Rudolf Steiner, a relatively unknown Austrian philosopher, revolutionized the thinking of not only an entire culture but also future generations during the end of the 19th and turn of the 20th Centuries. He accomplished this through lectures, writings, and private consultations. He made big impressions in the hearts and minds of students – who would later become major leaders throughout the 20th century.
What did he do? He changed the way of thinking of what it meant to be human. No small feat! Over a period of 40 years, he formulated and taught a path of inner development – he termed Anthroposophy (why Waldorf Works). Anthroposophy encompasses almost every subject area, including, but not limited to: art, architecture, drama, science, medicine, economics, and religion. There is no area he did not touch.
Today, no matter where you go, you will find groups of people working from Rudolf Steiner’s original ideas.
As a young man, Rudolf Steiner supported that education should not be under governmental control. In 1907, he wrote a very important essay titled: Education In The Light of Spiritual Science” in which he describes the 3 major phases of child development (sound familiar?). This essay became the basis for the Waldorf Education system that is in use today all across this country. Today, we have 1000 established and running Waldorf schools worldwide- and thousands using it to educate their children in the home just in the US!
What Are The 3 Major Phases of Development?
- Imitation (The First 7 Years) – From birth a baby learns to eat, stand upright, walk and sleep – with virtually no formal instruction. This happens through latent ability, instinct and most of all imitation – or copying what’s going on in his/her environment. The young child imitates everything in his/her own environment without thought – including the attitude and values of the parents and peers (this part is quite scary to me). Some activities would be gardening with parents, tending the farm, outdoor experiences and a lot of unstructured creative play.
- Imagination (The Second 7 Years) – Many developmental changes take place after age seven – the most prominent according to the Waldorf community, is the loss of the Milk Teeth. According to biologists (I have never heard of this being a PhD student of cellular and molecular biology), it takes 7 years to transform every inherited cell in the body (not sure what that means). According to Waldorf enthusiasts, the child, for the first time is whole. HRUMPF. This change is manifest in a new budding vivid imagination – and a readiness for formal learning. During this stage, a pedagogy of sequential and logical thought ensues. Some good activities during this stage – anything art related and hearing great stories (myths, heros and foes, explorers, struggles of men and women in history) it stirs their imagination. The child makes a “Good Book” for each subject studied which is a record of experiments, essays, drawings, etc to show mastery of the topic at hand.
- Truth, Discrimination and Judgement (The Third 7 Years) – This is the stage where the student starts to search for “truths”. They are now able to experience the power of their own thinking. Boys and girls alike, erect barriers of self-protection – and as a result seek role models to emulate. Students begin to study more in depth based on deep research on their stages of development. In the high school years, it’s expected that they use all their intellectual powers and a deep and rigorous program ensures.
Differences in a Waldorf Education
The main difference in Waldorf is that the philosophy is anti-early intellectual. Your age really determines what you learn – because it’s your age/developmental stage/phase that determines your capacity for learning.
With Waldorf students receive
- A wealth of knowledge
- Subject matter that is intertwined. The sciences, humanities, the social sciences are all interwoven rather than separate entities.
- Electronic media is a no-no – especially in the early years when children are are in the “imitation phase”. Computers are not allowed in elementary classrooms and only a bit during high school.
Thanks for the Featured Image
To read about other homeschool Methodologies, please visit my other posts.
- Homeschool – Montessori
- Homeschool – Charlotte Mason
- Homeschool – Classical Trivium
- Homeschooling – Unschooling
- Homeschool – A Day in The Life of a Homeschooling Family – A New Series