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#91 of 111 Old 03-27-2009, 02:26 PM
 
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For example: we have balls at our school. We have percussion instruments. We use them. At my course, I was taught games involving both of those. And we did debate the role anthroposophy plays in Waldorf education, plenty of times.
I have to say this was quite a relief to read - I was starting to think that I had gone to the only Waldorf School that is not entirely comprised of kooks. At least there is one more 'out there'.

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#92 of 111 Old 03-27-2009, 02:27 PM
 
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I am quite new here but read the thread with quite an interest. I just wanted to add my few cents about the ball games etc. As far as I understand there is no ban on balls of any kind, what is not encouraged is competitive sport, and the team games where players "defend" their territory so to speak and are set against each other (football, rugby, basketball, volleyball etc) playing ball for fun is absolutely fine, co-operative games are encouraged at young age! Throwing, catching, rolling and passing as long as the child is enjoying it. Time for the competitive sports, points scoring etc comes later as their sense of self and ability to make choices develop and mature. I am not sure about music but if a child shows interest in something then I would imagine it is fine to pursue as long as the child is enjoying it and is not "pushed" and coached.
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#93 of 111 Old 03-27-2009, 04:21 PM
 
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My head is : - but from what I know of Waldorf, working out of anthroposophy can also include working out of an understanding of child development that recognises that children are qualitatively different at age 4, 10, and 16. You do not need to use spiritual language to understand that. I have no idea how this works in the US, and I seem to remember from a previous discussion that there are different 'movements' under the Waldorf umbrella in the US, with a strong movement for reform and moving away from the euro-centric traditions.

No, at least not in the States. Other movements would need to call themselves something else because Waldorf is an AWSNA trademark. Charter schools (public schools) are not allowed to call themselves "Waldorf" even when the are "Waldorf methods" or "Waldorf inspired." They can't use those terms in any official way.

You don't need to use spiritual language to understand that, but U.S. Waldorf teachers do use spiritual language, and they do work out of anthroposophy. Yes, you can find exceptions, but those exceptions do not do a good job of describing the movement or of helping parents to understand the essence of Waldorf. Some Waldorf teacher training programs publish their course list and their reading list on-line and you can see that it really is about doing anthroposophy. Again, you will find a class here and there where they might touch on Piaget and other theories, but they only use them to the extent that they affirm Steiner's indications. Keep in mind that exceptions very often prove that the rule!

Dimitra, I really see the ball thing as trivial, but to be clear: do kindergarteners and first graders have balls to play with during free play outside at your school? If they (K and 1st graders) were to get a game of kicking the ball going, would that be fine? (I don't mean to corner you on this, I really am just curious!) Do you know the reasoning behind other schools discouraging (ban is not a word I am using here) kicking balls among the little ones?
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#94 of 111 Old 03-27-2009, 05:11 PM
 
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You don't need to use spiritual language to understand that, but U.S. Waldorf teachers do use spiritual language, and they do work out of anthroposophy. ... Some Waldorf teacher training programs publish their course list and their reading list on-line and you can see that it really is about doing anthroposophy.
I don't see where the problem with studying anthroposophy (/what Steiner said) is. We studied a lot of it. I am glad we did. Studying doesn't make you follow it, it makes you understand it. The more you understand the more you can use it creatively, adapt it, make it your own. I very much prefer teachers who have at least made an attempt to understand where the philosophy they teach out of has come from. It is the ones who don't really get it that annoy me. I find people who say "we don't need to read all these books" as scary as the ones who follow what these books say thoughtlessly. Both kinds don't really understand what it is they are working with.

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Dimitra, I really see the ball thing as trivial, but to be clear: do kindergarteners and first graders have balls to play with during free play outside at your school? If they (K and 1st graders) were to get a game of kicking the ball going, would that be fine? (I don't mean to corner you on this, I really am just curious!)

No. They do not. I won't speak for the kindergarten children, but no, our children (in Classes 1 2 and 3) don't have balls during breaktimes at the moment. (In the past there have been older children in the school and they were allowed ballgames within certain parameters, mostly that they made sure no younger children who could be hurt by the ball were around.) They don't seem to mind, they have plenty to do as it is.

If the issue did come up, and we did decide to not allow ballgames, it would be because we have a very small playground and ballgames have tended to take a lot of space. There was an issue about children getting hit by stray balls, and also not having enough space for other games. I can't explain it well but it makes sense if you see the playground. There would possibly also be an issue with certain children getting competitive and aggressive.

We don't play ballgames during Games lessons either just now but that is because we lost the one ball we had and no one's got round to buying one. If we did have one, we would be doing simple throwing and catching and rolling and bouncing and passing games.

Edited to add: If they did have a ball, and they did start kicking, we wouldn't stop it unless it was getting too aggressive or too competitive or something of that sort. We don't like telling children what and how to play too much.

