Waldorf vs Waldorfy - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-27-2008, 10:23 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi there,

If this isn't the right place for this sort of discussion please direct me to another website or group (or book even!). I have been looking and have only been able to find very critical discussion groups for the most part. I was even told that "real" Waldorf families don't waste much time on the computer.

I have been interested in Waldorf for a while. A few years ago I moved to Europe and we are now living across the street from a Waldorf school. I see the kids playing daily and go to all of their festivals. They look so healthy and happy (and I love the girl's long hair!) To me it looks like a wonderful, magical place. I always assumed I would send my child there when she was old enough.

The more I read about Waldorf the more I understand it is about Anthroposophy. I recently visited Dornach, a city in Switzerland which is the center of Anthroposophy. I was really amazed by the entire village. There Waldorf isn't about buying your child a couple of playsilks, it's an entire way of life. There are hundreds of round, pinkish colored homes in the neighborhood built with no edges whatsoever. Round doors, corners angled on windows. Everyone walking around had on the same sort of clothing. It was quite an interesting experience. Got me really thinking about what the whole thing really is about.

I guess my question is...are most of you who send your children to Waldorf school followers of the teachings of Rudolf Steiner? What do you think of people who call things "waldorfy" and just want to buy wooden toys and paint their child's room peach and nothing else? Do you think you can do one without the other and still call yourself "waldorfy"? Before I started looking into I thought the toys, the art, the no TV, the spiritual relationship with nature, the no characters WERE Waldorf...nothing else. Now it seems to me these things are just some nice bits of a whole BIG something else.

Sort of a strange, very loose question I know...but for me this seems like something you gotta get ALL the way on board with or not at all. How did you all come to Waldorf? Did you learn about Steiner first or through the school or not at all? Do some of you do only bits and pieces or do you feel like the whole program is necessary? Is it something you even talk about, or do you feel it is personal, like religion?

Any thoughts?

And some good book suggestions would be great. I have Children at Play and Understanding Waldorf Education, but I am looking for some others as well.

Thanks!
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Old 03-27-2008, 11:40 AM
 
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I'm no expert, as I'm just "waldorfy" and not part of a Waldorf school. But I will say that my aunt is an anthroposophist and is raising her kids in a very strict Waldorf fashion (by "strict" I mean true, not harsh). She is the one explained to me that some schools are more anthroposophical than others. Some are merely part of a larger anthroposophical community, as you described, but other schools have grown up out of communities of folks who love the education model and general philosophy, but aren't true anthroposophists. Does that make sense? The way I understand it, Waldorf is the educational branch of Anthroposophy. You couldn't be an Anthroposophist without being Waldorfy, but you could do Waldorf without being a true Anthroposophist. For example, I know lots of Christian moms who do Waldorf education with their kids. They like a lot of the philosophy, but wouldn't consider themselves full Anthroposophists by any means. I will say that you can't be Waldorfy without at least buying some of the philosophy. I mean, it isn't just about wooden toys, so if someone thought it was, that wouldn't be Waldorf OR Waldorfy, it would just be a miss-perception. I hope I'm making sense. I haven't had breakfast yet, so my brain is still fuzzy!

I would recommend the books You Are Your Child's First Teacher and Beyond the Rainbow Bridge as good introductions to the methods and philosophy behind Waldorf.

Good luck with your journey!
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Old 03-27-2008, 02:00 PM
 
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Whoo! A really big question.

I'm an anthroposophist and have been for many years, in a casual sort of way. It is perfectly possible to be an anthroposophist and not have your children in a waldorf school and it is equally possible to not be an anthroposophist and to have your children attend a waldorf school.

Why? How? There are a lot of offshoots of anthroposophy. Medicine, scientific research, music, artistic activities (a lot in this category), farming, social movements, businesses, and probably several areas I'm not remembering at the moment. When someone gets interested in anthroposophy they are perfectly free to study the bits they find useful or fun or challenging and ignore the rest. So someone could spend several years digging through every aspect of the medical work and have no particular interest in waldorf education, to give one example. I've known many serious anthroposophists who rarely considered anything except the work related to farming. They might occasionally read something else, but farming was what interested them and farming was what they studied.

So it isn't a neatly wrapped package, more like an encyclopedia. Somewhere in the encyclopedia are the core concepts that really hold the universe together, but it can take someone several years or more before they happen to encounter the essential points. This is why it can be handy to take some sort of "Foundation Year" course as an introduction to anthroposophy. But large numbers of people who eventually call themselves anthroposophists never have taken and never will take such a course, so...

What would I put down as the core concepts in just a few words?

That there is a spiritual reality which underlies and supports everything we experience as physical.

That human beings can develop innate capacities to perceive and comprehend this spiritual reality.

