Feedback on Waldorf - "Cult-like???" - Mothering Forums

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Old 02-19-2010, 12:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi All, I'm new to this, so let me just say thanks in advance for any feedback you can give me on this topic....

I recently visited a Waldorf school for the first time, and fell in love with everything about it. I am considering sending my son (6) there next year, as public school is not doing it for him for many reasons. The problem is, when I mentioned Waldorf to various people, their responses included the word "cult or cult-like". Has anyone any inkling of what they are referring to? Thanks!!!
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Old 02-19-2010, 02:54 AM
 
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No reading until age 9 or so.

No tv, no computers, no battery operated toys.

Many holidays involving xtian saints.

Teacher stays with kids for several years.... which is fine if its a good fit, but .
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Old 02-19-2010, 04:36 AM
 
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I hear it varies greatly from school to school.

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Old 02-19-2010, 04:56 AM
 
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To get a feel for the strengths, weakness, and controversies within Waldorf, go to the Waldorf sub forum and then sort the threads by number of responses. The longest ones contain long conversations between Waldorf-happy and Waldorf-critical people. There are many wonderful things about Waldorf, and there are some tough things about it that you won't find on the school tours or in the pamphlets.

The "cult" thing usually is in reference to Anthroposophy. It will be spoken of as a "spiritual philosophy" yet some of us view it as a religion (except for the fact that they are generally uncomfortable with the term) and some even call it a cult. Most Waldorf teachers are anthroposophists and all must be comfortable working through anthroposophy.

My advice is enjoy all the beautiful things you are seeing, but definitely turn over the stones as well. It is a great fit for many children and parents and a poor one for others.

Come back with questions if you have them!
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Old 02-19-2010, 10:26 AM
 
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try openwaldorf.com
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Old 02-20-2010, 01:26 AM
 
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Moving to Waldorf subforum

 
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Old 02-20-2010, 01:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks all for your wisdom, and openwaldorf.com is a great site for more insight - thanks pigpokey!
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Old 02-21-2010, 01:11 PM
 
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I think the general public is often put off by Waldorf just because it sounds so strange and different. No media/computers, wholesome food, not reading till age 7? Bizzarre!!! LOL!

My kids (6 yo twins) have been in a Waldorf environment since the beginning and when I started exploring it as an educational philosophy I got a little freaked out by stuff on the web (there's a lot of negativity).

Basically, I think it seems to come down to your school and your child's teachers. We are not anthroposophists and have had really great experiences with Waldorf. Our school is definately not cultish, but maybe some are?

Spend some time at the school you are considering and trust your "gut" either way.
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Old 02-21-2010, 08:50 PM
 
