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The Waldorf education is based on a unique philosophy of education developed by Rudolph Steiner. The Waldorf School aims to educate “the heart, the hands and the head,” in theory allowing a child to develop as a whole person. The Waldorf education is the biggest independent education movement in the United States and Europe with over 900 schools currently teaching the Waldorf methods.
Waldorf philosophy is based upon the belief that children learn different things best at certain stages of development when their spirituality, intellect and physical capabilities are in tune with the information presented to them. For example, unlike traditional kindergartens across the United States, Waldorf kindergarteners are not taught to read. Instead they are taught poetry, stories and folk legends which are the foundation for developing reading skills according to the Waldorf philosophy. Children are not exposed to the written language until the age of six or seven. Children that are emerging into adolescence are presented with Ancient Greek and Roman history because of the belief that adolescences face intense inner turmoil and conflict. The Greek and Roman theme is in harmony with this change.
The Waldorf education is highly attuned to the developmental needs of children at specific ages. However, the curriculum for children involves equal instruction in the arts, music, foreign language and academics as opposed to a focus on academics with brief “specials” in traditional education.
Above all, the Waldorf philosophy of education places a strong emphasis on non competition, respect for nature and other human beings. Children are strongly encouraged to develop their creativity to the fullest and to think for themselves critically as individuals. The Waldorf education also maintains that children need plenty of time to move around and play. Each morning the children spend time doing eurhythmy. Eurhythmy is the art of movement which is done along with the recitation of verse.
Graduates of Waldorf schools generally tend to outperform their traditionally schooled peers on standardized tests. This is because students are taught subjects in depth, focusing on one lesson for three to five weeks. In these lesson blocks the subject is examined traditionally but also from other critical angles i.e., for its social consequences, philosophical value etc.
The philosophy of Rudolf Steiner that is the basis for the Waldorf method of education was highly esteemed by notable psychologists and sociologists such as Jean Piget who incorporated these methods into his model of child development. Some famous Waldorf graduates include actress Jennifer Aniston, Julianna Margulies, Kenneth Chenault and Sandra Bullock.