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Waldorf > Considering Waldorf
fustian's Avatar fustian 06:19 PM 09-30-2009
Hi, I am considering a local Waldorf school for my child, but as I research more into Waldorf I have some misgivings that I hope that some parents who have been through the system can help me with.

First off, the reasons I am considering Waldorf:
1) We are a no-TV/screen-time household. I also don't buy products with licensed characters. I am very concerned about the impact of consumerism and marketing towards children, and the idea of placing my daughter in a school where the other kids won't be all about Dora or whoever is very appealing to me.
2) I believe that open ended play is important. I buy toys that are, on the whole, open ended and made from natural materials.
3) I believe that outside play is important. We live on ten acres in a rural setting, and spend a lot of time outdoors in all weather.
4) I disagree with the emphasis on early academic achievement that seems pervasive these days.
5) I despised traditional school when I was a child. Just couldn't stand the boredom and the grind. I am anxious about having my daughter go through a similar experience.

My misgivings about Waldorf
1) I value science, skepticism, and rational thought (I am a research scientist). I am a strong atheist. Although I am happy to have my child learn about different world religions, I would not be happy with having a religious belief taught as truth. Anthroposophy would fit my definition of a religious belief. From what I've read, I am afraid that Waldorf is too anti-science for me. This is hard for me to exactly articulate. I suppose I am afraid that the Waldorf environment encourages and presupposes spiritual belief and faith. Faith in wood spirits, faith in God, or faith that eurythmy will cure your cancer, it's all the same to me. I really want my daughter to base her decisions on facts and not faith.
2) Although we do not have any screen time in our house, we do have lots of books. I don't buy books associated with licensed characters, or what I would consider "junk" books - those series of cheap paperbacks that are produced at fantastic rates. However, apart from that, I do not limit the books in my house either in number of in content. We go to the library often, and any book can be placed in the bag to be brought home. And, although I am not interested in pushing early reading, I am not interested in preventing it either. If my daughter really wants to learn how to read, or teaches herself to read (as I did), so be it. Reading was a huge pleasure for me as a young child, and our family is a family of book lovers. I don't require a classroom environment where my daughter is taught how to read, but I do require a classroom environment that is tolerant of her reading if that's what she wishes to do, and is tolerant of me exposing her to a wide variety of books.

So, given my misgivings, is Waldorf something I should continue to look into, or is it simply not a good fit for my family?

Thank you for any advice or information regarding what a Waldorf education is really like.


dmpmercury's Avatar dmpmercury 06:41 PM 09-30-2009
I just started a similar thread today and it looks like I have some similar questions that you have and the same reasons you have for being interested in the method. I hope we get some good responses.
fustian's Avatar fustian 07:05 PM 09-30-2009

I didn't see your message when I started composing mine dmpmercury - it's odd how things can coincide like that I'll be checking your threads for replies as well. I'm really crossing my fingers that I'll find that Waldorf is an option for us. I find parts of it so appealing ...
zinemama's Avatar zinemama 07:16 PM 09-30-2009
It sounds to me like you should look into the particular WS you would be attending, rather than researching "Waldorf" in general. Because the schools can be quite different.

For what it's worth, I went to a WS for eight years and my sibs went k-12. Now, as a parent, I live a life very much the way you do. All of your "reasons to" really resonate with me.

My kids go to public school. You can have that kind of life and the world will still not corrupt your children. Really, it's possible. I'm not saying you shouldn't go with the WS, but I'm saying that you don't need a WS to keep your kid from developing into a Dora-loving, Disney Princess type of child. It hasn't happened to my kids. (In my opinion, not having a TV is the main thing in terms of that).

Do you know anything about your local public school? (For example, ours has an environmental focus, lots of art, project-based learning, kids are outside every day, etc.)
orangewallflower's Avatar orangewallflower 07:33 PM 09-30-2009
Hello, Fustian,
As a fellow rationalist, I can tell you that anthroposophy is never going to be satisfying to you (I agree wholeheartedly that it is a religion). You will not like explanations for why things happen the way the do in a Waldorf school because in the end it all rests on what Steiner read/taught/wrote in the creation of anthroposophy. So what is really important in making this choice is:

1: Can you accept the fundamental difference of worldview that you will almost certainly have with your kids' teachers? It is o.k. for this difference to exist, and I do believe that they will accept how you see things, but can you accept how they do? This will become particularly important if you ever face a problem with your child, as in how they handle discipline, academic issues and possibly bullying. They are not going to treat something from a rationalist perspective because you do. They are trained to work with temperaments (choleric, sanguine etc...), karma and angels in working with your child. (Although they will never talk with the child or most likely even you directly about these things.) Many Waldorf teachers view themselves as child development experts, but do understand that that is within the Waldorf world and is entirely anthroposophically based. (Except for some renegade teachers. I have never met any, but I am assured that they exist.)

