Looking for your waldorf experiences (for questioners) - Page 2 - Mothering Forums

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Old 05-01-2007, 07:33 PM
 
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I had the same concerns last year before enrolling my son in Waldorf preschool. After lots of research and talking with the school/teachers, I decided to give it a try.

I don't know if our school is just different, but I just have not seen one bit of the creepy Anthro stuff at all. All of the families are very involved, have similar AP philosophy to mine, and most everyone I meet (teachers included) are there, and have their children there because they want a beautiful, gentle education ... after one year of looking very close, I just have not seen it at all.

That said, I don't think we are going to continue beyond preschool. It has nothing to do with anything creepy, but I will be honest here. I don't feel the education is up to par with what my son needs. He's already bored of pretending and playing outside, he wants to learn to read and is asking me. They tell the same story for an entire month .. it's usually a long, beautiful story and it takes many of the kids an entire month to learn it all .. but my son learns it in the first week or so and by the end of the month is bored to tears with it. I observed the first grade where they were learning about the letter A, drawing it, making the sound and dancing .. and all I could think was that my 4 year old could do that, plus every other letter already .. he would be really bored.

So I think the timeline for learning is not on par for us. If I had a kid that was not so verbal and nearly reading already, it might be ok. But I don't think it's right for my child, so I'm going to put him in a more traditional program.

I still believe Waldorf is beautiful, at least our school. I can't think of a better place for him to have experienced school for the first time .. the teachers are so warm, loving and supportive. It made for a very easy transition for a child who's never been away from home, and can be quite spirited. I can't say a single bad thing about our preschool experience, I just don't think my son is going to be happy not reading until he's much older.

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Old 05-01-2007, 07:46 PM
 
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Originally Posted by calynde View Post
I'm an American living in Europe and I worked for a while at a Waldorf School here. I would say that generally speaking, the whole approach to Steiner education here is much less strict and dogmatic and much more "normal" and acceptable. The schools are everywhere and nobody would think twice if you told them your child attended the steiner school. The parents may or may not be vegetarian or anthroposophists and may or may not have a tv etc. Interestingly, a lot of the aspects that Americans consider "Waldorf" (like natural materials, gnomes, wax crayons, no or little tv or media, seasonal focus, wooden toys etc) are actually "European" traditions, and are certainly not limited to the Waldorf crowd. All the festivals that American Waldorf families celebrate are European ones...they are a normal part of the yearly cycle here...for everyone. So I think the divide between who is "Waldorf" and who isn't is often much much smaller on this side of the pond.

Also, no family at the school would identify themselves as "Waldorf", as in "We're into the Waldorf/steiner approach" or whatever. It's not a label here. When I read what so many moms post in various waldorf forums i'm in, I feel like they have adopted it much as a sort of religion...or have added it onto their religion...and just generally take it much more seriously. And also, americans in general have made it much more about material things...all these expensive wooden toys and fancy silks (here most people use old towels or cotton gauze) and gnome tree houses. The vast majority of that stuff here would be homemade with stuff gathered at the forest...ya know? Some of the simple spirit seems to have gotten a bit lost in the US...
but all that stuff IS lovely to look at!

So it seems to me there can be plenty of the same things attached to Waldorf in the US that most people who are drawn to it are looking to avoid...but really, it depends totally on the particular school and it's particular staff. One can be so very different from another! And of course, these are only my personal thoughts and experiences.

good luck!

Yes!! It is very much like this among Waldorf families I know. I really understand the desire for all the neat wooden/natural stuff, but would much rather come up with my own version than spend a ton of money. I think a lot of Waldorf around here is really capitalized upon, and I am markedly against supporting that.

To the OP, I love the holistic approach, but as one poster responded, it is limited in its scope where children with special needs or differing learning styles are concerned. The tendency in my local WE schools is to "hold back" students who don't seem "ready" according to the anthroposophical doctors they are asked to be seen by. This is a dangerous trend, IME as a ps teacher. And it is a direct result of the rigidity that has been alluded to as well. If my son wants to paint his gnome green and not blue, then he shall .

Keep digging, visit your school, try to meet other WE families. I would also say to seek out a hs/us group, as many may use the WE approach at home.

Good luck!

