We dedicated one of our previous articles to Montessori education as one of the alternatives to traditional classroom education. Obviously, Maria Montessori was not the only person who was looking for opportunities to improve current school methods and to help children get more interested in learning about the world. Another famous system that offers alternative education is Waldorf education which is based on educational method of an Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner who paid a lot of attention to the importance of imagination in learning.
What Exactly Is Waldorf Education?
Rudolf Steiner, the creator of the school, introduced a new philosophy, anthroposophy, which idea was that one consists of three elements – Spirit (thoughts, intellectual, learning abilities), Soul (feelings and emotions), and Body (practical abilities). Based on these idea, Waldorf school aims not only at development of the mental aspect of a child, but also at emotional upbringing of children.
Waldorf school offers only general, not specialized education. Children do not get grades (just like in Montessori school) and do not use textbooks in the classroom. The purpose of this school is to bring up a person in the best sense of this word and to develop all the aspects of this person, starting with the spiritual aspect. In this school childhood and youth are not considered the stages that prepare a child for adult life. On the contrary, their childhood is a very important phase which affects physical, mental, and emotional health of the individuality.
Music, singing, and acting are the integral part of children’s education in Waldorf school, this is why students play musical instruments every day. There is no division of students in accordance with their talents; children with absolutely different abilities and interests study together because this is the only way for them to learn with each other and from each other. Teachers and students always organize numerous events where they demonstrate their music and dancing skills; parents are more than welcome to attend not only all these events, but also classes to see how their children’s studying goes.
Unlike in Montessori school, where teachers are only guides who help children with their individual program, in Waldorf school a teacher is the centre of the classroom and the most important person. Classes here are scheduled: in the morning everybody learns how to read, write, and paint; then they study languages and other subjects. It is interesting that even first-year students learn more than one foreign language.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Waldorf Education
Every educational method, including Waldorf education, has pros and cons, and it is crucial to know them before parents decide to let their child study in one of these schools.
Waldorf education’s goal is to help children become better people: not only do they learn how to read and write, but also they learn how to communicate with each other and what compassion and responsibility are. They explore not only the outer world, but also their inner world. Students can study at their own pace and take their time to understand a subject. Children can study without electronic devices: even at home parents are asked to stop watching television and using computers. Thus, children do not get used to all these devices and manage to play and entertain themselves using their imagination with the help of art, music, and personal communication. Waldorf schools also provide international students with a great opportunity to feel more comfortable in the classroom environment because they have enough time to learn the language without any pressure.
However, there are some drawbacks of the system. According to some parents, Waldorf education is only attractive at the very beginning when parents attend various events and concerts where they see the results of the education. In fact, for children from families where anthroposophy is not the leading philosophy it is not easy to adapt to the rules of the school. The idea of anthroposophy is very powerful in these schools, so if you decide to let your child study in one of the Waldorf schools, be ready to meet a lot of anthroposophic parents and children. Teachers require parents to spend hours in the classroom and to spend a lot of time with children after school always keeping them busy.
Children should be kept busy; however, a lot of Waldorf students get extremely stressed because they always have some activities. Besides, parents do not always have a chance to spend hours with their kids because they have to work, cook, clean, and do a lot of other things that are also very important. There are also some negative comments about students’ writing abilities: since children in Waldorf schools do not get forced to learn how to write, quite often a lot of them do not know how to write at the age when students in traditional schools have no problems with that at all. Moreover, as these schools are independent from the government, they need a lot of investments, and parents are the source of these investments, which also can be problematic for certain families.
If you are interested in one of the alternative educational methods that are popular today and are thinking about sending your child to one of these schools, the best option you have is to do your research and to read blogs and forums where parents have a chance to discuss all peculiarities of such schools. Children are unique individualities, and it is necessary to find a perfect school for them.