2. Make sure you are really familiar with what Waldorf schools actually do if you can accept why they do those things.

Kindergarten is a nice place to start because it's not as committing as the grades. As long as you can get your child up to speed for a mainstream school in first grade (learning basic math and reading) over the summer. That gives you a lot of time to get to know the community and learn more about the grades. Kindergarten is very play-based, and will probably appeal to you despite the underlying philosophy.
orangewallflower's Avatar orangewallflower 07:38 PM 09-30-2009
Oh, about books- My thoughts on this is that you are in charge in your own home. There will be other parents who care a lot about following Waldorf to the letter and will avoid even books, and others who let their kids watch t.v. and play video games even if they sign a contract not to. You don't check your right to make rational decisions at the door. However, do be prepared for some others perhaps not respecting that decision. I should say that almost all the Waldorf kids I know have books at home.

I never limited books in any way at all, but I did add storytelling to the repetoire, and I really appreciated it. This is one of the best things that I took from having my kids in Waldorf early ed.
kafka's Avatar kafka 10:14 PM 09-30-2009
I would *love* to have a neighborhood Waldorf school to consider as an option. I'm so jealous of all of you mamas.

I will reiterate something I mentioned in another's not respectful to join a school with the intention of undermining it. People who join this kind of school are seeking to escape a certain way of thinking. Joining and then having your family do things at home that are frowned upon at school is a recipe for conflict both for your child as well as for your family with the school.

So I agree that learning all you can and asking these questions is a very smart thing to do.

FWIW: I'm a research scientist too. I guess the way I feel is that I'm hyper-rational in one context so I enjoy developing the artistic and fantasy side of my personality in other contexts. The two sides complement one another for me, but everyone is different.
orangewallflower's Avatar orangewallflower 02:03 AM 10-01-2009
Kafka, I totally agree with you about choice of schools. I think that allowing t.v. despite a media agreement is completely unethical. I brought that up not as a suggestion, but as a description of the reality. A prospective Waldorf parent who thinks that all her dc's classmates will be media-free will be disappointed. There will always be a spectrum of Waldorf parents- those who want to make sure *everything* they do is Waldorf all the way to those who like what goes on a school but completely disregard recommendations for home life.

What do you think about the reading issue? Do you think that the OP's love of children's books would be going against the spirit of Waldorf? (I ask out of sincere curiosity, not in a challenging sort of way.)
fustian's Avatar fustian 12:23 PM 10-01-2009
Lots to think about here.

Unfortunately, as I live in a rural setting, our school choices are limited. The local school is very traditional.

Thank you for your responses orangewallflower. I would have no problem with the teachers having different beliefs than I do. (After all, if I send my child to public school it's likely that she will be taught by theist of one type or another.) I'm more concerned about whether these beliefs are taught to the children as truth. A teacher may believe whatever they will about why a child is doing something, and I understand that their beliefs will colour their response, but if they tell the child "your guardian angel is causing you to do X" that bothers me, just as if a child was told in public school that "Jesus doesn't like it when you do X" that would bother me.

The storytelling aspect of Waldorf does appeal to me. I'm trying to get better at making up stories on the fly as well as reading other people's stories. So far, my storytelling abilities are not approaching those of our favourite authors. Practice, practice, practice!

kafka, I embrace the idea of my child being encouraged to play imaginatively and to express herself artistically. Fantasy play is one reason Waldorf is appealing to me! However, there is a difference between fantasy play and teaching children to accept fantastical ideas as truths even though there is no evidence for them. I'm finding it difficult to ascertain where Waldorf schools fall on this issue.

