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Rude Waldorf experience

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 
Hello!
No flaming, please, I just want to get others' perspectives here:
First, let me just say that I have been interested in the Waldorf concept since I was pg w/dd. She will be 4 in July, &, so I've been researching area preschools.
DD is happy, active, bright-- and mainstream parented by two doting mamas. I am raising her as a strict vegetarian w/GD, & dp & I try to emphasize creativity, tolerance, kindness, & compassion for everyone. I am decidedly "crunchier" than many of our friends, and certainly more so than dp (who is ex-military), but, overall, we are mainstream. I wear makeup & let dd play w/anything age-appropriate that interests her, including plastic. We do limit TV, though.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I checked out the only Waldorf pre-K in our area w/great excitement. Because it was a new place, I let dd walk in w/her favorite doll, the one she goes everywhere with-- Just so happens that it's a plastic Disney Cinderella doll. Now, I am familiar w/the Waldorf educational concepts, but, honestly, it didn't really dawn on me (what w/getting ready, trying to get to the appt on time, etc.), that her choice of doll might be considered taboo by many Waldorf-ians. To me, I'm just letting dd play w/her toy. Anyway, we walk in, and I am welcomed into a very nice setting & immediately approached by a couple of obviously very crunchy mamas while dd is whisked away to play w/the 8 or so other kiddos.
So I'm talking w/this mama about the school, and she's telling me how great it is, when I hear very loud laughter. I look over, & ALL of the Waldorf kids are surrounding my dd & POINTING & LAUGHING & MAKING FUN OF HER & HER DOLL! It was obviously very mean-spirited, and dd was huddled on a windowsill clutching her doll near tears while these kids laughed ... and neither the director OR the other moms raised an eyebrow. They just looked over & kept talking amongst themselves. So, of course, I immediately broke off my conversation w/the mom whose kid was the clear ringleader, and while I was approaching, dd raised her voice & told these kids (most of whom were 4-6 yrs old), "Stop that! That's not nice, to laugh at other people's toys!" They immediately stopped. And I was very, very proud.
We finished the visit, & I allowed dd to play some more once I saw how she defended herself & they backed off. I confiscated the offending Cinderella doll. DD ended up playing well, but she called me over when she got into an argument w/a little boy who told her, "MY mom doesn't wear makeup because it makes you sick. YOUR mom is going to be sick." Whereupon my little girl told him, "My mom wears lots of makeup, and she's not sick!" And back and forth. I broke that one up (AGAIN, WITH EVERYONE WATCHING) by saying something like, "Well, some people might get sick, but I don't." But this other child was very, very adamant, almost in attack mode. He was probably about 5.
Anyway, I'm kind of sold off of the whole Waldorf concept after this experience. The director didn't say a thing, didn't even tell these kids in a GD way that we must welcome visitors, nothing like that. I may be a more mainstream parent, but my dd knows better than to make fun of anyone's choice of toys, or their parents. It seemed like these kids were left to do whatever they wanted & were not being taught tolerance. I know you can't judge an entire movement by the actions of a select few, but is this typical of a Waldorf pre-K? Are kids not taught tolerance or compassion toward people who are different from them, who may watch TV or play w/plastic toys? We are a very open family & totally support the whole "wooden toys only", "no TV" concept, but it's just not a reality for us. And even though, for example, we are strict vegetarians, I always tell my dd not to turn her nose up at people who choose to eat meat. That's their choice, I tell her, & we shouldn't be mean just because we've made a different one.
Just needed to share.
post #2 of 45
Sigh. I would not go to a school where I felt judged/like I could not be myself.

We're struggling with similar issues here. I don't like feeling this anxious going in, KWIM? Variations of your post seemed to have come up in the short time I have been here, and that hardly makes me feel more comfortable about Waldorf. There seems to be a great deal of emphasis on the "right" clothes, toys, etc. While I admire/strive towards natural playthings, no screen media, etc., I just don't get this level of judgement when popular culture slips into a child's life here and there.
post #3 of 45
Wow. I can see why you were turned off - I would be too.

There are no waldorf schools in my area, so I have no direct experience with a school. What I hear on this board time and again is that the schools differ so much, especially in the States.

It seems to me that it is normal for Waldorf schools to have a judgemental attitude about what is and is not accepted (ie plastic toys). This is because Waldorf is a specific theory/lifestyle that makes specific judgements about the best way to live. So, I don't think it's unusal that those children all had learned to reject plastic toys or Disney toys.

