I'm deeply conflicted and I don't know what to do! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 01-11-2011, 06:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Dear all - first post here (sorry, it's be long, I'm afraid). Gosh, what a great resource this board is, I only wish I had discovered it a year or two ago! So, I'm a Waldorf parent, if you can call it that - dd is 6 and currently in the first grade and (apparently) loving it, ds just turned 5 and is in KG, and he has another year of kg ahead of him before going into first grade. Both were in the Waldorf nursery since they were under 3 so it has been the only school they know. I can say that, in general, we had a great Early Childhood experience and would enthusiastically recommend it to anyone - in fact, we probably had such a good experience in early childhood and I didn't fully do my due diligence as a parent and now I'm having deep second thoughts about having enrolled dd into the grades and now I'm deeply conflicted about what to do. But first things first: what did I like about early childhood? I guess the stuff that draws so many parents to it and that makes Waldorf so attractive for so many people with smaller kids:

- The emphasis on storytelling and imagination.

- The delayed academics, the absence of push to do earlier and earlier reading.

- The no media policy (which, to be honest, we only partly embraced and to this date we sneak some occasional dvds now and then, especially on Friday afternoons and in school vacations - I know, I'm an evil parent letting Ahrimanic influences get to my child and impeding correct incarnation or such but C'MON!). 

- The push for natural materials, simpler toys, the importance of rhythm in the day and in the calendar.


My initial intention was to have kids enrolled in early childhood and then have them move into public grade school for KG year. But seeing how well they fit and how they blossomed I spent a lot of time researching the Waldorf grade school philosophy, Steiner, anthroposophy and eventually decided (perhaps prematurely) that the good stuff that I saw overrode the bad and that the warm, protected environment of Waldorf would be a better fit than the big, institutional public school where we live (and it didn't help that I live in a school district ranked in the bottom half of our state).


I additionally got horrorized by some hyper-achieving parents I met (including some work colleagues) who lived in more affluent suburbs with high-ranking public school districts who boasted how their little 7 and 8 year olds got several hours of homework per night (plus gosh knows how many extracurricular activities they crammed onto them), how another top-ranked local school district had opened stress management and yoga classes for 11 and 12 year olds (sic) and I was really content to step out of the rat race and let my kids be kids and to learn at a gentler pace.


So I was willing to tolerate all the soft mystical wishy washy anthroposophical stuff (I'm an agnostic myself) - I read a bunch of sites both promoting and criticizing Waldorf and I was content with the responses to the most outlandish PLANS assertions out there. DD seems happy, I think her class teacher has a great rapport with children as far as I can see, DS also seems fine for now although I have some reservations as to whether he'll be a good fit if he were to continue in the grades (he seems to be too independent and too non-conformist) - so what's the problem? I have now two problems:

a) Financial - the school has been extremely generous with fin. aid, almost to a fault, but even with this there's no sustainable way I can keep paying the tuition going forward. There's another dimension to this, in that most of the classmates we know are from families more affluent than us, in some cases MUCH more. Having been through the same situation myself when I was growing up in another country, at some point sooner or later I know this will have an impact on the kid's relationships and self-esteem (it's perhaps just a matter of time before the "daddy, why can't we go in that ski trip with my friends" comes).

b) Philosophical - what I didn't know nor count on is how inflexible and dogmatic things can be. I'm resenting the fact that children get somehow labeled and boxed into 4 temperaments, how it's "Steiner said this" and "Steiner said that" and there's not one iota, as far as I can see, of self-criticism intent or to see how to change or improve educational methods or materials. Don't get me wrong, I think Steiner had some really great insights but there's no willingness to select what works now and just bury the rubbish, and c'mon, Atlantis and Lemuria???


So now I really don't know what to do, esp. with DD - right after first grade seems the worst time to switch her to a mainstream school, she isn't reading yet and it seems to me that the only possible approach would be for her to just repeat the year, or to spend the summer in some sort of intensive tutoring program for her to catch up and I'll be hating myself for having to do this to her if it comes to that - heck, I already am, and I feel it's tearing me apart.


Thanks for reading through this!!

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#2 of 6 Old 01-11-2011, 07:44 PM
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My daughter will be in kindergarten next fall and is in her third year of a Waldorf-inspired preschool right now. We are so torn on whether she should go to the local Waldorf school or to the really lovely public school that I teach at. Even though I love my school, it is still a public school and subject to testing and other issues.


I have similar feelings as you about Steiner and anthroposophy. Every time I step foot in the Waldorf school I feel so warm and calm and happy and I want dd to be able to experience that too, but... well, there are so many buts. I also agree that switching to public school after first grade would be a particularly tricky time. But I don't think it's an umsurmountable hurdle. If your daughter is reasonably quick with learning new things and you spend some time working with letters and reading lots of books, she'd probably have the background for the skills of actually reading independently to just pop when they are ready. I've seen it many times. I had one student who came to me as a third grader after being unschooled. She had no formal reading instruction and could barely read on her own. But it was all there, ready to come together once she had an outlet for it. By the end of that year she was one of my most voracious readers and definitely my most creative writer!


But it sounds like an ideal time to make the switch for your son, if he'd be going into kindergarten in a public school. I've always thought of K-8 (or maybe 1-8 anyway) Waldorf education as being an all-or-nothing proposition. At least it's easier to enter into it later than to leave it. But kids certainly do come and go.