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Do you know the reasoning behind other schools discouraging (ban is not a word I am using here) kicking balls among the little ones?
Not really. I have a vague recollection of being told about something that Steiner said about the head being round and balls being round but it's not the kind of thing I am interested in so I don't really remember.

We had a games teacher visit our course early on in the first year and he talked about the different games you play at different ages, and he explained it in terms of the development of spatial awareness. Not a single reference to the head as far as I can recall. It made a lot of sense at the time, but unfortunately I don't remember many details. One thing I do remember is that young children don't have the spatial awareness to play football properly, and focus on following the ball and trying to kick it. And some of them find it very hard when they don't get to kick it, and end up kicking someone else instead. I have definitely seen that kind of thing happen!

As I said, the spatial awareness thing made a lot of sense, and the teacher explained it very well; he asked us to play the games and then got us thinking about the skills we had employed to play them. I wish I could remember more now.
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#95 of 111 Old 03-27-2009, 05:19 PM
 
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I don't see where the problem with studying anthroposophy (/what Steiner said) is. We studied a lot of it. I am glad we did.

I don't see a problem with it either! Now that I understand Waldorf a little better, it makes sense to me that Waldorf teachers work out of anthroposophy. I was talking about that simply to address Ema-edama's comment. I don't think it's a problem. I also don't think it's surprising that parents want to know more about it.

Thanks for the clarification about the balls at your school!
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#96 of 111 Old 03-27-2009, 06:03 PM
 
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I have to say this was quite a relief to read - I was starting to think that I had gone to the only Waldorf School that is not entirely comprised of kooks. At least there is one more 'out there'.
Nah...much less kooky in the Swiss schools I know of, too. You're not alone.

But then again, much of what seems "Waldorf" in the US is just Euro/Germanic tradition here, aka "normal". One doesn't feel the need to separate themselves based on this certain lifestyle.

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#97 of 111 Old 03-27-2009, 06:18 PM
 
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DimitraDaisy, I have really enjoyed reading your contributions to this thread.

I'm an assistant in a Waldorf kindergarten, also in the UK. In my (admittedly still quite limited) experience, the pragmatic/reformist approach is becoming far more prevalent than a rigid anthroposophic one. Perhaps my experience is skewed somewhat because I work in a kindergarten that isn't attached to school (there is no school in my city), so we have a lot of independence, plus the kg teacher is utterly down to earth and as pragmatic as they come. I can assure you that there is no off the wall anthroposophic talk in our staff meetings, just really sound and loving consideration of the children and their needs. We made percussion instruments for our Brazilian carnival celebration last week, and have used percussion on several occasions. Nope, there are no balls around (can imagine that it would lead to broken windows if there were...!), but since the kids are spending a maximum of 5 four hour sessions in kindergarten each week it's safe to say they get plenty of ball play in their lives (several children go to soccer practices, noone disapproves in the least). Pragmatically (purely from my own experience, I have nothing to back this up) balls can really dominate play for some children to the exclusion of other activities and people. No children I work with have ever asked for a ball in their play-they are far too busy and occupied with their play to even notice! Oh, and we would never ever actively discourage children from writing or reading. When children show an interest, we answer their questions. We write out words when they ask us to, read others for them. We do have books, not huge numbers of them, but beautiful and meaningful ones. Often children make books with pages of 'writing', and many write their names or more. We just don't push it,and accept that there is real value in this pre-literacy activity rather than it just being a signal that more needs to be introduced.

Anyway, I don't think I can add a huge amount here, except that really, there is a huge amount of individuality and freedom of expression in kindergarten. Far more than I have seen in any mainstream pre-school settings. I know very little about the class years, so I cannot comment on this, but in kindergarten, the play is utterly free and child directed, without any micromanagement and adult interference to guide it towards specified learning goals (which occurs in all mainstream settings here, even my one year old's daycare..) They take risks, they use imagination, they play together, they play alone. It's amazing to watch, I feel privileged to witness it each time I go to work. I wouldn't describe free play in a waldorf kindergarten as organized fun (well, it is organized, but by the children, on their terms. to adults it can look extremely chaotic, but ther is order there). Boundaries are enforced, in age appropriate ways, but always in a loving and gentle manner. There is no shouting at kids, ever. But limits are set. When Ofsted (the external education inspection system of all education in the UK) came to visit, they actually commented on how rare this was, and that they wished teachers from other settings could visit and see that it is possible to deal with young children's behaviour without yelling...(which I found quite worrying as a parent, to be honest). The centrality of imitation is so powerful, and as adults in the kindergarten we have to be aware of all of our actions, making sure to set a good example all the time, in all ways. This is a definite pro, IMO as a parent.

