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Visited Honolulu Waldorf today...

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I have been visiting local preschools with my son to get him used to the idea of going to school and to allow him to help choose a good school. He is 3 and a half and I have been very AP with him, never left him in daycare or any type of preschool. I did use a neighborhood teen to sit with him for 1-2 hrs a day infrequently. He is very attached and I am not going to let him cry it out at school after doing 3+ yrs of AP.

Anyway, the Waldorf school was high on my list because it is close to home and I like the gentle, earth-loving nature of the Waldorf philosophy. The visit to the school put me off and I found that to be validated after reading the post below about the abuse occuring and parents being expelled. The school has 3 preschool classrooms with 20 kids per 1 teacher and 1 aide per class with the age range of 3-6 yrs - seems like a high ratio. We had to wait in the office a few minutes for the person to take us on our tour. Meanwhile, one of the office employees was reading the newspaper at her desk and drinking coffee. I'm thinking, so this is what $520 per month (half day preschool) pays for? My main complaint was that they did not let us into any of the classes to see what was going on and no parents were present. All of the other schools we visited welcomed us to see what was happening and to pariticipate too. The person giving us the tour stressed that Waldorf ps is play-based no academic push, so what is the big deal if we walk into the room? They don't offer a 2 or 3 day a week program (they adjust much better if they are there 5 days a week she said) and they also don't allow parents to stay to help the child adjust. What is so gentle about that? Personally, I think it is an economic decision on the part of the preschool and not based upon what is best for the child. Of course, there is a CONTRACT and if you withdraw because the child may not be ready, you have to pay a secret penalty amount but she couldn't tell me what it is! She said that the teachers will help the child adjust if he is having a hard time, what do they do, tie them to chairs? She ended up our interview encouraging me to apply early and fork over the non-refundable $50 app fee for the priviledge of being placed on a wait list to possibly be interviewed to see if my child would fit into their school! The teachers make the decision based upon the sex, personality of the child because they know who will fit into their class. Ughhh!!!! By the way, when I telehoned last week, the person said they still had a few openings in the preschool for this year. Also, they do not have a school nurse despite having 320 students paying 6200 - 8000 per year tuition and a mandatory req. that parents participate in fund-raising. Does anyone have experience with this school?
post #2 of 16
I haven't but I will ask around. I am windward side so I'm not sure if anyone will have much for me, though. I would probably go with my instincts if I were you. Would you prefer part time? There is a co-op in Kaneohe that I am starting my DD (just turned 3) in Sept.
post #3 of 16
I have never actually visited there, but the Honolulu Waldorf school has a great reputation among waldorf schools, and the people I've met from there are all first-rate.

If the school has only five-day programs, I suggest asking them if there are any home-based waldorf programs around; I bet there are, and you might find those a better way to become exposed to waldorf. Also, many schools have parent-child groups; if Honolulu doesn't, such a thing may exist in their greater community, and I'd recommend asking the school office about that.

On the other hand, you appear to have made up your mind, so perhaps you should be looking elsewhere for your child's school. I think you'll find most have contracts, with withdrawal conditions.

Interesting that you think a school employee has no right to drink coffee in the morning! :^)

good luck, David
post #4 of 16
I'm sorry you had such a bad experience there! I, too, am a lover of Waldorf philosophy, though! The Baltimore school (near me) is wonderful! I don't want you to walk away thinking that all Waldorf schools are alike. If I could (financially), I'd send my girls to Waldorf, all the way. Alas, we've been trying to start an Annapolis school and have only had a nice initiative, which fell apart this year. So sad. We hope to get it going again. I digress but thought I'd share my thoughts. Maybe see if there is Waldorf playgroup that extends from the school.

