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#1 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 02:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Has anyone with a gifted child sought Waldorf education?

My daughter was just accepted into a new Waldorf charter school in our area, so I'm left deciding if this is a good fit for her or not.

For any of you that have, what were your experiences?

My concern is that as a kindergartner, she's been doing 4-6th grade math all year and reading is at the same level. The rest of her curriculum has been 2-4th grade. I'm concerned that she'll stagnate in a Waldorf setting academically, BUT I see a huge plus in getting her to explore her creative side more as well. I'm just unsure if it's the right type of program for her and would love to get input from anyone who has been through it.

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#2 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 02:35 PM
 
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Has anyone with a gifted child sought Waldorf education?

My daughter was just accepted into a new Waldorf charter school in our area, so I'm left deciding if this is a good fit for her or not.

For any of you that have, what were your experiences?

My concern is that as a kindergartner, she's been doing 4-6th grade math all year and reading is at the same level. The rest of her curriculum has been 2-4th grade. I'm concerned that she'll stagnate in a Waldorf setting academically, BUT I see a huge plus in getting her to explore her creative side more as well. I'm just unsure if it's the right type of program for her and would love to get input from anyone who has been through it.
How do you think she would react to an environment where the children were just being introduced to letters/reading? Would she be bored? Would she be understanding of the children who were just learning the things she's known for a long time? With such a discrepancy in her abilities vs. the class, are you setting yourself up for discipline issues?

To be fair, I ask these questions with the bias of being a Montessori mom myself. I think Montessori is wonderful for children with abilities on various levels, especially when those abilities are far beyond their peers.

Kat, wife to and mommy to (Dec 07).
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#3 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 02:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Honestly, I think she would be bored to tears and would be disruptive (the whole reason we kept her out of public school). However, if the material was presented in a way that was more creative, she may engage. But if it was a "sit down and lets learn our letters" setting, she would lose it.

It's so hard...because I want her to have the ability to explore her creative/imaginative side, but knowing she has SUCH a passion for mathematics, Science and reading, I'm just not sure it's the best fit for her.

My concern is that she seems to be SO serious and I was hoping this type of environment would make her slow down and explore the world a little more, versus frantically googling every topic she wants to conquer. BUT, as my husband puts it... academics IS her passion... why take that away from her? I see his point, but on the other hand, she has her entire life to master algorithms, I'd like her to explore her childhood a little more.

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#4 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 02:44 PM
 
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You would need to feel very comfortable putting your dd into an educational setting that has predetermined what a child should know and be learning about at each class level. This information will have been determined to be developmentally appropriate based on the psychic musings of Rudolph Steiner, and some co-opted developmental milestones. This is not a system set up to meet your child where she's at academically, and respect that process. In fact, accelerated learning and abilities are often viewed negatively.

There are many ways to help a child explore their artistic sides.
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#5 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 02:50 PM
 
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Here is a thread from a while ago.
http://www.mothering.com/discussions...hlight=waldorf

Mother of two. : 4/05 and 1/07 Wife of one. : 7/01
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#6 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 02:56 PM
 
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You may want to search the archives, as this has come up before.

I have friends whose kids are in Waldorf, and from what I have heard and read, there is no way I'd put my kid in one. I don't think it's a good fit for academically voracious kids, in most cases.

I remember your daughter and how advanced she is....I am thinking you are going to need to think outside the box in some big ways for her. K started off well for us here, but the bloom is off the rose, and my DD is not where yours is.

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#7 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 03:08 PM
 
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Have you looked into Montessori at all? A good M school would allow her to socialize and benefit from the imagination of her peers, while still focusing intently on areas of interest to her without holding her back.

Also, there are always art classes, ballet classes, visits to museums, body painting with bath soaps, and a million and one other ways to invite her to "loosen up" without forcing her to give up her passion, which of course is all things "academic". In fact, she would probably really love some art appreciation and a visit to the natural history museum - sort of a marriage of playfulness and learning.

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#8 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 03:16 PM
 
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You may want to search the archives, as this has come up before.

I have friends whose kids are in Waldorf, and from what I have heard and read, there is no way I'd put my kid in one. I don't think it's a good fit for academically voracious kids, in most cases.
No way would I put my child in a Waldorf school. We have a Waldorf charter in our neighborhood, and the kids are sweet and imaginative and fun to play with, but the 2nd graders talk about how they can't read yet. Formal reading instruction doesn't begin until 3rd grade. Which is fine and all, but what do you do if your child has been reading since preschool? What happens when she wants to talk to someone about what she read?

