Berkeley Rose Waldorf School, a Member of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN), follows the educational principles developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). The teachings and philosophy of Waldorf education take a complete approach to learning—“head, heart, and hands”—and address each child as an individual with innate talents and abilities.
For a description of this approach to education, we encourage you to watch the documentary above.
Children experience an enthusiasm for learning
Why do our children look forward to coming to school each day, and “wish school went all summer long”?
- Because our children experience learning through storytelling, singing, art and movement.
- Because they are taught concepts at the developmentally appropriate time.
Because our teaching method is filled with fun, laughter and the teacher’s enthusiasm.
For example, when math is first taught, it is taught through engaging the child’s will: counting is taught through jump-rope games and knitting; multiplication tables are taught through rhythmic movement; geometric forms are taught through the dynamic process of engaging the child’s imagination. Physical movement allows children to connect with and understand what is being presented in a fun and engaging way.
Children are encouraged to speak their truth
Children are active thinkers, instead of passive receivers of information.
- Our method of teaching encourages learning for the interest of learning, instead of for the sake of passing an exam or scoring well.
- Education is about igniting the flame, not filling a bucket. And this is because the “bucket” (child) doesn’t need filling–it’s already full. The teacher’s job is to ensure nothing is lost out of the bucket, so the child may share her gifts, fully, into the future with those she comes into contact.
Our teachers inspire children to create their own experiences and images, including their own textbooks, which they bind themselves at the end of the year.
For example, when a child is first taught about Native American culture, they are presented with a spoken story, the following day they are asked what they remember about the story and the children, one by one, speak about what resonated for them. The class will put the story together again through this process. Through this method, and many others, the child is allowed to recognize in themselves what speaks to them, so that they can start recognizing their own truth. The teacher recognizes this, too, through careful observation, and learns how to meet that child because the teacher is with the same students for eight years.
Children are encouraged to become the problem-solvers of the future
“Waldorf graduates think for themselves and value the opportunity to translate their new ideas into practice.” — From the Survey of Waldorf Graduates
- Allowing children to experience free play from an early age gives them the skills and capacity to exercise their problem-solving abilities on their own. It allows them to experience the world through their own eyes and to come to solutions through their own experimentation.
For example, Waldorf teachers often respond to a young child’s question with “I wonder?” This allows a young child to imagine possibilities that are far-reaching, rather than to be prematurely given an answer they cannot grasp. Subsequently, as children get older, they don’t look to others for answers but trust that they will come to the answers themselves.
Viewing the world with reverence
What and how things are presented to children is given careful consideration.
- A primary focus is to bring materials from the earth and give them purpose. All materials are imbued with reverence. In this way, children experience their first ecology lessons. Children learn from an early age the importance of things that come from nature.
- Teachers consider the moral education of children to be one of their primary tasks.
For example, when a child engages in his first watercolor painting class, the teacher will tell the story of how the paint brush came into being. Once the story is told, the child will receive his first paintbrush. The child is then able to form a deep relationship with the brush, and this translates into a very early experience of respect and reverence.
Social and emotional health
“Waldorf graduates value lasting human relationships, and they seek out opportunities to be of help to other people.” — From the Survey of Waldorf Graduates
- If a child changes teachers and classmates each year, as they do in public and many private schools, deep relationships are less likely to be built.
- When a child remains together with one main teacher from grade 1 through grade 8, the opportunities to build strong relationships between teacher/child and teacher/parent are endless.
- The teacher is able to understand each child in a deep way so that he/she can really teach to the specific children in the class.
The children are able to build lifelong friendships with their classmates; help each other and grow with each other in a way similar to siblings.
For example, through the 8-year journey, children understand what community really means because the community that is built in the classroom is lasting. Relationships are not left but continually refined and understood at deeper levels as the children age. The children develop a deep appreciation for the uniqueness of their classmates.
Having a worldview of many cultures
There is much importance placed on having children not only feel comfortable in their own culture but also to have them understand the many cultures of the world. To give them an awareness of the diversity of humankind.
- Foreign languages are brought through native speakers. Students first learn the sound and cultural traditions of a language before ever learning how to write in that language. They learn through poetry, stories, dance, cooking, and more. This provides them with a deeper appreciation for the language–one that will inspire them to engage in the academic work and when they meet people of those cultures.
For example, mythology, stories and biographies of cultures from around the world are brought at developmentally timed periods throughout the 8-year journey. The children practice meditation when studying Buddhism; they make challah when studying the Hebrew stories. Later in life, the child has developed a deep appreciation for the cultural realities or roots of those she comes into contact with in daily life. Fear of the unknown is often the root of judgment; with meaningful early exploration into the lives of others, the student enters adult life with curiosity and openness.
Academics are taught through the arts (visual arts, music, drama, poetry, dance, etc.)
There are many benefits in using multiple methods to teach one subject–the biggest is transforming abstract concepts into meaningful experiences that resonate for the child.
- Learning through different methods allows a child to immerse her/himself into a subject, allowing for deep understanding.
- Education is taught through the senses. Children experience education through their whole body in an active way.
For example, when taught Roman history, children experience the culture through sculpting Roman pots, learning ancient Roman poetry, performing an ancient Roman play, playing ancient Roman songs through a recorder, and more. In this way, the teacher is able to bring the child into the civilization so that the child can experience the culture fully. When the child learns through feeling and doing, the experience is never forgotten. Just ask Waldorf grads for proof of this!
Children are inspired to form their personal views and express themselves artistically with confidence.
From the very beginning in early childhood classrooms, the teachers help the parents see that everything the child is to become is already contained in that child.
- The child is viewed like a seed. It is then the teacher’s and community’s job to ensure that seed receives the right amount of water, sunlight, and air. This is done through a rhythm that incorporates a natural flow of breathing, artistic work, and teaching that is rich in imagination. The result is a child who develops so roundly that s/he may embrace whatever innate talents s/he may have with confidence and courage.
For example, early on when the child learns to knit, the child learns to pull out the mistakes and start over. The courage to correct them by oneself creates resilience. The child then takes that on and learns that anything is possible once one moves beyond the fear of failure. She or he learns that the freedom to attain one’s goals is possible when one realizes one’s power to remove obstacles.
The importance of building community.
Being a free human being is important, and this comes about as a result of the group consciousness in the classroom.
- When the free being takes her/is unique place in the world, s/he is then free to serve humanity, to be a part of society–to build lasting, effective community.
Students develop interest in others and an awareness of inter-dependencies; this helps avert a fragmented society full of self-centered individuals. Our aim is to protect and enhance the free spirit of each child so that s/he sees her/is interdependence with all people and the earth.