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Considering Waldorf - Page 3

post #41 of 55
Fustian---Ditto absolutely everything you said (even down to being a trained scientist). DD is almost 2yro. I have her in Parent/ Tot program at our local Waldorf. I am still undecided about the very issues that you raised.

DH is totally on board with it through kindy, but opposed thereafter.

I love so much about Waldorf schools that don't really seem to be supported in many other school options. I don't know what we are going to do. I think that we may try out 3 yro kindy, but I am not sure at this point. It is really hard to do much more because we will be moving in a few years anyway.

I would really like to see more before deciding on this one fall session and get to see another teacher. I think that because the teachers do go through all of the grades with the students that getting the one that is right for one's family is essential.

Hmmm...so I understand your concerns and I am conflicted as well. Do share your visit impressions and what you think of your local school.
post #42 of 55
Orangewallflower, I just want to say that your posts are just spot on. I agree with so much of what you've written , so won't reiterate it.

It's hard for those who do feel the fit is right, to disengage, and understand that the points you make about parents who discover anthroposophic beliefs are behind many things the teachers do, isn't a personal attack.
If one doesn't believe in higher spiritual worlds, or karma, and one's world view is rational and scientific, to realize the teachers whole way of operating is based on Steiner's "cosmic truths", and they are being used with your children, is invasive and shocking.

"You should have done more research" is often said; but the research throws up so much, and the schools seem bent on keeping many things from parents.

I've found it useful to read the books the teachers have to read during training. IMO, they show there is no doubt that the training is a form of indoctrination, that the teachers have to believe in Steiner's world view, and allow it to indoctrinate the children.
post #43 of 55
Originally Posted by kafka View Post
By 7th-8th grades, Waldorf students are not only catching up, but by high school they're actually ahead of most public school students. But by "ahead" I don't mean in terms of test scores, I mean in terms of being able to develop themselves intellectually as independent analytical thinkers.

I don't know how you support a statement like this? What study was done, with what controls? What was the measurement, where is the raw data? Who funded such research? Which public school students were measured? And on and on.....there are no answers because it seems to be anecdotes presented as fact. Unfortunately, this is an example of the type of 'truth" or perhaps a pseudo-scientific fact that gets trotted out a lot.

There is absolutely no reason to malign other students or their intellectual capacities in order to further feeling good about your educational choice.
post #44 of 55
i think it's fair to assert one's opinion based on experience in the matter.

i wouldn't say that waldorf educated people are necessarily "ahead" in any 'scientific/factual' way, but in my experience,waldorf education doesn't inhibit free thinking or analytical thinking, nor does it inhibit an individual's interest or success in pursuing the sciences as a career.

i make this statement because of a pervasive cultural fear that i commonly see: many parents (in general) fear that their children will 'be behind" based on whatever kind of education one gives them or doesn't give them.

because waldorf does not teach the sciences in the 'common' way in our culture, there is a fear that those children will "be behind" or not be able to keep up once in higher educational circles. i think that it is always a fair concern when questioning, thoughtfully rather than neurotically, which form of education to utilize for your child.

thus, as evidence to the contrary, those of us who know waldorf educated graduates in university point out--not scientifically or through a study, but through knowing these kids--that many waldorf educated children go on to study the sciences and do quite well.

of the children whom i know who graduated last year, a number of them are in the sciences. one of my best friends is a brilliant mathmetician, and she was waldorf educated.

so, even though waldorf doesn't educate in the sciences the way that other schools may (and honestly, depending upon the child, those other methodoloies may be better for an individual, given child), doesn't mean that children do not receive the ability to think critically and analytically to succeed in the sciences.
post #45 of 55
Originally Posted by fustian View Post
It's interesting to me that people are suggesting Montessori. I attended a Montessori school when I was very young and apparently I loved it. There are several Montessori schools within about a half an hour to forty five minute drive from us - further than I would like, but certainly not impossible. I did go and visit one of the Montessori programs, but was turned off by their focus on early academic achievement. The director of the school was pushing the fact that the kids were learning academics early, and thus had some sort of academic advantage over their non-Montessori peers. However, this may have been a result of a pitch made to a perceived audience, and not as indicative as to what the school is like as I assumed.
I know that this conversation has veered off the OP's original question, but we decided to go with Montessori so I just wanted to say how we got there. I read a lot about Waldorf on this community, and was really surprised to learn how strict it was. It also helped explain the friends I had in high school who had gone to a Waldorf school!

I think that so many of us hear stories about the love of learning being knocked out of very young kids in public schools that we translate this into distaste with the idea of early academic achievement. But I eventually came to the conclusion that early academic achievement has nothing to do with FORCED early academic achievement.

