These are the most commonly asked questions, but please feel free to ask if you don’t find your answer here. To learn more about the whole Waldorf experience, it may also help to read the FAQs for Early Childhood. Thanks to our friends at Cedarwood Waldorf School for letting us adapt this FAQ for our school.
We want each family to find the best school fit for their children, and we welcome questions!
The Waldorf grade school curriculum is rich and intricately coordinated with an understanding of the developing child
What is a Block Schedule?
Each topic in the curriculum for a particular grade is taught in a three week block. This way of teaching provides a continuity and depth to each of the developmentally appropriate topics. Of course, some subjects, such as math and language arts are taught throughout the year with further deepening in certain blocks. For an overview of the grades curriculum, please read more at the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America site.
What is a typical day like for a grade student?
Our school day starts with a two hour long class called “Main Lesson”. Within that time period there are a variety of activities that have been carefully prepared by the class teacher. There can be singing, recitation, moving all the desks to one side to make a circle to practice math facts with movement or preparing for a class presentation for our weekly all school assembly. The majority of the time is spent working with material related to the topic that the class is studying for that particular 3 week block. The teacher could be sharing about the various classification of rocks in a geology block, drawing the structure of a quartz crystal on the board and then the students could draw this picture in their Main Lesson books and write about types of crystal structures. The topics and complexity change as the students move through the grades.
Are there recesses?
After Main Lesson there is a snack and then an outdoor recess. Then there are two classroom periods of 40 minutes each then lunch and another outdoor recess. After lunch recess there are two more periods of classroom time. The first and second graders have outdoor play for the last period of the day. Friday is a bit different as we have a school assembly and the school day is over at 1:15 for early release
What about snacks and lunch?
Snacks and lunch are brought from home. The 7th and 8th graders have lunch fundraisers throughout the year that are publicized in the school newsletter.
What is your class size?
Our grade classes have an average of 20 students.
How well do students adapt to transferring into your school?
Of course this depends upon the student but in general the transition is easy and students feel at home very quickly. There are adjustments to make depending upon the grade level. For example, we teach Spanish beginning in first grade, strings in fourth grade and band (or strings) beginning in 6th grade. Students blossom with our arts-infused academic teaching and become life-long learners.
How do your students navigate education after attending a Waldorf elementary school?
Most of the students graduating from our 8th grade attend a local public high school and do quite well. In general they are characterized by their interest in learning, persistence, broad academic foundation, artistic skill and curiosity. College admission personnel are well acquainted with students that have attended Waldorf Schools and value their thoughtfulness, creativity and devotion to learning.
What are the specialty classes at your school?
We have specialist teachers in Spanish, Physical Education, Gardening, Handwork, Strings (starting in 4th grade). Band (starting in 6th grade), Woodworking (starting in 5th grade) and Choir (starting in 5th grade).
The school and classroom environments are intentionally developed to support our curriculum and various stages of child development.
Why is there no media or technology used in the classrooms, and why do you want us to limit their use at home?
Our teachers excel in presenting the academic and artistic grades curriculum in an imaginative way that speaks to each form of intelligence. This individualized attention is not possible when interacting with a screen of any type. We also place a high value on social development and research shows that the use of screens by children hampers their social abilities and their perception of human social cues.
The foundation of healthy childhood development is movement! There is a particular type of immobility that we all recognize in children or adults who are interacting with their mobile devices or screens. Trading media time for activity that supports physical and neurological development builds a firm foundation for life. We also feel that we are educating children for a future we do not know. Absorbing commercial images for a story inhibits their own ability to form an inner picture, and this ability is a key aspect of the creative thinking they will need to navigate their life. Learning today’s operating system and developing good “mouse skills” won’t have relevance to the technology they will use when they are older. There is plenty of time for media and technology later—it won’t be disappearing anytime soon!
A computer can’t replace personal interaction, good teaching, and a rigorous, balanced curriculum.
Articles Regarding Media
Why do Waldorf classrooms have similar décor and chalkboards?
Each school and even each teacher will bring variations but we strive for simple, beautiful and colorful classrooms for our grade students. When you come on a tour or attend an Open House you can see the shift that takes place from First through Eighth grade. The decorations, materials and current classwork on the chalkboard change with the developmental stage of the students and what they are studying. The chalkboards and chalkboard drawings are a beautiful and unique aspect of our teaching style. We are looking for the right balance in surroundings that support creativity, concentration and exploration for each grade level.
