Can giftedness and Waldorf education coexist? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 32 Old 01-02-2010, 12:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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DD is 3.5. I go back and forth in whether she may be gifted or not, but she is definitely well above average in some ways, especially language. She currently goes to a Waldorf-inspired preschool 2 days a week and it is a nice fit for her. We lean pretty heavily toward the Waldorf philosophy and love a lot of things about our local Waldorf school. If we want her to go there, she could start next fall with their combined preK/K class. I know every kid is different and every school is different, but I want to hear other people's experiences with highly intelligent children in Waldorf schools. We got their information packet and application in the mail the other day and it specifically states that their education is geared toward average children. The example of student work in grade 1 is spending the year getting to know the letters. I worry that if dd has been reading for a couple years already before they start introducing the letters, even if the stories and art surrounding them are engaging, wouldn't she be bored?
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#2 of 32 Old 01-02-2010, 01:27 AM
 
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DD (almost 8) did K at a Waldorf school at age 4. DD was not quite reading at the time but she knew all her letters and sounds, and was certainly interested in learning how to read. Overall she was really bored and she did not invest herself in the stories and rituals that formed the main part of the curriculum. She thought these stories were for much younger children. She did love the snacks though and still asks for steamed millet with soy sauce...

Waldorf was not a good match for her and she is really my artsy creative child. She is now in public school and thriving. Wanted to add that DD is moderately gifted, and her strongest area is language arts. She writes like a middle schooler now, with perfect spelling and punctuation.
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#3 of 32 Old 01-02-2010, 02:57 AM
 
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We looked into a Waldorf inspired school for my then-5yo. She was reading fluently at a 5th grade level and beyond. What gave us bad vibes was not so much that she would have had to survive the better part of a day without a book on her lap so much as that the staff oozed disapproval over her reading, which was near and dear to her heart. They seemed to think their mission was to save her from the damage done to her psyche through all that early precocious reading. My dd was also an avid listener to recorded classical music, and that wasn't kosher with them either.

I really liked the people, and I like much about the nuts and bolts of Waldorf education, but the value judgments ran fairly deep at this particular school, and were contrary to how my intense little kid had chosen to lead her life.

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#4 of 32 Old 01-02-2010, 04:19 AM
 
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My daughter (4.5) goes to Waldorf Kindergarten. I was interested at first because of what I thought was an exceptionally creative environment for the children, but she's completely and utterly bored, to the point of acting out a bit. So we're going to finish up the year and she'll start at a mainstream school this fall.

If your preschool-age child thrives on being stimulated through reading, writing, or any other type of more formal academics, then I would NOT recommend Waldorf to you. It has many wonderful qualities, but boredom is a near guarantee.
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#5 of 32 Old 01-02-2010, 10:50 AM
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Wow, this discussion has really helped support my current choice for school with my son! I really, really was feeling guilty for not pursuing Waldorf b/c my son is so imaginative/lives in La La Land/loves stories and dramatic play/thrives w/ crafts that keeps his hands busy and mind churning. He does have an intense undercurrent, which I am channeling into the "dreaded academics" but honestly, he seems to manage his energy better w/more structure & focus at this new PreK.

Wow, thanks for writing ladies. This is really interesting to hear how other children express their mental/emotional energy & to hear how parents help them thrive w/environments they create or place them in (school, for example.) Cheers!

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#6 of 32 Old 01-02-2010, 12:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for these replies. I'm so torn--I know she loves the rituals and stories at her preschool, but it is only Waldorf-INSPIRED, so there are books around and some talk of letters and such since the teacher knows many of her students go on to public K. But there is so much I love about Waldorf education. She is incredibly creative and in so many ways seems to be just the kind of kid you'd expect to see in a Waldorf school. I hope more people post here--I would love to hear from a parent of a gifted kid who was successful in a Waldorf school.