Plus the teachers have this weird method of labeling the kids...

back to add after taking care of baby:

Honestly, I think a Waldorf school would be damaging to a gifted kid. I think the Waldorf philosophy would reinforce or create the idea that there was something wrong with the gifted child.

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#9 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 03:23 PM
 
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Plus the teachers have this weird method of labeling the kids...
Just curious - what is this? I'm sometimes fascinated by the Waldorf method, but not in a positive way lol. I have the hardest time understanding it so I just can't help but read and try to make sense of it.

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#10 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 03:39 PM
 
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I would ask the Waldorf administrators and teachers a lot of questions about how they view your dd's abilities and how they will work with her in school.

Academic giftedness is an integral part of her person. If they welcome and nurture that, lovely. If they dismiss it, or disparage it, or view it as unnatural, I would look for something that is a better fit.
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#11 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 03:43 PM
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There is no way I'd consider it for my gifted child. He's 4 and reading at a 4th grade level... Waldorf discourages reading until 7. What exactly would he do with the next 3 years of his life? Obviously you can't keep someone from reading. I also don't like how they teach art, the way they think of children/childhood, or anthroposophy in general. I think Steiner was off on pretty much everything and he had ideas about pretty much everything so that's a lot to be wrong about.
However I think a public Waldorf school might differ dramatically from a "real" Waldorf school as it would have to meet certain standards. But my gut reaction is "NO".
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#12 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 03:44 PM
 
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Just curious - what is this? I'm sometimes fascinated by the Waldorf method, but not in a positive way lol. I have the hardest time understanding it so I just can't help but read and try to make sense of it.
it is this stuff:

http://www.openwaldorf.com/temperaments.html

and it is often applied to the children, not because of who they are, but because of family circumstances (divorce, etc.)

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#13 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 03:57 PM
 
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I think Steiner was off on pretty much everything and he had ideas about pretty much everything so that's a lot to be wrong about.
Made me laugh out loud!!

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it is this stuff:

http://www.openwaldorf.com/temperaments.html

and it is often applied to the children, not because of who they are, but because of family circumstances (divorce, etc.)
That's fascinating, if not more than a little disturbing. I also had a few chuckles as I read it (Sanguine - "memory like a sieve" Heh!). I actually tried to figure out how to categorize my dc, but gave up. It's like some kind of astrology of the human physique.
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#14 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 03:59 PM
 
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Waldorf is for the family that truely believes in that style of education and has children that are a good fit. Now, you say this is a Waldorf Charter meaning it's still a public school correct? I would find out if this is more a "Waldorf enriched" school that uses some of the same structure and practices or it's a school with certified Waldorf teachers trained in their specific religion and following the principals to the letter. This could make a tremendous difference in how your child responds.

We have 2 friends that pulled their gifted kids out of a true private Waldorf school in 1st grade (well, Waldorf does 2 years of kindergarten so they were technically 2nd year kindies as opposed to 1st graders.) The family loved the idea. They loved the teachers. They loved the community. However, their kids were academically driven and early academics had no place in their Waldorf school. The kids were in fact, feeling defective because they desired to read and do workbooks and it was so against what was taught at the school. Now, does this mean that NO gifted children with thrive there? Of course not! I just would not send a child who seeks academic stimulation in a traditional form there.

Personally, I question the "creativity" a bit. They do produce some beautiful art with their method of mixing colors and such. However, the art, while different from your typical schools, is pretty uniform in itself. They do encourage imaginative play but they also "direct" it as well.... on dress-up days they can be bakers, candle makers, trolls, ect. My DD who spent 2 full years of her life in a Superman cape would not have been allowed to play that in a Waldorf school. It is a very creative and imaginative place but it's not unrestricted creativity as the brochures sell.

That said, there are aspects that I find attractive, especially for the older ranges. Certainly some of the things they do with middle and high schoolers would be more challenging and appropriate than what is offered my own middle schooler. I could see it being very difficult to transfer over though.

Because this is a charter, a public school, they are still held accountable to the state. This may change their timeline and belief on advanced academics profoundly. Check it out and see what they say.