Anyway, i could go on for ages about the pros in my experience. I think it says a lot that, having seen exactly what goes on each day, coming from a totally non-anthro fairly sceptical of everything remotely spiritual background, and having had experience of other childcare settings, I am 110% happy for my own child to go to Waldorf kg and will absolutely make sure that that happens.

Sorry this is quite badly expressed I am rather tired....
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#98 of 111 Old 03-28-2009, 05:53 AM
 
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But then again, much of what seems "Waldorf" in the US is just Euro/Germanic tradition here, aka "normal". One doesn't feel the need to separate themselves based on this certain lifestyle.
I was talking to my husband (who is Dutch about this), and he said yes, perhaps in Steiner schools children go to Class 1 a little later, but so what? A lot of children "repeat" kindergarten anyway, or one of the primary school classes. How old you are is not that big a deal. And, it seems, because the government will fund all different kinds of schools, it is understood that different schools teach in different ways. There's no big fuss made about it, that he knows of.

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DimitraDaisy, I have really enjoyed reading your contributions to this thread.

I'm an assistant in a Waldorf kindergarten, also in the UK. In my (admittedly still quite limited) experience, the pragmatic/reformist approach is becoming far more prevalent than a rigid anthroposophic one.
Yay, I'm not alone!!! There are other sensible, grounded, free-thinking people! In the UK! And in this thread! :

Beatee, I looked at (what I think is) your school's website and it seems that our schools have quite a few things in common, we're just a few years down the road from you. Essentially we grew out of being a Kindergarten not so long ago. (And boy, do I hope you avoid the mistakes our school made as you grow.) We're still having growing pains, lots of them, but we also have the freedom to think for ourselves and map our own route.

PM if you'd like, I'd love to talk about things!

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Oh, and we would never ever actively discourage children from writing or reading. When children show an interest, we answer their questions. We write out words when they ask us to, read others for them. We do have books, not huge numbers of them, but beautiful and meaningful ones. Often children make books with pages of 'writing', and many write their names or more. We just don't push it,and accept that there is real value in this pre-literacy activity rather than it just being a signal that more needs to be introduced.
I think that reading and writing is treated like that in our Kindergarten too, but as I don't work in there I can't be sure. Children do write their names on their work, and they are free to add letters to their drawings; nobody stops them. In fact when the anthroposophical doctor came to do developmental checks on the children who will go to Class 1 next year, a mother brought in a piece of paper on which the child had written lots of letters. (In ball-point pen at that too. Not crayon ) All the doctor said was "look at that, they're all the right way around and standing on the line and neatly drawn; and she did them from memory too! Your child is very ready."

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I wouldn't describe free play in a waldorf kindergarten as organized fun (well, it is organized, but by the children, on their terms. to adults it can look extremely chaotic, but ther is order there).
I would never say that free play in Kindergarten is organised fun. It is 'held' by the teachers in that a lot of work goes into setting up the environment and in keeping that order you talk about, but it is not organised. The same goes for the Class children's playtimes. They are not by any means organised. I used the term 'controlled fun' in relation to what goes on in the classroom. I think you know this, but I thought I'd make it clear once more.

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Boundaries are enforced, in age appropriate ways, but always in a loving and gentle manner. There is no shouting at kids, ever. But limits are set. When Ofsted (the external education inspection system of all education in the UK) came to visit, they actually commented on how rare this was, and that they wished teachers from other settings could visit and see that it is possible to deal with young children's behaviour without yelling...(which I found quite worrying as a parent, to be honest).
I have to say that even though I wouldn't say I yell at the children (god forbid), I do raise my voice at them when it is necessary, and I do think it is necessary occasionally. Because I only do it occasionally, it is very effective, and the children know that they've really crossed a line they shouldn't have cross there. (Like hitting somebody or saying something outright nasty or rude or disrespectful.) But then these children are seven years old or older, not three to six which is what you get in Kindergarten -- where I think it is appropriate not to raise your voice, especially with the littlest ones. But people sometimes hear that kind of thing and get the wrong idea, like that we would sing to their eight year old if they hit somebody, or that we'd never "force" their nine year old to do any work in class... which is totally not the case!

I know I'm showing off here, but my children are happy. They love me, and they love school. They hug me at the end of every day. They run in with big smiles and rosy cheeks every morning, they even beg their mothers to let them come to school when they're sick, they ask "is tomorrow a schoolday?" during their holidays and seem disappointed when it isn't. (Unlike me -- I do love them to pieces, but I love my holidays too.) They have all got the hang of the four processes, they are all starting to read, they can sit and concentrate and do quiet work for twenty to thirty minutes, they take care over their work, they can all knit, (but the one with serious fine motor difficulties -- but he's trying), they remember significant bits of a story told to them, they have learned to do some pretty complicated movement things quite well, they know a number of poems by heart, some of them in German. I could go on and on. And above all, they love and care for each other.