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We are Waldorf-inspired homeschoolers and to be honest, I do think Waldorf is cult-like. "Cult" is actually the first word that pops to mind when I think of Waldorf because it really stresses uniformity and conformity. I'm not really sure if that is caused by Waldorf (I think some of it is) or if it just attracts a certain clientele (this is probably the other part of it). I don't think Waldorf HAS to be cult-like but in general it tends toward that, and people fall into the cult mindset fairly easily. And once you have conformed to meet the "norm," then you and everyone else congratulates themselves on "fitting in," and to be honest, I empathize with the comfort of that. My dh grew up LDS (which I also define as a cult for the same reason), and I have Mormon friends, all of whom look alike, talk alike, think alike (or on the surface, pretend they do). Much of their "inner work" time is spent in further conforming to the status quo, or the ideal they are supposed to become. Like I have observed in many Waldorf circles, it makes them feel secure in knowing that so many other people are like them so that in itself must mean they are doing the right thing, which in reality is very circular logic. I'm not trying to attack Mormons or Waldorf purists but rather make a comparison between two "cultures" that are very different in scope but that have similar tendencies of conformity, guilt, and not presenting all knowledge upfront but in stages as one gets further involved, which is how I define a cult. In Waldorf, for example, just by reading Heaven on Earth, a text that gets recommended to newbies quite often, one would never know that within Waldorf circles, one is expected to have curved wooden picture frames displaying second-rate watercolor art, blond hardwood furnture only, Stockmar crayons/paints only, hardwood floors with sheep skin rugs, and hand-knitted hats. And don't forget about wet-on-wet painting or fingerplays or nature tables, or verses for transitions! Also, things like clothing are regulated--only natural fibers, no busy-ness, cheerful colors, woolens in winter, etc. These are all the Waldorf things that you have to pick up on little by little to mold into the Waldorf culture. I also think of a cult when I think of people feeling guilt for not doing things the proper way ("Is this Waldorf enough?" is a common question battered about a lot by Waldorf parents). When one wants to leave this culture, one is usually shunned by those remaining. For reference, check out the Life After Waldorf thread here on MDC: http://www.mothering.com/discussions...+after+waldorf . This is a very eye-opening thread about institutionalized Waldorf education, and one that I think every parent considering a Waldorf school should read just to be made aware of the possiblities. I also feel there is a lot of double-speak in Waldorf: I have seen so many conversations on Waldorf blogs that use Steiner's words as fact, as if his ideas were empirically proven and were ultimate truth, and then I have seen various people reinforce the same ideas over and over until they weren't basing their ideas off of their experience but off the platitudes that everyone else has uttered. If I could only count how many times I have heard/read that only toys made of natural fibers were creative, when the reality is far more complex! However, in any Waldorf 101, there will be the statement that one should choose only toys that are made of natural fibers for no other reason than that these are "real toys". There even exists a Flickr Waldorf group completely devoted to mothers taking pictures of their children's wooden toys, and to be honest, I find this very bizarre. It's as if by participating they are all applauding and reinforcing each other's tastes, which wouldn't be disturbing if they were different, but they aren't. They may arrange their Ostheimer figurines differently on their wooden castle blocks, but they are still the same toys over and over. I'm not trying to belittle these mothers by any means, I just really and truly don't understand this impulse or the purpose of this group. It comes across as very clique-ish, like a particular club one is able to join if one meets certain criteria--not unlike a cult to me--and I wonder how prevalent this type of exclusiveness is among other Waldorf parents. I am only mentioning this type of behavior to let you know that as a Waldorf parent, there may be particular expectations of YOU, not just your child. Waldorf is very much seen as a lifestyle, not just an educational choice, and some parental communities are more open to difference than others.

We homeschool, so I don't really have much experience with Waldorf teachers but I do with parents, and I think that within a Waldorf community you may find it more or less "cult-like" depending upon how purist it is and how open it is to differences and change. However, Anthroposophy by it's nature is ideological, and that is the very foundation of Waldorf education and something that I've heard guides teacher interactions with students to a very strong degree. However, that may or not matter depending on how it affects your child. Anthroposophy also has very definite beliefs in regard to what a child learns and when/how s/he learns it, so if your child is gifted or does not fit the Waldorf standard for some reason, then there may be conflict. If you haven't heard of "temperments" or how they guide teacher interactions with Waldorf students, you may want to do some googling, and the same goes for the Anthroposophical beliefs in regard to human development. But, depending on your particular school, this stuff may not be problematic. However, definitely do some thorough research and then have an extended discussion with the teacher that your child would have. Go in with full knowledge of Anthroposophy and have a discussion with the teacher about his/her feelings in that regard. I would also check out the school fairs or prospective parent meetings to see to what degree you seem to fit in with the parental community they've got there. That may tell you a lot.

Whatever you decide, I wish you the best (and all the beauty that Waldorf has the potential of being!)!

Allison:  a little bit Waldorf, a little bit Medievalish, and always"MOMMMMYYYY!" to sweet Cecily since 12.22.05
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Old 02-21-2010, 10:29 PM
 
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My kids go to waldorf and I was so nervous sending them after reading all the negative stuff online. I spoke to other parents before we enroll and it seems the "cult"ness varies from school to school. Our school is pretty relaxed! We were definitely all for the media awareness!

Consciously mothering 3 girls and 2 boys
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Old 02-22-2010, 12:17 AM
 
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I'll have to let my daughter know that she is failing waldorf 101, 201 and 301 all the way down the line.

Despite being a waldorf graduate herself and having two kids in a waldorf school and having run a waldorf home day care for four years she just isn't "waldorf" enough.

Sorry!

I've been involved with Highland Hall in Los Angeles as a student and as a parent. Involved with the Toronto Waldorf School as a parent. Involved with the Chicago Waldorf School as a staff member. Involved with the Orchard Valley Waldorf School as a grandparent and also involved in a related non-profit.

Nope. None of them have the characteristics outlined above as cult like.

Now I do happen to have first-hand experience with two cults. Scientology for a couple of years for one, and a small sect of very narrow Christians for another. In both cases there was a lot of control and manipulation.

