My son currently attends a home based Waldorf inspired kindergarten program and we are really happy. We are beginning to investigate schools and have been considering a Waldorf school. Have recently been reading literature on www.waldorfcritics.org and feel uncertain now as it talks about anthrosophy as a cult, beliefs in the occult and reincarnation etc. It mentions how none of this is expressed in school information packs but that this is what is underlying the teaching methodology.
I am open minded however I'm not comfortable with teachers having these beliefs and sharing them with my young impressionable children (perhaps even subconsciously). I personally don't believe in reincarnation but have formulated this belief system as an adult and not been influenced for or against. We recently attended a beautiful Spiral walk evening which this website also says is part of their cult - now I'm thinking is it or isn't it??
We are so attracted to the community, gardening and arts focused learning but really need the TRUTH !!
A heartfelt thankyou, Zoebird, for your comprehensive reply, I really appreciate the time, thought and effort that has gone into your response. It was a pleasure to read!
Yes, I do need to read much more about Steiner and his philosophies but your response has been so helpful. To be honest, the thought of it being a cult (as a contemporary definition) never occurred to me until I read some of the information on that website. For example, I know a bit about the principles of biodynamics and it makes sense to me - I don't think it is weird as some do.
You mentioned Catholic schools - you know that religion will be taught from a Catholic perspective before you enrol - no surprises. For me, the fact that each individual Waldorf school may be different is what I am grappling with - how 'full on' will it be??? Until my children actually attend, I'm not sure how easily I could delve into the curriculum and community of the school. We attended the Spring Fair last year which again we enjoyed. I have the school prospectus and we are booked in to attend an 'open day' so I guess I'll follow my intuition!
"You mentioned Catholic schools - you know that religion will be taught from a Catholic perspective before you enrol - no surprises."
I think most Catholic educators would say that not only is religion taught from a Catholic perspective, but that the entire educational system is based on a Catholic perspective, that English, math, science, extra-curriculars, etc. are all coming from a Catholic-centered foundation. The purpose of this is to raise adults that are coming at the world with a Catholic belief system and a Catholic approach (to problem-solving, interpretation, culture, frame of reference, etc.)
My feeling is that Waldorf is the same, that the art, pe, classroom discipline, not reading until 7, etc. are generally coming from a Steiner-centered foundation. In other words, Waldorf is not just a particular way of teaching English (for example) but rather that what is taught about English and the manner in which it is taught has a specific "ulterior" purpose beyond merely the educational.
Only you can decide whether Steiner's beliefs are acceptable to you.
One of the things, though, about Waldorf, is that such is teaching so out of step with every other style of education in America, is that if school isn't a good fit *for your child,* they end up very behind when you leave the school.
A child in a Catholic school who just isn't fitting in or the non-catholic parents decide the school is just too catholicy or whatever, can walk into any public school (or other private school) and be on target for reading, writing, and math. With Waldorf, there's an extra risk.
but everything has pros and cons
I see where you're coming from - I think if Waldorf is chosen it should definitely be seen as a long term committment as the adjustment to mainstream may be quite challenging. Not too sure about the same teacher for 7 years either!
Zoebird you have presented so many ways of looking at Waldorf - I will read the thread you mentioned - if I can find it.
There are so many issues to consider - I want my children to have a 'childhood' and not be influenced and defined by mass marketing, commercial tv etc.
It's hard when my childrens' cousins are readily and without any hesitation exposed to all this and come over to 'play'.
Asking them to put away their hand held computer games is another forum in itself! In a sense, as I have these views, I feel somewhat isolated from my extended family.
Once again, many thanks!
FYI -- Life After Waldorf can be found in the TAO subforum -- it was moved there from this subforum when this subforum was more hardcore Waldorf and Waldorf questioning, etc. couldn't co-exist peacefully here. I don't know how active that thread is anymore, but it was very active at one point and does give a pretty good idea of the range of issues some parents have experienced with the Waldorf system.
I would encourage you to listen to some of Eugene Schwartz's material, if it's available. He was a waldorf teacher, and I believe he ran into trouble because of his candid discussions. You most likely won't find a waldorf school or teacher to really explain the role of anthroposophy in the school, and with regard to the teaching of the children because it's generally not advertised or explained to novice parents.
The outward trappings really have little meaning without a solid understanding of your child and their learning needs and style.
here's a link and I bumped it up
but everything has pros and cons
Zoebird -- I find your description of your son and choosing Waldorf to be a little counterintuitive. Much of the Life After Waldorf thread points out that Waldorf tends to favor the "dreamy"/compliant child, and active children (particularly active, physical boys) are disfavored. Also, Waldorf is most definitely teacher led, and your post seems to indicate a desire for child lead learning (where your child will not be "squelched" also your personal favoring of unschooling).
So, I find that a little confusing as to how you are making these different things work together?
I think zoebird has provided some wonderfully thoughtful and insightful responses. Thank you!