I worked at a waldorf school as the business manager for 3 years. The large majority of the over 600 parents who had their children at the school were not anthroposophists. I never actually did a census, but I was a member of the local branch of the anthroposophical society (treasurer on the board) and I had a pretty good sense of who was who. The overlap between the two groups was slight. A significant number of the teachers weren't members, either.

Some people find anthroposophy very offensive, for various reasons, and by and large it is better for them if they don't have their children in a waldorf school.
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Old 03-27-2008, 03:21 PM
 
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i think that it all depends on your personality - are you a joiner or not? meaning, do you have to fully embrace to get anything out of a situation?
you can engage in some areas and not others - i'm with deborah, most parents at waldorf schools are not anthroposophists. i was a student for 9 years, then started a school, was a parent for another 9 years and in no way am an anthroposophist or want to be. and if you put 10 card carrying anthroposophists in the same room and asked them 20 questions on how a true anthroposophists would deal with x-situations you would get a whole lot of different answers. each community is different. each training center is different. etc!
for me it is a living philosophy and all things anthroposophical and waldorf for that matter can not only be based on what rudolf steiner said/wrote almost 100 years ago - who is to say what he would think of today and what opportunities have come... i think he would have evolved with the times and so does the movement.
it can be tricky, just do what feels right, which might also change with time :-)) hope some of this made sense...
good luck
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Old 03-27-2008, 03:21 PM
 
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sorry, double post
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Old 03-27-2008, 06:13 PM
 
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I agree - you can definitely be involved in Waldorf without being an anthroposophist. I am a trained Waldorf teacher and I'm not sure that I would call myself that although I have studied a lot and do believe in it.

What I would say is that the term 'Waldorf' as been diluted a bit by some of the products available. I have seen 'waldorf dolls' for sale on the internet that most kindergarten teachers would cringe at. I think a lot of people adopt what they call a Waldorf lifestyle i.e. no tv, natural toys, nature table, etc. but they don't send their children to a Waldorf School and may do many other things that are not compatible with the philosophy. I think that's fine though. People are free to take whatever they like. It is a HUGE subject and everyone has their own area of interest. Definitely not an all or nothing situation.
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Old 03-27-2008, 06:18 PM
 
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Originally Posted by konamama View Post
i think that it all depends on your personality - are you a joiner or not? meaning, do you have to fully embrace to get anything out of a situation?...
for me it is a living philosophy and all things anthroposophical and waldorf for that matter can not only be based on what rudolf steiner said/wrote almost 100 years ago - who is to say what he would think of today and what opportunities have come... i think he would have evolved with the times and so does the movement.
it can be tricky, just do what feels right, which might also change with time :-))
: I feel the exact same way. If/when Waldorf starts to not feel right for us, we will adjust, but right now I truly feel it is the best way of life for our family and the best education for our DSs.
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Old 03-28-2008, 02:55 AM
 
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Originally Posted by missbuns View Post
I guess my question is...are most of you who send your children to Waldorf school followers of the teachings of Rudolf Steiner? What do you think of people who call things "waldorfy" and just want to buy wooden toys and paint their child's room peach and nothing else? Do you think you can do one without the other and still call yourself "waldorfy"? Before I started looking into I thought the toys, the art, the no TV, the spiritual relationship with nature, the no characters WERE Waldorf...nothing else. Now it seems to me these things are just some nice bits of a whole BIG something else.

Sort of a strange, very loose question I know...but for me this seems like something you gotta get ALL the way on board with or not at all. How did you all come to Waldorf? Did you learn about Steiner first or through the school or not at all? Do some of you do only bits and pieces or do you feel like the whole program is necessary? Is it something you even talk about, or do you feel it is personal, like religion?

Any thoughts?

And some good book suggestions would be great. I have Children at Play and Understanding Waldorf Education, but I am looking for some others as well.

Thanks!
My dc now go to a Waldorf school, before that we were Waldorf-inspired hsers. My first introduction to W. was Rahima Baldwin's You are Your Child's First Teacher, and my (beloved) mw sent her dc to a W. school.

As hsers I feel like it's almost a bigger deal to deal or not deal with the anthroposophy (at least that was my take). I think in part this is because of the big teaching responsibility the teaching parent takes on with W. or W.-inspired hsing---whereas if you're a W. teacher, the anthroposophy is pretty present. I know on several W. hsing lists I was on, it seemed like every other season or yearly there would be a big discussion along the lines of "are you Waldorf enough to be calling yourself a W. hser. I think a big thing that prompted this was how "commercial" Waldorf was starting to become, and how you could sort of buy Waldorf, and get into W. hsing knowing very little about anthroposophy or necessarily even having read any A. or Steiner. I have to admit that this sort of sticks with me, and often find myself posting things along the lines of "remember the Steiner when you say Waldorf".

