Dear all - first post here (sorry, it's be long, I'm afraid). Gosh, what a great resource this board is, I only wish I had discovered it a year or two ago! So, I'm a Waldorf parent, if you can call it that - dd is 6 and currently in the first grade and (apparently) loving it, ds just turned 5 and is in KG, and he has another year of kg ahead of him before going into first grade. Both were in the Waldorf nursery since they were under 3 so it has been the only school they know. I can say that, in general, we had a great Early Childhood experience and would enthusiastically recommend it to anyone - in fact, we probably had such a good experience in early childhood and I didn't fully do my due diligence as a parent and now I'm having deep second thoughts about having enrolled dd into the grades and now I'm deeply conflicted about what to do. But first things first: what did I like about early childhood? I guess the stuff that draws so many parents to it and that makes Waldorf so attractive for so many people with smaller kids:
- The emphasis on storytelling and imagination.
- The delayed academics, the absence of push to do earlier and earlier reading.
- The no media policy (which, to be honest, we only partly embraced and to this date we sneak some occasional dvds now and then, especially on Friday afternoons and in school vacations - I know, I'm an evil parent letting Ahrimanic influences get to my child and impeding correct incarnation or such but C'MON!).
- The push for natural materials, simpler toys, the importance of rhythm in the day and in the calendar.
My initial intention was to have kids enrolled in early childhood and then have them move into public grade school for KG year. But seeing how well they fit and how they blossomed I spent a lot of time researching the Waldorf grade school philosophy, Steiner, anthroposophy and eventually decided (perhaps prematurely) that the good stuff that I saw overrode the bad and that the warm, protected environment of Waldorf would be a better fit than the big, institutional public school where we live (and it didn't help that I live in a school district ranked in the bottom half of our state).
I additionally got horrorized by some hyper-achieving parents I met (including some work colleagues) who lived in more affluent suburbs with high-ranking public school districts who boasted how their little 7 and 8 year olds got several hours of homework per night (plus gosh knows how many extracurricular activities they crammed onto them), how another top-ranked local school district had opened stress management and yoga classes for 11 and 12 year olds (sic) and I was really content to step out of the rat race and let my kids be kids and to learn at a gentler pace.
So I was willing to tolerate all the soft mystical wishy washy anthroposophical stuff (I'm an agnostic myself) - I read a bunch of sites both promoting and criticizing Waldorf and I was content with the responses to the most outlandish PLANS assertions out there. DD seems happy, I think her class teacher has a great rapport with children as far as I can see, DS also seems fine for now although I have some reservations as to whether he'll be a good fit if he were to continue in the grades (he seems to be too independent and too non-conformist) - so what's the problem? I have now two problems:
a) Financial - the school has been extremely generous with fin. aid, almost to a fault, but even with this there's no sustainable way I can keep paying the tuition going forward. There's another dimension to this, in that most of the classmates we know are from families more affluent than us, in some cases MUCH more. Having been through the same situation myself when I was growing up in another country, at some point sooner or later I know this will have an impact on the kid's relationships and self-esteem (it's perhaps just a matter of time before the "daddy, why can't we go in that ski trip with my friends" comes).
b) Philosophical - what I didn't know nor count on is how inflexible and dogmatic things can be. I'm resenting the fact that children get somehow labeled and boxed into 4 temperaments, how it's "Steiner said this" and "Steiner said that" and there's not one iota, as far as I can see, of self-criticism intent or to see how to change or improve educational methods or materials. Don't get me wrong, I think Steiner had some really great insights but there's no willingness to select what works now and just bury the rubbish, and c'mon, Atlantis and Lemuria???
So now I really don't know what to do, esp. with DD - right after first grade seems the worst time to switch her to a mainstream school, she isn't reading yet and it seems to me that the only possible approach would be for her to just repeat the year, or to spend the summer in some sort of intensive tutoring program for her to catch up and I'll be hating myself for having to do this to her if it comes to that - heck, I already am, and I feel it's tearing me apart.
Thanks for reading through this!!