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#15 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 04:07 PM
 
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I would find out if this is more a "Waldorf enriched" school that uses some of the same structure and practices or it's a school with certified Waldorf teachers trained in their specific religion and following the principals to the letter. This could make a tremendous difference in how your child responds.
This is a very good point--I missed the "charter" aspect. My DD actually attended a play-based, nature-focused preschool that used some Waldorf ideas and toys and had some Waldorf influences, but was by NO means "Waldorf." It was fine.

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#16 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 04:20 PM
 
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This is a very good point--I missed the "charter" aspect. My DD actually attended a play-based, nature-focused preschool that used some Waldorf ideas and toys and had some Waldorf influences, but was by NO means "Waldorf." It was fine.
this is true, and our neighborhood charter school has been described as "waldorf light." But still, the teachers are trained in this philosophy, and believe it. There is now a battle going on at the school between the board and the teachers. The Board members want it to be more Waldorf inspired, and the teachers want it to be more Waldorf with a capital W.

The biggest problem is that in traditional W schools, you stay with the same teacher for a long time (longer then in Montessori which is 3 years). Some families don't like this and want to have the option of a different teacher.

It all sounds very unpleasant to me.

But every school is different. And it may be a mixture of Waldorf and other methods, and not that strict.

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#17 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 04:23 PM
 
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I have a friend who just put her kids in to a Waldorf School. The school is very controlling IMO. My friend signed a contract saying that they wouldn't use media (music, computers, tv) during the school week and no sugar at all (inc. in breads) on school nights. From what she's said about the "art" time, the teacher tells them how to paint, what to paint and what colors to paint with. There is no individulization.

Also, my friends daughter is an average almost 5 year old who knows her alphabet and can write her name. My friend is REALLY worried about her daughter being shamed BY THE TEACHER for knowing these things. I have a feeling that a child reading at your daughters level would have a VERY hard time in Waldorf.

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#18 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 04:37 PM
 
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Some Waldorf schools can be really beautiful experiences. Others are why it is so easy to find Waldorf recovery groups all over the internet.

Can you sit in the classroom? It would be good for you to witness a day or two.

If it is a really gentle and imaginative setting, then I suggest you send her and do the academic stuff at home.

If you do not approve of the way it flows, then obviously do not send her.

I teach my kids at home, and they love the Waldorf approach early on. All of my kids have gotten bored with it while still young, and my gifted children even earlier. But they really did love it for those early years.

By second grade, all of my kids much preferred a Montessori approach.

Even my gifted 12 year old is happy with what he remembers of our early Waldorf stuff though - and he is full blown academic now.
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#19 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 04:43 PM
 
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All schools of any philosophy are going to vary one to the next, so just b/c Waldorf is generally not great for gifted kids doesn't necessarily mean that this particular situation won't work.

IIRC, you are currently home schooling her. Could you look at this as an opportunity for her to get some outside art instruction and play time, but continue academics at home.

If they aren't super strict Waldorfers who believe your DD has lost her soul b/c she learned to read too early, and they haven't really started academics at the school yet, her academic level may just not really be relevant to what she will get out of the school. I think that 1st and 2nd grade in waldorf schools mostly involves fiber crafts and stories about fairies.

Can she try it for a couple of weeks to see if she likes it?

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#20 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 09:45 PM
 
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My son is in his second year of Waldorf kindy and he loves it. He was recently tested for admission to some gifted programs so we've recently been made aware of his scores. He is not profoundly gifted, more like highly gifted in visual-spatial areas and moderately gifted in verbal measures. Waldorf school has been a great experience for him and I am so thankful he has been there rather than a more mainstream school. In fact, I so did not want him anywhere that would make him lose interest in "academics" by presenting them in a dull way.

I see that there is a wide variety of academic ability and interest among his classmates. they are not a bunch of automatons who think black is evil and early reading negatively affects your internal organs (things I've read about from people who've had bad experiences). Some of his classmates can read, many write their names (though they are not "supposed" to, the teachers NEVER say anything about it). At his school I asked the teachers ahead of time how they handle kids who are interested in reading, math on their own and the teachers were very realistic about the fact that some kids at that age will be spontaneously doing those things, but that its just not part of the school life for kindy. It has not been controlling or "weird" for him, though perhaps our school is more laid back than some.

That said, I wouldn't keep him there for the grades, but we're moving anyway, yada yada so I haven't really looked at it in depth.

I agree with eepster. It depends on the school and teachers and the specific situation, not just the pedagogical method. But with Waldorf you're going to want to go into it carefully, making sure that your daughter will be accommodated.

FWIW, I've visited a number of M schools, some of which looked wonderful, others not so much.

