Jewish and starting Waldorf - Mothering Forums
Waldorf > Jewish and starting Waldorf
Monaclaire's Avatar Monaclaire 01:36 AM 10-22-2012
My 1st and 3rd graders will be starting Waldorf in the next week or two. I worry about them speaking out about not believing in Jesus come Christams time and Easter. Are these festivals taught in as faith based celebrabtions? There are so many issue I am worried about , but just want to touch on one for this thread.

SusannahR's Avatar SusannahR 08:40 PM 10-22-2012

There is a great blog by a Jewish Waldorf homeschooler, called Flowing with my Ducklings.  She incorporates their Jewish faith into the Waldorf curriculum in many ways.  You should check out her blog.  As far as at school goes, I can't speak from personal experience, but considering there are so many people with different beliefs that attend Waldorf schools, that I wouldn't think that this would be a problem.  However, talking to their teachers certainly wouldn't hurt. 


DariusMom's Avatar DariusMom 01:35 AM 10-23-2012

We're Jewish and my DS started Waldorf midway through 2nd grade. 3rd grade was actually great because the whole first have of the year was centered on Hebrew scriptures and I was invited in throughout the year to talk about Jewish celebrations. The class also visited the local synagogue.

 

Of course, a lot can depend on the class, teacher, and school, as is the case in all schools but, I think, is especially true for Waldorf schools. However, in our experience, the Waldorf focus on myth, storytelling, and seasonality lessens any explicit Christian belief system coming through, if that makes sense? For instance, my DS is now in 4th grade and they are doing Norse myths. These tie into St. Michael's and the other celebrations of Christian origin that are celebrated throughout the year because it becomes, in DS' class, at least, an eternal struggle of light against dark, good vs. evil, journeys and seasons.

 

Keep in mind that we are reform Jews, not Conservative or Orthodox, so we probably have a more relaxed take on it than other Jewish families might.
 


Melaniee's Avatar Melaniee 12:05 AM 10-26-2012

In my experience, those who are not Christian, will think the festivals are overly-Christian. Those who are more conservatively-Christian, will think the blessings and some festivals are Pagan.  So along those lines, I figure they're doing okay with walking between. ;) Like a PPer said, third grade focuses a lot on the "Old Testament," which should offer many opportunities to share your faith with the class, if you so choose. Also all teachers that my children have had have welcomed other faiths into the classroom as seasonally-appropriate. For example, even before third grade when my son was in a class with parents willing to share they always celebrated one day of Hanukkah with a story of the history, Menorah, dreidels, etc. Many schools have a Shepherd's Play in December which is essentially the story of Christmas. Some teachers will use other names for "Baby Jesus" like "Little Child" in songs, some may not (though now that I think about it, I don't think any my children have been in have used the name "Jesus" in holiday songs).  Some use the word "God" in blessings, some do not.  I do not recall my children ever  having been in a class, so far, where Christianity was taught (as in your concern about your children speaking up they believe otherwise), but some of the stories and festivals stem from it.

 

If this a topic which is very crucial to your happiness at the school, I would encourage asking those whom you are speaking with at the prospective school how things are celebrated there, and then ask the specific teachers your children would have.

 

Have you read this: Is Waldorf Christian?  This website is the official site of AWSNA which is the Association of Waldorf Schools of America.


Jacquelin's Avatar Jacquelin 09:41 AM 10-26-2012

"I worry about them speaking out about not believing in Jesus come Christams time and Easter. Are these festivals taught in as faith based celebrabtions?"

