Actually, when I was laboriously researching private school options, I did find 'Montessori is a Cult' groups, and a Montessori's survivor group. At other times, I've seen similar declarations and groups about Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, AA, Weight Watchers... a lot of groups. And what they all have in common is a somewhat insular, club-like mentality, and a certain code that everyone lives by, a close-knit social structure, and I think when one disagrees or leaves a close-knit, alternative setting, it is very lonely and isolating, and feels like the break up of a marriage. Things are great now for us at Waldorf, but I can imagine how sad and stressed I would be if something were to go wrong and we decided to leave. I think that inserting yourself into a "club-like" place means taking that risk. The risk is real though, and I definitely think no one is immune. When I made my decision, it had everything to do with the teachers, and, although they are supposed to be there for the entire 8 years, things happen. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Hopefully, most of us don't have to face "the break up" scenario.
Waldorf Criticism - Page 3
If you have strong, specific, organized religious beliefs of your own, Waldorf may not be for you. If you are a family who is spiritual but not religious, if you are interested in many different religions and enjoy taking part in a wide variety of ceremonies (if/when given the chance), then the spiritual elements may appeal to you. The founder, Steiner pretty much took little pieces of many different religions and blended them together. Some of his theories that were incredibly gutsy and liberal in his time, are now inappropriate, antiquated, etc., and most families and educators ignore those things and focus on the rest, in the exact same way that, say, most Bible followers don't make menstruating women hide in a room for 7 days. A child at Waldorf will get a lot of general messages about the spirit and soul, and then a broad range of stories and traditions from many different religions. They hear at least 6 different creation stories, but are not told that one is true while another is not. In that way, it feels a lot more open minded than public school to me. Think yoga or kabbalah, it's ever present, but it's not actually taught as fact or anything. (Just as kids in public don't learn about the Pagan roots of Halloween, Easter egg hunting and Christmas trees, or put a huge amount of thought into the daily Pledge of Allegiance. :) )
I think a formal text book chock full of facts can seem more serious and substantial... but my kids bring more information home. It sits with them, stays with them. When people get overwhelmed, they shut off and tune it ALL out. Also, form drawing, handwork music and other seemingly "silly" things taught at Waldorf, actually develop the part of the brain that does math, making it easier and quicker for them to master math. It's much more complex than it might appear. Read "All the right Moves: Why Learning Isn't All In Your Head," I *think* that's the title, or very similar. It's an eye opener (not Waldorf specific, but inline with how they teach).
Edited by MidiMom - 5/30/11 at 10:58pm
So sorry you had this bad experience. It sounds like your daughter is in first grade? She should be able to catch up on reading, and then public school should take her, no? My children were getting almost 100% scores on all their state standardized tests in public school, and when they got to Waldorf, the math was slightly ahead of where they had been in public school, while the English grammar was slightly behind, but in both cases, the differences were slight. Those kids who graduated (8th grade) the past two years and went on to public school, seem to have an easier time in most subjects than the kids who have always been in public school. Meanwhile, children learn very quickly through homeschooling, so I'm sure you can catch her up if that's what you end up wanting for her. I bet she is not as behind as they might think. But good luck!
We are very interested in steiner education, having lived near kimberton, pa for many years. we were really drawn to the educational stye, as well as other anthroposophical elements in the area (biodynamic farms, anthroposophical doctor, etc).
We moved to NZ for many reasons, including the fact that we could afford waldorf education here. We were really gung-ho about going into it.
But then there is DS.
DS is a vibrant, happy, child. He has a very sunny personality and is a strong leader. He's also trending 1.5 years ahead of his age in his development (physically, language-wise, etc).
We don't do anything to "encourage" this development. We literally live in a *very* waldorf way, to be honest, more so than many other parents who use the early childhood education. Yet, I've recently come under some consternation from the other parents about "not holding him back" or "over encouraging him to X."
Now, from what I can gather from the teachers (he's in play group, will start kindy next Feb, and has already been observed in play group by the teachers, and the play group leader also discusses the children with the teachers) that none of this is a problem. DS is just DS, and he's fine. He's ahead, but it's just how he learns, and he's not pushy, he's not frustrated, and he's not causing any real problems.
I do have questions though, if he continues to trend this way, as to whether or not waldorf will be for him because the curricula is particular and it is a community-based (everyone moving up together) process.
The main thing is that I don't want him ever getting the idea that there is something wrong with him (any more than I want him to get the idea that he's super valuable because he's "ahead"). I want him to value himself independently of these things (grades and so on), and make sure that the schooling is right.
