Frequently Asked Questions -
Below are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.
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>> Questions About Academics
Q: What is Waldorf education?
Founded on the writings of philosopher, educator and biodynamic farming pioneer Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf education is based on the view that students develop academically in relation to specific age-related phases of human development.
The Waldorf curriculum is specifically designed to work with students through each phase of intellectual, social and emotional development. Ethical values and engagement with local and global communities are integrated into the student's daily life via their educational experience. In Waldorf education the arts are not separated from academic studies, but rather they are utilized as a core component of the learning process. As an example, students create their own textbooks illustrating them with maps, experiments, diagrams, creative writing, research, and more. Students are taught a core phenomenological approach to study that provides an active, participatory context with which to learn via astute observation and recording skills. Students draw their own conclusions by studying their subjects and following the trail of information from their own observations rather than just reading about them in a book. Students participate in a wide range of interests; they are encouraged to try new things like sports or drama without having to already be masters of the material. This multidimensional approach yields students who are confident, capable and flexible thinkers who are prepared to face the future.
Q: What makes Chicago Waldorf School unique?
Chicago Waldorf School is the only Pre-K through 12th Grade Waldorf school in the Midwest. We have also added a Parent-Child program that is distinctive to Waldorf schools. This program serves both toddlers and parents by providing both an educational and social community invested in child development. Chicago Waldorf School is also affiliated with the Arcturus Teacher Training Program, which on an annual basis brings teacher candidates from all over the country to train with some of our master faculty who are also teachers in the Arcturus program.
Waldorf education focuses on the development of the whole person. It promotes an interdisciplinary approach emphasizing connections – between the student and the world, between the arts and academics, between physical and cognitive development, between history and current events. The humanities, sciences, fine arts, mathematics and logistics, world geography, practical arts, foreign language, performing arts, and self-study are all integrated to provide a truly well rounded education that engages students’ minds, hearts and imaginations. As a distinctive model, it is this synthesizing approach, that enables an actively investigating and engaged individual that creates the confident, participating, self-aware and independent thinkers that are the hallmark characteristics of Waldorf graduates,.
Q: Is Chicago Waldorf School an art school? Do you have to be an artist to attend?
Chicago Waldorf School is not an art school. It is an academic school that fully integrates the arts into its teaching of a unique curriculum that covers and surpasses all standard educational learning goals and benchmarks. Students do not have to be artists to attend. Education research continues to bear out findings that the inclusion of the arts increases aptitude and creative thinking in traditionally “hard, logical and systemic” areas such as math and science. Additionally, positive emotional development and enhanced social skills have been tied to involvement in the arts. All our students participate in classwork this way and are expected to work in a supportive environment of participation and communal learning; there is no structure for any competitive show of superior artistic ability.
Q: How does grading work?
A full assessment of each student’s progress is provided in the form of a year-end evaluation. Each main and special subject teacher provides a narrative assessment and review of the student’s work. In high school, GPAs are included in unofficial transcripts to indicate to colleges and universities a student's academic standing.
Q: How do your students perform on standardized tests?
Standardized testing is not an accurate, or complete reflection of a student’s wisdom, knowledge, mental flexibility, or ability to learn, and thus, our curriculum does not focus on, nor require our students to study standardized test taking preparation. We have found that colleges and universities are more interested in the whole student and what s/he has to offer their academic programs and the quality of their campus life. When interested, our students pursue independent or external preparation for SATs and ACTs, which are coordinated through our college counselors. Our students who have chosen to take advantage of tutoring and SAT/ACT preparation programs have been ably equipped and successful in applying their knowledge, confidence and academic study skills to the process of "learning the test." As evidenced in our alumni profiles and college acceptances list, Waldorf education provides students with diverse, rich, and challenging post-high school options including attending colleges, universities, and educational institutes for continued studies in the academic and professional fields that they choose to explore.
Q: How is technology integrated into the curriculum?
