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Can somebody educate me about Waldorf? - Page 5

post #81 of 86

From science projects to civility

Popping in here quickly to say thanks to both moondiapers and Britishmum for their calm, cool and collected comments.

Yes, it is a shame that a discussion about Waldorf seems always to degenerate into tense exchanges, if not outright hostility. I agree with Britishmum's assertion that educational systems and schools should be open to scrutiny and examination. Waldorf schools seem to do a pretty good job of publicizing the "good" points they offer; the critics (all of whom were once believers in the Waldorf system and wanted those good things to be true) offer the flip side: what is not-so-OK about Waldorf for some people. Unfortunately, Waldorf proponents often respond to these criticisms with knee-jerk defensiveness, and it all goes downhill from there.

I mentioned the book reports and science projects (my daughter had done neither by the middle of fourth grade) because this is not unusual in a Waldorf school, and parents who by then have questions about the whole system (and there are more than a few!) often feel their children are "stuck" in Waldorf because if they transferred the child to another, non-Waldorf school, their child would be horribly behind his or her peers. The longer the child stays in Waldorf, the farther behind many children get, until transferring to a mainstream or other non-W school is no longer an option.

Waldorf defenders can carry on all they like about us critics making things up, etc. But let me ask you one thing: WHY would we do that? What point would there be? What would we be getting out of it? Do you honestly believe we are just a bunch of crazy cranks with nothing better to do with our time than fabricate things about Waldorf and Steiner for some inexplicable reason of our own?

Diana said it and I said it and I will say it again. The only difference between those of you defending Waldorf and those of us critiquing it are a few years of hard experiences for our children and ourselves, and tons of time spent on research and discussion with other similarly effected parents and children from all over the world. We, too, were attracted to the Waldorf aesthetic and the idea of a gentle education that took into account the "whole child." We, too, are attachment parenting parents, La Leche League members and leaders, family bed proponents, etc.

We come to this list and others because we want you to have the benefit of our experiences and what we learned the hard way, and at great expense to some of our children. (My daughter does not even like to drive by her former Waldorf school. She always used to say "That's the place where they made me feel bad for thinking.")

The info we offer is yours to take and to evaluate and to work into what you already know about Waldorf. Hopefully, it helps round out the picture. That way, if you choose to enroll your child, you will have a deeper understanding of what rules the school (anthroposophy) and how that will play out in your child's education.

I will vigorously defend the right of Waldorf schools to teach what they want the way they want to, and of parents to send their children to Waldorf. All I ask is that parents be fully informed and have a real understanding of what the schools do before enrolling. The end result of that is that people who are OK with anthro. education (and all it entails) will flood through the doors of Waldorf, and those who, like me, feel differently, will not enroll at all.

post #82 of 86
Just wanted to thank those who wrote to me privately - I just noticed the private messages, and can't figure out how it works to reply privately. Cumulus noted that I misquoted her - sorry about that cumulus! It was not cumulus who called me a bitter vengeful militant, it was Moon.

There is so much that could be said, but I'm going to leave it asking people to at least keep in mind that rumors take on a life of their own when they are repeated unthinkingly, as Elizabeth has done with Sune Nordwall's charge that the critics fabricate Steiner quotes. We don't. It is now being repeated by people who couldn't begin to tell you what these issues are. Considering that many, many other Steiner lectures contain similar racist material, there is no need to make anything up. If I can point you to dozens of similar quotes, does it make sense the critics are sitting around dreaming up fake ones?

What it shows, I think, is that people want a reason to quickly dismiss criticism if they are already involved and enamored of Waldorf. I understand that, since I did it for several years too. If the critics can be quickly dismissed because somebody says they are up to no good, then it feels like that is taken care of and no more time needs to be spent thinking about this unpleasantness. I realize I bring a very unwelcome message here, but think about whether it really makes sense that there is a group of people making up lies about Waldorf or Rudolf Steiner for no reason except - what? (Even if we were "Internet trolls," it would be a strange subject to spend time on - Do you think we just got together and discovered a strange passion for bashing a dead 19th century Austrian mystic?
post #83 of 86
The foundation program is in the second year at our school. This is my first year in the class myself. True about the Raphael group in our Weekly, but I have noticed they are elaborating a bit more on what it is about and they always include phone numbers for anyone wanting more information.
I knew quite a bit about Waldorf education from early childhhod ed classes, other parents and parent -child classes, so I can't say I needed to ask alot about the school before I enrolled my daughter in kindergarten. I can ask some of the new people if they were informed about Anthro. based education before they enrolled. I feel like maybe the schools (ours at least) are trying to present the material in a better way now. Maybe the Waldorf Critics have spurred this change, since it is impossible to look up Waldorf Schools on the net without a Waldorf Critic link popping up somewhere! It is a shame there isn't a middle ground for the two groups. I am always glad to hear both sides of the story. How do we learn anything if we don't?
My daughter is thriving in her kindergarten class. She recognizes letters and I haven't heard anyone discouraging her. Being read to is one of her favorite activities and if a teacher told me to stop doing it, there would definately be a problem. It is the place she needs to be in right now.

