Waldorf education dates back to the early 1900s, but its principles still apply. This educational method was devised by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, shortly after World War I. This educator was given the task of running a school for the children of employees of the Waldorf cigarette factory, hence the name of the method.
However, a short time later Waldorf schools were banned, although many continued to operate outside the law, until they were taken up again when the Second World War ended. It was then that the educational model spread to other countries. In fact, there are currently thousands of schools that follow this teaching method. Spain has not been immune to this model, which began to be applied in the late 1970s.
The 3 stages of development proposed by the Waldorf method
Waldorf pedagogy focuses on enhancing manual and artistic skills from a very early age. Its main objective is to stimulate the potential of the little ones with the guidance of adults, but in a non-directive environment. This model divides childhood by stages, for which it proposes different educational activities.
Until the child is 7 years old, education focuses solely on play and discovery . At this stage, both parents and teachers have the mission of creating an environment that stimulates learning, free play and imitation. During these years the child only has to discover his environment and learn to dominate his motor skills.
This stage, which extends from 7 to at age 14,focuses on enhancing children’s imagination. In fact, this method gives imagination a leading role since it assumes that this ability is central for children to develop their intelligence and appropriating knowledge. To enhance it, artistic activities are fundamentally used.
Adolescence and youth
This stage begins at age 14 and lasts until age 21. During this period adolescents and young people receive subjects that allow them to broaden their knowledge of their reality and environment.
What characterizes Waldorf pedagogy?
Waldorf pedagogy is quite peculiar since it proposes a much freer teaching system. Some of its most distinctive aspects are:
- The development of children’s artistic skills is promoted as a way to grow and acquire other knowledge since it is considered to be of the child’s most natural expression.
- The school environment is studied to be an extension of the home. There are warm colors, open spaces with lots of nature and toys made by hand.
- Exams are not applied since this pedagogy does not follow the principles of standardization but rather tries to promote children’s motivation and protect self-esteem. In this way,children tend to feel less stressed and enjoy learning more, setting their own pace of assimilation according to their level of development and interests.
- In elementary schools there is no textbooks but the children themselves who make them from their daily work.
- Free, spontaneous and natural teaching is encouraged, where an essential value is provided to the relationship that the child establishes with nature and the environment in which he develops.
However, it should be clarified that this teaching system has many detractors, who indicate that the majority of his teachings have an esoteric imprint and that excessive importance is given to the development of the imagination and artistic appreciation. In fact,for this pedagogy, academic disciplines are secondary, since it is considered that evaluating the child based on their level of knowledge can affect their self-esteem. Proof of this is that children learn to write only after they are 7 years, since the idea is to teach them to think for themselves and develop their creativity and personality before introducing academic content.