Furthermore, if providing reading materials at home is at conflict with the core values of a school, then that school is not for me. Again, it's been difficult for me to pin down how important delayed reading is to Waldorf. I understand that limiting media exposure is an important Waldorf principle, but I suppose I have always looked at books as being different. When we renovated our house last year I turned one room into a library. It's bursting at the seams, and books have trickled out into every other room in the house. I have built DD's main playspace in the middle of the library, as it allows me to sit and read comfortably while she plays. It would be unfeasible to restrict books in our household without gutting the heart of what I consider to be our home.

I will be going down to talk to the local Waldorf school. However, as the time there will be limited, and the answers to these questions are not straightforward, I appreciate all of the input I can get here.

Thanks so much for all of your responses!

accountclosed3's Avatar accountclosed3 02:06 PM 10-01-2009
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?


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!
kafka's Avatar kafka 05:55 PM 10-01-2009
Well, it's not like children who go to Waldorf schools don't learn to read. And it's also not like they forbid children to read if they've taught themselves; the entire motivation for the delay in teaching reading is to establish early a foundation of love of books before moving on to the mechanics. So I think allowing a child to be read to, being surrounded by books, and self-learning reading (at whatever age) is no problem whatsoever. The only potential conflict, that I can see, would be if the OP insists on reading instruction prior to around 2nd grade.

Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
Kafka, I totally agree with you about choice of schools. I think that allowing t.v. despite a media agreement is completely unethical. I brought that up not as a suggestion, but as a description of the reality. A prospective Waldorf parent who thinks that all her dc's classmates will be media-free will be disappointed. There will always be a spectrum of Waldorf parents- those who want to make sure *everything* they do is Waldorf all the way to those who like what goes on a school but completely disregard recommendations for home life.

What do you think about the reading issue? Do you think that the OP's love of children's books would be going against the spirit of Waldorf? (I ask out of sincere curiosity, not in a challenging sort of way.)

accountclosed3's Avatar accountclosed3 08:23 PM 10-01-2009
absolutely right, kafka.

literacy is important in waldorf, but it is also important to note that they believe that a child is developmentally ready for reading after a certain age, as opposed to our 'mainstream' american culture that teaches children to read at an earlier age.

with this, the method of how children learn to read is important. in waldorf, they focus a lot on the child leading the process--the child unlocks the code. but, they create the opportunity for the child to unlock the code by introducing the elements that create functional literacy.

it begins with story telling. then drawing and depicting. then pictographs, then letters, then groups of letters. this process sets up for understanding or comprehension first and literacy springing out of comprehension of the concepts depicted in words.

this creates a more flexibvle, dynamic version of literacy than phonics or other methods--IMO. in this way, it leads to functional literacy as opposed to just literacy.

the difference to me is in the depth of comprehension. there was a study done (and i'll look it up) some time ago that while literacy rates have increased in the US over the last 50 years, functional literacy has actually decreased. So, while many people can read, they are not functionally retaining, comprehending or applying what they read. increasingly, magazines and newspapers have lower and lower "levels" to their writing--some newspapers reading at a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grade level.

while there may be many reasons why this is happening, i speculate that it has to do, in part, with the rather arbitrary and abstract nature of phonetic learning. first, we memorize letters in a specific order (the alphabet), even though that order has no inherent meaning, though it does shave a history that is rarely shared (if ever). then, the letters have a phonetic sound, which may or may not be arbitrary, but is often based on the language that you're speaking, but can be confused. then, groups of letters have sounds and those then have meaning.

often, we learn a word before we know the meaning and often we have to define a term before we really know the sounding of it.

words have histories. words come from different languages. so, for example, i know that the word "crux" used in english such as "the crux of the matter." has it's origin in middle french, and before that in latin. it refers to a cross or cross beam in latin. in french, it refers to a load-bearing aspect. in it's migration into english, it then takes on the meaning of being not just a load-bearing element, or a cross beam, but centrally important, load-bearing cross beam or even a literal cross or x shape. then, it moves into more modern incarnations refering to conceptiual elements--completely abstract meanings refering to abstract ideas about how certain thoughts or factors hold a certain measure of evidence or inferential value to an argument.

