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Wow, I'm totally freaked out about Waldorf now...

post #1 of 214
Thread Starter 
My apologies to Waldorf folks ahead of time, but I am so totally creeped out about Waldorf schools right now, it isn't even funny. Has anyone else seen the Waldorf critics website?

I visited one Waldorf preschool two years ago, and I will tell you frankly, it did not sit well with me. The teachers and parents were all gathered in one room, staring raptly at the teacher who was doing a bizarre marionette show in a very high, sing-song falsetto voice. Candles (candles?!? with pre-k kids?!?) were lit, the drapes were drawn and it had a very strange feeling to it. We were told to be very quiet, almost like it was a religious service.

I didn't understand what it was that bugged me about the whole thing, until now.

Sure thing. Sorry I forgot!
post #2 of 214
Post url to critics website?
post #3 of 214
you're in nc, was it the chapel hill or asheville waldorf school that hit you as being so weird? i ask b/c i was considering them as an option for my dd when she's school aged..
i agree there's a whole lot about the waldorf philosophy that is really really bizarre to me, and that i really have issues with-thanks for the link.
post #4 of 214
I have seen the Waldorf critics site, and I think it has a lot fo good information, but liek anythign else I think you have to take it with a grain of salt. There are reasons behind all of theings that are untraditional about Waldorf education, and I think you should delve more into the rerasoning behind what they are doing before judging it.
post #5 of 214
Thread Starter 

The one I went to was in IL...

so I can't comment on the NC ones. But trust your instincts, mama!
post #6 of 214
I just want to chime in for a moment AlohaDeb and say I hope you find some support. I also had uneasy gut feelings about our local Waldorf school. My very first impression was it felt like a "cult". The teachers had these pastey smiles on their faces and appeared uncomfortable when I asked about diversity at the school.

Now, that being said, I took Ellie there for a year and a half for a mommy and me playgroup one morning per week. My good friend from LLL was taking her son and I knew I wasn't looking for a traditional preschool. It was as much for me in that it taught me some wonderful crafts, reinforced some of my parenting and helped me to meet some other moms.

We didn't end up staying for kindergarten and have a few famillies in our hs group who left that Waldorf school very unhappy. I heard stories bout unsupervised children down at the creek, little girls pushing another little girl off of a high slide because she wasn't wearing a dress. Icky stuff. I know there are parents here who are happy with their Waldorf schools, but I didn't want you to go unvalidated or have your concerns minimized. Good luck to you!
post #7 of 214
Thread Starter 

Reasons behind Waldorf school activities...

Such as...? The reasoning behind it seems to be a religious philosophy, called Anthroposophy. I'm not against religious education at all if parents are informed and understand what they are choosing. I do get upset when I feel that I have been misled, which I feel is the case at the Waldorf school I attended. This website confirmed my gut feelings.

Can you imagine a Catholic school not stating right up front that they were, in fact, associated with Catholicism? Why would they do that?

I guess the reason I posted this was because I feel very disappointed. I had thought Waldorf was awesome, I love the natural toys and not pushing children too hard. I thought perhaps it was just this one school that was strange. But this website suggests it is not. I just find that very disappointing
post #8 of 214
Everything I ever read about waldorf mentions anthroposophy. So it was easy to do a little more research about it and think about whether that's ok with me. There are certainly things about it I don't agree with, so I would eveluate a school myself before considering sending a child to waldorf without me. I have never encountered anything in my parent child class, or in the visits with the school where we plan on doing another parent-child class, that made me uncomfortable.

I am not a waldorf advocate by any means, but there are certainly pluses and minuses to it. Different schools and teachers seem to adhere to principles of anthroposophy to different degrees, you have to investigate to figure it out. (a past thread on support in Waldorf schools for extended BF was an example....anthroposophy would not support it, but many people have had ebf teachers and other ebf parents in school...) Too many parents I think just send children somewhere and never do any research. More reading on Waldorf and Anth. will explain stuff like the singing, the decor, and use of stories/puppets. Some of which is kind of wacky, IMO. But there's tons of stuff in modern life that have a basis in things I don't buy 100%, but their basis doesn't necessarily affect me, yk? Some things, to me, seem to be culturally German, too, and others holdovers from customs more common earlier this century...not just unique to Waldorf. And many of their quirks, IMO are no more damaging and probably less so than what most children encounter in a conventional school environment, or through typical kind of student or teacher interactions. We've all heard stories about hair raising things at regular school, too.

