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#1 of 15 Old 08-16-2005, 01:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wondering if anyone has advice about how well Waldorf education / curriculum might fit a gifted child? Can a gifted child have their needs met in the Waldorf environment?

Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, experience, helpful hints, etc. are most welcome -- thank you kindly!
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#2 of 15 Old 08-17-2005, 02:23 PM
 
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Can a gifted child have their needs met in the Waldorf environment?
Hi,

Generally speaking, schools don’t recognize or acknowledge the reality of gifted children. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that does. The pedagogy and curriculum is specifically designed to teach to the class as a collective whole.

It’s an issue that can frustrate some parents, absolutely (along with the child in the classroom). Most teachers don’t deviate from the standard and typical Steiner view when it comes to this issue and others. Worse I feel is they’ll often go out of their way to try and convince parents their perspectives and methods of working with these things are correct and appropriate – the message being that other ways aren’t. And that’s where one has to be clear. It’s the parents who know what’s best of course, meaning finding a different school for your child is probably what will need to happen, given most Waldorf schools cannot and will not accommodate gifted children.
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#3 of 15 Old 08-17-2005, 04:19 PM
 
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Originally Posted by bean0322
Wondering if anyone has advice about how well Waldorf education / curriculum might fit a gifted child? Can a gifted child have their needs met in the Waldorf environment?

Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, experience, helpful hints, etc. are most welcome -- thank you kindly!
I don't know how one determines the difference between "gifted" and merely "academically advanced", but...

My daughter was one of the more academically advanced in her class (just graduated eighth grade), a class that had several students with special academic needs that the class teacher had to spend time working on. I never felt my daughter's needs weren't being met, or that the material was not sufficiently challenging for her (and in the Catholic high school where she starts in two weeks, she was put into all honors classes).

This is a case where a discussion with the class teacher is essential (I assume you're talking about a grade school student). I would think the teacher should be able to describe how he/she would address the need to challenge your child within the constraints of the curriculum. A school with math/language skills teachers might also help.

Good luck, David
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#4 of 15 Old 08-18-2005, 06:43 PM
 
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My daughter also qualified as, at least, very bright and had no difficulty having her needs met within the waldorf curriculum. I also worked at a waldorf school for three years (as an administrator) and knew a number of children who were exceedingly bright who found the school both challenging and fun. How well it all works depends mainly on the teacher.

To me, the greatest advantage of a waldorf school for the gifted child is the variety in the curriculum. A child who is brilliant at math and reading probably won't be the best knitter or the best painter. Every child has areas where they excel, every child has areas where they are challenged and struggling. A child who is very bright can certainly stretch the limits of a subject covered in class by doing additional reading and research (and few teachers I've ever met would object to this).

When I finally got around to college, in my mid-thirties, I was surrounded by 18-22 year olds. I had one as my roommate. She was extremely bright and had been pushed into studying science starting in 7th or 8th grade. She eventually earned a PhD in chemistry.

What made me rather sad was that her education had left her fairly ignorant in every area except math and science. She knew almost nothing about history, literature, art, music, politics, philosophy...

We can't all know everything about everything, but her level of ignorance did not bode well for her eventual career as a scientist. For example, her education had left out all those interesting arguments about ethical dilemmas that naturally arise from a study of literature (or history, or philosophy). The one thing that saved her from total narrowness was the fact that she was studying Spanish. This study included a few scraps of literature and history.

Sigh, sorry for the rant. I feel sad whenever I remember this girl. Her education had damaged her.

Nana
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#5 of 15 Old 08-18-2005, 06:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I guess "academically advanced" would have been a better term -- sorry! I've always been troubled by "gifted" but didn't know of an alternative word.

My son has attended a Waldorf school for kindergarten and first grade. I've been told by his teachers that he needs to "get out of his head and into his trunk" and that he's a "thinker" (not quite sure what they mean by this). But yes, he IS a thinker and always has been. He taught himself to read at 4 years old and hasn't stopped or slowed down since. He loves to learn and seems to continually teach himself whatever he's interested in. He's already read all the books on the Waldorf 5th grade reading list -- many of them more than a few times and recently told me he was "tired of always being first in his class". I asked him what he meant by that and he said he was tired of waiting for everyone else to finish or catch up with him. He said he always finishes everything way before the rest of the class and has to sit quietly while they complete the lessons. I asked him what he does while he waits and he said "math problems in my head up to 7,200".