Okay, I admit it, I am in love :
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#99 of 111 Old 03-28-2009, 10:46 AM
 
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I'm from the UK and DS went to a Steiner school there for a couple of yrs. We still have lot of friends in different Steiner schools there. Now we're in the US. There are definitely some exceptions but overall I do think that Waldorf can become a much more dogmatic thing here in the US than in Europe. The hope I see here is the move towards starting charter schools that hopefully can become more eclectic and attract greater diversity.

But the school we attended here is very dogmatic and very wedded to anthroposophy. And the balls and percussion thing is definitely enforced, not to mention shaming tactics being used for discipline, but that's a whole other story.
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#100 of 111 Old 03-28-2009, 01:32 PM
 
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The description of writing or making books in the kindy is astounding to me. I've been involved with several waldorf kindy's, and I can say without exception that would never happen here. Not only would it not happen, it would be discouraged. My dd was actively discouraged from writing her name so that the experience would be preserved for the first grade teacher. My son was quite clearly told that he could not look at books when he asked. It was very interesting because the boys were often directed to "healing" gross motor activities and the girls would finger knit, or draw, but looking at a book was out of bounds.

Balls and percussion were taboo as well.
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#101 of 111 Old 03-29-2009, 01:11 PM
 
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No, at least not in the States. Other movements would need to call themselves something else because Waldorf is an AWSNA trademark. Charter schools (public schools) are not allowed to call themselves "Waldorf" even when the are "Waldorf methods" or "Waldorf inspired." They can't use those terms in any official way.
Perhaps I was not being clear. I meant that within Waldorf there is discussion on the role of tradition and questioning tradition.

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You don't need to use spiritual language to understand that, but U.S. Waldorf teachers do use spiritual language, and they do work out of anthroposophy
.
I think what I am trying to say is that while some teachers do use spiritual language, it is not necessary. There are modern scientific terms to describe what Steiner was talking about 80+ years ago. By using modern terminology you are not being 'disloyal' to Waldorf or misrepresenting Waldorf. At least I do not get it like that. I personally would be annoyed if there was a modern way to understand something and someone refused to change their understanding/terminology. For instance, teachers being suspicious of SI, when essentially it supports what they are doing in the classroom. I also do not think it is deceptive to use modern terminology.
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Yes, you can find exceptions, but those exceptions do not do a good job of describing the movement or of helping parents to understand the essence of Waldorf.
I think the essence of Waldorf is going to mean different things to different people. Sometimes quite contradictory things.

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Some Waldorf teacher training programs publish their course list and their reading list on-line and you can see that it really is about doing anthroposophy. Again, you will find a class here and there where they might touch on Piaget and other theories, but they only use them to the extent that they affirm Steiner's indications. Keep in mind that exceptions very often prove that the rule!
I once considered studying to be a Waldorf Teacher and took a look at the reading and ran a mile. Someone else would look at the list and be very happy. I think I have yet to make peace with anthroposophical terms. If you are new to it, maybe it is more endearing.
I have very vague rememories of Piaget and his theory of cognitive development, but from what I remember his theories would support a take it slow approach while providing an enriched environment for the young child. He was looking at the foundations of cognition, and cerebral activities being introduced too early not really doing any good - certainly not producing brighter children.

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I don't see where the problem with studying anthroposophy (/what Steiner said) is. We studied a lot of it. I am glad we did.

I don't see a problem with it either! Now that I understand Waldorf a little better, it makes sense to me that Waldorf teachers work out of anthroposophy. I was talking about that simply to address Ema-edama's comment. I don't think it's a problem. I also don't think it's surprising that parents want to know more about it.
I don't see a problem with studying anthroposophy. I do see a problem with using anthroposophical terms when there are perfectly good English ones. Child development and the reasoning behind not rushing academics do not have to be wrapped up in terminology like astral and incarnation.

I personally am very excited reading about Dimitra's work and how she choses to be a teacher. I think it is wonderful to bring together Waldorf principles together with SI and child development theory.

Megan, mama to her little boy (Feb2008) and introducing our little girl (Dec 2010)
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#102 of 111 Old 03-29-2009, 07:36 PM
 
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I have to say this was quite a relief to read - I was starting to think that I had gone to the only Waldorf School that is not entirely comprised of kooks. At least there is one more 'out there'.
Ours isn't either. A lot of the "Waldorf won't allow" stuff sounds like "Waldorf won't do this stuff in the school day". Not unusual really. To me it's a bit extreme to say they "won't allow", like, "Public education bans football and violin" because kindergartners can't play it during the school day. When I was in school, I couldn't play any instrument but a tonette when I was in 3rd grade, and a wind instrument in 4th. No softball until the last half of 6th grade. No balls until 2nd grade, where we could play either dodge ball or kick ball. 3rd grade and we got Four Square. Soccer wasn't invented in America yet . I guess that's one reason why the fuss over these kinds of minor things in Waldorf surprise me.

