We're planning a big move to Chicago (or Evanston or Oak Park...) next summer & while DS is still a little guy (he'll be almost 2 1/2 when we move) we're starting to think about where to move based on where DS might go to school in the future. Essentially, we're trying to figure out whether or not to put roots down in a suburb where DS might be able to attend public school or move to the city where we'd likely try to get him into a private school. So for right now I'm trying to get a read on a few of the private schools we'd be thinking about.
Does anyone have experience with the Montessori or Waldorf schools in Chicago? They sound great, but do they live up to their promises or reputation? Also, how is the admissions process? (Just reading about it makes me terribly nervous...) And is the financial aid a reality? (I'll have heavy student debt responsibilities for the next 10 years & it's uncertain what our income will be looking like so this is a big deal breaker for us.)
Any other schools we should check out?
Mama to my little busy bee.
t2009 - thought I might have some of your answers, though not all. Please understand that I am no expert in Waldorf education, and it's been a long time since I was involved in the school. Some of what I am about to say is hearsay and certainly a bit biased, but FWIW . . . .
I actually was a student at the Chicago Waldorf school my junior and part of my senior year. Obviously, it was not a great fit for me, or I would have finished there. That being said, it's not something I've totally ruled out for DD in the future.
This is what I know:
From what I could see, the early childhood program seems amazing and is probably one of the school's strong points. But be forewarned - Waldorf is not for everyone, and I would recommend doing a lot of research about the methods and practices of Waldorf ideas. Some of them are certainly a bit "out there", as they say.
The grade school and high school are very unconventional as well, and again, I would recommend making sure that you are truly in line with the ideology of Steiner/Waldorf in theory and in practice. While some of the theories/ideals sound wonderful, it is important to be aware of how these things actually play out in an academic setting. Some of my fellow students had obvious advantages from being lifelong Waldorf students, but there are disadvantages too.
As for the specifics of the Chicago school, I will say this. Some of my favorite teachers (ever in my life, not just at Waldorf) left while or shortly after I was a student. There seemed to be some conflict in the staff, and the rumor was that the older teachers felt that the Chicago school was moving away from what Waldorf is really intended to be. Though this is just a rumor.
And as for financial aid, it really is available. My parents were given a pretty steep discount when I was a student, though still paid about 14k a year. My guess is that if you really seem devoted to the curriculum/lifestyle (and it really is a lifestyle), and it seems like your family will fit in well in the community, they'll make it possible for you. My feeling is admission will depend on this as well, and they'll really be looking at how involved/in line you are, more so than your LO.
Despite anything negative I might have to say, it is a truly warm and wonderful environment in many ways, especially for little ones. And though I did end up leaving before my senior year was over, it is still something I would consider for my daughter, absolutely, if we have the funds when the time comes. And if they'll have me back, of course!
Whew. A small novel about Waldorf. Feel free to PM me with any more questions!
L, student nurse and married to A, my union man. Happy parents to little S!
Thanks, aphel! That is a lot of good & useful information. I'm only starting to research this stuff now (and am trying to also get through finals!) but I may just pm you sometime with more questions. I really appreciate your openness!
Mama to my little busy bee.
There's are Waldorf schools in the Chicago suburbs too. There's one in the Western suburbs and one in the Northern suburbs. There are plenty of Montessori schools in the city and in the suburbs.
There are several suburbs that have excellent public school systems, ranked top in the nation, but the homes in those districts are very expensive and IMHO those districts might be too intense academically for some children. Property taxes are very high to pay for their excellent schools which is a problem if you end up sending your children to private school because you're paying twice at top dollar prices.
Oak Park has one of the few, if not only, AMI certified schools in the Chicago area.
Tuition will be high in the city and in the suburbs you've mentioned. The suburbs you've mentioned are some of the best in the Chicago area and are very expensive. They've both on the El line and have beautiful older homes. The quality of life is great in Evanston and Oak Park but you pay for that quality of life.
We live in a more 'tract-housy' suburb. Its school district isn't on the best so our property taxes are lower which works for us given that we've decided to send DD to private school.
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