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FAQ

1. What is Waldorf Education?

With more than 1,000 Waldorf schools in more than 60 countries, and over 2,000 Waldorf early childhood programs on five continents, Waldorf Education is truly global - not only in scope but in its approach.  Waldorf is the largest independent educational movement in the world. 

Waldorf graduates are recognized for their academic strengths and intellectual curiosity, their highly developed interpersonal skills, and their enthusiasm for confronting life’s opportunities and challenges.

First developed in 1919, Waldorf education is based on developmental insights, consistently demonstrated by educational research to be best practice, that address the needs of the growing child and maturing adolescent. Highly trained Waldorf teachers transform education into an art, educating the whole child, the heart and the hands, as well as the head.

Veteran Waldorf teacher, Jack Petrash gives a Tedx talk, "Educating Children for the Journey"

2. Waldorf education excels at preparing students to be successful in their post-Waldorf years. How is this accomplished?

Here are some of the reasons why Waldorf graduates do so well in their school years, their careers and their lives.  We would be happy to talk about more!

The United States places seventeenth in the world for education.  Surely we can do better.

Waldorf is different, in all the right ways. Waldorf teachers have the freedom to engage their students in a curriculum that is not confined by the narrow mandates for standardized testing.

Our teachers have the freedom to customize approaches to maximize every student’s performance. Monadnock Waldorf School meets the needs of every student. Instead of teaching to some blended average, we teach just beyond the reach of our most capable students.

Monadnock Waldorf School offers a classic education that is richly imbued with the arts. Waldorf education is a carefully structured system, nurturing creativity within the context of intellectual competence and disciplined exploration. Waldorf teachers craft their lessons to work with every learning style: kinesthetic, auditory, and visual, thus enabling every student to shine. Our flexible program meets the needs of individual students as they grow into cooperative class groups, advancing together through expanding realms of information and accomplishment.

Classroom learning is characterized by active and respectful discussion, not by mandated textbook lecturing and memorization.  Students learn how to disagree critically and respectfully.

Monadnock Waldorf School teachers pay close attention to social interaction within and between the classes at all grade levels. Their commitment to ensuring that students learn to play and work well with others provides our graduates with invaluable life skills and reinforces school as a positive, fun experience.

Each student creates her or his own main lesson book over the course of the year, which is a particularly powerful tool for integrating the various subjects and internalizing and retaining the learning. Main lesson books are special books with compositions, observations, diagrams, and illustrations. The main lesson books are a way for students to engage personally with each subject and truly take ownership of the educational experience.

Waldorf students learn to value an exceptional, self-created product as a demonstration of learning and pride in accomplishment, and to appreciate that education is not only about the process.  Our students take pride in strong work habits.

Research shows the link between art, manual dexterity and learning capabilities. Monadnock Waldorf School has the freedom to expand its curriculum to include a healthy component of art and skilled handwork.  Children in the early grades learn knitting and needlework and create many beautiful and useful objects. Coordination, fine motor skills, patience, perseverance, and imagination are schooled through this practical work. The Waldorf method of education, through the arts, awakens imaginative and creative powers, bringing vitality and wholeness to learning.  In addition to the beneficial impacts on learning, our students take pride in the acquisition of life long skills.

As with all the arts, the evidence linking music to learning is compelling. At Monadnock Waldorf School, music is an integral part of every grade, including fourth grade violin lessons, instrumental lessons beginning in the fifth grade, chorus and orchestra.

Theater, part of the curriculum beginning in the first grade, develops students who are comfortable with themselves, accustomed to public speaking, and absorbed by other cultures - all disguised as fun.

This "non-academic" part of the Monadnock Waldorf's curriculum not only strengthens academic learning; it awakens and sustains a lifelong appreciation of the arts and culture.

Preparation for life includes the development of the well-rounded person. Waldorf Education has as its ideal a person who is knowlegeable about the world and human history and culture, who has many varied practical and artistic abilities, who feels a deep reverence for and communion with the natural world, and who can act with initiative and in freedom in the face of economic and political pressures.