No percussion? My kindergartners made drums in school. Rules about crayons? There were no rules, period, about drawing except "use both sides of the paper" . A lot of children wrote words in them too, sometimes made up like "FtWj" and cockeyed like "KE<<Y". No balls? My kindergartners made felt balls in school. No storybooks? My kindergartners were read to from books every day during naptime. Everything's relative to what you're used to, I guess.
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#103 of 111 Old 03-29-2009, 08:05 PM
 
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Ours isn't either. A lot of the "Waldorf won't allow" stuff sounds like "Waldorf won't do this stuff in the school day". Not unusual really. To me it's a bit extreme to say they "won't allow", like, "Public education bans football and violin" because kindergartners can't play it during the school day. When I was in school, I couldn't play any instrument but a tonette when I was in 3rd grade, and a wind instrument in 4th. No softball until the last half of 6th grade. No balls until 2nd grade, where we could play either dodge ball or kick ball. 3rd grade and we got Four Square. Soccer wasn't invented in America yet . I guess that's one reason why the fuss over these kinds of minor things in Waldorf surprise me.
ETA: I'm speaking about our experience of a specific school, but I have heard similar stories in other schools.

It's not *me* being extreme by saying they won't allow it, it is *them* that says they don't allow it. That is what is extreme. And you're comparing your experience from many yrs ago to now. Why not compare what schools are doing *now* and what we know about child development?

I think what's more surprising than people making a "fuss over these kinds of minor things" is that at our local public school DS does Orff Shulwerk classes, learning rhythm and pitch with shakers and drums in 1st grade, but that he would have had to wait until middle school to touch a percussion instrument in waldorf, not because of lack of resources, but because *as it was explained to us by the school*, "drums awaken the hip area too early".

Or that in any public or private school in the area he can play baseball, basketball, tennis, cooperative ball games, you name it. While at waldorf there are strict rules about what age a child can play with balls, based on the idea that a ball is the shape of a head. And that children are punished for creating their own balls and playing with them at recess.

These are not minor things to us all, Linda. These are examples of the dogmatic nature of many of these schools and the way in which children's behavior is so heavily controlled based on anthroposophic beliefs. Balls and percussion instruments are just the tip of a very large iceberg, frankly.
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#104 of 111 Old 03-30-2009, 02:07 AM
 
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(Italicized portions are from Ema-edama's post)
Perhaps I was not being clear. I meant that within Waldorf there is discussion on the role of tradition and questioning tradition.

I see what you are saying, but I don't believe that that characterizes the Waldorf movement (at least) in the United States. I don't think that anthroposophical culture is bad in any way (well, except for its ability to explain itself), but I KNOW that it is the glue of (nearly) any Waldorf school.

I think what I am trying to say is that while some teachers do use spiritual language, it is not necessary. There are modern scientific terms to describe what Steiner was talking about 80+ years ago. By using modern terminology you are not being 'disloyal' to Waldorf or misrepresenting Waldorf. At least I do not get it like that. I personally would be annoyed if there was a modern way to understand something and someone refused to change their understanding/terminology. For instance, teachers being suspicious of SI, when essentially it supports what they are doing in the classroom. I also do not think it is deceptive to use modern terminology.

It may not be necessary, but in American Waldorf schools, teachers work with an anthroposophical lens. I think that it is wildly irresponsible to use scientific language to parents if what they are working from is a spiritual system. You will see many people ask on these boards "why do people leave Waldorf so bitter?" The two levels of discourse (teachers among teachers and teachers to parents) is a big reason. Dimitra Daisy would be an atypical Waldorf teacher if she were working in the U.S. Steiner's work, while inspiring to many, was not in any way scientific. He used the work "science" but it was the borrowing of a term.

I think the essence of Waldorf is going to mean different things to different people. Sometimes quite contradictory things.

I agree.

I once considered studying to be a Waldorf Teacher and took a look at the reading and ran a mile. Someone else would look at the list and be very happy. I think I have yet to make peace with anthroposophical terms. If you are new to it, maybe it is more endearing.
I have very vague rememories of Piaget and his theory of cognitive development, but from what I remember his theories would support a take it slow approach while providing an enriched environment for the young child. He was looking at the foundations of cognition, and cerebral activities being introduced too early not really doing any good - certainly not producing brighter children.


