The Steiner Waldorf approach to education emphasizes on the use of practical, artistic and conceptual elements into education. This method of education was established by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of a philosophy called anthrophosophy. The Steiner Waldorf approach is based on the fact that the role of imagination in learning is integral for the development of creative and analytical thinking. This educational approach is aimed at providing an environment where young people can develop free thinking, which can be a basis for developing their own personalities as responsible individuals by fulfilling their destiny.
The Steiner Waldorf approach to education is based on scientific study of the development of children's learning capabilities. Three major stages have been observed in the developmental stages of a child and particular methods of learning which are most effective to that stage are identified in this approach. Early childhood learning is the stage for children below 7 years of age, elementary learning is for children between 7 and 14 years, and high school level education is for adolescents.
Early childhood learning
Learning in early childhood should be practical activity oriented as the learning in this stage is largely sensory based. In a typical Waldorf school, the classroom environment is homelike, includes natural materials, and provides examples of productive work in which children can take part. There are lots of outdoor activities involved accompanied by songs, poems and games. There will be specific times for stories and fairytales to encourage imaginative thinking. Exposure to normal media like television and mainstream music is discouraged at this age.
Elementary education should be more imaginative and artistic so that the child gets an idea of life and the surrounding world, and develops their own ideas. Typical activities at this age would involve visual arts, drama, vocal and instrumental music and crafts. The lessons being taught here are not based on standardized textbooks but each child is made to create their own list of coursework. Each child is allowed to learn in their own pace to allow the child to grasp the concepts or learn a skill based on their capabilities.
High school learning
High school learning, during adolescence, should be based on ethical ideas and social responsibility as the youth should develop the capacity for abstract thought and conceptual judgment. This level of education has a higher concentration on academic subjects.
Since the establishment of the first Waldorf School in 1919 the numbers of schools have been increasing exponentially worldwide. This is the world's largest independent educational system. The idea behind Steiner Waldorf approach to education resonates with the modern idea of homeschooling. Both emphasize on an environment where a child learns on his or her own capabilities. Both philosophies emphasize that children should not be forced to study before they are ready to learn. The curriculum in both can be varied to according to specific needs. Both the methods stress the importance of teachers engaging with each child individually to ensure they are treated as individuals.
Melissa Murdoch has a passion for life span development and education, and believes wholeheartedly that a healthy society begins at home. For further information on how to get started in homeschooling, please visit YourHomeschoolCommunity.com [Ed. note: link no longer active]
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