Here goes - thoughts and feelings on Waldorf and Anthroposophy and Anthroposophists - Page 3 - Mothering Forums
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#61 of 156 Old 08-10-2008, 11:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by bczmama View Post
For us, Waldorf was an attempt to compromise on my DSS's education -- between a mother who wanted to HS (on an extremely "relaxed" basis) and my DH's desire for an academically rigorous education for DSS (who is gifted, particularly in math, and loves science).
I'll start by appreciating you feeling comfortable to share here. Thank you. I also would like to add that there are some questions I have that you of course do not need to answer. I am not trying to question your decision, which of course is absolutely not on. But I would like to understand some of the circumstances around your decision, again, if you feel comfortable sharing.
Why did you chose to compromise between HS and 'formal' schooling by settling on Waldorf?

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This was for a number of reasons (in large part because of an almost anti-intellectual attitude on the part of the teacher to DSS' interests, knowledge base and abilities) but also due to our concerns around Steiner and all the "oddities" of the beliefs about fairies, elves, eurymthy, the gauzy painting, the child taking time to incarnate, etc., etc.
Would I be correct in understanding that there was a poor match on values? Your family values academic achievement and challenging/meeting a childs individual needs? And you were not happy with how Waldorf was meeting these values?
Again, correct me if I am wrong, the 'oddeties' that you mention do not gel with your family values. I am only pressing this point as it makes sense to me that parents would want their children educated with values that the parents hold dear, and would be very turned off by values that are threatening or foreign. This is an idea I have been thinking about since I started this thread...

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We could not obtain enough knowledge about Anthro to feel comfortable that the purposes of these things were "healthy" and that Anthro itself was "healthy" for DSS to be involved with, even in a tangential way.
Point taken and your responsibility as parents (in whatever capacity) to be making the best decision for your family.

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We would not knowingly enroll DSS in a Scientologist school, or a Jehovah Witness school because those philosophies don't jive with us, and felt we had (all unknowing) done the equivalent in enrolling DSS in Waldorf.
I find it interesting that you group Waldorf, Scientology, Jehovah Witness and Catholicism together. What is the common link between them?

Megan, mama to her little boy (Feb2008) and introducing our little girl (Dec 2010)
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#62 of 156 Old 08-10-2008, 12:08 PM
 
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Hello again.

I have been somewhat hesitant to post again, partly because of lack of time and partly because I realised my perspective is a completely different one to most other people's. At this point in time, I am a (prospective) teacher, not a parent. I can talk about the pros and cons of Waldorf for hours on end, but I don't think any of what I would say would help answer your question -- that is, why so people are feeling so hurt and acting so bitter about it.

But I thought I'd answer ema-adama's questions at least.

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Hi there. This sounds like an interesting choice, what brought you to the UK and to deciding to study to be a Waldorf teacher - if you want to share.
I don't mind sharing this... except there is not that much to share. I'd been wanting to leave Greece for the UK, partly because I like life better here, and partly because I was about to get married to a Dutchman, and moving to a third country made sense to us. And I had half-decided that I wanted to do a degree on education, when I came across a description of Waldorf, fell in love, found a university course in England, applied and got it. I really didn't think too much about it, which is strange, because in general I think about things very much. It just felt right.

It still feels like the right thing to have done, although I have to say that the Waldorf of my dreams (based on things I read on the internet) was not quite what I found upon arriving at the course. It is funny, because in a way I am as disappointed by Waldorf as a lot of other people here -- some of the schools I've been to I did not like at all, and I wouldn't like for my children to go to them. But --the more I think about it, the more I realise-- I would never blame anthroposophy for this state of affairs. Anthroposophists, sometimes, yes; other people working at the schools, too; tradition, human weakness, lack of courage, you name it -- but I don't think it is the fault of the belief system behind the schools. I could write an essay on whose fault it is... or two... or three...

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I am interested to know why you would choose to home school, especially after training to be a Waldorf teacher - again if you feel comfortable sharing.
Firstly because I like the idea of homeschooling; secondly because my children will most likely be trilingual and I wouldn't want the other two languages to fall by the wayside, and English to be all they are educated in; and thirdly because I don't agree with the way most Steiner schools in the UK (that's all I've seen) interpret Steiner's ideas and guidelines. This is a huge issue in itself: what Steiner's ideas concerning Waldorf schools actually are; how to tell them apart from tradition, other people's interpretations, the cultural and historial context of Germany int he 1920s, etc; how they should/could be applied in different places at different times.

Unfortunately, it is not an issue that is being adequately addressed, as far as I know. Still, some people are trying, and there is some hope.

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Originally Posted by ema-adama View Post
This makes sense to me, the falling in and out of love thing. But what I don't get is that it is inherently a Waldorf issue not to change or acknowledge that there is a problem. I am inclined to believe that this could be more of a human issue - annoying and very difficult to deal with - enough of a reason to leave a school, but again I am not sure that I see this as inherently a problem that waldorf schools, but rather a problem existing in education generally.
Of course what you say makes perfect sense. And yet I think that there is something inherent to Waldorf schools that causes this, to a certain extend. And what I think --and this is just my opinion, based largely on gut feeling-- is that there is something in the philosophy behind Waldorf schools that touches people deeply. (That sweet sweet feeling that some peopple get when first entering a kindergarten is part of this, I think. I got it, at least. And I did wish my own kindergarten had been more like it. And I know of many other people whose first emotional reaction was similar.) I believe that the reason this happens is because there are some fundamental truths about child development in Steiner's worldview. I think he has got some things very right.

That said, he expressed them in a very strange language, in ways that are more than outdated today. It takes a lot of work to make it make sense, but I do believe it makes sense quite often. But, that is another big issue that I could talk about for hours...

Edited to add: What I've been trying to say here, I think, is that Waldorf promises a lot, sometimes in a vague way -- that it inspires trust in people -- and then fails to live up to it.

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Originally Posted by ema-adama View Post
Again, I agree with the idea that expectations are not clear or could not be clear from both parent and school... What other things have you found to be done by unhappy coincidence?
Oh, pretty much everything! Okay, this is a little harsh, but it does feel like it sometimes. I can't, off the top of my head, think of an example that would not expose a school to an extend I am not confortable with doing, but... I think a fair example would be something you said about Eurytmhy: your problem, as a teenager, wasn't the movement itself, but the kind of teacher you had. (And boy, do I know what you mean.) (Although there are nice Eurymhists too I hasten to add.) Most of the schools I have been to are under such hardship, in one way or another, that they rarely ever make their decisions freely. Usually those are dictated by finances, politics and necessity -- for example, and it is a hypothetical one, the faculty might think an extra teacher is needed but more likely than not they will not be able to afford one. Or, none of the applicants is ideal but they really need one, so they hire somebody who is adequately trained/ suitable for the school. Often, everyone is so stressed and overworked (this is a MAJOR problem, for me, and one that is inherent in the system, in the UK at least) that they don't find the strength to be the best they can be -- or even close.

Another reason I find it hard to post on this thread is that I have SO MUCH to say, it is awfully hard to know where to start, and where to stop, and how to structure the bits in between, and, and...
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#63 of 156 Old 08-10-2008, 12:30 PM
 
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And yet there are two more things I would like to comment on...

