or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Education › Learning at School › Waldorf › Choosing Waldorf Steiner Education - I need the truth!!
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Choosing Waldorf Steiner Education - I need the truth!! - Page 3

post #41 of 69

zoebird I like your balanced perspective! 

post #42 of 69


Edited by accountclosed3 - 7/25/12 at 1:19pm
post #43 of 69

I agree with Lauren!  Zoebird -- I think your responses are very thoughtful and helpful for any parent considering Waldorf.

post #44 of 69
Originally Posted by Jane93 View Post

I am extremely intrigued by your statement that: 


"My research showed that the Waldorf educational system is so far (and I hope this changes) the best system for fostering healthy brain development in children. """ "


How did your research show this?  Is your research published anywhere we can read it?  Really -- for ALL children?


The research that I did at Harvard (in the Ed school) was not specific to Waldorf, but rather to understand the best practices that will lead to healthy brain development.  In my opinion, that is currently Waldorf.  Not because I think that Waldorf is perfect, but because as an educational system, they use the highest percentage of best practices that I am currently aware of.  I have been thinking of writing it up as a book (it's currently in 2 4 inch binders covered with post-it notes), but that feels daunting while pregnant.  But here is a general outline (and when I say general, I mean it - it is a generalization, and no, Waldorf is not the best match for ALL children.  No educational system is, and anyone who says otherwise is selling something, to quote the Princess Bride):


1.  What we currently think of as rational thought is not devoid of emotion.  People who are emotionally impaired are cognitively impaired and cannot make "rational" decisions.  Teaching methodology that emphasizes emotional connection to the material results in more long term retention, deeper understanding, and greater ability to draw connections between that material and previous knowledge.  For more information, look up the research of Mary-Helen Immordino-Yang.  Waldorf's method of teaching through storytelling overtly tries to make this emotional connection.  This is the single largest reason I personally favor Waldorf.


2.  Absence of standardized testing, and indeed of tests in general.  Research commissioned by Bush Jr done by the NRC showed that standardized testing can give an accurate picture of where children are, but cannot help them to learn.  The research actually explicitly stated that NCLB (in its initial configuration) would not help to improve education.  In fact, attaching consequences to standardized test results detracted from learning and increased stress levels in children beyond what is healthy.  Further research by Butterfield (can't remember her first name, sorry) showed that at least as far up as 5th grade, giving tests detracted from learning, period.


3.  Continuity of care.  Having a class teacher that knows your child over the full 8 years can provide a picture of the learning child over time.  As a math specialist, I work with children in both the Waldorf schools and many other schools.  Much of the time, the class or "homeroom" teacher spends much of the year getting to know the child and his/her learning style, and by April or May things are humming along smoothly.  Of course, school is about to end, and in September he/she will have a different teacher.  Continuing with the same class teacher can be a blessing, and a valuable collaborator for both parents and learning specialists.  Now, and this is important (and many in Waldorf World would disagree with me), this only holds true if the student and the class teacher are a good match.  If you are struggling with a class teacher, your child is unhappy and not learning well in that teacher's class, and working on the situation hasn't helped, then don't stay in an unhealthy environment.  The current definition of a learning disability is a mismatch between the learner and his/her environment.  If Waldorf isn't the right environment for your child, don't keep trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.  Find a round hole.


4.  Inclusion of lots of outdoor play and recess.  Many public schools are limiting play time in favor of academics.  And yet, without physical activity, dopamine levels in the brain fall and children are unable to sustain concentration, resulting in ADHD-like behavior (not to mention obesity).  Actually, this should be #2.  It's incredibly important, and Waldorf's scheduling method of alternating academic and non-academic classes, combined with increased access to outdoor play, is the best method of reducing the percentage of children who present with ADHD symptoms and increasing ability to learn.  For reference, Spark, by John Ratey, is an excellent resource that goes into why this is all true in detail (and it's written for the lay person - very clear and well done).


5.  Keeping the same class together for all 12 years.  Absent the resource of not having to deal with someone the next year, children are forced to work through social differences.  Staying with the same group allows for a level of social intelligence to develop that is not as easy in a larger school with constantly changing classmates.  Again referencing Mary-Helen Immordino-Yang, all information is applied in our adult lives in a social context.  And we never like all of the people we work with.  Allowing children to work out their differences over time in a learning context (especially an emotional learning context) means that they will be better able to apply the knowledge in work settings in later life.  Ideally, social issues are facilitated by the class teacher.  This is an area where Waldorf hasn't been perfect (as per the bullying that has already been discussed), but I think it's an area where the theory is correct, and Kim John Payne's work with Waldorf schools has greatly increased the efficacy of social inclusion in the last few years.  Again, know your school, know your class teacher, and know when to leave if it isn't working for your child.


