Review: This book is not a “how-to” manual for Waldorf education, but more of a book meant to answer the question, “Why?” It was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted a book that would explain to me what a Waldorf education was and why someone would choose that for their child. Before reading this book all I knew was the kids were fairly old when they learned to read (7 or 8) and that kids had the same teacher from first through eighth grade.
What I learned from this book is that in a Waldorf school the main goal is to help the children become balanced individuals. Therefore instead of just focusing on academic skills, a child is encouraged to be a well-rounded, compassionate individual. The arts are highly valued and integrated into all subject areas. Children are led to understand their own humanity and to feel a sense of civic responsibility.
All children are encouraged to pursue all areas of study, not just the ones at which they excel, so for example, even someone who is not necessarily musically or athletically gifted would have experience playing an instrument and a sport when they left a Waldorf school. It is not a religious school exactly, but it is a spiritual school in a sense, and the stories of all religions are taught.
One aspect of the Waldorf education which I really liked is that there is a heavy emphasis on learning through stories, which seems highly effective to me and is something I hope to remember when trying to make an impression on my children. An example they use is a story about a King (K) using a cat (C) to perform some of his duties to illustrate that both K and C can make the same sound.
Another example they give is using “Naughty Nim” to teach the letter N. A boy leaning against a tree is used to depict the shape of “N” and a story is told about him being louder than the king. This leads kids to remember that when a K and N are next to each other, the N is the sound you hear.
The notation and symbols used for division can be taught with a story about Count Divide who tells the king: “Go to my division house and put your bag of jewels inside the house so they are safe. Then leave me a note on the door to tell me how many guests are coming. And I will put the answer on the roof of my house so you will be able to see it from the castle. (pg. 69)” It’s all very clever.
I think the author makes a valid point that it takes a few more minutes to teach this way, but at the same time makes the lesson so much more memorable and interesting.
Overall, from all that I’ve learned about the different types of educational institutions, I think this is the one I would choose for myself if I got to go back to my childhood and do it all again. It’s too bad there aren’t Waldorf schools anywhere near where I live, but I’m glad my child’s Montessori preschool teacher says she likes to incorporate a Waldorf philosophy into her teaching. (Personal Rating: 8/10)