With waldorf, what I have seen happening, is that some parents get sort of swept away by the whole thing and start going to extremes. But it certainly isn't demanded. Waldorf schools don't have the power (at least not in the U.S.) to turn away parents who let their children watch TV, or play with plastic toys, or eat junk food, or skip the woolies.
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Old 02-22-2010, 03:03 AM
 
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Personally, I think that the term "cult" gets thrown around a bit too loosely. Labelling other philosophies, religions, what-have-you, as cults is itself a scare tactic and form of control. I've seen it happen this way in some religious circles--afraid of something? don't understand it? disagree with it vehemently? dislike it so much you want to keep your loved ones away from it? Well, call it a "cult" and the job is done. I've even seen La Leche League and AP/NFL referred to as cultish and described according to the so-called definition of a cult. (Read the book Bottlefeeding Without Guilt for either a good laugh or a good opportunity to roll your eyes.)

(Disclaimer: I do think there really are cults out there... but not nearly so many as some people would like us to believe.)

I do think it's important if you're looking into Waldorf to understand that it is based on a spiritual philosophy. And I think that it's important to have some understanding of that philosophy. All you have to do is google the term "Waldorf education" and there will be plenty of positives and negatives to read about. Then you can decide for yourself what you believe and how you feel about it. Read some Steiner! I think this is really important! I had heard so much about Steiner from other people, both people who adore him and people who think he's nuts, who were quick to pass on what he supposedly said. I haven't read a lot, but reading Rhythms of Learning (a collection of Steiner lectures edited by Roberto Trostli) was a really good thing. I feel like I have at least a taste of what this man is. Some I love, some I don't. .
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Old 02-22-2010, 03:23 AM
 
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Laurel, I agree that the term cult is best used for situations of abuse, intimidation and the ceding of personal property. From my perspective Waldorf children are really just kids who often have a pretty good set of circumstances at school and at home. Waldorf parents come in all stripes, and certainly can fall into cliquishness and more Waldorf than thou-ness as Lux Perpetua thoughfully and honestly describes (and yes, all this stuff really happens). Waldorf teachers are clearly, from my perpective, coreligionists.
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Old 02-22-2010, 09:44 AM
 
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Laurel, I agree with the term cult being used to try and control people in their choices by making them scared of the thing being called a cult.

I was educated in a Waldorf school, and my experience was not one of being brainwashed to believe something or behave in a certain way. I feel like my education gave me the skills to be a contributing member of society, a love or learning and a head start in being sceptical of screen time and electronic toys for babies.

I do not know if my children will be educated in a Waldorf school, at home or in a different educational style that I have yet to find. I am drawn to Waldorf as we share values when it comes to food, toys, delayed academics, rhythm of festivals (here in Israel the rhythm is Jewish, around Shabbat and the Jewish festivals) and a broad variety of experiences in the lower classes.

I think a lot of the cliquishness comes from parents making choices outside of the mainstream, often at odds with family and friends. And parents want to validate each others' choices. Which of course has the potential to wrong. In any group situation, people are going to feel pressurised to conform or not. It is always hard to not feel part of a group, whether that group endorses breastfeeding, no media, organic food, Einstein DVD's, spanking, whatever. If something does not feel right for you, it is hard to stand apart and say you don't want to be part of it. I think that is inherently human, and not something specific to Waldorf.

Megan, mama to her little boy (Feb2008) and introducing our little girl (Dec 2010)
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Old 02-25-2010, 02:23 AM
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eh, whatever.

it's good to do your research, see what resonates with you. anthroposophy is the perspective of the teachers, but it is not taught. it just is what it is. you can do it or not, do it as much as you want or as little, and if the school is similar, then so be it. if not, then go elsewhere.

no biggie.

(and by the by, a lot of mainstreamers would be "cults" if that definition were used. man, cliques abound!)
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Old 02-26-2010, 03:55 PM
 
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I was also put off by all of the anti-Waldorf information found on the web - including the long threads here on MDC. We visited many Waldorf schools, found the one we loved and our children are there now.

None of the issues I read about exist at our school...or the schools I have nearby or the parents I speak to. I also have a few Waldorf alumni friends and none of them had any of those issues.

I strongly recommend you visit local Waldorf schools, talk to teachers, express your concerns and see for yourself.

