About Our Inspiration, Waldorf Education
Clover Hill is inspired by the philosophy of Waldorf education. Developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, Waldorf education is based on a profound understanding of human development that addresses the needs of the growing child. Waldorf teachers strive to transform education into an art that educates the whole child-the heart and the hands, as well as the head.
With more than 900 Waldorf schools and 1,600 Waldorf early childhood programs on five continents, Waldorf education is truly global-not only in its scope, but also in its approach. Wherever it is found, the Waldorf curriculum cultivates within its students a deep appreciation for cultural traditions from around the world while all the while being deeply rooted in its local culture and context.
The Waldorf curriculum is designed to balance academics with the arts and practical activities, engaging the intellect in a gradual, deliberate way. Waldorf educators are cautious about developing abstract intellectual concepts too soon in a child's life. This approach offers children the time they need to unfold in a balanced way, so that when they are introduced to more intellectual concepts, they take them up with interest and enthusiasm.
In the pre-school years (ages three through six), the children learn primarily through imaginative play and their inherent ability to imitate all that surrounds them. Early childhood teachers bring the children age-appropriate activities in an atmosphere of beauty, warmth and harmony. This experience nourishes the senses and fosters healthy physical development. Simple materials from nature provide the stimulus for creative play, which develops a foundation for imagination, concentration, coordination, language and number skills.
The elementary school years that define the second phase of childhood (ages seven to fourteen) call upon the child's increased capacity for memory, his vivid imagination and his ability to be guided by the authority of a teacher. Upon entering the first grade in a Waldorf school, the child and family meet the class teacher, who will guide their educational journey. This class teacher draws upon materials from many sources to provide "main lesson" instruction for all the major academic areas. During the daily morning main lessons, the students and their teacher immerse themselves in the study of a specific subject for two hours. Subjects are explored during cycles of main lessons blocks lasting three to four weeks. These blocks provide the context in which the traditional academic skills are taught and refined. As students progress through the school, main lesson subjects are returned to at increasingly complex levels of study. For example, the study of botany in fifth grade is deepened with the study of organic chemistry in eighth grade.
Students in the elementary grades record their main lesson experiences in main lesson books filled with compositions, diagrams, illustrations and observations. Out of this activity, the learning truly becomes their own. Academic concepts arise from personal experiences, both artistic and practical, fostering an understanding of the subjects in depth. Following the morning main lesson, students pursue a number of specialty subjects throughout the day, including two foreign languages, art, music, movement, physical education and handwork. In the upper grades, this work expands to include skills classes for literature, writing, mathematics, orchestra, gardening and handcrafts such as woodwork, pottery and metal forging.
Waldorf Early Childhood Education
A Waldorf Nursery and Kindergarten offer rich opportunities for play-based learning, allowing young ones to flourish in their childhood. In the pre-school years, children learn primarily through play, free movement and the innate ability to imitate all that surrounds them. Waldorf Early Childhood teachers work with this natural impulse of childhood, making use of it to lay a strong foundation for intellectual development in the elementary school years and beyond.
Today's scientific research continues to support what Waldorf Education has shown for many years: young children who are given opportunities to learn through play, cultivate imagination and hone their concentration, coordination, language acquisition and number skills. All of this is done in the warm, cheerful atmosphere of a Waldorf classroom, which offers simple, hand-made toys and play materials from nature. In a Waldorf Kindergarten you will find sturdy wooden toys and furniture, rather than plastic items. You will find silk play cloths and woolen dolls, rather than polyester. You will find creative play stands, forts and kitchen sets, rather than computers.
The best kind of activities for kindergarten children are those that allow them to engage, on a child's level, in the work of adults. In the Waldorf kindergarten, children are offered the possibility of participating in the traditional activities that might take place in a home: cooking and baking, cleaning and washing, sewing and ironing, gardening and building.
These activities create a feeling of well-being and a sense of security in the child through the consistent, rhythmic nature in which they are done.
They help a child become grounded in the realities of life because their activities are real, purposeful and filled with meaning.
First grade readiness in a Waldorf school: Waldorf kindergartens prepare children for the academic challenges of elementary school by engaging children through meaningful life activities, by cultivating the arts, and by stimulating creativity and fantasy through imaginative play. Waldorf kindergarten teachers do not place premature academic demands on their students. Rather, they allow the children's intellectual faculties to unfold naturally so that by the time children enter the elementary grades, they are ready and eager to experience new forms of learning.
A more complete description of the ideas behind Waldorf Early Childhood education can be found in "Rhythms of Learning," by Roberto Trostli, Anthroposophical Press, 1998.
You can also visit: www.waldorfearlychildhood.org for more information.