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Returned:What should Waldorf schools tell prospective parents?

post #1 of 148
Thread Starter 
In these threads I have read a lot of stories about poeple who enrolled their kids in a Waldorf school, and then when they found out more about Waldorf they wound up either miserable or pulling their kids out or both. A debate here and on many other websites is that many (most?) Waldorf schools don't tell parents enough, particularly about the anthroposophical foundation of Waldorf schools and how the anthroposophical worldview effects teaching and methodology. Often times when these stories are told happy Waldorf parents will come on and say something like "Wouldn't you do you own research before enrolling your kids?" "Is it the school's responsibility to educate parents on every facet of anthroposophy and Waldorf education to prospective parents?" My answer is no, but they do need to do more to prevent families likely to be unhappy from enrolling in the first place.

While my kids were happily enrolled as preschoolers in a Waldorf school I had the time and ability to figure out that Waldorf grade school would absolutely not be for our family. I have also gone to several open houses where I think that parents are not given enough information about those things that might come to bother them after enrolling their children.

If you respond to this post, please bear in mind that I am talking about what the schools should communicate to prospective parents to help them make a good decision for their family. I believe that everyone would be happier if a checklist of information was given to weed out families likely to be unhappy and need to pull out, and I think that it might attract other families who don't know much about Waldorf. Some of the things on our list may in reality be disclosed by many schools, and I don't think we need to get trapped in a circular debate about that. If we put something on our list that schools do routinely disclose, no harm done!

Here are a couple on my part to get us started.

1. Waldorf grade schools are teacher led. Students rarely choose a project- usually the whole grade is doing the same thing at the same time with the teacher leading the activity.

2. The scientific method is not taught in the Waldorf grade school.

3. Much of what students put in their lesson books is copied from the board.

4. Waldorf teachers are trained to identify the basic temperament of each student. This is the basis for how they deal with problems and issues that arise.

5. Teaching critical thinking is believed to be appropriate at the high school level but not before then.
post #2 of 148
These are related to themes that I've seen families leave over.

1. There are limited resources and expertise the school can offer to students with developmental and/or learning challenges requiring special or intensive individual services.

2. Related to this, the degree to which schools perform assessments on struggling students suffering learning challenges should probably be addressed, if there are any assessments given, if so why and how and at what ages.

3. Parents should be aware that the academic workload will be much, much heavier as the years go by, that though there are no academic pressures on students in kindergarten, the pressure gradually increases in the early years, more steeply again around middle school and all through high school.
post #3 of 148
Here's another important one I think, not because I know of any families leaving because of it, but because it's come up a lot here at mothering.

4. Schools need to give a fuller explanation to religious elements in the education. The educational system is nonsectarian and nondenominational but it is not purely secular either. Today we can't presume "nonsectarian", "secular", "religious", and "spiritual" mean exactly the same things to everybody hearing it.
post #4 of 148
My input

1, To explain the meanings of each festival and how important they are in relation to the child, school, parents & community.

2, To explain the reasons for the fundraising events.

3, To explain how important parental involvement within the whole community is and what may be expected of them as their child/ren progresses through school.
post #5 of 148
Thread Starter 
Linda said:

4. Schools need to give a fuller explanation to religious elements in the education. The educational system is nonsectarian and nondenominational but it is not purely secular either. Today we can't presume "nonsectarian", "secular", "religious", and "spiritual" mean exactly the same things to everybody hearing it.

OWF:
Absolutely! There is such confusion over the words "non-sectarian" and "secular." Non-sectarian means it doesn't have a particular sect (some of us who view anthroposophy as a religion that is indeed practiced in the Waldorf classroom- if not overtly "taught"- even disagree with this descriptor) and "secular" which means non- religious. I think that Waldorf schools are less secular than many self described parochial students because the anthroposophical worldview is infused in just about everything that happens: what is taught at what age, what games are allowed at recess, what sort of movement class is offered... At a Catholic school a math class isn't going to look different from a math class at a public school, or any differences that exist are not religiously informed. At a Waldorf school even math is taught in an anthroposophical way.
post #6 of 148
That is an interesting thought--math being taught in an anthroposophical way. I'll have to talk to my daughter about it. She attended one waldorf school from nursery through 7th grade and another from 10th through 12th. So she got a lot of everything taught in an anthroposophical way. The reason I thought of math is twofold. First, she is really good at math and one of her profs asked her to consider it as a major. Second, she became an engineer, so she developed good practical skills with math. Way back when she was in college she commented that she felt that waldorf had given her a very good foundation for math because she had been taught to think things through rather than just memorize the methods.

