This post is an excerpt from my newly revised Waldorf Homeschooling – Simplified: Your Toolkit for Grades 1 – 4 . This 72-page guidebook can help you work with the Waldorf approach and bring it to life in your home. Here’s what one homeschooling Mom says, “I am loving your planning guidebook! It has given me the freedom to simplify, to make lessons easy and doable. This never occurred to me.” Read on to hear more about the first Waldorf school and homeschooling.
What We Can Learn from the First Waldorf School
I love reading about the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart that opened in 1919. I feel a kinship with those brave souls who were so devoted to pioneering a new method and model.
I find myself ever curious about what it might have been like to have been one of them, listening to Rudolf Steiner lecture to a small group for three weeks in late August just before the school’s opening!
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- When preparing his teachers (a contradiction in terms really, because none of the first brave souls in the first Waldorf school were “teachers”; they came from all walks of life and varying professions), Steiner stressed five areas of training. This was designed to create the difference – the revolution even – between Steiner education and any other kind.
- Steiner focused on five areas of teacher training that form a 5-pointed star (a pentagram is the five-fold symbol of man, within a circle).
- The top point of the star is the most important – storytelling is at the top. To the right is Eurythmy (Steiner’s very own movement art). Next is speech (an activity Steiner was almost obsessive about in his teacher training). Then comes music (live, created music). Then the visual arts – modeling, painting, and drawing.
- In other lectures, Steiner also talked about the seven lively arts as the foundation of his method, but storytelling was always the most important. So, I call this the “Seven Lively Arts (Plus One).”
- The first teachers prepared in just three weeks’ time, (August 21 – September 5, 1919) by attending three lectures a day. Steiner called it the “Three-Week Pedagogical Course” (although it was just over two weeks long). Here was the schedule:
- 9am: General Pedagogy
- 11:30am: Special Methods
- 3:00-6:00pm: Seminar and Exercises
- These lectures are now published in three volumes and are part of every Waldorf classroom teacher’s training today. The morning lectures are The Foundations of Human Experience. The later morning lectures: Practical Advice to Teachers. And afternoon lectures: Discussions with Teachers. During the first few weeks of the Stuttgart school, Steiner continued to offer lectures and advice for the often struggling teachers.
- The school developed its own curriculum practices over time which have been replicated by many Waldorf schools for decades. Copying the curriculum, however, runs counter to Steiner’s advice, which was that a curriculum is a living being, one that adapts to time and place, and evolves. There is no official Waldorf curriculum. Steiner never actually provided a curriculum but offered comments on education along with examples.
- Here is a list of subjects Steiner wrote on the chalkboard that first day of teacher training. Sparse and simple, and maybe even surprising!
- Fairy tales
- Stories from the animal realm in fables
- Bible stories as part of general history (Old Testament)
- Scenes from ancient history
- Scenes from medieval history
- Scenes from modern history
- Stories of various races and tribes (Indian, Chinese, American)
- Knowledge of the races (peoples of the earth)
If you want to read more about the first Waldorf school, check out The Steiner Café where my homeschooling friend, Alison, and I reflect on Steiner’s lectures to the very first teachers from a homeschooling perspective.
Here’s a good one to start with: The Three Stages of the Waldorf Curriculum.
Want help customizing curriculum for your children? Check out Waldorf Homeschooling Simplified – Your Toolkit for Grades 1 – 8.