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Update post 111 : Waldorf pros and cons - Page 2

post #21 of 111
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DimitraDaisy View Post

Coming from a culture where no child learns to read before school, before they don't have alphabet books or magnetic letters or anything of that kind, I tend to agree with that. And I have to admit that the idea of a seven year old child needing more academic stimulation than their peers is a little strange to me. I'm not sure I understand what it means exactly.
I think some kids do need more stimulation in some areas. I have very clear memories of being desperate to read, aching to learn how to do it. I probably could have learned earlier if either my teachers or my parents had been able to give me the opportunity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hannahsmummy View Post
Discouragement has never been an issue for us. However, I do feel like there isn't support in the system for kids who are gifted or need extra help. That's not to say that anyone is going out of their way to be unhelpful but just that the circumstances are such that there isn't a choice but to go along with the core group.
Quote:
Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
The Waldorf model is centered around the idea that there is an ideal curriculum for all kids who are at a certain age and development level.
This seriously blows my mind. I find that a really appalling attitude, actually.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lisalulu View Post
We are looking into Waldorf for our son and the kindy handbook they gave us to look over specifically mentioned that they prefer the kids to be weaned. Their first year kindy starts kids at age 4.5 and up.
This also blows my mind. None of their business.

That said, I'm still willing to give it a try for at least the first year of preschool. I wish there was a Montessori school near where we'll be living, it sounds like it's more in tune with my educational beliefs, although Waldorf is in tune with a lot of my personal beliefs....
post #22 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marylizah View Post
I wish there was a Montessori school near where we'll be living, it sounds like it's more in tune with my educational beliefs, although Waldorf is in tune with a lot of my personal beliefs....
This is how I am, I favour Waldorf for home, Montessori for school. Though, we do have a public Montessori charter school here : Honestly, democratic free schools perfectly match my feelings on how school should be, but we don't have any in our city. More and more research is making me lean towards homeschooling again, anyway, so who the heck knows where we'll end up! I wouldn't mind at all dd going to Waldorf kindy, though, esp if she were going to regular public school. I am looking forward to doing their weekly parent-included Morning Garden program next year. No way am I sending my kids to school at age three, even if that is where Montessori starts! School is for five and up, imo, so I do agree w/ Waldorf there, later is better!
post #23 of 111
This was so helpful. I am looking into 1st grade options for next year and checked out our Waldorf charter. What I saw in 1st grade was so surprising...they were very slowly writing the letters to spell "math"...they weren't done after we were in the room for 10 minutes. Several kids were done with the 'M' and either begin to move ahead or draw at which point the teacher would come by and take the crayon from their hand saying that wasn't what they were doing right now. I had NO idea that the kids are expected to move as a unit. I know that wouldn't work for my child and I'm confused as to why this is part of the model. I don't see the value in it. Someone had said that often the kids will experience what feels like boredom and the model allows kids to feel that and not try to busy themselves. Is that what you folks heard as well?
post #24 of 111
My son is in Waldorf Kinder & my sister is a Waldorf grade teacher -- currently at a charter school in Phoenix. I don't know that my very independent, super curious, analytical child would be best served by the grades curriculum - although my sister believes that every child can be well served by Waldorf education. The PP about the fundamental Waldorf philosophy re: their curriculum & child development was perfectly said & is really one of my biggest reservations. (I'm not at all sure that institutional education of any kind is really the best way to support learning -- but that's another thread!)

I wanted to respond to the following observation:
Quote:
Originally Posted by swampangel View Post
What I saw in 1st grade was so surprising...they were very slowly writing the letters to spell "math"...they weren't done after we were in the room for 10 minutes. Several kids were done with the 'M' and either begin to move ahead or draw at which point the teacher would come by and take the crayon from their hand saying that wasn't what they were doing right now. I had NO idea that the kids are expected to move as a unit. I know that wouldn't work for my child and I'm confused as to why this is part of the model. I don't see the value in it. Someone had said that often the kids will experience what feels like boredom and the model allows kids to feel that and not try to busy themselves. Is that what you folks heard as well?
My sister has explained that Waldorf is a formal, social education. This means that the structure of the group is part of the learning experience. She talks about how one of the primary goals of first grade is the formation of a class identity, of the group that the students will be a part of for the next 8 years. I see this as kind of fascinating, with real pros & cons. From her (& other parents at my sons school) I've heard of a remarkable acceptance of differences amoung the students - particularly special needs or behavioral issues. I think that focus on the group formation, rather than independent learning, may be a part of this. However, I find myself just too much of an individualist, & appreciate that part of my sons personality too much, to really embrace this teaching philosophy.
post #25 of 111
I think any family's experience of waldorf has to do principally with their particular school and teachers.