Darcy mama to Dillon, Marah and Leo, partner to Jeremy
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Old 05-01-2007, 07:50 PM
 
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That said, I don't think we are going to continue beyond preschool. It has nothing to do with anything creepy, but I will be honest here. I don't feel the education is up to par with what my son needs. He's already bored of pretending and playing outside, he wants to learn to read and is asking me. They tell the same story for an entire month .. it's usually a long, beautiful story and it takes many of the kids an entire month to learn it all .. but my son learns it in the first week or so and by the end of the month is bored to tears with it. I observed the first grade where they were learning about the letter A, drawing it, making the sound and dancing .. and all I could think was that my 4 year old could do that, plus every other letter already .. he would be really bored.

.

Yes, an educated, enlightened decision. It is really not a good fit for learners like your ds. Mine would suffer the same boredom. It is a beautiful idea, great lessons, wonderful units, etc., but definitely a bit too slow and drawn out for my kids.

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Old 05-02-2007, 11:19 AM
 
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This thread has been a great wealth of information! I wish it would have been around a few months ago but even after reading your stories I am still happy with what our family is deciding and that is to hs using a Waldorf curriculum.

I just want to say thank you all for sharing your stories.
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Old 05-02-2007, 11:25 AM
 
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"Also, no family at the school would identify themselves as "Waldorf", as in "We're into the Waldorf/steiner approach" or whatever. It's not a label here. When I read what so many moms post in various waldorf forums i'm in, I feel like they have adopted it much as a sort of religion...or have added it onto their religion...and just generally take it much more seriously. And also, americans in general have made it much more about material things...all these expensive wooden toys and fancy silks (here most people use old towels or cotton gauze) and gnome tree houses. The vast majority of that stuff here would be homemade with stuff gathered at the forest...ya know? Some of the simple spirit seems to have gotten a bit lost in the US..."


THANK YOU for posting this! I've been oohing and aahing over all of these expensive toys and such..and really feeling like I "need" it all. But after reading this I have such a better outlook.
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Old 05-02-2007, 05:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by eco_mama View Post
"Also, no family at the school would identify themselves as "Waldorf", as in "We're into the Waldorf/steiner approach" or whatever. It's not a label here. When I read what so many moms post in various waldorf forums i'm in, I feel like they have adopted it much as a sort of religion...or have added it onto their religion...and just generally take it much more seriously. And also, americans in general have made it much more about material things...all these expensive wooden toys and fancy silks (here most people use old towels or cotton gauze) and gnome tree houses. The vast majority of that stuff here would be homemade with stuff gathered at the forest...ya know? Some of the simple spirit seems to have gotten a bit lost in the US..."


THANK YOU for posting this! I've been oohing and aahing over all of these expensive toys and such..and really feeling like I "need" it all. But after reading this I have such a better outlook.
You don't *need* any of it, it's just a great alternative if you aren't into making your own. The key is natural. Wood, wool, etc really help children feel connected to the earth.

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Old 05-02-2007, 07:24 PM
 
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Yes, an educated, enlightened decision. It is really not a good fit for learners like your ds. Mine would suffer the same boredom. It is a beautiful idea, great lessons, wonderful units, etc., but definitely a bit too slow and drawn out for my kids.
I sooo wish it was different. I wanted to love this school in every single way so badly. But I have to admit it's not moving fast enough for him ... no matter how much *I* would have loved that school experience, it's not right for my kiddo.

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Old 05-03-2007, 04:41 PM
 
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We have done it backwards in a sense.
My now 10th grader began Waldorf school last year in 9th grade. He went to a Buddhist preschool, traditional PS 1-5, small private for middle and then into Waldorf. He was one of 3-4 new kids in a class of 24 that moved up from 8th grade. His transition was very smooth, the kids embraced him and he found the teachers to be accessible which is important to him. By high school the media issues are not so important. While we have limited media, celebrated seasons and would be considered to be "Waldorf" (there's that word again) his being in more mainstream schools gave him a penchant for playing video games (at other kids' houses.) I outright asked them if this was going to be a problem in considering him for admission, I got an emphatic no. Things really loosen up by high school here in terms of media. Many of the long time families have X-boxes and flat screen TV's in their living rooms. So they loosen up about that stuff, but my job as a parent is so much easier than parents of PS teenagers, because the other parents still believe in parenting their 15 year olds.
The reason we chose to send him to a Waldorf school for high school is because we wanted him to be exposed to many different types of experiences. He would have never chosen to sing in the chorus, play an instrument or be in the school musical (dancing mind you). His experience doing these things has been fabulous for him.
We also wanted our son to be able to be his gentle, sweet artistic self and not have to pretend to be something else just to get through school everyday. At 15 I am still seeing the essence of my boy.
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Old 05-03-2007, 05:28 PM
 
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I went to one of the oldest, most established Waldorf schools in the US from 2-9th grades. My two siblings attended pre-K- 12th grade.

