This is a report from one who has been teaching for 46 years, albeit in a college. As the proud grandfather of a first grader at Shepherd Valley Waldorf School, I sat in on her “Main Lesson” class in April. Cristina Drews, her teacher, welcomed me, introduced me to the class and, then, appropriately, turned her full attention to the work at hand. Except that it did not feel like work; it felt like inspired play, the kind of play in which the most valuable learning occurs. Her rapport with her 15 or so students was remarkable, even enviable. She had – for more than an hour, mind you – the complete attention of every child in the room. The lesson was mostly mathematics, but never of the memorize-by-drilling kind that I remember all too well. It was teaching at a very high level. Having visited two first grade classes attended by my grandsons in the New York City public schools, classrooms in which there were nearly twice as many kids and in which the straying of attention was obvious, I cannot imagine that a child could have it much better than what I experienced in the Shepherd Valley room. May Shepherd Valley thrive.
David Sofield, Williston Professor of English, Amherst College
"My child and his childhood are honored at Shepherd Valley. The scope and developmental appropriateness of the curriculum and the education is comprehensive. It has been extraordinary to watch each of our children become engrossed by the material presented and soar with it. The academics are supported and ignited by the stories, the class plays, the magic and wonder of the festivals, the comfort of the rhythm of the year, the music, the eurythmy, the handwork and the performances - all of it works together!"
Shepherd Valley Waldorf School parent of two currently enrolled children and one alumni
"We feel that Waldorf education and Shepherd Valley provide our children with a curriculum that meets them on an emotional, social, and spiritual level that other education systems and schools we explored did not. Not only are they receiving a really rich academic education, they are learning to be positive, productive, active, growing human beings in the world. Our children are learning to love learning, and there is no better gift we could give them - it will serve them for the rest of their lives! We appreciate the opportunity for our sons to have a spiritual education without it being denominational or didactic - they are encouraged to wonder in awe at the mystery of life, but they are left free to choose their own path."
Shepherd Valley Waldorf School parent of three children
“We chose Shepherd Valley because it resonated with us on a deep level. Our children are allowed to be children there - they are not hurried and their needs are perfectly met. They love to go to school every day! The teachers truly know my child – they know our family and they help us understand our children better. The community of parents and teachers offers such tremendous support and inspiration to me as a parent. Waldorf is a way of life – our children are thriving there and our family is stronger because of it.”
Shepherd Valley Waldorf School parent of three Kindergarten children
"There is no task of greater importance than to give our children the very best preparation for the demands of an ominous future, a preparation that aims at the methodical cultivation of their spiritual and their moral gifts. As long as the exemplary work of the Waldorf School Movement continues to spread its influence as it has done over the past decades, we can all look forward with hope. I am sure that Rudolf Steiner's work for children must be considered a central contribution to the twentieth century and I feel it deserves the support of all freedom-loving thinking people."
Bruno Walter, Composer and Conductor
"The importance of storytelling, of the natural rhythms of daily life, of the evolutionary changes in the child, of art as the necessary underpinning of learning, and of the aesthetic environment as a whole--all basic to Waldorf education for the past 70 years--are being 'discovered' and verified by researchers unconnected to the Waldorf movement."
Paul Bayers, Professor Columbia Teachers' College
"If you've had the experience of binding a book, knitting a sock, playing a recorder, then you feel that you can build a rocket ship-or learn a software program you've never touched. It's not bravado, just a quiet confidence. There is nothing you can't do. Why couldn't you? Why couldn't anybody?"
Peter Nitze, Waldorf and Harvard graduate, and Director of an aerospace company
"Waldorf students are encouraged to live with self-assurance, a reverence for life and a sense of service."
Ernest Boyer, President, Carnegie Institute for the Advancement of Teaching, Former U.S. Commissioner of Education
"Pushing skills before children are biologically ready sets them up to fail."
M. Baker, M.D. - Executive Director - Gesell Institute of Human Development
"Waldorf education draws out the best of qualities in young people. While this is not an instant process, the values they learn provide a lifelong platform from which to grow."
Gilbert Grosvenor, President Emeritus of the National Geographic Society
"Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire."
William Butler Yeats
"Flexible, agile fingers in childhood lead to mobile, creative thinking in adult life."
Alstan L. Hegg
"Waldorf education places the development of the individual child in the focal point, convinced that the healthy individual is a prerequisite for a healthy society."