I have done no detailed anthroposophical reading or study groups, just scanned a few things, more reading *about* it (like the historical basis in theosophy) -- some interesting common roots of the new age and neopagan movements there. And I have read a great deal from the critics site. I think they spin things a little extremely in many cases. I am not sure I would accurately define anthroposophy as a religion or a cult...in many ways it just doesn't fit the definition of either word. It might be more closely compared to some sort of spiritual philosophy or world view...perhaps Buddhism is a better comparison? Considered a religion by some, a philosophy by others, and can frequently be combined or compatible with other religious beliefs? And secondarily, while it does underpin the teacher training, unlike in an overtly religious school, this philosophy is not taught *to* the children even though it influences how the children are taught.

Issues I have, externally, with Waldorf is that in some cases the advocates seem a little hide-bound and too traditional - and not always in helpful ways...more adaption would make it more compatible with modern American culture and values, and could still contain the unique waldorf priorities...some seem too take Steiner a little too literally instead of inspirationally, I think I'm trying to say. One interesting lecture I saw the transript of (though the critics site) and another article I read (montessori vs waldorf) seems to recognize that fake smile/automaton teacher attitude that was mentioned...it was depicted to be burn out, and lack of stimulation...repetition and isolation, rather than a stimulating environment for the teacher. So perhaps a more externally focused school environment would help keep the teachers engaged and recharged. I was wondering if some of the charter/public Waldorfs might be managing to do that.

But even with all that, if it's not right for you, certainly don't do it!
post #9 of 214
I had some really mixed feelings about Waldorf, having a known a few people raised by anthropothosophists (sp?!) and knowing a bit about Steiner. So it's kind of ironic that now I'm going to a Steiner parent toddler group and have signed Ds up for kindergarten and am really excited about it. It's like the above poster said, there is plenty to put me off other schools, I'll never find the perfect school IMO, and I've discovered Waldorf meets more of the needs (at least for kindergarten age) that I'm interested in, than other schools.

They put on those puppet shows all the time and I can't stand them, amongst a few other things, but Ds loves it all, and I'd rather he be doing that than watching "educational" videos, kwim? I also was turned off by the dreamy smiles pasted on teacher's faces and how they are all so "maternal", but putting my own judgements aside I'd rather that than a disinterested burnt out teacher with disipline problems. Plus there's a lot that I really really like. The community of parents being a biggy. You may find commonality amongst other parents there, even if the whole approach doesn't sit right with you.

But then again, it's certainly not for everyone. I think it's very important to go into it open-eyed and read up a bit on the Waldorf philosophy, but waldorf critics (I've seen it) is a very one sided take on it. Someone on another thread pointed out it was created by disillusioned Christian parents who did not like the (pagan) spirtuality of Waldorf. There are lots of threads here about Waldorf that can probably point you in the direction of a more balanced take on it.
post #10 of 214
Originally Posted by Clarity
It might be more closely compared to some sort of spiritual philosophy or world view...perhaps Buddhism is a better comparison? Considered a religion by some, a philosophy by others, and can frequently be combined or compatible with other religious beliefs?
Oh, just saw this. As a buddhist it's important to me that my son is in a school that at least acknowledges the spiritual dimension of each individual and this is another big reason I like Waldorf. So far I have not heard mention of a "God", instead there is a mindfulness around the rhythm of the day, eating, play, cleaning up, etc and special emphasis given to nature and the seasons. Since there's not really any buddhist schools in the west a lot of buddhists choose waldorf for this aspect of it.
post #11 of 214
I know this lady who started a Waldorf school down in the states somewhere about 20 years ago, and now she doesn't like them. She told me that they are good for little girls who are all "fairy-like" and want to please everyone with their paintings and such, but it's definately not for every kid. Her kid was never put through any sort of schooling.

I looked at the websites and I kind of got the feeling like the anti-waldorf site was very over-done. And the idea that a christian had started the site rings true to me. I have no problems with candles, in fact, I love them.