Children in Montessori schools often seem to (according to the anecdotal research I've done) indeed read and write fairly early, but the difference between this and mainstream school is that they are given the tools, to work with at their own pace, and they come to traditional academic skills in their own time and at their own pace. If you read about the Montessori activities (I recommend "A Parent's Guide to the Montessori Classroom", which is really just a pamphlet but outlines all the major work), they are designed to be very specific steps on a road to the academic skills, each of which requires the child master it before moving on.

Over in the Montessori community there are very frequent threads about parents being upset at how "strict" or "structured" the Montessori classrooms are, how there's no imagination allowed, how the teacher doesn't let the children play with the toys however they want. I think that on the surface all of this is true, but the underlying reasons are very valid. The truth is that children thrive under structure: Waldorf is all about structure though it's called rhythm. The main difference is that in a Waldorf classroom (and in most preschool classrooms) the whole class follows the same rhythm, while in Montessori the child is taught the structure of each activity, and then allowed to go it alone. By working on the activity of their choice, the children really learn to master it, and this mastery gives them the skill to work on the next activity. The activities slowly build up to various academic skills, and before you know it your child is writing or reading or multiplying two digit numbers, with nary a workbook or forced memorization drill in sight.

The fact is that some children do pick up on academic skills faster than other children. My sister was probably profoundly gifted, and could read by the time she was two (I'm not making that up) and she and her friend who was definitely profoundly gifted sat around and read calculus textbooks in first grade. Waldorf probably would have driven both to suicide! On the other hand, I was a much more laid back kid, totally into my own little fantasy world, and wasn't reading fluidly until the summer before third grade when I kind of figured it out on my own: I probably would have flourished at a Waldorf school.

But my point is that having a blanket concept of early academic achievement being a bad thing is, in my personal experience, not a constructive way to view many kids. Once I learned more about how strict Waldorf is in keeping kids on the same track, I had the realization that my beef isn't with early academics, but with expecting all kids to follow the same path to the same place (I'm still no longer nearly as smart as my sister, but I'm no slouch either), whether that track is "early" or "late." This realization made me choose Montessori. To my knowledge, besides a Sudbury type school experience, Montessori is the only curriculum that really lets a child learn at his own pace.
post #46 of 55
OK, zoebird. But the way you present your anecdotal evidence is a lot more palatable (and truthful) than the quote by kafka.

I considered Waldorf for a very long time. Ultimately, I rejected it. I was able to find a fabulous public magnet school -- an "open" school -- that suited our family much better, and didn't cost their college funds. I feel very comfortable with my decision. I have a friend who did choose Waldorf, and I find that despite extremely similar parenting styles and lifestyles, she has drifted away, and has become quite narrow in her world view, and choices of friends and activities. That's my anecdotal experience of Waldorf.
post #47 of 55
Originally Posted by zoebird View Post
i think it's fair to assert one's opinion based on experience in the matter.
Yes, very true. However, opinion should not be confused with fact, nor presented as such. It's one of those pieces that seems to get "muddied" in waldorf (my opinion).
post #48 of 55
I don't think I presented my post as the result of a randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled study. I based my post on purely my own experiences as a university science professor and laboratory director running laboratories in both state and ivy-league research universities, who recruits supposedly "top-level" high school students from Intel and Simons competitions. I say that not to give myself extra credit (I agree, that my opinion is just an opinion and should be treated as such), but to provide a basis for my statements. The vast majority of high school students, even the straight-A wunderkind-types that we see coming out of these competitions, are terrible scientists. Great students, terrible scientists. They simply cannot think for themselves. And, just as importantly, they strike me as being over-educated and under-skilled. The vast majority of them cannot build anything, cannot design anything, and have no experience working with their hands. My own personal viewpoint is that Steiner's stuff with the reincarnation etc. is just plain silly but makes a nice metaphor. But the real asset is in getting kids back to making things, because that process teaches them some very valuable skills and develops important physical intuitions that fewer and fewer of our kids would otherwise be exposed to (again, my impression based on my own experiences...no published Nature study here). Just as a point of reference, 50 years ago (read Feynman's autobiography) the average physics major had spent his (yes, mostly "his") entire childhood taking electronic things apart and putting them back together. That is no longer the case, and it makes my job much MUCH harder because they just aren't clever in that way. Unfortunately, it can't just be easily taught in a year's lab rotation because it should have been developed over an entire childhood.

