged to speak to their teacher about ways that they can share these celebrations with the class. We seek to educate our students in love and immerse them in the world of great literature, art and science. We wish to send them forth into the world in freedom to explore and discover their own beliefs and destinies.
Reflections from Parents
We asked our parents for their reflections on what brought them to Waldorf education. Here’s what they had to say. Please contact our Director of Education if you’d like to tell us “Why Waldorf?” for your family.
“We chose Whistler Waldorf as the school for our daughter because it encourages the growth and development of the imagination and creativity, while still providing strong foundations in traditional educational subjects such as math, reading, writing etc. Waldorf fosters the unique spirit of each child and this creates a positive environment.”
“Our family chose Whistler Waldorf because of the importance that is placed on connection – in our relationships with each other, with the natural world around us, and in what happens for a child when they are genuinely engaged in learning. We value the respectful and nurturing bonds that are formed between child and teacher and the care and awareness Waldorf educators bring regarding individual temperaments and learning styles. The Waldorf method naturally supports these things while instilling a deep sense of curiosity and exploration, and we see this daily in a true passion for learning and a sincere engagement with the material in our children. Walking in to a Waldorf classroom feels like returning home to a warm hug!”
“We came to Whistler Waldorf because we feel the school encourages children to think ‘outside the box’. My husband and I are entrepreneurs and we wanted our son to be part of an environment that nurtures the uniqueness of each individual child. My son is very happy at Waldorf and so are we.”
“In 2012, our family was looking for an alternative educational environment for our oldest son. We were lucky enough to have a pediatrician who suggested touring different schools to find a place that fit with his learning profile and our values as a family. Several families recommended Waldorf education and, in particular, the Whistler Waldorf School. Leaving the classroom tour in the spring of 2012, our son asked if he could join the Grade 4 class the next day. We had the not-so-small task of relocating from North Vancouver to Whistler to deal with, so we enrolled him for the fall of 2013. Waldorf education has met our son developmentally, academically, and socially ever since. He is now meeting grade level curriculum in a way that was previously not possible for him. Today both of our children attend the school and, as parents, we are extremely grateful to have found a school that recognizes our children as individuals and nurtures their social and intellectual development simultaneously.”
“I used to feel anxious dropping my kids off at school every morning. I felt like I was releasing them into an uncertain day; not sure how their feelings would be considered in their interactions, if their challenges would be supported and worked through or seen as problems to scold them for. It felt like we were already ‘failing’ in the classroom at the tender age of five. It was the worst part of my day. And I felt helpless. That immediately changed when we came to Waldorf three years ago. Now I watch them go off happily, knowing that their teachers are their advocates, their champions and a warm, safe place in the busyness of their academic lives. I know that they will be given opportunities to get up and interact with their studies, will find a passion for the subject matter being taught after being allowed some freedom to explore it in less conventional ways. That art and music will find its way into every lesson. And that they will be taught practical skills that will make them confident humans. I know that they are getting an outstanding, well-rounded education that will allow them the freedom to choose their path, whatever it is. And that they will be allowed to be children. There’s no mold to squeeze your child into at Waldorf. The education meets the child. And embraces them. Now I linger after drop-off, chatting and planning and enjoying the community that is so strong and positive here. And I don’t worry a bit about how the day will unfold. It will all happen with love.”
“We decided on Whistler Waldorf for our son in 2010 when I went back to work for a few days a week. We were immediately put at ease by the nurturing environment of the playschool – it felt like an extension of our home. His teachers grew to know him so well and helped him to blossom during his first experiences outside of our home, playing, creating and doing the big people chores he loved so much! When it came time for him to begin kindergarten, we knew we couldn’t take him out of this amazing school to join his big sister at another local school. It was decided then and there that she would be the one to join him at Whistler Waldorf instead. She entered in Grade 3 and very quickly adapted to the Waldorf way which embraced her inquisitive and artistic nature. There are so many things that we love about the school – primarily the passionate and dedicated teachers, hands on learning, and freedom to be a child and learn in your own way, at your own pace.”
“People ask us ‘why Waldorf’? There are many reasons for us. One of the main reasons is that the Waldorf philosophy in each grade acknowledges that there is more to the child’s school experience than just academics. They also focus on the child’s character and developmental landmarks happening in the child. They value and celebrate the ‘whole’ child. Our kids are learning in nature. Camping trips, hiking, surfing and much more are offered and teaching our kids to appreciate and take care of our environment. Our four kids are all very different people and the Waldorf curriculum has been a fit for each of them at different stages. They have made incredible friends and the smaller class sizes allows for relationships with both their peers and their teachers. We are especially thrilled with the Waldorf High School and all of the experiences that go along with it. We feel very thankful that we live in a town where it is an option for our kids to not only attend a Waldorf elementary school but to have the option to continue that unique education into high school and through to graduation if they choose.”
“When we moved back to Canada from the UK we were especially concerned about how our children would transition from their English schools. The transition to Whistler Waldorf has been seamless because of the wonderful faculty, administration and community. We value the teachers’ attention to our children’s well-being every day, and so appreciated the prep before our children even arrived at the school.
It is not just about learning in the classroom either. Lessons are being learned outside in nature, as well as in the social and emotional realm. The Waldorf curriculum is so well rounded – it really covers what they need to develop as human beings. To be able to keep them in this environment through high school has us feeling very lucky!”
“We have two children currently at the Whistler Waldorf School: in grades 1 and 10. Our youngest will begin kindergarten in the fall. We came to the school four years ago when our son entered grade 7. In contrast to his prior education, we have treasured watching him slow down and focus on his school work, build confidence in school plays and music performances, incorporate art in all of his lessons, and take part in exceptional class trips. This year he was so proud discovering that the bow he spent the year carving shot true! We appreciated the nurturing rhythm and routine of our other son’s kindergarten experience last year, and all of the time spent outdoors. This year, we are thrilled to observe a boy who has thrived, with a true thirst for reading, writing, math, drawing and handiwork, all of which he is keen to continue at home without parental pressure! Looking ahead, he lamented that he wished grade 1 wouldn’t end so he could finish his knitting project. The school faculty, staff and community are dedicated, caring and kind, and we are thankful that our kids are receiving a foundational education to prepare them for great lives.”