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Eugene Waldorf School

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Waldorf education, in brief?

There are many essential elements of a Waldorf education, but at its heart, Waldorf schools provide the right learning experience at the right time. This approach works because it addresses the whole child—in feeling and thinking, in social needs and creative impulses, and in physically being in the world and in one's own body. Waldorf education meets the needs of each individual through a challenging and multi-sensory environment.


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Will my child be prepared academically upon graduation?

Yes.  Overall, Waldorf graduates find themselves ahead of their peers initially in the areas of history, creative writing, public speaking, visual arts, music, movement and social skills. As with any change, there may be a period of social or academic adjustment, though. It can take a few months for a child to adapt to the greater use of textbooks and to taking standardized tests. But more importantly, Waldorf graduates bring with them an unusual passion for learning; a respect for other people, cultures, and points of view; and a desire to make a meaningful difference in the world.


High school teachers in our area regularly report that our graduates raise the level of participation and interest in a class, that they are naturally curious and respectful, and that they know how to use their many talents to advance the common goals of the group.


In classrooms full of light and life, traditional academic subjects are taught through developmentally appropriate methods that serve the intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual development simultaneously.  Everything we do teaches children to be engaged, compassionate, and interested in the world.  


A sampling of academic subjects in grades seven and eight:  

  • Composition and literature
  • Mathematics, geometry and algebra
  • Economics
  • Cultural and world geography
  • History: Renaissance, European and U.S.
  • Physics, mechanics, chemistry, physiology, nutrition, meteorology, and anatomy

Special subjects:  

  • Movement, games, and eurythmy
  • Drawing, painting, handwork, and woodworking
  • Music, strings (violin, viola, and cello for grades 4-8)


Preparation for life includes the development of the well-rounded person. Waldorf education has as its ideal, a person who is knowledgeable about the world, human history and culture, who has many varied practical and artistic abilities, who feels a deep reverence for and communion with the natural world, and who can act with initiative and in freedom in the face of economic and political pressures.


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When and how do you teach reading?

Our goal is to develop in every student a love for the written and spoken word, as well as a depth of comprehension and critical thinking. Thus, the ability to simply de-code words on a page at an early age is not our primary focus. Waldorf preschool and kindergarten teachers recognize that reading must be grounded in a rich field of oral learning and meaning, and they carefully lay the foundations for early literacy through storytelling, singing and movement games. This minimizes failure and boredom, and is continued into Grade One where writing is first introduced. From writing, reading follows naturally. By Grade Eight when they are transitioning into high school, our students often surpass their mainstream peers in comprehension and engagement–certainly the two aspects of reading most difficult to teach!


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Why do Waldorf schools recommend limiting screen time for young children?

A central aim of Waldorf education is to stimulate the healthy development of the child's own imagination which is widely recognized as the foundation for truly intelligent thinking. Waldorf teachers are concerned that electronic media hamper the development of the child's imagination, eye development, and social and emotional intelligence. They are concerned about media on the developing child, as well as the content of much of the programming. Waldorf schools honor and protect the wonder of childhood. Every effort is expended to make Waldorf schools a safe, secure and nurturing environment for the children, and to protect their childhood from harmful influences from the broader society. 


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Will my family and my child fit in at the Eugene Waldorf School?

Each independent Waldorf school around the world reflects the local community within which the school operates. Here in Eugene, we enjoy an eclectic convergence of involved parents. For example, we have farmers, information technology professionals, business owners, homemakers, educators, firefighters, artists and an array of mainstream medical professionals and alternative healers. Additionally, our community enjoys a diversity of cultures and economic backgrounds.


A powerful common thread among EWS parents is a deep commitment to supporting a healthy childhood. Our parents share the desire to let children be children. Parents at our school have an opportunity to develop a network that not only supports shared values of Waldorf, but can continue as lifelong friendships. 


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Is there financial assistance available?

Yes. This is an education that fosters healthy social development and community building. For children and parents, this is a remarkable place to study, live, learn and grow. Our robust tuition assistance program, which helps 35-50% of our families annually, ensures that our community is made up of a diverse economic background.  See the tuition page for more information.


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Is there a spiritual aspect to the education?

Yes and as a nonsectarian school, we respect and support all individuals' spiritual beliefs and practices. The Eugene Waldorf School actively welcomes students, faculty and staff of all faiths and creeds. Values such as respect for self and others, universal to all religious and spiritual traditions, are upheld in the classrooms. While not "religious," Waldorf education does have an integral spiritual component. The human being is viewed as spiritual, intellectual, physical and emotional in nature.


The celebration of festivals, whether school-wide or within a given class, is a centerpiece of the Waldorf curriculum. Drawing primarily, but not exclusively, on Christian traditions, we celebrate our common humanity, not our separateness in belief or practice. In their studies of history and civilizations, students cover a broad gamut of traditions, beginning in early childhood with an immersion in nature and the changing seasons, followed by study in grades one through eight of Christian and non-Christian saints and fables, the Jewish tradition and the Old Testament, Buddhism, Islam, Norse and Native American mythology and atheism. Spiritual leaders of many cultures are studied through the history of world civilizations. 


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What should I know about the teachers?

Waldorf develops exceptional teachers because the system itself nurtures and supports the growth of our teachers' abilities. Within the conscientiously formed curriculum they have ultimate say in how they bring each subject. The creative license enjoyed by the teachers helps to bring out the truth, beauty and wonder inherent in the curriculum.


Anthroposophy is the philosophical and pedagogical perspective founded by Rudolf Steiner that informs Waldorf education and gives energy, enthusiasm and courage to the work of our teachers. The Eugene Waldorf School encourages its teachers to engage in study and self-reflective practice. Their internal self-awareness, and external and active participation in the world are essential to Waldorf education; which equips them with the intuition and perceptiveness to fulfill the school’s mission and goals.  They become experts in their capacity for learning, teaching and fostering caring relationships. 