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#21 of 36 Old 04-20-2010, 11:14 PM
 
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FWIW, I've visited a number of M schools, some of which looked wonderful, others not so much.
This is true. There are good and bad schools with both methods... I toured a not so great M school just the other day. :-/ But that's for another thread. lol

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#22 of 36 Old 04-22-2010, 06:12 PM
 
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Karen,

Have you made a decision yet? I am writing because I am very, good, old friends with the primary person behind the new charter. She is very smart herself and has wonderful, bright kids. I think Waldorf can work for gifted children, but it would depend upon the temperment of the child and the ideals/beliefs of the parents.

While they don't do academics at the early ages, they do move fairly quickly and deeply into them in the later years and in ways that may, for the right child, be more engaging and, given the right teacher and resources, may allow that child to move through the curriculum both faster and perhaps in a deeper, more complex way. For example, the kids create their own textbooks. The could (possibly) allow your child to explore and present mathematical concepts even more in depth than perhaps in working in a rote grade-level math textbook. Another thing they do is they learn all the math operations as a whole - addition, subtraction, division, multiplication at the same time rather than the gradual over-the-years way of traditional schooling. By 6th grade I think they are doing some pretty complex stuff like compounded interest. How they teach reading and writing is also presented more as-a-whole as well rather than lets learn the letters, etc..

One thing I do know is that most Waldorfians (is that a word?) actively discourage acquisition of too much factual knowledge at a young age. They will re-direct a childs interest to one that is more "developmentally-appropriate." Of course, in my mind, what is developmentally appropriate for a gifted child may be vastly different from what is developmentally appropriate for every child. Which is why I disagree almost in whole with Rudolf Steiner on all counts myself. I don't think I'd necessarily have a problem with my daughter going to a Waldorf-Inspired school because of the when/how they learn things and I like the theory of how they teach math (I haven't seen it in action so can't speak to the practical). I just believe my daughter would not have fit well. Her speed of learning, voracious interest in learning factual information, and her personality (she has many over-excitabilities and is 2E (ADHD)) would make her out-of-place in a Waldorf setting. For example, in kindergarten they practice "silent lunch" where they kids don't talk at all during the meal. I am not sure of the purpose, other than I think they really like to create a calm, energy-flowy kind of environment. That would not have worked for my girl. On the other hand, the focus on crafts, including learning how to knit, would have worked great!

I would contact the school founding families and learn more about how it would look. Like others have said, this is a public school, it has to be accountable to the school board (for good or bad), so they are likely not espousing ALL of the anthroposophical (religious/spiritual) learning aspects of Waldorf education. I personally wouldn't want my child labeled according to body-type - differentiating education and teacher interactions based on that is just ... well...

I don't know if this is helpful at all, but I am sure that the founders and/or the new principal would be more than happy to talk to you about your concerns and that would be the best place to answer any of your questions. My friend is an amazing person, and while I am not a fan of Waldorf myself, it seems to have been great for her and her family. Good luck and let us know what you decide.

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#23 of 36 Old 04-22-2010, 06:32 PM
 
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While they don't do academics at the early ages, they do move fairly quickly and deeply into them in the later years and in ways that may, for the right child, be more engaging and, given the right teacher and resources, may allow that child to move through the curriculum both faster and perhaps in a deeper, more complex way. For example, the kids create their own textbooks. The could (possibly) allow your child to explore and present mathematical concepts even more in depth than perhaps in working in a rote grade-level math textbook. Another thing they do is they learn all the math operations as a whole - addition, subtraction, division, multiplication at the same time rather than the gradual over-the-years way of traditional schooling. By 6th grade I think they are doing some pretty complex stuff like compounded interest. How they teach reading and writing is also presented more as-a-whole as well rather than lets learn the letters, etc..
Just to be clear, in waldorf kids don't explore the curriculum faster and in more depth. The curriculum is the curriculum, and if you knew what was presented on day one, it doesn't mean you'll move on to something more appropriate by day five. This is not a curriculum meant to be individualized to the learner. The way reading is taught is essentially whole language, which is a method fraught w/difficulty for some students. The way math is presented is fragmented unless a teacher decides to do math every day. Otherwise you're looking at math "blocks" which means that sometimes math 'goes away" for a while.