I think the approach involving thinking things through begins with the very early lessons, where children consider the differences between 1 and all other numbers, for example. As it happens, I had two geometry classes and a couple of science classes with Hermann von Barravalle, who taught at the first waldorf school in Stuttgart and was responsible for developing the math curriculum. He was a great teacher and I can still remember (over 40 years later) his explanations about the nature of parabolas, hyperbolas and ellipses.

But yes, parents should be told that a worldview penetrates the entire curriculum. In my view it is a worldview which enriches what is taught, but I can see that some people would find it repulsive. There is really nothing wonderful about conic sections, as I discovered when I returned to public school. There, in my geometry textbook, was a picture of a cone with three slices through it and the heading "conic sections." There, that settles that. All that beautiful infinity, art, mathematics and beauty that Barravalle had brought before us, sorted out in one dry drawing and killed dead. Whew! I'm so glad children are being saved...

Sorry, end rant. I will ask my daughter about the anthroposophy in math classes and how it affected her. Interesting question.
post #7 of 148
Thread Starter 
This is off-topic, but unless your daughter is a Waldorf trained teacher, would she be aware of the anthroposophical basis of what she was taught? I thought that students were never made aware of this, and indeed never even hear the words "anthroposophy" or "Steiner" in the classroom. I think that we need a Waldorf teacher to answer the question.
post #8 of 148
Well, she is now 40 years old and has had many years of anthroposophical study and life experience between waldorf and today. I don't think she would have a problem spotting some of the ways her math classes were affected by anthroposophy, if they were. Over the years we have had many interesting discussions about waldorf education and her experiences in the classroom. She has served on two waldorf school boards, has taken some courses in early childhood development (from an anthroposophical point of view) and so on.

It would be lovely if a waldorf teacher chimed in here, but it may not happen. We don't have very many waldorf teachers participating in this forum.
post #9 of 148
Sorry if this is digressing-if so maybe we could start another thread?

Quote:
unless your daughter is a Waldorf trained teacher, would she be aware of the anthroposophical basis of what she was taught? I thought that students were never made aware of this, and indeed never even hear the words "anthroposophy" or "Steiner" in the classroom. I think that we need a Waldorf teacher to answer the question.
I think it's important to make the general point that there isn't a higher standard of expertise required for making an affirmative claim than a negative claim here. In other words, if one must be a trained teacher to claim "math lessons do not have an anthroposophical basis" then one must also be a trained teacher to claim the opposite. Orangewallflower, you probably assumed that Deborah's daughter was still a child and if so I can kind of get where you're coming from there.
post #10 of 148
Thread Starter 
Hi Linda,
I was just confused because I didn't know that her daughter had adult experience with anthroposophy. From what I know of Waldorf and how anthroposphy informs the curriculum, a student wouldn't have any basis for answering the question. Deborah's response was clarifying, and I would certainly be interested to hear what her daughter has to say. It would be nice to start a new thread on the topic if there is interest.

.
post #11 of 148
I've also heard the stories about parents feeling that anthroposophy is hidden, and I've looked hard at the school I'm involved with, since (1) we don't really do "anthroposophy 101" for new parents, but (2) we have not had parents leave over hidden anthroposophy.

I guess we make it clear that our school is different for reasons other than "wooden toys" and "nonacademic kindergarten" and "teacher stays with class across grades", and that (along with the quality of the program) provides enough information for parents to make a reasonably informed decision to enroll or not.

We do have a six hour "anthroposophy 101" type workshop for parents and others (all faculty and staff) who want to become more deeply involved in the school, mostly to make clear how our school functions without a principal and to show why our teachers care about not-typically-academic topics like fundraising, landscaping, and other nonteaching subjects.

David
post #12 of 148
As a prospective parent, just learning about Waldorf, and having already enrolled my daughter in Kindergarten in Sept. 08, I am REALLY interested in the original topic of this thread!

......more PLEASE

Beth
post #13 of 148
Here's an example of math being taught in an Anthroposophical way...

In first grade addition, multiplication, division and subtraction are often taught using Math Gnomes. These are actual little dolls that the teacher uses like puppets to talk and interact with the children to teach the 4 concepts. They each have a temperment and color that corresponds to one of the 4 humors. I'm trying to remember what corresponds with what...I had to ask my son. BTW, his teacher doesn't use dolls, she just tells stories about them. Here's what I could piece together after picking his brain, and combing my memory...

