This list is gleaned from our decades of meeting with new families. These are the most commonly asked questions, but please feel free to ask if you don’t find your answer here. You might also be interested in reading the FAQ for Grade Classes. Thanks to our friends at Cedarwood Waldorf School for allowing us to modify for our use.
We want each family to find the best school fit for their children, and we welcome questions!
The school and classroom environment is intentionally developed to support our curriculum and various stages of human development.
Why do the toys and dolls look they way they do?
There are special qualities we look for when furnishing a classroom. The simple toys and dolls are handmade from natural materials and can be used in different ways. The dolls are soft and do not have a fixed expression on their faces, which allows a child more freedom in their play—sometimes it is a crying baby and sometimes a playful little brother. Simple, sanded pieces of wood in various sizes can turn into a castle, rocket ship or the walls of a house. Classrooms have small kitchens, crafting areas, lofts and plenty of room that can serve as space for creative play.
Why do the classrooms have similar décor and imagery?
Everything in our classrooms is chosen to create a feeling of security, warmth and simplicity. Of course, each school and each classroom will have variations but often there will be a picture of a Madonna to bring an iconic image of parent and child, there will be seasonal decorations made by the teacher or children on a “nature table” and sometimes depictions of gnomes or fairy tales. These images reinforce the stories and activities of our preschools and kindergartens that strive to protect this unique time of childhood. We are looking for the right balance between surroundings that support creativity, concentration and exploration while avoiding overstimulation.
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. They 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 into the grade-level classes.
Why is there no media or technology used in the classrooms, and why do you want us to limit their use at home?
In our early childhood classes we focus on the development of social capacities and feel this is best served by warm human interaction. Preschool- and kindergarten-age children learn easily through imitating the adults around them, and our teachers are intentional in their activities, voice and attitudes during the school day. This individualized attention is not possible when interacting with a screen of any type. 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!
How does the 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.
If my child is in a play-based program, will they fall “behind”?
We see the central tasks of early childhood education as encouraging healthy physical, neurological, social and personal development. The play and creative activities build strong foundations in all these areas, which facilitates ease in academic learning. Our understanding of child development is in tune with current educational research that supports delaying academic focus until grade school. Our experience is that our students have excellent academic preparation when they graduate from eighth grade but also have social, artistic and personal strengths that set them apart from their peers who have been educated in high-pressure mainstream schools.
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 preserves the wonder that is a hallmark of the young 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.
Do your teachers teach emotional or social intelligence?
This question has arisen more frequently in the past 10 years 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. Within our classrooms, children work, play, eat and create together, and the development of social skills and empathy is 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 the kindergarten teachers seem to be always singing to the children?
Many times they ARE actually singing as they use songs to redirect attention, signal transitions in activities, begin and end certain tasks, and sing seasonal songs with the students while in circle time. At other times, teachers use what is sometimes perceived as a “sing-song” voice to gently bring attention to a task or activity and keep the atmosphere and the “tone” in the classroom gentle, inviting and positive. Our teachers have intensive training in clarity of speech and articulation as children in this age group learn primarily through imitation.
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 kindergartens?
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, and did not include a kindergarten program. There were some early attempts at providing early childhood education, but finally, in 1926, the school had the necessary funds and space to welcome kindergarten students. The program revolved around practical activities worthy of imitation, artistic work, storytelling and creative free play indoors and out—just like Waldorf kindergartens now.
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.