5.  The whole-child approach.  Now, this one is another tricky one, because it's both a pro and a con.  Jane Holmes Bernstein at Boston Children's Hospital is a neurologist and learning specialist who has been designed an evaluatory process for children with reading difficulties.  She advocates throwing away many of the standardized tests and including child observations as part of the process, resulting in a fuller picture of the learning child, and not a label.  Waldorf does this already through child study and refusing to label children.  A "standard" child who is having some issues (that can be served by collaboration between parents and class teacher) will escape the psychological trauma of labeling and ideally get the support needed to get back on track.  HOWEVER, here is an area where Waldorf is still very weak.  Waldorf has very few learning specialists or remedial teachers, for many reasons that I won't go into.  As a result, a child who needs early intervention and help may not get adequate help in Waldorf setting, despite the best of intentions.  If your child is having trouble, and collaborating with the class teacher doesn't help, then I would advise looking at other schools sooner rather than later.


What does Waldorf do not-so-great?  Well, lots of things.  The effects of the community I will not get into, as Zoebird has already done an excellent job.  It can be wonderful, and it can be horrible.  I have personally experienced both.  And as discussed in #5, the whole child approach is great only when it's working.  Bullying has also been mentioned, and I hope that it's no longer a problem at most schools, but it's good to keep vigilant.  And from the perspective of brain development, there are a couple of major weaknesses, just as there are strengths.


1. Early intervention.  Waldorf doesn't do it.  The theory is that children need time to develop, and they give children the space to learn at their own pace.  Now, this is difficult, because while that CAN be true, it isn't NECESSARILY true.  If your child is having learning issues, ones that will develop into cognitive deficits, early intervention is your best hope to get that child back on track from the perspective of the developing brain.  Early interventions for reading and math can prevent learning issues from developing and help the brain learn to compensate.  Now, can you tell the difference between a child who will grow out of a learning issue and a child for whom it will get worse?  No.  So here is where you have to trust your instinct as a parent and either give the child time to develop, or find the right specialist and intervene.  I have seen disasters on all fronts, and successes on all fronts.  It's just a really hard thing to figure out.


2.  Absence of assistive technology.  Now, I don't want to get into the tech debate.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I completely support people choosing community based on presence or absence of technology.  In Waldorf, nearly all have chosen the absence of technology.  But I think that we are too militant.  I am talking about technology that is specifically designed to assist children who have a specific deficit in their brain that cannot be ignored and prevents them from learning "normally."  Past a certain point, it is a gift of the modern world that technology can help children continue to develop cognitively alongside their class despite the lack of certain skills.  In 4th grade, most children make the shift from learning to read to reading to learn.  A severely dyslexic child should be allowed access to readers like Kurzweil by about 6th grade, so that they can keep progressing in content at the same pace as their class WHILE STILL working on learning to read (I am not advocating throwing in the towel when problems arise).  Similarly, a child who still doesn't know their times tables by 7th grade should be allowed a calculator.  Research has shown that when traditional methods of learning have failed, the simple repetition of math facts done over and over on a calculator can teach them over time.  Plus, students shouldn't be getting algebra problems wrong because they don't know their times tables.  They should be focusing on learning algebra, using the calculator as an assist.


I think there was another weakness, but I got called away and now I've forgotten and have to get back to work anyway.  I hope this is helpful.  It is not meant to "sell" Waldorf education, merely to give a non-Waldorf perspective on why Waldorf can be the right choice for your family.  I still maintain that all schools have their pros and cons, and the best thing to do is research all the schools in your area and find the best fit for your child and your family.

post #45 of 69

Jalilah, I am sorry to have offended you - especially so deeply!  My goodness, I guess I should have been more specific in reference to this thread, rather than to life in general.  My belief is that if you go into a school (or any place) looking for its imperfections and expecting them and looking with a critical eye, you will find what you are looking for. 


Of course going into a situation expecting beauty and not finding it to meet your expectations can be hurtful and disappointing.  And I can see how that could happen in a community such as Waldorf.  I'm not sure I would have the same expectations going into a public school and probably wouldn't feel wounded if we found it wasn't working for us.  But, yes, I would feel great disappointment and sadness, and probably resentment, if we had to leave our Waldorf school because I do see it as the only education option for my child (and for me) at this point in life.