The International Conference on Education of the United Nations Educational and Scientific Cultural Organization
When approached by the news media and asked the question, "What did Waldorf education do for you?," Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg replied, "It encouraged me to always strive to become a better human being."
"Waldorf education addresses the child as no other education does. Learning, whether in chemistry, mathematics, history or geography, is imbued with life and so with joy, which is the only true basis for later study. The textures and colors of nature, the accomplishments and struggles of humankind fill the Waldorf students' imaginations and the pages of their beautiful books. Education grows into a union with life that serves them for decades.
By the time they reach us at the college and university level, these students are grounded broadly and deeply and have a remarkable enthusiasm for learning. Such students possess the eye of the discoverer, and the compassionate heart of the reformer which, when joined to a task, can change the planet."
Arthur Zajonc, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Physics, Amherst College
"I think that it is not exaggerated to say that no other educational system in the world gives such a central role to the arts as the Waldorf School Movement. There is not a subject taught that does not have an artistic aspect. Even mathematics is presented in an artistic fashion and related via dance, movement or drawing to the child as a whole. Steiner's system of education is built on the premise that art is an integral part of human endeavors. He gives it back its true role. Anything that can be done to further his revolutionary educational ideals will be of the greatest importance."
"American schools are having a crisis in values. Half the children fail according to standard measures and the other half wonder why they are learning what they do. As is appropriate to life in a democracy, there are a handful of alternatives. Among the alternatives, the Waldorf school represents a chance for every child to grow and learn according to the most natural rhythms of life. For the early school child, this means a non-competitive, non-combative environment in which the wonders of science and literature fill the day without causing anxiety and confusion. For the older child, it offers a curriculum that addresses the question of why they are learning. I have sent two of my children to Waldorf schools and they have been wonderfully well served."
Raymond McDermott, Ph.D., Professor of Education and Anthropology, Stanford University
"Programs such as Montessori and the Waldorf Schools offer small classes, individualized instruction, and flexible, child-centered curricula which can accommodate the child and do not demand that the child do all of the accommodating . . . Rudolf Steiner was troubled by the overly academic emphasis of schools; he felt that the aesthetic side of children was being overlooked and that this should be developed along with the intellectual powers. Waldorf schools emphasize creativity in all aspects of children's work. The same teacher may stay with the same group of children for as many as eight grades. In so doing the teacher has to grow and learn with the children."
From Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk
"Many teachers have discovered that music can also be a powerful means of integrating other aspects of the curriculum. By tapping into the experiential and expressive aspects of music, teachers can add a distinctive dimension to instruction in other subjects. This insight has been used to develop interesting and productive pedagogical models like the Waldorf schools in Europe and the United States. In the Waldorf schools, for example, the goal is the education of the whole human being by paying attention to the needs of the human spirit. The arts particularly are used as part of a theory of human development that helps children find nonverbal modes of expression and understanding."
From Growing Up Complete: The Imperative for Music Education,
"Ideal for the child and society in the best of times, Rudolf Steiner's brilliant process of education is critically needed and profoundly relevant now at this time of childhood crisis and educational breakdown. Waldorf education nurtures the intellectual, psychological and spiritual unfolding of the child. The concerned parent and teacher will find a multitude of problems clearly addressed in this practical, artistic approach."
Joseph Chilton Pearce, Author, Magical Child
"I believe that Waldorf education possesses unique educational features that have considerable potential for improving public education in America. Waldorf schools provide a program that not only fosters conventional forms of academic achievement, but also puts a premium on the development of imagination and the refinement of the sensibilities."
Elliot Eisner, Ph.D., Professor of Education and Art, Stanford University;
"If I had a child of school age, I would send him to one of the Waldorf Schools."
Saul Bellow, Nobel Laureate
"I first heard of Waldorf education about five years ago, after having carried out extensive study of the neurological aspects of cognition, movement, and maturation. I was delighted to discover such a neurologically sound curriculum. I heartily support efforts to spread the awareness of Waldorf education and hope that it will spawn not only an increase in Waldorf Schools but an infusion of at least some of the ideas into the mainstream where they are so sorely needed. In Colorado I am working with several districts to incorporate various Waldorf strategies into the teaching of reading and mathematics. The ideas are very well received and very much needed."
Dee Jay Coulter, EdD, Instructor, University of Northern Colorado, Outreach, Educational Consultant