We left our local Waldorf School at the end of last year after having been there for 6 years. It has been one of the most painful experiences in my life. My children had both been there as toddlers and my daughter has never been to any other school. We have lost our community and we are all hurting.
Although there are probably many fine Waldorf Schools out there and I still think that Steiner's philosophy presents one of the best education models out there, it took us 6 years to realise that it is very easy for a smoke and mirrors scenario to develop in a Waldorf school.
Because Waldorf sets itself up as this warm, nurturing environment where each child is view as a unique individual, when it then turns out that your child has been totally overlooked - well it is hard to deal with that kind of disillusionment. We were always told that me son is doing absolutely fine, that there are no problems until the end of class 3. The way that we were told that there was a problem, was a loose piece of paper included with his report at the end of that year - no meeting - no caring - no loving kindness. Just your child is reading at the level of a 6 year old and needs extra tuition - please organise it.
Well, it turned out that that my son's reading problem was just the tip of the ice-berg. We a have a long holiday in December and I got involved teaching him that holiday. I soon realised that he could not even write his own second name and surname. In the end my son was diagnosed with severe learning disabilities and is now at a remedial school.
Although it is by no means the Waldorf school's fault that my son is LD, we had been there for so long and the fact that nobody noticed, nobody bothered to really pay attention to my child - that hurts.
Our story has a rather bizarre ending as well. With my son going off to remedial school, it became very difficult to keep my daughter, who is 2 years younger, at the Waldorf school. Moving her to another school at the end of class 2, proved to be nearly impossible - the remedial school would not take her because she is not LD and the mainstream schools would not take her as she is so far behind her peers.
We decided to home school her.
I just wanted to leave the school on amicable terms. We had been there for a long time and I wanted our family to take the good away with us. But my daughter's teacher had other intentions - she organised a very Waldorf style end-of-year ceremony for the class and then proceeded to publicly attack me and my daughter - so much for us to leave and take the good with us....
I realise that people, whether they are associated with a Waldorf school or not, at times, behave abysmally - but what I would like to achieve by telling our story is that if you are considering a Waldorf school for your kids - do so with your eyes wide open ( as you should do with any school). Just because people are "Waldorf teachers" and all nice and warm and fuzzy does not mean that they are not as full of crap as the rest of us ....
- If your kid's teacher can not tell you where your child is academically - it is time to leave the school.
- Do you intend staying with Waldorf for the whole of primary school and if there is a possibility of you having to move to another school. What if things just go wrong the way it did for our family - what would be your back-up plan? (Until the middle of last year we had never even looked at any other schools in the city that we live in.)
- Our biggest mistake was that we out sourced our children's education to the Waldorf school. Some of my friends at Waldorf have been told "the reading fairy will come" - a child like my son would never lean to read and spell in a class of 30 noisy children. What we have learnt, and it has been a very hard lesson, is that at the end of the day, we as the parents are ultimately responsible for our children's' education. If you have any doubts, act on them especially in the Waldorf environment.
The following article on the parent teacher relationship in a Waldorf school could be helpful. Also Eugene Schwartz has quite a few good articles on his site www.millennialchild.com.
If I were able to find a Waldorf school that did Waldorf the proper way, I would go back tomorrow. Unfortunately, like Eve in the garden of Eden, I have now eaten from the tree of home school knowledge ... I don't think we will ever be able to go back, my standards for my children's education have just sky rocketed in the last few months. But that is a whole dissertation for another time ...
Hope this post is helpful.
Blessings to all