Originally Posted by jalilah View Post

 To imply that those of us who had bad experiences in Waldorf were somehow wanting to find them is deeply insulting.   Most of us were initially attracted to Waldorf for the same reasons you were. We saw the beauty and believed we were doing the best possible thing for our children. To say we somehow attracted what happened to us there is just plain offensive.



post #46 of 69

I personally think that your post is interesting, but where is the research?  You are making statements about so many pieces, and presenting them as fact, that it's hard to know where to begin.  Just off the top of my head, the current definition of a learning disability is NOT a mismatch between a learner and his/her environment. It goes on from there.


I get it  What you may have wanted to  look at is "best practices" in education, which of course has been written about and studied extensively, and is not really controversial, and is important.  I'm still not clear on what you actually studied, and how you conducted your research to arrive at your conclusions?  Can you be specific about your studies?  



Edited by karne - 7/15/11 at 1:08pm
post #47 of 69

Thank you for sharing Izzybelly.  I found your post very insightful and interesting, including those based on your experiences and the many research-based references cited.

post #48 of 69

Kame, the program I was in is called Mind, Brain, and Education at Harvard grad school of ed, where as of last year the definition that we were using of learning disability in my program was a mismatch between learner and environment, which is why I called it current.  I don't think it's in widespread use yet in schools.  And I don't mean to prescribe my opinion as fact.  I gave references for all of the topics I researched, which as I mentioned was not specific to Waldorf.  My specific thesis was on the impact of emotion on cognition in math learning.  I offer what I know written as broad generalizations because I find them helpful when evaluating schools, both Waldorf and non-Waldorf, for my own growing family, and I thought that maybe it would help others.  I apologize if it came off in a different way than intended.


And Imagining: thanks.  Very much.

Edited by Izzybelly - 7/15/11 at 3:06pm
post #49 of 69

Izzybelly, it's helpful to hear your specific area of study, and the theoretical basis of your study.  As you probably know, a learning disability connotes a very specific discrepancy between ability and achievement, as measured by specific tools, and within the context of age norms-of which there is a wide variation, but it is still possible to understand what is generally understood to be normative for age.  A true learning disability will not change based on environment, but may be impacted by environment, as well as a multitude of other factors, including age, maturation, the impact of the teacher, the particular tools or methods used for instruction, etc.  Children receive certain protections and accomodations based on a dx of a disability, so that is why I struggled with your definition of learning disabilty.  It doesn't make sense as a dignosis, and I wonder how you would evaluate based your definition?    


I think your thesis work sounds very interesting, actually.  Could you say more? I am not unfamiliar with the Ed school, and some of the instructors in your program. FWIW.  


I think the problem points come in when one tries to take mainstream theory and apply it to waldorf, which you have clarified that you are not doing.  You stated that waldorf is, by your account, the best delivery system of education in terms of healthy brain development, and my question was how that would be possible to posit, based on your research.  I think it's not possible, personally, and the issue I have is with saying that something is the best based on research, when the research isn't actually there.  Personal opinion is fine--I know I've had mine, and changed them over the years based on my experiences!


Thank you for clarifying.





post #50 of 69

I gave a talk once on Waldorf and brain development, and to my horror, it was advertised as a talk presenting research that "proved" that Waldorf worked.  I nearly blew a gasket.  I do believe that research can support different types of education, but prove?!?  No.  My opinion, and my experience, is that the research I've cited supports Waldorf.  I offered it as a different perspective than is usually given (which Zoebird did really really well), but being new to Mothering, I think I'm done now.


post #51 of 69

Izzybelly, I think you stated things very well and you did a great job of explaining your perspective.  I'd love to hear back from you. 


