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Update post 111 : Waldorf pros and cons - Page 6

post #101 of 111
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Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
No, at least not in the States. Other movements would need to call themselves something else because Waldorf is an AWSNA trademark. Charter schools (public schools) are not allowed to call themselves "Waldorf" even when the are "Waldorf methods" or "Waldorf inspired." They can't use those terms in any official way.
Perhaps I was not being clear. I meant that within Waldorf there is discussion on the role of tradition and questioning tradition.

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You don't need to use spiritual language to understand that, but U.S. Waldorf teachers do use spiritual language, and they do work out of anthroposophy
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I think what I am trying to say is that while some teachers do use spiritual language, it is not necessary. There are modern scientific terms to describe what Steiner was talking about 80+ years ago. By using modern terminology you are not being 'disloyal' to Waldorf or misrepresenting Waldorf. At least I do not get it like that. I personally would be annoyed if there was a modern way to understand something and someone refused to change their understanding/terminology. For instance, teachers being suspicious of SI, when essentially it supports what they are doing in the classroom. I also do not think it is deceptive to use modern terminology.
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Yes, you can find exceptions, but those exceptions do not do a good job of describing the movement or of helping parents to understand the essence of Waldorf.
I think the essence of Waldorf is going to mean different things to different people. Sometimes quite contradictory things.

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Some Waldorf teacher training programs publish their course list and their reading list on-line and you can see that it really is about doing anthroposophy. Again, you will find a class here and there where they might touch on Piaget and other theories, but they only use them to the extent that they affirm Steiner's indications. Keep in mind that exceptions very often prove that the rule!
I once considered studying to be a Waldorf Teacher and took a look at the reading and ran a mile. Someone else would look at the list and be very happy. I think I have yet to make peace with anthroposophical terms. If you are new to it, maybe it is more endearing.
I have very vague rememories of Piaget and his theory of cognitive development, but from what I remember his theories would support a take it slow approach while providing an enriched environment for the young child. He was looking at the foundations of cognition, and cerebral activities being introduced too early not really doing any good - certainly not producing brighter children.

Quote:
Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
I don't see where the problem with studying anthroposophy (/what Steiner said) is. We studied a lot of it. I am glad we did.

I don't see a problem with it either! Now that I understand Waldorf a little better, it makes sense to me that Waldorf teachers work out of anthroposophy. I was talking about that simply to address Ema-edama's comment. I don't think it's a problem. I also don't think it's surprising that parents want to know more about it.
I don't see a problem with studying anthroposophy. I do see a problem with using anthroposophical terms when there are perfectly good English ones. Child development and the reasoning behind not rushing academics do not have to be wrapped up in terminology like astral and incarnation.

I personally am very excited reading about Dimitra's work and how she choses to be a teacher. I think it is wonderful to bring together Waldorf principles together with SI and child development theory.
post #102 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by ema-adama View Post
I have to say this was quite a relief to read - I was starting to think that I had gone to the only Waldorf School that is not entirely comprised of kooks. At least there is one more 'out there'.
Ours isn't either. A lot of the "Waldorf won't allow" stuff sounds like "Waldorf won't do this stuff in the school day". Not unusual really. To me it's a bit extreme to say they "won't allow", like, "Public education bans football and violin" because kindergartners can't play it during the school day. When I was in school, I couldn't play any instrument but a tonette when I was in 3rd grade, and a wind instrument in 4th. No softball until the last half of 6th grade. No balls until 2nd grade, where we could play either dodge ball or kick ball. 3rd grade and we got Four Square. Soccer wasn't invented in America yet . I guess that's one reason why the fuss over these kinds of minor things in Waldorf surprise me.

No percussion? My kindergartners made drums in school. Rules about crayons? There were no rules, period, about drawing except "use both sides of the paper" . A lot of children wrote words in them too, sometimes made up like "FtWj" and cockeyed like "KE<<Y". No balls? My kindergartners made felt balls in school. No storybooks? My kindergartners were read to from books every day during naptime. Everything's relative to what you're used to, I guess.
post #103 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaCl View Post
Ours isn't either. A lot of the "Waldorf won't allow" stuff sounds like "Waldorf won't do this stuff in the school day". Not unusual really. To me it's a bit extreme to say they "won't allow", like, "Public education bans football and violin" because kindergartners can't play it during the school day. When I was in school, I couldn't play any instrument but a tonette when I was in 3rd grade, and a wind instrument in 4th. No softball until the last half of 6th grade. No balls until 2nd grade, where we could play either dodge ball or kick ball. 3rd grade and we got Four Square. Soccer wasn't invented in America yet . I guess that's one reason why the fuss over these kinds of minor things in Waldorf surprise me.
ETA: I'm speaking about our experience of a specific school, but I have heard similar stories in other schools.

