Below are Douglas Gerwin’s five “ics” that explain why Waldorf education is unique and how it makes a difference in the way students learn.
All subjects are taught through the arts, because the arts deepen any experience of any subject. Memorizing the anatomy of the body can only teach you so much; but when students are asked to illustrate a body, they apply facts to a form. Why simply read Hamlet when you can teach Shakespeare by performing the part?
We teach from the whole to the part, and the part in context of the whole. When teachers compartmentalize knowledge–be it through rigidly defined subjects, or by teaching isolated lessons–they keep students from a full understanding of whatever they are studying. By teaching holistically, all subjects inform and enrich each other.
The Waldorf approach seeks to engage the whole person, not just the intellect. The human being isn’t simply a thinking machine; children also have feelings, social capacities, and artistic and practical skills. All of these are nurtured to fully educate the child. Humanistic teaching respects and values the inner life of the growing person.
Waldorf curricula are designed with a focus on human development. Every single decision we make about what, when, and how we teach is derived from a profound understanding of the developmental steps a child goes through as he or she grows up.
We teach from the experience to the concept, from encounter to insight–instead of teaching concepts and applying them abstractly. We teach from the inside out, rather than looking at subjects from the outside in. We teach all subjects in a Waldorf environment as an activity, not as flat information.