|Shepherd Valley Core Values and Beliefs
Educating the Spirit – Learning Infused with Purpose and Meaning
- Waldorf Education is based on insights into the nature of the human being and human/child development drawn from the work of Rudolf Steiner, founder of the first Waldorf School and of Anthroposophy, a path of self knowledge and inquiry into Spirit.
- We see ourselves as participating in a purposeful world infused with meaning that transcends the purely physical. We also see all humans – children and adults – as infused with purpose and meaning that transcends the purely physical. As educators and parents our work is to actively participate in and contribute to that greater purpose that is our children’s birthright.
- We honor spiritual traditions from around the world and strive to introduce the children to them in an atmosphere of respect and appreciation for diversity. Although we do not support or promote any particular sectarian view or religious creed, we endeavor to honor and protect what is essentially human, nurturing the soul and spirit.
- Key to the “Waldorf Method” is the ongoing self-education and spiritual self-development of the teacher as a learning, growing human being. It is through ongoing striving in this way that the teacher learns to set him/herself aside and be “present,” listening with the heart to what the children themselves are bringing and to what they need. To the extent that we succeed in this, we create the true Waldorf curriculum afresh in each moment for each child.
Education of the Whole Child
- We believe that education must address the whole human being – head, heart and hands – in a balanced way. By meeting the developmental needs of the child in all three dimensions of thinking, feeling and willing, we can best prepare them with the full range of skills and capacities needed for a meaningful life.
- The content, rhythm and methods of our curriculum are geared to the developmental timetables of childhood, recognizing that the child’s emerging consciousness and learning modalities change over time in relation to thinking, feeling and willing.
- We believe that education must also be based on an understanding of the human being and child development from a four-fold perspective of the bodily nature: the material physical body; the mechanisms of life and metabolic processes; the processes of feeling and sense-perception; and the spiritual foundation for consciousness and sense of self, or ego.
Our Focus on Child Development
- We provide an education that is developmentally appropriate, based on an understanding of the stages of a child’s physical, emotional and intellectual development.
- We believe that young children should be afforded a nurturing environment that protects and shelters childhood, allowing children to grow at their own pace. Waldorf Early Childhood education surrounds children with a “mantle of warmth,” incorporating rhythm, truth, beauty and harmony in the child’s environment in ways that support the child’s healthy development.
- We believe that healthy life processes are founded on rhythm and repetition: waking and sleeping, in breath and out breath, activity and rest.
- Rhythm and repetition support development of the will and strengthen imagination. Waldorf education works in harmony with these rhythms – providing for routines repeated daily, weekly and yearly that build good habits. Our educational practices alternate periods for learning, forgetting and remembering, and periods of intense focus and of rest.
- Healthy social development is especially dependent on fostering strong personal connections. Waldorf teachers aim to connect deeply with their students, with the Class Teacher ideally remaining with the same students from First to Eighth Grade. This deep connection also supports a basic need of children for genuine authority and appropriate boundaries.
A Rich Curriculum that Meets the Child
- In keeping with our focus on child development and on the whole child, we believe that it is important for our curriculum to offer a rich balance of academics, art, music, drama, handwork and movement – a curriculum that is lively and current, with both a local and global focus.
- Recognizing the developmental needs of the young child, our early childhood curriculum also focuses on the environment: providing a physical space that is beautiful and engaging yet not over-stimulating; and providing a social environment that contains adults and adult activities worthy of imitation.
- We see education as an art of awakening what is already present within the human being, and making meaningful connections between the subject content and the human being. As a result we are committed to teaching with the understanding that all subjects are interconnected. We see the curriculum as a meaningful whole, not as a collection of fragmented subjects.
- Our methodology recognizes the importance of analysis, going from the whole to the parts, as well as (the more common) synthesis, going from the parts to the whole. We strive to apply this methodology, which encourages flexibility of thinking, in the presentation of all subjects.
- We aim to promote an environment of love, devotion and enthusiasm for work in which children strive for academic excellence.
- With respect to conduct, we wish to promote an environment of mutual respect and support through discipline that aims to awaken and educate rather than punish. Our goal is to balance between form and freedom in such a way that moral values are internalized rather than imposed.
- We view the role of the class teacher, who ideally stays with the same class from first through eighth grade, as extremely important in providing continuity and integration across subject areas and grades, and as a constant guiding presence in the students’ social and moral development.
The Importance of Character
- We believe that education is about much more than acquiring facts and skills. It is also about developing strong character and a solid ethical and moral foundation for life.
- Our education aims to develop intelligent, imaginative, self-confident and caring individuals who are capable of clear, free thinking; whose insightful feeling promotes sound moral judgment; and who can carry their ideals into action grounded in the practical realities of life.
- We believe that on such a foundation, the human spirit can flourish, and individuals can become honest, self-assured stewards of the earth and caretakers of others and of society.
- Our hope is that, with the development of such inner capacities, children will be imbued with a lifelong passion for learning and life, and will be at peace with life, themselves and others.
A Focus on Creativity and the Arts
- Our curriculum and our teaching methods strengthen the imagination and foster creativity in our students: creativity in artistic expression and creative, free thinking warmed and infused with the passion and will to discover truth, beauty and goodness in the world.
- We believe it is important to focus on the integration of artistic activity with academic instruction at all ages. By fusing artistic and academic instruction we promote more complete learning, thorough retention and engender a deep love in the students for their subjects.
- We strive to inspire our students with an appreciation for beauty and a desire to create beauty. Art, music and movement are all modalities for making deep connections with subject content and expressing what students are learning.
Valuing Community and Diversity
- One of our primary aims (and of Waldorf education) is to join in the continual work of creating and renewing community. We foster an atmosphere in which adults, parents and teachers, work collaboratively in freedom to create a community centered on and surrounding the school.
- We foster a community environment in which rich cultural, religious and ethnic diversity is valued.
- We cultivate an appreciation of individual gifts and differences.
- In support of our collaborative work we will strive to understand and apply the laws and principles at work in the three spheres of community life: our interdependent economic relations; the realm of mutual agreements and rights; and the sphere of individual creativity and free initiative.
- We recognize the importance of ongoing adult education in the fundamental principles of Waldorf Education so that our collaborative work in community is informed by common understanding.
- In order for our curriculum to be successful, it requires support at home. We place great emphasis on parent education into Waldorf principles and methods, and into ways parents can contribute to our educational goals by the choices they make in the home environment.
- We support our community in pursuing lifestyle alternatives while leaving them free to make their own choices.
- We appreciate the foundation that others have laid for our community’s growth and prosperity, and we in turn intend that the school be a good citizen and neighbor, acting with honor and integrity in all of its dealings.
Reverence for the Earth and for all Living Things
- We honor and celebrate life and the interconnectedness of all living things.
- We aim to cultivate in our students a sense of wonder and reverence toward the natural world, experiencing the wisdom of nature as a guiding force.
- In celebrating the passage of time through seasonal festivals, we connect children with one another and with the earth, fostering an appreciation for life, the natural environment, our human cultures and the cosmos.
- Our aim is to foster in our students a deep value of environmental stewardship.