Great Lakes Waldorf Institute is affiliated with AWSNA (Association of Waldorf Schools of North America) as a Candidate for Full Member, so the certificate is recognized by Waldorf schools worldwide.

The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) is the organization which fulfills this function in the United States.

The best overall statement on what is unique about Waldorf education is to be found in the stated goals of the schooling: “to produce individuals who are able, in and of themselves, to impart meaning to their lives”. The aim of Waldorf schooling is to educate the whole child, “head, heart, and hands”. The curriculum is as broad as time will allow, and balances academics subjects with artistic and practical activities.

Waldorf teachers are dedicated to creating a genuine love of learning within each child. By freely using arts and activities in the service of teaching academics, an internal motivation to learn is developed in the students; they learn through their thinking, feeling and willing. Most Waldorf schools only introduce testing and grading in the upper grades when students are preparing to move on into a more traditional classroom.

Some distinctive features of Waldorf education include the following:

  • Academics are de-emphasized in the early years of schooling. There is no academic content in the Waldorf kindergarten experience (although there is a good deal of cultivation of pre-academic skills). The letters are introduced artistically in first grade. The children learning to read from their own writing in grades 2 or 3.
  • During the primary school years (grades 1-8) the students have a class (or “morning lesson”) teacher who stays with the same class for (ideally) the first eight years of their schooling.
  • Certain activities, which are often considered “frills” in traditional schools, are central in Waldorf schools: art, movement, handwork, music, cooking, gardening, and foreign languages (usually two in primary grades), to name a few. All children learn to play the recorder and to knit. There are no “textbooks” as such in the first through fifth grades.
  • All children have “main lesson books”, which are workbooks (journals) which they create, with the teacher’s guidance, for each lesson block. They essentially produce their own “textbooks” which record their experiences and provide a record of what they’ve learned.
  • Upper grades use textbooks (usually only in math) to supplement their main lesson work. Upper grades also write research papers, finding their own source materials.
  • Learning in a Waldorf school is a non-competitive activity. There are no grades given at the primary level; the teacher writes a detailed evaluation of the child at the end of each school year.
  • The use of electronic media, particularly television, by young children is strongly discouraged in Waldorf schools. Social interaction and discovery through play (imaginative exploration) are strongly encouraged.