Trying to decide on Waldorf, could use some advice. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 02-01-2012, 12:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi, I'm brand new here and have spent the last hour reading over some old threads. I'm wondering if any of you can offer some insight for the decision we have to make in the next few months.

 

I'll give some background: I have three boys age 1,3 (soon to be 4), and 5 (soon to be 6).  My 5 yo is currently in a public school kinder program.  It is a very good school, ranked 10/10 in the state; and yet... I'm not thrilled with it.  The class size is 29 students with only one teacher.  He is new to kindergarten and has taken a while to get into the swing of things.  Additionally, there are 1-2 high-needs boys in the class that take up a lot of the teacher's time.  So I have been disappointed this year.  But a lot of that is just dependent on this particular class and could be totally different next year; although class sizes won't be getting any smaller. By second grade this school offers a "rapid learner" program which is more academically rigorous and is likely what he would be doing if we stick with this school.

 

My 5 yo is very bright, motivated, athletic, and very advanced for his age for math, and above average for reading.  He is one of those kids that constantly wants to learn more; and with relatively little pushing from us, asks us if he can work on math problems and wants to learn cursive all on his own.  He has told me many times that school is boring because he already knows how to do the things they are working on.  He has weak areas too.  He is not terribly creative and has struggled in unstructured activities like art where they aren't told exactly what to do.  Additionally he is pushy, bossy, and lacks in flexibility.  Though he seems to do fine socially and has lots of friends.  My husband and I are both very laid back people and can't quite figure out how to get him to be more relaxed (think Alex P Keaton).

 

My 3 yo is the opposite of his brother.  He would be content to sit and cuddle with me all day.  He has no interest in any of the things his brother was eager to be doing at this age.  He never even went through the "why" phase of asking about the world.  We have the opposite worry with this one and want him to just take some interest in something... anything. 

 

At this point I am trying to decide if we should give up on the public school system.  The class size issue is going to be a problem regardless of any kind of advanced learning programs.  Although the 5 yo will likely thrive in most environments, I suspect his younger brother might struggle more in a traditional school; and I'd rather have them not doing two totally different schools either.  I toured our local Waldorf preK-12 school and really loved it; but I have some concerns:

 

-Will my over-achieving 5 yo be bored by the lack of emphasis on reading and academics in the 1st grade level?  I would HATE to put a damper on his current excitement for learning.

-will the emphasis on art and creativity help his current difficulties with being creative or make it even more of a struggle for him to adjust?

-will the lack of structured sports programs make him miss out on various sports that he seems to have strong potential in?

-even if Waldorf is not the best fit for the 5 yo, will the probable good fit with my 3 yo make it worthwhile? (I know you can't answer this one, but it's also on my mind as I try to puzzle out what's best for the family)

-we are not exactly the perfect Waldorf family.  We watch TV and do computer time on the weekends.  I'm an atheist and find religion and even spirituality to be kind of silly.  My husband and I are both practical and scientifically minded and would struggle with the lack of science/ emphasis on magical fairies in the early grades.   We both came from very traditional and high achieving schools/families, so it would be a bit of a change for us not to have that emphasis; though I think we can make the adjustments esp if it will allow the boys to thrive. 

 

 

Wow, that came out way too long.  I guess it helps just for me to write out my thoughts.  But if you have any insight to help in making the decision, I'd love to hear it; or even just hear your experiences.  Thanks!

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#2 of 10 Old 02-01-2012, 06:50 AM
 
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You mentioned class size, and this often varies from school to school and teacher to teacher. At our Waldorf school, there are only 15 in my daughter's 1st grade class, but that number could decrease or increase with enrollment changes each year. The current 2nd grade class has 28!! As more families applied, the school basically asked the teacher how many she was willing to take into her class. She's an experienced teacher and can handle it, but I'm sure that's not always the case.    

 

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Originally Posted by SarahSmith View Post

Will my over-achieving 5 yo be bored by the lack of emphasis on reading and academics in the 1st grade level?

 

In my experience, children who come into 1st grade already reading aren't typically bored. Since the language arts curriculum is presented through storytelling, most children don't even realize they are learning language skills. Again, it will probably depend on the teacher and how interesting he/she makes it and whether or not he/she truly connects with the children's needs. The Waldorf teachers I have observed all seem to know their students fairly well and individualize instruction without a forthright strategy that makes it obvious to the other children who's advanced and who's struggling.

 

As for lack of academics, that's not the case at all. It's just.... different. For example, all four math processes and the symbols are taught in 1st grade (+ - x ÷ =), a much different approach from traditional and public schools. The Waldorf curriculum is based on developmental readiness (overall and individually as I mentioned above) so that math is more of a focus than actual reading at first.

 

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-will the emphasis on art and creativity help his current difficulties with being creative or make it even more of a struggle for him to adjust?

 

My first thought was "Yes!" I've seen children that aren't creative and that don't enjoy painting, drawing, or handwork fall head first into it and devour it. Knitting is generally the 1st grade handwork focus, and from what you said about your son needing instruction, it could be just the thing to help develop those creative instincts. Children in Waldorf schools illustrate their own main lesson books, and textbooks aren't used until higher grades. Again, it is integrated into the curriculum starting in 1st grade and arts are developed later as separate entities in higher grades as study becomes more in depth with the developing child.

 

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-will the lack of structured sports programs make him miss out on various sports that he seems to have strong potential in?

 

Sports are completely different from school to school depending on interest and funding et cetera. In lower grades, our school offers movement activities that develop skills needed for sports. Some families opt to participate in community leagues or dance classes outside of school.