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Originally Posted by pixiewytch View Post
The only disservice I have seen to us with anthroposophy was in our situation with DS's special needs. We spent the entire school year sending him to a chiro and an anthro doctor who was lots of money and zero help to us at all. Basically we discovered at the end of the year that if we had gone outside of the anthroposophy box we could have already had him in OT for sensory and maybe avoided him getting kicked out....but we wanted to go the alternative route as well and went with what they suggested. In the end it kind of bit us in the ass. So my biggest concern would be teachers who might overlook any conventional medical treatment for a serious special needs child because they only believe in anthroposophical ones. I've already discussed this with faculty and most of them do seem open to thinking outside the anthro box if suggested but I'm sure there are those who don't so that is a potential pitfall from my experience.
Now, this is thing that is achieved by a combination unhappy coincidences, narrow-mindedness, and sheer stupidity even... It makes me angry, it does. It is ridiculous that anthroposophists are not more open to things like Sensory Intergration, when the ideas behind it are in line with Steiner's ideas about the child's gradual incarnation and whatnot. Now this is not a point I can justify with quotes or anything off the top of my head, and it would take me a lot of work to find those quotes, so don't rush to question it. But it does fit it; and a lot of the work that is done in Waldorf school enhances, or at least could enhance, sensory integration.

Enki Education is a brilliant example of this, and it comes with brilliant explanations of how those things fit together. From what I have seen, everything they do in Grade 1, at least, when it comes to Circle Time movement, would be entirely acceptable in a Waldorf classroom and yet it is underpinned by SI theory.


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Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
What might help you and understand what that might be like, think of what it was like to break up with someone you really loved and how hard it was to recover from that. I think it is a similar grief process. When a friend breaks up with someone you don't say to them (I hope!) "you should have known more about that guy before you got involved with him!" Rather you listen and work to understand. Pardon the lecture, but it seems important to say.
With all due respect, orangewallflower, but I have been known to say such things to friends. And I would say it when it came to a school too. In any kind of situation where it would be applicable, really. I understand that this kind of thing is not done in some place -- England, for example. It took me a while to figure it out, I have to say. But in Greece friends do say this kind of thing -- they are even supposed to, if it is a close and trusting relationship. Now this is entirely tangential to this thread but perhaps it will help remind posters (and readers) that people judge things differently in different cultures. And personally I do find it fair enough to say 'you could have looked into it better'. Without this meaning I don't understand people are hurt, or that specific schools have handled things badly -- as I have said, I believe many a school are preactically set up to handle things badly.

Just my off-topic two cents.
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#64 of 156 Old 08-10-2008, 04:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Just to say before people read this post - it's quite personal about my life and not totally related to the original question


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Originally Posted by DimitraDaisy View Post
Hello again.


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I don't mind sharing this... except there is not that much to share. I'd been wanting to leave Greece for the UK, partly because I like life better here, and partly because I was about to get married to a Dutchman, and moving to a third country made sense to us. And I had half-decided that I wanted to do a degree on education, when I came across a description of Waldorf, fell in love, found a university course in England, applied and got it. I really didn't think too much about it, which is strange, because in general I think about things very much. It just felt right.
Hey, completely , but it got me quite excited to read a bit more about you on a personal level. I am married to an Israeli and living in Israel... and have often wondered about the wisdom of moving to Israel and why we didn't try in a 3rd country. I guess we wanted to be near one part of the family at least - and my family is spread out around SA and in Canada - and I wanted to learn Hebrew and understand more about where my DH comes from in his culture and I can't even remember all the reasons now... we still toy with the idea of moving to a 3rd country, but for now this is where we are.... the UK has come up as an option, mostly because I was born there (at Emerson, well in Forrest Rowe anyway, hence a Canadian and South African meeting, falling in love and marrying) and have a passport.
I also have to say that I take my hat off to you for sticking with it on the training course. After my stint in Camphill (in the UK) I looked into possibly studying to be a Waldorf teacher and checked out the course at Plymouth University. I got quite freaked out by all the reading of Steiner and decided to skip that and went back to SA to study OT

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It still feels like the right thing to have done, although I have to say that the Waldorf of my dreams (based on things I read on the internet) was not quite what I found upon arriving at the course. It is funny, because in a way I am as disappointed by Waldorf as a lot of other people here -- some of the schools I've been to I did not like at all, and I wouldn't like for my children to go to them. But --the more I think about it, the more I realise-- I would never blame anthroposophy for this state of affairs. Anthroposophists, sometimes, yes; other people working at the schools, too; tradition, human weakness, lack of courage, you name it -- but I don't think it is the fault of the belief system behind the schools. I could write an essay on whose fault it is... or two... or three...
I do find it interesting to read about the perspective from a soon to be teacher. Particularly the similarity of falling in love and subsequent disappointment. And I also find it reassuring that I am not the only one who thinks that it is not the fault of Anthroposophy, but rather the people, the anthroposophists.... although what each of us understands by this could be quite different. I would love to read any essay you wrote on "whose fault it is"


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Firstly because I like the idea of homeschooling;
This is something I had never thought of before reading about it on MDC, but I do find it very appealing.

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secondly because my children will most likely be trilingual and I wouldn't want the other two languages to fall by the wayside, and English to be all they are educated in;
I am still not sure how to address this in our family. We only have Hebrew and English to deal with (part of me moving to Israel was to learn Hebrew to have a family that everyone can speak both languages fluently), but it will be essential for our children to be fluent in both if they are to have a relationship with both sets of grandparents.

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and thirdly because I don't agree with the way most Steiner schools in the UK (that's all I've seen) interpret Steiner's ideas and guidelines. This is a huge issue in itself: what Steiner's ideas concerning Waldorf schools actually are; how to tell them apart from tradition, other people's interpretations, the cultural and historial context of Germany int he 1920s, etc; how they should/could be applied in different places at different times.
I find this fascinating. I know that I could not imagine how a Waldorf school could be run in Israel as I did not know how it could be "made" Jewish. My experience had had more of a Christian flavour, which would be a huge no no in Israel. But it has been done and the school in Jerusalem is very beautiful and if we lived closer I would look into it more closely. It is traditional in that preparation for Shabbat is part of the week and the festivals that are celebrated are Jewish holidays, but the ideas on child development and the use of art and craft and one teacher for one class for elementary school etc are there.

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Unfortunately, it is not an issue that is being adequately addressed, as far as I know. Still, some people are trying, and there is some hope.
Are there people in the UK working with this?

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Edited to add: What I've been trying to say here, I think, is that Waldorf promises a lot, sometimes in a vague way -- that it inspires trust in people -- and then fails to live up to it.
I think this has been the experience of many people.... in essence part of the picture of why there is a support after Waldorf thread

- in relation to pixiewytch
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Originally Posted by DimitraDaisy View Post
This is thing that is achieved by a combination unhappy coincidences, narrow-mindedness, and sheer stupidity even... It makes me angry, it does.
I think a more fitting response than my original one

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It is ridiculous that anthroposophists are not more open to things like Sensory Intergration, when the ideas behind it are in line with Steiner's ideas about the child's gradual incarnation and whatnot.
I did not ever think of it this way! And I am very excited to start thinking about it a bit more carefully! SI is something that I have always had a good feeling about, but never did as I moved into Orthopeadic and Plastics Rehab after graduating. My friend who did SI has had a hell of a time even after presentations and much PR for what she is doing and it just not being accepted by certain elements in both the teacher and parent body.

