Finding decent education options for your kids is no doubt one of the most challenging and frustrating aspects of being a parent in today’s society; and we’ve spent a lot of time on Inhabitots with our Green Education Series, trying to dissect the best educational options for environmentally-minded parents. We’ve talked about Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Unschooling and other educational options, but we would be remiss not to write a special article focusing on Waldorf Education – one of the greenest and most ‘organic’ educational philosophies out there for parents who value creativity and the natural world.
Waldorf education, also sometimes known as Steiner Education, is a specific approach to pedagogy that was developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in 1919. Emphasizing creativity, learning-by-doing, craft, storytelling and a focus on the natural world, Waldorf is one of the fastest growing alternative school systems in the world, and is, ironically, surging in popularity in high-tech communities like Silicon Valley, as described in this New York Times article from 2011.
Rudolf Steiner believed that human development goes through very specific stages, and that in the first stage of early childhood (birth to age seven, when children lose their baby teeth), children learn best through play, exploration and imitation. Waldorf education heavily emphasizes maintaining natural daily and seasonal rhythms. Classroom activities typically involve baking, cooking, knitting, painting, telling stories, music, tending plants and playing outdoors, as well as cleaning, sweeping, washing dishes and other household ‘chores.’ Classroom toys and play structures are simple, unstructured, and made only from natural materials such as wood, silk and wool.
Waldorf is decidedly anti-plastic, anti-electronics and anti-screens (television, computers, phones, etc), so if your iPad is your toddler’s best friend – this is probably not the school for you.
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