As for the "cult" aspect - I find Waldorf no more culty than oh say, Mothering.com, Natural & Attachment Parenting. A lot of like-minded folks trying hard to parent against the norm. There are just as many doctrines, rules, conformity, following, etc.
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Old 02-26-2010, 04:15 PM
 
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Deborah,
I can add a few more schools. We attend events and know families/teachers at Sac Waldorf, Rudolf Steiner College and other Bay Area schools - if you were to find "cult" Waldorf anywhere, it would be there. But nope, not there either. There are families from all walks of life - purists and not-so-purists


Sure, there are a lot of rainbows, playsilks and soft handmade toys but how does that differ from a Mothering playgroup where everyone has CDs, slings, a laptop lunch and a kleen kanteen?lol


Really, you cannot get a complete picture by reading posts online from people who have had bad experiences with Waldorf, nor by looking at Flickr photos. Imagine if MDC were judged by its forums and by the fact that some of us mams take photos of cloth diapers or slings or breastfeeding babes... Of all people, WE should understand the need to share online with people who care and understand.

What do you say to someone who is considering AP but comes across anti-AP blogs and websites? I think they refer to "us" as Sanctimommies. They are loving the whole MangoMama-AP-parenting-ruined-my-life story.
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Old 02-26-2010, 11:28 PM
 
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In my experience, people who feel this way haven't experienced a Waldorf school first hand. I had fears, read the websites, etc. prior to enrolling dd in preschool. NONE of my hesitations were validated, not at all. She returned for another year and we plan on keeping her there! We have family, die-hard Christian (whatever that means?), who are mum when our daughter's school is brought up. They formulated their opinions w/o even asking about our experience! Closed minded, really. But anyway, don't let it scare you away. There are going to be extremists, bad apples, etc. in every scene.
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Old 02-27-2010, 03:43 PM
 
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I've heard nothing but good about Waldorf preschools and kindergartens. Starting in first grade the opinions become more mixed. Some families thrive, some have no real detriment or benefit, others suffer.

So I wouldn't decide to stay with a school through all of elementary based on what I observed in the preschool/kindergarten and I wouldn't avoid the preschool/kindergarten based on what I saw/heard about 3rd grade.
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Old 03-01-2010, 06:11 AM
 
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In my experience, people who feel this way haven't experienced a Waldorf school first hand.
I would agree. People come and people go from school, but I don't know that any have run screaming for fear of the cult.
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Old 03-27-2010, 03:46 AM
 
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Most people already said the things I would have said back to this thread, except for the photos on flickr. I just want to say that I really enjoy looking at the set-ups that other people have and how their family runs. I love the way the wooden toys look and how the moms take the pictures of them. I find them very magical.

Natural minded Mama to two young amazing babes!
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Old 03-27-2010, 05:17 AM
 
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My family hasn't been involved in Waldorf, we have only done homeschooling. I do know 4 families who had their child(ren) in Waldorf and decided to HS with a Waldorf/Enki emphasis instead.
One common comment I've heard from those families is that Waldorf schools can be very consuming of your time and energy even outside of school hours. There's so many school events/festivals/fundraising that they were expected to participate in and they had little time to socialize with other people in their lives. I imagine this would differ from school to school, but I've heard this complaint about 2 of the Waldorf schools in my area.
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Old 03-27-2010, 12:34 PM
 
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I have to say, having been a teacher in a Waldorf school for going on eleven years now, that what has been outlined above is pretty accurate -- there is no zealot like the new convert, and parents, who are often fearful and insecure about their own parenting choices, are usually far more judgmental than the teachers.

In addition, it has been my experience that nothing makes me question my parenting choices (am I "Waldorf" enough?) as much as the homeschooling Waldorf blogs I have been reading over the past few weeks. So much value attached to the material trappings of the education -- dolls, beeswax, perfect toy shelves, hand-felted hats -- and so little time spent on the development of the young or school-age child.

I read so much about the early childhood years in these blogs -- the pretty pretty pink and wooly kindergarten world -- and so little about the challenges of meeting the child as she turns seven, nine, twelve...

Is Waldorf a cult? I would have to say no. As a teacher, I can make recommendations based on my own research, on my experience as a teacher and a parent, and on the work of other teachers, as well as on Rudolf Steiner's indications and insights. Steiner himself begged teachers to do their own research, implored those who read his works and attended his lectures to DO THEIR OWN WORK, not to take it all on faith or face value. That, in my mind, directly contraindicates cultishness, in the popular sense of the word.

