Edited by pigletp - 8/5/13 at 5:45pm
Life After Waldorf ~ A Support Group - Page 59
I am having the rude awakening to Waldorf. I must eat crow because I have posted things in defense of Waldorf. We recently concluded our first and only year in a Waldorf charter school. I thought my daughter's teacher was wonderful. But I had concerns about the apparent loss in academic skills my daughter seemed to be experiencing in her time there. The behavior problems in the classroom were over the top and completely disruptive. I substituted at the school so I was able to see this problem wide spread, not just in one class. My daughter began to hate going to school out of boredom. She made some wonderful friends there, as did I but the only thing she seemed to actually learn was how to knit. I am glad she did. But we are home schooling this year and will from now on, at least until high school. I am presently assessing her skill level and am shocked at some very basic things that were taught but not emphasized that my daughter is way behind on. Others in the school were as well, and not just the areas that Waldorf admits students will be behind on for a short time. I don't have the energy to break down all the why's even though I am a licensed teacher. I just want to say how disappointed I feel and even betrayed I feel at making the discoveries I am now making with regard to my daughter's education. I will not put her education in others hands again like that. The problems that are epidemic in public schools and charter schools seem to be even more so in the Waldorf schools. I think Waldorf only works at home. Now I must go back to work on getting my daughter's education on track. Feel free to contact me with questions.
Clarification, I'm glad my daughter learned to knit. But I'm stunned at how little of anything else she learned. The deficits are huge. I wish I could say it was just my daughter. But I see our friends children going through the same thing, some finding other explanations. I observed children in all the grades I substituted in with the same problem. I feel really betrayed right now. I did not think a public school could be so ineffective in educating children. I am grateful for the concerns expressed by parents here because I read many of them (in disbelief) as we were starting at the Waldorf school. I thought they were more emotionally charged and perhaps either exaggerations, isolated or related to individual circumstances. Not any more. I observed the majority of the problems and concerns expressed in this thread in a short time there and am very sad to say it's all true. I have so much work to do with my daughter to not only get her back on track but get her academic habits re developed. I had thought the Waldorf school provided a more creative approach to learning, but that isn't what we experienced or observed. I am at a loss for words to describe some of the things, but it would take a better grasp on the functions of Waldorf to explain. I am not giving it any more of my energy or time. I see the danger and the damage. I'm still reeling in shock as I home school my daughter and uncover how much damage was done.
My daughter was a very good student, ahead of her age level before. Now she's functioning at and below grade level and has a negative attitude about school work too often. Her focus is poor. What kinds of approaches have worked for parents in re-engaging your children in learning post-Waldorf?
Both of my kids tried a local highly recommended private Waldorf school for less than a month. That was as long as they both could take it. They put their foot down after that and said "We won't go anymore".They both developed incredible fear over multiple "forbidden" things. It was at a point when my son would scream in fear refusing to go to school just because all his plain white shirts were in the laundry and I would suggest one with a picture of an animal on it (NOT any brand name or cartoon animal, but just an outline of a regular animal). My daughter would sob refusing to go because Monday morning she realized she had nail polish leftovers on her nails and we just could not find where our nail polish remover was. My kids were not permitted to eat their "sweets" one day. Excuse me, I am a nutritional consultant and what they called "their chocolates" were home made tahini balls: tahini with a bit of honey, xylitol, unsweetened cocoa powder and rolled in sesame seeds from the outside! So they did not allow them to eat those tahini rolls ("because they were sweets") and fed them some junky crackers instead! WTF!
My kids would sweat during hot and sunny early Fall days, but they would force them to wear hat and jacket every time regardless of the weather.
The main argument of Waldorf is that public school creates robots who are trained to take orders. Maybe it does with some kids (though I went through a public school and my biggest problem in life is that I can never follow rules or orders). But what about Waldorf?! Whether their rules makes ANY sense to the kids or not (for example, wearing a jacket and a hat when you are sweating), they force them to follow them, in other words, they train them to follow orders--even senseless ones--thoughtlessly without ever questioning them.
