>I am all for waiting until age 7 to teach reading for those >children who need the time, but what about kids like my sister >and me who started reading at 4? Do they just sit around for 3 >years? I was told that children who read early aren't >encouraged to bring books to school.
No, in fact the teacher will probably confiscate them if she brings books to school. Steiner believed children should not even be exposed to print or learn the alphabet until the change of teeth. And this is a rigid timetable, it is not about following an individual child's pace or not "pressuring" children (which I agree with). It is an actual belief that the print will harm them. Steiner believed that the child who is "intellectually" stimulated - and by this he means, yes, simply learning the alphabet - will suffer ill health in later life. Abstract thoughts are said to cause damage to internal organs in children under age 7.
>At 3, my daughter loves books, and I guess I can't see her in an >atmosphere where that is not encouraged for that long.
There are no books in a Waldorf kindergarten (and the k'garten often includes 6 year olds; parents are encouraged to hold them back as long as possible in the name of "preserving their childhood." I think this is fine if the 6 year old is just not interested yet, but many of them are, and you're right, it is rough on some of them.
>The concerns I have heard from other people were about >teaching religion (I guess some Christian holidays are >observed? I personally didn't see this as much of a problem)
You'd need to read some anthroposophy first - it is an esoteric form of Christianity, and if you're comfortable with it, you wouldn't mind your child celebrating their festivals, probably. Some of them are very lovely. The problem comes in that parents are told *not* to worry, not to learn more, that anthroposophy is not in the school, and in fact anthroposophy is in virtually every detail of classroom practices and rituals. The school day is very ritualistic; the simplest activity must be performed in a ritualistic way, and many of the teachers are very rigid about their rituals, and freak out if someone isn't doing it the anthroposophically "correct" way. So the least they could do is make sure you know what anthroposophy is first.
>A family friend in another country took her child out of Waldorf >because she was bullied, but that happens every day in public >schools. Doesn't seem like the philosophy would be permissive >about that; maybe it was a fluke.
Yes, bullying happens lots of places. In Waldorf the twist is the karma angle - some of the teachers hesitate to intervene in bullying or difficult interpersonal things going on with the kids because karma is central to anthroposophy. The entire class, with the teacher, is believed to be a karmic group which has been together through many previous incarnations, with "tasks" to perform together as a group. Interpersonal conflicts between two kids, or with the teacher, may be seen as coming from a past life, and to intervene might mean interfering with karma.
>As I said, there are many aspects of Waldorf that I like - the >emphasis on the arts, the calm atmosphere, etc. ,
Well, sorry to burst one more bubble, but most of the Waldorf classrooms I have seen were far from "calm." Out of control, chaotic and unsafe were more the norm. It isn't every class, of course; but I have observed in a number of Waldorf schools and chaotic classrooms seem to often follow from applying rigid dogma to children.
>I have many misgivings about the public schools around here, >so this is really a dilemma. I would love to hear more from >others about the pros and cons of Waldorf.
I don't blame you for having misgivings about the public system - we got the heck out of public schools after a couple of years too. The thing to understand about Waldorf is that it is a package deal; the anthroposophy is an unpleasant surprise to many parents. They do some great things in Waldorf schools, and there are talented teachers. However there's a lot of skeletons in their closet. Ask to observe the classrooms very closely - ask to see an entire morning's lesson, for instance - and don't take no for an answer.