You may encounter some in the movement who are really gung-ho, who are able to embrace a huge number of recommendations and make them work in their families. Really, though, it's up to you to make your own choices. Do your own research on media and nutrition and play. Observe, really observe, your children -- do you see a difference when they watch tv? Do you notice a change in how you feel, how they behave, based on what you're consuming? How do the toys your children play with feed their senses and imaginations?

You are free, as an individual, to make choices. That is at the heart of Rudolf Steiner's philosophy. The first Waldorf schools were forcibly closed by the Nazi party because their aim of educating children to be free individuals undermined everything the Nazis were trying to do. That says a lot to me.

Waldorf-teaching mama to A (12/08), wife to my sweet wife M , and sharing a home with a dog , four cats , five turtles, a fish, and a crab.
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Old 03-27-2010, 08:38 PM
 
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I have to say, having been a teacher in a Waldorf school for going on eleven years now, that what has been outlined above is pretty accurate -- there is no zealot like the new convert, and parents, who are often fearful and insecure about their own parenting choices, are usually far more judgmental than the teachers.

In addition, it has been my experience that nothing makes me question my parenting choices (am I "Waldorf" enough?) as much as the homeschooling Waldorf blogs I have been reading over the past few weeks. So much value attached to the material trappings of the education -- dolls, beeswax, perfect toy shelves, hand-felted hats -- and so little time spent on the development of the young or school-age child.

I read so much about the early childhood years in these blogs -- the pretty pretty pink and wooly kindergarten world -- and so little about the challenges of meeting the child as she turns seven, nine, twelve...

Is Waldorf a cult? I would have to say no. As a teacher, I can make recommendations based on my own research, on my experience as a teacher and a parent, and on the work of other teachers, as well as on Rudolf Steiner's indications and insights. Steiner himself begged teachers to do their own research, implored those who read his works and attended his lectures to DO THEIR OWN WORK, not to take it all on faith or face value. That, in my mind, directly contraindicates cultishness, in the popular sense of the word.

You may encounter some in the movement who are really gung-ho, who are able to embrace a huge number of recommendations and make them work in their families. Really, though, it's up to you to make your own choices. Do your own research on media and nutrition and play. Observe, really observe, your children -- do you see a difference when they watch tv? Do you notice a change in how you feel, how they behave, based on what you're consuming? How do the toys your children play with feed their senses and imaginations?

You are free, as an individual, to make choices. That is at the heart of Rudolf Steiner's philosophy. The first Waldorf schools were forcibly closed by the Nazi party because their aim of educating children to be free individuals undermined everything the Nazis were trying to do. That says a lot to me.
Really good points!

Natural minded Mama to two young amazing babes!
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Old 03-27-2010, 09:00 PM
 
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I have to say, having been a teacher in a Waldorf school for going on eleven years now, that what has been outlined above is pretty accurate -- there is no zealot like the new convert, and parents, who are often fearful and insecure about their own parenting choices, are usually far more judgmental than the teachers.

In addition, it has been my experience that nothing makes me question my parenting choices (am I "Waldorf" enough?) as much as the homeschooling Waldorf blogs I have been reading over the past few weeks. So much value attached to the material trappings of the education -- dolls, beeswax, perfect toy shelves, hand-felted hats -- and so little time spent on the development of the young or school-age child.

I read so much about the early childhood years in these blogs -- the pretty pretty pink and wooly kindergarten world -- and so little about the challenges of meeting the child as she turns seven, nine, twelve...

Is Waldorf a cult? I would have to say no. As a teacher, I can make recommendations based on my own research, on my experience as a teacher and a parent, and on the work of other teachers, as well as on Rudolf Steiner's indications and insights. Steiner himself begged teachers to do their own research, implored those who read his works and attended his lectures to DO THEIR OWN WORK, not to take it all on faith or face value. That, in my mind, directly contraindicates cultishness, in the popular sense of the word.

You may encounter some in the movement who are really gung-ho, who are able to embrace a huge number of recommendations and make them work in their families. Really, though, it's up to you to make your own choices. Do your own research on media and nutrition and play. Observe, really observe, your children -- do you see a difference when they watch tv? Do you notice a change in how you feel, how they behave, based on what you're consuming? How do the toys your children play with feed their senses and imaginations?

