Will a Waldorf preschool work for your child? Developed by Austrian philosopher and teacher Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf schools “strive to transform education into an art that educates the whole child — the heart, hands and the head.”
Supporters say a Waldorf education provides a more holistic alternative to educating the whole child than traditional schools because the curriculum develops a child’s love for learning and “emphasizes a deeper reverence for and communion with the natural world.”
For those reasons, Circle of Moms member Carolyn B. “likes a lot of the Waldorf ideas and methods.” Yet she’s still not sure the school will work for her four-year-old daughter. Of course getting a Waldorf education is more expensive than a public school education. Plus, the schools are much more popular in Europe than in the U.S., which means Carolyn’s neighborhood Waldorf school does not have as diverse of a student population as she would like.
If you are on the fence about whether a Waldorf preschool is the right choice for you and your child, Circle of Moms members offer four ways to help you decide.
1. Your Child Needs to Go At His Own Pace
One of the cornerstones of a Waldorf education is “its commitment to developmental appropriateness,” according to a Circle of Moms member who calls herself "Schmoopy." The Waldorf philosophy believes a person’s capacities unfold in three developmental stages on the path to adulthood — early childhood, middle childhood and adolescence, and “Education is highly tailored to a child's developmental stage every step of the way,” Schmoopy explains. “The philosophy is very protective of childhood, maintaining that children need time to ‘unfold their wings’ at their own pace. If we force them to unfurl too soon, irreparable damage is done.”
For this reason, Waldorf schools can be beneficial for children with learning disabilities, like autism and ADD, and others who need to learn at a non-traditional pace, Dawn S. says.
Valerie C. relays that because her son, who was diagnosed with a not otherwise specified pervasive developmental disorder, requires an individualized educational plan (IEP), she will now only live in places that have Waldorf schools.
2. Traditional Benchmarks Don't Concern You
Waldorf students do not receive formal lessons in reading and writing in preschool and kindergarten. Instead, in the first developmental stage of the Waldorf philosophy, emphasis is placed on imagination and social interaction.
“Writing is not normally emphasized until the end of their sixth year, around age 7. Then from writing, the child develops a natural affinity to read,” Ava S. explains.
As a result of the delayed teaching schedule, "Schmoopy" shares that her daughter “has really enjoyed the process of learning to read and write.”
Circle of Moms member Delia agrees. Her daughter received a Waldorf education and didn’t start reading until third grade,” and what I noticed was [she] turned into a strong reader who loved reading.”
3. Your Child Thrives With Consistency
Each developmental stage in the Waldorf curriculum lasts seven to eight years, and a Waldorf class teacher typically stays with the same group of children. This means that once the children reach the elementary school years, they’re likely to have the same teacher for all eight years. It’s that consistency that leads children to develop a natural rhythm of interaction with their teacher, Waldorf supporters say.
It also helps create deep and meaningful long-term relationships, Kristi H. says, adding that her kids "are in a Waldorf school where the whole day, week, year and life in general is based on finding and working with rhythm.”
“We strive every day to adopt the Waldorfian way of life because at its core, it's about simplicity, natural rhythms, and love,” shares Molly M.
4. The Curriculum Matches Your Values
The most important factor in determining whether a Waldorf education is right for your child is how well the Waldorf approach meshes with your parenting goals.
All certified Waldorf schools place equal educational emphasis on practical, academic, and artistic subjects. Children learn about myths, legends, and seasonal festivals, which leads some people to accuse Waldorf schools of being "Pagan-ish," while others find them Christian-leaning, says Carolyn B.
“The best thing you can do is tour the preschool and find the one that matches your parenting philosophy the closest. A very good question to ask the preschool is, ‘How do they keep the curriculum challenging for students all three years?’ or ‘What are the overarching educational goals [for] children for each year of preschool?’” says Hannah D.
Why these particular questions? “At the end of the day, you will be [supporting] (or should be supporting) whatever is going on in school for the rest of your [child’s] educational career.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.