I do think it is sad and definitely not "normal Waldorf" that those children were rude to your child and that the adults did not address the poor behavior. That's bad manners - period. I'm sure that there are more and less tolerant Waldorf schools. But, most (if not all) will have specific, strict rules that attendees must adhere to or they should go to another school.

Obviously, you'll be looking elsewhere for your child's school. If there is another Waldorf option, check it out. It may be a completely different environment! Or, it may be more of the same.
post #4 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by egarcia76 View Post
Hello!
It seemed like these kids were left to do whatever they wanted & were not being taught tolerance. Are kids not taught tolerance or compassion toward people who are different from them, who may watch TV or play w/plastic toys?
I think Waldorf's idea is not to TEACH tolerance but to model it. They often let kids work out their own squabbles. We let our kids watch TV and our son's first grade teacher gives us a hard time about it but our dd's 3rd grade teacher never mentions it!
post #5 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kindermama View Post
I think Waldorf's idea is not to TEACH tolerance but to model it. They often let kids work out their own squabbles.
Unless I missed it, it doesn't sound like there was any "modeling" of tolerance going on there. Letting kids be mean to each other in the name of working out differences isn't a good idea. That was basically bullying behavior which seems to have been observed, but not addressed by the teacher or other parents, except the visiting OP.
post #6 of 45
From what I know about Waldorf (I've only visited one school) I think there is a tendency to let children work out their own disagreements without intervening. That might be why no one stepped in to solve the argument for the kids or to tell them what they should/should-not say.

It sucks that they hurt your daughters feelings though. Did you talk with her about it afterwards? How did she feel?
post #7 of 45
Ugh. I'd write this place off too.

In my family, some were Waldorf students and some not. I found the judgmental parent thing just as much both inside Waldorf and out-it's just there's a crunchy twist to it in Waldorf. But what you describe is much worse than anything I ever saw.

The fact is this-parents who are judgmental snoots model it and their children will pick up on it and many will act accordingly. I find it insufferable in the extreme. A judgmental teacher would be just as bad, worse probably-I just haven't run into much problem from judgmental teachers myself. With Waldorf, the judgmentalism runs both ways-our family has been on the receiving end by people who think Waldorf is bizarre or worse. A lot mamas here are on the receiving end of it from their own families.

To answer how good Waldorf teachers typically want to handle this kind of thing is mostly through modeling empathy at this age. They don't verbalize orders in the negative, as in "that's not a nice thing to say", not to preschoolers. There is the classic cheery sing-songy voice the pre-school and k teachers use : So they'll sing things like "we use our kind words and kind hands" and re-direction. Nurturing a healthy respect for one another is taken seriously in Waldorf, but a whole bunch of things go into how they try to do this and at what ages. And much of it comes from trying to develop a healthy "community" in the class and it isn't accomplished overnight. They are trying to awaken this consciousness towards others from the "inside out", rather than through rules, scare tactics, and moralizing. It's ironic so much of this, the rules, scares, and moralizing, becomes associated with a crunchy-lifestyle. We all need to knock it off, imho. It's hostile and divisive.
post #8 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by egarcia76 View Post
I look over, & ALL of the Waldorf kids are surrounding my dd & POINTING & LAUGHING & MAKING FUN OF HER & HER DOLL! It was obviously very mean-spirited, and dd was huddled on a windowsill clutching her doll near tears while these kids laughed ... and neither the director OR the other moms raised an eyebrow. They just looked over & kept talking amongst themselves.
It sounds like a classic, cheery, sing-song-y voice could have been used here to help this four year old little girl.:

This is bullying behavior, and it doesn't matter what the pedagogy of the school is, or any other excuses for why the children weren't directed toward more socially appropriate behavior. I think OP, if you decide to pursue this school, that it wouldn't be unreasonable to ask the teachers more about their policy around social interactions such as these. I cannnot imagine being a parent and watching my child treat another like that, much less being the teacher. I think that situation sounds terrible and I can't imagine wanting to leave my child there.
post #9 of 45
First and foremost, this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by karne View Post
This is bullying behavior, and it doesn't matter what the pedagogy of the school is, or any other excuses for why the children weren't directed toward more socially appropriate behavior. I think OP, if you decide to pursue this school, that it wouldn't be unreasonable to ask the teachers more about their policy around social interactions such as these. I cannnot imagine being a parent and watching my child treat another like that, much less being the teacher. I think that situation sounds terrible and I can't imagine wanting to leave my child there.
Second, I recently had a "rude Waldorf experience" with another parent not too long ago. At the time I was processing it, I felt very confused--was this something in Waldorf that made the parent act this way towards me, or was it just a person being rude? And when I finally put it in perspective, it was really just the parent being rude. Unfortunately, there are people like this wherever you go (Waldorf school, public school, sports field, playground, what have you) who are so invested in "the rules" that those rules preclude common decency. I'm so, so sorry that these parents (who are obviously passing this rudeness off to their children) were more concerned with your toys and your makeup than being open and welcoming to you and your DD.

