Frequently Asked Questions
Waldorf education is a rich, substantive curriculum set by The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America and interpreted and taught by our teachers at The Waldorf School of Philadelphia. Each element in the Waldorf education curriculum is designed with a multi-sensory approach in mind and a goal to meet the unique child where they are developmentally while nurturing their strengths.
Thanks in part to our smaller class sizes, curriculum can focus on active, experiential and relevant learning. For example, students will often learn fractions by cutting a pizza in equal parts for the number of classmates. This instantly makes fractions something relevant to learn and exciting to learn.
Curriculum includes, but is not limited to, Science, Spanish, Arithmetic, Writing, Reading, History, Social Studies, Gardening, Physical Education, Handwork, Woodwork, Drawing, Painting and Music. Learn More about our substantive curriculum for our Early Childhood, Lower School and Middle School.
Class teachers in Waldorf education stay with the same students for multiple years at a time. This deep relationship with students, parents and extended families helps our rich community thrive and studies show that a student’s relationship with their teacher is an essential function of learning. Keeping the main lesson class teacher as a steady authority in a child’s life is beneficial to social and intellectual learning.
The multi-year teacher model is not the only way to encourage strength-based teaching, classroom respect, or close personal relationships with students. It does, however, make it easier when teachers do not have to re-establish relationships each year with new students.
Not only does this allow the teacher to appreciate a deep understanding of each student’s gifts, but it also allows the establishment of a respectful classroom environment. Learn More.
Homework, like education as a whole, is never a one size fits all endeavor. Waldorf students do not bring home piles of worksheets to complete. The purpose of homework is to build executive function. While homework can present a challenge, accountability, and a training ground for more adult expectations, it should never be an unmanageable burden for our students or their families. What we feel is most important is that homework is not a stressor for our students but a healthy and age-appropriate challenge with plenty of learning opportunities in self-regulation, unsupervised reasoning and planning, task and time management, organization skills and scheduled accountability.
One of the very first homework assignments at The Waldorf School of Philadelphia is a model house building project as part of the 3rd-grade curriculum. Homework however does not usually start until 4th-grade and begins with math and vocabulary at a very manageable level.
As the children mature and build higher executive functioning skills (working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control), new homework projects are layered into the schedule, but the time limits still match up with NEA recommendations of 10 minutes per grade. Eighth graders rarely spend more than an hour and 20 minutes on homework once or twice a week. Learn More.
Many early education experts are recommending a swift return to developmentally appropriate, play-based learning in early childhood. We could not agree more. Learning in Waldorf early childhood is developmentally appropriate for children age 3-6.
Children learn all kinds of imperative skills through play. Self-directed play promotes neural pathway development, hones social skills and peer navigation, advances large and small motor skills and strengthens motor planning and coordination.
This does not mean, however, that teachers only facilitate a play environment. The children think their day is filled with play, but teachers are focused on the children’s developing skills. Read more about our approach to Early Childhood learning here at The True Purpose of Preschool and Unique Aspects of a Waldorf Kindergarten.
Waldorf schools are non-sectarian and non-denominational. Families from a full range of religious and non-religious backgrounds attend The Waldorf School of Philadelphia. The pedagogical method is comprehensive and recognizes and understands all the world cultures and religions.
The Waldorf School of Philadelphia, has a diverse, inclusive and thriving community culture. Day-to-day activities are conducted with a sense of reverence for one’s self, one another, nature and each individual’s relationship to the larger universe. In this way our school is spiritual in the broadest sense of the word, although not aligned with any particular doctrine. A cycle of festivals is celebrated each year and serves as the overt spiritual expression of the school. Those who do not consider themselves to be particularly spiritual respond to these festivals as humanistic celebrations of life. Learn More.
We believe computers are an essential part of 21st century life and work. We also believe they have a distinct role in education. We encourage the practice of media mindfulness, with the understanding that computers are tools to be used to enhance learning and life, but must not displace other activities that are more conducive to learning.
This is why we eschew technology in our early grades. Studies show, that note taking by hand, writing mathematics problems on paper, reading from print books, moving in class, and making art and music all better support brain development when integrated into curriculum.
That said, Waldorf education is not anti-tech. The Waldorf philosophy on technology is based on a developmentally appropriate curriculum. For children under the age of twelve, the focus remains on hands-on, experiential learning of the core subjects of mathematics, sciences, reading, writing and social studies, along with music training, play, outdoor education, cursive handwriting, storytelling, and art. Learn More.
Yes! It is possible to transfer into a Waldorf school and in fact The Waldorf School of Philadelphia has a strong track record for welcoming non-Waldorf students into the grades and early childhood programs. This is because Waldorf Education speaks so directly to the children’s experience and developmental level, students assimilate comparatively quickly when they transition into a Waldorf school.
Parent’s reasons for considering a school switch for their child range from concerns about academic achievement, to their child’s social and emotional well-being, and everything in between. Waldorf schools welcome children of all ages into our warm and nurturing environment in which every student is encouraged to reach their full potential.
The Waldorf School of Philadelphia instills essentials like critical and creative thinking, intrinsic motivation, and a high level of lifelong curiosity all through our highly relevant and hands-on learning environment.
That’s why, upon entering 9th grade, 50% of our graduates attend public magnet schools where the entrance criteria is a test score minimum of 88% in math and language arts. The other 25% of our graduates attend independent school, and 25% attend their local area high school.
As our students enter the wider world, they enter a new phase in their life journey. With a strong foundation in academics and practical skills, these young people are able to move into the world with confidence, and a true appreciation of the joy of learning. The Waldorf School of Philadelphia is proud of all of its graduates. Learn More.
Developing a thriving community of involved and caring parents is key to the success of our students and our school. Community involvement is a central tenet of The Waldorf School of Philadelphia as one of the key goals of Waldorf Education is to help develop creative, thoughtful, socially conscious and engaged citizens. In this regard, our community is active and engaged in our classrooms, festivals, school events,field trips and more.
There are many ways for parents to become involved with the community at Philly Waldorf. Our active Parents Association meets quarterly to support the various functions in the school. Parents also serve on the Board of Trustees, The Board Advisory Council and on a variety of Board Mandated Committees. Learn More.
The Waldorf School of Philadelphia, while not an art school, does use art-based learning as an intensifier for academic learning. As education research continues to bear out, the inclusion of arts increases aptitude and creative thinking in the traditional hard logic areas such as math and science.
This is why, at The Waldorf School of Philadelphia, the visual and performing arts are not compartmentalized lessons presented without any relationship to the rest of the curriculum. Rather they are integrated throughout the curriculum. Learn More.
The fundamental building blocks of reading are part of the earliest school experience, including storytelling, songs, verses and circle games. From there we move to writing. In first grade, a story is developed for each letter, and the children work with the shape of each letter in several mediums. Students typically begin reading printed readers with their teacher during the second half of second grade.
While the timing of the development of reading skills differs from that followed in other schools, it results in a high level of reading comprehension and a deep appreciation of reading. Our goal is to foster passionate readers who continue reading for pleasure throughout their lifetimes. Learn More.