Right now she is eating goldfish crackers and counting, adding, and subtracting them. I don't think she'd mind the absence of focused language and math instruction in the early grades, but when they finally do get to it she'll be so far ahead.
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#7 of 32 Old 01-02-2010, 04:10 PM
 
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Sending my older daughter to a Waldorf school would have been a complete disaster. By the time she started K, she would take a book with her everywhere so she could read if she got bored; if she'd been in an environment where she got open disapproval for reading already, she would've been crushed (as well as bored to tears). Just say nooooooooo.
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#8 of 32 Old 01-02-2010, 05:04 PM
 
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Yes to what I've heard above me here. I had an early reader. I considered Waldorf and they told us flat out that reading before age 8 or 9 was against their beliefs. So we said goodbye politely and never looked back.
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#9 of 32 Old 01-02-2010, 06:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Naomi View Post
Sending my older daughter to a Waldorf school would have been a complete disaster. By the time she started K, she would take a book with her everywhere so she could read if she got bored; if she'd been in an environment where she got open disapproval for reading already, she would've been crushed (as well as bored to tears). Just say nooooooooo.
DD does this too--take books everywhere. She isn't exactly reading the text yet, but she is absolutely retelling the whole story and going through the motions of starting to identify words.

When I visit the Waldorf school I fall completely in love with the atmosphere. And then I think about the reality of my child in that program and the expense of it. They will be having an open house for prospective preK/K families soon and I'll be sure to ask lots of questions.

The other school we are considering for K-8 is the school I teach in. (There is another school that is an option, but we really aren't considering it at all. It has some problems.) It is a tiny public school and I would be her teacher at some point. If staffing stayed the same that long, I'd be her science and math teacher in grades 6-8. I'm not thrilled with the K/1 teacher on a personal level, but she is excellent at fostering academic growth. My school often lets kids skip grades for just one class or entirely and with the multi-age classes instruction is completely differentiated. Hm... re-reading that paragraph makes me realize you all are probably going to say this is a no-brainer. I guess I just like torturing myself by over-thinking important decisions!
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#10 of 32 Old 01-02-2010, 10:59 PM
 
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My dd is very gifted and we are planning to do Waldorf homeschool, which would combine the elements of Waldorf that work for us and add the academic rigor dd needs when she needs it. I don't know if this is an option for you at all--my guess is no, judging by your post, but I thought I'd throw it out there. Another option is to send her to a Montessori school or a traditional school and then cultivate a Waldorf atmosphere in the home (like family traditions, oral story-telling, puppetry, crafts, naturey stuff, etc.). Many of the Waldorf homeschool sites have books that you can buy separately that have good stories in them. You could buy some of those for reading, as well as maybe do some Waldorf math stories and watercolor painting, etc. Enki is a very rich (though pricey) resource: http://www.enkieducation.org/html/ho...-resources.htm

You can also just find stories online, visit the Waldorf board here, check out Waldorf blogs, etc., and you woudn't have any extra cost at all, but it would take more "leg" work.

IF I were to put dd in school, I would not choose a Waldorf environment because of the reasons people have previously mentioned. I'd probably be checking out every Montessori school within 20 miles because I'm not a fan of traditional public schooling either.

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#11 of 32 Old 01-03-2010, 06:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I would be quite interested in investigating Montessori if that was an option here, but it isn't. The only school nearby is only preK-K. I've wondered about her going there for 1-2 years, but it seems like an unnecessary move for her when she is perfectly happy where she is. We COULD homeschool if we really felt that was the best option for everyone, but at this point we don't. I teach part time and dh works from home, so although it would be a challenge, the loss of income wouldn't be any more than paying for the Waldorf school!