You are free, as an individual, to make choices. That is at the heart of Rudolf Steiner's philosophy. The first Waldorf schools were forcibly closed by the Nazi party because their aim of educating children to be free individuals undermined everything the Nazis were trying to do. That says a lot to me.
I love reading all these waldorf blogs, but I do have to admit that they make me feel WAY inadequate. There is NO way I can afford to send my daughter to a waldorf school and no way I can afford to stay at home full time and homeschool her in the waldorf way either. So she has to go to public school. But what really makes me feel so left out is that the sheer amount of money that is placed into waldorf homes. We don't earn nearly a quarter of what a lot of families in those blogs make and man, it just makes you feel like "this is waldorf" when I am pretty sure there is SO much more to it. My daughter is almost 5 and I am coming in so late and I feel so lost within all of this. I made her a doll for Solstice, but I can't afford a 150 dollar doll, no matter if it lasts a lifetime. I can't afford a 70 dollar rainbow stacker, a 300 toy kitchen (she has a 99 dollar wooden one from toys r us), a 50 dollar set of play silks, play stands. It's just all so expensive. I look at these gorgeous play rooms and think wow, look at what my kid is missing!

I have had introductions to waldorf, so I am familiar. But it's all so overwhelming and I feel like I can't do it on a shoe string budget.

lady Mummy to Smoosh, 8-2005. Waldorf inspired homeschooler and crazy knitter!
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Old 03-28-2010, 03:52 PM
 
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I discovered Waldorf this December and so am no way an expert but have immersed myself in both Waldorf and in anthroposophy.

I think that some Waldorf people get caught up in Waldorf too much. The homeschooling blogs really are terrible as prior posters said. But I see that in mothering/parenting in many other groups of people as well. It's about being more Waldorf than the next just like with my "green" friends it's about being more green than the next. The consumerism that goes into it is amazing. I'm pretty sure Steiner would not have backed the plain outright consumerism that exists in Waldorf right now. It is a big turn off to me. Plus, when prominent Waldorf teachers make guilt wrenching blanket statements such as turning your tv on once will suck your childs soul out or there is no greater sin than using a plastic recorder than I really see how people think it is a cult.

We are all just humans here on this earth struggling to do our best. Why add guilt and make people feel like everything they do is not enough. It IS enough. Period.

I agree with living an outright Waldorf lifestyle takes money and lots of it. I don't have the money either. But I have found just taking the aspects of Waldorf that you like and incorporating it into your life in your own individual way is best.

- Can't afford all the pretty nature table things? My thought is a nature table is about celebrating the seasons. Why not get outside and celebrate? I personally have a nature basket. It's a goodwill basket that gets filled with things we find outside. I can't afford wool so there is no pretty little felted things. Just nature. Although we did make the "flower fairies" from the Spring Seasons of Joy. For those short on money and who wish to support an MDC WAHM I stongly suggest Seasons of Joy.

- We have wood and plastic toys. I can't afford all the beautiful wood toys either. Plus, my kids just love the big lego blocks. I'm not going to take them away just because they are plastic. They do much for inspiring imagination. Again, just do your best. I limit the toys they have and avoid the horrid electronic toys for the most part (although DS's favorite toy is a plastic fire engine that makes noise - I can't separate him from it).

- Homeschooling Waldorf doesn't have to be expensive either. There is so much free stuff on the internet. Just because everyone else is using such and such curriculum doesn't mean you have it - it is expensive!!! I had to talk myself out one curriculum because I realized I just wanted it because it's on all the blogs.

The moral of my writing is you don't have to be a purist. If you are here in this conversation than at least something of Waldorf has interested you. Do your best. Do what you can. Ignore everything that doesn't resonate with your spirit and don't let the high and mighty purists with lots of money get you down!!

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Old 03-28-2010, 08:26 PM
 
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I agree with the PP's about the tendency to get carried away with all the Waldorf trappings. They are beautiful works of art, those toys and as such, they are pricey.