3. Waldorf students have above average reading and writing capabilities.  How do they do it?

Employers and college professors lament that young people’s critical reading and writing skills are not up to what is needed in today’s world. 

At Monadnock Waldorf School, critical writing skills begin in first grade with learning verbal recall skills.  This early verbal work translates directly to superior writing skills in later grades – and enthusiasm for writing.

Waldorf education draws strongly from the oral tradition, typically beginning with the teacher telling the children fairy tales throughout kindergarten and first grade. The oral approach is used all through Waldorf education: mastery of oral communication is seen as being integral to all learning.

Letters are learned in the same way they originated in the course of human history. Humans perceived, then pictured, and out of the pictures they abstracted signs and symbols. First graders hear stories, draw pictures, and discover the letter in the gesture of the picture. Throughout the grade school, children are engaged in phonetic work in the form of songs, poems, and games in addition to the more traditional speech and drama. This multi-faceted approach helps establish a joyful and living experience of the language. Additionally, texts from world literature provide material for reading as well as a foundation for the study and acquisition of grammar skills.

The Language Arts curriculum moves from the mechanics of reading to read to honing comprehension skills to creative writing. Letters and their sounds emerge from stories so that the “abstract symbol” has context and meaning. Comprehension is exercised through oral retelling of stories as well as by learning to write paragraphs and essays. Writing thus evolves out of the children's art; their ability to read likewise evolves as a natural and, indeed, comparatively effortless stage of their mastery of language.  Students’ ability to pay meticulous attention to rich, sequential detail serves them well as they venture off into their own creative writing in the upper grades.

In addition to superior reading and writing skills, Waldorf students experience a broad and deep understanding of true literacy.

4. Why do Waldorf students stay (ideally) with the same teacher from first
 through eighth grade?

Waldorf education embraces cohort teaching, a term indicating that the grade school teacher stays with the same group of students as they transition through the grades. Often a teacher who starts with a group of students (their cohort) in first grade will stay as their main class teacher throughout the entire lower school years until completing eighth grade. This long-term relationship supports a rich social dynamic in the class. It gives the teacher a deep understanding of each student’s strengths, challenges and developmental milestones. No time is lost at the beginning of each academic year, since the teacher is already familiar with learning styles and material already covered.

In first grade, the teacher meets each student in a formal welcoming assembly called the Flower Ceremony. This initiates a personal commitment to study the development – and mentor the skills and personal growth of – each student while forming a strong bond that will last for many years.

As with children’s own family relationships, there may be a bump in the student-teacher relationship along the way, but the commitment by the school and the teacher is so strong that issues are quickly resolved.

Waldorf teachers attend professional development workshops, conferences and teacher trainings during summer breaks in preparation for each year’s new curriculum. The teachers customize their lesson plans from archetypal Waldorf curriculum modules and they are also mentored and given operational support and supervision from teachers with mastery and depth of experience in specific subject areas, and who have previously taught the course materials. This offers younger teachers mentors with experienced perspectives and it invigorates master teachers with new ideas and enthusiasm and innovative thinking. This mutually beneficial collegial process supports an active, engaged faculty who bring expertise and a field-tested strength in instructional methodology to the students in the classroom.

5. Is it possible for a child who has attended a public school to transfer to a
Waldorf school?

Yes! New children enter into Monadnock Waldorf school at every grade level and can be fully integrated into the learning and life of the classroom and school community. We conduct interviews and evaluations with the child and parents to assess what is needed for a good transition in individual cases. We have lots of experience welcoming new students.

6.  What is Eurythmy? 

Eurythmy is the art of movement that attempts to make visible the tone and feeling of music and speech. Eurythmy helps to develop concentration, self discipline, and a sense of beauty. This training of moving artistically with a group stimulates sensitivity to the other as well as individual mastery. Eurythmy lessons follow the themes of the curriculum, exploring rhyme, meter, story, and geometric forms – all disguised as fun for the students. Check out this great article describing eurythmy.  