This whole waldorf business is still all up in the air for me because my baby is just 17 months old right now. But for me, I think I will let it be her choice to go to school or be unschooled.

(I've got pregnancy brain, so sorry if I don't make very much sence)
post #12 of 214
I looked into Waldorf when my kids were small. I used to get the Hearthsong catalog all the time, and I liked the toys.

But I took a short workshop and immediately knew it would not work for my kids. The whole, wet-on-wet painting thing. Every morning. No black crayons.

Yes, the books I saw some Waldorf kids had made were beautiful. But one of the messages for Waldorf homeschooling was: "Have your child do..." My kids would not stand for that kind of forced instruction. I found unschooling worked better for us.

And they preferred sculpting with clay to water colors.

There was something about elves to teach math which I found extremely confusing. And fairies in your mouth to like, deal with digestion? I forget the details...

Much later I read something about anthroposophy, which was not mentioned at the workshop. Wild talk of Lucifer? No thanks!
post #13 of 214

You have to take that site with a grain of salt.

They really have an axe to grind. Like Clarity, anthroposophy to me is a philosphy not a religion. Most of the anthroposophists I know are also Christians, Jews, Buddhists or Pagans, etc.. They don't view it as a religion and feel it is compatible with their personal religion.

We have 2 children in Waldorf and so far it has been very positive. Many of the wacky things you hear about Waldorf have started to be proven true by science. Recently, there was a study on TV watching and how children's brains grow. That is exactly what our Kindergarten teachers have been telling us for years that it is not the content on TV that is necessarily bad but rather it is the effect on the developing brain. Another thing that I have found is that the form drawing they do in school closely resembles the activities supported by Brain Gymnastics. There have also been studies where they have teachers loop in public schools (have the same class for 2 or 3 years) which reflect what has been known in Waldorf schools for years. My sister-in-law is teaching knitting in her public schools to help the kids with hand-eye coordination and math.

The biggest selling point for me on Waldorf was the graduates I met. They were kind, caring and smart. 95% of them went on to college.

It is funny, everytime I go into a public school I am creeped out. It is loud and cluttered and an assualt on the senses. I can't imagine learning in that environment. I'll take the soft colors, round lines and funny painting any day over that.

Also, as it has been stated, every school is different. I love our school, warts and all, but I am sure it is not for everyone and I am sure I might feel differently at another Waldorf school.
post #14 of 214
Can you imagine a Catholic school not stating right up front that they were, in fact, associated with Catholicism? Why would they do that?

The educational ideas of a Waldorf school are based in Anthroposophy- as in their ideas about development, but the spiritual ideas are never taught or mentioned. That is why they are not presented as a "religiously associated" school, as a Catholioc school would be. A Catholic school has a religious studies class where the children are taught the dogma of the religion, and they attend religious services. Those things don't happen in Waldorf schools. Most of the things you mentioned that seem so strange to you, are just things that are done because they view the children as being very close to their spirituality at a young age, and living in a sort of fantasy world. They protect the children from all things harsh. and try to make everything look ethereal for them. The sing song voice is so that they are not distracted from the story itself, the marionettes float, reminiscent of a spiritual being.
post #15 of 214

why no

black crayons?
post #16 of 214
I'd like to know that myself. And is it true that the waldorf school doesn't make kids read till they are like 9 years old?
post #17 of 214
Wow that just sound like such a weird invironment to me. I have never liked Waldorf for other reasons (the schools are very expensive and exclusive) but all of that just seems so unstimulating. My dd would go absolutely nuts not being alowed to use black crayons :LOL Itis her favorite color and about the only one she uses. I could see her in that environment rolling her eyes. The puppets would scare the bejeezus out of her and she would think all the fake smiles and sing songy stuff was stupid. too funny. The toy catalouge always made it sound like this perfect utopia but after reading the first little essey on that sight it just sounded terrible drab and boring. becuase of the whole exclusivness of them and other things I have read here I had never had an intrest in looking into thtem further but intresting stuff I tell you.