Wanted to comment about the learning disability definition.  The mismatch between learner and environment is not an entirely new way of looking at things.  Jane Healy's early work, for example, addresses this (try "Why Johnny can't read").  Perspectives on brain ability and achievement vary according to the learning culture because of differences in expectations.   For example, if a culture of education really values artistic achievement, and a very verbal style of communication is not particularly valued, then many dyslexics may appear to to have superior achievement for ability.  There are also aspects of cognition that are currently not covered by IQ testing for learning disabilities that in a certain learning culture would disable a person.  For example, having spent years of schooling in the performing arts (music and dance at professional levels), problems with aural perception of music can be devastating for musicians.  They may have great expressiveness and "chops" (fine motor skills or vocal skills necessary for music technique) but really struggle with fine tuning of notes or dictating notes.  In a music program, this would still be a learning disability even though the gap between over all musical aptitude and achievement is not something that could be found on testing for learning disabilities.  And, some learning difficulties bridge the border between a "disability" and a "difference", and adaptation of teaching style can affect whether the disability can be prevented altogether (like some people need to draw diagrams for math, and some people talk themselves through math, and some can do it the way most teachers, do.  They may not have a learning disability related to math, even if it tests that way.  They just may not have had the right match to the learning environment to "get" the math)


As for the Waldorf part of this discussion, I think Waldorf has a lot of good ideas that could integrate very well with public education.  My DS started out in an Enki school (which has a lot of Waldorf influence) and I took a lot of what he got from there to enhance his learning when we left (first homeschooling, then public school).  However, in our case, the system of education was a bit too much of a mismatch for him.  Because he has nonverbal learning difficulties, and how both Enki and Waldorf use the child's desire to imitate and follow rather than using explicit verbal instruction, he had a very hard time learning in that environment.  The teacher was not willing to switch to a more verbal style for him (she felt it would detract from the overall class atmosphere), so that situation was not for us.  However, this is so dependent on the individual teacher and the individual child, so you may not know these things unless you try it.  I guess it just matters to be aware, pro-active, and willing to change plans.  If you have reservations about early elementary transition due to different timelines for teaching reading, you can either supplement reading instruction at home or commit yourself to being absolutely sure of your decision by the end of primary, as it's still early enough to catch up easily.

post #52 of 69

IzzyBelly, great explanation.  Thank you for taking the time to share all that!  I hope you find the time to publish some day - it would be wonderful to see that fleshed out.  But as a general overview, I thought it was very well written and explained.  :)



post #53 of 69
Thread Starter 

I'd like to thank everyone for assisting me - I have yet to read all these responses -

I have been 'offline' with a slowed internet speed for the last week!  I'm looking forward to it!

post #54 of 69

To Aletina, and anyone else considering a Waldorf Education:


You may want to find out if you have a Waldorf-inspired public charter school in your area and look into it.  These schools can be a worthy compromise -- offering Waldorf-influenced teaching methods while also having to adhere to the laws, regulations & educational requirements of regular public schools.

post #55 of 69

I know I'm a bit late to reply, but yeah...

I'm in the Netherlands right now considering the local Waldorf school for my son while we live here.

He's not attending yet, but it seems very relaxed and rather like they are trying to apply the principles while still appealing as much as possible to 'normal, average, or if you want to call it that; mainstream' parents.

I'm happy with this approach so far. 

I am hoping that if and when we move to the States I'll be able to find a new school with that attitude.

I believe in the importance of the Steiner methods, but I am also ok with my child living to 50% in the conventional world; watching semi controlled TV sometimes, eating junk if they have to at another child's birthday party, etc.

I hope that I can find a school that would be quite fine with children and parents that prefer to keep one foot in each style of life...  of course drawing a line at obviously destructive behaviours and habbits that would be frowned upon even by any sane public schools.

Someone mentioned a Waldorf inspired Charter School? Are those common?

post #56 of 69

Hi! I live in the NL and my DS goes to a "Vrije school." He loves it. He went to a different (Catholic) school til this past November when we moved him. Anyway, at our Waldorf school, most kids have TVs at home, it's just that screen time tends to be more limited than it would be in the homes of kids at more conventional schools. Most kids have legos and no one seems too extreme or gung ho re: absolutely no plastic, artificial fabrics, etc., etc. In the NL, the gov't has pretty strict oversight of all schools, so the Vrijescholen are probably more like a Waldorf Charter in North America. Anyway, feel free to PM me if you'd like more info!

Originally Posted by mistymoral View Post

I know I'm a bit late to reply, but yeah...

I'm in the Netherlands right now considering the local Waldorf school for my son while we live here.

He's not attending yet, but it seems very relaxed and rather like they are trying to apply the principles while still appealing as much as possible to 'normal, average, or if you want to call it that; mainstream' parents.

I'm happy with this approach so far. 

I am hoping that if and when we move to the States I'll be able to find a new school with that attitude.

I believe in the importance of the Steiner methods, but I am also ok with my child living to 50% in the conventional world; watching semi controlled TV sometimes, eating junk if they have to at another child's birthday party, etc.