Yes, Piaget studied cognitive development and what children were simply incapable of doing at a certain age. (It is neat to see more current research focusing on what children CAN do.) When I first heard that Waldorf was a development approach, this was very exciting to me. I was disappointed to learn more about the spiritual nature of the developmental approach and that it came almost entirely from within Steiner's own spiritual work. (I don't think there is anything wrong with it being spiritual, it's just not the approach that I have chosen for my school-age kids.) The Waldorf movement does not at all keep up with the field of cognitive psychology. You won't see university researchers in this field among the speakers at Waldorf Teachers' Conferences. It simply doesn't fit in to or influence the path of Waldorf pedagogy. I will say again, I don't have a problem with it being anthroposophical, I just want to be perfectly honest about this fact.

I don't see a problem with studying anthroposophy. I do see a problem with using anthroposophical terms when there are perfectly good English ones. Child development and the reasoning behind not rushing academics do not have to be wrapped up in terminology like astral and incarnation.


I am confused by what you are saying here. Waldorf teachers work with terms like "astral", "etheric", and "incarnation" as a central part of their job. I'm not sure if you are doubting this fact, or if you are saying that as a parent you don't want to be exposed to it. If the latter, you probably don't have much to worry about. I think most Waldorf teachers know what is off-putting to the typical parent.

I personally am very excited reading about Dimitra's work and how she choses to be a teacher. I think it is wonderful to bring together Waldorf principles together with SI and child development theory.


Me too. I do share Karne's concern about the idea that an early interest in reading is something to be worried about as symptomatic of a sensory integration issue, (an enormous amount of work would need to be done before this could approach being a scientific statement) but I love the idea of a Steiner teacher keeping a foot in mainstream research. I am glad to hear that her student is being met with more than just an anthroposophical approach. And even if it were a strictly anthroposophical approach this wouldn't bother me if the parents understood that and if it seemed to be working for the student.
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#105 of 111 Old 03-30-2009, 03:28 PM
 
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I just wanted to add one thing:
I think the surest way to make a child NOT love learning, is to thwart him, distract him, and discourage him from learning what he wants to learn, simply because he is not at a certain age. If a 4yo wants to learn something, like reading, why thwart them? Because of a *philosophy*? Just doesn't sit well with me.

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#106 of 111 Old 03-30-2009, 07:48 PM
 
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It's not *me* being extreme by saying they won't allow it, it is *them* that says they don't allow it.
Sorry - I didn't mean to say anybody was or wasn't being extremist. I meant "extreme" as in "oversimplified" or "overstated". To explain, my Waldorf children are in high school and do all these things that supposedly Waldorf "doesn't allow". I'm just in a different place - I don't identify the typical Waldorf school much anymore just in terms the way its practiced in its kindergartens or lower grades.

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And you're comparing your experience from many yrs ago to now. Why not compare what schools are doing *now* and what we know about child development?
? I'm sorry to hop in midstream-I was just talking my growing up playing kickball and the tonette ? My point was that we mostly come to expect what we're used to. I still think I'm right-I don't think that most people come to expect schools supply balls to children because they've researched the issue.

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I think what's more surprising than people making a "fuss over these kinds of minor things" is that at our local public school DS does Orff Shulwerk classes, learning rhythm and pitch with shakers and drums in 1st grade, but that he would have had to wait until middle school to touch a percussion instrument in waldorf, not because of lack of resources, but because *as it was explained to us by the school*, "drums awaken the hip area too early".
I'm surprised hearing you say this too. But that didn't happen to me. My kindergartners made drums in school. No teachers ever said anything to me about drums.

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These are not minor things to us all, Linda.
Obviously not.
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#107 of 111 Old 03-30-2009, 08:04 PM
 
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I am confused by what you are saying here. Waldorf teachers work with terms like "astral", "etheric", and "incarnation" as a central part of their job. I'm not sure if you are doubting this fact, or if you are saying that as a parent you don't want to be exposed to it.
I don't know if this is what she meant, but I can identify with the problem of the jargon. No teacher, regardless of the methods or development theory they adopt, should need to speak in the jargon. I think that educators who rely on jargon either don't realize they need to speak in English or really don't understand enough to translate it into English. Either way isn't so good, in my opinion. Take astral, etheric, incarnation, etc. Maria Montessori talked about incarnation a lot. Do Montessori teachers now feel they need to speak this way? I don't know-I'm asking.
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#108 of 111 Old 03-31-2009, 07:54 AM
 
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Just popping back in to address a few things that I think my (very badly written by a tired mama) post brought up!

