Waldorf Myths, Truths & Reflections
What makes Waldorf schools unique?
On the surface, Whistler Waldorf School doesn’t appear much differently than a public school. Our day to day grade school and high school operations are similar to BC public schools with an 8:30 – 3:05 daily schedule, running from September to June, five days per week. Our Kindergarten program operates five days per week as mandated by the BC Provincial Government, and we also offer playschool programs for two to five days per week at two separate locations in Whistler.
The physical space at our school however may offer a unique first impression, with walls painted in an artistic way and an essence of natural simplicity, calmness and beauty in the school, which provides a sanctuary for the students to learn and be creative.
You may also notice the feeling of community and the supportive environment for all students, staff and families. It is a special feeling of appreciation and respect for all connected to the school.
Following are a few key components that distinguish Waldorf education from other approaches:
Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum
The curriculum was designed, based on a deep understanding of child development which delivers age-appropriate subject matter and activities throughout the child’s education. Rudolph Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, proposes a philosophy of child development that suggests 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.
The teacher recognizes the multi-faceted way that each child learns, and strives to meet the needs of all types of learners, kinesthetic, visual and auditory. Through experiential learning, the teacher recognizes that in order for a child to truly “know” something they need to experience it physically, emotionally and intellectually.
The curriculum is enlivened and strengthened by a liberal arts program incorporating fine arts (drawing, painting and sculpture) and practical arts (knitting, sewing and woodworking), music (voice, recorder and violin) and movement into daily practice. Waldorf education is richly steeped in the humanities, foreign languages (French from grade 1), sciences, and the arts, and strives to create a genuine love for learning.
At the Whistler Waldorf School, students learn from an early age to engage in their own learning process. The imaginative play and grace of the early years evolves into an experience of meeting the beauty and complexity of the world with sensitivity and hope. This foundation leads to a rich academic experience that supports young men and women in realizing their full potential as students, as people, as members of the global community.
The school offer a thoroughly balanced curriculum to meet the needs of children facing a fast paced, changing world. Students are engaged in intellectual, artistic, and experiential learning in all subject areas. All this guided by a model of child development that emphasizes the right blend at the right time.
Teachers’ Extraordinary Commitment
The role and work of the teachers in a Waldorf school also represents a unique aspect to Waldorf education. The faculty works together to establish curriculum decisions, create teaching schedules, and discuss all issues relating to the classroom and the children. Waldorf teachers are deeply committed to their students and the school.
Simple Facts about Waldorf Education
There are many misconceptions and various perceptions about what Waldorf education looks like, Some believe a Waldorf education is similar to a denominational private school curriculum, but we are non-sectarian and non-denominational as noted in the basic questions below.
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.
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!”
David Udow & Erin Reid
“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, 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.”
Christine & Scott Keuling
“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.”
Julie & Ben Smith
“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 who attend Whistler Waldorf School and when we enrolled our first son when he was in 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. We appreciated the nurturing rhythm and routine of our other son’s Early Years experience and all of the time spent outdoors. We are thrilled to observe our youngest 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.”
Riel Cairns & Melissa Darou