notice that a child learning to read phonetically will learn to read the word "crux" pretty quicly. C has a hard and soft sound. hard is most common. R rolls and growles. U can have long or short, and tends to the short. X has a hard sound or is silent. but does the child know the meaning? if the child can read "the crux of the matter to little jane was whether or not she should share the pie." will she understand the use of "crux" based on context alone?

in a method where meaning is taught first, the term "crux" will come to live before it is read. to a child who has experienced the handwork of waldorf, the life in the garden (which often includes a second language such as french), the whole-body workings of story telling, and the nature and history of words and letters through the method of introduction that waldorf uses. . .i believe that they will read a concept of "the crux of the matter" and understand the meaning of crux. it won't be an afterthought, but demonstrate the import. what is the character's true delimna? looking at the factors, while this is her decision, what is bearing the most weight in this decision?

while one child would read the moral of the story is sharing pie, a functionally literate child will read "sharing pie isn't always the right course. the crux or crucial element of the story is the decision itself and the reasoning behind it."

this doesn't mean moral relativism or teach a certain moral import, but rather teachies children about language itself, about thoughtful processes to come to good conclusions, and demonstrates an in-depth comprehension of whatever text they are reading.

and in my experience, the waldorf kids that i know read well above grade leevel once they have 'unlocked' that code. they really *understand* reading at such a deep level. it's really quite profound.

****admiteedly, these are all of my own thoughts on it and not anthroposophy, steiner, or waldorf per se; just my experience with waldorf educated kids and my thought on the methodology of instruction******
sunshadow's Avatar sunshadow 08:37 PM 10-01-2009
I haven't read what everyone has said, but I also have the same concerns. When we went to a local Waldorf I thought it would be just perfect for my highly spirited daughter. They seemed really open to working with her. But, they have "prayer" everyday before lunch. I would be ok with that when my child is old enough to have critical thinking skills, but not at the kindergarten level. They also do home tours to be sure your home fits within their standards. We have children's books everywhere and she is allowed a dvd a day, though she was tv free until recently. Though, as a child I went to church with the neighbors from the age for 4 and I grew up atheist. I do think what goes on at home does have the largest impact. I am torn.
zinemama's Avatar zinemama 08:57 PM 10-01-2009
OP, you seem to have the idea that your child's creativity and imagination will be nourished by Waldorf education. And perhaps, at this particular school, they will be. But you should know that in general this is a misunderstanding. Based, I think, on the fact that compared to many public schools there is so much art done at WS.

But Waldorf education is quite didactic. The teacher will draw something on the board and instruct students to copy it. When painting, the teacher will tell the kids, "Now dip your brush in the red paint and put some red at the top left corner of your paper." The teacher tells a story and the children write it as they remember it. There is not a whole lot of artistic expression the child gets to do, at least not in the early grades. Quite the contrary.

On the other hand, I can tell you for sure that no one will teach your child "anthroposophy." That's not the way it's done. No one will say, "Well, Joey is picking on you because you have unresolved karma from a former life." Although they may think it.
If you don't think you can stand to have your child come home telling you about what the tree gnomes do, then a WS may not be for you.

(Just for perspective though, my son's (groovy) public school kindergarten teacher did a whole unit on fairies, including having the class write a letter to the garden fairies and reading a letter the fairies wrote back to them. I had no problem with this.)

As for reading, I was an early reader and came into my WS reading. My teacher never gave me any grief about this, even though I was reading 200-page novels (The Little House books, for example), while my classmates were reciting the alphabet forward and backward. On the other hand, my reading skills were never mentioned nor encouraged. Not once. My teacher made no effort to suggest books for me or discuss what I was reading. Now, I came from a house full of books, so I didn't need that from her. But she didn't know that.
Hannahsmummy's Avatar Hannahsmummy 11:23 PM 10-01-2009
Wow, lots and lots of interesting points to think about and also lots of great information.

I could have written the OP's original post as that is very much how we live our lives as well.

We have been with our school for three years and it works very very well for us.
I really agree with looking into the specific school that you are interested in as their policies may vary somewhat from somewhere else. For example, I hear lots of stuff about no books and discouraging reading in other schools. Yet, in our school there are books available in the classrooms from the very beginning, even starting with parent and toddler. Yes, stories are TOLD rather than read but for free play there is a pile of books available in my daughter's class one room as there also was in her kinde room.

