“Our highest endeavour must be to develop free human beings, who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives”
Waldorf Education was founded by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Born in Austria, Steiner formally trained as a scientist, and he also studied philosophy. His life was devoted to building up a complete science of the spirit to which he gave the name Anthroposophy, which literally means “human wisdom”. His range of interests was considerable – from the introduction of bio dynamic farming, medicine, social science, to architecture and education. The first Waldorf School was founded in 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany. It served the children of the employees of the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory, lending the name Waldorf to the movement. While each school is self-sufficient and self-governing, all Waldorf Schools share the same philosophy of education. All schools are non-sectarian and values such as respect for self, others, and the world are upheld in the classroom.
Waldorf education is practiced in over 800 schools and 2000 kindergartens world-wide. It is based on the premise that if we can “receive the children in reverence, educate them with love, and let them go forth in freedom”, (Steiner) then the particular individuality of the children can be nurtured, and we create the opportunity for children to develop both strong academic skills and a healthy outlook on life.
The aim of Waldorf education is to educate the whole person, and it is often described as an education of “the head, heart and hands”. We strive to achieve this through working on our understanding of human development. We embrace diversity in an atmosphere of trust and reverence of the individual, the community and the earth.
In the early years, there is a focus on building a feeling of security and encouraging a curiosity for learning in a homelike environment. This sense of security becomes the foundation that will allow children to begin a life-long process of self-motivated learning. We see children as they are at each stage and provide for a child to learn in the way nature intended.
“The Waldorf approach is to a remarkable degree in harmony with recent developments in the cognitive sciences related to how children learn and understand”
Dr Paul DeHart Hurd, Professor Emeritius, Science Education, Stanford University
The Pikler Approach
Dr Emmi Pikler pioneered the practice of interdependent care and attentive observation of babies and young children. She completed her medical studies in 1920 and became well known in Budapest, Hungary as an excellent paediatrician.
The Piklerian view of a child is active and competent, living in peace with himself and his environment. She recognised the competency, creativity and ingenuity of children by watching what they do as they play, socialise and move independently.
After the second world war, Budapest was faced with the challenge of caring for many parentless infants and in 1946, Emmi Pikler initiated the creation of a nursery home. She set out to prove that infants cared for in a home could thrive physically and psychologically by using the approach she had developed in her practice with regular families. The institute grew in reputation, intensifying its research into aspects of this approach.
In 1969 Emmi Pikler published a book, “Peaceful Babies, Contented Mothers”, which gives step by step advice to parents. The Insitute also set up training programmes for overseas students and its influence became worldwide.
As her daughter, Anna Tardos, who continues the work, states: “Nowadays more and more professionals from around the world learn and apply the Pikler educational and developmental concepts. I wonder about the origin of this recent growing interest. Maybe it is driven by the wish to raise a new generation of more peaceful, cheerful and active individuals”