Hey guys :)
This is the School we live next to and the one we visited a few times by now...and the one, our children are supposed to go to in a few years.
Now I know, there is a huge difference in how good or bad specific Waldorf schools are and even though we have a great impression so far, we'd LOVE to hear from people with actual experience there. If anyone knows anything, has children on this school, friends with children on this school, has heard or read anything about this school - be it good or bad!!! - please share!
We do not want to send our kids to one of those 'bad' Waldorf schools, were bullying is allowed and being explained with kids working through their karma, where one is stigmatized if not fully agreeing with absolutely anything Waldorf, where parents are not included in decision making and so on and so forth.
We have heard many horror stories about Waldorf and just as many about great experiences. It seems to GREATLY vary with the individual school...so any and all help is very welcome, thank you :)
I am a mother of one 8th grade graduate and one child in the current elementary lower grades.Both children have thrived both academically and socially at the school. We came to the school after moving here from another state in 2006.The parent body is extremely active and enthusiastic.
I have never heard a teacher or administrator say that bullying is a child's karma, and there is a well thought out and implemented social inclusion policy at the school. In our home life, tolerance and kindness for everyone is taught, and the school environment really supports that.Of course nothing is perfect, and children will always have conflict in school- this school is not the exception, but the faculty works actively and constantly with the children and really uses these situations as real learning opportunities. I feel like my children will be able to go anywhere in the world and relate to anyone, and they will leave with the tools to get along in times of conflict.
In addition to that they are a Maryland Green School and so they have a great program for outdoor and sustainability education and the full compliment of trips each year, beginning in 3rd grade with the farm trip, which my son loved.
About being Waldorf enough. I have never felt judged for the lifestyle choices my family makes, and within the school I think there is a very wide range of families from those who strive to follow the developmental recommendations of Waldorf education to the letter, and those who don't necessarily, but like the educational environment for their child.Of course the faculty is constantly striving to bring educational opportunities to the parents who are interested in it, and part of that is recommending what is appropriate for our children at their age. I myself have been relieved to be part of a school community that supports my choices for children, to slow down and allow time for them to be childfen in a world that has often forgotten what childhood is about. Hope this helps.
Now, that was a very encouraging post :) Very informative, thanks a lot! Nice to know, that someone has made good experiences and trusts the school enough, to enroll a second child. I am happy to hear, you have a graduate already, that sure helps me trust the academical program and be calm about future education 'after Waldorf' :)
I feel very lucky to have reached you through this forum and very blessed, that the first reply was a positive one ;) A needed boost of confidence in the school, after having read so much negative comments on other schools throughout the country!
choosing a school is hard for a conscious parent! You didn't really ask about Waldorf Education as such, so I presume you already find its child development-centricity, arts-integration, nature- and seasonal focus, and its super-creative way to bring strong academics alive in a meaningful way, attractive.
So to the actual school in question. Both my boys go to the Waldorf School of Baltimore. This is our sixth year there and I can't imagine them anywhere else. Nothing else compares. I like what the parent above said about no school being completely conflict-free, and how the magic lies in the way conflict is managed.
I find the parent body truly diverse. We happen to be the only tv-free family in our class. The Parent Handbook asks that each family consider its media policy in the light that screen-time has been shown to be either detrimental or simply not fulfilling in the way other activities can be, but there's no set of rules to follow at home and no judgement of differing practices. Some families live in an anthroposophical manner, other families can't even pronounce that. We have artists, musicians, health-care providers (Western and Eastern), finance professionals, lawyers, business executives, teachers at other schools, professors at most local universities, chefs, farmers, antique dealers, tattoo artists, car mechanics, police officers, Karate experts, and many many more professions amongst the parents, so there is no clear majority or minority. Financial aid helps almost half the school's families, so there's economic variety too. I can't imagine you would feel anything but at home here.
