Frequently asked questions
Why does the same teacher stay with the class over several years?
Waldorf students are continuously exposed to a great many subject teachers, but there are some important reasons for keeping one highly trained main class teacher. Continuity allows the teacher to work best with the child and understand his or her needs, while it gives the child a strong sense of security and belonging at an age when stable relationships are important.
In grade school years, children learn through acceptance of authority, just as in infancy they learned through imitation and in their teen years they gain knowledge through critical contact with specialists. In the early years the class teacher becomes an authority figure in a role analogous to parent. This forms another basis for security and stability.
What role does art play in the curriculum?
The child’s most deeply ingrained habits and behavior form early, when he or she is in the "imitating" stage of development. At this time, artistic expression is the best way to cultivate positive habits and patterns, and ensure that children will take a perceptive interest in the world around them.
Artistic activities permit the child to give outward expression to impulses that come from the inner life. When children are allowed to work out feelings through art they have a positive way of expressing emotions and their deepest needs can be met most fully and satisfyingly.
Artistic activities are woven into the entire Waldorf curriculum. Art is not a compartmentalized "lesson," presented without relationship to the rest of the curriculum. It is an element of every moment spent in the school experience.
Are Waldorf schools religious?
Waldorf Schools do not subscribe to any particular religion and they are regularly attended by children from the full spectrum of religious backgrounds. The historical festivals of all the major religions, and a celebration of the earth’s seasonal cycles are practiced in the classroom and at school assemblies. This inclusive approach aims to awaken the child’s natural reverence for the wonder and beauty of life, and these in turn help develop a moral understanding of the world.
How is reading taught?
The Waldorf curriculum begins with the oral tradition. Mastery of oral communication is seen as critical to all learning and life itself. Although preparation of the student in language arts is well underway in the nursery, kindergarten and first grade, reading is deferred, often even into the second grade. Reading, in fact, follows a firm grounding in writing. In the first grade, students explore the origins of the alphabet, and their reading evolves out of their writing and art as a comparatively effortless stage of linguistic communication.
Textbooks are not introduced early. Children create their own "main lesson" books in each subject, eventually building a library of their education. Reading continues to be intimately bound with writing. Most children have become proficient in reading by the end of third grade.
While there are no prescribed lists of words, Waldorf children in fact quickly acquire a rich vocabulary. Because of this grounded and deeply meaningful approach to reading, Waldorf students typically become excellent, highly-motivated readers. In the higher grades they are able to read books often reserved for high school years.
What about TV and computers?
Waldorf teachers prefer that young children be fully engaged in both their imaginative life and the real world by being media free, and they heavily discourage TV and computer games for older children. These are seen as inappropriate models for imitative learning, and a substitution of electronic for human authority. Waldorf schools offer encouragement and support to parents who wish to remove these influences from their children’s environment.
Many Waldorf teachers accept the use of computers for some school work in the higher grades. Although computers are not used for teaching at the elementary level, they are respected as integral to our culture. Most older children become proficient on home computers and the study of computers is taken up fully in the high school Waldorf curriculum.
This information was adapted from The Waldorf Schools: 32 Questions and Answers, by Wade B. Holland, available at the school Admissions office.