Waldorf Education Philosophy
Based on the spiritual-scientific research of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, scientist, and educator, Waldorf education is an independent school movement with over 800 schools worldwide. Steiner was one of the first educators to recognize the significance of early childhood on an individual’s later development and to devise age appropriate approaches for teaching.
The Waldorf educational philosophy stems from Steiner’s now widely accepted theory that learning in these critical early years does not come from traditional instructional methods, but is centered around the unconscious imitation of the child’s environment and experiences absorbed through all of his or her senses. Steiner also believed an early emphasis on intellectual (cognitive-analytical) work robs energy needed for physical growth and development, a vital process inherent to early childhood.
Thus, non-academic programs which nurture imitative and imaginative play, social and physical activity, and an appreciation for beauty and nature endow children with a strong sense of self and a platform for success in later academic pursuits by building sound logical reasoning, mental capabilities, and a reverence for life.
Waldorf Education Principles
Waldorf education is based on the unique pedagogical insights and philosophy, known as anthroposophy, of Rudolf Steiner. The pedagogy is oriented to developmental stages and brings age-appropriate content, which engages and challenges the students’ growing and changing capacities. At Acorn Hill we seek to support and encourage the holistic and integrated development of each human being’s unique creative potential.
Kindergarten mixed-age and Pre-K classes are play-based programs with pre-academic activities that provide a solid and integrated base for academic work in the grades. Play is the young child’s natural way to develop physically and socially. Child-directed play activity also strengthens imagination and attention span.
Artistic work such as wet-on-wet painting, sculpting with beeswax, puppetry, stories, circle songs and movements, crafts, and handwork are integrated into our classroom routines. This gives students opportunities to develop their imaginative capacity and bring it to expression in an inspiring, challenging, and tangible way that also cultures a sense of self-discipline. We educate “head, heart and hands.”
We value real work and “process over product” in our activities with the children. For example, in the fall we thresh and grind wheat to make the flour for our harvest celebration, sharing our first loaf with parents. In the spring we plant dish gardens with wheat berries or grass, which children water and watch grow. Children learn about things tangibly and in a way that is connected to sensory experiences. They feel the living rhythm of the day, the week, the seasons and the year. Tasks also have a beginning, middle, and end, and children become competent in life skills.
Waldorf education cultivates strong social connections within and between classes in both students and parents alike, as well as a commitment to respecting diverse cultures.
Waldorf education views human beings and the natural world as interwoven expressions of spiritual realities, culturing respect and responsibility for the earth, which provides sustenance for us all.
Acorn Hill is not headed by a principal. The school is cooperatively administered by teaching faculty, administrative staff and board of directors working with consensus building and decision-making. We have an active parent group that contributes to the school in festivals and fundraising as well.
We recognize the significance of experiences in early childhood for an individual’s later development and use age appropriate approaches for teaching. Our curriculum is based on the ideas of Austrian philosopher and scientist Rudolf Steiner whose insights into the developing consciousness of the human being have now been verified by modern neuro-physiological studies. Researchers such as Jane Healy, David Elkind and Joseph Chilton Pearce, among others, have written extensively on the importance of play for the healthy and holistic development of children.
Power of Play
We view play as the serious work of childhood, and learning by doing provides the foundation for active imagination, problem solving, and creative thinking. Our program is experiential, based on the conviction that academic instruction is best postponed until grade school. We build the foundation for cognitive learning through a variety of play and work activities.
Journey Through the Seasons
Journeying with the children through the seasons of the year, through festivals, gardening, and craft activities, we bring a sense of wonder and reverence for nature. Through cooperative and careful work indoors and outdoors we encourage respect for both the environment and one another.
Baking, Painting, and More
Concentration, small muscle development, and eye-hand coordination are all essential to reading and writing. Activities that promote these skills include baking, braiding, finger crocheting, sewing, modeling with beeswax, crayoning, watercolor painting, and others.
A further contribution to language development is our practice of storytelling. In this way the child’s memory is developed along with a sense for the beauty and expressiveness of language. Some stories are presented as puppet plays.
Poetry and Singing
Daily circle time features poems, games, and songs that further build language skills and also provide the basis for mathematics skills through counting games and rhymes.
Gardening is a wonderful and enriching experience for the children. Throughout the seasons the children, faculty and parents all are able to assist in planting at the school. Each class tends to its own garden plots by planting various bulbs, flowers, and vegetables during the spring and fall. As a result, the children are able to see for themselves the fruits of their labor. They enjoy decorating the classroom with the flowers, and eating the vegetables for snack!
To find out more about Waldorf education, schools, parenting, and Steiner’s anthroposophy, use these links: