where to start?
at the most basic level, you need to begin to interact with the school and see how things are done there. you might discover that it's a good fit, you might discover that it is not a good fit.
as a PP mentioned, how waldorf is taught differs greatly school to school.anthroposophical beliefs
officially, anthroposophy is not taught in the classroom. rather, anthroposophy is the guiding principle behind various actions in the school.
in my experience and understanding, anthroposophy isn't as religious as many people think it to be. it's more similar to the application of Jungian ideologies. the primary import or 'force' of the philosophy is to create a unified, healthy, happy individual. by this, an individual who is connected to earth, community, and self at all levels of being (physical, emotional, intellectual, psychological, spiritual).
In Jungian fashion, elements such as fairies, gnomes, gods and goddesses and the like are presented as energies and archetypes. they are engaged at different levels at different ages--how "santa claus" can be a real being when you're a baby, and then when you're older, you see it as the "spirit of generosity within" or some such.
and so this is the foundation of the waldorf education.
thus, in the school, children are encouraged through imaginative play, story telling, and celebrations to begin to engage these archetypes at the level of their individual developmental stage.anthroposophy and science
it should be noted that anthroposophy, and thus waldorf education, are not anti-science. in fact, within waldorf schools, science is engaged far younger than in traditional education. the kids at our local waldorf school engage in the higher sciences (chemistry, biology, physics) in elementary and middle schools.
but they engage in it differently than they do in traditional school. again, it's based on the developmental process as well as how anthroposophy prizes individual experience, deep observation and contemplation.
it might also be noted that the sciences are based in objective observation. so while the school isn't directly teaching "scientific method" they are teaching children to be observant of the things around them. it starts early, with observing the times of day, how the perciptiation cycle works "in action" in the garden, or even the seasons themselves. most of the science education in waldorf is deeply hands on, rather than text-book based.
thus, most waldorf educated people tend to have an innate sense of the sciences and the ability to set up experiments, even if there's never an overt discussion of the scientific method.
you might also find it valuable to know that of most recent batch of graduates from our local waldorf school, about 75% of them are studying the sciences in university. I believe 1/3 of thoe are pre-med, 1/3 are in technical sciences (engineering, computer sciences, etc), and the last third are in maths or other sciences. the other 25% are wholly into the arts--drama, film, dance and fine arts.
anthroposophy, waldorf, books, and reading
as previously asserted, the underlying principle of anthroposophy in education is focusing on what is developmentally appropriate for the child.
in anthroposophy and waldorf education, it is believed that children should not be taught how to read, but rather when they are developmentally ready, they will 'unlock the code" for themselves. the educational system is set up to help them unlock the code of reading over time, introducing letters by way of their origins (meaning and depictions, pictographs, then letters, then words). most children learn to read around age 7, though some younger and some older.
what is important in the waldorf school here is that no one "teach" via phonics. i'm just saying that's the case for *this* school. if a child learns to read at age 4 or 5 on his/her own, then that's completely accepted. what is really frowned upon is teaching a child to read.
i only came upon this because of a friend whose brilliant son (now in public school. he's brilliant, but also has severe emotional issues and needed specialized education that waldorf, or even regular public school, couldn't provide) learned to read at age 5. his brother was 6 and not yet reading.
now, the story is simple. this brilliant, beautiful boy loved to be read to. so, his grandmother would read to him. then, she started to teach him phonics, and he learned to read. he was in waldorf education at the time (kindy) and was manifesting the many emotional issues that he had. they were doing their best to help him.
the teacher became UNGLUED on the mother because the boy was taught phonics. in her own mind, she felt "he already has so many emotional issues, and now we've jumped him forward developmentally before he is ready using this method, possibly creating more harm for him." you see, she was trying to utilize the anthroposophical understanding and waldorf methodology to *help* the child emotionally by keeping him within certain developmental stages. he was ahead in some and behind in others, and she was giving him wide berth to find balance.
remember, the point is to find that balance and unity, and she was trained to help do that--though no one at that time knew the real extent of his emotional issues and what level of help th ey would require. and it was extensive and beyond what this teacher could handle.
she was very upset, and so she confronted the parents when he came to school reading via phonics.
notice that the issue isn't with *reading* nor is it with books, nor is it with her son being able to read. it was that he was taught via phonics, when the family had agreed to try the anthroposophical method.
when i further investigated this with my friend, we discovered that most of the families have reading time, that children are often read to, that they go to the library, and all of the things that "normal" families do. there are a few who are more "purist" about it and don't do reading time, etc, but for the most part, families enjoy reading together, and so most of them do it.
thus, having books in the home, going to the library, and so on may not be a problem at all. the only issue would be getting Jane "hooked on phonics" workbooks and the like right at age 6/7 because that's when we decide it's "time for kids to read" rather than letting Jane unlock the code on her own.
(btw, i think your library sounds lovely. we are also "book people" and plan to have the library and play space in our next home be unified.)
so, it's not a problem to provide outside materials--in my epxperience--so long as you're not trying to undermind the actual educational methodology with it. read with her, read near her, take her to reading time at the library, but don't try to teach her to read.
does that make sense?overall
beyond talking to the school, it might be helpful to learn the underlying basics of anthroposophy. wikipedia has a decent description of steiner, and that can lead you to specific works of his that you might want to read (just his first book should be enough to give you the flavor).
from there, it's really how you apply it. i do see it as a philosophy, not a religion. i don't apply all aspects, but i find that certain aspects (particularly Jungian archetypes, developmental stages, and integrated being) to be more valuable than others (i don't like his particular body-typing method, though i do agree with body-typing in very very very general terms).
anyway, find out if there is some way to become a part of the community before joining the school, or if you can take more time with the individual teachers to learn more about how anthroposophy "affects" the classroom and yet isn't taught directly.
good luck, anyway.
i'm sure you'll figure it all out no problem!