Waldorf education began in 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany when Austrian writer, philosopher and educator Rudolf Steiner was tasked with opening a school for the children of the workers from the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory, from which the schooling gets its name. Steiner's ideas were quite successful with the working class pupils and his methods were subsequently transported around Europe and throughout the world to become an international movement. Despite the initial application among working-class children, Steiner promoted a program of education, uncommon for that social context that mixed children from all backgrounds, abilities, ages and sexes. Also unusual for the time, in both form and content, was the importance Steiner put on early exposure to foreign languages, particularly in a naturalistic manner that was intended to match children's first-language acquisition.
Like Montessori, Steiner's views on education are considered to be child-centered. Children in Waldorf schools have wide latitude in deciding what to study and teachers are able to use their professional discretion as well as their intuition in assigning lessons and utilizing materials which they feel will be of maximum benefit to the needs of individual learners. Particularly notable and especially attractive to many parents electing Waldorf education is the fact that children remain with the same teachers for periods of many years during which the children of a single class form a small, tightly-knit community and teachers have the opportunity to build detailed relationships with their pupils which they can use in guiding each child's needs.
Academic ability and achievement are somewhat de-emphasized within the Waldorf curriculum, though Waldorf proponents are quick to point out that academic skills of their students can hardly be said to suffer. Reading, writing and math are not introduced until later, around the age of 7. Instead, there is a strong emphasis on play, fairytales and fantasy. Learning tools tend to be of natural materials like wood and cloth and the layout of the schools emphasize an airy, open and 'naturalistic' environment. Even after more formal learning is introduced with older children, there is an emphasis on concrete observations/operations over abstract formulae. Students are shown how processes work within math and science before they are introduced to theoretical constructs. At all stages, standardized tests and monolithic grading schemes are ...
This solution discusses the theories of Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf method of education including a discussion of the down side of this method of teaching. It is a detailed discussion that also compares his theory to Montessori . The text contains 1470 words and references are noted.