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Is Waldorf education similar to Montessori?

Both approaches to education were established around the same time (early 1900s) and they shared a common objective: to design a curriculum that was developmentally appropriate to the child and that addressed the child's need to learn in a tactile as well as an intellectual way. However, Waldorf and Montessori education meet their objectives in very different ways.


For early childhood programs in a Montessori school, children have access to a variety of tasks (referred to as work) and they may move about from task to task independently in response to their their own curiosity and interests. When they feel ready for snack, they may move to a space and have their snack and then continue on to another station. The activities in a Montessori classroom were designed by Maria Montessori with a specific academic purpose. Although a school might have "Montessori" in their name, they can vary greatly from school to school.


For early childhood programs in a Waldorf school, play is the work of children and emphasis is placed on creative and imaginative play. Children collaborate and play together. They have access to open ended materials  such as play silks and cloths, blocks, pieces of wood, stands, cups and bowls. With these items, they immerse themselves in their imaginations. Snack time is a communal affair - they participate in kneading the dough for rolls, chopping vegetables for soup and then they share a meal together.  Waldorf schools are also committed to the development of the whole child: mind, body, spirit. This objective is often referred to as "Head. Heart. Hands." In order to be called a "Waldorf" school, the school must be accredited by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA).

What programs do you offer?

Potomac Crescent Waldorf School is pleased to offer Parent-Child Classes (Acorn, Sprout, Seedling), Pre-K, Mixed-Age Kindergarten, and elementary education through 5th Grade.

Is the school a religious school?

We are not affiliated with any church or religious organization. We are nonsectarian and non-denominational. We serve families from a variety of backgrounds, religions and belief systems. Part of the Waldorf curriculum in the elementary grades seeks to bring about recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions.

When do Waldorf schools introduce reading?

Some visitors to our school are surprised to hear that students are introduced to reading in the 1st Grade in Waldorf schools since other schools start to encourage reading in kindergarten  - and sometimes as early as preschool with exposure to the alphabet.

Our goal is to foster passionate readers who continue reading for pleasure throughout their lifetimes. To that end, we introduce reading in a developmentally appropriate way, when students are more comfortable with the written word and fully ready to engage with it.

Waldorf teachers begin teaching reading in the first couple months of first grade by teaching consonants and vowel names and sounds through an artistic approach of drawing, painting, movement, and speech. This artistic, deliberate process engages the children with great interest, and by the end of first grade, children are writing and reading sentences and short texts. Students typically begin reading printed readers with their teacher during the second half of second grade. This thorough and artistic approach to teaching literacy has been proven to build a solid base for advanced comprehension and vocabulary skills in later years. (AWSNA)

What kinds of snacks does your school provide?

Our school places as emphasis on wholesome, nutritious foods that nourish young bodies. Our early childhood classrooms follow a weekly rhythm so that young children can anticipate the each new day. Children participate in preparing the snacks by kneading the dough for rolls, cutting the vegetables for soup. If there is a special celebration in class, such as a birthday, students may help prepare a special treat. Here is an example of our snack schedule:

Pre-K: Homemade wheat rolls. Oats (either oatmeal or apple oat crisp). Vegetable soup.

Kindergarten: Rice w/soy sauce, sunflower seeds and carrots. Oak cakes and celery, cornbread and apples, vegetable soup and millet, homemade wheat rolls and apples.

Elementary Grades:  Students bring their own snack and lunch from home. 

Is PCWS an art school?

Although the hallways and classrooms are filled with amazing artwork, Waldorf schools are not art schools. The curriculum offers a classical education in all academic disciplines that fully integrates the arts into its teaching methodology. Why? Because research continues to show that the inclusion of the arts in academia increases aptitude and creative thinking in areas such as math and science, and has a positive effect on emotional development as well. Our students will explore painting, form drawing, beeswax/clay modeling, handwork (knitting/crocheting), and music (singing, flute and strings).

What is your policy on immunizations?

Potomac Crescent Waldorf School is licensed as a child day center through the Virginia Department of Education and as a private elementary school through the City of Alexandria. We follow all state and local requirements for student registration and immunization, including reporting vaccination status to the state,  opening student records to health department review, and excluding students from school if they do not comply with requirements or if there is an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease against which they are not immunized.


The State of Virginia requires that all children enrolled in school must be vaccinated in accordance with the CDC guidelines for their age. These guidelines include the following vaccinations: Diptheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTaP), Haemophilus Influenzae Type b (Hib), Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, & Rubella (MMR), Pneumococcal (PCV), Polio, and Varicella (Chickenpox). There is a requirement related to the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV) which is not applicable at our school due to the age of our students. The State of Virginia allows medical and religious exemptions to vaccination, when appropriate documentation is provided, but does not allow philosophical exemptions. Exact requirements by age and further information from the Virginia Department of Health can be found here.  

How do Waldorf students transition to other schools?

Any child transitioning to another school will experience a period of adjustment. Students who graduate from our school are well-equipped to continue their education in another learning environment. Many families continue on with Waldorf education and some families transition into other private schools or into a public middle school. Our school works closely with the families and the class teachers to facilitate the process and ensure a smooth transition. PCWS graduates are accepted at a variety of wonderful schools in the DC area and beyond, including the Washington Waldorf School, Alexandria Country Day School, Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Commonwealth Academy, Edmund Burke School, Emerson Waldorf School, Field School, Georgetown Day School, Maret School, McLean School, River Farm Cooperative School, and St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School. 

How do children transition from a play-based kindergarten experience to the first grade classroom?

We believe that kindergarten can prepare children for first grade, without making kindergarten the new first grade. While in many schools, the switch from preschool to kindergarten is a big transition for children, in a Waldorf school, kindergarten is a part of the early childhood experience, and first grade is when formal academic learning begins. However, we do our best to have this shift be a gentle one for our students. Though it may not always look it to the outside view, the activities of kindergarten--from outdoor play, to clapping games and songs, to sewing projects--are carefully chosen to prepare children for later academic work. Additionally, first grade includes plenty of time for play and exploration, along with hands-on learning of academic content. Finally, our first grade readiness process, which includes teacher observations, meetings with parents, and activities with children, allows us to look carefully at each child and make recommendations for how we can best serve them as they transition from early childhood to the elementary grades. Please note that at PCWS, as at most Waldorf schools, children are considered to be eligible for first grade if they will turn 6 by June 1st.

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