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Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  512 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Written by a teacher with more than 25 years of experience, this book offers a jargon-free view of Waldorf education and its philosophy of the importance of a three-dimensional education. Whether you're a Waldorf parent or teacher, or you just want to learn more about these innovative educational concepts, this book contains important ideas on learning that you can apply t ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published September 1st 2002 by Gryphon House Inc.
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Dec 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
A good introduction to Waldorf method for the skeptical but curious newcomer. If you have already read a lot of other books on the topic I'm sure that the material in this work is nothing new to you. But if you're like me and are interested in Waldorf but spooked by some of the weird anthroposophist stuff, this book is a great distillation of strictly the educational principles associated with Steiner. The author does a good job tying the advantages of Waldorf into contemporary mainstream educat ...more
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
I wanted a basic primer of Waldorf theory/practice, and in hindsight, I suppose that's what I got, but the style and organization of this book felt scattered to the point of distraction to me. The content began suddenly and ended suddenly, without any helpful direction from the author. I felt tossed into pretty theories about truth and beauty and heart-warming examples of clever teaching methods without first being given an overview of basics or any history or any reference to things I was alrea ...more
Angie Libert
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book is more of an appeal for parents to send their kids to a Waldorf school, than a book about the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner. The author actually only quoted Steiner twice throughout the whole book. Most of his quotes came from Jane Healy and Howard Gardner. I like Jane Healy and Howard Gardner, but you would think it would be more appropriate to quote the founder of the Waldorf schools, than modern professionals.

I guess if I want to hear the philosophical thoughts of a Waldorf educa
May 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
Came across more like a prospectus for a Waldorf school. Did not really address the issue of the actual mechanics of Waldorf education or the philosophy behind it. All very woolly and vague, lots of talk of well rounded and treating the child as a whole but no nitty gritty. The title of the book was Understanding Waldorf Education and this book did very little to help me understand.
Mar 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: education
So I wanted to learn more about Waldorf, and so I got this book from the library and read it. As usual with a book like this, the tone really bothered me: all is so rosy, life so simple, here is the answer. Sometimes I wish I thought like that, but really. I don't. However, all that aside, this book made me think about teaching differently, especially with my high school students, and Waldorf-style education does sound pretty awesome (if I was interested in private school), especially for elemen ...more
Oct 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: homeschooling
I read this as part of my quest to learn about various educational philosophies in preparation for homeschooling. I thought it was a very helpful overview of the method and I found a lot of things I like and will try. I only gave it 3 stars because,after reading the book, I learned that there is a whole spiritual side of the Waldorf philosophy (anthroposophism) that this author did not address, most likely because it can be rather controversial. So I thought it was grossly incomplete in that sen ...more
Lindsay Evermore
Jul 25, 2010 rated it liked it
This was a decent overview of Waldorf education, but it didn't provide me with an understanding of the "why's" and "how's" of the Waldorf approach. I think it would best serve as a handbook for parents of children attending Waldorf schools, not parents homeschooling or looking to introduce Waldorf concepts in the home. ...more
Janette Drost
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: parenting
Found this dull, but this is a good takeaway: if you give a child a reward (sticker, prize) for completing an activity, they will lose interest much sooner than if they do it without reward, just for the pleasure of it.
Hannah Noel
Jan 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good place to start learning about Waldorf education. Decent overviews of education during each stage of childhood: Preschool, grade school and high school. Now I want to know more.
Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: homeschooling
This was an excellent book!! I'm definitely going to implement some of the characteristics of a Waldorf education into our home! ...more
Jenn Raley
Nov 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: family
As a Waldorf parent, I think this book is a solid introduction to Waldorf education. I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone interested in an overview of the Waldorf approach.

Where this book disappoints, however, is in the surprising lack of voices of Waldorf educators. Granted that Jack Petrash taught Waldorf for many years, his external references are almost entirely non-Waldorf (and almost all white men, I note).

Given the 100 years of history of Waldorf education, and the increasing di
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a good overview for someone who has not read anything about Waldorf. I chose this book as an introduction to the topic, and it served that purpose well. If you already know a lot about the method, then this would likely be a waste of your time.
Shelley Rose
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
This gives a very general overview of Waldorf education. I was hoping that this would be more of an in-depth guide into Waldorf methodologies, but it was mostly a lot of fluff and the tone was a bit much.
Juan Gómez
Good read to understand the Waldorf Methodology