Originally Posted by karne View Post
Yes, very true. However, opinion should not be confused with fact, nor presented as such. It's one of those pieces that seems to get "muddied" in waldorf (my opinion).
post #49 of 55
Kafka, you have touched on one of the things that Waldorf does very well, and that is missing in some mainstream schools. Human beings need to make things and our culture of standardized testing over the last four decades has been driving this out of the schools. I do see it starting to bubble back up in the mainstream though. Knitting is starting to be a common activity in the classroom and sewing is a common after school activity. My son's class tends a vegetable garden. It would be nice if it were built in as curriculum as in the Waldorf schools though.
post #50 of 55
I'm very surprised to hear that it's coming into the mainstream, since it seems that with my three kids it's been driven more and more out with every passing year in the rush to fill kids' time with computer learning (what used to pass for minimal art instruction is now computer graphic design). My kids run the gamut, from preschool to high school. Not one of the three is receiving any practical manual skills in the classroom...it's so unbelievably frustrating, since even when my mother went to school girls at least took sewing and boys took shop. Now they both learn how to invest in the stock market in a class called "life skills." Warning: non-scientifically-proven anecdote: when I asked my high-schooler son's friends what they would do if their cars ever broke down (out of curiosity) the answer, universally, was... "call a guy." Perhaps this attitude of helplessness explains why my best scientists come from "underdeveloped" countries; in a country like India or Pakistan or the Ukraine, when you're a boy and your car breaks down, you and your friends fix it yourselves. You see the result of this mindset in the lab when something isn't working and there's no "guy" to call.

I got into this forum because I essentially try to give my kids a dual curriculum. When they get back from school, I spend another 3-4 hours with them doing projects that are strongly Waldorf-based. I know Waldorf kids who are flaky and into drugs and druids, but I've been impressed by the high school kids who come out of our Garden City Waldorf school and I like to recruit them because they tend to work out well. Of course, there is a self-selected bias confound, since the kinds of parents who tend to seek out alternative educational strategies may have themselves greater levels of independent thinking that they pass on to their children either genetically or via childrearing...I'm aware of that. But with all those caveats, I still think Waldorf is not "anti-science"...just the opposite. You can't study the world well without having your hands in it.

Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
Kafka, you have touched on one of the things that Waldorf does very well, and that is missing in some mainstream schools. Human beings need to make things and our culture of standardized testing over the last four decades has been driving this out of the schools. I do see it starting to bubble back up in the mainstream though. Knitting is starting to be a common activity in the classroom and sewing is a common after school activity. My son's class tends a vegetable garden. It would be nice if it were built in as curriculum as in the Waldorf schools though.
post #51 of 55
Originally Posted by kafka View Post
You can't study the world well without having your hands in it.
Wow. i love that!

DH currently is a PhD candidate in Chemical Engineering at a Ivy League University. He went to public schools with a strong focus on science. But he really feels that what has given him an 'edge' has been his informal schooling. The hours upon hours he spent in the woods as a child, the 'tinkering' he and his brother did, lots of traveling, and learning from others- including carpentry, fine woodworking, auto mechanics, and some cooking. His 'being' in the world, so to speak.

off topic but, incidentally, this is the first time in the nearly 10 yrs we've been together where he isn't able to do most of the car repairs on our car, simply because his research responsibilities don't give him enough time~~ wow, have mechanic bills been a slap in the face, lol!

DD likely won't be attending a formal Waldorf school for many reasons- financially, a few concerns we have with anthroposophy, and I just don't think its the right fit for her. I wouldn't have any real concerns, though, if she were to attend about the difference in how science is taught in the higher grades. I do have some issues with the 'gnomes as truth' stuff for the littles.

Most of this is me rambling, and not terribly relevant... sorry about that!
post #52 of 55
Kafka, I do hear, and agree with the point you are making about wishing for more "hands on" involvement of our children in the world. We are also a family of university teachers, Ph.D's, scientists, as well as musicians, artists, writers. In our experience, it's not the school that creates or fosters any of the above-it's the family. My ds spends literally hours taking apart electronics and putting them back together, just as his father did as a child, and his g'father before him, all scientists/engineers. The problem was that this was labled as inappropriate and unbalanced by waldorf teachers. So, you can have your hands in the world, but it has to be by Steiner's rules and timetable. Once one of my kids brought a skull of an animal, yet to be identified, to school for exploration, and was told that children of that age should not look at such a dead part of the animal. Hmmm. So you have this supposed embracing of science and then pure quackery. Hard to figure out.