While there were many positive benefits of a WS education, overall, it was a negative experience for me. Not because of Waldorf, per se, but because my main lesson teacher was a truly awful woman. She shamed, humiliated, allowed bullying to flourish, and ruled by fear. Nothing was ever done about her, despite parental complaints (my own parents simply kept hoping she would improve) and for that, I have a very hard time forgiving everyone associated with that school.

That said, my sister and brother had wonderful, nurturing teachers who were dedicated and loving. Their experience was the opposite of mine.

Despite my teacher-from-hell, I really value the music, poetry (particularly all the poetry we memorized), handwork skills and the overall sense of beauty and mystery of the world associated with my Waldorf education. The presence of art everywhere made for an environment rich in beauty. And the traditions (the Christmas play, advent wreath, St. Lucia day, etc) were wonderful, as well.

Back in my day, only the really dedicated "anthropops" adopted the wooden toys/natural fibers/Weleda products "Waldorf lifestyle" discussed on this thread. (Which I see more as a "we're so wealthy, we can afford all this superior stuff" lifestyle, frankly). Most of the families at my school dressed in your regular '70s polyester and their kids watched tv at home. (The no-tv thing was one thing my family did follow).

Academically, yeah I see some problems with WS. I was an early reader and bored out of my mind in 2nd grade when my classmates were reciting the alphabet forward and backward and I longed for a book. Yes, the art is extremely structured and teacher-controlled (though that gets less so in the upper grades). No allowances were made for students with different learning styles, or those who needed extra help. (Of course, this was 30 years ago). And the curriculum was almost exclusively euro-centric - although I've heard this is not at all the case, today.

On the other hand, I learned in-depth about Greek and Roman myths, Norse legends, botany, how a house is built, and all sorts of things that would have been given short shrift in PS.

Speaking of which, when I transferred to PS in 9th grade, it wasn't a problem academically in the slightest.

The main thing for anyone to do who is interested in WS is to investigate the individual school. They are all different, and what flies at one may not at another. It may be the best environment for your kid, as it was for my siblings. Good luck!
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Old 05-04-2007, 12:02 AM
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I could not have described the expereinces any better than the pp! Hit the nail almost on the head for me as well,...besides that my teacher for the first 8 grades was a lovely and very caring women, although my sister had a nasty teacher, therefore my parents removed my sister from the school as there were no changes made regarding the teacher.

Regarding the reading part, that was also my biggest problem, besides a bully teacher in the high school years.
I always loved reading and was also very bored in the first couple of years at the WS, later they started to pick up the pace though and the other classes, that you mentioned made the experience nice.
My problem is that I know I would like my ds to go to preschool into the WS, but after that I am not so sure, that would really depend on how open minded the school would be and able to deal and challenge my ds with him being able to read!
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Old 05-04-2007, 03:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I haven't been able to follow this thread regularly as I've only had intermittent internet access but I'm glad to see so many more posts. We went ahead and enrolled DS and paid the app fee so that we could meet the deadline for a tuition discount. I am still waiting to hear what scholarship funds will be available. I have three weeks for that...so we are still not completely decided but if I lose the $50 app fee in the end that is okay compared to the $1000 extra I could be paying for tuition if I had waited.

I must admit I am still a bit skeptical about how well the delayed academics may work for my son who is extremely bright and loves to learn. I know several of my waldorfy books say that bright children thrive even more once academics are introduced but I do worry about the boredom factor. DS loves open ended play but how soon will that get old.

I know the second grade classroom looked fantastic, academic wise. The lesson books had a lot of math problems in them that were pretty elaborate so I'm assuming they are doing more than just reciting the alphabet. I'm just not convinced that he will be stimulated enough between now and then....but what do you do? Put your kid in public school for two years and then send then to waldorf when the academics get more concentrated? Decisions, decisions.