 

There are so many things to worry about when raising kids so, truly, I would cross this one off my list! I can't see how your kids "speaking out about not believing in Jesus" would be a problem whatsoever. Easter has no presence in the schools except for maybe a day off. What you do with the day off is your own business; there are no associated school activities. Depending on your school, Christmas will be acknowledged with a winter "fair" which is basically a fundraiser for the school. There will probably be traditional Christmas greenery to celebrate the winter season just like the school probably has corn and pumpkins displayed now. By no means are there any nativity sets, blow-up Santas and stuff like that!! Some schools present the Shepard's Play which is, as melaniee mentioned, a nativity play. I guess you can approach this in one of two ways. First, simply don't attend if this is not something your want your family to participate in. On the other hand, you could view this as an opportunity to discuss other religions with your children. Talk this issue over with other jewish families at the school. They would be the ones most able to help you negotiate what is done and how this fits with the judaism practiced in your home. I agree that reform families will have an easier time of working this all out. In general, Waldorf families tend to stand on the more liberal or "reform" end of their respective denominations. But many simply have no specific faith or are atheist. Thats not to say that various conservative denominations aren't represented, or couldn't feel comfortable. I suspect such families are more attracted to evangelical schools, catholic schools, faith-based homeschooling, jewish day schools/yeshivas, etc., because they want their children directly learning about and practicing the family's faith.  

 

The winter spiral is also something that is unique to Waldorf schools. Basically, its a ceremony where the kids walk through a spiral of greenery with a lit candle, place it in the spiral and walk out. The timing of this ceremony coincides with advent but there is no religious "content" in the ceremony. In fact, hardly any words are spoken at all. There's just music. The idea is that as the world gets dark during winter, this is a time for us to turn inward and be introspective. I find that the kids embrace this opportunity for solemnity and love being trusted with candles!!! But the fact that this aligns with advent might make participating unacceptable for you. If so, just don't do it. A few other things to note: a Santa Lucia Day celebration might happen at the school as well as a Hannukah celebration. The Hannukah celebration is often led by the third graders who may also celebrate other Jewish holidays/festivals during the year. 

 

I'd be happy to write more but in the end your best bet is to find another family like yours at the school and ask their opinion. Each school is different and the way you practice religion is unique to you. 


Hope-Faith-Charity's Avatar Hope-Faith-Charity 09:21 AM 10-27-2012

It varies from school to school...our school went through a period of mixing festivals from various traditions. Now we've just transitioned away from this and are avoiding referring to any festivals by names that identify them with any particular tradition. So there is no longer Michaelmas in September, a Festival of Light in late December, etc. We are trying to identify what is special about each time of year, and how to bring these qualities out without tying them to a particular religious belief structure.

 

Other Waldorf schools are ahead of us on this one, I know, and there are probably also ones that are still more connected to the Christian festivals. Ask teachers, but also other parents at your school to see what it's like there...and also, if the answers are uncomfortable, ask how willing they are to become more open and ecumenical. It might make it easier if they know that other schools are doing this as well...or they might already have figured this one out!
 


Melaniee's Avatar Melaniee 11:19 AM 10-28-2012

Oh, and I forgot the Advent wreath.  Those usually play a big part, but having grown up Christian I can say the way they use or talk about them in school looks nothing like the way it was done at church.   I can tell you without a doubt my conservative Christian parents would declare it Pagan if they had to watch. ;)  (note - we are not Pagan, so I don't even know if it would truly look like that to someone who is)


Jacquelin's Avatar Jacquelin 03:16 PM 10-28-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hope-Faith-Charity View Post

Now we've just transitioned away from this and are avoiding referring to any festivals by names that identify them with any particular tradition. So there is no longer Michaelmas in September, a Festival of Light in late December, etc. We are trying to identify what is special about each time of year, and how to bring these qualities out without tying them to a particular religious belief structure.

 

This is awesome. What do you call the festivals then? I'd love to hear more if you are willing to share. We're at an older school and I guess its harder to change long standing traditions. It still works overall but I think it would be better if we proceeded along the lines of what I think you are describing.


elefante's Avatar elefante 05:21 PM 11-23-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Melaniee View Post

 

Have you read this: Is Waldorf Christian?  This website is the official site of AWSNA which is the Association of Waldorf Schools of America.

Thank you for that link!

 

A lot of our beliefs are in line with Waldorf, but I did have questions about the Christian influence, as we are not Christian. 


Tags: Waldorf
Up