We have a few months to decide if we want to put her in the Waldorf preK. It would be a pretty major schedule upheaval for my teaching (and therefore the rest of the school's schedule, really), but it's possible. We are lucky that my school is a pretty exceptional public school and a perfectly acceptable option for dd.
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#12 of 32 Old 01-03-2010, 11:23 PM
 
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I would be quite interested in investigating Montessori if that was an option here, but it isn't. The only school nearby is only preK-K. I've wondered about her going there for 1-2 years, but it seems like an unnecessary move for her when she is perfectly happy where she is. We COULD homeschool if we really felt that was the best option for everyone, but at this point we don't. I teach part time and dh works from home, so although it would be a challenge, the loss of income wouldn't be any more than paying for the Waldorf school!

We have a few months to decide if we want to put her in the Waldorf preK. It would be a pretty major schedule upheaval for my teaching (and therefore the rest of the school's schedule, really), but it's possible. We are lucky that my school is a pretty exceptional public school and a perfectly acceptable option for dd.
I personally think a lot of what makes Waldorf wonderful is really it's homelike environment and all the stories, festivals, reverence and wonder--all of which you can provide easily in your own home and probably much more deeply than any Waldorf school. I would say just do what works best for your dd school-wise and perhaps incorporate the Waldorf elements that speak to you at home. These are some good sources:

http://www.christopherushomeschool.o...rs/kindie.html

http://www.enkieducation.org/html/ma...s1-tghstgb.htm

http://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Earth-H...2571880&sr=8-1

http://theparentingpassageway.com/

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#13 of 32 Old 01-04-2010, 12:50 PM
 
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The answer is no. Waldorf teaches to the middle, and if your child is gifted it is likely that they will ultimately be bored. It's not uncommon for gifted kids to be labeled negatively by teachers in waldorf. Speaking from experience here. Try Montessori, or the PS.
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#14 of 32 Old 01-04-2010, 01:07 PM
 
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Frankly, it does sound like a no-brainer to me: a school that explicitely states that they teach to the average child(and Waldorf teaching, from what I know about it, really does not allow for differentiation, on principle, so it's not just about the school) will not be a good fit for a gifted child.
The one thing I'd be wary about sending her to the PS you're teaching at would be teaching her yourself - 6-8th grade is a sensitive age, and her probably being mathematically gifted is a sensitive situation...is there a chance you will be able to work around that when the time comes?

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#15 of 32 Old 01-04-2010, 03:26 PM
 
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absolutely yes.

to a certain degree.

depending on personality.

if i could have afforded the tuition my dd would be going to a waldorf k and first. my dd is NOT an academic child. at least she wasnt. she wanted fun the first two years of school. she hated the public school she was at. not enough fun activities. she did not crave academics but instead social interaction and hands on projects that waldorf would have provided. she is a super fast learner. she basically skipped second grade and had NO problems ever fitting into 3rd grade. so when we did switch from waldorf to regular school i know she would have picked things up and not been behind. but i think she would still have been upset by the lack of fun things.

however even today the best education plan for her is the sudbury valley school system. that is the perfect fit for her. its kinda a school homeschooling.

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#16 of 32 Old 01-04-2010, 03:37 PM
 
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I so wanted ds to go to Waldorf school - I enrolled him in nursery at age 3-4 to try and get a feel for if it could work for him. It was so gentle, beautiful - most of the parents there were similar in how they raised their children, etc.

But it was obvious it was just not a good fit. Ds did not have a dx back then, but he has Aspergers - he picks up and learns things much quicker than the average child. In nursery they would tell this long, beautiful story that would change each month. The kids would learn the motions to go along with it and it would be repeated everyday for a month. The only problem? Ds had it memorized, hand motions and all before the end of the first week and would be bored stiff the rest of the month.

When I went to visit first grade, they were learning the letters. I knew beyond a doubt ds would be bored to death - even though I believed in Waldorf philosophy about early reading, ds was starting to read at 3-4.

I ended up putting him into a traditional preschool and he THRIVED. This particular school worked with them on reading when they showed signs of readiness - and they had ds reading within a week - by the time he left there at age 5, he was an advanced reader. He needed THAT - as much as I wanted him to have the Waldorf experience it would not have worked for him.