I encourage you to visit us more! You can sit in on main lessons, attend some of the festivals or assemblies. There is a Craft & Conversations morning every Tuesday that is open to everyone, some parents hang out for coffee in the Children's Garden after drop-off, there are lots of ways for you to meet other families and help you decide whether you can see your children thriving here. Right now there are panels of Alumni stories up in the hallways and lobby - maybe you'll find these calm your mind about the future after Waldorf? You can find nightmare stories about any school if you look hard enough, but they don't help get to the truth. Being an engaged and observant parent will serve your children well when you're ready to take that leap of faith and enroll them in school.
I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your search for the school that's right for your family, Lena.
Hey Jo :)
Thanks for your encouragement as well :) Great to see other Baltimoranians around :D We have actually been to the lantern walk and the Open House already and are planning on checking in from time to time to get to know the faculty and school ahead of time ;) We do plan our baby to be born at the beginning of next year, so until it would actually attend the school, it would still be a few years ;) I am just VERY conscious about big choices like this and like to plan ahead...so that there is time to enjoy the important things in life, when it comes to them. I don't want to fuzz about school the day before our child is supposed to enroll - I like to decide beforehand and then just enjoy the journey!
I feel encouraged, that my positive impression of this school seems to be right so far :) And I look forward to getting to know more about it as well! We have many questions and maybe you two, or others that know, want to share a little more? My husband was for example wondering, if the school has sports clubs or athletic teams like soccer or football etc. And If they have an orchestra - he was part of his schools orchestra and cherishes that group of people to this very day ;) We found the school to be rather small, is that correct? Which might limit offers like orchestra, sports etc. Not a point that would drive us away...just more detailed information in getting to know the school. Do they do regular field trips and do the classes go for trips over a weekend or the like? Do they engage the kids in social activities like volunteering etc.?
And yes, you are correct - if or if not Waldorf is not the question. I am familiar with the philosophy and way of education :) We know it's the right choice. It's just the choice of individual school, that has to be made now ;) We love the neighborhood here and the place we live at, right across the street from the school and it would just be SO perfect ;)
Anyway...thank you for your words and time :)
I'm smiling reading your questions, because the answers are yes, yes and yes! Our school is small (130 students maybe?), but the curriculum is complete. All students learn the flute in 1st grade, play various percussion instruments in music, and sing in class, and with the music teacher. They learn recorder in 3rd grade (having crocheted a case for it in 2nd grade Handwork). The middle school has a chorus in which every student participates, and an orchestra is formed in 4th grade when all students learn a string instrument and they play right through 8th grade. From 1st grade each class does a play each year with every kid in it. In 1st grade they all speak all the lines, they start to split parts in 3rd grade, till 8th grade, when they're doing fully-staged, grown-up plays. Still every kid is in it. We have a dedicated, specially built Eurythmy room and a full-time teacher. I would also add the the size of the school means all the teachers seem to know all the pupils. No-one gets to hide, get lost, or be anything but themselves.
The middle school has a soccer team and a basketball team - sometime coed sometimes not depending on how many students they are, but all are welcome and all get to play. The boys basketball team plays in a local league and also recently won the Waldorf Green Meadow tournament in NY, where several East-Coast Waldorf schools meet up for a weekend to play boys and girls basketball against one another. Various other after-school activities pop up from time to time and there is an excellent aftercare program for working parents who need that.
The first real field trip is in 3rd grade when the class goes with their teacher for a week to Hawthorne Valley Farm in NY. Ask the mama above for stories on that one! After that there are often camping trips and local historical or nature expeditions, but my eldest is in 2nd, so I'm hazy on details here.
Our school has a Sustainability and Community Coordinator who is busy building more volunteerism and sustainable practices into the fabric of the school. He has a blog you could follow to learn more about that called Green Dragon Bytes. You could also like the FB page, if you're on that, and a new website is in the works with much greater detail on the whole school. The school believes deeply in its students learning to be conscious caretakers of themselves, each other and the planet, and I see ample evidence of that.
There are 5 Waldorf families I know of living in ColdSpring Newtown (I think you even get a discount!). I'm envious of your geography. Not that we live far, but walking to school is right on so many levels.
