FAQs about Waldorf Education

Below are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions. If you do not find the information you are seeking, please contact our Admissions Office.

A guide to independent schools by AISNE and NAIS

Waldorf School at Moraine Farm is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and the Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE). The websites of both organizations contain information for families looking to discover more about independent schools. Each site has a section for Frequently Asked Questions. We encourage prospective families to deepen their explorations by visiting these additional resources.

NAIS FAQs

AISNE FAQs

Is Waldorf similar to Montessori?

These two educational approaches began with a similar goal: to design a curriculum that was developmentally appropriate to the child and that addressed the child’s need to learn in a tactile as well as an intellectual way. The philosophies are otherwise very different. For more information, please see here.

Are Waldorf schools art schools?

Waldorf schools are not art schools. The curriculum offers a classical education in all academic disciplines that fully integrates the arts into its teaching methodology. Why? Because research continues to show that the inclusion of the arts in academia increases aptitude and creative thinking in areas such as math and science, and has a positive effect on emotional development as well.

Why do Waldorf schools suggest limiting media?

Waldorf teachers appreciate that technology must assume a role in education, but at the appropriate developmental stage, when a young person has reached the intellectual maturity to reason abstractly and process concretely on his or her own, which is at around the age of 14. Society might challenge this principle, as many young children are well able to complete sophisticated tasks on a computer; the Waldorf perspective is that computer exposure should not be based on capability but on developmental appropriateness. While many applaud adult-like thinking in young children, we observe that a child’s natural, instinctive, creative and curious way of relating to the world may be repressed when technology is introduced into learning environments at an early age.

Excerpt from NYTimes Opinion, 5/2014, Author, Beverly Amico

How does technology integrate into the Waldorf curriculum?

Computers and digital technology are not part of the early childhood and grades curriculum. The mechanical understanding of technology and the practical arts are incorporated at all levels. For more on this topic, please see our We’re not Anti-Technology post.

 

Are Waldorf schools religious?

Waldorf schools are non-sectarian and non-denominational. They educate all children, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. The pedagogical method is comprehensive, and, as part of its task, seeks to bring about recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions. Waldorf schools are not part of any church. They espouse no particular religious doctrine but are based on a belief that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life. Waldorf families come from a broad spectrum of religious traditions and interests.

What does the music curriculum in a Waldorf school look like?

Music education plays a significant role in Waldorf schools. Waldorf educators have a deep appreciation for music and encourage that sense in their students. Rhythms and transitions throughout the course of the day are established with music for the younger students. There is lots of singing, poetry, rhyming and rhythm-building exercises. All students learn to play a recorder in first grade. In third grade, each students selects an orchestral string instrument and participates in a string ensemble. In middle school, they join the orchestra and chorus. Vocal music is also introduced in first grade, with the complexity of choral material increasing by age level.

What is Waldorf's approach to teaching science?

All sciences begin with simple nature experiences in kindergarten and the early grades, and advance with the study of acoustics, heat, magnetism and electricity in Middle School to chemistry, biology, botany, zoology and modern physics in High School. The emphasis is on direct encounters with observable phenomena -“Describe what happened. Evaluate what you have observed. What are the conditions under which the phenomena appear? How does this relate to what you already know?” Then students are asked to think through the experiment and discover the natural law that stands behind and within the phenomena.

When do children begin learning world languages?

People assimilate language most easily when young. This language ‘window’ is recognized in Waldorf schools, and virtually all schools teach one or two world languages beginning in first grade.

At the Waldorf School at Moraine Farm, we teach Spanish and German beginning in first grade.

When do Waldorf schools introduce reading?

Our goal is to foster passionate readers who continue reading for pleasure throughout their lifetimes. To that end, we introduce reading in a developmentally appropriate way, when students are more comfortable with the written word and fully ready to engage with them.