Anyway, we have a parent orientation scheduled for Monday and I am making a long list of questions and concerns. That will be the perfect opportunity to delve deeper into the school.

Keep the great informative responses coming!
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Old 05-04-2007, 05:15 PM
 
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My daughter was a very bright kid, but I don't remember her ever being bored in nursery, kindergarten or in the first two grades at her waldorf school. My granddaughter is another very bright child and so far, no boredom.

I think the key is how good kids are at playing, imagining, working with their hands and all that sort of thing. Play is children's "work" and they learn by playing. My grandson, for example, has been trying to tie knots. He plays constantly with string and rope, sometimes involving make believe, sometimes just fooling around. Eventually he'll master knots and move on to bows. My granddaughter plays make believe stuff constantly and her stories are complex and drawn-out. My daughter was still playing make believe when she was 12, which I personally think is super neat.

As an adult, I hung out for awhile with folks from the Society for Creative Anachronism. A fun group, but my sense was that many of them had not had enough play as children and they were compensating by doing a lot of make-believe play as adults. For some of them, this need was so strong that it interfered with important adult concerns like completing degrees, earning a living and so forth and so on.

Just another point of view on the question!
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Old 05-05-2007, 09:34 PM
 
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How really bright kids do in Waldorf really depends on the teacher. We have been fortunate to have teachers who challenge our bright kids while still meeting the needs of the kids who were struggling.

In our school, early readers aren't discouraged. The parents sitting down and teaching them to read is discouraged but kids picking it up on their own as long as there is lots of outside play, is not a problem. We found that the math in the early grades is advanced compared to public school so while the kids might not be reading fluently until 3rd grade, they are ahead in math. Lots of mental math and other challenges kept our bright kids going.
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Old 05-06-2007, 12:34 PM
 
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I must admit I am still a bit skeptical about how well the delayed academics may work for my son who is extremely bright and loves to learn. I know several of my waldorfy books say that bright children thrive even more once academics are introduced but I do worry about the boredom factor. DS loves open ended play but how soon will that get old.

I know the second grade classroom looked fantastic, academic wise. The lesson books had a lot of math problems in them that were pretty elaborate so I'm assuming they are doing more than just reciting the alphabet. I'm just not convinced that he will be stimulated enough between now and then....but what do you do? Put your kid in public school for two years and then send then to waldorf when the academics get more concentrated?
Speaking simply, I don't view Waldorf education as providing 'delayed academics'. None of my three children ever complained about being bored early in their waldorf education, and nobody ever complained about much of anything regarding their waldorf school until sixth grade or so (when they will ALL complain).

One possible difference: my girls each did only one year of three-day and one year of five-day kindergarten; I know that some kids end up doing up to four years in the early childhood programs, which seems like a long time to me.

David
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Old 05-08-2007, 04:00 PM
 
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My children weren't bored either, but the longest either were in the early childhood/kindergarten setting was just a little over 2 years. The longest I think that they ever heard the same story was 2 weeks; for the simpler stories it was one.

Over the years I've come to know many students who have transferred out of Waldorf for one reason or another, but really only one of those I know of whose family felt their child needed a more challenging curriculum really began Waldorf by the kindergarten. My impression over the years has definitely been that the students who do best in Waldorf tend toward those who have been in it the longest. (This year another "lifer" here won a National Merit scholarship award.)

The school attracts a lot of students who are transferring because they were not doing well at all in their other schools, but it also attracts a lot of students who were real brainiacs who were not happy where they were before. I think that there are many false stereotypes about what kinds of students are best suited for Waldorf, at least in my own observations regarding W schools here. For example, the curriculum is more often viewed as too demanding for students transferring out than it is too easy. I don't think there are any hard or fast rules, each case is unique. Usually it's really a more complicated story involving the people and personalities, which do naturally change over time. And especially so with the importance of the teacher. I suspect that's sometimes too the problem when it comes to bored students--a teacher who really hasn't got it going on, maybe isn't really connecting with the student well.
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Old 05-09-2007, 07:00 PM
 
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This is a fascinating thread to me, to hear Waldorf discussed from a relatively objective perspective, and I hope I won't offend anyone by adding my two cents (or perhaps it's only one cent). I posted recently on another Waldorf thread so pardon me if I repeat myself.