For very specific developmental reasons (see the question below about our media policy) computers and digital technology are not a part of the school curriculum in the early grades, although mechanical technology and the practical arts are incorporated at all levels. In high school, digital technology is integrated into the curriculum. Computers and digital aids are used in the classroom as teaching tools in specific areas, and students utilize computers and digital equipment at home for research and to aid in their schoolwork. As one example, in the Physics curriculum we use computers to track and monitor the photovoltaic power levels collected from our roof's solar panel array and track its output information that feeds the school's power grid.
In the upper grades, students use the Internet in research and experimentation. The high school students also use it to communicate through message boards, social media and email. Multimedia digital presentations are a part of the High School's Senior Projects which include use of audio-visual equipment and use of computer software applications for imaging, authoring, music production, and editing for these visual presentations. The Yearbook and The Chronicle, our high school newspaper, provide other opportunities for students to learn publication processes with digital design, layout and typographic knowledge.
>> Questions About Community
Q: Who are your faculty?
Chicago Waldorf School faculty members bring rich, diverse educational training and life experience to the classroom. In the ideal Waldorf classroom the teacher will "loop" with a class staying with a single cohort of students from 1st through the 8th grade. In this unique structure the teachers get to know the students over a substantial span of time, developing a particular interest in each individual and creating a familiarity and unique understanding of each student's educational, social, and emotional needs. This close bond increases the teacher’s ability to guide and support each student through the curriculum.
In the high school, students interact with multiple subject teachers in the classroom and also as advisors, mentors and club sponsors. These close connections and time-tested relationships between teachers and students are the top items cited in student interviews as a major strength of the school.
Q: What is the school’s stance on diversity?
The Chicago Waldorf School is committed to supporting inclusion and diversity in the academic, social and communal makeup of the schools faculty, staff, parent and student body. We believe that diversity of experience and community strengthens the school as an institution and the individual students’ world perspective.
The Inclusion and Diversity Committee promotes a healthy dialogue in the school community about issues of race, class, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. This committee of parents, faculty and administrative staff are committed to fostering dialogue and supporting cultural issues, festivals, curriculum inclusion and other celebrations of diversity at Chicago Waldorf School. The school itself embraces⎯and is influenced by⎯the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago which is demographically one of the most diverse neighborhoods in an already-diverse city.
>> Questions About Student Life
Q: What extracurricular clubs and programs are available?
Our students have a wide selection of activities from which to choose for after-school sports, clubs and recreational activities. For more information see our Extra Curricular Activities webpage, Athletics Program webpage, and our High School Extracurriculars webpage.
Q: What resources are available to Chicago Waldorf School high school students?
Class advisors provide students with guides for their high school experience, assisting in program navigation and providing a safe place for students to explore their academic and social needs.
An onsite College Counseling staff assists students and their families with the college application process and alternative post-secondary planning beginning in 9th grade and continuing through graduation.
Tutoring is provided for many grades and subjects, with referrals available for private tutoring in specific subjects where requested by the family.
>> Questions About Transitions to "Life After Waldorf"
Q: Where do your students go to college?
Approximately 94% of our students continue their studies in college, university or other post-secondary education programs. Please see our college acceptances profile page for a list of colleges and universities to which our students have recently been accepted. Some of our High School graduates take a gap year (a trend that has been growing in popularity in the U.S. and elsewhere), before enrolling in higher education and use that time for travel, volunteering with international service organizations and other life developing experiences.
Q: What career paths have Waldorf students taken?
The range of career paths for our graduates is as varied as the individual students themselves. Over the years, Waldorf schools have educated some of the world’s foremost leaders, thinkers and creative minds including Kenneth Chenault, former president and CEO of American Express, Kristen Nygaard, a computer scientist whose work is the basis for all modern programming languages, David E. Blackmer, inventor of the DBX noise reduction system and Benjamin Agost, 2006 Olympic silver medalist in ice dancing and 4-time U.S. National Champion. Follow this link to see a large list of notable Waldorf graduates with brief profiles of their chosen professions.