Now that we're at a W. school I feel like the anthroposophy is so complementary and such not a big deal personally for us (I have to say that in the beginning my athiest dh and my buddhist self thought there would be a definite conflict attending a W. school specifically because of the anthrophosophy--one of my biggest quotes as a W. inspired hser was that we were doing W. inspired w/o the anthroposophy). I actually would prefer to be attending more Steiner study groups or eurythmy classes, and I do welcome the anthroposophy.

At this point I think it's great that there is more Waldorf out there, be it Steiner education, Waldorf inspired, or just Waldorf-y. My ds goes to a W. kindergarten, and many of his classmates will not go on to a Waldorf school. Once the director and I were talking about this, and she saw this a huge gift to these children--that for this time they get to be in such an environment--even though the parents aren't even necessarily living W. at home. *but like I mentioned I would like the origins of Waldorf to be recognized, for people to be knowledegable about what Waldorf is---because I think for more than a few, they get in with the wooden toys and silks then they are suddenly dismayed by the anthroposophical underpinnings of this educational philosophy.
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Old 03-28-2008, 01:46 PM
 
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Now that we're at a W. school I feel like the anthroposophy is so complementary and such not a big deal personally for us (I have to say that in the beginning my athiest dh and my buddhist self thought there would be a definite conflict attending a W. school specifically because of the anthrophosophy--one of my biggest quotes as a W. inspired hser was that we were doing W. inspired w/o the anthroposophy). I actually would prefer to be attending more Steiner study groups or eurythmy classes, and I do welcome the anthroposophy.
melamama, I have to just say you keep making me feel so much better about our transition from hs-ing to waldorf school; we're buddhist/atheist and have longed for a 'waldorf-without-anthroposophy' school for some time.

The other night I went to a talk at the school by pediatrician/waldorf trained teacher on the spirituality of children. I'm almost certain she'd say she was an anthroposophist or at least heavily influenced by that. I went partly to scope it out, see if she was going to talk about auras and astral planes and some of the things I've heard about anthro that i find off-putting.

Well she defined spirituality as mindfulness, being in the here and now, and went on to talk about how to help children keep and protect that ability. I'd juts been listening to a buddhist talk on meditation, and thought, hmm, this is the exact same thing! And how much closer this is to my own values than anything I've heard in any other school, public or private.

It eased a few of my fears but I have yet to see how this all looks in the school setting. Our particular school has a reputation for being pretty heavy on the anthroposophy and somewhat "dogmatic". Well just have to just see how it goes.
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Old 03-30-2008, 04:08 AM
 
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Sort of a strange, very loose question I know...but for me this seems like something you gotta get ALL the way on board with or not at all.
I was just thinking about this today. I have a group of moms that I met through the parent-child program at the Waldorf school near my house several years ago, who I get together with once or twice a year.

We're all approaching kindergarten age with our kids and are starting to discuss our paths.

As I was updating everyone (via e-mail) about where we're at and where we think we might be heading, I realized that in many ways I have strayed from the Waldorf purism I once was intensly drawn to.

We have quite a bit of plastic toys in our house (legos, construction vehicles etc.), our dolls are Cabbage Patch kids (mine from when I was young ), we do allow a bit of tv and my kids know many of the mainstream characters (Dora, Clifford, Bob the Builder), we recently celebrated my daughter's exciting accomplishment of (finally) pooping on the potty at Chuck E. Cheese (a place I thought would be my worst nightmare) and we had a BLAST!!

But...

At the same time, I feel like we are so deeply rooted in our seasonal rhythms (drawing from Waldorf, Enki, and directly from Nature). Our blessings and verses and seasonal table are SO much a part of our family life. DD's "wooden animals" are by far her favorite toys. We're baking regularly and doing handcrafts together, visiting local farms, taking nature walks etc.

So I guess my point is that just as having all the correct Waldorf materials doesn't necessarily make a home truly Waldorf, a home WITHOUT all the right materials (and even embracing some things that are not considered Waldorf) can still be very Waldorf at its heart!!
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Old 03-30-2008, 04:28 AM
 
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I think this sounds very 'real" and very healthy. (Meaning above post)
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Old 03-30-2008, 12:58 PM
 
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melamama, I have to just say you keep making me feel so much better about our transition from hs-ing to waldorf school; we're buddhist/atheist and have longed for a 'waldorf-without-anthroposophy' school for some time....
It eased a few of my fears but I have yet to see how this all looks in the school setting. Our particular school has a reputation for being pretty heavy on the anthroposophy and somewhat "dogmatic". Well just have to just see how it goes.
thanks Muse
Good luck again with the school. I think someone mentioned that in general there is a pretty low % of families in a particular class that are anthro. In our class I would guess it's 5 out of 26. Most schools are acutely aware of the financial reality of alienating families, and would prefer to be more inclusive.
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