Concerned about the lack of discipline in Waldorf kindergarten - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 10-28-2012, 10:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Five year old DS has been going to a Waldorf kindy for the past 10 months. I changed him to Waldorf from a very strict acedemically oriented Montessori because he was being forced to write there plus given homework (at age 4!) when he simply wasn't interested in those things.

 

He settled in well to Waldorf, but often remarked that he missed some of the more focussed activities at his old preschool. About 6 months ago, a couple of older boys about 6 years old joined the school, and these boys seem quite "awakened" as compared to the rest of the children - they are both younger siblings so they've been exposed to a lot more of the world/tv/adult concepts than most children their age. They both seem hugely influenced by tv shows and love "fighting"mimicking karate moves and so on. They're also pretty rowdy in their behaviour and use rude language.

 

DS considers them his heroes beause of their superior physical abilities and loves to hang out with them and try to fit in with them - and in the process has become more rowdy/rude/violent himself. The older boys prefer not to play in the classroom during "freeplay" - they run down to the sand pit to play where they are pretty much left to their own devices. As DS is younger he often gets bullied by them to conform to their orders in play, sometimes gets hit, and is reduced to tears. I saw this once when I was picking him up and tried to intervene, but DS would have none of it. He pushed me away and wanted to continue to play with them. He adores them and misses them during holidays.

 

I'm concerned they are not a very good influence on DS, and also concerned that there is not enough adult supervision during free play to prevent the more nastier forms of bullying and the "fighting" that can get serious at times. I've taken an appointment with the director to discuss these issues.

 

As much as the earlier Montessori preschool was too rigid and disciplined, this Waldorf kindergarten he goes to now seems to be at the other end of the spectrum - too loose and undisciplined and free-for-all. I do think kids, especially boys above the age of 5, need some firm limits on their behaviour, and some constructive channeling of their energies. That seems to be lacking in the Waldorf kindergarten.

 

Am I overreacting? Is this how a Waldorf kindergarten is supposed to be?

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#2 of 11 Old 10-29-2012, 08:06 AM
 
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"The older boys prefer not to play in the classroom during "freeplay" - they run down to the sand pit to play where they are pretty much left to their own devices." 

 

This is the bit that would be concerning to me and I think its good that you set up a meeting with the principle. (I would hope that the teacher is involved too, no?) Why are these boys allowed to choose where they want to play if all of the options are not set up for adequate supervision? Free play serves its purpose for the children so long as there is an adult nearby to gently redirect negative behavior and enforce consequences, if need be. If I were you, I would advocate for stricter limits on where the kids can play so that all play spaces are equally monitored. If the teachers can't cover the classroom and the sandpit at the same time then the sandpit should only be for when the entire class goes outside. Boys will engage in "rough" play and will test out dominating behavior. IMO, its good (and developmentally appropriate) for them to do that but this needs to happen under the sharp eye of a teacher who can help instill boundaries the kids have yet to develop in themselves. These lessons are what you are "paying for" in a play-based kindergarten. 

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#3 of 11 Old 10-29-2012, 09:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks Jacquelin, those are the aspects of the school I will be addressing with the director. Thanks for the clarity.

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#4 of 11 Old 10-30-2012, 07:15 AM
 
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As a Montessori school owner, I do want to point out that you were not attending an authentic Montessori school, and it is unfortunate that this school would give a bad name to Montessori. One of the Montessori tenets is no homework. Ever. Not in Kindergarten, not as a senior in high school. Never ever. That's not to say that students aren't encouraged to pursue their passions beyond the school hours, but never assigned. A Montessori primary class (which goes through Kindergarten) should not have assigned work even during classtime. This sounds as if you were victim of a wolf in sheep's clothing, and I hope that you do not judge Montessori theory based on this experience.

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#5 of 11 Old 10-30-2012, 10:20 AM
 
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My son was enrolled in a Waldorf mixed age kindergarten and we had a very similar experience.  The kids in his class were ages 4-7 and ds was 4 when he attended.

 

The entire day (8-3pm) was free play.  Free play outside, snack, free play inside, lunch, free play outside, nap, free play outside some more, go home.  My son was bored out of his mind!  There was not much supervision and a lot of bullying occurred.  Big kids vs. little kids primarily.  When a conflict would arise, the one and only solution the teacher would present was to have a "community meeting".  A community meeting consisted of two or more kids sitting together and talking about their conflict so they could come up with a mutual solution.  The teacher did not assist at all with these meetings.  In my experience, four year olds don't have the maturity or the language skills for something like this, so needless to say, this did not work at all for the younger kids.

 

We talked to the teacher and the principal about this, and was pretty much blown off, so we pulled our son out of the school. 

 

Anyway, I just wanted to chime in and say that I think this is a common experience in Waldorf schools.  The more I look, the more families I find to have the same story.


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#6 of 11 Old 10-30-2012, 10:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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tammy, thanks for pointing that out, and yes, I realized after a while that that preschool was definitely not following authentic Montessori principles, which was the main reason I pulled him out. It's unfortunate that so many places have the Montessori name but not the spirit.

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#7 of 11 Old 10-30-2012, 11:40 AM
 
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Hello,

 

My son is 6 and is in a mixed age waldorf kingergarten. Luckily we have a really sweet group of children but I have seen this with other families we know- when a child has much older siblings it can "awaken" them early. My son is very sensitive and shy, and this would be hard for us.