Waldorf teachers begin teaching reading in the first couple months of first grade by teaching consonants and vowel names and sounds through an artistic approach of drawing, painting, movement, and speech. This artistic, deliberate process engages the children with great interest, and by the end of first grade, children are writing and reading sentences and short texts. Students typically begin reading printed readers with their teacher during the second half of second grade. This thorough and artistic approach to teaching literacy has been proven to build a solid base for advanced comprehension and vocabulary skills in later years.

Why does a Waldorf class teacher stay with their class for multiple years?

A Waldorf teacher typically remains with the same class for five to eight years. In this way, the teacher is better able to assess each individual’s development, needs, and learning style—and the children, feeling secure in this long-term relationship, are more comfortable in their learning environment.

What if the teacher is not a fit for my child?

A Waldorf class is something like a family. Problems between teachers and children, and between teachers and parents, can and do arise. We typically work to resolve such problems through a conflict resolution or grievance procedure. With the goodwill and active support of the parents and the teacher concerned, schools do make the necessary changes needed to ensure the best situation for all concerned.

How does grading work?

Parents meet twice yearly for in-depth conferences with the child’s teachers (including subject teachers). Further, parents and teachers are in regular communication both daily at school, as well as electronically with regular updates as to classroom work. A full assessment of each student’s progress is provided in the form of a year-end narrative assessment in all subject areas. These assessments are supported by the teacher conferences as well as class meetings throughout the year.

How do children do when they transfer to a Waldorf school?

Children who transfer to a Waldorf classroom from a more traditional setting are typically up to grade in basic academic skills, and have little problem adapting academically. Those entering in the middle school and high school will need to learn to approach the arts in an objective and integrated way and may be required to take music lessons or world language classes, for example, to prepare them for classroom work. We find that most students new to Waldorf Education embrace this engaging and artistic style of learning with excitement and enthusiasm regardless of grade level.

How do children do when they transfer from a Waldorf school?

Children who transfer from a Waldorf school into a more traditional school setting during grades 1-3 will likely need to spend time over the summer refining their reading skills, as Waldorf schools’ approach to teaching reading is a more graduated approach. On the other hand, students often find they are more advanced in speech and language, social studies, mathematics, and artistic activities. Children moving during the middle and upper grades should experience no academic problems. In fact, in most cases, transferring students of this age group find themselves ahead of their classmates and with an eagerness to learn.

What is anthroposophy and how does it inspire Waldorf education?

Waldorf Education, established by Rudolf Steiner and Emil Molt in 1919, has its foundations in Anthroposophy. At the heart of Anthroposophy is the belief that humanity has the wisdom to transform itself and the world, through one’s own spiritual development. To that end, Waldorf Education holds as its primary intention the ideal of bringing forth—in every child—his or her unique potential in a way that serves the further development of humanity. The curriculum, pedagogy, and teaching methods are designed to nurture this potential.

How do Waldorf students perform on standardized tests?

We believe that standardized testing is not an accurate or complete reflection of a student’s knowledge, intellectual capacities, or ability to learn. Thus our curriculum does not put focus on standardized test-taking preparation, particularly in the lower and middle grades. In high school, SAT and ACT preparation courses may be offered, or interested students may pursue independent or external preparation coordinated through college counselors.

How do Waldorf graduates do after graduation?

Approximately 94% of Waldorf students continue their studies in college, university or other post-secondary education programs. Waldorf students have been accepted in and graduated from a broad spectrum of notable colleges and universities. Waldorf graduates reflect a wide diversity of professions and occupations including medicine, law, science, engineering, computer technology, the arts, social science, government, and teaching at all levels.

According to a recent study of Waldorf graduates:

  • 94% attended college or university
  • 47% chose humanities or arts as a major
  • 42% chose sciences or math as a major
  • 89% are highly satisfied in choice of occupation
  • 91% are active in lifelong education
  • 92% placed a high value on critical thinking
  • 90% highly value tolerance of other viewpoints