What is a Waldorf education?
Founded on the writings of philosopher, educator, and biodynamic farming pioneer Rudolf Steiner, the Waldorf curriculum is specifically designed around the natural stages of a child’s social, emotional, and intellectual development. Providing a core curriculum integrated with the arts, students learn by doing and hone their observation and recording skills vastly increasing their retention levels. Students create their own textbooks illustrating them with maps, experiments, diagrams, creative writing, and research. They draw their own conclusions through a process of discovery rather than rote memorization, following the trail of information from their own observations rather than just reading about them in a book. At the heart of the Waldorf curriculum is the recognition of how much children change year to year. The nine-year-old in 4th grade has a different outlook, different needs, different questions, different modes of expression than a six-year-old in 1st grade; material presented is attuned to the age group. Learning is absorbed by the child’s being and students emerge with a quiet self-confidence well prepared to meet the challenges ahead.
What makes Four Winds School unique?
Four Winds is the only Waldorf School in the western suburbs of Chicago. From Parent/Child classes through 8th grade, Four Winds serves students and parents providing both with an educational and social community invested in child development. Focusing on the development of the academic and creative, students receive a well-rounded education covering math & science, geography, history, fine arts, foreign languages, and music engaging our students’ minds, hearts, and imaginations. The campus is located on 5 acres of wooded and open land allowing for plenty of room to study the natural world and play.
What is Anthroposophy?
Anthroposophy is the foundational philosophy of a Waldorf education. It is the name Rudolf Steiner gave to his theories of human consciousness, drawn from anthropology, philosophy, science, and various religions, essentially creating his own form of spirituality. While it is the foundation, Waldorf rules prohibit teaching anthroposophy in the classroom. Waldorf schools prize independent, creative thought and teachers are careful not to push their own philosophies. Steiner himself wrote, ‘We must never be tempted to implement sectarian ideas. We must not chain children’s minds to finished concepts, but give them concepts capable of further growth and expansion.’
Are Waldorf Schools art schools?
Waldorf Schools offer a classical education providing core academics integrated with the arts. Education research continues to bear out findings that the inclusion of the arts increases aptitude and creative thinking in traditionally hard, logical areas such as math and science. Additionally, involvement in the arts has been shown to positively affect emotional development and enhance social skills.
How are students assessed?
The curriculum is presented in ‘blocks’ where a particular topic of study is covered over a period of several weeks. At the end of a block, the material covered is reviewed by the teacher and lesson books are sent home allowing parents to view work being done in the classroom. Twice a year, at Parent/Teacher conferences, the lead teacher provides feedback as to how a student is managing socially and academically, highlighting strengths and areas of challenge. At year-end, parents are provided a written report compiled of input from the student’s lead teacher and subject teachers.
How do students perform on standardized tests?
Standardized testing is not an accurate or complete reflection of a student’s wisdom, knowledge, mental flexibility or ability to learn. Our curriculum does not focus on testing and it is only in the middle school years when our students write the IOWA test in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. While a standardized test provides a snapshot, Frederick Kelly, the professor who invented the multiple-choice test 100 years ago, described his invention as a ‘test of lower order thinking for the lower orders.’ Standardized tests continue to be used today not because they work but because it’s an easy and efficient way to keep students moving through the system. The project work our students do is a much better indicator of their capabilities.
How is technology integrated into the curriculum?
For very specific developmental reasons, computers and digital technology are not part of the school curriculum at Four Winds. Given that computers have become part of our daily lives, students learn computer skills at home and are equally familiar with technology as children outside of Four Winds.
Who are your faculty?
The lead teachers at Four Winds have a least a Bachelor’s degree and additional Waldorf teacher training. Lead teachers stay with their students from 1st to 8th grade allowing them to develop a deep understanding of each student’s unique qualities. This close bond increases the teacher’s ability to guide and support each student through the curriculum.
How do your students transition into high school?
Many of our graduates start their 1st year of high school in at least 2 Advanced Placement classes if not 3 or 4. Because Waldorf students have learnt through a process of discovery rather than rote memorization, their retention of material is high. Their self-confidence equips them to meet the challenges of increased homework loads and frequent testing. It has been reported back to us that teachers enjoy having Waldorf grads in their classes because of the beautiful work they produce and their ability to think independently instead relying on the conclusions of others. As James Shipman, a history professor at Martin Academy noted, Waldorf graduates can ‘converse intelligently on almost any issue because they have been taught to examine….It is apparent to me the Waldorf School consciously turns out calm, centered, and confident students.’ Nationwide, 94% of Waldorf grads go on to college.