If I may indulge in a personal anecdote here: I came to find the Waldorf philosophy when I noticed a dramatic difference in my baby "on media" and "off media." Just the TV on in our house set my little baby over the edge. We got rid of it, I began doing some research and shortly after found Waldorf. It resonated with me and was soooooooo right for my LO. Cult? I don't think so. A group of self-selecting like-minded families, you bet! Like a parenting group, or church, or even a group of friends at work. I chose a Waldorf school for many reasons, but one of which is that I am glad he won't be made fun of (or bullied) because he doesn't know who Darth Vader is at age 5. Or Sponge Bob or Elmo for that matter. No TV is what he needs at this time. I am glad there is a school where I can send him where that is the norm. Not that we have to be "normal" (obviously we aren't ) but it just makes life simpler and happier at this time. The more reading I did, the more I came to find resonance with Waldorf - and I questioned it very carefully reading all the awful critiques so readily available online. What sold me was the fundamental force behind it: learning how to think and find your own way. So while we may all look hippy-dippy, tree-hugging cultish similar on the outside, the inner workings are so individualized.

As for the recent consumerist Waldorf push. Well, I admit to falling into the trappings at first. And it was frustrating to feel I couldn't afford to be Waldorf. But I have come to realize and learn that the consumer approach still doesn't fulfill and it actually goes against the very heart of the Waldorf philosophy. Yes, my child's wooden stove is beautiful, and my few Ostheimer pieces that I lovingly collect for my Nativity are special to me. But the little wooly caterpillar my son felted for the Easter grass he grew, that has a beauty that far exceeds those artisan toys. Even I have begun needle felting and have created many animals to round out my nativity since I could not afford the ones I "wanted." You know what? I don't even want them anymore, my little animals are sooooo charming and everyone who sees them asks about them. Now I am working on a cute little bunny and chipmunk to frolic in the Easter grass, too. . And let me tell you, if I can needle felt, you can needle felt. No joke. And you can make these beauties for pennies on the Etsy dollar. The art of creating has fulfilled my family in ways I cannot express.

Also, my Waldorf school has a Available to All tuition policy, so we can afford to go.

Thanks for reading my little hijack.
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Old 04-06-2010, 12:14 AM
 
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Love so many of the comments in this thread.

I found Waldorf a couple years ago, about the time my first child was turning 2. I was smitten. I found as many books as I could read and read and read. Our family became affiliated with a Waldorf school and its early childhood program. I too found the homeschooling Waldorf blogs and began to feel as if I didn't measure up. Frankly, I am not a very crafty person, I try to be but I am just not going to be needle felting play food for my kids or making homemade baby doll quilts for them - not my speed and I refuse to feel guilty about it! And I realized that the commercialization of Waldorf is much different from the philosophy of Waldorf. I decided to take what I liked about the educational philosophy and leave the rest. If my child can recognize Dora the Explorer and knows what the golden arches are from the highway, well so be it. The occasional dip into the commercial world is not a terrible thing, in my parental opinion.

I suppose what I found off-putting about some of the parents at the Waldorf school was the idea that your child's fantasy driven childhood could become tainted so quickly and easily by one slip as a parent. Let your child do Disney movie night when you are staying with relatives with children during a holiday? Oh no! Let your child use regular old Crayola crayons and don't bother with wet on wet watercolor painting?! Oh no! It was the idea that children are so fragile that any exposure to "mainstream" parenting would corrupt their brief and magical childhood. And well, I think that is crazy. As if listening to Mozart in the car is damaging for their development! When the strictures of Waldorf as they are portrayed via parents in many Waldorf schools are followed too rigidly I cannot think that is good for children and I do think it borders on cult-like behavior.

We employ a lot of positive aspects of Waldorf in our home life and family interactions. I learned from Waldorf philosophy that it is better for my children if they do not see me as their plaything but as a person in our family who fulfills a valuable role and who does important work, even if that is sweeping, dishes and making healthy foods. I learned that rhythm is so, so necessary for little people and that they thrive on it. I also learned to respect the natural progression of my children's learning capabilities and to avoid "hot housing" them. Preserving early childhood as a time of dreaming, fantasy and free play is much more important than being "prepared" for Kindergarten.

I learned that nature and being able to explore freely - even in cruddy weather - is really important to early childhood development. Messes, mud and surprises found in clothing pockets are not only to be tolerated but to be encouraged! Our nature table doesn't exist because it is the Waldorf thing to do, it exists because we find things outside and dump them on the table for looking at and learning about. We have a few things that anchor the table for the season but I no longer bother with making it a very orchestrated and planned thing - it is organic and changes as the seasons change. We had a lot of plain old gravel on the table this winter because that is what my kids were able to fish out of all the snow. So what if it wasn't fancy quartz or something prettier - it was a treasure they found outside and wanted to collect!