He's now in public school and while he has a GREAT teacher this year, I just don't think PS is right for him. We are considering homeschooling - trying to reserach all of our options now.

I wish you the best! I still love the idea of Waldorf and would consider it for a child that didn't need the strong, early academics like ds does.

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#17 of 32 Old 01-04-2010, 03:38 PM
 
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I have 6 yo b/g twins who started in a Waldorf parent-tot class around 2.5 yo and are now in their second year of kindergarten. DD is highly verbal and well rounded. DS's development has been more asynchronus; he has an insatiable interest in math and science. We have not encountered any negativity about their abilities/gifts.

Though mine are not early readers, there are kids in their class who have been reading since age 3 and I don't think they're bored. They experience a lot of engaging things at school, and can still spend time at home reading.

My daughter would be okay in a variety of educational environments (very socially adept), but I believe my son is much better off in Waldorf classroom for now. He is intensely curious and emotionally quirky and his teachers have always been very understanding and accomodating. His physical (gross and fine motor) skills have been nurtured far beyond what would have happened in a more "academic" environment.

That being said, my dh and I work a lot with both of them at home - helping them explore interests that are not met at school. For example, we do a lot of reading to support my son's interest in space - museums, planetarium visits, reading, and a telescope at home.

So far, our family loves Waldorf, particulary because of the way that it nurtures the whole child, not just their gifts. The social setting has also been important for us, since we like our kids to have peers with similar values (low or no media exposure, no commercial toys, healthy lifestyle, etc.)

I suggest spending more time at the school - events, observing classes, etc. -- before you decide if it's a fit.
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#18 of 32 Old 01-04-2010, 04:03 PM
 
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This is really interesting to me. I have twin dds who are 4 and started in a Waldorf NK/K this past Fall after a couple of years with me in Parent-Tot. They both are loving it and have no problems there. In the last couple of months, however, I started to see a family counselor to help me with parenting challenges I am having with 1 dd at home and the counselor has suggested that dd is gifted (hasn't assessed her but has interacted her) and the issues are stemming from asynchronous development. It's really helped me turn around things at home, but now I'm beginning to talk with the counselor about what to do going forward. DD isn't reading yet, but I am sure will be very shortly (not that reading is the only issue). And on top of that she misses the cutoff and wouldn't be starting first grade in Waldorf until she has just turned 7. The therapist's opinion is that Waldorf can work for a gifted child but it is quite dependent on the school and I need to have conversations with the faculty both to ask specific questions like how they maintain a stimulating environment for the advanced children but also for me to see if there is an unspoken vibe that's critical or disapproving. The therapist's other opinion is that public school would be a disaster for dd -- the state is broke and our classes are large, teachers are stretched, and there are no gifted programs or enrichment until 6th grade. And I don't think I'm capable of homeschooling. I have time to figure it out as dd is happy now and her issues were not/are not school related. We also do a lot of things everyday together that are stimulating and interesting and pursue her and her sister's different interests (which, I think is one of the reasons I never considered that she may be advanced; I didn't know other kids didn't do and weren't interested in such things), but I'm a little sad that Waldorf might not be "it" for us. I've never fit in so well with a group of adults before and was liking the school as much for me as for them.
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#19 of 32 Old 01-04-2010, 06:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The one thing I'd be wary about sending her to the PS you're teaching at would be teaching her yourself - 6-8th grade is a sensitive age, and her probably being mathematically gifted is a sensitive situation...is there a chance you will be able to work around that when the time comes?
There really is no way around it. I teach in a tiny school and there are only 2 core teachers for all 21 of the middle school kids. Every kid has me for science all three years and math in 6th grade. There are many students who have parents working in the school, but only one has his mother teaching him directly, and he is mildly autistic, so it's a totally different situation.