Because the teachers enjoy a strong sense of collegiality at EWS, they feel bonded with and committed to the school and the students. Their creativity, intellect and enthusiasm for their work translate into an exceptionally enriching experience for the students.


The empowerment of teachers that is inherent to Waldorf education has been thoughtfully recognized elsewhere as a crucial component of a successful education. For example, in Finland, where students have been ranked #1 by the Program for International Student Assessment, teachers are treated as entrepreneurs and are given control over textbook selection and lesson plan development, customizing the education to shape the individual students that are before them.


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Why do families choose private school?

Although the economic side of our school is tuition based, the Eugene Waldorf School is grounded in a community-oriented, independent school culture more so than what could be considered an exclusive, private school culture.  Key areas where Waldorf schools differ from public Waldorf charter schools are school structure, administration and spirituality.


As a self-governing organization, the Eugene Waldorf School sets educational standards independently, in a manner that is consistent with Waldorf philosophy. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf pedagogy, believed that educational institutions should function independently from governmental influences in society so that the competing interests of the state would not compromise the best interests of the students. EWS is not subject to the majority of state education policies and directives, including standardized testing. 


At Waldorf schools, a group of faculty and staff members known as the College of Teachers hires and evaluates teachers and develops school policies. Teachers, the ones who have the greatest contact with the children, make the decisions that impact the classroom.


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What if there is a personality conflict between a teacher and a child?

Although this is a common question raised by parents, in practice it is rarely a problem.

Because teachers stay with students in grades one through eight, the teachers are highly motivated to resolve conflicts, improve relationships and promote their students’ advancement. They will be together long enough to make finding meaningful solutions practical and desirable. Certainly, there is also a subtle lesson inherent in this process for the student—that healthy, meaningful relationships involve effort and attention. The child finds stability and continuing guidance in a relationship built over time. 

If a mother in a family does not get along with her son during a certain time, she does not consider resigning or replacing him with another child. Rather, she looks at the situation and sees what can be done to improve the relationship. In other words, the adult assumes responsibility and tries to change. This same approach is expected of the Waldorf teacher in a difficult situation. In almost every case he/she must ask him/herself: "How can I change so that the relationship becomes more positive?" One cannot expect this of the child. With the goodwill and active support of the parents, the teacher concerned can make the necessary changes and restore the relationship to a healthy and productive state.

Problems between teachers and children, and between teachers and parents, can and do arise. When this happens, the College of Teachers studies the situation, involves the teacher and parents—and if appropriate, the child—and tries to resolve the conflict.


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Who founded Waldorf Education and what is it based on?

Waldorf education draws insight into the growing child from anthroposophy—the philosophy and pedagogical perspective founded by Rudolf Steiner. This perspective on childhood development is unique and imminently practical. 


Rudolf Steiner developed a way of thinking that he applied to different aspects of what it means to be human. Throughout his prolific and illustrious life, Steiner advocated a form of ethical individualism that he hoped would blossom into a new global culture. He planted seeds in disciplines as diverse as agriculture, medicine, social and political activism, artistic expression, scientific research, architecture, care of the dying, economics, entrepreneurial activity, community building, and philosophy. There are an estimated 10,000 endeavors working with Steiner’s ideas worldwide.


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What is eurythmy?

Eurythmy is the art of movement that attempts to make visible the tone and feeling of music and speech. Eurythmy helps to develop concentration, spatial awareness, self-discipline and a sense of beauty. This training of moving artistically with a group stimulates sensitivity to the other, as well as individual mastery. Eurythmy lessons follow the themes of the curriculum. A few of the themes explored are rhyme, meter, story and geometric forms.}


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How is Waldorf different from Montessori and Reggio Emelia?

All three of these philosophies believe in teaching children in a manner that is developmentally appropriate, and in a way that is tactile, experiential and intellectual. Beyond these shared beliefs, there are significant differences among these educational approaches.


For example, the role of imaginative play in early childhood is noticeably different between Waldorf and Montessori. Waldorf philosophy views imaginative play in early childhood as an integral part of the development of the child’s brain, forming the neurological pathways for creative problem solving later on in school and in life. The Waldorf approach sees children as naturally and instinctively drawn to these activities in order to provide themselves with this vital foundation. Children are permitted to allow their imaginations to explore toys and materials in a variety of ways. The Montessori approach, however, encourages children to remain in the “real world” using the materials for their intended or designated purpose.

The role of the teacher is also distinctly different among these educational philosophies. Both Montessori and Reggio Emilia encourage children to exercise significant self-direction in the classroom, choosing for themselves which activities to do, when, and to what extent. Teachers are viewed as facilitators, rather than instructors.

By contrast, in the Waldorf tradition, teachers guide the children through the rhythm of the day, serving as role models and respected leaders who provide a fundamental structure within which the children learn. There are periods for coming together as a group and periods for individual work. There are times for teacher-directed activities and times for independent, creative expression and play. Waldorf philosophy also recognizes that children, and human beings generally, naturally gravitate toward areas where they feel most comfortable. Accordingly, the Waldorf teacher’s role is to encourage the children to grow beyond their “comfort zone” and develop competency in areas they find more challenging and would therefore not choose for themselves. The ultimate goal is twofold. One is to turn out balanced individuals who have an appreciation for all things. Yet, an equally important and far more subtle lesson for the child lies in realizing that great things can be accomplished when you dedicate yourself to the task and give it honest effort. When we learn to challenge ourselves, our lives become more fulfilling. 


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