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Checking out a Waldorf home group or playgroup sounds like a great idea. I'll call the school and ask about it, thanks Melissa and David. Of COURSE school employees have the right to drink coffe in the morning I am just not accustomed to seeing employees reading/drinking at their desks while customers are waiting. It gave me a bad impression although I realize she could have been there since 6 am and was taking a well-deserved break. I just had a bad experience there today, I really wanted to see how the teachers interact with the kids; I am looking for an attentive, gentle teacher who is good with preschoolers. I have noticed some schools are more custodial in the care they provide and others are more loving. I have also seen that while some schools have really good reputations, not all teachers are equal. I like the idea of being able to drop in to see what is happening, I get a red-flag feeling if they don't allow parents to see what is happening in the classroom. My dh thinks that I will never find a school that I like enough to trust my most precious sweet boy with Kamaaina, I love the idea of a co-op but Kaneohe is too far to drive on a daily basis with a 3-year old. We are on the waitlist for the Kilauea Ohana coop at Aina Haina, it is a wonderful program! Thanks again for letting me vent here!
post #6 of 16
I am wondering if others who know and love Waldorf could comment on the part about parents not being welcome to help their child adjust to school. I have heard this about Waldorf many, many times (if you do a search on this very board to old Waldorf threads you would find many references to it), and it upsets many people who are otherwise drawn to the philosophy. For a parent that values attachment and attunement to one's child, especially a first time parent sending a child to school, I think this would be a major turn off, and I think this is what you are reacting to siddie.

Also, I got what you meant about the coffee break staff member. It wasn't that the coffee was expensive, but that the person appeared to have nothing to do but read the paper.
post #7 of 16

Preschool in Waldorf

I am really surprised that the school takes 3 years for 5 days a week! In Seattle, the preschool/Kindergarten is for 4 to 6 years old and only in special circumstances are 3 year olds allowed to go. In general, 4 year olds go for 3 days a week, 5 year olds for 4 days a week and 6 year olds for 5 days a week. There are 20 in class with either 1 teacher and 1 aide or 2 teachers, but there are rarely 20 kids at school at the same time. The teachers balance the 3, 4 and 5 day kids so that there are only around 15 - 18 at a time.

Our school does not have vistors to the classroom unless there is a special arrangement made with the teacher. Most people attend a Kindergarten Openhouse where they learn about the school and the program, and then if they are interested, they submit a fee of $40 with the application. The enrollment coordinator balances the classes. The teacher then interviews the potential family to see if the child is a good fit with the class and to see if the school is a good fit for the family. The interview ususally happens at the school so the child gets to see the classroom and meet the teacher.

After the child is enrolled, families are encouraged to meet the other Kindergarten families over the summer. There is a work party day at the school 2 weeks before school starts and then a blessing of the classroom 3 days before school starts. (Different teachers do it differently, this is how our teachers arrange it.) When school starts, parents are allowed to stay for morning circle and the morning walk if it is first in the morning. Parents are not encouraged to stay for the day and are usually disruptive to the class if they do stay. The exception is birthdays, we always attend school with our child on her birthday. In general, many children do better once the parent has left.

In your situation, I would look for a Waldorf home preschool and wait for Kindergarten until your child is 5 and ready for 5 days a week. The waiting list at the school may be having a big influence on the school's behavior. 3 year olds going for 5 days week does not sound like what most Waldorf Teachers would recommend. Good luck.
post #8 of 16
The "no tour allowed" thing in waldorf is wide spread. It comes from the interpretation of what Steiner said about children and them needing a preidictible day. Tours break up that energy, take the child's intersest away from what they are doing and brings it to this this strange person standing in their classroom. As a former Enrollment Director of a waldorf school this drove me insane!!!! While I can give it some validity, I did often see the children give up what they were doing when a tour came into the class, I also see this as part of life. What does suprise me about what you said was that parents aren't allowed to stay in the classroom. I was class parent for my daughter's 2 years of Pre-K and 1 year of kidergarten and was in the classroom at least once a week. We had to be doing something, ie cutting paper, fixing toys, etc., but could be there.

Have you thought about looking into a Reggio Emilia inspired school? Lots of the same sort of natural materials, natural spaces, without the Steiner baggage. I am teaching in Reggio inspired school this year in order to learn how to implement it in a classroom and I reall think I like this better than I did waldorf....
post #9 of 16

Tours of grade school

The grade school in Seattle has 3 to 4 tours each year where the visitors get to walk through the classes. Many current parents go to these to see how the classes operate. Most of the teachers plan to have something interesting going on without making it a performance. Watching kids practice their lines for a play is really boring so the teacher will plan the math lesson or something else interesting during the time they know the tour will be coming through.
post #10 of 16
The Reggio-Emilia-inspired school near us didn't use natural materials, for the most part. Didn't even know that was part of the philosophy. How neat that yours does, Bathrobegoddess! I, unfortunately, had to pull my daughter out of the one here (The Young School) because they kept wavering in their curriculum. No one seemed to know what they were doing and it just seemed like yet another preschool with stuff I wanted to avoid. Just a vent, don't let me put you off to other Reggio-Emilia schools. I'd be interested in hearing about other "good" ones.