One of the reasons we originally picked a Waldorf school is because we liked the idea of educating the whole child and didn't want him in a school that was traditionally or heavily academic at such a young age but now I wonder if his needs are being met where he is. I don't want him bored and frustrated because I think that will kill his love of learning quicker than anything. His teacher says he remains engaged in the class but how long will that last if he isn't being challenged? Waldorf claims to educate the children by their developmental needs or when they are psychologically ready but what of the children with special needs (of any sort)?

I'm thinking he's an independent learner who might do best in a homeschool environment but I'm just not sure...he loves his teacher and classmates and all the social aspects of school yet I'm afraid if we leave him there his spirit will begin to fade or wither.

Thanks for listening and thanks to those who gave input already. Would love to hear from more people with Waldorf experience!
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#6 of 15 Old 08-18-2005, 09:36 PM
 
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I think I should qualify what I said, based on bean0322's latest. My daughter certainly didn't read the fifth grade book list in first grade; in fact she didn't read until second grade.

Seems to me you might want to sit down with the teacher (and, perhaps, other more experienced faculty members) and work out a strategy to meet your son's needs, to address the misgivings he's already expressing.

David
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#7 of 15 Old 08-18-2005, 10:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by bean0322
I guess "academically advanced" would have been a better term -- sorry! I've always been troubled by "gifted" but didn't know of an alternative word.

My son has attended a Waldorf school for kindergarten and first grade. I've been told by his teachers that he needs to "get out of his head and into his trunk" and that he's a "thinker" (not quite sure what they mean by this). But yes, he IS a thinker and always has been. He taught himself to read at 4 years old and hasn't stopped or slowed down since. He loves to learn and seems to continually teach himself whatever he's interested in. He's already read all the books on the Waldorf 5th grade reading list -- many of them more than a few times and recently told me he was "tired of always being first in his class". I asked him what he meant by that and he said he was tired of waiting for everyone else to finish or catch up with him. He said he always finishes everything way before the rest of the class and has to sit quietly while they complete the lessons. I asked him what he does while he waits and he said "math problems in my head up to 7,200".

One of the reasons we originally picked a Waldorf school is because we liked the idea of educating the whole child and didn't want him in a school that was traditionally or heavily academic at such a young age but now I wonder if his needs are being met where he is. I don't want him bored and frustrated because I think that will kill his love of learning quicker than anything. His teacher says he remains engaged in the class but how long will that last if he isn't being challenged? Waldorf claims to educate the children by their developmental needs or when they are psychologically ready but what of the children with special needs (of any sort)?

I'm thinking he's an independent learner who might do best in a homeschool environment but I'm just not sure...he loves his teacher and classmates and all the social aspects of school yet I'm afraid if we leave him there his spirit will begin to fade or wither.

Thanks for listening and thanks to those who gave input already. Would love to hear from more people with Waldorf experience!
I'm sorry to say, what I have to say may sound negative - but my son was exactly the same - absolutely brilliant as a 3 year old with a fantastic vocabulary, math skills, creative and artistic. We were told the same thing - he's too much in his head. We delayed reading until age 6 or 7 - and in literally two weeks he was reading at 4th or 5th grade level. Now he's 17 - a senior in Waldorf. For several years he has been bored out of his mind. He absolutely refuses to do any work - at all. Test scores - 98%, Homework - 0%. He flunks many of his classes on purpose.

Many of the brighter students he grew up with are also bored. Many have turned to drugs - it has been a blessing that my son has shunned this activity so far. I am told some of the bright kids are so bored they sometimes smoke marijuana before class.

Waldorf, in my opinion, is not for gifted or academically advanced children. There is no appreciation, especially in the early years, for children who thrive on academics. People in Waldorf schools instill a feeling that academics are not desirable - and I think children pick up on this. Children who early on have learned to enjoy the wonder and intellectual stimulation of reading, math, science, history - are not content to draw watercolor blobs. They feel they are being dumbed down - and they are. There is no spiritual excuse for robbing children of these exciting activities - especially when the children desire them. There's nothing wrong with a child who chooses to be in their head. That's where education is supposed to end up anyway.