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Now this is not a point I can justify with quotes or anything off the top of my head, and it would take me a lot of work to find those quotes, so don't rush to question it. But it does fit it; and a lot of the work that is done in Waldorf school enhances, or at least could enhance, sensory integration.
I am going to start looking into this - at a gut level it makes sense.
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Enki Education is a brilliant example of this, and it comes with brilliant explanations of how those things fit together. From what I have seen, everything they do in Grade 1, at least, when it comes to Circle Time movement, would be entirely acceptable in a Waldorf classroom and yet it is underpinned by SI theory.
A name that I have seen on MDC, but never looked into... for lazy/busy people, it helped to have a link and I did go and check it out - and it looks fascinating at first glance


- in relation to a comparison of broken hearted friend after a break up of a romantic relationship and broken hearted parents from Waldorf schools

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With all due respect, orangewallflower, but I have been known to say such things to friends. And I would say it when it came to a school too. In any kind of situation where it would be applicable, really. I understand that this kind of thing is not done in some place -- England, for example.
Coming from a more British background I also would not say anything, although after living in Israel I would be more inclined to say something, perhaps gently, but I reckon I would want my friend to learn and not repeat the same mistakes (and would also want my friends to help me learn should it be me with my heart broken). But perhaps this cannot be generalised to people traumatised by Waldorf

Megan, mama to her little boy (Feb2008) and introducing our little girl (Dec 2010)
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#65 of 156 Old 08-10-2008, 05:31 PM
 
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Ema, I am really sad to read that you sense anger in my post to you. I haven't felt antipathy at all toward you in this whole exchange. It is hard to figure out a person's attitude and intentions through cyberspace as you note, but I do want to be able to write with enough clarity to avoid something like this. I will read back through our posts to see if I can figure out where I went wrong. (I don't have an agenda at all except to express that I think that there are some special reasons that Waldorf can have upset parents that are unique to Waldorf.)

To the PP about Catholicism and anthro: anthroposophy is not a prosylitic religion like Catholicism. I believe that anthroposphists feel very lucky to have found anthroposophy, but there is simply not a mission to spread the word and convert people as in Christianity. While I am aware that anthroposophical practices are taught (eurythmy is pure anthroposophy) and anthroposophy informs most decisions made about what and how to teach I am quite certain that naked doctrine never is. I think that few Waldorf students would be aware of their teachers practicing anthroposophy, and I would be surprised to hear that Steiner's name ever came up in the classroom.
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#66 of 156 Old 08-10-2008, 05:32 PM
 
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Ema, I am really sad to read that you sense anger in my post to you. I haven't felt antipathy at all toward you in this whole exchange. It is hard to figure out a person's attitude and intentions through cyberspace as you note, but I do want to be able to write with enough clarity to avoid something like this. I will read back through our posts to see if I can figure out where I went wrong. (I don't have an agenda at all except to express that I think that there are some special reasons that Waldorf can have upset parents that are unique to Waldorf.)

To the PP about Catholicism and anthro: anthroposophy is not a prosylitic religion like Catholicism. Most anthroposphists feel very lucky to have found anthroposophy, but there is simply not a mission to spread the word and convert people as in Christianity. While I am aware that anthroposophical practices are taught (eurythmy is pure anthroposophy) and anthroposophy informs most decisions made about what and how to teach I am quite certain that naked doctrine never is. I think that few Waldorf students would be aware of their teachers practicing anthroposophy, and I would be surprised to hear that Steiner's name ever came up in the classroom.
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#67 of 156 Old 08-10-2008, 10:44 PM
 
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I see a couple of problems that reoccur from time to time.

1) Our school advertises itself as non-sectarian. Many people don't seem to have an understanding of this word and believe that it means secular. It doesn't (as I am sure many of you understand). So we have people who come to the school expecting secular and get saints tales in the 2nd grade and are upset by it. I think the school is doing a better job of explaining that there is a spiritual side to the school but that one path is not acknowledged as the path. They do talk about it being an education for the heart, hands and mind and not being just about the mind.

2) People fall in love with the school and/or education and when confronted with the fact that the school is made up of human beings with all their wonderful qualities, qerks and faults, they are deeply disappointed that the school has failed them.

3) So much depends on the teacher and the dynamics between the teacher and the student. Huge fallouts occur when 2 sides argue over the teacher. I have seen several classes split with almost half the class leaving in a dispute over the teacher. I have also seen teachers whom everyone loves except they are a poor match for one student. That one student, through really no fault of their own, can cause havoc and disharmony within the class. It is usually especially difficult for these families because often the parents or at least one parent, is very committed to Waldorf and they are extremely disappointed when their child is asked to leave. Thankfully in Seattle, we have several Waldorf schools to choose from and often a child who can't find his place in one class will find it another.

4) Lastly, many of the celebrations in Waldorf are based on European culture, specifically German culture. In American, we would see these festivals as religious in nature while many people in Europe would see them as cultural. Often many of these celebrations have Pagan roots but are now considered Christian. Almost every single Saint's holiday (Martinmas, Candlemas, Christmas, etc.) were based on Pagan holidays. They are a part of the European cultural fabric. So an American atheist might be upset by these celebrations while a European atheist wouldn't be fazed in the least.


The last thing I will say, is that I went to a Catholic High School although I am not Catholic. The Public Schools at the time in my hometown were in turmoil and my parents were looking for a better education for me. When I went there, I went to all of the Catholic education classes and attended mass though I did not participate in communion. I got all A's in my religion classes but never converted to Catholicism and the sisters were always very respectful of my being a Protestant. People choose different forms of education for many different reasons. Some have nothing to do with the religion it is based on.
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#68 of 156 Old 08-11-2008, 01:42 AM
 
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Rhonwyn, yours is such an illuminating post! While I did understand the distinction when we started our Waldorf journey, I filled in the blanks to suit myself. I remember reading that Waldorf welcomes families from all backgrounds and religions. I had friends who looked into Waldorf and then didn't continue because of the Christian twist and I thought they were making a big mistake. Now I get that although everyone is welcome, that doesn't mean everyone is comfortable. Parents who are allergic to Christianity are going to have a particularly tough time through advent season! (This is not a pet peeve of mine. I think it is a great thing for kids to know these stories whether they are religious or not.)

Anyway, thanks for the post. Everything you said seems spot-on, and it's great to hear this perspective from someone with a positive outlook on Waldorf.
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I have really gotten alot from these posts and have benefitted greatly from the discussions of many of the aspects of Anthroposophy and Waldorf that illuminate, agitate, confuse and raise concern.

I am wondering if anyone has any thoughts, ideas, or potential theories on how, IF at all, these qualities contribute to the frequent problems Waldorf schools encounter when simply RUNNING the school. It was not gnomes or Anthroposophy that drove us out, but instead the overwhelming ineptitude of our school to maintain quality control of the education, continuity of teachers and environment, retain families, and process constructive criticism, which eventually resulted in our departure. However, I often wonder if something about the underlying belief system somehow, inadvertantly contributes to these problems. Problems which I have heard are not limited to our school, but quite common in Waldorf schools. Are the two things linked?
any ideas....and please, I do not want to ignite a debate, I really, truly am trying to piece together and to understand how it all works and how they might be linked to the core philosophies..or not...

thanks
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#70 of 156 Old 08-11-2008, 04:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
Ema, I am really sad to read that you sense anger in my post to you. I haven't felt antipathy at all toward you in this whole exchange. It is hard to figure out a person's attitude and intentions through cyberspace as you note, but I do want to be able to write with enough clarity to avoid something like this. I will read back through our posts to see if I can figure out where I went wrong. (I don't have an agenda at all except to express that I think that there are some special reasons that Waldorf can have upset parents that are unique to Waldorf.)
Like I said, I am really grateful to you for keeping the discussion so very focused and fair. I think that your commitment to this has been essential to this thread not going horribly off track. I also do feel that you have been steadfast in your attempt at understanding what it is about Waldorf that has upset parents. The few times that I felt barbs really just could have been me feeling like my opinion or fumbling at finding an understanding were sometimes not interpreted as I had intended... You are also very articulate. I wish I could be more so... but again that has nothing to do with the intention of the thread which has been summarised and rephrased a couple of times.