I really agree with the thought that it is disrespectful to join an organization only to undermine that by leading a very different lifestyle. So, I do applaud the thought that the OP is giving to the decision. This is something I am really struggling with and frankly have all along and that is the fact that my daughter is the only screen free child in her class and always has been. The majority watch TV or DVDs on a daily basis. The boys play at garden time is focused on Star Wars, Ben Ten and "some sort of blue hedgehog with powers" as my daughter described what sounded like Sonic.

Anthroposophy definitely plays a big role in all Waldorf schools but I am sure that the degree to which that is true varies.

Can I also just address fears of reading issues in general? I have been absolutely amazed at what has happened in the month since we started class one. My daughter has known her letters for years and is able to read to some degree but her extreme perfectionism has mean that she will not demonstrate those skills until she is completely fluent. BUT, since starting class one and doing letters as well as writing and reading small words, the change in her is brilliant. It really is a revelation to see these children so so excited about language and learning. Our kinde teacher always said that you need to treat a child like an elastic band. Stretch it and stretch it until you cannot hold it back and longer and it is struggling to go. At that point it will go a far as is possible.
blissthreetimes's Avatar blissthreetimes 01:30 PM 10-02-2009
Hi, I think you're absolutely right to look into this and find out as much as you can before enrolling; as Orangewallflower says, as an atheist and rationalist and scientist I can foresee huge problems ahead!

One of the things which bothers me is that the teachers can be somewhat economical with the full picture; imo they do indoctrinate the children with anthroposophy; with reincarnation ideas and supernatural truths. But if you question this, you're unlikely to get a straight or honest answer.

I also agree with Zinemama when she describes the creativity as didactic . My kids grew bored very quickly with the copying and discouragement in asking questions of the teacher. In fact any form of lively interaction or debate is discouraged. Learning by rote and repetition , and often copied in very child unfriendly language; Steiner actually told teachers to give children things they wouldn't understand as it was meant to awaken their etheric body or their soul or something.

One thing you could do is see what the teachers are trained with as it gives a picture of how they are meant to teach your children.

I hope you feel you make the right decision.

Sometimes when you have little educational choice, the lesser of two eveils seems the right way to go. But Waldorf is quite drastic step imo, because if you decide it's not right after a year or so, transferring to mainstream is quite hard.
fustian's Avatar fustian 06:37 PM 10-02-2009
Sigh It looks like Waldorf may not be as good a fit for us as I had hoped. I will still go down for my appointment at the school, and you have all given me some great avenues of inquiry for when I am there. I thank you all for your insights regarding your personal experiences with Waldorf and for your opinions and thoughts.

Although I dislike pushing academics at an early age, I don't think I would be comfortable actively discouraging my daughter from learning something that she wanted to explore, or giving her half-truths or evasive answers in order to delay her learning. I am not worried about her being able to "catch up" academically, but I would find it personally difficult to deny requests for knowledge due to her having not met some school-dictated milestone. And, as per kafka's comment, I would not enroll my daughter in a school if I planned to go against their core principles at home.

It's days like these that I start considering unschooling. If I were in a job I didn't enjoy so much, or in a job that would be easier to reenter after a prolonged absence, it would be a simpler decision. But that is not my situation, and I would find it very difficult to give up my work.

I can only hope that I can find a schooling option that works for us. I have to remind myself that my daughter is not me, and her experience in a traditional school setting may be happier than mine was.
orangewallflower's Avatar orangewallflower 07:09 PM 10-02-2009
Fustian, go in with an open mind! Remember if you enroll in a Waldorf school, you are agreeing to certain things, but you aren't agreeing to give up your own identity, values or your family's culture. Waldorf teachers won't answer those "why" questions directly in most cases, but ask them what they think of you doing it.

Remember, there are two issues: what they ask of your homelife (they do like parents to do a bedtime verse, so ask about that) and if you can embrace what they do (and why) at school. They are not expecting you to be an Waldorf teacher. They do expect you to respect your child's teacher's way of doing things though.