It's not *me* being extreme by saying they won't allow it, it is *them* that says they don't allow it. That is what is extreme. And you're comparing your experience from many yrs ago to now. Why not compare what schools are doing *now* and what we know about child development?

I think what's more surprising than people making a "fuss over these kinds of minor things" is that at our local public school DS does Orff Shulwerk classes, learning rhythm and pitch with shakers and drums in 1st grade, but that he would have had to wait until middle school to touch a percussion instrument in waldorf, not because of lack of resources, but because *as it was explained to us by the school*, "drums awaken the hip area too early".

Or that in any public or private school in the area he can play baseball, basketball, tennis, cooperative ball games, you name it. While at waldorf there are strict rules about what age a child can play with balls, based on the idea that a ball is the shape of a head. And that children are punished for creating their own balls and playing with them at recess.

These are not minor things to us all, Linda. These are examples of the dogmatic nature of many of these schools and the way in which children's behavior is so heavily controlled based on anthroposophic beliefs. Balls and percussion instruments are just the tip of a very large iceberg, frankly.
post #104 of 111
(Italicized portions are from Ema-edama's post)
Perhaps I was not being clear. I meant that within Waldorf there is discussion on the role of tradition and questioning tradition.

I see what you are saying, but I don't believe that that characterizes the Waldorf movement (at least) in the United States. I don't think that anthroposophical culture is bad in any way (well, except for its ability to explain itself), but I KNOW that it is the glue of (nearly) any Waldorf school.

I think what I am trying to say is that while some teachers do use spiritual language, it is not necessary. There are modern scientific terms to describe what Steiner was talking about 80+ years ago. By using modern terminology you are not being 'disloyal' to Waldorf or misrepresenting Waldorf. At least I do not get it like that. I personally would be annoyed if there was a modern way to understand something and someone refused to change their understanding/terminology. For instance, teachers being suspicious of SI, when essentially it supports what they are doing in the classroom. I also do not think it is deceptive to use modern terminology.

It may not be necessary, but in American Waldorf schools, teachers work with an anthroposophical lens. I think that it is wildly irresponsible to use scientific language to parents if what they are working from is a spiritual system. You will see many people ask on these boards "why do people leave Waldorf so bitter?" The two levels of discourse (teachers among teachers and teachers to parents) is a big reason. Dimitra Daisy would be an atypical Waldorf teacher if she were working in the U.S. Steiner's work, while inspiring to many, was not in any way scientific. He used the work "science" but it was the borrowing of a term.

I think the essence of Waldorf is going to mean different things to different people. Sometimes quite contradictory things.

I agree.

I once considered studying to be a Waldorf Teacher and took a look at the reading and ran a mile. Someone else would look at the list and be very happy. I think I have yet to make peace with anthroposophical terms. If you are new to it, maybe it is more endearing.
I have very vague rememories of Piaget and his theory of cognitive development, but from what I remember his theories would support a take it slow approach while providing an enriched environment for the young child. He was looking at the foundations of cognition, and cerebral activities being introduced too early not really doing any good - certainly not producing brighter children.


Yes, Piaget studied cognitive development and what children were simply incapable of doing at a certain age. (It is neat to see more current research focusing on what children CAN do.) When I first heard that Waldorf was a development approach, this was very exciting to me. I was disappointed to learn more about the spiritual nature of the developmental approach and that it came almost entirely from within Steiner's own spiritual work. (I don't think there is anything wrong with it being spiritual, it's just not the approach that I have chosen for my school-age kids.) The Waldorf movement does not at all keep up with the field of cognitive psychology. You won't see university researchers in this field among the speakers at Waldorf Teachers' Conferences. It simply doesn't fit in to or influence the path of Waldorf pedagogy. I will say again, I don't have a problem with it being anthroposophical, I just want to be perfectly honest about this fact.

I don't see a problem with studying anthroposophy. I do see a problem with using anthroposophical terms when there are perfectly good English ones. Child development and the reasoning behind not rushing academics do not have to be wrapped up in terminology like astral and incarnation.


