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Waldorf Question - Need Answer ASAP!

1619 Views 21 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  Rhonwyn
Hi mamas,
A new Waldorf preschool is starting in our area, and my twin daughters (2.5 yo) will be joining.

DH loves the ideology of Waldorf education, but feels it may be "unrealistic" in this day and age; because many children are already working on computers at 3 years old (which I'm totally against), playing with Gameboys, etc. etc. He thinks it may be too isolating & secular in the Waldorf world; that our girls will not be properly prepared for life in the 21st century if Waldorf is their primary learning arena.

I disagree. Children will learn all about the world simply by living in it, and will come to know all of it (computers, TV, and worse!) in their own time. Why rush it?

Thus, our argument. My question is this:

Can anyone refer me to a study or statistics that compares the performance of children who are Waldorf schooled to those who were educated in a traditional setting? (Ie, will an early childhood Waldorf education in any way impede children once they enter high school and college?)

I'm certain of the answer, but would love some cold hard facts to back up my intuition.

Thx for your help!
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I am not aware of a controlled study on that subject.

I never used a computer until I was nineteen, and I somehow manage just fine at forty-three.

My waldorf-schooled daughter (grade 1 through 8 at waldorf) is doing just fine in her first month at a non-waldorf high school.

We are not absolutist about computer use. Around age 12 my girls have gotten email addresses and do limited IM and internet surfing. Both children were allowed to use internet sources (under supervision) for resaerching papers in seventh or eighth grade at their waldorf school.

Good luck.

There's nothing unrealistic about a media-free household. I agree with David that the net is pretty good for an older child.

There are many links about the Waldorf media restriction here:

It is very helpful not only to think in the negative (eliminating TV), but also in the positive: how can you fill your kids' time more meaningfully? Hope this helps.
Waldorf education, esp. in early childhood, is INTENDED to shelter young children from the "rush, rush" adult world. They simply cannot develop to their full capacities (imagination, critical thinking, pre-reading, early math, etc.) by being exposed to such things. We have really cut down on the amount of tv in our home (and hour a day, some days not at all) and the girls really have surprised us by becoming more creative and active with each other and with their toys. Their play doesn't just mimic the tv program they saw earlier that day!

Does your Waldorf preschool have a parent study night? It might be a good idea for your husband to meet your childrens' teacher and/or come to the school to discuss his concerns with the "experts". Tell him, too, that he's not the first to have these concerns with Waldorf education! Most of us have been programmed to think that "the earlier the better" with regards to computer use, learning to read, etc. with young children.

I don't have any statistics to offer. DD just started at a waldorf-inspired pre-school and she loves it. We don't watch tv or watch videos and gameboy for 3 year olds? Hmm, I must be a bit out of it. I started kindergarten at 3 years old and was actually taking tests in math and writing(spelling) when I was 4 (it was a 3 year kindergarten program). All I can say is I can still remember feeling like a total failure at 4 when I got a 20 on my "math test". My parents were disappointed! Believe me, I don't think those extra years of "studying" helped! I wasn't exposed to a computer until 12 and I graduated with a MS in Computer Science. Peer pressure is hard especially for new parents and I think it might help if you can find some waldorf playgroups in your area. Check out your local waldorf school's school fair,... and see what you think about the environment and the kids. They have workshops or seminars at school as well, so maybe you and dh can attend together. Anyways, just my 2cents.
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wrong spot...oops, sorry
I have been at various times a waldorf student, parent, business manager and a teacher of waldorf teachers (handwork). Over the years I've encountered a lot of waldorf children and graduates. I've never met one who said that they were unprepared for the modern world or college.

That aside, I have encountered some who were weak in particular academic areas. You do need to keep an eye on the school and on your particular teacher to make sure that the teaching and subject coverage are up to par. To simply assume that all waldorf schools cover all subjects effectively is to be unreasonably optimistic.

My daughter, now 36, supported herself through college and completed a degree in engineering (water quality). She has worked on apple computers, unix systems (at the US Geological Survey) and a wide variety of IBM clone systems. She feels strongly that her waldorf experience made her more flexible, thoughtful and creative and did not leave her unable to cope with the "real" world. In fact, she is running a waldorf inspired day care in her home, and serving on a waldorf school board, indicating a certain positive feeling about her education!