The reason I am responding to your thread is to let you know that this is not how a Waldorf classroom should be, and it needs to be addressed immediately with the teacher and principal. I wanted to share something that we went through recently. My son gets picked up at noon, and he is the only older child that goes 1/2 days. Recently, when it was time for us to pick him up, 2 of his best friends (1 a boy, 1 a girl) told him they "were happy it was time for him to go". These other children are both 6 also, and are really close with my son, It was just them trying on a mean/teasing/ganging up on someone for "being different" kind of behavior. The teacher did not witness it firsthand. Our son was upset and hurt by it. I emailed the teacher right away to ask for advice on what we should say him when things like this happen. Well, immediately upon seeing the email (same day that it happened) she spoke to both of the children (not in a group, just the two of them), called both of their parents, and required that both of the children call my son that evening to apologize, which they did. They were all back to being best friends the next morning. Anyhow, I just wanted to share this so you could understand how things should be run in a Waldorf classroom. Our teacher has a rule that EVERYONE must be respectful ALL the time, and she stays true to her word. A scene like you're describing would never be tolerated in her classroom.

 

Good luck!


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#8 of 11 Old 11-21-2012, 12:01 AM
 
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My son was enrolled in a Waldorf mixed age kindergarten and we had a very similar experience.  The kids in his class were ages 4-7 and ds was 4 when he attended.

 

The entire day (8-3pm) was free play.  Free play outside, snack, free play inside, lunch, free play outside, nap, free play outside some more, go home.  My son was bored out of his mind!  There was not much supervision and a lot of bullying occurred.  Big kids vs. little kids primarily.  When a conflict would arise, the one and only solution the teacher would present was to have a "community meeting".  A community meeting consisted of two or more kids sitting together and talking about their conflict so they could come up with a mutual solution.  The teacher did not assist at all with these meetings.  In my experience, four year olds don't have the maturity or the language skills for something like this, so needless to say, this did not work at all for the younger kids.

 

We talked to the teacher and the principal about this, and was pretty much blown off, so we pulled our son out of the school. 

 

Anyway, I just wanted to chime in and say that I think this is a common experience in Waldorf schools.  The more I look, the more families I find to have the same story.

That sounds awful, and not at all like any Waldorf school I have had experience with!

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#9 of 11 Old 11-26-2012, 10:53 AM
 
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That sounds awful, and not at all like any Waldorf school I have had experience with!

 

I agree. Oliver's mom---was this an accredited Waldorf school or something that billed itself as "Waldorf-inspired?" I have never heard of the "community meeting" thing in a Waldorf kindergarten before. Sounds like something imported from the teacher's other educational experiences...a little to "heady" for a Waldorf kindy. Also, was there really nothing else but free play? Waldorf kindergartens are usually structured in a particular way so that free play makes part of the rhythm of the day. If there is only free play then there is no rhythm because there is no contrast with other activities. 

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#10 of 11 Old 11-27-2012, 12:07 PM
 
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Yes, this was an accredited Waldorf school.  I paid the $400 affiliation fee to prove it :)  The kindergarten teacher had 17 years prior experience teaching in public schools and 5 years in waldorf.  She was fully trained and accredited in waldorf education. 

 

The teacher would do a 20 minute circle time with a song/puppet show/hand play etc, but it was entirely up to the child to participate, so I guess it wasn't technically free play all day, but most of the children would just continue playing.  The teacher would also have voluntary arts and crafts projects.  My son didn't complete a single craft.

 

There was a definite lord of the flies vibe at the school.  I would just recommend that parents do extra research to make sure their school actually practices play based education, not a free for all like mine did.
 


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#11 of 11 Old 11-29-2012, 08:17 AM
 
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Oliver's mom - Thanks for answering my question. Its no wonder your son didn't like this classroom and I am not sure how this particular program is flying under the radar not using the structure that is in other Waldorf kindergartens. Usually circle time starts with about 20 minutes but gets longer throughout the year as the kids are able to focus for longer. I have no idea why she let circle time be optional and only for the kids who could or would join it. I mean...that is the point...settling yourself down to join in a group activity. Doing this gets you ready for grade school. And there was no separate storytime either? Waldorf kindergartens have a definite structure/rhythm followed throughout the day and it is only supposed to be optional in the sense that you don't bring a kid kicking and screaming to do watercolors. If a kid can't be gently brought to the group activity then they could play by themselves but usually the dynamic is that the kids will gradually move from activity to activity along with the class. Again, doing this gets kids ready for the structure of grade school and the pedagogical expectation that one must at least try things they don't think they like. These dispositions toward learning and being with others are what they are supposed to be developing over time.

 

I am sure you're past this but you could always bring these issues to the attention of your former school and AWSNA. Its one thing if you don't like what's being offered and quite another if what's being offered differs so much from what they're supposed to be doing and that is why you don't like it. I had no idea that there are schools out there where teachers are implementing things like "community meetings" and optional "arts and crafts" and still expecting the central benefit of the Waldorf kindy (the rhythm) to operate with all its benefits. Teacher innovation and freedom is generally a good thing but they need to be working within the model of this particular kind of schooling. If they want to do something else they should do something else. Sounds to me like you got a public school teacher who just wanted to put the play back into her kindergarten classroom without fully appreciating that a Waldof kindy has specific additional goals. I'm sorry this happened. Our family benefitted so much from having experienced a kindergarten run as it was designed.

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