post #11 of 16

Parent Participation at Waldorf

What does suprise me about what you said was that parents aren't allowed to stay in the classroom.
Actually, it's a pretty common practice at Waldorf. There was an interesting discussion about this subject some time back on the SJU Waldorf Education list. I summarized the discussion here:


In short, main lesson is considered to have a very important purpose and ritual, and many Waldorf parents (at least the ones who participated in the discussion) feel that parents either aren't qualified, or would detract from the atmosphere during main lesson.

Most Waldorf schools encourage parent participation in other ways. They simply don't want parents interfering with the most important lesson of each day.

This attitude probably comes from an admonition from Waldorf's founder (Rudolf Steiner) that parents that do not understand an Anthroposophically-based education might miseducate the children:
You will have to take over children for their education and instruction — children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents. Indeed our intentions will only be fully accomplished when we, as humanity, will have reached the stage where parents, too, will understand that special tasks are set for mankind to-day, even for the first years of the child's education. But when we receive the children into the school we shall still be able to make up for many things which have been done wrongly, or left undone, in the first years of the child's life. For this we must fill ourselves with the consciousness through which alone we can truly teach and educate.

From the Study of Man
All Waldorf teachers read this in the Waldorf teacher training. This might explain why many Waldorf teachers, as well as Anthroposophically aware Waldorf parents, discourage parental classroom participation.

Hope this helps.
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
THank you openwaldorf but is this true for preschool too? The person who gave the tour said that preschool is play only, so there is no lesson to interrupt...
post #13 of 16
THank you openwaldorf but is this true for preschool too?
I don't believe so. Here's a good article on Waldorf playgroups:


Here's one of the more interesting quotes from the article:
Elisabeth Moor-Hass was adamant that we must not get down and play with the child, as our adult work is our serious work, and for the child their play is their serious work. To pretend to play with their toys can be quite false. Thus the children should be left to create their own play as far as possible.
Hope this helps.
post #14 of 16

the job of the pre-school or kindergarten teacher

I have a completely different view of this question than openwaldorf does. The early childhood teacher in a waldorf school is there as an imitative model for the children. The most important quality is to be 'worthy of imitation'. The teacher goes about common domestic chores (food preparation, clean-up, lots of leaf-raking here in the northeast in the autumn) and tries to guide children through the rhythm of the day through her (it's usually a her) actions.

A teacher/assistant team has to spend a fair amount of time together to develop a scheme of working that brings the atmosphere they seek in a nursery or kindergarten class. The more adults around the class, the greater the chance for distracting the children (adult conversation definitely distracts them), or confusing them ("my teacher folds the silk a different way") in a bunch of (often little) ways. May not be a big deal to a parent, but the teacher is trying to create a particular atmosphere in class, and the presence of other adults does little to help, and can definitely inhibit.

Another good reason to find a playgroup or parent/child group, where the leader (my wife here) spend time showing parents how the waldorf kindergarten works and what the role of the adult is.

post #15 of 16
I have a completely different view of this question than openwaldorf does.
actually, your comments are hauntingily similar to many that were made during this discussion that inspired this summary nearly a year ago on the sju list: basically, that outside parents, though well-intentioned, would muck up the class. nothing wrong with that point of view.

it's simply a contrast to other schools that encourage parental particpation through volunteering during class. typically, in these scenarios, the philosophy is (a) that the benefits of involved parents outweigh the potential downsides (e.g. folding a silk the wrong way) and (b) a "the more help, the better" attitude.

i think the most important point is that every classroom in the world is different (waldorf or otherwise.) there is no right or wrong, it is simply a question of preference. i have talked to many waldorf parents, including a few in my daughters own class, who were disappointed and frustrated when they discovered that they were not welcome during main lesson, after their children were already enrolled waldorf. if feeling welcome to volunteer and participate in your children's class at any time, you should always ask how parent participation works in your particular class, before enrolling your student (waldof or otherwise.)
post #16 of 16
We have a tour at the Honolulu Waldorf this Saturday for their parent/child class for toddlers. It's only 3 days a week and parents go and help teach and play with the baby. I'm really interested in this sort of group
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