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Is there room in Waldorf for loudness?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I've got twin boys who will be turning three this month, and in trying to figure out what to do about schooling/preschool, I discovered that we have a Waldorf school close by, and I'm very excited about it from what I've read. We're hoping to send the boys there for preschool this Fall. In the meantime, the boys and I started a parent/child class and have gone twice so far.

While I'm still really excited about the school and the idea of Waldorf style, I've got a concern after participating in the class. I'm struggling to put it into the right words, but it is something like this:

The class has a gentleness and quietness that on one hand I value and want to learn from (myself as well as the boys). But, on the other hand, I find myself feeling worried the whole time that my boys will be too loud, or that they will be disapproved of if they act out, or - in my mind - be the almost three year olds they are. We are not by nature a particularly quiet or gentle (in the nature of what I've seen so far in the class) family. My boys are boys and they run around and play loudly and raucously. We listen to music all the time and love to turn up some good bluegrass or rock and sing and play along. But in the class I feel so worried about not being good enough. One of the things I was most excited about reading the information about the school and Waldorf education was the idea that it is very accepting of kids whoever and wherever they are. But so far my experience hasn't been that.

What I wonder are a couple things, one being: Is the Waldorf philosophy such that it has no room for kids playing loudly and raucously sometimes, or is it more the case that it values quietness and gentleness and sees this as the way kids can learn best/the best environment to emulate and so in the classroom setting that is what it strives for, but that it has room for kids being loud, etc. in certain situations?
Another being: If my kids aren't always quiet and gentle, will they fit in?
And another: I assume that the environment will be very similar in preschool and kindergarten? Is there a big difference once they reach 1st grade on up?

I feel like Waldorf style is a great fit for the values we have as a family and the environment I want my kids to grow up in and style of learning I want for them. But I'm concerned after these two classes - I don't want to go through preschool/school always trying to fit in/be good enough...

I hope this has made some sense. I know every school is going to be different, but I'd love to hear some perspective from anyone who's more experienced than I am... Thanks!
post #2 of 22
I worked at a waldorf school for three years and did playground duty a couple of days a week during recess or lunch hour. The kids were very noisy and very energetic.

The emphasis in kindergarten or nursery is that the teacher models quietness and gentleness, not that children are expected to achieve this all the time. And all of the waldorf schools I know include a lot of outside play which is vigorous and involves lots of physical activity and noise.

I would raise your concerns directly with the teacher, however, and decide what to do based on his/her answers. Because schools vary and that particular school may be wrong for your boys for one reason or another and it is up to you to figure out if it fits or not.
post #3 of 22
i agree with deborah...it is more the focus on the teacher setting the tone of sweet gentleness (down to the color of the walls being that light peachy pink and the idea of the soft apron being a place for a small child to snuggle into). my dd is in a waldorf k right now and she is the loudest kid in the class...she often bothers the other children. but learning how to all share work space respectfully and together as a community is a huge focus of that age, so it is all part of their "work" to figure that out, with the teacher as a model and guide. and trust me, play time out side is full of wild normal kid energy (like wild animals!)
post #4 of 22
Listen to your instincts...ask questions...it may seems perfect on the surface but not be the right choice for your family...

there are some older waldorf support threads on here which might help explain some of what you are seeing...

post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 
"there are some older waldorf support threads on here which might help explain some of what you are seeing..."

Jenne (or anyone else), can you point me to some of these?

I will definitely ask more questions - we're still waiting to set up an appointment with the preschool teacher prior to being officially signed up.

I guess what I want to hear from her is what pp have been saying, that it's the teacher's job to model a quiet, gentle, purposeful attitude, but that there is still room for the kids to be themselves, as they learn to be quiet, gentle and purposeful in the classroom, and then have a chance express themselves a bit more raucously outside. We really value and live out handwork and purposeful living, and quietness and gentleness is something we could do with a bit more of. I just want to know that my kids won't be judged if they forget to walk in the classroom or if they yell to another kid or me, etc. That they won't be expected to be something they're not, or to be more restrained than is reasonable for their age. I don't know if I'm expressing it well, but there is a difference in my head between them receiving guidance and being modeled to vs. being expected to already know how to and always being gentle and quiet with no exceptions.
post #6 of 22
It depends on the teacher. Waldorf isn't perfect and there are some less than wonderful teachers so the only way to find out if this school and classroom will be right for your children is to talk to and get a sense of the teacher.