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The description of writing or making books in the kindy is astounding to me. I've been involved with several waldorf kindy's, and I can say without exception that would never happen here. Not only would it not happen, it would be discouraged.
Not sure if I gave the wrong impression-just to clarify, this wouldn't be a teacher led activity, it's something that the children initiate sometimes during their free play (they have access to paper, crayons and glue during this time). But we absolutely would never discourage it. The only things we really discourage during play are those that hurt and upset other people. We (assistants and teacher) talked about it and were expressly told not to discourage any of this sort of activity. Actually the teacher was quite horrified by the idea of that. I can't imagine how one would actively discourage this activity in a way that was consistent with the respectful way that we treat the children in the kindergarten. Clearly though, it happens elsewhere, so I guess this is one area where there is great variation. We were also told that if children ask us to write something for them we should do it with great care and creativity, to model its importance, which I think is a nice part of encouraging interest in literacy without pushing it early on. We just wouldn't then start prompting the children to copy the letters or read the letters or do workbooks or any of the other things that any interest in literacy seems to immediately lead to in mainstream settings that I have witnessed (and is encouraged by the early years curriculum in the UK).

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I would never say that free play in Kindergarten is organised fun. It is 'held' by the teachers in that a lot of work goes into setting up the environment and in keeping that order you talk about, but it is not organised. The same goes for the Class children's playtimes. They are not by any means organised. I used the term 'controlled fun' in relation to what goes on in the classroom.
Yes absolutely, sorry my post was so unclear! I think I was trying to emphasize the difference between the class years and kindergarten in this respect (although, as I said, I still know embarassingly little about the class years), so that people don't get the idea that 3 and 4 year olds are expected to 'move as a group' in the same way as older children. But the teacher is definitely holding it, although it may look like she's 'just' sat in the corner doing some sewing. Again, this is, for me, a really refreshing contrast with other settings I have seen where the staff are constantly 'poking their noses in' to children's play, asking questions so that they can guide it towards specific curriculum aims.

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But then these children are seven years old or older, not three to six which is what you get in Kindergarten -- where I think it is appropriate not to raise your voice, especially with the littlest ones. But people sometimes hear that kind of thing and get the wrong idea, like that we would sing to their eight year old if they hit somebody, or that we'd never "force" their nine year old to do any work in class... which is totally not the case!
Absolutely. I really appreciate the awareness of age appropriate approaches in Steiner education, especially regarding discipline. There are certain things that just don't work in a positive way with a 3 or 4 year old but are necessary with 8 or 9 year olds. Which seems obvious to most of us, I'm sure, but I have heard one and two year olds being spoken to like teenagers on numerous occasions in some settings (like my daughter's daycare....perhaps that is a whole other topic...) Although I really understand what you mean about people's misconceptions. The most common response I get when I say i work at a Steiner kindergarten is "oh the kids can just do whatever they want there can't they?"...hmm, not quite..

As for Steiner teachers having no awareness of or contact with other educational theories and research (I don't know if that is exactly what has been said here, but along those lines..), there are many many exceptions to this. The teacher I work with (yes, i sort of love her you may have noticed!) is currently working on an MA in Early Childhood Studies. She is tailoring her research towards a Steiner perspective, but also obviously has to be fully aware of mainstream theories and research in this this area, as it isn't a Steiner specific degree by any means. I have met plenty of kindergarten teachers with a mainstream educational background and absolutely tons of knowledge in this area, and there are lots of people working closely with mainstream educational advisors in the UK to make sure that Steiner kindergartens can be compatible with the Early Years Foundation Stage (which is posing plenty of problems, but at least people are workign together to address them). As part of our staff study we read texts by both Steiner and Steiner influenced authors, and non-Steiner researchers of contemporary early years issues. I'm sure there are Steiner teachers who refuse to have anything to do with other theories and research, but it's not all of them by any means. And it's not as if those who do are shunned by the anthroposophical community, quite the opposite in fact. At our regional early years conference next month the keynote speaker will be a leading mainstream author who has nothing to do with the Steiner Waldorf community (although her ideas are very compatible with our approach). There are absolutely loads of kindergarten teachers from all over the UK coming, all interested in her opinions and research despite them having no grounding in anthroposophy! So, from my experience, people are plenty willing to learn from different perspectives and contemporary research rather than solely anthroposophy. I don't doubt that there are people who are too dogmatic to do so though. (and, of course, this is a UK perspective again).

Hmm I hope that was helpful, I must admit I feel a little bit out of my depth in these conversations speaking only from a few months of experience. Hopefully I will be starting the Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Education degree soon (http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/courses/un...hood+Education) and will be able to have a bit more theoretical knowledge behind me (and hopefully write interesting critical essays based on these sorts of issues-which I have been assured is strongly encouraged!)
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#109 of 111 Old 04-02-2009, 10:38 AM
 
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What an interesting thread. I'm only sorry to come to it late.

It's refreshing to hear a voice like DimitraDaisy- and I hope you're right in that some schools take a more open approach. You sound a great teacher.

I also think though, that you can't have Steiner Waldorf schools with out anthroposophy- it's the ethos and basis of the schools, as their websites , in very small print albeit- point out.