I am confused by what you are saying here. Waldorf teachers work with terms like "astral", "etheric", and "incarnation" as a central part of their job. I'm not sure if you are doubting this fact, or if you are saying that as a parent you don't want to be exposed to it. If the latter, you probably don't have much to worry about. I think most Waldorf teachers know what is off-putting to the typical parent.

I personally am very excited reading about Dimitra's work and how she choses to be a teacher. I think it is wonderful to bring together Waldorf principles together with SI and child development theory.


Me too. I do share Karne's concern about the idea that an early interest in reading is something to be worried about as symptomatic of a sensory integration issue, (an enormous amount of work would need to be done before this could approach being a scientific statement) but I love the idea of a Steiner teacher keeping a foot in mainstream research. I am glad to hear that her student is being met with more than just an anthroposophical approach. And even if it were a strictly anthroposophical approach this wouldn't bother me if the parents understood that and if it seemed to be working for the student.
post #105 of 111
I just wanted to add one thing:
I think the surest way to make a child NOT love learning, is to thwart him, distract him, and discourage him from learning what he wants to learn, simply because he is not at a certain age. If a 4yo wants to learn something, like reading, why thwart them? Because of a *philosophy*? Just doesn't sit well with me.
post #106 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by muse View Post
It's not *me* being extreme by saying they won't allow it, it is *them* that says they don't allow it.
Sorry - I didn't mean to say anybody was or wasn't being extremist. I meant "extreme" as in "oversimplified" or "overstated". To explain, my Waldorf children are in high school and do all these things that supposedly Waldorf "doesn't allow". I'm just in a different place - I don't identify the typical Waldorf school much anymore just in terms the way its practiced in its kindergartens or lower grades.

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And you're comparing your experience from many yrs ago to now. Why not compare what schools are doing *now* and what we know about child development?
? I'm sorry to hop in midstream-I was just talking my growing up playing kickball and the tonette ? My point was that we mostly come to expect what we're used to. I still think I'm right-I don't think that most people come to expect schools supply balls to children because they've researched the issue.

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I think what's more surprising than people making a "fuss over these kinds of minor things" is that at our local public school DS does Orff Shulwerk classes, learning rhythm and pitch with shakers and drums in 1st grade, but that he would have had to wait until middle school to touch a percussion instrument in waldorf, not because of lack of resources, but because *as it was explained to us by the school*, "drums awaken the hip area too early".
I'm surprised hearing you say this too. But that didn't happen to me. My kindergartners made drums in school. No teachers ever said anything to me about drums.

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These are not minor things to us all, Linda.
Obviously not.
post #107 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
I am confused by what you are saying here. Waldorf teachers work with terms like "astral", "etheric", and "incarnation" as a central part of their job. I'm not sure if you are doubting this fact, or if you are saying that as a parent you don't want to be exposed to it.
I don't know if this is what she meant, but I can identify with the problem of the jargon. No teacher, regardless of the methods or development theory they adopt, should need to speak in the jargon. I think that educators who rely on jargon either don't realize they need to speak in English or really don't understand enough to translate it into English. Either way isn't so good, in my opinion. Take astral, etheric, incarnation, etc. Maria Montessori talked about incarnation a lot. Do Montessori teachers now feel they need to speak this way? I don't know-I'm asking.
post #108 of 111
Just popping back in to address a few things that I think my (very badly written by a tired mama) post brought up!

Quote:
The description of writing or making books in the kindy is astounding to me. I've been involved with several waldorf kindy's, and I can say without exception that would never happen here. Not only would it not happen, it would be discouraged.
Not sure if I gave the wrong impression-just to clarify, this wouldn't be a teacher led activity, it's something that the children initiate sometimes during their free play (they have access to paper, crayons and glue during this time). But we absolutely would never discourage it. The only things we really discourage during play are those that hurt and upset other people. We (assistants and teacher) talked about it and were expressly told not to discourage any of this sort of activity. Actually the teacher was quite horrified by the idea of that. I can't imagine how one would actively discourage this activity in a way that was consistent with the respectful way that we treat the children in the kindergarten. Clearly though, it happens elsewhere, so I guess this is one area where there is great variation. We were also told that if children ask us to write something for them we should do it with great care and creativity, to model its importance, which I think is a nice part of encouraging interest in literacy without pushing it early on. We just wouldn't then start prompting the children to copy the letters or read the letters or do workbooks or any of the other things that any interest in literacy seems to immediately lead to in mainstream settings that I have witnessed (and is encouraged by the early years curriculum in the UK).