I say all this knowing full well many people will come down on me for saying it - and say that I'm generalizing, or dishonest or a bad father for bringing my kid's experiences up here, or that I simply don't understand Waldorf education well enough to get the importance of the incarnation of the child But I can assure you, I know what I am talking about here. Waldorf is not for everyone and children who have a lively interest in academics at a young age, in my experience, don't do well in Waldorf. My opinion, of course...

Pete
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#8 of 15 Old 08-19-2005, 08:43 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Pete
Waldorf, in my opinion, is not for gifted or academically advanced children. There is no appreciation, especially in the early years, for children who thrive on academics. People in Waldorf schools instill a feeling that academics are not desirable - and I think children pick up on this. Children who early on have learned to enjoy the wonder and intellectual stimulation of reading, math, science, history - are not content to draw watercolor blobs. They feel they are being dumbed down - and they are. There is no spiritual excuse for robbing children of these exciting activities - especially when the children desire them. There's nothing wrong with a child who chooses to be in their head. That's where education is supposed to end up anyway.
I agree. Teachers are simply unprepared training-wise to accommodate the gifted or academically advanced child. That’s neither the focus nor the direction of Steiner child-development or Waldorf teacher training – quite the contrary, actually. And while it’s always wise to sit down with a teacher and discuss how and if one’s academically advanced child will be accommodated, the simple truth is most teachers – even if they insist they’re up to the challenge – will be handicapped by the philosophy (anthroposophy and anthroposophical child development as the real problem here, actually). Others will try to convince parents the anthroposophical-Waldorf way is ultimately best for the child, and still others will happily speak of addressing the child’s particular needs, and will simply discard any pretense of doing so once the child is in the classroom.

Pete’s comment regarding Waldorf belief in academics as undesirable, is accurate. What I’d add though is that ‘dumbed-down’ (less-academic) curriculum content – painting exercises for example – can be of benefit to all children. With the ‘awake’ child though (with most if not all children in fact) it is important to continually move the curriculum forward in inspired, innovative ways. But faced with the reality of working with the Steiner method (holding children back) in a Steiner school (specifically adhering to anthroposophy and Steiner child-development philosophy), very few teachers will have the enthusiasm, ability, knowledge, let alone collegial support to carry all that out.
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#9 of 15 Old 08-19-2005, 11:52 AM
 
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And while it’s always wise to sit down with a teacher and discuss how and if one’s academically advanced child will be accommodated, the simple truth is most teachers – even if they insist they’re up to the challenge – will be handicapped by the philosophy (anthroposophy and anthroposophical child development as the real problem here, actually). Others will try to convince parents the anthroposophical-Waldorf way is ultimately best for the child, and still others will happily speak of addressing the child’s particular needs, and will simply discard any pretense of doing so once the child is in the classroom.
Thanks Alanoe. It's not my intention to turn this into a "negative" thread (can you tell I'm walking on eggshells here?) - but the " Others will try to convince parents the anthroposophical-Waldorf way is ultimately best for the child" statement really stood out here.

There is huge potential for making an uninformed decision here because 1) parents generally tend to defer to the teacher's "wisdom" and when the source of that wisdom isn't disclosed to the parents, there is a potential for problems. 2) Waldorf teachers often speak in terms that resemble terms parents are familiar with but often carry a different meaning to the teachers themeselves (one recent example on a different list was the use of the term "whole language" by a Waldorf teacher who clearly had no idea what the term implied). 3) Being brutally honest here, Waldorf teachers or admissions administrators sometimes just want to fill that space and don't take the child's best interests or the fit of the parents into consideration. I've referenced a great article about this in another thread - it is in the latest "Renewal - A Journal for Waldorf Education" vol 14 no1 - p44. In the article, also, is an example of a soft-sell approach to a parent with a academically advanced child. This approach involves pointing out the facts that he will learn two languages and play musical instruments, etc. And this may very well be what the parents really want for their child. Some parents will buy into the diversion and hope to trade the child's the desire for academics for something different. In my case, unfortunately, the trade-off wasn't enough to satisfy my child's academic thirst.