My son attended Waldorf preschool for only a semester, but it was only five years ago and he was similar in age (4) to the original poster's child. It's a well-reputed school-- Acorn Hill in Maryland, which has put out a book of Waldorf children's songs.

Positives:

The environment was beyond beautiful, the outdoor play area fun and creative. I felt the experiences and environment were valuable to my son, no matter what he might tell you. There is tremendous room for creativity and imagination. Those are all common things to say about Waldorf but they're all true.

Specific negatives-- and please forgive the length of this part and bear in mind that I do really like Waldorf a great deal and this is particular to one person's experience:

I had a lot of problems with the teacher's disciplinary approach. When she had trouble controlling my son, I explained to her that he's actually very easy to keep in line if you just tell him specifically what you expect of him-- i.e., "James, we don't stack the chairs because that's dangerous. Put them away now." She subtly, but consistently, refused to apply this. Instead she would "redirect" him, which I guess is what the teachers are taught to do. But as a result, James never came to understand what the rules were, and kept doing the same things "wrong." His teacher was getting very frustrated and very disapproving of him, and I thought it was unfair to him.

There were some issues with common good manners. When we went to the Spring Fair, people would bump into us without excusing themselves, and a lot of the children had horrendous manners-- worse than I've seen kids get away with at any school since. I remember standing in a line for a drawing for one of those treehouse dollhouses, and the child ahead of me-- a kid of about 8-- turned around and said over and over again, "*I* won it. It's mine. It's not yours and you can't have it." His mother just blew the whole thing off. I would write that off as a single rude child, but that was the vibe we got from a lot of people. It really surprised me considering this was supposed to be a loving community.

Sometimes I thought everything was all-natural at the expense of safety. On one occasion the teacher gave a bunch of four-year-old boys a basket of rocks to play with-- indoors. Outside there was a group swing made from a large, heavy tree trunk that had been partially carved out. It was intentionally heavy, so the kids would have to cooperate to push it. Unfortunately, if that thing swung back at you it might have killed you. It scared the bejesus out of me.

Finally-- I felt like there was an undercurrent of hypocrisy at times. One of the parents had her child in Waldorf PM kindergarten and in an AM French immersion class. People got rapturous about wooden toys, but the same kids owned every Playmobil figure in existence. The teacher was virtually horrified when James was allowed to play with plastic army men or a toy gun, yet the school provided wooden knights and swords for the kids to play with in the exact same manner. I wouldn't have cared except that I felt tremendous pressure from the teacher to get my life in line with the school's expectations. In that sense, oddly, I came to see the school as being narrow-minded. It also felt to me as if there was a social-class judgment involved. They would essentially turn a blind eye to minutely detailed European plastic toys or elite academic-enrichment programs-- even if they go completely against their basic philosophies-- but lower-status things like TV, superheroes, and any post-17th-century military toys were unacceptable. That bugged me.

I still believe anthroposophy is onto something. I think it's in touch with a level of human thinking that is hard to get ahold of in these days. The Waldorf ideas about the importance of fairy tales and myths, and the order in which they're taught, feels really enlightened to me. I think it's like any "religion" (if you'll excuse my usage) in which the philosophies look amazing on paper and when they're actually carried out by human beings, sometimes it comes out right and sometimes it doesn't, and some parts are still evolving. My parenting is still very much informed by anthroposophy, and I still see it as an ideal to aspire to. It's unfortunate to see so many references to how it's "not for every child." It should be, and I think it could benefit every child, if the teachers took a hand-holding, journeying approach rather than the "round hole/square peg" one James and I experienced.

-Rebecca
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Old 05-09-2007, 11:52 PM
 
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Thank you all for such a wonderfully positive and rational thread. As long time moderator I have been waiting for a long time to see something like this occur here.

Nice job!