I've heard of so many strange experiences over the years on this forum and others, and really can't imagine similar situations at our local Waldorf schools.

Overall, we take it year by year, but for now, we have been very happy with Waldorf. I should add that many of the adults I know who attended Waldorf schools as children turned out to be pretty neat and accomplished individuals.
post #26 of 111
I just can't get past the blatant racism at the heart of the philosophy.
post #27 of 111
My experience with waldorf goes back to the 60s. I started at waldorf in the middle of 8th grade and attended for two years. Not perfect, but a very rich experience in many ways and I still (more than 40 years later) draw on those two years and the special teachers I encountered for inspiration. Two of my younger siblings attended after I did and both gained from their time at the school.

My daughter attended the same school I did for 10 years and later went to a different waldorf school for three years of high school.

My grandchildren are currently in a waldorf school, the girl in 3rd grade and my grandson in kindergarten. They are thriving and love the school.

I also worked as the business manager at a waldorf school for three years.

So I have direct experience of four different schools in two countries.

Problems: lots.

Benefits: lots.

The schools are not perfect and they don't fit every family or every child.

The delayed reading thing has worked well for us. My daughter jumped into reading between 2nd and 3rd grade and has been a total bookworm ever since. My granddaughter started seriously reading at the beginning of 2nd grade and now reads at roughly a 5th grade level. What I really appreciate about her reading is that when she reads out loud she reads expressively. She is also an excellent knitter, draws and paints well, is progressing nicely with mathematics and is gaining on the social side, too, an area she finds challenging.

Her little brother, who will be 6 in a few months, is totally uninterested in learning to read and write, so it is a good thing he is in a waldorf school. He is interested in numbers and arithmetic and is exploring this realm with great pleasure. School is for playing. Home is for experimenting with electricity (one of his passions) and working with numbers and more play. I'm so glad that no one is pushing him and he is free to explore the world at his own pace.
post #28 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by AliveMama View Post
I just can't get past the blatant racism at the heart of the philosophy.
I am curious as to what your understanding is about the racism in Waldorf.
post #29 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by ema-adama View Post
I am curious as to what your understanding is about the racism in Waldorf.
In his teaching Steiner talks about how people go through each of the various races in sequential incarnations. He discusses how each race (until white) are limited in what they can do. And as they go through these incarnations they "evolve" into superior people.

Although he tries to clarify that this does not make white people better (because before they were white they were also black, yellow, brown...) he does claim that white is the ultimate end point.

Do some reading on this topic. I used to be very interested in Waldorf. I still am in some of the applications and end goals.

But, in good consciousness, I cannot send my child to anything that believes there is a fundamental difference between people based on the color of their skin. I detest racism. And I think that philosophies like Waldorf are damaging to our society.
post #30 of 111
Did you see any evidence of racism in Waldorf Education?
post #31 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkyMomma View Post
My sister has explained that Waldorf is a formal, social education. This means that the structure of the group is part of the learning experience. She talks about how one of the primary goals of first grade is the formation of a class identity, of the group that the students will be a part of for the next 8 years. I see this as kind of fascinating, with real pros & cons. From her (& other parents at my sons school) I've heard of a remarkable acceptance of differences amoung the students - particularly special needs or behavioral issues. I think that focus on the group formation, rather than independent learning, may be a part of this. However, I find myself just too much of an individualist, & appreciate that part of my sons personality too much, to really embrace this teaching philosophy.

I wouldn't exactly put it in the same words as your sister did, but yes, that. It's one of the things that comes up a lot from Waldorf teachers, and I used to think 'yeah, yeah, whatever' -- until I watched it happen in my class and I was blown away, that is. It is an amazing thing, the forming of the 'class being'. I can't quite put it into words. One day you have a bunch of different children and the next they become a class: they work as one, they look out for each other, and, most importantly, they are 'held' by the group. It is hard to explain, but it has done my children a world of good. They are more settled, more secure and just generally happier.