Q: Is there an alumni group?
Our alumni program includes both a student alumni group and a parent alumni group. There is more information on our Alumni Facebook page. Please contact us if you are interested to join these alumni groups.There is also a free e-Newsletter called, The Bulletin, for family and friends of Chicago Waldorf School. Click here to request monthly email announcements/invitations to read the Bulletin or you can visit it now online at chicagowaldorf.org/bulletin. It’s a great way to keep up with school happenings and programs as well as stay connected with your school colleagues and other Waldorf graduates and school supporters.
>> Questions About the Admissions Process
Q: What kinds of students are you looking for?
We are looking for curious, engaged and creative students who want to challenge themselves academically and be a positive force in the world community. We evaluate each student based on on-site or skyped interviews, teacher recommendations, observation of participation during the school visit, previous school reports and evaluations, samples of the student’s best work (in the upper grades), parent interviews and student essays (in the upper grades).
Q: What standardized tests are required?
No standardized testing is required as part of the admissions process at the Chicago Waldorf School (see the question above about our policy on standardized tests). We want to interview and learn about the whole student and who s/he is as an individual, on a personal level. We have found that standardized testing does not provide meaningful or useful information in these areas. Instead our admissions process is structured to create opportunities for comphrensive assessment of the whole individual. We look forward to getting to know the special qualities for every applicant and engage in meaninful dialogue with families of all accepted students to Chicago Waldorf School.
Q: Is attendance at an open house required? Is an interview required?
Attendance at an open house or school tour, a school visit and a student/parent interview are all required as part of our admission process. Please contact the Admissions Office to schedule a visit or attend a tour.
>> Questions About Waldorf Philosophy
Q: What is your media policy?
Waldorf education has long been grounded in the belief that media exposure is counterproductive to the development of imagination and the ability to entertain oneself, especially in the younger grades. While we know that most families have some media as part of the home experience, we encourage families to significantly limit or discontinue exposure to television, movies, video games, computers and other entertainment media. At the very minimum, we expect families to maintain a no-media policy during the school week.
As students get older, media is introduced and included in the school curriculum as an adjunct to the learning process. This includes use of computers for research, training in the use of audio-visual and presentation software, graphics layouts, scientific monitoring of research through web programs and more. The philosophy is rooted in a belief that children need the opportunity to fully develop their social, imaginative, intellectual and creative selves without interference or examples from outside media sources.
Contemporary research in human development and cognition has led to an increasingly accepted wisdom in the education field that supports findings about the negative effects of media-saturation on children, particularly in the preschool and grade school years. Visit our news media page for specific articles addressing media, technology and childhood development.
We acknowledge that this can be a difficult transition, especially if the student has had a lot of media interaction prior to Waldorf school attendance. The school, and the families in our community, support new families making this transition. New students have an easier time acclimating to this policy when they experience it as the status quo expectation of our community and find that all Waldorf families are committed to this ideal of limited media exposure.
Q: What is Anthroposophy? Is it taught to the students?
Anthroposophy is the name Rudolf Steiner gave to his theories about the evolution of human consciousness, drawn from a multiplicity of disciplines including anthropology, philosophy, psychology, science and various religions, particularly Christianity. Combining these with theories from his own research, he essentially created his own brand of spirituality. The philosophical tenets and pedagogical perspective of child development in Anthroposophy underlie the core foundation of Waldorf education.
While many Waldorf teachers are anthroposophists, Waldorf rules specifically prohibit its teaching in the classroom or related school settings. In a school where independent, creative thought is so highly valued, teachers are careful not to push their own philosophies onto students. Steiner himself wrote, “We must never be tempted to implement sectarian ideas. We must not chain children’s minds to finished concepts, but give them concepts capable of further growth and expansion.”