From science projects to civilityPopping 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.