Quote:
To the PP about Catholicism and anthro: anthroposophy is not a prosylitic religion like Catholicism. I believe that anthroposphists feel very lucky to have found anthroposophy, but there is simply not a mission to spread the word and convert people as in Christianity. While I am aware that anthroposophical practices are taught (eurythmy is pure anthroposophy) and anthroposophy informs most decisions made about what and how to teach I am quite certain that naked doctrine never is. I think that few Waldorf students would be aware of their teachers practicing anthroposophy, and I would be surprised to hear that Steiner's name ever came up in the classroom.
Again, I find your perspective interesting and will be thinking about it some more with time. My first impression is that this makes sense. In regard to the communion eurythmy comparison, I still have not figured out why that does not make sense to me... perhaps I'll share as far as I have got and someone else out there might have thoughts to share.
Where I can see the similarity is that communion is central to the Catholic faith. Eurythmy is in some way central to a Waldorf experience in that all schools offer this (if they can).
I chose "some way" to describe the place of eurythmy in Waldorf as I am not sure that it holds the same place as communion does for a Catholic. And this is where I am stuck. I guess I just do not have enough information about Catholicism and the role of communion and eurythmy and its role in Waldorf.

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Originally Posted by Rhonwyn View Post
I see a couple of problems that reoccur from time to time.

1) Our school advertises itself as non-sectarian. Many people don't seem to have an understanding of this word and believe that it means secular. It doesn't (as I am sure many of you understand). So we have people who come to the school expecting secular and get saints tales in the 2nd grade and are upset by it. I think the school is doing a better job of explaining that there is a spiritual side to the school but that one path is not acknowledged as the path. They do talk about it being an education for the heart, hands and mind and not being just about the mind
This makes so much sense to me.
BTW, I love your siggy. I totally relate to childhood being a journey and not a race and think this is part of what I find so attractive about Waldorf - is that there is no rush on growing up and preparing for the adult world. I think this applies to the rush on kids being exposed to technology so that they will not be left behind and also I think this applies to pushing of academics when perhaps kids are loosing out on opportunities to be kids - ie teaching a 4 year old to read when a 4 year old developmentally might find it more beneficial to be playing outside on the jungle gym.

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2) People fall in love with the school and/or education and when confronted with the fact that the school is made up of human beings with all their wonderful qualities, qerks and faults, they are deeply disappointed that the school has failed them.
Again, clearly said.

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3) So much depends on the teacher and the dynamics between the teacher and the student. Huge fallouts occur when 2 sides argue over the teacher. I have seen several classes split with almost half the class leaving in a dispute over the teacher. I have also seen teachers whom everyone loves except they are a poor match for one student. That one student, through really no fault of their own, can cause havoc and disharmony within the class. It is usually especially difficult for these families because often the parents or at least one parent, is very committed to Waldorf and they are extremely disappointed when their child is asked to leave. Thankfully in Seattle, we have several Waldorf schools to choose from and often a child who can't find his place in one class will find it another.
I remember when I went into grade 3 it was with a new teacher as my original teacher was leaving South Africa... Anyway, many parents did not like the new teacher who had been appointed and I think about a third of the pupils left.
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4) Lastly, many of the celebrations in Waldorf are based on European culture, specifically German culture. In American, we would see these festivals as religious in nature while many people in Europe would see them as cultural. Often many of these celebrations have Pagan roots but are now considered Christian. Almost every single Saint's holiday (Martinmas, Candlemas, Christmas, etc.) were based on Pagan holidays. They are a part of the European cultural fabric. So an American atheist might be upset by these celebrations while a European atheist wouldn't be fazed in the least.
This is very clarifying for me in terms of the cultural differences.

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The last thing I will say, is that I went to a Catholic High School although I am not Catholic. The Public Schools at the time in my hometown were in turmoil and my parents were looking for a better education for me. When I went there, I went to all of the Catholic education classes and attended mass though I did not participate in communion. I got all A's in my religion classes but never converted to Catholicism and the sisters were always very respectful of my being a Protestant. People choose different forms of education for many different reasons. Some have nothing to do with the religion it is based on.
Agreed. I am sure that there would be some parents who just under no circumstances could enrol their child in a Catholic or any expressly religious school. This seems to be a point that is returned to. How important the value of religion or philosophy is in the family. If it is a non negotiable element (ie a family wants the purist secular education), then I would not expect that family to choose Waldorf.

Something that I would like to add as I thought about the responsibility of the parent to research the school they are sending their child to, I was also thinking that it would be the responsibility of the school to clarify expectations as part of enrolment. Granted, not everyone has fully formed opinions and not all bases can be covered, but I am sure that some pretty major differences in approach could be highlighted before before both family and school become invested in the education of the child.

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Rhonwyn, yours is such an illuminating post! While I did understand the distinction when we started our Waldorf journey, I filled in the blanks to suit myself. I remember reading that Waldorf welcomes families from all backgrounds and religions. I had friends who looked into Waldorf and then didn't continue because of the Christian twist and I thought they were making a big mistake. Now I get that although everyone is welcome, that doesn't mean everyone is comfortable. Parents who are allergic to Christianity are going to have a particularly tough time through advent season! (This is not a pet peeve of mine. I think it is a great thing for kids to know these stories whether they are religious or not.)
I found the part I bolded helpful to my understanding - it helped me clarify an aspect of what can go wrong with Waldorf

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I am wondering if anyone has any thoughts, ideas, or potential theories on how, IF at all, these qualities, this dogmatism, contributes to the frequent problems Waldorf schools encounter when simply RUNNING the school.
I second this. I find the need to correlate Waldorf qualities with dogmatism slightly offensive, but to each his own.

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It was not gnomes or Anthroposophy that drove us out, but instead the overwhelming ineptitude of our school to maintain quality control of the education, continuity of teachers and environment, retain families, and process constructive criticism, which eventually resulted in our departure.
These would all be definite problems in any school and how a school - any school - addresses them would contribute to the success or failure of the school. At least that is how I am thinking right now

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However, I often wonder if something about the underlying belief system somehow, inadvertantly contributes to these problems. Problems which I have heard are not limited to our school, but quite common in Waldorf schools. Are the two things linked?
I too would be appreciative of any ideas on this question. I know that management of a school is just as essential as the teaching style and content.

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Rhonwyn, yours is such an illuminating post! While I did understand the distinction when we started our Waldorf journey, I filled in the blanks to suit myself. I remember reading that Waldorf welcomes families from all backgrounds and religions. I had friends who looked into Waldorf and then didn't continue because of the Christian twist and I thought they were making a big mistake. Now I get that although everyone is welcome, that doesn't mean everyone is comfortable. Parents who are allergic to Christianity are going to have a particularly tough time through advent season! (This is not a pet peeve of mine. I think it is a great thing for kids to know these stories whether they are religious or not.)

Anyway, thanks for the post. Everything you said seems spot-on, and it's great to hear this perspective from someone with a positive outlook on Waldorf.

Waldorf celebrations are preceived as Christian in nature because they come from Germany for the most part where the old Pagan agricultural festivals were converted to Christian festivals. The Fesitvals are really more of a celebration of the seasons and the rythm of the year. A school in an area with a culture that is not predominantly Christian/European could successfully change these celebrations to local celebrations of the same meaning. Many schools do. Obviously the schools in Israel are not going to be Christian/European flavored and neither are the ones in China. To Americans, Advent may be a very religious holiday, to the Europeans, it is cultural and speaks deeply to their roots which have little to do with Christianity. It is interesting to note, that many schools in the US don't even call the Advent Gardens this anymore. Many are Soltice spirals or some other variation.
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I too would be appreciative of any ideas on this question. I know that management of a school is just as essential as the teaching style and content.
I think some of the ways that Steiner set the schools up to be run don't work anymore. It is just too much for the teachers. There is too much to teach. We have been very fortunate at our school in that our director has taken over all of the day to day running of the school and allowed the teachers to focus on teaching and pedagogy. Our director has also been very good about getting procedures/protocals down in writing. They give clear guidance for many emotional situations. They help to ensure that all families and children are treated with the same respect and in the same manner. We have also gone to a policy where a family can leave at anytime of they want to without any financial obligations haunting them.
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eda-adama,

I did not mean to offend, it came out wrong, I don't correlate the two, what I mean is that sometimes the "sicking to our guns" and Anthroposophical beliefs behind decisions, muddied the waters and felt a little controling and dated. Simple decisions seemed overcomplicated. I was drawn to the lovely way the decisions always have a beautiful rational behind them, but sometimes, it felt like overkill. does that clarify?
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littleanniesky - yes, I think that is clearer. I think it helps us if everyone is speaking the same language - as much as is possible. As this thread progresses, I find that keeping language as neutral as possible is helpful, where possible.