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I would never say that free play in Kindergarten is organised fun. It is 'held' by the teachers in that a lot of work goes into setting up the environment and in keeping that order you talk about, but it is not organised. The same goes for the Class children's playtimes. They are not by any means organised. I used the term 'controlled fun' in relation to what goes on in the classroom.
Yes absolutely, sorry my post was so unclear! I think I was trying to emphasize the difference between the class years and kindergarten in this respect (although, as I said, I still know embarassingly little about the class years), so that people don't get the idea that 3 and 4 year olds are expected to 'move as a group' in the same way as older children. But the teacher is definitely holding it, although it may look like she's 'just' sat in the corner doing some sewing. Again, this is, for me, a really refreshing contrast with other settings I have seen where the staff are constantly 'poking their noses in' to children's play, asking questions so that they can guide it towards specific curriculum aims.

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But then these children are seven years old or older, not three to six which is what you get in Kindergarten -- where I think it is appropriate not to raise your voice, especially with the littlest ones. But people sometimes hear that kind of thing and get the wrong idea, like that we would sing to their eight year old if they hit somebody, or that we'd never "force" their nine year old to do any work in class... which is totally not the case!
Absolutely. I really appreciate the awareness of age appropriate approaches in Steiner education, especially regarding discipline. There are certain things that just don't work in a positive way with a 3 or 4 year old but are necessary with 8 or 9 year olds. Which seems obvious to most of us, I'm sure, but I have heard one and two year olds being spoken to like teenagers on numerous occasions in some settings (like my daughter's daycare....perhaps that is a whole other topic...) Although I really understand what you mean about people's misconceptions. The most common response I get when I say i work at a Steiner kindergarten is "oh the kids can just do whatever they want there can't they?"...hmm, not quite..

As for Steiner teachers having no awareness of or contact with other educational theories and research (I don't know if that is exactly what has been said here, but along those lines..), there are many many exceptions to this. The teacher I work with (yes, i sort of love her you may have noticed!) is currently working on an MA in Early Childhood Studies. She is tailoring her research towards a Steiner perspective, but also obviously has to be fully aware of mainstream theories and research in this this area, as it isn't a Steiner specific degree by any means. I have met plenty of kindergarten teachers with a mainstream educational background and absolutely tons of knowledge in this area, and there are lots of people working closely with mainstream educational advisors in the UK to make sure that Steiner kindergartens can be compatible with the Early Years Foundation Stage (which is posing plenty of problems, but at least people are workign together to address them). As part of our staff study we read texts by both Steiner and Steiner influenced authors, and non-Steiner researchers of contemporary early years issues. I'm sure there are Steiner teachers who refuse to have anything to do with other theories and research, but it's not all of them by any means. And it's not as if those who do are shunned by the anthroposophical community, quite the opposite in fact. At our regional early years conference next month the keynote speaker will be a leading mainstream author who has nothing to do with the Steiner Waldorf community (although her ideas are very compatible with our approach). There are absolutely loads of kindergarten teachers from all over the UK coming, all interested in her opinions and research despite them having no grounding in anthroposophy! So, from my experience, people are plenty willing to learn from different perspectives and contemporary research rather than solely anthroposophy. I don't doubt that there are people who are too dogmatic to do so though. (and, of course, this is a UK perspective again).

Hmm I hope that was helpful, I must admit I feel a little bit out of my depth in these conversations speaking only from a few months of experience. Hopefully I will be starting the Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Education degree soon (http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/courses/un...hood+Education) and will be able to have a bit more theoretical knowledge behind me (and hopefully write interesting critical essays based on these sorts of issues-which I have been assured is strongly encouraged!)
post #109 of 111
What an interesting thread. I'm only sorry to come to it late.

It's refreshing to hear a voice like DimitraDaisy- and I hope you're right in that some schools take a more open approach. You sound a great teacher.

I also think though, that you can't have Steiner Waldorf schools with out anthroposophy- it's the ethos and basis of the schools, as their websites , in very small print albeit- point out.

We pulled our children out of Steiner waldorf when we realised it completely revolved around anthroposophic beliefs which we didn't share, and which we felt had been deliberately kept from us.
Since leaving I have become what must be one of the most well informed ex-parents! And wish I had read as much before we took the plunge, rather than reading what the school advised...
Reading Steiner is an eye opening experince, and helps make sense of many of the decisions and things which go on in the school.