There was a large study of waldorf graduates done in Germany, I think in the 70's. It is probably too remote from the U.S. in the 00's.

You could try contacting AWSNA to see if they have done or are going to do such a study. (Association of Waldorf Schools of North America) They have a web site.

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You could contact Seattle Waldorf School for information on testing they conducted last December with their eighth grade class. I could not find the information posted on their website ( but, I have the condensed results that were published in the Bright Water School Newsletter.

"Last December, the California Achievement Test was administered to the Seattle Waldorf School Eighth Grade (class of 2003)...In reading (including vocabulary and comprehension), the class performed at 11th grade level and in the 82nd percentile. In language arts, the class performed at 12.9 grade level and in the 72nd percentile. In mathematics, the class performed at 12.5 grade level and in the 80th percentile. The overall performance of the class on the total battery was at 12th grade level in the 79th percentile."

I hope this helps!
Two things:

One -- as with ALL schools, it is important to remember that each Waldorf school is different. The quality of instruction, the social setting, the school culture, all depend on the teachers and families that comprise the school community. As a result, as with everywhere, parent involvement and vigilence is of the utmost importance -- being sure the school is attending to what you perceive are your daughters' needs.

Two -- I went to a Waldorf school from preschool until I graduated high school. I believe that it trained me to be a thinking person in the world, to make informed choices, to listen, and to look for and respect the good in everyone (in addition to teaching me two languages, calculus, all number of sciences, literature, singing, stone sculpture and more...). I definitely have achieved traditionally defined academic success (I'm getting a doctorate at Harvard right now). While that is important to many, I am also constantly struck by the amazing and NON-TRADITONAL successes enjoyed by Waldorf graduates. Many begin ventures intended to better the world or consciously choose to tread paths in life that are not clearly mapped out.

Bottom line -- I believe you should trust your gut about this school and continue to be aware of your daughters' and their needs. Choosing any school means choosing it again and again, not just once in the beginning.

Good luck!
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because as far as I can determine, Waldorf does not compile actual data about their students, or at least does not release it. I also have not heard of any outside source doing a study. I would personally love to find out what the attrition rate is, but haven't been able to turn anything up.

All I can find are personal anecdotes and stories (both positive and negative), which are NOT reliable indicators. Megincl's post is a perfect example of a positive story, there are a couple threads with pretty hair-raising negative stories as well.
Attrition is drop-out rate. Either people who dropped completely out of school, or people who left Waldorf and continued their education elsewhere (presumably, but not neccesarily, because they didn't like something about Waldorf).
My school is about to graduate 12 eighth graders; of that group:

four attended our school from grades one through eight, and a fifth started late in her first grade year.

two began in fourth grade (when the school changed locations)

two began in sixth grade

two transferred into the class in seventh grade from a smaller local waldorf school that ended its class in sixth grade, another started in seventh grade when his stepmom began teaching full-time there.

One child left the class after seventh grade for financial reasons, another child joined in sixth grade and left after one year.

Is this data useful? Have you seen such data published for other private schools?

Thanks, David
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I haven't seen any research specifically on Waldorf students, but there is currently a lot of brain research being done on early learning/brain development that relates the Waldorf philosophy.

The importance of play, how children who attend academic preschools do not perform better than those in play-based programs, the whole issue of reading and when children are developmentally ready to be taught to read, exposure to television, computers, etc.

Although these studies don't directly involve Waldorf students, some of them are supporting some of the basic principles of Waldorf education.

Jane Healy's Endangered Minds and Einstein Never Used Flash Cardsare 2 examples.
You are truly wise to look for the evidence. I have been intrigued by Waldorf yet can't find any studies that show that Waldorf education is really successful by traditional measures. I attended two open houses at our local Waldorf and pointedly asked the director and admissions counselor if their students took the standardized tests that are administered in our state. Well, yes they do but the school would NOT release any information on the results of the tests and were quite evasive. I did not want any individual student data, just aggregate. Not good in my book. I mean, I want my ds to love school, eat healthy and have an active imagination but for 8-9k$ per year I want him to be successful on the sat's and be able to get into a good college.

On the other hand, I WAS able to find many research studies on the effectiveness of Montessori presschool (esp. for boys) that document long term iq and sat gains even into 8th grade after attending Montessori. My ds is now in a MOntessori school that is $255 less per month.