I also get the overkill thing. But perhaps this has something to do with the way decisions are made? ie things being discussed and requiring consensus, not made in an authoritarian manner.... although I guess this is the intention and not the reality in some schools. I seem to remember you saying that in the school your children had been attending there were problems with chairmanship of a board being passed up by teachers deferring to bossier teachers, or something like that.

I also feel the need to make a point here. I am sure you are not alone in that the root of your decision to leave Waldorf was the mismanagement. I find it interesting that you have thought the mismanagement as being possibly inextricably linked to the philosophy of Waldorf - I guess I would mean Anthroposophy.
Is there something in your experience that made you think the two could be linked?

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It just always seemed so unnecessarily complicated, like re-inventing the wheel with each issue. Board meetings would drag on and on about things that were so trivial. Rules were loosely enforced or held onto like life-lines, depending on who enforced them. Much of this discrepancy was teacher confidence and personality, but much of it was also the lack of accountability. No ONE person made decisions, no one seemed in charge, and no ONE person was at fault, even if ONE person made a mistake or acted inappropriately or used poor judgement. Is this Anthroposophy at work? Does Anthroposophy dictate discipline? I know I am answering questions with questions, but I have so many it seems...
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I obviously have no experience as a parent to draw on and littleanniesky, you have a wealth of experience.

I can draw on my experience at work and say that I get really really annoyed when therapists nit pick about very small issues and totally loose sight of the bigger picture. I cannot stand meetings where, in the way I see things, it is essentially a power play of who is speaking the most - and whose opinion is going to dominate. Where I work is a large tertiary hospital with only the highest medical standards to aspire to. And yet you cannot believe the time wasted on petty issues during staff meetings.

Lack of accountability could be something particular to Waldorf. However, just to throw a spanner in the works, I have seen medical issues fudge up when doctors close ranks to protect themselves (or nurses or anyone on the team) and no one speaks up. A very nasty reality. (I think this is less likely in the USA with law suits - but that is a whole other discussion)

Perhaps others have more insight to share on how specifically Anthroposophy has affected school management. I am inclined to think that the issues people are dealing with would be issues relevant to Anthroposphy or values important to Waldorf principles. The style of dealing with these issues would be highly personal, depending on the personalities involved. However, I could be missing something and perhaps someone could shed light on how the style of managing the school could be linked to anthroposophy.

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#78 of 156 Old 08-12-2008, 09:26 AM
 
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I'm jumping in, but i don't have any particular angst or love for Waldorf in general. I do however have the dual benefits (for this discussion and forming my opinions on it only!) of having NOT been educated this way, but having close friends who are long-standing teachers and students.

My teacher friends DO complain about how schools are run, but here in the UK it boils down to two main problems:
1) money. The schools are private, but the fees still often try to reflect a child's right to this sort of education and since many more cannot afford it than can, the school closest to me is accessible but so very poor and the next closest is richer but somewhat exclusive.
2) the UK's education system. I actually knew one teacher who had a class of which 40% of the pupils had been expelled from UK mainstream schooling. The parents of such kids do not "choose" Waldorf, it chooses them by its policy of not writing kids off over past misdemeanors.

The combination of these two things means the teachers are underpaid, equipment is scarce, resources slim and children are OFTEN living very very non-waldorf lifestyles outside of school and have parents who do not support the Waldorf approach and are no help to teachers when their kids are difficult to teach. These make the teaching atmosphere very difficult. I have read someone at the start of the thread talk about the focus of teachers on how much they earn - i know several teachers who teach in very difficult circumstances to children who are not the easiest to teach with parents who are not the most supportive and make money they would better if they CLEANED at a state school. Yes, of course teaching in Steiner schools is their choice, but believing in what they do enough that they continue to do it doesn't mean they will always feel great joy at their circumstances.

In addition because most staff are so ground down by these difficulties there is a very real tendencies for the bullying/powermad/forceful types to be in the positions of leadership, because the rest have not the energy to fight them. I know the council is supposed to ensure equality but he who shouts loudest gets heard in Steiner schools as in the rest of life. Some schools work better than others, and i do believe the poorest suffer the most from these tendencies, simply because just providing the minimum is such a struggle.

As for the educational underpinnings (of anthroposophy) i am on the fence about it. If a child goes through all the MOTIONS of a dogma, does it matter? Steiner felt it did. He DID think that thought and deed made a difference to the world, but, i think, that thought was somewhat more important. So for instance eurythmy IS going to be far more effective when taken part in consciously (with the knowledge of the goals), but there will be SOME benefit of even unconscious participation (i'm thinking of "wax on/wax off" as practiced by the karate kid in that old movie, rather than the eucharist). But does it matter? Going back to the Catholic example, if a child eats the wafer, confesses, speaks the rosary, but has no idea why or what they are doing, does it matter? Action supports belief but it generally doesn't create it. If i don't believe that the action of the eucharist does any GOOD (assuming because i'm not Catholic that i don't) why would i believe it did any HARM? But then i read so much here is about disclosure rather than the underpinning belief itself. I agree that disclosure should be important, and i'm lucky enough to know quite open anthroposophs (or perhaps they feel i'm ready for their truths?), but i also think it's important to find out why for one's self and one CAN. Yes, it should be far simpler to ask the class teacher and be enlightened, but if the class teacher isn't forthcoming one can find out in other places.

I am already thinking about schooling for my 2 year old because she is somewhat gifted, as was i, and i do not want her to go through what i did - 12 years of waiting for peers to catch up. I have been looking into Waldorf but i'm put off by several things:
1) the early reluctance towards intellectualism - this doesn't last, some of the most intellectual people i know when through a full Steiner education, but ALL of them found it frustrating in the early years. I also find the emotiveness of this reluctance disturbing, my DD is already recognising all her numbers and many letters and at one point in the company of an anthroposoph she pointed to a word on a colouring book and said "what's that say" and when i told her the anthroposoph demanded angrily "are you teaching her to read!?" Nothing overt was said afterwards but the antmosphere was strained and she clearly felt i was at best remiss, at worst almost abusive in my willingness to discuss such topics with DD. I understand why Steiner felt it was a bad idea, but i read at 3 and am yet to suffer. The friends i have who are intellectual were prevented from reading until 7 or 8 and hated the experience and felt MUCH happier when they had access to texts.

2) The judgementalism of individuals about one another. Between 2 families or 2 friends it can be very supportive but i have minuted meetings about child's behaviour, teachers actions, parents contributions, which turned into witch trials! It is that in general people ARE in love (or heartbroken following their break-up) with Steiner Education. When we examine or do something from a scientifically researched point of view we are less passionate about it. I am not so passionate about these things. I accept there may be benefits to eating organic food, i do not accept a non-organic apple, or even a big mac once in a while, is the root of all evil. I accept there may be advantages for some children not to be expected to read until later than mainstream schools expect, but i do not accept that teaching a toddler their alphabet or singing alphabet songs amounts to child abuse. It's the extremism of it all that bothers me, yes, the my-way-or-the-highway of it. But there IS a strong belief system underlying it all, and such passion is to be expected. Even though i know several Catholic schools which would give DD a good education, i wouldn't send her there because i think expecting duality in small children can be unfair on them (and DD already unfortunately has to contend with separated parents and 2 households with sometimes wildly different rules) and the world is a confusing place without choosing an educational system which contradicts the way i allow/expect her to live at home.