Given what you've said about unschooling, though, please understand that Waldorf is quite the opposite. In the grades it is about as teacher led and centered as it can be. That's not to say they don't know and love the students. Kindy, though, is play-based.
zinemama's Avatar zinemama 07:20 PM 10-02-2009
Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
Fustian, go in with an open mind! Remember if you enroll in a Waldorf school, you are agreeing to certain things, but you aren't agreeing to give up your own identity, values or your family's culture. Waldorf teachers won't ask those "why" questions directly in most cases, but ask them what they think of you doing it.
I agree with this. It was only the hard core anthropops (as we called them) who lived in the community affiliated with my WS who lived a "waldorf lifestyle." Everyone else watched TV, brought their Starsky and Hutch lunchboxes to school, etc. Although TV was discouraged (to no avail that I could see) there was no thought that the school was requiring families to do anything special at home - certainly not discouraging their kids from learning or asking questions. Home was home and school was school.

After 8 years of Waldorf I transitioned to public school just fine when I finally made it clear to my parents that I'd had enough. So I wouldn't worry about that if you do decide to try it out.
accountclosed3's Avatar accountclosed3 08:12 PM 10-02-2009
i would also say that i've not noted that anything that interests a child is actively discouraged or actively encouraged.

that is, if your child has an interest in reading and is essentially teaching herself (while reading together with you), then this would not be discouraged or encouraged.

fwiw, i largely went to public schools and read well beyond grade levels from the onset, and i was neither encouraged or discouraged by the teacher either. i came from a very literate home, and so we had books around. but the teacher never encouraged or suggested reading to me (except the summer reading lists which were all below my reading level) either. so it's not like all public schools are going to encourage an individual in this or that way.

in fact, i found school rather discouraging all around, and it's also why i'm 'drawn' to unschooling too.

what i like about unschooling is the freedom to allow my child to guide the process, learn at his own pace and following his own interests. of course, what i dislike about unschooling is how seemingly disorganized it is. LOL and i'm not even a virgo (but, my baby is).

what i like about waldorf is the sort of practically-based process of it. i hadn't noticed it being particularly didactic, but i've only observed play groups and kindies, not grades or advanced grades in action (only outside of the classroom).

so, i can't speak to that either. but it's worth checking out.

have you also considered montessori?
karne's Avatar karne 10:28 PM 10-02-2009
I would think vary carefully about this decision. It is a nightmare to transfer out of a waldorf school into regular education if things don't work out.
lach's Avatar lach 12:23 AM 10-03-2009
You sound very much like me, and in the end I just couldn't get over how anti-science Waldorf seems to me. I'm all for fairies and elves at playtime, but the idea of actually refusing to teach my children facts because they're not ready to understand anything about science until their baby teeth come out causes kind of a visceral reaction in me. I still follow this community closely because I love so many of the concepts and ideas, and do implement them into my home life. But I just can't reconcile them with my education belief system.

We chose a fairly touchy-feely Montessori program which does have some Waldorf influences that I'm probably one of the few parents who notice, just because I did so much research into Waldorf before deciding against it! The academics in a Montessori school move at the child's own pace. Is a Montessori school an option for you?
lach's Avatar lach 12:25 AM 10-03-2009
Oh, and I always LOVE meeting other parents who are hard core the branded character business! Go you!
zinemama's Avatar zinemama 02:24 PM 10-03-2009
Originally Posted by karne View Post
I would think vary carefully about this decision. It is a nightmare to transfer out of a waldorf school into regular education if things don't work out.
I transferred into public school in tenth grade after spending the previous 8 years at a WS. It wasn't difficult.

The main difference was that in public school my math teacher saw that I was floundering and directed me to the school's tutoring center. In Waldorf school my teacher made it clear to me that my difficulty with math was a personal failing. There was never the slightest attempt to get additional help for me.

(I want to make it clear that I don't see my problems with math as the result of a Waldorf education. It has always been a terrifically difficult subject for me, no matter the educational setting.)
orangewallflower's Avatar orangewallflower 02:44 PM 10-03-2009
I think it's 1st through 4th grade when it's most difficicult to transfer, isn't it?
Marylizah's Avatar Marylizah 02:57 PM 10-03-2009
I worked through the same issues recently and ended up deciding against Waldorf for some of the same reasons.

The other thing I just didn't want to deal with is the judgment and competition between Waldorf parents as to who is or isn't Waldorf enough.

I don't buy character books or clothing either, but learning that my son couldn't even wear t-shirts with pictures or words on them (too distracting) was just too stressful.