I hope that I can find a school that would be quite fine with children and parents that prefer to keep one foot in each style of life...  of course drawing a line at obviously destructive behaviours and habbits that would be frowned upon even by any sane public schools.

Someone mentioned a Waldorf inspired Charter School? Are those common?


post #57 of 69

I love Waldorf charter schools, but they are mostly out West.  The Northeast has a long tradition of private schools, and I don't think there are any Waldorf charters on the East Coast.  I have had students come from the Southwest having attended Waldorf charters out there, and they've had great experiences.  I've also met teachers from the charters and been very impressed with their balanced approach to Waldorf education.  If you are lucky enough to live where you can get a Waldorf education for free that way, I say go for it.  In the East, I often look for schools that call themselves "Waldorf-inspired" for a more open-minded approach to Waldorf education, but with that said I still think that every single school is different, and the best thing to do is take a tour, talk to parents in the school, and have your child visit for a few days.  It's about finding the right fit for your child and your family. 

post #58 of 69

My husband and a few inspired beings are working on creating the first Waldorf-Methods Charter School to the East Coast. If all things go according to plan, the charter will be approved sometime this coming Winter and the school will open for the 2012-2013 school year on a 60-acre farm right outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania (www.circleofseasons.org). The beauty of it, among other things, is that this charter/public school will serve some of the poorest parts and some of the richest parts of PA simultaneously. Another beautiful aspect to this initiative is that the group that is founding this school completely appreciates and values the strengths and benefits of the Waldorf approach to teaching and education while not getting caught up in the dogma [or drama] that exists in many of the east Coast independent/private schools. They have been working closely with Eugene Schwartz as well as some of the administrators of some of the West Coast Waldorf charter schools and everyone in that mix appears to be forward-thinking, realistic, progressive, and open-minded. [As a point, Eugene Schwartz, when he was a Waldorf classroom teacher, never did wet on wet painting and always said that there was no reason to not have black crayons in the classroom.] I have much more to say on this along with wanting to give my support to Izzybelly et al for her and theirs research into the neuroscience of human development/brain development and how it all affects education, but I will hold off for now in the event that everyone has lost interest in this thread..... I'll simply wrap up my reply by saying that I completely agree that "one size does not fit all", but as a practicing Art Therapist and adjunct professor [and I'll speak for my husband who is a clinical social worker and adjunct professor as well], I/we encounter so many children, adolescents, young adults, and adults who have not been served well AT ALL by the mainstream public school educational system and who suffer for it in a myriad of ways while being ill-equipped to cope and/or grow personally because of a severe lack of critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills or creative/resourceful strategies. 

post #59 of 69

RebeccaMama, I am sooo happy to hear that a Waldorf charter is opening on the east coast.  I live in a state that still doesn't allow charter schools at all (I think we're one of 5 total), and it's frustrating.  I wish you total success!  I have worked with Eugene Schwartz in the past and was very very impressed with him.  I am glad to hear that he is involved!  If you ever need any support from the science side of things, feel free to PM me.  I have done community outreach for schools in the past on Why Waldorf.  Good luck!!

post #60 of 69

This struck me as well.  I'm new to this board, trying to learn everything I can about Waldorf.  It seems to me that the Waldorf way of teaching will be a very good fit with our family.  However, I am very concerned that we would be considered too mainstream. 


I look at this (beginning our daughter's education at Waldorf) as a real committment, and look forward to enjoying becoming part of our local Waldorf community.  BUT, the idea of the social police as was mentioned, the idea of being judged if we don't fit in just right (how we dress, eat, play, etc.) will be a complete turn off.  I imagine this would be a disaster, as all the goodness and wonder at the core of the Waldorf education would be (or feel) lost to us.  I'm frankly, very scarred about this kind of thing happening, and the possibility that either my daughter would feel ostracised, or the opposite, she loves everything and I'm persona non grata to the other moms (heaven forbid, what if she wants to play soccer or start some other activity at the "wrong" time?).  Does that spell the end of our inclusion in this community?  And further, my daughter (almost 4) loves books, letters, and numbers.  Truly, all on her own!  I know this is not an unusual thing.  I am not about to take away her books, or refuse to tell her how many peas are on on the table when she asks me.


How can I broach my concerns with our local Waldorf school to really get a sense of what kind of community it is?


I'm getting so much from these posts, thank you to everyone for sharing your experiences.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Waldorf
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Education › Learning at School › Waldorf › Choosing Waldorf Steiner Education - I need the truth!!