I'm assuming you have only one public school option--so it wouldn't be terribly difficult to find out exactly what the expectations are at the beginning of second grade. Being behind because you're coming from a different educational background that stressed different skills is quite different than being behind because of a learning issue. Kids can make that shift. They will fill in the gaps. And they'll do an even better job of it with parents who take the transition seriously and help their kid at home too. There will be some things that your daughter can do way better than the public school kids. It will all balance out.

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#3 of 6 Old 01-12-2011, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by ecoteat View Post

 Being behind because you're coming from a different educational background that stressed different skills is quite different than being behind because of a learning issue. Kids can make that shift. They will fill in the gaps. And they'll do an even better job of it with parents who take the transition seriously and help their kid at home too. There will be some things that your daughter can do way better than the public school kids. It will all balance out.


I agree w/ this.  OR plan for your son to attend public school next year and have your daughter stay on at Waldorf one more year.  That way, you are only paying for one tuition & she will maybe be more caught up.  But, yanno, if the only real hurdle is being concerned that she cannot read, teach her to read!  When you know a transition is coming, plan for it.  We parents get so worked up about grades this and grades that when the reality is that families move all.  the.  time.  And no two schools are exactly alike.  Your daughter could switch from one public school to another and be way behind.  Or ahead.  Being at Waldorf specifically does not automatically make her behind everyone else.


You are right, it is a very difficult decision to make.  No one wants to have to change their children's school.  But to put it in perspective, you are talking about second grade, which is cursive writing and subtraction, not quantum physics :)


DD (4.25.08)  DD (4.23.10)  DD (10.13.12)

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#4 of 6 Old 01-13-2011, 02:02 AM
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I agree with the PPs.

We actually just made the move in the opposite direction . .. from traditional public school to Waldorf when DS was in the middle of his first semester in 2nd grade. Granted, it was a change he really wanted to make, but he's been fine and is thriving.

If staying in the Waldorf school is financially untenable, then you do need to prepare your kids for a shift. I think you could start teaching your daughter more about reading, writing, etc. I'm sure she'll catch up really quickly. I also like the idea of shifting your DS and leaving your DD for another year, by which time she will probably have caught up with a standard public school classroom in terms of reading, writing, etc.

I'm surprised by how dogmatic your Waldorf school sounds, though. Our school seems to be "Antroposophy-light" or something because we never hear anything about Atlantis, the humors, etc., etc. Weird . . . .

Anyway . . hang in there. It's a tough decision to make.
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#5 of 6 Old 01-13-2011, 01:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for those suggestions - I hadn't really thought about the alternative of leading dd for another year and moving DS to public kindergarten next year - it may be a bit tough logistically but certainly doable.

Just for the record, the Atlantis mention was just something I brought up as just a wild Steiner idea that shows why it's good not to take everything he said dogmatically, but I've never heard anything mentioned on it in the school. But the 4 temperaments do play a big role, for example is how DD's teacher selects seating assignments for all kids and how stories are relayed to them - as to whether/how it works or not, heck I don't know.  I used to think that the school, which is situated in an affluent suburb of a supposedly "englightened" and "educated" big city, was relatively "anthroposophy-light" as mentioned (and a good amount of parents, myself included, have a good academic/technical/scientific background) but then I get these shocks that I don't know what to think of (example from a bit ago: the school is looking for a director and one of the finalist candidates being considered is an expert in "astrosophy". And an earlier childhood teacher dropped a hint during a parent night that she actually believed in the physical reality of gnomes and fairies - to each their own I guess )



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#6 of 6 Old 01-27-2011, 11:11 AM
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Himmelreiter -


It's funny, I related to your post a lot : )


Although we just Started at the Waldorf school near us.


We moved our daughter to 1st grade from a local public school, in a very affluent, uber-high-achieving neighborhood.


We were horrified by our experience in Kindergarden there (in public).  I figured "How bad can it be - we'll give it a try...she's a smart kid".  Wow.  Everything was sooooo fast, superficial, loud, uncreative, unsupportive, chaotic, ugh.  Even the 'art' class they had once per week was basically "See if you can cut, color, paste, hole-punch, and string up 10 paper hearts together for a valentine mobile in ... 20 minutes.... ready, go!"


Really wierd.  And that was kindergarden.


That all being said:  I believe there is a huge range in public schools. 


Our daughter was sad when we moved her a few months ago.  That has been hard.  She misses her old school, and it was hard for us to make the switch, even though we felt it was really worth  a try.


So far, 1st grade has been challenging for all of us to adjust to, as a family.  We love her teacher, but from what I hear, Waldorf 1st is really, really diferent than K.  It's where it all begins, in a way (as you know). 


Overall, as parents, we are much happier with almost every single aspect of the Waldorf school our daughter attends vs. the public school.  No it is not perfect.  But it's a really inspiring place to be, and we feel so incredibly lucky to finally have found a more 'real' environment for her to be, learn, and grow.


In terms of the 'kooky' (my word, not yours : )) stuff:  Do you know any parents of kids in the upper grades?  We do, and have been able to really talk with them about our concerns.  It has been a HUGE help!!  What I've gathered is that you don't need to buy into everything, just take what works for you.  And their kids seem so great!!  In ways I didn't see so much with kids I witnessed in public school.


Anyway, I know about the reality of finances, trust me.  It's so hard.  But maybe there is a way they can work with you further...??  We have been amazed at the generosity of our school's financial approach.


Just wanted to give you a shout out, and I just joined, but if you want to PM me to chat, let me know.



Good luck : )

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