It doesn't, however, mean that there is no space for individual differences and personalities, quite the opposite -- Steiner often stressed that there's no hard and fast solutions because children are so different, and that the teacher has to solve the riddle that is each particular child. I can see how certain Waldorf schools might have taken the 'whole class' approach a bit too literally, or too far, but this is not something inherent in the philosophy as far as I can see.
post #32 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marylizah View Post
I think some kids do need more stimulation in some areas. I have very clear memories of being desperate to read, aching to learn how to do it. I probably could have learned earlier if either my teachers or my parents had been able to give me the opportunity.
And do you think it would have been better for you if you had learned to read earlier? What would you have gained? This is an honest question, by the way. The reason I find all this early-reading business bizarre has nothing to do with being a Waldorf teacher and everything to do with coming from a country where no one learns to read before six. And there are a lot of these countries. It's just the English-speaking world that does this.

By the way, contrary to what people often think, Waldorf is not against stimulating children. If a child needs more stimulation, they should get it -- it's just that it might not necessarily be intellectual stimulation. Although, it bears repeating, not every school will try to keep a 'gifted' child back. If any of my children were desperate to read, I would be answering any questions they had, reading with them, giving them extra work -- anything that seemed right. I do give them different tasks according to their abilities, at times. We were even taught to do that, and we have to build it into our lesson plans. In OFSTED-speak, it's called 'differentiation'.
post #33 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by ema-adama View Post
Did you see any evidence of racism in Waldorf Education?
We are still at the stage of investigating education possibilities. So my research was done mainly online. I read through many people's accounts of their experiences with Waldorf (both positive and negative). There were many reports of non white children being discriminated against. There was an investigation done in the Netherlands on this issue.

Regardless, it doesn't change what Steiner taught. And that's that white people are better than non-white people.
post #34 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marylizah View Post
This seriously blows my mind. I find that a really appalling attitude, actually.
It's not that appalling, really

You'd be surprised how much thinking there is behind that simple principle. And yes, it is Steiner's thinking, which equals nonsense for some people, I grant you that. But there's a lot of sound, modern, scientific thinking that backs Steiner's ideas up. And the most surprising thing of all is how often experience will indicate that Steiner was right.

Mind you, the idea of 'curriculum' in orangeflower's statement is, or should be, used quite loosely. Steiner gave a set of developmental principles --he talked about where children are at at each age -- and he gave some examples of things he thought would speak to the child particularly strongly at that age. They are not often used as examples, I know; but examples they are. The idea is that you bring to the child, in your lessons, the things that you believe will mirror what is happening inside them at the time. That could be anything you believe will meet this particular child or children, and show them that was is happening inside them is also happening, in some capacity, out there in the world too; that it has happened to other people, or groups of people, in the past; that they are not alone.
post #35 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by lisalulu View Post
We are looking into Waldorf for our son and the kindy handbook they gave us to look over specifically mentioned that they prefer the kids to be weaned. Their first year kindy starts kids at age 4.5 and up.
I'm glad I can now laugh at this instead of getting outraged. It is SO absurdly shocking for a school to give you their opinion about breast feeding, never mind try to enforce certain behaviors around that.

We've had a number of yrs in and out of waldorf and this just about sums up my problem with it. Waldorf holds a very specific view of what is right or wrong for any child and does not have respect or flexibility for individual, family, cultural and religious difference. Unfortunately that undoes any pros for us.
post #36 of 111
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DimitraDaisy View Post
It's not that appalling, really

You'd be surprised how much thinking there is behind that simple principle. And yes, it is Steiner's thinking, which equals nonsense for some people, I grant you that. But there's a lot of sound, modern, scientific thinking that backs Steiner's ideas up. And the most surprising thing of all is how often experience will indicate that Steiner was right.

Mind you, the idea of 'curriculum' in orangeflower's statement is, or should be, used quite loosely. Steiner gave a set of developmental principles --he talked about where children are at at each age -- and he gave some examples of things he thought would speak to the child particularly strongly at that age. They are not often used as examples, I know; but examples they are. The idea is that you bring to the child, in your lessons, the things that you believe will mirror what is happening inside them at the time. That could be anything you believe will meet this particular child or children, and show them that was is happening inside them is also happening, in some capacity, out there in the world too; that it has happened to other people, or groups of people, in the past; that they are not alone.
I see your point, and I think that it's a nice theory. Could you please point to some of the research that backs this up?

My guess is that each teacher interprets this differently, which means there is plenty of room for a "this is the norm, you must conform to it" attitude to develop.