Good enough book to learn on the foundational principles of Waldorf education. Definitely worth reading if you are interested in a Waldorf school for your children and are looking into a more in depth understanding of the system.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a waldorf education parent and soon to be homeschooler, I found this book refreshing, insightful, and full of anecdotes and verses to use with my children.
Steve Bender
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An explanation of Steiner education. Pretty thorough in an easy going way, mostly for parents. Interesting read.
Feb 07, 2021 rated it liked it
Helpful overview of the Waldorf system, as well as what to expect from prek-high school.
Charlotte Wanberg
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I appreciated the way Petrash assimilated the principles of Waldorf education as put forth by Steiner and then showed an example of a Waldorf lesson that applied that principle. It was easily organized into grade levels so you can decide how much depth you want to go into for each age. I thought it was an good introduction. I personally would have liked to have more of everything more understanding of Steiner's philosophies, more examples of lessons and the application of those ideas. ...more
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wish I'd read this book years ago, when I first learned of the Waldorf approach. It's the first time I've felt like Waldorf at home is truly manageable. This is an informative AND inspirational read. I want to hand it to every homeschooler I know. Reading this helped revitalize my journey as a homeschooling parent. ...more
Sep 18, 2012 rated it liked it

Written by a Waldorf educator, this is a good introduction to the basic philosophies of a Waldorf school system.

Some of Petrash's main points that stuck with me are:

Waldorf curriculum exposes students to a wide range of subjects and encourages them to develop in a well-balanced way... it helps children overcome gender stereotypes.

It prepares students for life, not just for university or a future job. Waldorf schools emphasize that it's important to help children think for themselves and problem
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt this was a pretty decent overview of the Waldorf education philosophy. It gave me good in site into how the school are run, how this type of education effects the minds of children and what is expected of the teachers.

I love the idea of a three-dimensional education for children. One that appeals to the "head, heart, and hands" as the book puts. I think Petrash is right on the money when he says modern education is failing because it treats students as empty vessels waiting to be filled r
Dec 08, 2011 rated it liked it
After reading this book, I have a great desire to see a Waldorf Education in action.

I loved the philosophy behind the education.

Teaching the whole child. Focusing on stories and myths to teach. Seeing education as three-fold: Hand, Heart, and Mind. The person who pioneered this type of education understood that children learn in stages.

I realize that usually only the very wealthy can afford this type of education...but if teachers were more aware of these methods, I believe a lot of good could
Megan Jacobsmeyer
Sep 17, 2015 rated it liked it
This gave me a good basic overview, however I give it three stars because he glorifies a good teacher as being one who goes to school sick, shows up early and stays late, works on the weekend and to me that's not a good teacher. A good teacher is present, connected and balanced. It's not good practice for anyone to work that much without having a balance. That actually does not embody the rest of the philosophy I read to understand in my opinion. I wish there was more about what the Waldorf scho ...more
Oct 14, 2015 rated it liked it
I started reading this book to give me an idea of this educational philosophy and I have to say, it definitely sparked my interest in learning more about it. Plus, it really made me think twice about public education and how, although we are taught good methods are used, my eyes are starting to be open to how there are much better methods being used or that can be used. The two downfalls I had with this book are the lack of focus on the spiritual aspect of this method and I really, really wish t ...more
Aug 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: prospective Waldorf parents
Recommended to Adrienne by: San Francisco Waldorf School
A clear, concise primer. I'm sending my daughter to the San Francisco Waldorf School this year and I was given this book by the school. Since some of their teaching methods are quite different than those my own public school experience, it's nice to read the rationale behind their methodology in a format that's not too filled with Steiner jargon. He brings in plenty of references from contemporary education reform (such as Parker Palmer, a personal favorite) as well as interesting quotes from pe ...more
Sep 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a great book with lots of brilliant ideas on education. My only criticism was that I was wishing it was more Waldorf-specific. Some of the great education ideas that the book discusses are used in Waldorf schools but are also used/talked about by non-Waldorf educators. This book seems to be written more to non-Waldorf communities about what education in general should include. I guess I was hoping for more specifics on Waldorf schools themselves. That being said, there are a lot of bril ...more
Tibby (she/her)
I found this to be an informative introduction to the Waldorf method. It gave basic principles of the education and their application without getting too bogged down in pedagogy and theory. I did find myself wishing it had a little more history of the method, but it was so informative in so many other respects I didn't mind.
While Petrash touches on spirituality, he stays far away from any of the out-there ideas on astrology that the Waldorf method is associated with. I'm not sure if he never re
Jun 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Essential reading for any parent considering a Waldorf school or looking for alternatives to typical private and public offerings (or interested bystanders like me). Petrash is a longtime Waldorf teacher and provides a good, readable survey of the philosophy as well as specific examples of how it works in the classroom. The only thing missing is a more thorough discussion and response to criticisms of the Waldorf method.
May 31, 2009 rated it liked it
It's interesting to read about and understand the theories of Waldorf education, but this book was a little too watered down for my taste. On the plus side, this book is written from an entirely personal perspective (the author is a Waldorf educator) and he provided a lot of examples that he saw in his own classroom. I wished it would have given a bit more theory and background information about the development of Waldorf. ...more
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book was too small to go into any kind of depth on Waldorf education, and was perhaps ambitious in its scope (surely not the fault of the book, but the author). However, I do want to say that the use of examples was well done, particularly the segment on how children are taught their letters and reading, a topic I have long wondered about. The book overall wasn't too pertinent to my goals at this time though, which has surely colored my views on it. ...more
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