Whenever my friends and I get together we talk for HOURS about the school options here and our philosophies, personal experiences, and forecasts for our kids' future. It's really mind-boggling. Who said parenting was supposed to be so challenging?!

We will certainly spend time with dd at home doing the things that may not be happening at school in any situation. Our home life is pretty Waldorf-y in a lot of ways. I have no worries about dh and I filling any gaps. I just don't want dd to be bored in school and feel like she isn't learning enough new things to keep her interest.
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#20 of 32 Old 01-05-2010, 10:26 PM
 
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Like Luz, we're also going to do a Waldorf-inspired homeschool with our gifted preschooler. Before he showed sighs of giftedness, we wre already planning a few years of homeschool. Now we are sure waldorf in a school setting won't work, and I am thrilled at the idea of HSing longer. If we ever decide to put him in school, we'll look at Waldorf (to be fair, since we do really like it), Montessori (though he'll probably be to old for the ones around here by then), and some prep-type schools (Friends likely--but only for later years).
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#21 of 32 Old 01-09-2010, 04:49 PM
 
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Can giftedness and Waldorf education coexist?
No.

And again no.
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#22 of 32 Old 01-10-2010, 01:03 AM - Thread Starter
 
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No.

And again no.
Well, that settles it then.
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#23 of 32 Old 02-09-2010, 02:47 PM
 
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I am so glad I found this thread! I've been struggling with this as well. My 4 yo dd is reading. Last year she was in Waldorf, this year she is regular pre school 3 days per week because we moved out of the area. She LOVES her pre-school because of all of the focus on letters and reading.

We are moving back into a Waldorf school area in a few months, but I don't think I'm going to enroll her. I want her to continue with what excites her and apparently, that's reading and writing! I may switch her to Waldorf in second grade when most kids should be reading well.

Anyway, I was really worrying about this until I found this thread. I'm glad to hear the frank reply that many kids are bored in WAldorf if they're already reading at age 4 and 5. I'll probably look for Montessouri!

Finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel...:
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#24 of 32 Old 02-09-2010, 04:37 PM
 
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I am so glad I found this thread! I've been struggling with this as well. My 4 yo dd is reading. Last year she was in Waldorf, this year she is regular pre school 3 days per week because we moved out of the area. She LOVES her pre-school because of all of the focus on letters and reading.

We are moving back into a Waldorf school area in a few months, but I don't think I'm going to enroll her. I want her to continue with what excites her and apparently, that's reading and writing! I may switch her to Waldorf in second grade when most kids should be reading well.

Anyway, I was really worrying about this until I found this thread. I'm glad to hear the frank reply that many kids are bored in WAldorf if they're already reading at age 4 and 5. I'll probably look for Montessouri!
I, too, wonder if giftedness is more compatible with Waldorf as the child ages. It seems to me it would be.
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#25 of 32 Old 02-09-2010, 10:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I, too, wonder if giftedness is more compatible with Waldorf as the child ages. It seems to me it would be.
I've been thinking about this. Personally I find myself leaning to the public school for at least the first few years. Since I wonder what it would be like to teach my own daughter 7 years from now (which sounds like an eternity!), I know that there is the possibility of moving her to the Waldorf school for 6th-8th grade, at which point all the kids might have been taught about the same set of basic skills. But I'd have to teach her how to knit and play recorder before then, wouldn't I?
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#26 of 32 Old 02-09-2010, 10:16 PM
 
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I've been thinking about this. Personally I find myself leaning to the public school for at least the first few years. Since I wonder what it would be like to teach my own daughter 7 years from now (which sounds like an eternity!), I know that there is the possibility of moving her to the Waldorf school for 6th-8th grade, at which point all the kids might have been taught about the same set of basic skills. But I'd have to teach her how to knit and play recorder before then, wouldn't I?
I'm not sure of the transition from public to Waldorf, might be a bit rough, but certainly doable. We'll go from Waldorfy homeschool to (maybe) Waldorf school, and likely not until 12 or so.
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#27 of 32 Old 02-10-2010, 12:08 AM
 