As for the expensive toys, the point of "natural" toys is to allow children to play with every day items that they can find themselves that can play a part in their fantasies. I don't really see the difference in having loads of carved wooden princesses from fairy tales and Disney plastic princesses if they are doing the same job for the child in play - the idea that if you take a plastic cash register and transfer it into wood makes it a more acceptable toy is sort of silly to me. Natural fibers and materials are more pleasurable and gentle on the senses BUT that doesn't mean that a plastic version is poison!

We ended up deciding that for our family, incorporating Waldorf into our home is enough. We are not pursuing a Waldorf school education at this time. Like other educational philosophies, Waldorf can be a perfect fit for many families and children, but it has a hard time dealing with outliers - children who are very gifted or have special needs, children who have slight learning disabilities. My oldest child has always been very intense, very self-directed and very energetic and I feel that she would not fare well in a typical Waldorf classroom. And I'm not sure I'd fare well as an off-beat Waldorf parent in a Waldorf school. The philosophy is really beautiful and I am so, so glad I discovered it and was able to learn about it and alter my parenting style a bit to accommodate some of the more integral parts. For us, that is enough.

"Hey, I've got nothin' to do today but smile." - S & G
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Old 04-10-2010, 02:54 AM
 
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Charbeau, I couldn't have said it better. There is so much in your post that I want to comment on with "YES! YES! YES!", but what especially resonated with me was..

Quote:
When the strictures of Waldorf as they are portrayed via parents in many Waldorf schools are followed too rigidly I cannot think that is good for children and I do think it borders on cult-like behavior.
This has been exactly my experience. You phrased it perfectly.

Quote:
Our nature table doesn't exist because it is the Waldorf thing to do, it exists because we find things outside and dump them on the table for looking at and learning about.
YES.

Quote:
the idea that if you take a plastic cash register and transfer it into wood makes it a more acceptable toy is sort of silly to me.
This!

I'm looking forward to reading more comments. This thread has shared a lot of insight so far!

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Old 04-11-2010, 02:22 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mama2honu View Post
I agree with the PP's about the tendency to get carried away with all the Waldorf trappings. They are beautiful works of art, those toys and as such, they are pricey.

If I may indulge in a personal anecdote here: I came to find the Waldorf philosophy when I noticed a dramatic difference in my baby "on media" and "off media." Just the TV on in our house set my little baby over the edge. We got rid of it, I began doing some research and shortly after found Waldorf. It resonated with me and was soooooooo right for my LO. Cult? I don't think so. A group of self-selecting like-minded families, you bet! Like a parenting group, or church, or even a group of friends at work. I chose a Waldorf school for many reasons, but one of which is that I am glad he won't be made fun of (or bullied) because he doesn't know who Darth Vader is at age 5. Or Sponge Bob or Elmo for that matter. No TV is what he needs at this time. I am glad there is a school where I can send him where that is the norm. Not that we have to be "normal" (obviously we aren't ) but it just makes life simpler and happier at this time. The more reading I did, the more I came to find resonance with Waldorf - and I questioned it very carefully reading all the awful critiques so readily available online. What sold me was the fundamental force behind it: learning how to think and find your own way. So while we may all look hippy-dippy, tree-hugging cultish similar on the outside, the inner workings are so individualized.

As for the recent consumerist Waldorf push. Well, I admit to falling into the trappings at first. And it was frustrating to feel I couldn't afford to be Waldorf. But I have come to realize and learn that the consumer approach still doesn't fulfill and it actually goes against the very heart of the Waldorf philosophy. Yes, my child's wooden stove is beautiful, and my few Ostheimer pieces that I lovingly collect for my Nativity are special to me. But the little wooly caterpillar my son felted for the Easter grass he grew, that has a beauty that far exceeds those artisan toys. Even I have begun needle felting and have created many animals to round out my nativity since I could not afford the ones I "wanted." You know what? I don't even want them anymore, my little animals are sooooo charming and everyone who sees them asks about them. Now I am working on a cute little bunny and chipmunk to frolic in the Easter grass, too. . And let me tell you, if I can needle felt, you can needle felt. No joke. And you can make these beauties for pennies on the Etsy dollar. The art of creating has fulfilled my family in ways I cannot express.

Also, my Waldorf school has a Available to All tuition policy, so we can afford to go.

Thanks for reading my little hijack.
I love your post! You make some very good points!
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