I said earlier I wasn't going to take the time to go over the problems. But twice recently I have talked to several friends of mine who either have a grandchild attending or are thinking about putting their grandchild that they are raising in the local Waldorf charter school. I didn't want to talk them out of it, but I told them about our experience, which was not all bad. But now that I have some perspective, I see the whole picture a little better. I feel the overall cultish aspects of anthroposophy are more at work than they should be in a publicly funded school in this particular school. The principal and key staff at the school were very clearly strong believers in the philosophy and imposed their beliefs on the students and staff. Like how they handled children who were injured was not consistent with requirements in public schools and frequently children with broken bones or needing stitches or other medical attention were simply sent back to class. I personally observed this so this is not just rumor. I was stunned. No school should be making the kind of decisions regarding children's health in the manner they did. They did not contact the parents, which was the most concerning part. One child came to school the next day showing me his cast. When I asked him how he broke his hand, he told me it was rolling logs on the playground at school. Log rolling is a common Waldorf playground activity. I had seen him sitting on the playground crying while I was working with another class. I asked the teacher what was wrong and she said "oh he's fine, he just bumped his hand." I was just sick to my stomach when I realized my concern was valid and I should have gone further with it. There were other incidents,but the details will probably reveal too much about the specific school. More than once I reported injuries of students to the office asking them to contact the parents after I realized they didn't inform parents of these things. They were very unpleasant to me about this but I stood in the office and watched them make the phone call. The liability alone dictates they inform the parents. The school district policies as well. Their own personal opinions on medical treatment are not theirs to impose on the children but they did. Various safety concerns that are more common in new charter schools in general were rampant. The Waldorf slant on this just added in a level of inattention and lack of concern. There were a number of local incidents that year affecting school children and the schools response to the safety of the children was less than comforting. I worked the day when the local authorities required them to conduct safety drills and they performed abysmally.
The school was awful to the staff and the staff had no support. Teachers were left on their own to deal with students who were constantly disruptive in class. I learned that the disruptive behavior in classes was epidemic and not limited to just my experience as a substitute nor any grade level. I got to see it in all grade levels. Maybe children learned to behave 100 years ago with this method but it is a poor fit culturally for today's children and behaviors. Most classes are anarchy with some control occasionally.
Academically, I'm very disappointed how weak Waldorf is in academics. There is a big difference between having a holistic education and no education and Waldorf unfortunately leans to far to the no education. The arts part is not arts the way we understand them to be. The science is utterly appalling. Children need to learn science, not just the ancient concept of the four elements. Nor should the ancient concept of the four elements serve as the dominant explanation for all things scientific which is what I'm coping with now when I'm teaching my daughter science. The letter formations they did are not helping her now with handwriting. Their claim to teach advanced math in the earlier grades doesn't seem to be adding up either. I'm having to go back a full year to teach her math concepts she should have learned last year. Reading has taken time to even get her interested in it again. It's still as touch and go issue. She was reading above her grade level before she started there and loved to read. Nobody had to force her. They say the middle school students receive a rigorous education. But I substituted in those classes as well and saw virtually nothing akin to academic rigor. It was more soft academics with pretty pictures being drawn around a concept, singing songs, playing music, acting out plays and hand work. There was not one part of the day they did anything that counted as academic rigor. I don't know where those kids will go to high school but they will not be prepared for high school work. I never taught algebra in that entire middle school and what passed for science was more of an art lesson with some nice ideas. The writing skills of the 8th graders were no better than those of kids I taught in title one schools where the majority of the students were learning English. It concerns me to think about what will happen to those kids later.
The only levels the Waldorf concepts made academic sense is in preschool and kindergarten. It's perfect for those ages.
The thing that I find most troubling is the philosophy that is so greatly understated when investigating this style of education is the governing philosophy. This particular school claims they are incorporating Waldorf ideals into a regular curriculum. But they aren't. They are putting up a show of applying regular curriculum and trying to run as Waldorf of a school as they can get away with using public funds. The most distressing part is they don't want parents to understand Waldorf unless they are fully committed to it. They wanted us to trust them with our child's education without questioning what they were actually teaching. That is a cult not an educational philosophy. They were being deceptive about what they were actually teaching. If you take the Waldorf ideas that are beneficial to a child's education and leave out the negative and questionable stuff, you are left with an incomplete model for a school. I don't know if other Waldorf schools do this. But the one we attended did. I think the school district should stop funding them because they are in violation of too many basic public education principles.