Perhaps with Steiner, there are many elements which speak so deeply to people. Mainstream life is NOT like Steiner and those who have been progressing away from the mainstream as they live might well stumble on Steiner and think "where have you BEEN all my life" - finally a whole SYSTEM which seems to believe what they themselves are coming to believe, a way of living, already in place, a safe place with ostensibly like-minded people to talk to and spend time with. It can feel lonely being non-mainstream, the sudden discovery of Steiner can be such a flood of comforting warmth, solidarity, company, refuge. Unfortunately though, as any once-worshipped lover knows, pedestals are shaky heights and Steiner, because it is as flawed as ANY system devised my humans, inevitably falls and those people who fell so in love with the ideas they formed of Steiner during those early falling-in-love times are inevitably completely crushed by it when it comes crashing down. Perhaps it is that Steiner (like any educational option which one has to seek and choose rather than just automatically being assigned it, as in state education) attracts passionate people, and passionate people suffer when the object of their passions is revealed to be unworthy?
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I am starting to love this thread. : Not only is it wonderfully civilised, it is also touching on many important issues that I feel need to be discussed more.

For example:

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Originally Posted by ema-adama View Post
Perhaps others have more insight to share on how specifically Anthroposophy has affected school management.
I feel that this, essentially, is a different thread, but since this one is so lovely we may as well stick with it! It is a very interesting question, too. Do the problems of management that a lot of Steiner/Waldorf schools seem to facing have something to do with anthroposophy? And if yes, what? And answer it I think we should start with the dreaded question: what is anthroposophy?

There seem to be at least two distinct answers to this. One is that anthroposophy is a spiritual path (that Steiner felt was) suitable for Western people at the beginning of the 20th century. The other is that anthroposophy is "what Rudolf Steiner said". There is a world of a difference between the two. The first one, as far as I am aware, centres around ethical individualism, which, as I see it, is the capacity to determine what is best for you to do in each different circumstance, using your ability to think. The other one is some kind of religion.

Unfortunately it the second hat usually passes for anthroposophy.

But whose fault is that? Some times I really think Steiner must be squirming in his grave at all the things that are done in his name. And I'm not even that fond of all that he says, necessarily. It is just the extend to which it gets misunderstood that drives me crazy. Because I do believe he said that one should think for one's self and test things out and not follow what he (Steiner) said as dogma. But somehow this part gets missed a lot... :

The thing is that a lot of people do go looking for a religion, though, and so they take anthroposophy as one when they find it. And of course this is probably encouraged in some circles. It definitely is prevalent in the atmosphere in schools and other institutions. (Not that I have been to that many, but judging from the ones I have been to, and things that people whose opinions I trust have said.) Of course it is not always this black and white, and a lot of people do a bit of thinking and a bit of following, but even so, there is not enough free thinking for my liking. Or even enough understanding. :

However I think that blaming Steiner for that is a little like blaming Christ for the Crusades. It is human nature that causes that, and what I called before a series of unhappy coincidences, which just tend to enforce those not-so-great sides of human nature. (For example someone arrives to anthroposophy looking for a religion, a sense of community, like minded people; they fall in love with it, and are not inclined to think critically; if they also find themselves in a place where questioning things is not encouraged, they'll either run away eventually or never question things.) This is really not what Steiner had in mind when he talked of open-mindedness, flexibility, positivity, self-examination and the rest...
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#80 of 156 Old 08-12-2008, 12:53 PM
 
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I think some of the ways that Steiner set the schools up to be run don't work anymore. It is just too much for the teachers. There is too much to teach.
This is very, very, very true. Especially the 'too much for the teachers' part. However, I don't agree that 'Steiner set up the schools'; he only set up one, the first one; and that is the whole problem. He set it up with a bunch of people who were dedicated to the cause, whether it was anthroposophy or building a better world after the war. (I remember reading that at least one of the teachers was not an anthroposophist, but somebody's sister. Or something like that.) They could afford to dedicate their whole lives to the school. Of course things have changed in the last ninety years, more than Steiner could have ever imagined they would I think; and yet we try to run schools in the same way, demanding that the teachers do everything.

I seriously think a personal life and Waldorf teaching are mutually exclusive. And I am not even talking about having children and teaching at a school. (I understand there are people who do it; it's just that none of them seems very well-rested to me, to say the least; and I wouldn't want to live my life like that.)

Ironically enough, this (trying to do everything the same way) is against Steiner's principles too. Whatever "My action will be “good” if my intuition, immersed in love, exists in the right way within the relationship between things; this can be experienced intuitively; the action will be “bad” if this is not the case." might mean, it does not seem to mean "follow me". It talks about intuition, which for Steiner was a form of higher thinking (or so I think anyway) and about it being in the right relationship with things around me. Also with me -the essence of who I am- and with my feelings. Now if only Steiner schools were like this.

(I understand I have done a very poor job explaining the quote; as I've said, my patience with Steiner's prose is limited, and this is how far I am going to go with it. If you think this means something else, or, more likely, that it is nonsense, so be it.)

My favourite anthroposophist, who also happens to be the cleverest anthroposophist I know, once gave me the followig metaphor. If Steiner's ideas on education are the laws of physics, and schools are bridges built based on our knowledge of those laws, instead of using the laws to build the right bridge for each location, we keep building the same bridge over and over. Consequently some fall down...

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We have been very fortunate at our school in that our director has taken over all of the day to day running of the school and allowed the teachers to focus on teaching and pedagogy.
Indeed, that seems to work. The best-run school I've been too has a principal, too.
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#81 of 156 Old 08-12-2008, 01:58 PM
 
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My teacher friends DO complain about how schools are run, but here in the UK it boils down to two main problems:

1) money. The schools are private, but the fees still often try to reflect a child's right to this sort of education and since many more cannot afford it than can, the school closest to me is accessible but so very poor and the next closest is richer but somewhat exclusive.

2) the UK's education system. I actually knew one teacher who had a class of which 40% of the pupils had been expelled from UK mainstream schooling. The parents of such kids do not "choose" Waldorf, it chooses them by its policy of not writing kids off over past misdemeanors.
These are also very true, too. I have also seen both of those happen time and time again. I do wonder where you live, GoBecGo (i.e., which schools those are); I shouldn't, but my curiosity gets the best of me.

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1) the early reluctance towards intellectualism - this doesn't last, some of the most intellectual people i know when through a full Steiner education, but ALL of them found it frustrating in the early years. I also find the emotiveness of this reluctance disturbing, my DD is already recognising all her numbers and many letters and at one point in the company of an anthroposoph she pointed to a word on a colouring book and said "what's that say" and when i told her the anthroposoph demanded angrily "are you teaching her to read!?"
I shall try to comment on this incident without using the words 'sheer stupidity' again. It might be hard, though...

I believe that somewhere along the line Waldorf has confused 'intellectual' with 'intelligent'. I do understand that seeing the world in an intellectual way is not good for a small child, and reading is a pretty abstract thing in a way, and you shouldn't teach children until they are ready but, what where you supposed to do, not answer your daughter's question? Or are you supposed to not expose her to books at all? Yeah, well, perhaps that was a good idea in Steiner's time but I can't see how exactly that would benefit a child today.

Not because they need to learn to read early -- in Greece, where I come from, no child learns to read before they go to school. Of course we do read books to them, although, admittedly, they're not necessarily looking at the book as you read it, so that might be part of the reason why. Also there are no alphabet books or alphabet songs. And yet pretty much all children read quite fluently at the end of their first year in primary school. Mind you, Greece is easier than English when it comes to learning to read. Although I am sure it is harder in other ways... But I digress. Books are such beautiful things. I came across some of my favourite childhood books the other week, and I was amazed at how deeply touched I was by seeing those pictures again. Whyever would I keep a child away from something like that? But I digress yet again.