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I've been thinking about this. Personally I find myself leaning to the public school for at least the first few years. Since I wonder what it would be like to teach my own daughter 7 years from now (which sounds like an eternity!), I know that there is the possibility of moving her to the Waldorf school for 6th-8th grade, at which point all the kids might have been taught about the same set of basic skills. But I'd have to teach her how to knit and play recorder before then, wouldn't I?
The thing is, if your child is gifted, they will have passed 'basic skills"long before 6th grade. It's not the giftedness, per se, that's the issue, it's what's done with it that matters. Waldorf elementary is not about individualized education, it's teaching to the middle. While the focus on waldorf art might be fun and interesting, as well as drama, the academics don't meet the needs of most gifted kids. You might do better to wait for high school.
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#28 of 32 Old 02-10-2010, 01:58 AM
 
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Borrow a waldorf book from the library. I did and it made it very clear to me that although the atmosphere/aura of it is wonderful, the stance on giftedness is very negative. I got about halfway through the book and it started saying things like kids who read are not actually experiencing things and are essentially being ruined by reading instead of doing. And that learning factual information "too early" squelches the imagination and somehow pollutes the mind (like you aren't supposed to tell kids what rain is, but say that the rain faries made it).

The book I read (most of) was Children at Play.

I don't know when kids are "allowed" to learn certain things according to Waldorf principles. I suppose when it got to your child being upper elementary you could find out if he/she was "allowed" to know what they know then and decide if the school would work then.

I hate the feeling I was left with about it, because I really like the beauty of Waldorf - the arts, the spirituality, the natural aspects...

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#29 of 32 Old 02-10-2010, 12:07 PM
 
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We looked at Waldorf. The one school near us says very clearly on their website that they do not cater to gifted children. We didn't need to look further.

We are fairly Waldorf-like at home - not so much by conscious decision but just because that fits with how DH and I are and with DC's interests.

In our area, there is a group of parents (of which we are tangentially a part) looking at opening a Waldorf co-op that would be 2 days a week. I would consider that because it could feed the arts/spirituality/creativity but still leave me plenty of time to homeschool for academics.

Don't try too hard to fit your daughter into the program. I've had to watch myself with this for Montessori. I love the Montessori idea, but I realized when I started investigating schools that it would not fit DS' personality. There were a lot of arbitrary rules that they couldn't really explain, and DS would rebel against that. (no idea where he gets that ) In the end, it was hard, but I had to accept that our family wouldn't fit with the way Montessori schools near us work. So be wary of doing the same with Waldorf. While the philosophy may be beautiful, the reality may not work.

It's us: DH , DS ; DD ; and me . Also there's the . And the 3 . I . Oh, and .
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#30 of 32 Old 02-10-2010, 12:32 PM
 
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I thought that this thread in the Waldorf forum was revealing:

http://www.mothering.com/discussions....php?t=1189963

Some of the responses explaining the Waldorf approach were very thoughtful and interesting.

Some gifted children may thrive in a Waldorf school. I would be alert though, for teachers who consciously or unconsciously, squashed a child's interest and enthusiasm for discovering facts about their world. I know my 2 y.o's asked endless "Why" and "How" questions - "Why is the sky blue" "Why is it cold in winter?" "How does water make ice?"....They wanted to understand the world, and while they enjoyed some make-belief and storytelling, they wanted facts and knowledge. I always tried to respect that desire for knowledge and their ability to comprehend.

I also think it's important to nurture the natural fascination for science and exploration that children have. It's just as amazing to understand how a rainbow is created by light shining through the prisms of raindrops, and to use crystals to demonstrate it, as it is to believe that there are rainbow fairies. I would be unhappy if a teacher dismissed my child's interest in the scientific explanation on the basis that it is flat and uninspiring.
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