I am still early on my journed of really understanding the pedagogy of Waldorf that we have embarked on for our children. I have just started reading Rythms of Learning Selected Lectures by Rudolf Steiner - What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents and Teachers.
One of the statements in the introduction that really helped to contextualize all the different experiences people have with this education is this: There is no governing body of Waldorf education which begins each school. Each school (and I am assuming this is elementary and beyond, not necessarily Early Childhood programs) is born out of a collective of parents who come together because they desire a Waldorf education for their children, yet there is no Waldorf school in their community. Wow! Of course then there are going to be as vast a range of experiences as there are people!
With that in mind, yes, asking questions on a forum like this will give you some insight into what you could reasonably be able to expect and find in a Waldorf school. Yes, the early childhood classroom can be expected to be set up in a certain way with a common set of surroundings and the days, weeks and months will follow a particular rhythm. Yes, your child will have the same teacher in grades 1-8. But, in my view, it is absolutely no substitute for fully exploring and investigating your local Waldorf school. Does your school bring in assistants so that students who need additional help get that help? Be it in reading, math, therapuetic eurythmy, etc? Or so that a child who is excelling in a particular area has the opportunity to move at a faster pace - his or her pace? With what I've read in these forums I was very taken aback to find that this was available in our local school.
Waldorf is not a strict pedagogy in that there are tenants as rigid as the 10 Commandments. In reality, it is a set of principles. But those principles are only going to be as evolved as the individuals manifesting them. Which is why community involvement is so fundamental and basic to the education.
Since I'm still so early in my journey of understanding, I think I should stop here for now.
Mama to a dd 10/05; ds 3/09, dd 2/15 and two angels. Expecting another miracle 7/16!
My son is in a Waldorf school and my understanding is that Anthroposophy is never taught in the classes. The teachers have an understanding of it, study it, and like zoebird said, they have different levels of commitment to it, but it is not *taught* to the children. Stories from different religions are brought to the class via the curriculum, but nothing is taught dogmatically.
And I know this wasn't in the original post, but someone mentioned above that the "dreamy, thoughful" kids are more valued in a Waldorf setting and my experience is the complete opposite of that. My son's own first grade class (now moving into second) was a bunch of wild hooligans! :) I know they will settle down, as their behavior seems pretty normal, but dreamy, they are not.
A few different topics within the discussion caught my eye and I can't remember who wrote what at the moment, but a couple of articles popped into my head while I was reading and I thought I would share them - I hope they don't seem out of place without linking them to specifics in the conversation.
One is the Survey of Waldorf Graduates: http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/documents/Survey_WaldorfGraduates.pdf Tells you statistics about graduates of the Waldorf system.
One is an article called, "Is Waldorf Christian?" and while it doesn't fully relate to the original post, I think the over all article will have some good information: http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/documents/2_Is_W_Christian.pdf
Personally, I can't imagine a better education for anyone - yes, there are the diehards and I think zoebird is right in that each school is different. Our particular school is pretty "normal." And by that, I mean that we don't seem to have many "diehards." People here could fit into the mainstream school settings well enough if they wanted. However, when we were looking at schools last year, we visited one that seemed waaaaay out there. Not every area has a choice of Waldorf schools, but yes, if you have options, you find the one that works for you.
Anthro itself may not be taught, but I think it usually influences what is taught, when it is taught and how it is taught.
Using a trivial example -- Waldorf elementary classes frequently do not provide black crayons. As a non-Anthro. parent, do you care that black crayons are not made available in class for the spirtual protection of your child?
For me, the whole thing seemed a little like participating in the baptism of the child of a non-Christian.
Many of the teachers are doing things a certain way because they believe it is to the spirtual benefit of the children in the classroom. If you are a non-believer (so you think that the "ulterior" spirtual benefit is B.S.) do you find that those things were done to be creepy/offensive or irrelevant? In the same way, I can see some a non-Christian parent not really caring a great deal about the baptism of their child (since they believe it means nothing anyway) while others would be greatly offended.
Thanks Zoebird. I agree that something like eurythmy might have been a better example -- in each case an action which by itself is not harmful, but is engaged in for a specific spirtual purpose.
Obviously, for me personally, other people's intentions with regard to the "purpose" of the activity do matter -- even if on its face the activity itself is innocuous.
Do a little searching around the keywords anthroposophy and bullying. The stuff I heard coming out of programs that friends were originally enthusiastic about was enough to deter me.
savithny, 42 year old moderate mom to DS Primo (age 12) and DD Secunda (age 9).
This might be a bit OT, but can I just say, this bit of Zoebird's post was fantastic. :-)
People get upset. here was this beautiful school. this beautiful community. And now, because of ukulele excellence -- which should be celebrated -- i'm being ostracised! Haven't I made enough woolen slippers? have no not cooked enough rutabegas? where, oh where did I go wrong?