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#10 of 15 Old 08-19-2005, 09:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the great feedback -- it's exactly what I was hoping for! I'd love to hear from any Waldorf teachers (past or present) that may be on the board who can possibly share their insight into this matter.
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#11 of 15 Old 08-21-2005, 10:25 PM
 
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I'm an aide in a Waldorf class, and I have traditional teacher training (no Waldorf training, and I'm not an Anthroposophist.)

I agree that for the gifted/academically-advanced child who really thrives on learning new "stuff", Waldorf is not the best fit, at least in the early years. Some kids are A Advanced but are fine with the curriculum the way it is and for them it would be fine. But although I would really have enjoyed the painting, handwork, etc. as a child, I would have been bored out of my mind with the academics.

Early intervention specialist and parent consultant since 2002.
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#12 of 15 Old 08-23-2005, 01:51 AM
 
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Originally Posted by bean0322
I guess "academically advanced" would have been a better term -- sorry! I've always been troubled by "gifted" but didn't know of an alternative word.

My son has attended a Waldorf school for kindergarten and first grade. I've been told by his teachers that he needs to "get out of his head and into his trunk" and that he's a "thinker" (not quite sure what they mean by this). But yes, he IS a thinker and always has been. He taught himself to read at 4 years old and hasn't stopped or slowed down since. He loves to learn and seems to continually teach himself whatever he's interested in. He's already read all the books on the Waldorf 5th grade reading list -- many of them more than a few times and recently told me he was "tired of always being first in his class". I asked him what he meant by that and he said he was tired of waiting for everyone else to finish or catch up with him. He said he always finishes everything way before the rest of the class and has to sit quietly while they complete the lessons. I asked him what he does while he waits and he said "math problems in my head up to 7,200".

One of the reasons we originally picked a Waldorf school is because we liked the idea of educating the whole child and didn't want him in a school that was traditionally or heavily academic at such a young age but now I wonder if his needs are being met where he is. I don't want him bored and frustrated because I think that will kill his love of learning quicker than anything. His teacher says he remains engaged in the class but how long will that last if he isn't being challenged? Waldorf claims to educate the children by their developmental needs or when they are psychologically ready but what of the children with special needs (of any sort)?

I'm thinking he's an independent learner who might do best in a homeschool environment but I'm just not sure...he loves his teacher and classmates and all the social aspects of school yet I'm afraid if we leave him there his spirit will begin to fade or wither.

Thanks for listening and thanks to those who gave input already. Would love to hear from more people with Waldorf experience!
I don't know anything about waldorf whatsoever but I am seriously educated on gifted children. You have a gifted child and you NEED to be doing something for him immediately or it is tantamount to academic abuse (by his school, not you). Please, please, please go to the Hoagies website and also the Gifted Development Center website and learn all you can about gifted children. Being in a class that he has to *wait for everyone to catch up* can and does actually cause your darling baby to be super depressed, suicidal, drug addicted, so many horrible things that are so unnecessary if caught early. Please join the Gifted threads on MDC because you belong there! There is a ton of support for your parenting needs and your childs needs too. What you are describing about your son is CLASSIC GIFTEDNESS, no questions asked. He needs to be ACCEPTED FOR WHO HE IS and not be made to feel *wrong* : about his love of learning and natural abilities. If he was a gifted athlete, they wouldn't be insisting he stop running/swimming/whatever. Imagine if you had a son that was severely intellectually retarded, a 50 IQ (normal is 100). No ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND would expect your son to be in a normal class. But why do children with 150 IQ (same point spread from normal IQ) placed in normal classrooms and expected to just deal with it???? It's not NORMAL or FAIR to the gifted child. That's my soapbox. Hope to see you in the gifted threads now.
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#13 of 15 Old 07-06-2013, 10:10 PM
 
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Originally Posted by bean0322

I guess "academically advanced" would have been a better term -- sorry! I've always been troubled by "gifted" but didn't know of an alternative word.