So, while I do find that teaching small children letters is a somewhat odd idea, I also don't see where the problem is as long as you are not forcing them to learn and as long the child gets enough of what they need to be doing at this age. And while I do see how being in school all morning where you are forced to memorised phonics might get in your way of being four years old, a parent answering a child's questions is not automatically going to stop the child from being able to get enough imaginative play/ feel connected to the world around them / develop their motor skills or whatever this person thought they should be doing. Surely. A little bit of common sense never hurt anyone...

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The friends i have who are intellectual were prevented from reading until 7 or 8 and hated the experience and felt MUCH happier when they had access to texts.
That may or may not having something to do with the fact that in general children read earlier in the UK. However, I don't agree with children waiting until 7 or 8 or even 9 to become independent readers. Waiting for those who need time is great, but keeping the others behind too is not so great. Children can go to Class 1 when they're six or seven (not seven or eight, as it sometimes happens) and they can begin to learn to read; spending a whole year doing uppercase letters only must be ever so boring. But this is a whole different topic in itself, too.
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#82 of 156 Old 08-12-2008, 02:29 PM
 
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Originally Posted by DimitraDaisy View Post
My favourite anthroposophist, who also happens to be the cleverest anthroposophist I know, once gave me the followig metaphor. If Steiner's ideas on education are the laws of physics, and schools are bridges built based on our knowledge of those laws, instead of using the laws to build the right bridge for each location, we keep building the same bridge over and over. Consequently some fall down...


What happened is that the schools sometimes aren't so much following "Steiner says" as they are following the traditions set at Stuttgart. Steiner himself deviated in many ways from the Stuttgart blueprint (I think there were maybe 4 or 5 Waldorf schools when he died.) What's often labeled "dogma" is more often than not simply tradition. And every school system has some of it's most ridiculous (imo) clashes between the traditionalists and the revolutionists, especially in the US. I see signs all over the place in Waldorf education of some of the debates among its more idealistic educators (who can be traditionalists or revolutionaries) over what the education really needs to do to stay truest to the pedagogical vision.
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#83 of 156 Old 08-12-2008, 02:39 PM
 
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Delurking! I have found this thread so enlightening and I admire how honest and respectful everyone has been--even if disagreements come up.
I have been wondering if Waldorf will be the right education for my child since, well, way before he was born. All the experiences I've had with our local Waldorf school have been extremely positive and so I had a mini "falling in love" experience...then I researched what the critics had to say, felt horrified, and had a mini "falling out of love" experience. So I have resolved myself to go into this with my eyes wide open, asking many of the ?s that have come up here. I've come to the conclusion that the problems that many parents have with Waldorf is not necessarily something that's exclusive to anthroposophy, but usually falls under one of these categories (and I'm definitely touching on many of the points that have already come up):

It's a poor fit for the family. Some families are charmed by the fact that Waldorf is an "artsy" kind of school but may not realize or like that there are many spiritual elements to the curriculum. If the family if troubled by these spiritual elements, then the school is probably not a good fit, no matter how much you want it to fit. I've known families who try out Waldorf even though the anthro stuff makes them slightly uncomfortable and they're ultimately disappointed.

It's a poor fit for the child. I don't think Waldorf serves every child--I don't think there's any school that serves EVERY child. Some might have a natural intellectual curiousity and feel bored by the slower pace in the early years, some might have special needs that benefit from more "mainstream" resources, sometimes the child should not have to be with that particular class teacher for eight whole years. Sometimes parents wish so badly that they themselves were Waldorf students that they have a hard time seeing that it's not for their child (I could see this happening to me ).

It's soooo small. I think the second you enroll your child in Waldorf, you invariably are entering into a small, tight-knit community in a way that just doesn't exist with public schools. There are pluses and minuses to this. Yes, you can get that feeling of community and belonging, but you can also get competitiveness (people trying to "out-Steiner" each other, and in the process losing themselves as well as Steiner's original message--DimitriaDaisy, I can read what you have to write about this all day!), lack of resources (stressed-out, spread-thin school staff, trial-and-error process when it comes to running the school), and cliquishness (when you're "in" it feels great and you spend a lot of energy on staying "in", but if you're "out," it feels devestating). But all of these negatives exist in any small environment, not just Waldorf/Steiner, ultimately you must feel confident that YOU know what's best for your family and your child and never let a group make you feel otherwise.

Sorry that I'm just repeating what's already been said! Writing it out has helped me to make sense of all the things that have been floating around in my head for some time now.
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#84 of 156 Old 08-12-2008, 04:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I find the thread taking an interesting turn. I am sure there is enough material for many threads here as there clearly are so many issues.

Reading through since my last post, I found reference to the intellectual or cognitive elements in child education and the mix up with intelligence. This is something that I had never really thought about and I am now curious about how this is addressed in a Waldorf setting. How do you manage a highly intelligent child in the classroom when they are streaks ahead of the class and just plain bored?
In a previous post I made a rather glib statement about 4 year old needing to play and not be taught to read. I would like to explain that a bit more.
As parents, we invest so much in assuring our children will have the best in life - and I see around me a huge pressure on children to be achievers,to fulfil some sort of expectation. I think it might have something to do with the culture of being smart being a highly prized trait. I feel uncomfortable with that kind of pressure being put on children.
I remember seeing a 2 1/2 year old being taught to say "I know mathematics, 2 X 2 = 4" and he obviously had no clue what he was saying - ie he was repeated something without understanding the concept. (this is a bit of an extreme example, but essentially I think it illustrates my point)
I also feel uncomfortable when parents long for their child to be some sort of wonder kid and push the child to perform.

As an OT I have looked at these concerns from an Occupation point of view. The occupation of children is to learn through play and by replacing their play opportunity with academic tasks, they loose out on the appropriate learning experience. Now the word 'appropriate' is open to interpretation. I guess this is only one aspect of the whole picture. I am sure different professions and different people would put their own spin on this, but bottom line I think people would agree children need to be playing.

I guess for me it boils down to whether the child is needing the stimulation or if the parent is pushing the child. I also have no clue how any school manages with a child who is streaks ahead of the class (I have a vague memory of this being an issue when I was in elementary school and a parent wanting their child to skip a class up or something so as to be challenged and it was decided by the school that it would be best for the child to be with his age group.)
I am not sure what I think about this. On one level it makes sense, but having a child bored to tears definitely does not make sense.

DimitraDaisy - I really enjoy reading all what you are writing! I found your clarification of the difference between anthroposophy and the 'religion' of anthroposophy very helpful. It makes sense to me and is being tucked away for further contemplation. But I think it might help unravel some of what is so confusing about Waldorf.

My favourite anthroposophist, who also happens to be the cleverest anthroposophist I know, once gave me the followig metaphor. If Steiner's ideas on education are the laws of physics, and schools are bridges built based on our knowledge of those laws, instead of using the laws to build the right bridge for each location, we keep building the same bridge over and over. Consequently some fall down...
This is a rather awesome metaphor.

My baby is not sleeping well and I am just not going to get all what I wanted to write typed out tonight... This is such a dream thread for me and I am really so happy that people are coming forward to share. I look forward to catching up later

Megan, mama to her little boy (Feb2008) and introducing our little girl (Dec 2010)
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#85 of 156 Old 08-12-2008, 06:37 PM
 
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Quote:
My favourite anthroposophist, who also happens to be the cleverest anthroposophist I know, once gave me the followig metaphor. If Steiner's ideas on education are the laws of physics, and schools are bridges built based on our knowledge of those laws, instead of using the laws to build the right bridge for each location, we keep building the same bridge over and over. Consequently some fall down...
This is a rather awesome metaphor.
i completely agree!

awesome.