 

Quote:
-we are not exactly the perfect Waldorf family.  We watch TV and do computer time on the weekends.  I'm an atheist and find religion and even spirituality to be kind of silly.  My husband and I are both practical and scientifically minded and would struggle with the lack of science/ emphasis on magical fairies in the early grades.

 

There are some families that don't even have a TV in their houses and restrict screen time until their children are much older, but it seems to be less families than you'd think. Our school asks that screen time is limited during the school week, because they want the curriculum to seep into the child as they sleep and not be interfered with. It's also the reason homework isn't given in lower grades. Usually a lesson is introduced, left for the child to ponder, and then expounded upon the next day.

 

As for the religious aspect, I hear you! My husband is atheist (I guess or agnostic maybe?), and I'm much more open to many different ideas. The underlying beliefs that Waldorf education is built upon (anthroposophy) aren't taught directly to the children. Although many of the festivals have religious beginnings, they are incorporated more as myth, legend, or so the children learn values from them that aren't religious in themselves. Does that make sense? There are atheists, Christians, pagans, Bahá'ís, and many others at our school. Also, my husband is a Cisco computer geek and I'm an early childhood teacher. You might be surprised to know that many scientists from all fields send their children to Waldorf schools.  Check out this video!

 

Quote:

 

-even if Waldorf is not the best fit for the 5 yo, will the probable good fit with my 3 yo make it worthwhile? (I know you can't answer this one, but it's also on my mind as I try to puzzle out what's best for the family)

 

There's a ton of information available about Waldorf education out there, so don't be afraid to ask questions and visit schools. All that being said.... it's a personal choice and you must do whatever works for your children and your family. Some families have one child in a Waldorf school and another child in another school.... you just have to do what you feel is best. GOOD LUCK!!!

 


Wendy - treehugger.gif   aspiring Waldorf handwork teachercrochetsmilie.gif, computer geek's wife  geek.gif,

mom to former 2lb preemie (now 9) dust.gif & 3x cat.gif 

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#3 of 10 Old 02-01-2012, 06:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you so much.  That was really helpful.  Thanks for taking the time to address all of my questions!!

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#4 of 10 Old 02-02-2012, 02:12 PM
 
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I have seen class sizes up to 30 children with one teacher, and there will always be kids who require extra patience from their peers and more attention from teachers, especially in the early years.  I wouldn't choose Waldorf hoping it will solve those two problems you have with his public school.

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#5 of 10 Old 02-02-2012, 02:58 PM
 
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Former WS student here. I don't think Waldorf sounds like a good fit for your 5yo. I was a reader when I came into WS in 2nd grade and my teacher never even mentioned it as I recited the alphabet forwards and backwards with the class and took turns reading my 3 sentences of "Hay for My Ox" when my turn came around - bored silly. At recess I was reading On the Banks of Plum Creek. My teacher did not discourage me from reading on my own, but she never spoke of it, never suggested books for me, never offered me anything extra. Fortunately for her, I was a compliant child and sat through the alphabet and the ox book quietly. But it wasn't like the public school I came from, where my 1st grade teacher had quickly recognized my reading skills and sent me into the 2nd grade during their reading time. (Which, since I was a total dunce at math, was a great confidence booster.)
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#6 of 10 Old 02-06-2012, 08:15 AM
 
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I would ask whether the specific Waldorf school you are considering offers educational support, and if so, what does that look like? Because in our school (which is still developing, i.e., it does not yet have all the grades it will have, having only opened 3 years ago), the program is being developed to assist the kids that are ahead (to continue to engage them) as well as to meet the needs of those need additional assistance to get up to and maintain speed.


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#7 of 10 Old 02-07-2012, 09:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all of your answers.  Zinemama, can you tell me more about your experiences.  Did you continue to stay in the Waldorf school system?  Did you find you were more challenged in the higher grades?

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#8 of 10 Old 02-08-2012, 12:05 PM
 
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I stayed until 9th grade. The older grades were more challenging, but frankly, I far preferred the Quaker school I went to after the WS. I felt it had a far more respectful dynamic between student and teacher, and we weren't kept in a bubble the way we were at the WS (for example, the name of MLK was never mentioned at that school, in all my years. Nothing current was. It was all ancient cultures, medieval and renaissance art, and a tiny bit of American history in 8th grade.

The thing is, you really do need to check out the individual school. They can be quite different.
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#9 of 10 Old 04-15-2012, 10:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I thought I would update my situation.   After talking to some Waldorf families and visiting the school a few more times, we have decided to go for it.  We will start K and 1st grade in the fall.  I'm really excited.  I think it will be a good fit.  Though every once in a while it will hear something negative about Waldorf schools and it will send me into a tailspin of doubt.   LOL.  But we are committed to at least giving it a try for 1 year.  I'll probably be looking on this forum more and more as we settle into the school and lifestyle.   

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#10 of 10 Old 04-16-2012, 11:04 AM
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by SarahSmith View Post

I thought I would update my situation.   After talking to some Waldorf families and visiting the school a few more times, we have decided to go for it.  We will start K and 1st grade in the fall.  I'm really excited.  I think it will be a good fit.  Though every once in a while it will hear something negative about Waldorf schools and it will send me into a tailspin of doubt.   LOL.  But we are committed to at least giving it a try for 1 year.  I'll probably be looking on this forum more and more as we settle into the school and lifestyle.   


I know it feels great to have a decision made. It will really depend on the particular school and teachers whether or not the "negative" things hit home. So far, we're loving our Waldorf school, and I hope it works out for you too!

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Wendy - treehugger.gif   aspiring Waldorf handwork teachercrochetsmilie.gif, computer geek's wife  geek.gif,

mom to former 2lb preemie (now 9) dust.gif & 3x cat.gif 

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