My son has attended a Waldorf school for kindergarten and first grade. I've been told by his teachers that he needs to "get out of his head and into his trunk" and that he's a "thinker" (not quite sure what they mean by this). But yes, he IS a thinker and always has been. He taught himself to read at 4 years old and hasn't stopped or slowed down since. He loves to learn and seems to continually teach himself whatever he's interested in. He's already read all the books on the Waldorf 5th grade reading list -- many of them more than a few times and recently told me he was "tired of always being first in his class". I asked him what he meant by that and he said he was tired of waiting for everyone else to finish or catch up with him. He said he always finishes everything way before the rest of the class and has to sit quietly while they complete the lessons. I asked him what he does while he waits and he said "math problems in my head up to 7,200".


One of the reasons we originally picked a Waldorf school is because we liked the idea of educating the whole child and didn't want him in a school that was traditionally or heavily academic at such a young age but now I wonder if his needs are being met where he is. I don't want him bored and frustrated because I think that will kill his love of learning quicker than anything. His teacher says he remains engaged in the class but how long will that last if he isn't being challenged? Waldorf claims to educate the children by their developmental needs or when they are psychologically ready but what of the children with special needs (of any sort)?


I'm thinking he's an independent learner who might do best in a homeschool environment but I'm just not sure...he loves his teacher and classmates and all the social aspects of school yet I'm afraid if we leave him there his spirit will begin to fade or wither.


Thanks for listening and thanks to those who gave input already. Would love to hear from more people with Waldorf experience!



I'm sorry to say, what I have to say may sound negative - but my son was exactly the same - absolutely brilliant as a 3 year old with a fantastic vocabulary, math skills, creative and artistic. We were told the same thing - he's too much in his head. We delayed reading until age 6 or 7 - and in literally two weeks he was reading at 4th or 5th grade level. Now he's 17 - a senior in Waldorf. For several years he has been bored out of his mind. He absolutely refuses to do any work - at all. Test scores - 98%, Homework - 0%. He flunks many of his classes on purpose.


Many of the brighter students he grew up with are also bored. Many have turned to drugs - it has been a blessing that my son has shunned this activity so far. I am told some of the bright kids are so bored they sometimes smoke marijuana before class.


Waldorf, in my opinion, is not for gifted or academically advanced children. There is no appreciation, especially in the early years, for children who thrive on academics. People in Waldorf schools instill a feeling that academics are not desirable - and I think children pick up on this. Children who early on have learned to enjoy the wonder and intellectual stimulation of reading, math, science, history - are not content to draw watercolor blobs. They feel they are being dumbed down - and they are. There is no spiritual excuse for robbing children of these exciting activities - especially when the children desire them. There's nothing wrong with a child who chooses to be in their head. That's where education is supposed to end up anyway.


I say all this knowing full well many people will come down on me for saying it - and say that I'm generalizing, or dishonest or a bad father for bringing my kid's experiences up here, or that I simply don't understand Waldorf education well enough to get the importance of the incarnation of the child
But I can assure you, I know what I am talking about here. Waldorf is not for everyone and children who have a lively interest in academics at a young age, in my experience, don't do well in Waldorf. My opinion, of course...


Pete

Our experience w our dc looked like exactly the same trajectory your son took when we extrapolated her concerns in kinder. You bring up critical and germane issues w Waldorf education. For spiritual growth A+, intellectual development....not so much. In the end, we reminded ourselves that we were not sending our children to school for their spiritual development. We are happy to be out, and breathing easy now that we can openly celebrate intellectualism and intellectual pursuits. It is a sin to let a good brain go soft smile.gif
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#14 of 15 Old 07-06-2013, 11:18 PM
 
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I had this exact question! My 5 year old is very intelligent. She's been reading since she was 3, loves math, strong vocabulary, etc. Waldorf is so appealing, but I don't think it's the best fit for -her-

Wife to DH dh_malesling.GIF(12.10.2009), Anchorage based doula joy.gif, Proud mama to Autumnblahblah.gif (09.03.2008), Sylas bouncy.gif(04.25.2010), angel1.gif(06.11.2012), Callioperainbow1284.gif(04.23.2013)

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#15 of 15 Old 07-07-2013, 05:17 AM
 
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This is a VERY old thread. Most of its participants are no longer around Mothering. wink1.gif
 


 
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