Every once in awhile on one of my homeschooling lists a dear sister in Christ will ask for opinions about Waldorf education. This is a bit of a controversial topic in Waldorf education circles. Christian educators will claim that Waldorf education is compatible with Christianity, whereas secular educators will claim that Waldorf education is not religiously based. But what do we find when we examine the facts? The foundation of Waldorf education – anthroposophy? Here is what I have found in my own explorations of this educational philosophy, this is an expansion upon what I usually send to a questioning sister regarding Waldorf education.
We haven’t been involved in a waldorf school (and the vast majority of the Waldorf educational impulse takes place within schools, although there is a growing homeschooling movement), but I did research the educational methodology before I was saved as a potential for a homeschooling technique. That was when I was a pagan, the Lord saved me a year and a half ago, and now my perspective is very different than it was then, and here it is for what it’s worth :).
Waldorf education is based upon anthroposophy which, while it seems to include some Christ-like elements, is not Christian. The Christ
Presented in anthroposophy is NOT entirely the Christ of the Bible, he’s a different Jesus. That being said, anthroposophy is part of what pointed me to Christ. In fact, if you delve deeper into anthroposophical teachings and interpretations of the Bible, you will find many frightening, and indeed heretical interpretations of the Bible. The most frightening perhaps are some anthroposophical interpretations of the Gospels that claim that there were two Jesus infants, and that the Bible does in fact support the Eastern philosophy of reincarnation.
Anthroposophists do believe in a form of evolution, and believe that our children go through life stages based on the stages of evolution. Some of these teachings include the small infant child going through the stages of various animals, and ‘casting them off’ as they evolve. How does this fit with the biblical teaching that we are CREATED in God’s image? There is also a strong emphasis on nature ‘spirits’, fairies, sylphs etc. which are all presented as being real and actual (again, I can testify from my own experiences that this can plant dangerous seeds in a child’s heart that can later spring into occultism etc.). Jesus is presented as being a sort of abstract ‘light’ bringer, who helps to guide us further in our evolution to Christ consciousness (salvation and being born again have never been presented to my knowledge).
As a result of all these things our family has chosen to no longer be involved in waldorf education or anthroposophy, though we do use some of their lovely crayons, toymaking supplies and arts and crafts materials for the glory of God :). When we became Christians we realized how important it was for all aspects of our lives to center around Christ, particularly in the raising and homeschooling/discipling of our children. Some of the positive aspects of Waldorf education that we have chosen to retain, as they are not anti-Christ or heretical and can be used to glorify God (we can make small dolls to use in acting out family devotions etc.) are: delaying formal education (workbooks etc), focus on play, natural toys (my DH is an excellent wooden toy maker!), natural clothing fibers, singing songs, finger plays, handwork with natural materials etc. which is all very lovely (and also emphasized in Charlotte Mason educational methods). My main caution would be that we do need to look at the root of the teachings (Rudolf Steiner a man who could apparently ‘see’ into the
‘spirit world’). There is also an emphasis on mythology in various grades again, we have chosen not to expose our little ones to pagan mythology no need. I believe that my early childhood exposures to mythology encouraged my eventual turn to full blown witchcraft and paganism (no this won’t happen to everyone, and yes, my family already had a tendency towards the occult, but the Bible does tell us to put things that are TRUE before our eyes, Philippians 4:8).
So in Waldorf education there is a teaching that truth is to be found in many places, I certainly never encountered anything like John 14:6 in my readings, anthroposophists also believe in reincarnation, karma etc. (it is appointed unto man once to live?) and have some very odd ideas/interpretation about the bible (see above).
I definitely am not an expert and don’t know everything there is to know about the topic, but I would be cautious if anyone were interested in exploring it further. Definitely look beyond the Waldorf-y side of things, and take a look at the anthroposophy that Waldorf education is based upon and see if it rings true to you.