7. How to Waldorf schools succeed in limiting the influence of television and other media on children?

A central aim of Waldorf Education is to stimulate the healthy development of the child's own imagination.  Electronic media hamper the development of imagination, and the content is often not age-suitable.  Waldorf teachers work with parents to explain the connection between media and learning, and respectfully ask students to adhere to media guidelines.  Also, the rich classroom content, stressing creativity and imagination, works to dampen enthusiasm for imagination-replacing media. 

There is more and more research to substantiate these concerns. See:
• Endangered Minds: Why Our Children Don't Think by Jane Healy
• Failure To Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds For Better and Worse by Jane Healy
• Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander
• The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn
• Evolution's End: Claiming The Potential of Our Intelligence by Joseph Chilton Pearce.

8. What about computers and Waldorf Education?

Waldorf teachers feel the appropriate age for computer use in the classroom and by students is in high school. We feel it is more important for students to have the opportunity to interact with one another and with teachers in exploring the world of ideas, participating in the creative process, and developing their knowledge, skills, abilities, and inner qualities. Waldorf students have a love of learning, an ongoing curiosity, and interest in life. As older students, they quickly master computer technology, and as graduates, have successful careers in the computer industry.

For additional reading, please see:
• Fools Gold, a special report from the Alliance For Childhood (www.allianceforchildhood.org)
• The Future Does Not Compute by Steven Talbot 

9. Are Waldorf schools religious?

Waldorf schools are non-sectarian and non-denominational. They educate all children, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds.
As part of their educational curriculum, Waldorf schools bring about recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions, acknowledging that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life. Monadnock Waldorf School observes the cycle of the year through both traditional and lesser known festivals, such as Michaelmas in the autumn and Advent in the winter, that embrace the qualities of hope, courage, joy, gratitude, love and reverence.
Waldorf families come from the full spectrum of religious traditions and interests, including atheism.

10.  Is Waldorf similar to Montessori?

These two educational approaches began with a similar goal: to design a curriculum that was developmentally appropriate to the child and that addressed the child's need to learn in a tactile as well as an intellectual way. The Montessori approach emphasizes individual self-mastery in early childhood and elementary education. Waldorf schools see the young and growing child as fully integrated into a class of peers all receiving similar age appropriate educational experiences.
Monadnock Waldorf School regularly attracts students from our local Montessori schools.
Please read the following for more information: “A Look at Waldorf and Montessori Education in the Early Childhood Programs” by Barbara Shell.

11. How do Waldorf graduates do after graduation?

Ask a college professor that question, and you will hear that Waldorf graduates are prepared to meet a multicultural, multifaceted world with enthusiasm and have the ability to make a positive impact in any field they choose for themselves. Self-confident and creative, Waldorf graduates benefit from a base of interdisciplinary knowledge from which they may pursue any passion in any direction. They are enthusiastically involved in their education, and eagerly partake of the challenges that meet them in the world today, well-equipped with creative thinking and problem solving capacities.

Waldorf students have been accepted in and graduated from the full spectrum of colleges and universities including Stanford, Dartmouth, University of New Hampshire, Harvard, Yale, and Brown. Waldorf graduates reflect a wide diversity of professions and occupations including medicine, law, science, engineering, computer technology, the arts, social science, government, and teaching at all levels.
According to a recent study of Waldorf graduates:
• 94% attended college or university
• 47% chose humanities or arts as a major
• 42% chose sciences or math as a major
• 89% are highly satisfied in choice of occupation
• 91% are active in lifelong education
• 92% placed a high value on critical thinking
• 90% highly value tolerance of other viewpoints. 

For more information about Waldorf graduates, refer to the whywaldorfworks.org articles:
• “Life After Waldorf High School” by Abraham Enten
• “Standing Out Without Standing Alone: Profile of Waldorf Graduates” by Douglas Gerwin/David Mitchell.