 
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Old 05-10-2007, 12:06 AM
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I agree with you mikes_becky in respect of that anthroposophy would benefit any child, but the one big issue is that variouse children are exposed to variouse life styles, circumstances and influences where anthroposophy still has a good influence but slower and to a lesser extent than to a child who was submerged into this type of lifestyle from the beginning.
Also the home is a big part of a childs environment and if a child comes from a New York ghetto and spends half a day in WS but the rest hanging around with gangs (o.k. I know this example is a bit extreme!), I would think that the WS education will not have much influence on that child, as it sees a very different way of living outside the school and will have a hard time adapting its philosophy.
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Old 05-10-2007, 10:09 AM
 
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It is funny what you mention about manners Mikes Becky. Overall the 'general public' at our school is very well behaved and mannered.

I have noticed that of the 3 Kindergarten teachers at the school, the women teachers seem to care more about manners and require them. I was very happy with our Kindergarten teachers because our children were expected to keep their things neat and tidy, and to say please and thankyou. The other Kindergarten right next door was all over the place. The kids were constantly 'losing' their raingear and shoes because they weren't required to put them back in their places.

One thing I also noticed when we first started at the school was a what I will call a 'Lord of the Flies' attitude exhibited on the playground during community events. The parents were in charge and often absent. What really disturbed me though, was that other adults around weren't stepping in to correct the behavior. That all changed when we had Kim Payne give a workshop on Social Inclusion. It seemed to empower the adults and allow them to correct the children no matter whose children they were. I am happy to say that the atmosphere has gotten a lot better. Personally, I never had a problem with telling any kid that they were out of line and I really encouraged other adults to correct my kids if they saw something out of line. I remember as a kid in my neighborhood, that you knew all adults were keeping an eye on you, not just your parents.
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Old 05-10-2007, 05:04 PM
 
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We are involved at the Cincinnati Waldorf School, and it has been a wonderful fit for our family. Ds, who is 4, is in the Nursery, and has been in baby music and Parents and Tots since he was a baby. Dd has been in Parents and Tots with me, and will be again in the Fall.
It has been really enriching for our family to be a part of the school and to learn about Anthroposophy. The environment at our school is not rigid at all, but I feel that it is firmly connected to an Anthroposophic foundation. My son, who is very energetic and intelligent, has really loved being in his nursery class. We considered Montessori for him, but I felt that it would have nurtured the more academic, analytical part of him that is already flourishing. We decided to send him to the Waldorf school because we felt that it would nurture his spirit and his imaginative and artistic side. It really has. What I have realized is that he didn't "lose" anything, any innocence, when he started going to school. So many friends' boys start acting differently, playing more violently, shunning anything that they consider uncool or girly. Instead, ds sings us songs he learns at school, wears pink whenever he wants, and is completely secure in his "boyness". He believes that the world is beautiful and good, and if people are unkind to him, he hopes they feel better soon.
I think that "boredness" is a myth. How can a child be bored when they have their imagination? I remember having a summer job at an herb farm where I spent sometimes 4 hours a day with a hose, just watering plants all day. I was never bored. I listened to entire albums in my head, or thought about stuff. I've noticed ds displaying symptoms of "boredom" especially when we've had a TV heavy week. If we put the TV away, within a few hours he's created his own little world of stories and songs.
The education in the Waldorf grades is really exciting to me. I wish that I would have learned about the night sky in grade school, for example. I'm a 28 year old adult and I know vaguely when we can expect meteor showers and some basic constellations and that's it. But I could tell you all about a hundred other things I learned in school that don't matter at all.
I feel that the Waldorf curriculum respects childrens' intelligence and inherent value, and provides a wonderful start for their life on this planet.

so many roads to ease my soul...

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Old 05-10-2007, 05:27 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anamama View Post
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I think that "boredness" is a myth. How can a child be bored when they have their imagination? I remember having a summer job at an herb farm where I spent sometimes 4 hours a day with a hose, just watering plants all day. I was never bored. I listened to entire albums in my head, or thought about stuff. .
I am really glad that the school your son is going to is working out so well for you and him. And I completely hear you on not wanting your son to lose his innocence via school. I felt the same way (and have been equally pleased with the school we've chosen).

Yes, as long as you have your imagination and plenty of freedom to use it, you may not be bored. But as a former Waldorf student, I can assure you that boredom is not a myth. It's tough for an active and passionate reader to use her imagination while having to endlessly chant the alphabet forward and backward along with 20 other second-graders. Or when trapped in a 4-week block of incomprehensible math. I'm just saying.

(Not that, as previously posted, there weren't plenty of non-boring aspects of my Waldorf education.)
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