post #84 of 86
Thread Starter 
Wow. I really didn't expect my question to garner so much debate but I am very, very grateful to all of you for taking the time to respond. I view each response as someone caring and wanting to share and it is very much appreciated.

I don't know the reputation of my local Waldorf school and must admit that I am very reluctant to do all the digging involved to see if it is the right place for my daughter. I was put off by the fact that they didn't mention Anthro in any of the literature or in any of the visits that I made. Again, I don't know much about anthro and don't care to debate the merits of it, I'm just put off that it was not mentioned when it is obviously pertinent to the curriculum.

A few other things that bothered me were the late teaching of reading, the idea that stories are not told from books but instead from the teacher, and the notion of having the same teacher for years and years. I'm not comfortable with any of these for my own reasons which are not really relevant since it is just a personal choice.

Obviously, the arts are of great importance to me and that is what drew me to investigate Waldorf. I am an artist myself and feel that it is the single most important subject I learned in school. I hope that I can find other ways to fill my daughter's life with art, in fact I'm sure I will.

If not for the women here, I would not have been able to make an informed decision and again I am totally grateful. I am also grateful to the women who spoke out who choose Waldorf as their means of education because it helped me see the whole picture much more clearly.

Thanks again and peace,
Maddy Moo - 2.5
post #85 of 86

telling parents about anthroposophy, part II

Thank you for the detailed reply, Tracey! I am glad to hear that, in your opinion, your child's school is open about anthroposophy and is giving parents detailed information via courses and the Raphael Branch.

Your daughter sounds delightful -- happy and inquisitive, which is how young children should be. Being read to was one of my older daughter's favorite activities when she was in the Waldorf kindergarten, and that was what led to her ability to read at the age of 4. (I think there is a genetic component, as I was an early reader as well.) It was at that time -- when I told the teacher of my child's Waldorf kindergarten that she had spontaneously begun to read words on sight and sound out others) that I had my first hint that Waldorf might not be for us: the teacher -- very sweetly and kindly, I must admit -- gave me some "strategies" for slowing my child's reading down and even stopping her.

Whether or not the rather public activities Waldorf critics and PLANS (People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools, of which I am vice president) have had any effect on Waldorf schools' willingness to talk openly about anthroposophy before parents enroll their children, I don't know. I hope so.

post #86 of 86
This thread has long since ended but since reading through it I've had several discussions about varying school philosophies with several people and just wanted to share.

Hope this is useful for anyone looking for a school. I just wanted to point out that given that most all of the people here whether pro or con Waldorf schools in general all attended "different" Waldorf schools. Everyone here can all be telling the absolute truth as they know it.

Waldorf schooling philosophy can be interpreted and implemented in a wonderful way to creat a wonderful school for all students. Perhaps not the right environment for some students, after all everyon is different, but in general great.

Waldorf schooling philosophy can also be interpreted an implemented in a dogmatic way in which children's intellect and creativity is stifled.

I think it is possible we can all agree that Waldorf had some good insights into child development and some pretty wacky ones and some pretty wacky ideas about the world in general. However, that doesn't mean that all Waldorf schools dogmatically stick to Waldorf's original teachings, most likely some do. I imagine most take the good and disregard the rest.

I think this is not only true of the Waldorf school, but all schooling philosophies including public schools. Dogmatically implementing any schooling philosophy can be bad for a lot of students. There are definite differences in learning style and not any one philosophy will fit all students and my personal belief is that dogma is never good for anyone.

Whatever school you are looking at make sure you not only believe in the general philosophy, but make sure you know how the particular school you are looking at implements it.

Anyway, that's my late 2 cents.

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