It sounds like your friends are well intentioned, but waldorf is not made for kids who are academically ahead of the curve.
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#24 of 36 Old 04-22-2010, 07:53 PM
 
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Karne,

Thanks for the clarification. Yep, the above is just based on what very, very limited knowledge I have about the curriculum. So what I wrote above should be read with the emphasis on my qualifiers like "may be possible." Like someone said earlier, I also pretty much disagree with Steiner, which means I disagree with a lot. But just because I don't agree with it, I certainly can't prescribe what may or may not be right for another family. It sure sounds like it wouldn't be right for an academically-driven gifted kid.

- Sky
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#25 of 36 Old 04-22-2010, 08:01 PM
 
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The way math is presented is fragmented unless a teacher decides to do math every day. Otherwise you're looking at math "blocks" which means that sometimes math 'goes away" for a while.
I had to smile at this. Math "going away" was the thing that made me happiest at my Waldorf school. I hated and was terrible at math and couldn't wait till the four weeks of it were over. I knew I'd get a good long break from the horrid stuff till the next time.

Of course, by the time math came around again, weeks or months later, I'd pretty much forgotten whatever I'd learned. Which was hardly the optimal way to become proficient. And I never really did.
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#26 of 36 Old 04-22-2010, 08:06 PM
 
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Just to be clear, in waldorf kids don't explore the curriculum faster and in more depth. The curriculum is the curriculum, and if you knew what was presented on day one, it doesn't mean you'll move on to something more appropriate by day five.
I think what she meant was that once academics are introduced, they move quicker through the material than a traditional school. K through 2nd grade in the USA is heavily concentrated on obtaining reading fluency. Waldorf may not introduce reading until 2nd grade but it also doesn't take them 3 years to obtain a fluency. Most of their kids will be reading equal to their traditional schooled peers in a matter of months without having to spend countless hours on phonics worksheets. There is actually some merit to this line of thinking in reguards to reading (and I'm not talking gifted spontanious early readers.... I'm talking average ability kids.)

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#27 of 36 Old 04-22-2010, 11:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sky,
I have had a few email conversations with the folks at the school and have an open invitation to call the teacher to discuss in depth. They were all very wonderful about addressing my concerns, and explaining their philosophy.

I sat my daughter down the other day and asked what SHE wanted to do. I explained the pros and cons of the Waldorf school as well as continuing to home school. We had a pretty lengthy discussion and I told her to take a few days to think about it and what she thinks she would be happier with. She told me she wants to homeschool for another year. Of course, she's 6, that could change next week, so for the time being, I'm still keeping my options open.

: Karen, wife to my : Mad Scientist and mama to :Emma (10-21-03).
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#28 of 36 Old 04-22-2010, 11:51 PM
 
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Yes, there is merit to later reading form some viewpoints, should you have a child who will read on someone else's timeline. But the kids who don't take three years to be fluent in waldorf also wouldn't take three years to be fluent in another setting as well. The kids who do need a lot of help to become fluent get it fairly intensively in other educational settings, but are often left behind in waldorf. This has little bearing on gifted, early reading children, however, so it's really more of a side note.
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#29 of 36 Old 04-23-2010, 11:23 AM
 
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But the point is, almost all kids are developmentally ready to read by the age of 8. A developmentally ready child will learn to read in about 6 weeks not 3 years. The kids who fall behind in Waldorf in reading have issues that would have plagued them in a traditional school as well. We lengthen the time it takes to obtain fluency by routinely pushing the reading curriculum down to 4 and 5 year olds who in general, are not developmentally ready. Why do we do this when other countries have shown us that later introduction means quicker to fluency and much higher life long literacy rates.

I'm not a fan of all things Waldorf certainly. I think the practice of NOT allowing a child who is ready at 3, 6, 7 start reading is ridiculous. My kids would have fallen apart in such a setting but I'm not going to dismiss everything they stand for when there are some interesting approaches that do work.

Married mom of two, DD 17 and DS 13.
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#30 of 36 Old 04-24-2010, 01:29 AM
 
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I think my son has learned far more in Waldorf kindy specifically b/c they aren't at all focused on developmentally inappropriate early academics. Sorry, but kids who are academically gifted will find that mainstream stuff dreadfully boring (as will the more typical kids, who may also learn at the ripe old age of 5 that they are "behind").

That said, as I posted earlier, I've never been considering the grades for my son. THOUGH, I think the best W teachers do not actually shame or look down upon kids who are working at a different level, it seems like it would still be a hard environment for a kid who was outside the norm, with the intense focus on group coherence.

dissertating mom to three

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