Annie Add = sanguin, yellow - happy because she's always finding things

Sammy Subtract = melancholic, blue, - sad because he's always losing things

Michael Multiply = choleric, red, - fast, takes short cuts, likes to put things in order (equal groups)

Dara Divide = phlegmatic, green - (couldn't come up with an example why division is phlegmatic)

I've seen the math gnomes demonstrated and they can be charming. I've heard the children become quite fond of them and can make an emotional attachment to mathmatics through them.
post #14 of 148
some choices about children will be informed by their skin colour and race roots
ditto medeival temperaments

reincarnation
astral forces
clairvoyance
communication with spirit worlds
will all be taken into account

there will be non intervention in bullying
force right handedness in left handed kids
post #15 of 148
My daughter is out of town on vacation and I wanted to provide something on the mathematics question raised above, so I went to the Waldorf Online Library and did a focus search for articles on arithmetic and mathematics. All of these articles are available for free download. Here is the list:

Keyword Search:

General Title Author

Search Results = 18
Viewing Records 1 through 18

The House of Arithmetic
Resource Type: Article
Author: Stephen Eberhart

Waldorf Science Newsletter Volume 10, #20
Resource Type: Article
Author: Mitchell. Pietering

From Beauty to Truth in Mathematics
Resource Type: Article
Author: Ron Jarman

Star Polygons
Resource Type: Article
Author: Ernst Muller

Waldorf Science Newsletter, Vol. 12, #22 Spring 2006
Resource Type: Article
Editor(s): David Mitchell, Bob Amis

Waldorf Science Newsletter, Volume 8, #16 - Spring 2002
Resource Type: Article
Editor(s): David Mitchell, John Petering

Waldorf Science Newsletter, Volume 9, #17 - Fall 2002
Resource Type: Article
Editor(s): David Mitchell, John Petering

Waldorf Science Newsletter, Volume 10, #18 - Spring 2003
Resource Type: Article
Editor(s): David Mitchell, John Petering

Waldorf High School Senior Survey
Resource Type: Article
Editor: Douglas Gerwin

Mathematics in the Classroom: Mine Shaft and Skylight
Resource Type: Article
Author: Amos Franceschelli


Finding Truth in Art, Beauty in Science
Resource Type: Article
Author: Eileen Hutchins

The Geometry of the Pentagram
Resource Type: Article
Author: A.R. Sheen

The Rhythms of the Year
Resource Type: Article
Author: Eileen Hutchins

The Proportions of the Great Pyramids at Gizeh
Resource Type: Article
Author: Hermann von Baravalle

The Teaching of Mathematics
Resource Type: Article
Author: Hans Gebert

The Teaching of Mathematics - part 2
Resource Type: Article
Author: Hans Gebert

The Movement That Everyone Tries to Forget
Resource Type: Article
Author: John Davy

Science in the Middle School
Resource Type: Article
Author: Lawrence Edwards

http://www.waldorflibrary.org/pg/home/home.asp
post #16 of 148
I attended a Waldorf school for just one year as a child and I had fond memories of it. When I looked into the option for my daughter for kindergarten, I realized that it was not a good fit for our family. The way that things were done a certain way but not explained to me bothered me quite a bit (like children eating certain grains on certain days of the week and needed to be kept very warm are two examples that pop into my mind). If you're going to tell me that my 5 year old must wear a jacket outdoors during recess even if she gets warm and chooses to take it off, I want to know why. It wasn't until I researched it further that I found out that is was part of the philosophy).

If every aspect of how my children are taught and related to and thought about by the teacher has a basis in a religion/spirituality/philosophy then I feel as the parent that I should be fully informed of what that philosophy is. If I decided to put my child in a Catholic school, for example, it is often because my family is Catholic and I agree with their teachings. If this is not the case, at least there is no secret about the aspects of the curriculum that are spiritual in nature and most likely the head of school would be pretty forthcoming about what religious expectations there are.

It didn't feel to me that the Waldorf school was open and encouraging of people truly understanding the anthroposophical philosophy. It made me uncomfortable. I have also heard/read a number of references to Steiner being racist, and I'd certainly like to hear about why people say this and if it is true, whether Waldorf acknowledges it and how they address it.
post #17 of 148
Hi Lousli
I agree with you wholeheartedly. I only found out by accident well after we had been at the school, that anthroposophic belief informed many uncomfortable and strange choices about my kids.
Steiner believed that man evolved from root races,on the legendary island of Atlantis, ( before humans were spiritual beings on the moon) the most spiritually advanced race being the aryan. In some schools , the Atlantis myth is taught.
Anthroposophical belief states that the primitive races should have died out through natural evolution, but an interference from Arhiman and Lucifer during the evolutionary period, disrupted this, which is why more "primitive" races are still around.
Steiner preached that the goal and task of man during the post Atlatean era, was to spread occult science or anthroposophy, to as many people as possible, and for spiritual science to enable people to lead the "evil" races towards reincarnation as "higher" races.
Many anthroposophists don't believe this talk of higher and more spiritually advanced races as "racist", because the belief is that we will all be reincarnated, and could some day come back as another race. That our skin is just a mantle to carry our soul and spirit.
It obviously doesn't manifest itself in the schools , except occasionally quite subtley.
One of my kids was singled out for having darker roots, I realised.
Our kids were taught multiplication with a story about a mean old goblin called Goldfinger I think, who lent money he kept in piles on shelves.