Does anyone know how homeschooling waldorf stuff compares to the school environment.. Like Oak meadow?
post #18 of 214
whats with no black crayons?? that's ridiculous! and what is wet on wet painting? what's wrong with fingerpaint? or clay? sounds wonkier by the minute.

i met a reaaaaaaaaaaaal strange woman in the park once, she came up to me and dd and without saying a word, busted into a dance, started moving her arms and hands, i didnt know whether to kick her in the leg, grab dd and run, or crack up laughing. dd was entranced (and almost immedietly began to imitate her arm motions), i was totally weirded out. my aunt was with us and she started talking to the woman, who was very floaty and strange, and found out she was a waldorf teacher in san francisco. now she's a childrens storyteller. ok, so one lady doesnt speak for the whole lot of waldorf teachers, but it was really strange. she did her funky dance for at least a minute before speaking. and she kept invading my personal space while she was talking...it wouldve been really neat, had she *spoken* like a reg. person before busting out her moves..
post #19 of 214
they have some strange views about color - someone else can address that more specifically. Colors have emotional influence. Which I guess studies have proven is partially true. Wet on wet painting is just watercolor paints on wet paper - like I learned in public school. I think they use it because of the focus on color blending rather than object representation. Black crayons are just over their color philosophies - you see a lot of peach for instance. Though at least one waldorf school I was in had black crayons, so I don't think that's as universal as I had thought from my reading. They also sculpt with colored beeswax.

The art is strange because it is presented by others as being very rigid (duplicate this) which is what art was like for me in school. It's not the creative process most of us are looking for. But I have been surpised that way by montessori too...a lot of people expect these alternative schools to be very open and flexible and counter-culture, but they actually are quite definied within their own philosophy.

The late reading is part of that spiritual unfolding...they don't think kids are ready...I think it's actually 7. Some rigid teachers actively discourage reading...others are fine if the child is ready to explore it on their own, but it's not formally taught until 7. Waldorf believes a lot of their storytelling, song, and craft work are actual imporant prereading activities...and that the children are more ready to read when they've had more overall emotional development. (remember, this is just me here from what I'm gleaning from low level Waldorf reading...please correct any areas where I see this wrong!)
post #20 of 214

Every School is different.

My children use black crayons all the time in our Waldorf Kindergarten. There is some reason why many schools skip the black crayon but I don't remember why. Most drawing is done without black crayons or without lines because it is meant to be borderless.

Children are not taught reading until 1st grade (6 or 7) nor are they taught letters in Kindergarten. Many children pick up reading on their own or the letters and it is not actively discouraged at our school. Reading starts in 1st grade with the letters, beginning with consonants (called bone letters I believe because they are the skelton of words) and then the vowels (angel sounds). The children are learning to write at the same time. About mid year in 1st grade, they begin writing words. The second half of the year, my son's entire classroom was covered with labels made by the children for just about every object in the classroom. By the end of 1st grade, some kids could read and others couldn't but there was no pressure to be reading by this point.

In 2nd grade, there is more emphasis on actual reading. The kids split into small reading groups according to ability and parent volunteers help each group with their reading. My child went not reading in 1st grade, to Sheep in a Jeep by Christmas of 2nd grade, to reading My Father's Dragon by February of 2nd grade. The majority of children are reading at or above standard 2nd grade level. There are a few struggling who are receiving extra help. One boy in the class came from a public school during 2nd grade. The teacher said is wound tighter than a top and really stressed out about reading. His reading was very rigid with little or no comprehension. He could say the words but he was so focused on saying the words he couldn't remember what he had read. He has relaxed now and is reading above level with full comprehension. One of the primary reasons we chose Waldorf is because I didn't want my children to be forced to read before they were ready. Public schools around her expect kids to read in Kindergarten way before many are ready.

Kindergarten teachers use sing-song voices to get the kids attention. It is much nicer than yelling. I have yet to see pasty smiles. All the smiles seem authentic to me. The teachers love their pupils and if they are guilty of anything it is in holding them back from 1st grade because they don't want to let go. That is why, 1st grade readiness assesment is always done by an outside objective panel. I have yet to see any children frightened by the puppets.

Waldorf isn't for everyone, just as Montessori isn't for everyone. I found the artwork at the Montessori schools near us to be much more rigid. It looked like it had been done by copy machines.
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