I can assure you, not all Waldorf schools and Waldorf parents are like this!
post #10 of 45
We just finished up the parent-child program at our Waldorf school and there was nothing like that. My DD always brought in a small toy--she loves any tiny animal toy and we have quite a few plastic ones--and the teacher would always say 'all friends are welcome here.' That doesn't sound like a nice environment to me.
post #11 of 45
Wow - no way no how, i would have left after the first incident, with some not nice words said to the adults who saw and allowed the bullying to continue. Those children should have been redirected, explained tolerance, whatever the school uses (any accredited school should have a policy on bullying, imnsho, doesnt matter what age the children are).

Quote:
Originally Posted by frogautumn View Post
Unfortunately, there are people like this wherever you go (Waldorf school, public school, sports field, playground, what have you) who are so invested in "the rules" that those rules preclude common decency.
Yup I've seen/heard about it so much that we just do own own thing at home - which is a mix of mainstream, Waldorf and Montessori. It works for us, we take what we can use, and leave the rest - of course it seems to have put on on the "avoid" list of nearly... everyone. Either we're too "crunchy" or we're not extreme enough. Even to the extent that they don't want to be friend with anyone outside of their "grouping" (be it mainstream, or Waldorf, etc)...
post #12 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by egarcia76 View Post
Hello!
No flaming, please, I just want to get others' perspectives here:
First, let me just say that I have been interested in the Waldorf concept since I was pg w/dd. She will be 4 in July, &, so I've been researching area preschools.
DD is happy, active, bright-- and mainstream parented by two doting mamas. I am raising her as a strict vegetarian w/GD, & dp & I try to emphasize creativity, tolerance, kindness, & compassion for everyone. I am decidedly "crunchier" than many of our friends, and certainly more so than dp (who is ex-military), but, overall, we are mainstream. I wear makeup & let dd play w/anything age-appropriate that interests her, including plastic. We do limit TV, though.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I checked out the only Waldorf pre-K in our area w/great excitement. Because it was a new place, I let dd walk in w/her favorite doll, the one she goes everywhere with-- Just so happens that it's a plastic Disney Cinderella doll. Now, I am familiar w/the Waldorf educational concepts, but, honestly, it didn't really dawn on me (what w/getting ready, trying to get to the appt on time, etc.), that her choice of doll might be considered taboo by many Waldorf-ians. To me, I'm just letting dd play w/her toy. Anyway, we walk in, and I am welcomed into a very nice setting & immediately approached by a couple of obviously very crunchy mamas while dd is whisked away to play w/the 8 or so other kiddos.
So I'm talking w/this mama about the school, and she's telling me how great it is, when I hear very loud laughter. I look over, & ALL of the Waldorf kids are surrounding my dd & POINTING & LAUGHING & MAKING FUN OF HER & HER DOLL! It was obviously very mean-spirited, and dd was huddled on a windowsill clutching her doll near tears while these kids laughed ... and neither the director OR the other moms raised an eyebrow. They just looked over & kept talking amongst themselves. So, of course, I immediately broke off my conversation w/the mom whose kid was the clear ringleader, and while I was approaching, dd raised her voice & told these kids (most of whom were 4-6 yrs old), "Stop that! That's not nice, to laugh at other people's toys!" They immediately stopped. And I was very, very proud.
We finished the visit, & I allowed dd to play some more once I saw how she defended herself & they backed off. I confiscated the offending Cinderella doll. DD ended up playing well, but she called me over when she got into an argument w/a little boy who told her, "MY mom doesn't wear makeup because it makes you sick. YOUR mom is going to be sick." Whereupon my little girl told him, "My mom wears lots of makeup, and she's not sick!" And back and forth. I broke that one up (AGAIN, WITH EVERYONE WATCHING) by saying something like, "Well, some people might get sick, but I don't." But this other child was very, very adamant, almost in attack mode. He was probably about 5.
Anyway, I'm kind of sold off of the whole Waldorf concept after this experience. The director didn't say a thing, didn't even tell these kids in a GD way that we must welcome visitors, nothing like that. I may be a more mainstream parent, but my dd knows better than to make fun of anyone's choice of toys, or their parents. It seemed like these kids were left to do whatever they wanted & were not being taught tolerance. I know you can't judge an entire movement by the actions of a select few, but is this typical of a Waldorf pre-K? Are kids not taught tolerance or compassion toward people who are different from them, who may watch TV or play w/plastic toys? We are a very open family & totally support the whole "wooden toys only", "no TV" concept, but it's just not a reality for us. And even though, for example, we are strict vegetarians, I always tell my dd not to turn her nose up at people who choose to eat meat. That's their choice, I tell her, & we shouldn't be mean just because we've made a different one.
Just needed to share.
i was absolutely shocked to read your post, i can't believe you and your daughter had to go through this. We are a waldorf inspired family and we have all natural toys and no plastic (apart from a pair of princess shoes) and you know what, it would never cross my little girls mind to be mean about someone elses toys just b/c they were different. I am just shocked you had to experience this and feel outraged for you and I don't even know you.