I wouldn't have thought many teachers have read much of this, although I know of two who weree trained at Emerson College, here in Uk, and both said they were told to keep anthroposophy from parents, and also talked about the racial hierarchy writings.
I would have thought most Steiner waldorf initiates would know nothing of it.

It's published in new books- From Comets to Cocaine is one , and on the Rudolf Steiner archive I think the lecture is called Theory of the Rosocrution, and another called he Occult significance of blood.
post #18 of 148
I am extremely interested in Waldorf philosophy on many levels... This is what jumps out at me from other posters:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lousli View Post
If you're going to tell me that my 5 year old must wear a jacket outdoors during recess even if she gets warm and chooses to take it off, I want to know why. It wasn't until I researched it further that I found out that is was part of the philosophy).
I agree with this 100%. I'd have a very big problem with this, since I trust my body to let me know how to dress outside. And... I get VERY cranky when it's too hot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluetrain View Post
Steiner believed that man evolved from root races,on the legendary island of Atlantis, ( before humans were spiritual beings on the moon) the most spiritually advanced race being the aryan. In some schools , the Atlantis myth is taught.
Our kids were taught multiplication with a story about a mean old goblin called Goldfinger I think, who lent money he kept in piles on shelves.

I wouldn't have thought many teachers have read much of this, although I know of two who weree trained at Emerson College, here in Uk, and both said they were told to keep anthroposophy from parents, and also talked about the racial hierarchy writings.
The Goblin story wouldn't bother me. On the other hand, the Atlantis myth presented as twisted reality to my child, or my child's teachers would have bothered me very much.


Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaCl View Post

There are limited resources and expertise the school can offer to students with developmental and/or learning challenges requiring special or intensive individual services.
I think this should be clear in some way, since I've heard this has caused much friction in Waldorf environment. In fact, the very first time I heard of Waldorf was because of the incident related to a child with special needs that Waldorf did not want to address...

_____________________

I do believe that Waldorf needs to get some confidence in itself, it has many wonderful points, even if it is not for everyone. And habitual blaming it all on the parents who didn't inform themselves is not going to solve the issue. I'm sure it would still attract people, it would be on a lesser level, but the school would have much less conflict with the ones that do choose it. Just my 2 cents...




post #19 of 148
Quote:
Steiner believed that man evolved from root races,on the legendary island of Atlantis, ( before humans were spiritual beings on the moon) the most spiritually advanced race being the aryan. In some schools , the Atlantis myth is taught.
Which schools teach the Atlantis myth? Do they teach it as fact or as part of Greek mythology?

In addition, you've got almost everything wrong in the bit I quoted. If anyone is interested in what Steiner actually says about prehistory I strongly recommend reading some of his actual material (and not just carefully chosen excerpts).

Thanks!
post #20 of 148
A good 2 cents tho' Oriole.

My dh has jewish blood, and the Goldfinger got him a bit at the time, well surprised him I suppose, but not nearly as much as later when he read things by Steiner about race and anti semetic stuff. Even if it was from that pre war stance, it's still around and published.

The learning disabilities question has raised many hackles. A couple of people have been turned away with comments like "We don't have children like that here"
At a camphill community, someone said to me "We believe these people are as they are for different reasons than you".
Reading Steiner's beliefs about disability , and incarnation problems, you can see where the friction arises.

Yes, there are many good things in the ideas surrounding Steiner, which must attract parents and teachers alike. The natural environment, the craft, out doors, music, drama. But as soon as belief systems are rigidly imposed, over- riding common sense, human choice and creativity, love and individual growth, it can be disasterous.

They certainly need to address the whole anthroposophical core of the curriculum, openly.
There must be many teachers who feel more than ambivelant.
And some, who follow Steiner's constructions rigidly.
How can parents tell which of his beliefs will be put into practice?
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