We pulled our children out of Steiner waldorf when we realised it completely revolved around anthroposophic beliefs which we didn't share, and which we felt had been deliberately kept from us.
Since leaving I have become what must be one of the most well informed ex-parents! And wish I had read as much before we took the plunge, rather than reading what the school advised...
Reading Steiner is an eye opening experince, and helps make sense of many of the decisions and things which go on in the school.

And yes, there is much in his work about race, reincarnation and evolutionary beliefs which are distinctly dodgy. Whether or not they find their way into the classroom is open to debate. since so many choices are made by seeing what "Steiner indicated" it's anyone's guess. There was certainly a Eurocentric/Nordic/Germanic bias in the school ours attended.

Muse you said
"At the 3 schools we've been involved with it is most certainly NOT up for debate. In fact in our last experience, dare question the anthroposophical ideas and you are pretty much on your way out. I know a woman who dropped out of waldorf teacher training after her class was explicitly told, "do NOT tell the parents this, they are not ready to understand". When she questioned anything Steiner ever said she was told over and over again, "You will understand it when you're ready", which really translates to "don't question".
This is precisely what happened with us. We were totally stone walled. Interestingly, it's also what Steiner said when approaching the understanding of his beliefs; one had to be "ready"- even to pass judgement (!) susceptible perhaps. Many Steiner waldorf teachers also talk about "educating" parents too, which makes me uncomfortable. It is a patronising assumption.

I would be very interested to know how many teachers are anthroposophists. Does anyone have an idea? Or are there usually one or two within each school?

beatee The link to the Plymouth course is interesting. The course seems to have a great deal of modules about anthroposophy
http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/courses/mo...mandatory+DESC
The teacher traing reading lists tend to be predominately Steiner's work too, which I think has been pointed out before. It would make me feel slightly uneasy....but perhaps you and DimitraDaisy will be a new generation of reformers! It would be such a shame to throw the baby out with the bath water, there are so many good things about the education.
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#110 of 111 Old 04-02-2009, 02:49 PM
 
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I'm just coming to this post, and wow is it interesting! It seems to me that so much of the problem is the great variance between different Waldorf Schools.

I am a mother of a 2 and 4 year old. I have worked to create a gentle, nurturing, Waldorf-inspired home environment and do plan on homeschooling my children in a Waldorf manner. There is no local Waldorf school, but I do think I would prefer homeschooling anyhow. I am encouraged and feel liberated that I can take what I like of Waldorf and what I feel is right for my children and make a schooling experience that will fit for us.

I liked what Dimitra wrote here:

"And even your opening statement, that "Waldorf does not exist without anthroposophy", this seems to be accepted as a fact on the Enki lists, and on here, but I do wonder why; as far as I am concerned this is open to debate. It wouldn't have come into existence without anthroposophy, obviously, this is a simple fact. But what the relationship between them is now, and whether it can, or should change, and what it can or should become -- all these things are under consideration. Or they should be, anyway."

I think it's wonderful that a Waldorf teacher is thinking that way because it opens up Waldorf education to develop and evolve with the times. Yes, be a reformer!

As a homeschooler, I feel I can separate Waldorf from anthroposophy. I can choose to approach education from a Waldorf perspective, while not always agreeing with the traditional Waldorf reasons for doing so. How do I decide what to do? I read about Waldorf (and other educational methods), I read about how modern science informs education and I go with my heart. It is a comfortable, empowering combination.

Thanks, all, for sharing!

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#111 of 111 Old 05-07-2009, 04:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Update:

Well, I've visited the potential school twice. I see a lot of things that I really like about it-- the classrooms and grounds are beautiful, the outdoor play area looks wonderful, the teachers that I've met have been at the school for about 15 years (I've only met 2 of the 4 preschool teachers).

I did hear some "jargon" for lack of a better word. Especially related to reading later, the teacher talked about the connection with the milk teeth falling out and being ready for reading. I admit to a big internal eyeroll, although I think it's just a really weird way of saying kids are readier to learn later, rather than earlier.

The classes at the preschool level are mixed, with 3 y o, 4 y o and 5 y o in the same room. They all do the same activities, just at their own levels. While I think this can be great for a 3 year old, I can see a 5-turning-6 year old feeling very frustrated in the classroom. There are absolutely no "academics"-- no pre-reading, no pre-math, but lots of drawing, working in the garden, playing outside... etc.

The teachers have been very open and friendly, they laugh readily and seem very happy and balanced.

I am still concerned about discipline issues-- what happens when kids pick on other kids, although the teacher reassured me that while that happens, she addresses the issue with the kid doing the bullying. Once again, a lot of jargon about being too physical, or kids picking on other kids who are too "in their heads".

I've also read the Life After Waldorf threads and they just send cold chills down my spine. I really, honestly, don't know what to do.

I think I need to schedule a visit at the local public school.
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