And yes, there is much in his work about race, reincarnation and evolutionary beliefs which are distinctly dodgy. Whether or not they find their way into the classroom is open to debate. since so many choices are made by seeing what "Steiner indicated" it's anyone's guess. There was certainly a Eurocentric/Nordic/Germanic bias in the school ours attended.

Muse you said
"At the 3 schools we've been involved with it is most certainly NOT up for debate. In fact in our last experience, dare question the anthroposophical ideas and you are pretty much on your way out. I know a woman who dropped out of waldorf teacher training after her class was explicitly told, "do NOT tell the parents this, they are not ready to understand". When she questioned anything Steiner ever said she was told over and over again, "You will understand it when you're ready", which really translates to "don't question".
This is precisely what happened with us. We were totally stone walled. Interestingly, it's also what Steiner said when approaching the understanding of his beliefs; one had to be "ready"- even to pass judgement (!) susceptible perhaps. Many Steiner waldorf teachers also talk about "educating" parents too, which makes me uncomfortable. It is a patronising assumption.

I would be very interested to know how many teachers are anthroposophists. Does anyone have an idea? Or are there usually one or two within each school?

beatee The link to the Plymouth course is interesting. The course seems to have a great deal of modules about anthroposophy
http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/courses/mo...mandatory+DESC
The teacher traing reading lists tend to be predominately Steiner's work too, which I think has been pointed out before. It would make me feel slightly uneasy....but perhaps you and DimitraDaisy will be a new generation of reformers! It would be such a shame to throw the baby out with the bath water, there are so many good things about the education.
post #110 of 111
I'm just coming to this post, and wow is it interesting! It seems to me that so much of the problem is the great variance between different Waldorf Schools.

I am a mother of a 2 and 4 year old. I have worked to create a gentle, nurturing, Waldorf-inspired home environment and do plan on homeschooling my children in a Waldorf manner. There is no local Waldorf school, but I do think I would prefer homeschooling anyhow. I am encouraged and feel liberated that I can take what I like of Waldorf and what I feel is right for my children and make a schooling experience that will fit for us.

I liked what Dimitra wrote here:

"And even your opening statement, that "Waldorf does not exist without anthroposophy", this seems to be accepted as a fact on the Enki lists, and on here, but I do wonder why; as far as I am concerned this is open to debate. It wouldn't have come into existence without anthroposophy, obviously, this is a simple fact. But what the relationship between them is now, and whether it can, or should change, and what it can or should become -- all these things are under consideration. Or they should be, anyway."

I think it's wonderful that a Waldorf teacher is thinking that way because it opens up Waldorf education to develop and evolve with the times. Yes, be a reformer!

As a homeschooler, I feel I can separate Waldorf from anthroposophy. I can choose to approach education from a Waldorf perspective, while not always agreeing with the traditional Waldorf reasons for doing so. How do I decide what to do? I read about Waldorf (and other educational methods), I read about how modern science informs education and I go with my heart. It is a comfortable, empowering combination.

Thanks, all, for sharing!
post #111 of 111
Thread Starter 
Update:

Well, I've visited the potential school twice. I see a lot of things that I really like about it-- the classrooms and grounds are beautiful, the outdoor play area looks wonderful, the teachers that I've met have been at the school for about 15 years (I've only met 2 of the 4 preschool teachers).

I did hear some "jargon" for lack of a better word. Especially related to reading later, the teacher talked about the connection with the milk teeth falling out and being ready for reading. I admit to a big internal eyeroll, although I think it's just a really weird way of saying kids are readier to learn later, rather than earlier.

The classes at the preschool level are mixed, with 3 y o, 4 y o and 5 y o in the same room. They all do the same activities, just at their own levels. While I think this can be great for a 3 year old, I can see a 5-turning-6 year old feeling very frustrated in the classroom. There are absolutely no "academics"-- no pre-reading, no pre-math, but lots of drawing, working in the garden, playing outside... etc.

The teachers have been very open and friendly, they laugh readily and seem very happy and balanced.

I am still concerned about discipline issues-- what happens when kids pick on other kids, although the teacher reassured me that while that happens, she addresses the issue with the kid doing the bullying. Once again, a lot of jargon about being too physical, or kids picking on other kids who are too "in their heads".

I've also read the Life After Waldorf threads and they just send cold chills down my spine. I really, honestly, don't know what to do.

I think I need to schedule a visit at the local public school.
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