Also, while DS doesn't watch TV, he does get to watch DVDs. We are living in a foreign country and have two home languages to maintain: reading books and watching DVDs in those languages are tools that help him develop these languages. I didn't want to have to justify myself to anyone about that, though.

So in the end, we put him in a nearby public program; they go outside every day, plus have gymnastics inside, he paints, plays with playdoh and puzzles, and they read stories and sing songs. Lots of toys to play with (and books to look at!). He's very happy.

I hope you find a program that works well for your DD.

PS: I find it totally shocking that, as a PP posted, some schools do HOME VISITS to see if you are Waldorf enough. That's the mentality that scared me away.
karne's Avatar karne 08:49 PM 10-03-2009
Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
I think it's 1st through 4th grade when it's most difficicult to transfer, isn't it?
Yes, elementary grades tend to be tough. We live in an area where it's pretty common to see waldorf ed. kids come into other public/private school systems for a variety of reasons: financial, parent dissatisfaction, etc. Academics are a pretty common issue, but thinking for oneself is a larger issue. I'm sure someone will show up to say it's never an isssue, etc., but this is a pretty well known issue in our area, and not really debatable. Lots of times kids are held back a grade upon transferring, but I think the norm now is to put in lots of educational support.
vaptek's Avatar vaptek 01:42 AM 10-04-2009
Originally Posted by karne View Post
I would think vary carefully about this decision. It is a nightmare to transfer out of a waldorf school into regular education if things don't work out.

Wow. Are we sure that this isn't an anti-Waldorf education board?

I'm with the OP, in my concern about teaching fantasy as truth. I'm very much scientifically minded, in that both my undergrad & grad degrees are in scientific fields. (Not using it at all now, of course, as a business systems analyst.) I'm a born skeptic and a born researcher. So far the biggest recurring theme I've learned in my research about Waldorf: it depends upon the school.

I'm interested in my 19 month old attending Waldorf one day, so I'm researching it now. They have a really sweet program called the Morning Garden, a weekly class with toddlers where a parent is required to attend. It's been great! I've gotten to see their patterns, see some of the methodology in action, and best of all, ask a ton of questions about Waldorf.

Some of the crazy stories I've read here don't sound like they are true for my local school. I've read from people posting here that kids shouldn't play with balls. (Can't remember why.) The playground at my school has a tether ball and basket ball courts. I've read from people posting here that they were told kids shouldn't listen to recorded music. I asked our teacher about it and she said that we all own recorded music, although we prefer for children to be exposed to and learn to play live music. I've read here about no books in the classroom. And that one is true for our kindergarten; no books there. But they did have them in the 2nd grade class that I toured. I've read about home visits. And no, no home visits from my school. Finally, I've read about no group sports. And in a class I took at my school, half of the parents there had their kids in soccer.

Anyway, where all this is leading to is back to my previous point. It all depends upon the school. What I've done is gone to the morning garden program, plus signed up for the parent enrichment classes offered by the school. I'm going to reserve judgment on the school until I have had a chance to really explore it.
karne's Avatar karne 12:24 PM 10-04-2009
Originally Posted by vaptek View Post
Wow. Are we sure that this isn't an anti-Waldorf education board?
Nope, it's a serious BTDT concern that even the waldorf schools sometimes address. Like I said, some have it easier, some not, but like most things in waldorf, it's better to know in advance what the issues are. It's totally a choice to not investigate some of the issues surrounding transfer, but again, I'm not sure why that would be threatening?
vaptek's Avatar vaptek 01:04 PM 10-04-2009
Originally Posted by karne View Post
It's totally a choice to not investigate some of the issues surrounding transfer, but again, I'm not sure why that would be threatening?
Sorry, karne, you're absolutely right that people should investigate transfer issues. And I didn't mean to pick on you (although I did jump on your comment and I apologize for that.) I was just surprised at how negative towards Waldorf many of the comments in this thread have been and latched on to yours.

When I asked a similar question about 6 months ago, I do feel like I received much more positive answers. This thread I think might have discouraged me from even researching the school and I may have just moved on to something else. What I read a few months ago encouraged me to at least insert myself in the local school and learn as much as I can about their approach and methodology. This is what I'm attempting to do now and so far the school has been a delight.
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