We are also very strict vegetarians and my daughter just excepts it as a difference but is also never mean to anyone who eats meat.

And for the record, even though i struggle with it personally, I have bought my daughter a couple of disney princess items. I'm not sure if they will stay in the house or not....but thats not the point, you were visiting the school, and your daughter grabbed a toy..................so what?????????????????? I mean I know there is no characterisation in Waldorf schools, but YOUR WERE A VISITOR!
post #13 of 45
Wow. Sounds like the parents need to spend more time modeling acceptance and kindness instead of rambling on about why we do this, that and everything else. How does a child of this age come to believe make-up makes you sick, anyway?? Or that Cinderella is so awful that mockery is the immediate response?? Tsk tsk on the so-called Waldorf parents.

I'm sorry you had such a horrid experience. Personally, I'd probably call the director and communicate my impressions. I've never seen anything like this at our school. Even the most Waldorf-y of them all are very tolerant and realistic.
post #14 of 45
What a terrible, terrible experience no one should be treated like that. I would have been put off that school as well. I hope that is doesn't result in being put off of Waldorf altogether, though I can see how it would.

This kind of thing has never been my experience at all. I have always felt like the early years part of our school is very warm and welcoming of all different people. Our school may be unusual though as we very diverse and have a wide range of people.

Occasionally kids will show up at school with character toys or the like and the reaction from the other kids is fascination and often admiration, certainly not ridicule.
post #15 of 45
I'm so sorry. That sounds awful. I would be off-put, too. I wouldn't write off all "Waldorf" because of that but I too would have a hard time wanting to be there. I didn't realize there was a Waldorf in your area, though. I thought Austin was the only TX school?

Anyway I do have to add, about the doll, that I wouldn't think it would be a welcome addition to the classroom as there is a lot of thought put into what goes into each item for specific reasons and "home toys" are not welcome. HOWEVER, I would think the teacher would have encouraged her to put it in a cubby or something (I think they use the simple "Home toys wait here for you" explanation for when a child brings something from home into the room). The unchecked pointing/laughing/meanness is inexcusable, regardless. I'm sorry.
post #16 of 45
I agree with a PP that said this could happen in a public, Montessori, Sudbury, or private school as well as at sporting events or just walking around your neighborhood. It's absolutely rude and I'm so sorry this happened to your daughter.

We checked out Waldorf when DD1 was about to start preschool. I loved everything about it, however, we are just not that crunchy granola family that would fit in. Both DP and I worked in the music industry and we are huge fans of pre-recorded music and we treasure our TV time. I am also a drummer, so we do encourage the artistic music side, but we were not about to go TV and music free. Then we discovered Montessori which is very heavy on peace education and letting the child work in a very controlled environment on whatever he/she is interested in. There are no plastic dollhouses and Bratz dolls to play with, but it's also not a little jr. professor academy. It's a great balance and our kids are thriving. DD1 will be starting a Montessori charter in Aug. that has a loose uniform code, but no temp tattoos, crazy hair colors, characters on clothes, backpacks, lunchboxes, etc. I don't dress my kids in character clothes (it's just not my personal taste), so I'm really glad they have that policy. I know in Waldorf some schools are even very picky about everything being natural fibers. Sometimes the occasional polyester blend slips in there and I wasn't comfortable with somebody being that concerned about the threads on my daughter's back.