I also agree with muse that cultural, religious and family difference may not be taken into account with this model. I am very curious to see how this attitude is deployed (for lack of a better word) at the Waldorf school we are considering.

You asked me earlier what good it would have done me to learn to read at a younger age-- I can only say that it would have made me happy, and less frustrated. I've loved to read since I learned to do it, it is a great joy in my life. I don't see the point of depriving someone of that in the name of class unity.

FTR, I am still totally open to the Waldorf preschool. This discussion has been very useful to me in understanding some of the underlying beliefs and values, and forewarned is forearmed.

About the racism of Steiner's writings-- while it is undeniably wrong and racist, I think it needs to be placed in it's context of late 19th century European mystical thought. I can hardly imagine such a belief could possibly be taught or believed today.... While I am not trying to diminish it, I don't think it necessarily sheds much light on current Waldorf education.
post #37 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marylizah View Post
About the racism of Steiner's writings-- while it is undeniably wrong and racist, I think it needs to be placed in it's context of late 19th century European mystical thought. I can hardly imagine such a belief could possibly be taught or believed today.... While I am not trying to diminish it, I don't think it necessarily sheds much light on current Waldorf education.
The sad truth is that if you read through people's experiences with Waldorf, the racism is clear and runs rampant. There are tales of this from the UK, continental Europe and North America.

I would encourage you to do some reading on this topic before dismissing this concern.
post #38 of 111
I am very gingerly putting a foot in the whole racism thing. And I know that this is my experience and my experience in one school - this is not universal.

I was educated in a Waldorf school in South Africa during aparthied. At the time this was the only school that had children of different races and creeds learning together in the same classroom. The apartheid government could not dictate to the school as they were registered as private.

I am always so grateful to have had this learning opportunity and I believe it to have coloured my life experience in such a way that racism is something I cannot tolerate.

Not everything was perfect. 20+ years ago the festivals had a decidely Christian flavour. Today (in this school) the festivals draw on traditions from all the faiths and it really is a multicultural experience.

I am also a little familiar with Waldorf in Israel and there are initiatives to educate Arab and Jewish children together.

So while there are very out of touch with reality ideas in anthroposophy, I did not see evidence of that in my life and in my experience. Well, not in a 'this is how we will teach the children' kind of a way. I have met anthroposophists who really believed that end of the world was neigh when Nelson Mandela was elected.
I don't think it was because they were anthroposophists. I think they were racists and if they looked they could find something in anthroposophy to support that.

I agree with Marylizah, I don't think the race theory sheds much light on Waldorf education today.
post #39 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by DimitraDaisy View Post
By the way, contrary to what people often think, Waldorf is not against stimulating children. If a child needs more stimulation, they should get it -- it's just that it might not necessarily be intellectual stimulation. Although, it bears repeating, not every school will try to keep a 'gifted' child back. If any of my children were desperate to read, I would be answering any questions they had, reading with them, giving them extra work -- anything that seemed right. I do give them different tasks according to their abilities, at times. We were even taught to do that, and we have to build it into our lesson plans. In OFSTED-speak, it's called 'differentiation'.
This makes a lot of sense to me.... the part that children might need stimulating, but not necessarily intellectual stimulation. There are so many other aspects of being a person, and I think they can get lost in the rush of enthusiasm for mastering letter and numbers.

I also think that you are a unique teacher, someone that speaks normal english and can communicate. Not all Waldorf teachers have this ability and some are really quite limited in their ability to understand the principles, apply them and explain them. Which is very sad. I think so much does come down to the teacher. And the school itself.
post #40 of 111
Quote:
Originally Posted by ema-adama View Post
I also think that you are a unique teacher, someone that speaks normal english and can communicate. Not all Waldorf teachers have this ability and some are really quite limited in their ability to understand the principles, apply them and explain them. Which is very sad. I think so much does come down to the teacher. And the school itself.
Haha, you are right, and I think this speaks volumes about the way Waldorf is applied -- I am unique because I can speak normal English and communicate... You'd think everyone would be able to do that

Regarding the anthroposophists who thought it was the end of the world when Mandela was elected -- these are they people who give anthroposophy a bad name: people who wanted a religion to begin with, people who wanted to be told what to do and to belong to a cult, people who think that they are better than others. But these people are not this way because of the anthroposophy, they would have been like this no matter what they believed in, and they would have found something else to believe in if they hadn't come across anthroposophy. I do not like these people
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