Btw - Parent/Child classes begin for infants at 9 months of age, so we might be seeing you sooner than you think!
Here are some additional thoughts for your consideration. Overall, I definitely recommend the school.
- Good diversity in terms of parents' professions, interests, etc. with a common thread of beliefs around the Waldorf way of living and learning. (I'm not sure I agree it's quite as diverse as some of the other posters have indicated. On the whole, even with the range of parent professions, the school is made up of families who more or less share the same values around learning and lifestyle. Otherwise, they wouldn't be at Waldorf, right? - To me, this is a positive because I can walk into the school knowing I'm surrounded by people who, more or less, share my same values. That is a hurdle that can be otherwise very high and wide.)
- Lots of ways for families (especially stay-at-home parents who have abundant free time) to get involved with the school... fun, family-oriented, nature-centric festivals, events, etc. There is something very special about some of these events and you can actually feel the high-vibration of so many passionate souls coming together. (For example, there is a 'fairy grotto' at the winter garden / festival that is truly magical!)
- Clear commitment on the part of the staff with quite a few 'sages' who have been with Waldorf for decades and are seasoned teachers.
- Tight knit community of parents who are deeply involved in each others' lives outside of the school day. Lots of carpooling, watching each others' kids, weekend socializing, etc.
- Beautiful, calming school building design; nice outdoor play areas with lots of outdoor play.
- Strong aftercare program run by school staff (not outsourced company).
- Small class size with a lot of differentiated instruction / individual attention.
- Many teachers prefer email communications over face-to-face interactions about individual students, which for me is a positive because it's an issue of time and convenience. (For others, may not be a positive.)
- Green school w/composting, recycling, etc. New staff member dedicated to running the sustainability program who has done a great job so far on family engagement, improvements/opportunities, etc.
- The communications from the school to families are fairly uncoordinated (unsophisticated system / process for disseminating emails to the recipients who actually need to see information such as sending information to parents of upper school about stuff going on in lower school -- then the need to send corrective emails (hence confusion!); high volume of emails not sent in coordinated fashion from various senders; email communications that are not professionally 'produced'). This is not that big of a deal in and of itself but I think there's a domino effect leading to bigger issues such as the next bullet.
- Difficult for working parents to get as involved as the school appears to prefer. Low attendance at some events geared toward families/parents (perhaps due to overwhelming number of email communications and events to choose from?) Would be great if the school could better help parents prioritize which events are more important to attend. (Speaks to the same issue as above around processes for communicating with families.)
- Not as much ethnic diversity amongst student body / families as I would like to see. I will admit this is a big one for me. I am not sure what the school can do to address this.
- The downside of the "tight knit community" part is that it can be difficult for new families to become fully integrated beyond a superficial level, unless parents have time to be fully engaged with every event (only possible if you don't have a job). Another part of this is a seemingly unspoken set of 'rules' about how parents interact with each other and with the school which can come across as a little clique-ish (and a little gossipy, which is probably par for the course with any tight knit community). There are, of course, teachers and program leader, then amongst the parents, there are class liaisons, liaisons for whole programs, association leads (I am probably using the wrong terminology here but the point is that there are a lot of different people playing a lot of different roles and it's not clear what the process is for communicating with whom about what, and I've been 'redirected' once or twice about the who/how of communication .... which is a symptom of lack of clarity on the school's part). As a new family, expect a little bit of a rough entry but be pleasantly surprised if it's not!
- Limited number of musical instruments offered due to school size; if your kid has a particular instrument other than those offered by the school, you'll have to do outside lessons. Same goes with sports ... if your kid is some sort of a sports whiz, you might want to consider a school with a better program.
I reiterate that the positives far outweigh the negatives ... and some of the negatives are just typical growing pains of a small but growing school.
On the bullying comment... The school responded very well to an issue my child was having with another child who was exhibiting some behavior issues (including bullying). They took it very seriously.
I hope this helps!