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What is Waldorf?

Waldorf is an educational philosophy based on the theories of Rudolf Steiner. The philosophy places value on childhood development, greater interaction between child and teacher, and the integration of the arts into a rigorous academic program. It stresses the importance of teaching the ‘whole child’ and is concerned with the academic, social, emotional, and physical growth of each child.

Some unique components of Waldorf education include:

Main lesson blocks:  Two hours of the school day are devoted to the main lesson.  This refers to an intensive study of a specific subject that lasts for three to four weeks. Find sample main lesson block plans here.

Main lesson books: Rather than reading from textbooks, students develop their own books, which are called main lesson books.  These books serve as a portfolio of what they have learned in their main lesson block.

Teacher looping: In Waldorf education, the teacher loops with the class. Looping means that the teacher stays with the class from year to year. At Birchtree your child will have one teacher for kindergarten, one teacher from 1st-5th grade, and one teacher from 6th-8th grade.

Rich curriculum: In addition to rigorous academic study, Waldorf curriculum includes foreign language, music, movement, handwork, woodwork, and environmental education.

Values: Waldorf education strives to instill in students the values of creativity, respect, tolerance, accountability, ecological awareness, problem solving, and lifelong learning. As students move through the years together as a community, they learn to have respect for and understanding of each child’s unique gifts and challenges.

Rhythm:  Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms and routines are an important part of Waldorf education. Attention to the seasons and a celebration of seasonal festivals is also an important part of a Waldorf education.

Teaching Through Narrative:  The use of narrative gives students a conceptual framework in which they can orient themselves and understand their experiences. Content is shared in oral form rather than through written textbooks, especially in the earlier grades.  Teachers use biography to strengthen pupil identification with people who made a difference.   They inspire students to identify with characters in stories and develop linguistic and listening skills. History is taught initially through narrative and stories from a wide range of sources. This can include folktales, legends, fables, parables, mythology, and literature.

Media: Waldorf education uses stories to teach academics in order to engage the imaginations of students. It is suggested that a child’s exposure to media images, video games, movies, TV, computers, etc. is limited in order to avoid interrupting and distracting a child from their own creativity and imagination.

Assessment: In lieu of traditional grades, students are assessed on the basis of work recorded into their main lesson book using Waldorf-inspired rubrics. Parents receive end-of-year narrative reports that provide information about the progress of their students. Parents also have the opportunity to attend family nights, assemblies, conferences, and concerts to observe their child’s learning. At Birchtree, students also participate in state-mandated testing.