Why do the paintings look that way?
We feel that artistic work is an intrinsic part of a balanced education, and watercolor painting is a regular and well-loved activity in our classrooms. The technique is interesting: Wet watercolor paper is laid onto a painting board, and the children sit quietly with a brush and an assortment of primary colors and freely paint. Starting in the Preschool and Kindergarten, children learn to clean their brushes in between colors, and the mixing occurs on the paper itself. This style of painting focuses on the colors themselves rather than trying make a particular shape and is very satisfying for the children. With variations and technique development this style of painting continues through the grade-level classes. As the students progress they also learn various drawing techniques and mediums. Perspective drawing, portraiture, charcoal and pastels form an intrinsic part of their academic learning.
How does Whatcom Hills Waldorf School provide safety and security?
We have safety and security protocols for many aspects of school life, and these are periodically reviewed and updated. Physical security centers on our policies for access to the building, child drop-off and pick-up, and fire, health and general safety. We also have policies and procedures around emotional safety, abuse and communication within our school community.
Since 1919, our curriculum has met the developmental, social and academic needs of children and our progressive approach to Waldorf education continues to build on those strengths.
Where can I read about the curriculum in more detail?
There are many books on Waldorf Education and you can also explore the website of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America
Do your teachers teach emotional or social intelligence?
This question has arisen more frequently after the publication of the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman in 1995. Although popular awareness of this “skill” has permeated many aspects of our culture, it has been a focus within our style of education since 1919. Our teachers strive to present class material in a variety of ways to reach different learning styles. Whether they are inside a classroom or outside on the playground, our students learn, play, eat and create together. In addition to a strong academic foundation, the development of social skills, resilience, and empathy are seen as the fruits of our educational methods. The teachers carefully model social interactions, skillfully redirect activities, and guide transitions to create a socially harmonious classroom.
Why do you use words like “wonder,” “reverence,” “gesture” and “impulse”?
These words can sound like jargon, but they are frequently used in Waldorf teacher training programs and continuing education sessions in an attempt to describe basic aspects of our style of teaching. Our sensitive and individualized approach to each child strives to preserve the wonder that is a hallmark of a child when exploring the world. We aim at a feeling of reverence or gratitude in everyday tasks and experiences that strengthens focus on and attention to details. The gestures of the teachers create the mood of the classroom. We instinctively perceive the difference between closing a door abruptly with a noise or slowly drawing it to a close and turning to face the children with a smile. Careful gestures create a feeling of safety and warmth for the young child. The word impulse describes the inner orientation of a teacher; it is what lies behind his or her work. Our teachers strive to bring the impulses of love, warmth and acceptance to their work as educators.
Are there opportunities for parents to learn more?
When your child is a student at our school, there are frequent parent evenings where your teacher will present a certain topic that pertains especially to students of that age group, and there will be time for questions and discussions.Your teacher can also recommend books and articles to answer your questions and deepen your knowledge. We also hope you will participate in schoolwide parent education opportunities, such as lectures, art classes and festivals that enrich your understanding as a parent and strengthen your connection to the school community. As your child progresses through the school, there are many opportunities to get involved with committees and festival life.
There are more than 1000 Waldorf schools worldwide which share a common educational philosophy: to educate the whole child…Head, Heart and Hands.
What is the history of Waldorf schools?
In the social and economic difficulties after World War I in Europe, many people were working to rebuild the fabric of life in a positive way. In 1919, Emil Molt, director of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Factory, asked Rudolf Steiner to help him create a school that would educate the children of the workers in his factory. This first school was for grade students in Stuttgart, Germany. Schools based on this method and curriculum quickly grew around the world. Now there are over 1,000 Waldorf Schools in more than 60 countries. Of course each school adapts to the local culture but they share the curriculum progression and teaching methods. Our school is fully accredited by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA).
What is Anthroposophy?
It is a philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner. He was of German-Austrian origin and lived from 1861 to 1925. In his time, he was considered a respected scientist and philosopher. His lectures ranged from agriculture, education, art, religion, medicine and science. Waldorf education is one of the best-known practical endeavors based on his ideas. The study of Anthroposophy is part of all Waldorf teacher training programs but is not taught in Waldorf schools.