IDK what the answer is-kids definitely need to connect more with their world, but we don't rely on a school to do this for us. It's more what our value system embraces, so my guess is that at least one of my kids is going to be sought after as a creative thinker.
post #53 of 55
Karne, I was thinking about this issue and wondering how much screen time has to do with kids making things. My kids watch about 1.5 hours of t.v. a week, and they don't have any other screen time (except that little bit at school.) I can easily see that if I allowed it most days and especially if video games were thrown into the mix, they would have almost no play (make, break, dig, draw) time. I wonder if t.v. and video games are a large part of the phenomenon of passivity and helplessness that Kafka sees in her employees. What do you think of this idea, Kafka?
post #54 of 55
There are so many great posts on this thread, I don't know where to start! I think kafka's main point about the development of physical skills is really important.

I was involved in a Steiner/Waldorf parent-toddler group where we used to live, when DD was about 9-20 months old. It was a great, friendly, welcoming group of people. As time went on, I decided that I needed to research Waldorf a bit more, and I became uncomfortable with certain aspects of the philosophy and method. I was sold on the idea of creating a rhythm, but was worried about it becoming too rigid. I am almost comfortable with the paganish esoteric christianity, but my husband is very atheist/rationalist and he did not like that aspect of Waldorf at all.

I started to ask questions, and talk about my concerns with other people in the parent-toddler group. I discovered that although the woman who ran the group was doing a 1-year course ("Foundation Year" I think they called it) in Steiner education, she was by no means 100% Waldorfy. I visited her at home several times and discovered that her 5-year-old daughter had plastic toys and even a little DVD player. She was very much into taking what worked in Waldorf, for herself and her daughter, and leaving the rest. I eventually decided that while I liked our local group, I was not a huge fan of Waldorf overal.

We have since moved, and there's a Waldorf school only about a mile away, which is closer than anything gets to us here. It's actually on the way from our house to the main road. I will be going to check it out in November, but I'm leaning away from it despite its convenience. For one thing, it's expensive and they only do full days (8:30 - 2:30) and I really think that half days are better for pre-schoolers, if you can manage it. Secondly, we can do a lot of what I like about Waldorf at home. We'll have a garden, we live in the middle of the woods, I bake and make things, and I might even work on my story-telling skills and brush up on fairytales, which I'm interested in anyway.

Also, I've found a school I like much better. It's a 20-minute drive away, but not so far from DH's work. It's a Reggio-Emilia/Montesori based pre-school (half days only) in a church basement. They have a "science room." It was a busy, welcoming space, and the teachers were fine with letting me and DD (who is not quite 2 yet) just drop in, whereas the Waldorf and Montessori schools here only do scheduled visits, parent only, after the kids have settled in to the rhythm. Their openness was really important to me, even though I can see the rationalle behind the other parent-visit policy.

I'd say, keep looking, and see what the particular Waldorf school you're looking at is like. They can vary quite a bit.
post #55 of 55
I guess in my earlier post I should have said that there not much in the of alternatives to either Waldorf or Montessori in my area.

aikigypsy--Thanks for mentioning Reggio. I started looking that up and exploring that forum here on MDC.

I want to know more about the art and crafts. I have been very fascinated by the Waldorf watercolor images and other handcrafts. I still have "crafts" that I did 40 yr ago and I don't want my child wasting her time making stupid paper bag puppets from some copies that the teacher ran off. I must have made 20 of those things, one for each holiday/season/occasion. I can not think of anything less creative than that. They don't look like they were even ever played with as a puppet and now I can understand why.

orangewallflower--I am also very interested in what these other approaches say about screen time. We did away with our TV. I don't miss it. It makes it really "easy" at this point because she does not really know what TV is. I can not believe that my parents let me watch as much TV as I did. I always thought that it was weird that there were people who were raised without TV. I did not know anyone personally and here I am without a TV.

"I wonder if t.v. and video games are a large part of the phenomenon of passivity and helplessness that Kafka sees in her employees." I would believe so. Having taught at the university level, I must say that screen time and computer-based approaches are not the end-all-be-all. I think that they can be for the motivated learner, but students who have no motivation to learn are not any more engaged in the technology than they are with any other medium. I think that is why I am so interested in finding a place that supports creativity, music, nature/science, etc. to ensure that the love of learning is strong.

I am a product of public education K-12 and private liberal arts college. In high school I was very frustrated because I wanted to take art and was told that I was "too smart" for those classes and that those classes were Not there for the "university bound" students, but more for the dropouts. I was even a "teacher aide" xeroxing rather than an art class because of that for a semester---what a waste! I had learned to be a "good girl" and to do as told at that point, but that is another topic. Anyway.....I went to a liberal arts college and finally got to take art and even had my own show!!! I loved it and feel that I was quite deprived growing up. (Wow, just writing this has just now crystalized why this is so very important to me as one should not have to wait until college to get exposure to real art.)
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