If i had my way, I'd probably homeschool him entirely (unschool/waldorf inspired). but I simply do not have the time at this point. He'll likely go to waldorf kindy and perhaps a mainstream kindy also (close to home), and then from there, IDK what. maybe by then, I"ll be able to homeschool him. :)
Thanks for the support.
Education is South Africa is in a peculiar state. In the two years that South Africa participated in the TIMMS study we came dead last. We are in the unenviable position of having one of the worst public education systems in the world!
Around here it means that most parents who can afford private education do so. As far as private schools go it is a case of demand out-stripping supply and they can afford to be very picky as to whom they accept. (Our ex-Waldorf school was always so awestruck by their long waiting lists and the parents just dying to get their kids in - but I didn't feel it was my place to point out to them that it was like that at every other private school as well.)
We had my daughter accessed by an educational psychologist just to make sure that she doesn't have any cognitive issues. There was one problem area highlighted. I wanted to discuss this with my daughter's teacher, but she refused to meet with me as she was too busy interviewing new parents...
My daughter was supposed to start grade 3 in January. The public school down the road from us will be legally obliged to accept my daughter, but what they will do with her I can not tell. Most likely she would simply join the hordes of functionally illiterate kids our education system produces each year. We approached 2 private schools in our area. The first is a Catholic school and since neither I nor my husband are Catholic, my daughter is 2 to 3 years down the waiting list. The other school is a Pentecostal Christian school and this was a long shot from the start as we are a mixed Christian-Jewish family. They at least granted us an interview and evaluated my daughter - but they simply labeled her remedial and refused to accept her - even though we had had given them the psychologist's report which put her academic problems down to educational neglect.
If we persisted we might have found a school willing to take her, but the 2 evaluations were traumatic enough as firstly for the first time in her life she was confronted with hard printed workbook kind of tests and secondly she was being asked to do things that she could not do.
Six months down the line, homeschooling is actually going well, although I do have my doubtful days. She is reading very well and her maths has improved in leaps in bounds. When we started she could answer 5 + 0 = 5 and 5 + 1 = 6 but if I asked her to add 2 to a number she had no idea. She has been very resistant to writing and I left it at that in the beginning. A few weeks ago I bought a remedial writing program for her - only to discover that the root cause is that she isn't gripping her pencil correctly. But we are taking it one step at a time...
My "shallow" advice would be - RUN LIKE MAD . But seriously - if you stay with Waldorf it will really depend on how your son's class teacher handles the situation. Bear in mind that you will not find a program for gifted children at Waldorf although it seems like you are not really into that kind of thing. Just watch you child and listen to your instincts. Also homeschooling is a great option. Good luck
I'm just reading here, don't have much to contribute but wanted to say thank you mamas for all the thoughtful, eloquent responses.
My son is only one, but he will start a 2 day/ week Waldorf preschool next year, then on to the kindergarten at the same place if all goes well, and presumably on through his entire education. I have read a couple books and researched online about what Waldorf education actually is, but I have to say reading experiences like yours is such an important part of preparing ourselves for a Waldorf education. So much of what is out there is either strongly for or against Waldorf, but hearing from real families like you gives me a much more clear idea about what it's really like being at a Waldorf school.
So thanks everyone, I'll be participating on the forum here more actively next year once we are in the Waldorf program, so see you then
zoebird - i know our school has plenty of "gifted" children, either reading years ahead or some other skill. We had children reading chapter books in 1st grade. Our teacher allowed those children to read to the other children (during handwork). I dont think that having a child who is "ahead" x-number of years means Waldorf will not benefit you and your child.
Keep in mind, a child who is 1.5 years ahead right now may end up being average in the grades, or behind in some other subject :)
Also, just to point out, any schooling choice will have a variety of skill levels in any class. Some children will be far ahead of others, no matter what the schooling choice is. It's the job of a good teacher to challenge and meet all children where they are academically. Part of what I like about Waldorf is that many aspects of the child are important, not just academics (well-roundedness is valued -- arts, music, handwork, as well as the traditional aspects).
first, i should point out that i don't care if he's ahead or not (it's just an observation), and i recognize it may not be forever, and it may not be in "all subjects." i can only observe what I observe, and be conscious of whether or not there's an issue developing around it.
of course, it is not as if any school has any particular magical skills at being perfect. i think we're all just being observant and looking for a good fit.
the main thing for me is that i do not want hawk to be raised with a label of giftedness (if that is the case) being good or bad. good, in that it holds him in higher value than others and that there is some standard that he must be or reach; bad in that he is a trouble maker because he is so physical and so active (usually ahead of his peers) but with the same emotional needs and playfulness of his peers, and if he is bored, that creates real issues!
