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What Is a Waldorf Education?

A Waldorf education allows students to learn through hands-on experiences and the arts, depending upon the stage of development the students are in. Curious about Waldorf schools? Read more in our guide about the history and further definition of a Waldorf education. We also include a list of pros and cons of a Waldorf education so you can determine if a Waldorf Education is right for you or your children! 

First, some history about a Waldorf education 

Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner developed the Waldorf Education educational design. Steiner believed that each human being is made up of three parts: soul, spirit, and body. Each person then goes through three developmental stages before becoming an adult: early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence. 

Steiner visited the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Germany in 1919. During this time, Germany was in the midst of economic and political disarray due to the aftermath of World War I. The owner of the factory asked Steiner to teach at a school for the children of the cigarette factory workers. Steiner agreed, and the Independent Waldorf School was created. Today, there are more than 1,090 Waldorf schools in 64 countries, and 1,857 Waldorf kindergartens in over 70 countries,

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What exactly is a Waldorf education? 

A Waldorf education is a style of education for Pre-K through grade 12 that emphasizes learning through thinking, feeling, and doing. True to Steiner’s beliefs that childhood is made up of three distinct stages, children are educated in slightly different ways depending upon the stage of development they are in. 

Early childhood (birth to age 7) 

Children in early childhood utilize their senses and learn best through mirroring others. Therefore, a Waldorf education emphasizes the nurturing of these children by providing them with a sensory rich environment. A Waldorf education gives students play-based activities that encourage them to explore and expand their imaginations. 

Middle childhood (age 7 to 14)

A Waldorf education curriculum in middle childhood focuses on fairy tales, mythology, and biographies of historical figures because students in in this stage tend to learn best through lessons that highlight their creativity. Therefore, Waldorf teachers integrate factors such as drama, visual arts, and music into their daily lessons in order to bring the subjects to life. 

Adolescence (age 14 to 21) 

Adolescence marks a time in which intellect, judgment, and critical thinking are extremely important. Therefore, a Waldorf education provides students with the opportunity to control their own education by giving them mentors who are specialists in their fields. This allows students to learn about certain careers and accelerate their independent intellectual development. 

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Some unique features of a Waldorf education include the following: 

  • Waldorf teachers stay with the same class over time
  • Waldorf schools introduce different subjects at different times, depending on the developmental stage of the students
  • The curriculum is delivered through different teaching approaches such as through movement, senses, art, and field trips

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What are some pros of a Waldorf education? 

Children get to be children

One of the main pros of a Waldorf education is that children are allowed to play, explore, and live in the moment. They are encouraged to use their imagination, and their creativity is not hindered by the curriculum or their teachers. Waldorf educated children are encouraged to enjoy their childhoods as they learn.

Learning is hands-on

Children in Waldorf schools are able to experience learning through hands-on activities. Rather than taking standardized tests or hovering around a computer, Waldorf children go outside to view the world around them. Waldorf schools introduce the students to real life experiences that align with their development. 

Students learn how to control their own education 

Due to the hands-on learning nature of Waldorf schools, students begin to pick up on their preferred teaching and learning methods as well as their favorite subjects. Therefore, during high school, Waldorf students have the opportunity to be paired with a mentor who are specialists within their field. Waldorf students are able to control what subjects and career paths they want to further explore before college. This allows them to control their own education and provide them with a step closer to their future goals. 

What are some cons of a Waldorf education? 

Lack of technology

Waldorf schools typically will not use technology when teaching younger students. This can be seen as a con and viewed as old fashioned. Waldorf schools will typically introduce technology to their adolescent students, but it will not be the primary method of instruction. Of course, to many, this is actually a pro rather than a con as it can help with attention span and immersion.

Lack of standardized testing

Waldorf schools do not use standardized testing to measure student success. This could be viewed negatively, as  testing is sometimes seen as an important way to test a student’s knowledge and academic progress. However, in high school, ACT and SAT test prep courses may be offered at  Waldorf schools, but not prioritized. 

Also see: Top test-optional colleges and universities


Many Waldorf schools are private, and therefore they come with a hefty price tag. However, financial aid is available to families that qualify. If a family is truly interested in a Waldorf education for their children, they should do their research!

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Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Waldorf schools offer teaching styles catered to student stages of development 
  • A Waldorf education utilizes hands-on activities and outdoor engagement in order to help student’s imagination blossom and generate an inner enthusiasm for learning
  • Waldorf schools integrate the arts throughout their curriculum to help enrich the learning experiences of their students
Key Takeaways

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Frequently asked questions about Waldorf education

Are Waldorf schools religious?

Waldorf schools are non-sectarian and non-denominational. This means they accept students of all religious backgrounds. 

Do Waldorf schools have multiple teachers for the same class?

No, a Waldorf teacher will typically remain with the same class for five to eight years. It allows for the teacher to better assess each student’s needs, learning style, and development. 

How are students graded at Waldorf schools?

Typically, a full assessment of a student’s progress is given at the end of the school year. These assessments detail the students ability in all subject areas and are supported by teacher conferences throughout the year. In high school, GPAs are included in unofficial transcripts to provide to colleges and universities.

Are Waldorf schools art schools?

No, but Waldorf schools integrate art throughout their curriculum. This allows for creativity, but Waldorf schools are not solely art schools.