I have been reading this thread and some other ones here with interest.
I attended a Waldorf school (The Rudolf Steiner School in NYC, which I think might even be the original one in the US) from Kindergarten through 8th grade, at which time I left to attend public school for various reasons.
I have actually been thinking quite a bit about my Waldorf education over the past 6 years as I have pondered how to educate my own children. I have a lot of very positive memories that I wouldn't trade for anything. I have some negative memories as well, which while I don't believe they traumatized me, they are certainly not what I want for my own children. And I have been reading. I find that the waldorf critics site is quite extreme' however it does explain a lot about some of my negative experiences and about why things were the way they were that I am not happy with.
My personal experience with Waldorf schools extends to the Hawthorne Valley Waldorf school (upstate NY), as Steiner was pretty involved with them (my class spent a week or more at the Hawthorne Valley Farm each year), then my little sister ended up going there for high school after being in NYC public schools her entire life, and now I live just ten minutes away from the school, shop at their health food store weekly, and visit the cows and their toy store regularly with my own children. I also know parents who happily send/sent their children there (including my own parents), those who did but removed them for various reasons, those who have been looking at the school for their own children, etc. I was even at their senior class play last week :-) So while I am not a teacher, student, alum or parent there, I still feel I know the school fairly well.
I understand that some Waldorf schools may be different, but the two I know well were very similar.
Some positives memories and feelings I have:
I was really lucky to have two wonderful class teachers, one who stayed through 4th grade and then left to get married and another who was with us through 8th grade. Neither of them was a anthroposophist. I'm not sure why they were hired. Maybe it was harder to find anthroposophists back then? I also became very close with the music teacher as I took private flute lessons with her from 3rd grade even into high school after I had left Steiner. I cared about these teachers and felt cared about by them and will always remember them with incredible fondness. Perhaps if I had had anthroposophist teachers during these years, things would have been different.
I loved the magical view of the world I was given and still maintain to a certain extent. I do not believe in God and I am not a pagan, but I can't quite call myself an aetheist either as I see too much magic and spirituality in the world we live in and our connectedness to it. I know I didn't get this from my parents!
I loved how the transition between learning ancient myths and learning actual history was a little vague. It was all a form of storytelling. Some might complain that it meant I saw history as myths, but the way I see it, I learned to really enjoy social studies. We were allowed a lot of creativity in these main lesson blocks beyond the usual Waldorf art stuff. For example, I remember writing a report on Paul Revere and turning it into a newspaper from the time, complete with articles, ads, logo, etc. My teacher loved it (would she have if she were an anthroposophist? I don't know). We also acted out a lot of what we learned, and I loved that.
While I have issues with the way art was taught, I do value the fact that everything was about arts and crafts. Going to the Hawthorne Valley school play the other night reminded me of that -- the acting, the singing, the instrumentals, the beautiful set, the lighting, etc. was all done by the students and done beautifully.
I am glad that I was taught to love nature and given many chances to experience it and glad that I was taught not to watch tv or to value commercial toys and glad that I was taught to distrust technology. These things have stuck with me, but they have been embodied into my own personal belief system.
Some negative memories and feelings I have:
I had two years of kindergarten at Steiner. All the kindergarten teachers were anthroposophists. I was bullied. When my mother spoke to my teacher about it, she just told my mother "ah, but your daughter is a victim." My mother was pretty angry, needless to say, but I guess she didn't do anything beyond that (should I be questioning my mother here?). Now I read that that was because of the whole karma thing. That for I was supposed to be bullied and didn't need to be protected because of something having to do with a past life. I was miserable and hated myself. That was the beginning of my social problems.
I loved to draw as a child, but my inclinations were pretty much stamped out during kindergarten. No black. No outlines. For a long time only one color at a time. Then two. Then finally three. Everything had to be done with block crayons. Yes, within those limits we could draw what we want, but I questioned my artistic impulses as they were obviously not approved of by my teachers. Only beautiful shading, according to the colors of the rainbow (once we had colors) was praised. And while I drew pretty well with a black marker, I couldn't get the hang of shading enough to please my teachers. Once we were in first grade, I don't remember any free drawing. Everything was copied from blackboards into main lesson books or dicated by art teachers. I loved crafts, but once again we didn't have a huge amount of freedom with what we wanted to make or our designs. The only truly valued music was old music of the western tradition, especially German and Austrian music. FWIW, my sister didn't experience this when she entered high school at Hawthorne Valley (as I mentioned before, from public school). She felt she had freedom to create. I didn't do high school at Steiner, so maybe there I would have, too, but by that time, IMO, it would have been too late. I had already lost my creative bug and my confidence. I was always been kind of easily influenced, so perhaps a child with more spunk would have made it through. I did continue with music though. When I left Steiner I went on to the High School of Music and Art for flute.
That brings me to another thing that bothered me. I was always really good at math. I would finish my assignments and my tests early, my only errors were at the end when they were out of boredom for being assigned over 100 too easy problems, and then I would have to sit there and wait for the rest of the class to finish. They never gave me any encouragement to go further. I was bored out of my mind. Science was barely taught and what little labwork we did was in ancient labs with ancient equipment. Once I decided I wanted to leave the school, I wanted to apply to the specialized high schools in NYC. I totally flunked the tests for the high schools that specialized in math and science and barely even made it into Music and Art based on my academic scores (all that music stood me well). I didn't even know what these tests were asking. My mother was furious because the counselor she had dealt with at Steiner assured her that their math and science was right up there with the public schools. It so wasn't!!! Once I was at Music and Art and caught up in math, I got straight As, and I did very well on the SATs and other standardized tests once they came up. If my Waldorf education had been prepared better, I might very well have gotten into the one of the other high schools which were actually my first choice and my life might be very different right now.
I left Steiner after 8th grade because I was bored by most of my classes and because I was miserable socially, and because noone, even my beloved teachers, made much of a move to help me. I felt like the school was too small for me. These things could happen anywhere though, and I'm sure the old-fashioned disciplinary measures (no hitting, just a lot of humiliation) used on other class members, but still giving me a lot of stress, and the encouraged competitiveness in sports, arts, etc. could happen elsewhere too, but I know that these are part of how education happens at a Waldorf school.
I also know that certain teachers who the entire class and their parents are unhappy with are never let go because their beliefs are consistent with anthroposophy while other teachers who are loved by students and their parents are treated badly and let go because they don't believe in anthroposophy. I just heard of one anthroposophist teacher at this school who has actually hit children and shaken them more than once over the years and still is class teacher to an elementary scdhool class. That really bothers me. I have heard similar stories from other schools.
I have other problems, like the fact that in the 10 years I attended the school in NYC, there were only two children of color in the class, each of whom left after a year or so. There was also a lot of classism going on. But I think these can be blamed on the fact that it was a private school.
There's more, but this is what I am thinking of now.
The negatives outway the positives for me with my own children. I believe I could find the positives at other schools without many of the negatives if I were to look. But then I have problems with school in general (one reason I don't love the waldorf critics site -- they seem to fully accept the status quo when it comes to education), and we have decided to homeschool or rather, radically unschool. Even if I have to go back to work it is doubtful my children will be attending a Waldorf school. There are other options around me.