~jen~ )O( mama to k 07/05 o 5/08 and c 12/09
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#86 of 156 Old 08-12-2008, 08:16 PM
 
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GoBecGo and Dimitra, thank your for your posts! This thread has become something that I would recommend to prospective parents as both illuminating and fair. When I first found Waldorf I was so frustrated to only be able to find fluffy material produced by the Anthro press that had no critical edge or (later on) websites written by people so outraged by unsavory Steiner passages that they no longer were talking about the reality of Waldorf schools. I think that you both have gone to the heart of the matter in a way that will help others make a truly informed decision about this educational path for their children. Thank you!
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#87 of 156 Old 08-12-2008, 09:05 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DimitraDaisy View Post
These are also very true, too. I have also seen both of those happen time and time again. I do wonder where you live, GoBecGo (i.e., which schools those are); I shouldn't, but my curiosity gets the best of me.
I'd tell you but i don't want repercussions for those teachers who have complained about their lots!


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Originally Posted by DimitraDaisy View Post
I believe that somewhere along the line Waldorf has confused 'intellectual' with 'intelligent'. I do understand that seeing the world in an intellectual way is not good for a small child, and reading is a pretty abstract thing in a way, and you shouldn't teach children until they are ready but, what where you supposed to do, not answer your daughter's question? Or are you supposed to not expose her to books at all? Yeah, well, perhaps that was a good idea in Steiner's time but I can't see how exactly that would benefit a child today.
The person in question was a newly qualified Kindy teacher, and yes in fact they really DID keep their more intelligent child (the one i met them through, i met her at uni) away from printed and written words as much as possible until she was "old enough" but she was the sort of child (not unlike my DD is, and i was) who really WOULD have been reading if she'd been able to see and had her questions answered about the words. Her siblings were less interested in reading and they didn't need to fight their curiosity in that way. No-one "taught" me to read, i was read to, i realised somewhere along the line that the funny markings meant the story in some way, i asked for about a year "what's that say?" of every word of every writing i came across and eventually i could read all familiar words by shape-recognition (rather than identifying individual letters - the first time i saw "television" i thought maybe it was "telephone"), and then i learned what each individual letter "said" and very quickly was reading "properly". I started school two months before my 5th birthday, able to read at about a 9 year old level. I don't know what is different but i tried to take part in a study once for a friend's psychology dissertation on reading and word-recognition and my eyes didn't do what they were supposed to at all.

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Originally Posted by DimitraDaisy View Post
That may or may not having something to do with the fact that in general children read earlier in the UK. However, I don't agree with children waiting until 7 or 8 or even 9 to become independent readers. Waiting for those who need time is great, but keeping the others behind too is not so great. Children can go to Class 1 when they're six or seven (not seven or eight, as it sometimes happens) and they can begin to learn to read; spending a whole year doing uppercase letters only must be ever so boring. But this is a whole different topic in itself, too.
In fact the family are from Germany and lived in German Camphill, so there were no younger readers around, my friend just had a huge thirst for reading (still does ) and her parents followed closely the dogma of not teaching it, and i think i agree, missed the distinction between TEACHING a child to read and ALLOWING them to enjoy books, even if it "risks" that pre-reading period of time.

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Reading through since my last post, I found reference to the intellectual or cognitive elements in child education and the mix up with intelligence. This is something that I had never really thought about and I am now curious about how this is addressed in a Waldorf setting. How do you manage a highly intelligent child in the classroom when they are streaks ahead of the class and just plain bored?
I understand your concerns about children being pushed to learn things they don't need to know and i agree!!! For me i suppose the trouble is what do you say when you're having water play and your child says "how many cups mama?" or "how many cups fill the big bucket mama?" I count them out with her, how else should i deal with these little interactions, they come every day! The decision i have come to is to answer her questions but to try very hard to ONLY answer what she asked. I don't test her or show her things like that she hasn't expressed an interest in, but she is just that kind of kid i guess. She isn't only interested in numbers, she can identify many many types of tree and plant, loves to dance and sing, knows dozens of animals and the differences between for instance different types of lion or zebra.

I don't know what a Waldorf teacher would do in the situation where you have a thirsty-for-knowledge child relentlessly asking the questions they oughtn't be ready for the answers to, but i can tell you what my teachers did. The good ones spent a little extra time finding something meaningful for me to do, even if that meant borrowing materials from older classes. The average ones expected me to do the class work and gave me more of the same level of stuff which occupied my time if not my brain. The bad ones expected me to sit still and shut up until everyone else was finished. There were 2 good ones in 12 years.
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#88 of 156 Old 08-12-2008, 11:27 PM
 
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Speaking of Waldorf schools adapting to circumstances (or not): Here is a YouTube video of a Waldorf school in Sierra Leone (and here is Part II).
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#89 of 156 Old 08-13-2008, 03:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Frogautumn - thank you so much for giving your summary! That is something I have been meaning to get around to - but it's gonna take a long long while before I have enough time. It's good to gather together all the issues and see just what has been coming out of this discussion. Again, thanks.

I would also like to repeat a request that people do not post links without giving a summary and their own take on what is in the link - essentially linking it to specific elements in the discussion here. I find it frustrating to be pulled out of the discussion here and not know exactly what I am looking for in the link. Thanks

I understand your concerns about children being pushed to learn things they don't need to know and i agree!!! For me i suppose the trouble is what do you say when you're having water play and your child says "how many cups mama?" or "how many cups fill the big bucket mama?" I count them out with her, how else should i deal with these little interactions, they come every day! The decision i have come to is to answer her questions but to try very hard to ONLY answer what she asked. I don't test her or show her things like that she hasn't expressed an interest in, but she is just that kind of kid i guess. She isn't only interested in numbers, she can identify many many types of tree and plant, loves to dance and sing, knows dozens of animals and the differences between for instance different types of lion or zebra.

I cannot imagine anyone avoiding a child's question or thinking how to steer clear of words or numbers. That sounds very silly. But I would be concerned by parents making flash cards and drilling their children on their numbers and letters. But that is me...Your daughter sounds delightful!!!

I still haven't caught up on all the discussion - but I've also gotta curb my time on the computer

Megan, mama to her little boy (Feb2008) and introducing our little girl (Dec 2010)
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#90 of 156 Old 08-13-2008, 02:38 PM
 
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One recurrent question I keep hearing is..why are parents so upset, when they leave?
in my humble opinion..in response to the question "mama how many cups"?? You bring up such an important piece (because there ARE many pieces to this pie) of what causes the heartbreak and anger after folks leave. Our "parental" knee jerk response, is to answer the question simply, at the level the child can understand; for example a 4 year old might ask, "Mommy, how long 'til we get there?" and your answer might be "about as long as it takes you to brush your teeth." But we come to be very very hesitant that the answers we have are not "Waldorf" enough. We become all tangled up in what is "the right thing to say"? We bend and stretch and yes, often times the stretching is goodfor us, the pause we takes gives the child a chance to ponder. But sometimes self doubt sets in, and the resultant anxiety and insecurity can be counter productive. So fast forward to when things start to sour...there is a feeling of "I changed all of these things because I believed in you, I actually believed YOU knew more about my child than me, and NOW I am so angry at not only you for making me doubt myself, but at myself for losing my confidence in myself!" You see, we are all a little shaky on our feet when our children are little, and we defer to the masters, elders, parents, and our beloved teachers. WE GIVE that power over willingly at first, then when we want it back, our confidence in our abilities stronger, sometimes we get a slap on the hand.

all these thoughts are just things that bubbled up with the last post, NOT intended to inflame, but to show one piece of the process by which many get to such heartbreak at the end.
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