Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is Waldorf?
Waldorf is an educational philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, educator, scientist and artist. The first Waldorf school opened in September, 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany. Steiner agreed to run the school based on a few conditions: it must be open to all children, male and female, and the teachers should play a major role in shaping the school.
Steiner designed the school’s curriculum around children’s natural course of development, incorporating their imaginations into their lessons and encouraging artistic mastery, as well as creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
Currently, Waldorf is the fastest-growing independent educational movement in the private sector, with more than 800 Waldorf schools and 120,000 students in 45 countries. Approximately 125 Waldorf schools operate in North America, and a growing number of Waldorf-inspired public and charter schools are beginning to sprout up across the country.
2. What makes Waldorf unique from other schools?
Once you’ve stepped into a Waldorf-inspired classroom, and you have seen the children’s artwork hanging up on the walls, the beautiful and elaborate illustrations in their main lesson books, once you’ve had a chance to listen to the children stamp their feet and clap their hands through the multiplication tables to a hundred and beyond, once you’ve seen your child run out of the classroom at the end of the day with a big, bright smile on his face, day after day after day, it’s only really until then that you truly realize that Waldorf is indeed unique.
That’s because Waldorf teaches the whole child. In addition to rigorous academics, Waldorf-inspired methods also address a child’s emotional growth, helping her learn valuable interpersonal skills and self-disciplined behavior. While artistic expression plays a central role in each grade, students master a variety of different disciplines, including mathematics, natural sciences, composition, foreign languages and craft work. Often, Waldorf is described as an education that includes the “head, heart and hands,” emphasizing growth mentally, emotionally and physically.
3. Why should I send my child to a Waldorf-inspired school?
After spending some time with your child inside a Waldorf-inspired classroom, the more appropriate question becomes why should I send him anywhere else? In short, Waldorf fits the child like a glove because its principles are founded on teaching age-appropriate material in such a way as to honor her imagination, and build upon—rather than ridicule—the child’s imagination, and his own natural curiosity to figure out how the world works.For example, most first graders in any school would be naturally drawn to listening to a fairy tale told aloud by their teacher, but in a Waldorf-inspired school, the teacher might follow up on the tale by asking students to draw a picture from a scene in the story. As part of the task, students might discover a new letter in the alphabet, to be studied in greater detail later in the day, within the scene they are drawing. In this way, the lesson becomes more interactive, drawing each student individually into the learning process as a living and breathing phenomena that should be cherished, not dreaded.
It is no surprise, then, that Waldorf-inspired schools graduate students who have an academic edge over their public school peers, as well as the self-confidence to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions. In fact, Waldorf students consistently win acceptance to top universities and go on to become entertainers, corporate CEOs, teachers and pretty much anything else they want to set their mind to.
4. How are publicly funded, Waldorf-inspired charter schools different than private, tuition-funded Waldorf schools?
Waldorf-inspired charter schools, such as Mountain Oak, must walk a fine line between Waldorf principles and state-mandated standards. As such, we almost represent a “third way,” in that we offer a Waldorf-inspired curriculum, at no cost to parents, while ensuring that our students and our school meet or exceed state standards. Most Waldorf schools charge an annual tuition of between $8000 and $15,000. Children from all religious backgrounds attend Waldorf public and private schools and thrive there in an accepting atmosphere. Waldorf’s roots whether private or public seek to awaken a child’s natural reverence for the world and the many wonders and spectacular beauty in life.
5. What about discipline?
No school is perfect in this regard, and discipline problems arise at charter schools just like everywhere else. Waldorf-inspired methods, however, provide a number of proactive measures that often preclude such issues, and minimize their impact when they do surface.
For example, when a child enjoys being at school, which most Mountain Oak School students do, he is much less likely to “act out” in aggressive or inappropriate ways. In addition, the careful relationship that the teacher fosters with the student as the child develops provides a strong continuity for students who often see their class as a second family.
Students and teachers get to know each other very well, and the teacher gains a comprehensive understanding of each child’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the best ways to teach each child individually.