Just keep in mind that not all Waldorf schools are created equal. I checked out 6 or 7 Montessori schools before I found the one that was right for us. Good luck!
post #17 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaInCA View Post
How does a child of this age come to believe make-up makes you sick, anyway??
Well actually....I don't wear make-up b/c it makes me sick...literally. (I have no idea why, rashes, swollen red eyes, etc. - maybe an allergic reaction?) So, not to excuse what happened here - I would certainly take issue with the adults' behavior in this situation. But for the kids...well...I have two in this age range and I could see them telling other people that make-up makes their mom sick, because it really does. I could also see my kids saying something about "character" dolls (not meanly, but as a point of observation along the lines of "we don't play with 'x'" because those are the sorts of things we say at home as part of our explanation of why some families do, and ours doesn't.)

I can't make any guesses to as to why you saw those kids act the way they did, but, do take into consideration that little kids (ages 4-6) are still figuring out the whole social thing and sometimes they say things in ways that are unacceptable to adults (Waldorf or not). Is it possible that these kids were (unsuccessfully) trying to point out differences between shared family values and visual challenges to those values? I guess I'm not really trying to defend their behavior, but trying to provide another possible perspective.

That being said, I work very hard with my kids not to make those type of judgement-sounding statements, and as an adult, that's 100% my responsibility to teach them acceptable social behavior. Additionally, I know for a fact that the early-ed teachers at our school would never let that pass without comment and redirection. So no, I don't think it's necessarily a "Waldorf thing." I think it is more of a reflection of the adults present than anything else.
post #18 of 45
OP- I am so sorry you and your DD had to experience that. I can't imagine what I would have done in that situation. But I certainly wouldn't be enrolling there. From what I have heard though, this doesn't happen everywhere. Don't exclude waldorf entirely based on that experience if you feel drawn to it.

Some of the replies got me thinking though. Many of you mentioned that waldorf parents are "crunchier" than most. How so? What makes them so different? I ask this as an honest question. I don't have any schools near me so I have no experience with this. Makes me a little nervous that I might not be "crunchy" enough lol. (OP, I hope I'm not hyjacking your board. If I should make a new post for this question, let me know.)
post #19 of 45
That experience sounds like it was terrible for your dd - but its a child w/rude parent experience, not a typical Waldorf experience. Our school runs the gamut from young/hip mamas to middle agers to grandmas. There is no "typical" Waldorf parent or family.
post #20 of 45
It can happen anywhere. As a mainstream Pre-K teacher for 4 years, I've seen it many times. Its not a Waldorf thing, its a preschool thing. Kids are learning to sort things into categories at that time. Its a developmental skill that carries over from academics to social settings. They are learning to classify things, like big/small, heavy/light, loud/quiet, but also good/bad, pretty/ugly, fun/boring, girly/boyish... this sometimes leads to what is perceived by adults as value judgements but really isn't. Kids also begin to really identify with their families at this age and what they are taught at home certainly comes into play at school.

I would have probably done some modeling in that situation, or at least some redirecting to a new activity. Holding back and letting the kids work it out unhindered might be a more Waldorf-based approach. But it seems like it was effective - your daughter had an opportunity to articulate HER values. How wonderful! Was she very upset by the experience, or was it mostly you who was upset? Its helpful to make that distinction so you don't project your feelings on her. This is the first of many school/peer upsets she may have, regardless of which school you choose, mainstream, charter, Waldorf, Montessori...and the more calm and objective you can be the better.

Just a note, I really have BTDT. My son (now 13 but then 4) took a Barbie to show and tell at a mainstream preschool and got absolutely ridiculed by a group of girls and the teacher did nothing. I had tried to disuade him knowing what was likely to happen but he insisted. I was devestated for him, but slowly have come to recognize the value of these experiences. We can share our values, and share what we perceive societies values are, and try to prepare our children for when those might clash, and how to respond, etc, etc, but there is NO substitute for the real life hands on experiences. They are painful and they hurt, but they are a necessary part of growing up that do have value. That helps me put it into perspective, since I have a tendency to go all mama-tigress and want to protect them fiercely yet I know I must also allow them to develop their own strength. Sounds like your daughter is off to a good start since she is already able to speak her mind!
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