We are certainly inspired by Waldorf education in many ways. We also differ in quite a few ways as well. Here's how it breaks down for us.
This is where you will see the majority of the similarities and influences. We have many materials in our school that would be considered to be "Waldorf toys." We use Waldorf dolls, play silks, wooden animals, baskets of tree blocks as well as large and small blocks, beeswax and watercolor paints of the highest, natural mineral quality. The largest focus of our play objects are open-ended, just like they are in Waldorf.
We are like Waldorf in that we value the whole child and see children as an entire being rather than disparate parts. We both have a strong understanding that healthy bodies, healthy psyches and healthy minds cannot be separated. Each influences the other and is a part of a whole system that should be addressed in a holistic manner.
We both understand the importance of healthy, integrated body movements and pay detailed attention to movement in Circle Time. There is great attention spent on creating movement that crosses the midline, integrates right and left hemispheres of the brain, is sequential in nature and has a rich linguistic element as well. We do not jump around haphazardly to a tape recorder playing "Wheels on the Bus," for example.
We both value stories and see their importance in the child's life. We both value oral stories first and then bringing a tangible component of the story to the children next. This way the child has first had the opportunity to create their own images in the mind before being given a picture- preferably in tangible form that they can play with. We then 'people' stories as our last step- where the children become the characters and act out the drama.
We also both value the role nature plays as a teacher to the young child. Nature is an integral part of the curriculum. We also have a strong festival life.
Where we differ:
Our teachers use a 'regular voice' with children at our school rather than exclusively singing. We believe that as we are preparing children for school and the outside world, it is a little more realistic to speak to them and use regular language. We still keep our words gentle and kind and do not overwhelm them with too much information or adult content, however.
We are not influenced by Anthroposophy and the larger works of Rudolf Steiner. We are research/ brain based in our approach, not part of a larger religion or philosophical movement.
We incorporate some puzzles and Montessori materials in a therapeutic manner for those children needing to build up some self-regulation and focusing skills.
We also have a broader acceptance of materials beyond the Waldorf materials. We have some wooden figures with faces, some modern building materials, some painted items, a few plastic items as well, where we feel that they bring a level of innovation not found in simpler wooden forms.
We also give children an opportunity for leadership. It is considered much too young for a child to take a leadership role at the preschool age in Waldorf. We encourage and teach leadership.
These blocks or people with faces would not be found in Waldorf.
We also have a much stronger multi-cultural element in our school and welcome a larger range of experiences at a younger age. Drumming, for example, would not be something brought to the young child, but would need to wait until quite a bit later- junior or high school. We also offer a wider options of foods as we sample foods from different regions of the world. We also read books during story time as well as tell stories with 3D figures. Waldorf does not typically read books during school time to children.