My grandson is extremely boy--loud, energetic, physical--and has been very happy in a waldorf nursery and kindergarten. I think he appreciates having clear rules about behavior inside the classroom. I think he also appreciates having his gentler side called upon. He doesn't always know how to be "nice" or "gentle" but there are times the impulse is there. Equally, for some of the quieter children, the energetic outside time is a healthy balance, too.
post #7 of 22
I think this is one of the longest running...


post #8 of 22
Originally Posted by Jenne View Post
I think this is one of the longest running...


I've had spent two hours reading this thread, this is scary
post #9 of 22
I am a Waldorf teacher. There's at least one child in my class who came without a volume setting. We love him all the same, though. And he's 7, not 3! I don't think anybody expects 3-year-olds to have matured to the point of remembering to be quiet when it is not in their nature to do so. I don't think there is any judgement involved in trying to teach them to be calm and respectful of others. It's just that, teaching.

By the way, I came back to this thread to ask how old your children are. It just occurred to me that the atmosphere in parent-and-toddler groups (that I've been to, anyway) is more geared towards the younger children. (All the gentle singing does seem appropriate for a baby, to me at least.) It is a well known fact at our school that three year olds are not well-served by being in this kind of group. So it might just be that your children have outgrown this class and are ready to move on?

Finally: just talk to the teacher (or teachers -- the toddler one and the kindergarten one). Contrary to what people think, Waldorf does not have an 'official stance' on a great many things, and it is down to the teacher's personality and understanding. What 'Waldorf' thinks does not matter, anyway. What matters is what this group of people that will be working with your children feel about it.

I hope this helps.
post #10 of 22
Originally Posted by joanna0707 View Post
I've had spent two hours reading this thread, this is scary
There are certainly scary stories out there about waldorf.

I'm up to over 50 years of experience with waldorf education at this point...

does bad stuff happen? yes.

Does that mean that all of waldorf education is awful?

Not in my experience. Most of it is good, some of it is great.
post #11 of 22
Deborah, you're right, but I was so dissapointed after reading this thread, how do I know the school where I'm planning to send DS is not having the same kind of issues? Is talking to teachers and parents enough to make sure the school is right? Probably not...

Oh, how I wish I could homeschool DS, my worries about finding the right school will be over.
post #12 of 22
here's the thing--not school or method is perfect. it doesn't matter which style you choose, there are good and bad teachers, good and bad aspects to the community and so on.

it's just *life*.

when it comes to choosing your child's education you have to know whether or not you agree with the theory or pedagogy. if you do, then it's likely the right kind. then, it's a question of the individual community. is this waldorf community better than that one? it really all depends upon who you are.

and if it isn't right for you, then that's ok. you will move on and be the wiser for it. none of these things are permanent marks on one's cosmic/psycic record. right?
post #13 of 22
Also, stuff can be bad and then good, in the same school and the same class.

A dear friend of mine put both of her children through a waldorf school. Her son's first teacher turned out to be a bust. The second teacher turned out to be a dream. He had all sorts of issues in school and everyone got terribly frustrated. It turned out that he had an eyesight problem and with the right glasses he became a well-behaved child.

In the end he had a great experience in waldorf and has done super well in college and in graduate school.

On the other hand, I had one really creepy teacher in one of the many public schools I attended (we moved a lot) and she left a deep mark on me, although it eventually faded away. It wasn't so much that she was mean, she was sort of crazy and also untruthful in a weird sort of way. Being around her made me very unhappy.

Being a parent sucks, because you can try so hard...

My daughter, who mostly went to waldorf and now has her children in waldorf, said that she felt it worked best for people who really understood what it was and who were willing to put in some effort to sort out problems when they occurred. Which I guess is true.

On the other hand, two families that I know of that pulled their kids out of waldorf were deeply immersed in the philosophy, long-time committed students of Steiner's work, and they had no patience at all to work through problems. They could see that things were screwed up and that was that. The end.

One family returned to the school after the problem was resolved, the other family did not.
post #14 of 22
I don't have a problem in putting a lot of effort into sorting out education issues, behavior issues, but it almost seems to me like sending DS to WS means that I should be expecting some different unexpected problems related to Steiner's philosophy.
So I guess it all comes down to this, if I'm not into Steiner's work but I love other aspects of Waldorf, will this school be the right fit for DS?