I also know that socialization is *huge* for hawk. We joke that he is continually running for mayor, and among everyone, he is really quite popular. he is so very sunny and fun, really, people are drawn to him. i'm glad of that, but also cautious -- because what makes him endearing now could be a troublemaking label when he is older (and in school -- regardless of the school).
i do think I have time though. he's only 3.
edited to add:
the bottom line that i get about hawk is that education -- no matter which form -- will not miss him. he will be educated because he's already doing most of it himself. this is why i think un-schooling would work for him. :)
but, the difficulty that i have with un-schooling him *is* socialization. right now, he goes to one activity a week, and i'm exhausted. I think that if i wasn't working about 40-50 hrs a week, it would be much easier for me to take him to various activities. DH is also working about 40 hours a week (plus film stuff), and we split our time with DH so that there is no child care. While it's great for DS to play on his own (and he does beautifully), he does desire far more socialization.
this is why, at this point, i'm considering school at all: to give him time with friends, something he really desires. Something I can't give him right now the way that I would like.
this is also why i'm concerned about the social sides of things with the waldorf group -- not from the teachers, more so from parents, and how that affects the children's social group (if it does). if i'm sensing something might be 'off' because of the age differences among kids, then that gets picked up -- particularly by my kid. nothing gets by him.
of course, he may be less phased by it than I am.
and, i know that he'll have normal struggles in life -- he already does like any little kid. but i'd like him to have a good childhood. i think we all want that for our kids.
Edited by accountclosed3 - 6/14/11 at 1:49am
zoebird, I definitely see what you're saying. I guess I would try to assuage your worries. Sounds like, if anything, he will do exceptionally well in school, being socially quite adept and sunny. My oldest son, who is 7, is that way, and it is such a blessing for him, though he can be so extremely sensitive to others that he has trouble filtering conflicts, etc. If anything, I think children that have tendancies towards antisocial behavior (aggression, extreme shyness, etc.) have more problems raising hawk. Sorry, I've kind of digressed off the topic of this thread but just wanted to reply. By the way, i remember you from when you had your baby, 3 years ago way back, I was following your story. Good to see your name again.
Zoebird, some of the stuff you mention is part of why I like Waldorf so much! DD1, who is three, has a strong tendency to be "too much in her head," and I like that Waldorf seeks to pull her out and into her physical being. I really do think it is a well-rounded educational model. I love that dd1 wants to learn so much stuff & dh and I completely encourage it, buying her workbooks (that she LOVES!) and everything, but the reminders to strive to keep her "grounded", so to speak, speak strongly to me & help to give us foundation. I know how consciously you have worked to build your lifestyle & you should honor those desires and stick with the way things have been going. If Waldorf ends up not being a good fit for Hawk, that will become apparent. For now, as you have said, he is still only three. Something that helped me immensely in forming my parenting philosophies has been the notion that we don't "have" to do anything. That means that NO form of schooling HAS to be permanent. Just b/c a kid is enrolled somewhere at age five does not mean they have to stay there until graduation. You can do some of this, a year of that, a week of this, really. We are unschooling, but Waldorf would be my first choice for a school :)
Augustine: Hard to believe it's been three years! :) It's nice to run into people who have been here a long while time and again. :)
I think that, after several days of contemplation and being with DS, the situation seemed to iron itself out a bit. the current social group is at a crossroads, which was also clouding my process. The parents, too, are at a crossroads, and we're all feeling out which way we want to go. it has sorted itself, in so far as I have become more comfortable with the direction that I am currently headed.
Part of my process as been accepting that one can be anthroposophical/steiner-based, but not necessarily immersed in the educational community itself. It's a great point of reference for many anthroposophical people -- much as a catholic school would be for catholics, as an example -- but it is not necessary to send your child to catholic school simply because you are catholic, nor is public school necessarily going to undermine the catholicism that the parent may wish to instill.
That is to say, that -- as (at least) one mother on these boards does -- it is possible for one to infuse one's life with the underlying principles that exist within the waldorf education (and anthroposophy) without sending the child to that school. In addition -- just as a catholic family may choose to homeschool when both public and catholic schools are available -- an anthroposophical family could do the same when a waldorf or any other school is available.
taking on this approach, I feel more assured that whatever we choose will work well for us, and that i can be adaptable and open to different ways that I need to be for our family.
I find that as I feel more assured in my process, the criticisms (in general) are informative, but not absolutely the way it is everywhere in every circumstance. And, that those criticisms can be both truth and fiction depending upon the given moment.
Anyway, this is likely off topic by this point anyhoot. :D