What is unique about Waldorf education?

Academics are de-emphasised in the early years of schooling. There is no abstract content in the Waldorf kindergarten experience (although there is a good deal of cultivation of pre-academic skills) and there is minimal abstraction in Class 1. The letters of the alphabet are introduced carefully in Classes 1 and 2.

During the primary years, students have a class teacher who, ideally, stays with them for the 8 years of primary. In practice these days, this length of time with one teacher is unusual but it is common for children to have the same teacher for 4 – 5 years.

Certain activities considered “extras” at state schools are central to Waldorf Schools : art, music, gardening and foreign languages to name a few. In the younger classes, all subjects are introduced through artistic activities because children respond better to this medium. All children play the recorder and learn to knit.

There are no “textbooks” from Class 1-5. The children compile their own main lesson books which they fill in during the course of the year and these “textbooks” record their experiences and what they have learned.

Main lesson and block scheduling: Curriculum material, whether it is Geometry or Norse myths is introduced in the Main lesson time from 9-11a.m., when children are fresh, and will last for two to three weeks. This allows the child concentrated time to absorb and digest new material. After morning break, time is allowed for practice lessons where repetitive activity and skills take place.

Learning in a Waldorf school is essentially a non competitive activity. No grades are given at junior or elementary level . The teacher, however, will write a detailed evaluation of the child towards the end of each year which is communicated to the parents. School wide testing of reading and maths skills is undertaken at age 9 and 11 for appraisal purposes.

The use of electronic media, particularly television and computer use, by young children is strongly discouraged in Waldorf Schools.

Why would I send my child to a Waldorf School?

Waldorf Schools protect and honour the wonder of childhood. Every effort is made to ensure a safe, secure and nurturing environment in which the children to grow and learn, protected from harmful influences. Waldorf education has a consistent philosophy of child development underlying the curriculum. All subjects are introduced in an age-appropriate manner.

Waldorf schools produce graduates who are academically well prepared and they consistently gain admission to top universities.

Why is television viewing and computer use discouraged?

The child’s imagination is seen as central to the healthy development of the individual and this faculty is undermined by television viewing. Computer use by young children is also discouraged. Children are rather encouraged to discover their own world through play.

Are Waldorf Schools religious?

In the sense of subscribing to the beliefs of a particular religious denomination or sect, no. Waldorf Schools , however, tend to be spiritually oriented and are based out of a generally Christian perspective. The historic Christian festivals, and of other major religions as well, are observed in the classrooms and in school assemblies. Classes in religious doctrine, however, are not part of the Waldorf curriculum and children of all religious backgrounds attend Waldorf Schools. Spiritual guidance is aimed at awakening the child’s natural reverence for the wonder and beauty of life.

How does Waldorf education deal with children who don't “ get it” academically?

In our school in Tauranga we have an Extra Lesson™ Consultant to whom the child is referred for assessment and a programme to help with particular difficulties the child is experiencing. Further, the College of Teachers at the school will undertake child studies of particular children who are not progressing as expected and, during these studies, the combined experience and attention of all the teachers is brought to bear on the “riddle of the child” and the class teacher is supported in obtaining the most effective means to progress the child’s learning.

Extra Lesson™ is a systemised one-to-one intervention programme focusing on developmental movement therapy for children with learning difficulties. The therapist works primarily to remedy the causes of the difficulties rather than just working on the symptoms. If children do not have the neurological equipment , acquiring the basic cognitive skills of reading and writing will be a long and difficult struggle, often leading to permanent damage to self esteem.

What is the annual cost of tuition in a New Zealand Waldorf School?

This varies depending upon whether it is an independent Waldorf school or an integrated Waldorf school with some assistance from the State. Our school has been integrated into the state system since the beginning of 2005.

Why are there so many Festivals at the school?

The festivals connect the children, teachers and parents with the rhythms of nature and the cosmos. Celebrating the seasons in the form of the festivals is a joyful experience that involves the whole school, from the rhythm of the spring maypole dance accompanied by festive music , to the candlelight and fire of the winter lantern festival. The children look forward each season to the festival which generally marks the end of the term. The simple rhythm of observing the changes in the natural world kindles the child’s inner soul life.

State Transition

Why do children learn to read later than children in New Zealand State Schools? Surely this is a disadvantage?

Waldorf education is deeply bound up with the oral tradition with the kindergarten teacher telling the children fairy tales throughout kindergarten. This oral approach is used right though Waldorf education and oral mastery is seen as the foundation of literacy.

Reading instruction is deferred and writing is taught first. During Class 1, the children explore how the alphabet came about, discovering as the ancients did, how each letter’s form evolved out of a pictograph. Writing thus evolves out of the children’s art, and their ability to read likewise evolves as a natural and, indeed, comparatively effortless stage of their mastery of language.

How easy is it for children taught at Waldorf Schools to transfer to the State school system?

Transition from the upper primary classes usually takes place without any difficulties. In the lower classes, however, particularly between Classes 1 and Class 3, differences in the pacing of the various syllabi may mean that the child’s learning will be at variance. A Class 2 child from a State School will be ahead in reading compared to the Waldorf child but the reverse will be the case in arithmetic.

How do I know that my child is receiving adequate preparation for the outside world and its competitive benchmarks?

Our school has a comprehensive appraisal system both internal and external of the class teachers and coupled with the yearly in depth parent teacher meeting and child evaluation and the class wide testing schedule at given points in their progress through the school, there is a thorough system in place for ensuring that children’s progress is adequately monitored. The school, like any registered school in New Zealand, is subject to regular Education Review Office audits. These reports may be viewed on the ERO website:

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