PS. Excuse my grammar, English is my second language.
post #15 of 22
Well, in my experience, the problem isn't Steiner's ideas, but the way individual human beings take up the ideas.

It is sort of like Christianity. There is the Inquisition. There are the Quakers. And a huge range of human beings in between.

I've known a lot of parents who weren't into Steiner who had happy experiences in waldorf schools and some who did not. I've known parents who were into Steiner who had good experiences and others who did not.

So I'm not sure the dividing line has to do with devotion to Steiner from the parent's side.

The important questions I would ask about a waldorf school:

1) Is the school healthy? Are people friendly and welcoming and willing to answer questions? Is the school clean? Are the policies published? What about financial problems?

2) Are most of the teachers reasonably well-educated? College degrees, waldorf trainings, some with advanced skills?

3) One of the most important questions: what happens if you run into problems? Is there a clear structure for dealing with conflicts between parents and teachers? If you are not happy with the teacher, who are you supposed to talk to and does that person have authority to act on your concerns?

Basically, these are the sort of questions that should be addressed, IMO, to any private school, because structural and governance problems can occur no matter what sort of philosophy a school follows. Unfortunately, in public schools, parents don't have much leverage or choice, so if you run into a badly run school your only option may be moving.

Hope that helps!
post #16 of 22
Basically: everything Deborah said in the pp.

Spend time at the school you are considering (also observing older classes) and decide for yourself.

My kids kindergarten class is LOUD during free play, but quiet during story/circle. The teacher knows what the class and individual kids are capable of. And there is tons of time outside to let it all go and be crazy.
post #17 of 22
DS's preschool class is over 75% boys, so, yes, loudness is not only accepted, but appreciated there. His teacher manages the class very well, with a balance of gentleness and firmness, and things are usually very calm, even if they are loud, if that makes sense...
post #18 of 22
My dd's class is quite energetic and noisy! I have watched the teachers and from what I see, they allow each child expression and only hold them in if it's disturbing the class (ie: at circle time, storytime etc). Otherwise, it's hustle and bustle in the classroom. The teachers are very nurturing when they do need to guide a child...they never say "don't do this" or "don't do that"....they redirect calmly with positive words!

As far as the "fitting in" part...I have friends at school who worry about that too. I don't really ever focus on fitting in...I focus more on how the school fits my child! We aren't waldorf purists and I came to discover most of the parents at the school aren't either. I always assumed people were on a spectrum of commitment to all of Steiner's ideas!
post #19 of 22
it really does depend on you.

there are waldorf schools where very few people believe in anthroposophy or stiener, but they do value the educational process in particular and it's a good fit for them. i would say that at the waldrof school where we were (kimberton, pa), most of the parents aren't anthroposophists at all. they just like the schooling.

perhaps most isn't accurate, but most whom i know were pretty mainstream overall. they just liked the "natural" education. and, their children are educated so they are happy.

i think that other waldrof schools may be more 'entrenched' in the philosophy. or more of the parents are. so, perhaps that school would not be as open to people being "less" waldorfy.

really, it depends.

and being sincere, you'll figure it out.
post #20 of 22
I can only speak from personal experience. You'll find that everyone's experience will vary.

Many people have great experiences with Waldorf. I believe that all of the other parents in my daughter's waldorf kindergarten class are very happy with the fit between their children and the school.

I, however, am not, for reasons similar to the concerns you have about your own sons. I've found that it's not at all the case that only the teacher models calm and quiet behavior - the students are expected to sit still and not speak during significant parts of the day. My daughter doesn't thrive in this environment. For her, it's too extreme, especially without the intellectual stimulation that comes with more mainstream schools. She's grown bored, frustrated, and unhappy, and I meet frequently with her teachers to discuss her inability to sit still and be quiet. They're hinting now that she may have special needs, which... no. Her "bad" behavior is isolated to the time she spends in that classroom. When she attended a mainstream preschool in the years prior, her teachers always remarked at how well-behaved, bright, and well-adjusted she was. We're pulling her out and placing her in a public school this spring.

None of this means that Waldorf won't be right for your children. There's certainly no harm in trying it out for a while and seeing whether it's a good fit. You can always change schools later. And, as others have said, no method will be right for every child. My daughter would simply prefer more intellectual stimulation, not less, and more flexibility regarding what activities she can pursue. Sitting still for the majority of day doesn't suit her.

Perhaps your sons could try a few "taster" days at the Waldorf school, and you could go from there?
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