Our Waldorf is very closed to parents visiting or droppping in. The classes are in the back of the school and have curtains so you can't see in. Makes me nervous not to be able to see/hear how the teachers are interacting with the kids spontaneously. ANy visits to our Waldorf are scheduled and timed so they are prepared for parents. Their rationale is that it interupts the class. Montessori is open and not secretive at all.
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This data is somewhat useful, and it's better than personal anecdotes where an individual says, "All the Waldorf students I know have been fabulous, high achievers" or "All the Waldorf students *I* know have been flakey idiots."

Important questions: does your school only go up to the 8th grade? do you know where the 12 students are going to pursue their high school education (and why)? If they're going on to a traditional high school, how well do the former Waldorf students perform?

I have not seen information on any individual private schools, but as siddie mentioned, I have seen a couple studies comparing Montessori schools to traditional-type schools. Overall, it does seem that Montessori students do achieve slightly better than traditionally schooled kids. I've also seen studies about homeschooling, and homeschoolers generally do better than traditionally schooled students as well.
The waldorf school where I worked recently went through the accreditation process. It was done simultaneously with the regular private school regional association and the Assoc. of Waldorf Schools of North America. By the time the process was completed I had moved on to graduate school so I don't know the details of how it came out, but I do know that soon after we started the process our accreditation "manager" mentioned to me that our attrition rate at about 7 or 8% (I'm not sure I remember the number right) per year was lower than most of the private schools in the region.

Attrition happens for a lot of reasons: people move, finances change, child/teacher mismatch, commute turns out to be harder than expected and many other reasons. Only a few have to do with the actual academics of the school. So the attrition number alone won't tell you much. You need a survey that asks "why did you leave?" to a few hundred parents from a school over several years.

I was working at this school for 3 years. One thing I observed was the 8th graders being eagerly accepted by area high schools. I found this a bit bizarre because all of the other grade schools pushed computers, but the waldorf non-computer using students were still considered great finds by the high schools. So exactly what was being accomplished by all this computer use in elementary school? The kids didn't actually seem to be ahead of children who had minimal exposure to computers. You have to realize that putting computers into a school is a very expensive undertaking. Besides buying the computers and software, you have to have a network and a mass internet connection and access to databases and then somebody to manage the whole mess. What I would like to see are the studies proving that exposure to computers in elementary school improves children's education. I have this dreary suspicion that everyone roared ahead into computers for children thinking that they were an obvious "good" without doing any serious research at all. Billions of dollars wasted? Who knows? Are there any studies comparing children educated without computers to children educated with computers?

End of rant,
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Someone already posted it but the Seattle Waldorf School starts standardize testing in 6th or 7th grade so that when the kids are exposed to it, either for high school application or in high school, the kids will know what it is and how to handle it. The kids are told to take the test seriously but not to stress out about it. I am not sure how many years this has been going on (3 or 4) but the administration is collecting the data for comparison. Specifically the school takes the California Achievement Test (CAT). Not sure why that one over others.

One thing that needs to be remembered is that a good Waldorf school will have a mix of kids. Some gifted and some struggling. The teacher works to meet each child's level and enhance the areas they are gifted in. Every child has a talent and they are all considered equal. The kids learn to appreciate all talents not just math, reading, and academics. Everyone is good at something positive and no one gets put on a throne. Occasionally, you will get a child who is gifted in all areas and the kids learn to appreciate that too.
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For Seattle Waldorf, the class of 2002 mostly went to the Waldorf High school - Hazel Wolf. The classes got to be very political and anti-war which turned off a lot of people because they didn't think the kids were coming to their own conclusions but were being forced to adopt the teacher's opinions.

Over half of the class of 2003 (which was a huge class of 27) went to public high school in Shoreline, WA (just north of Seattle). 3 went to Hazel Wolf, 3 to Seattle public schools and the rest ended up at various private schools ranging from Catholic to very academic prep schools.

Not sure where 2004 will end up.
Although I appreciate folks offering some data points, this really isn't even approaching a study that might show some solid conclusions. For a study to be truly useful, the data should be collected in as systematic and unbiased way as possible. This is neither. How do we know that there aren't several Waldorf proponents reading this thread, but remaining silent about their school's information because it would not be supportive of Waldorf? That could lead us to an incorrect conclusion.

Rhonwyn, do you know if or when the Seattle Waldorf School will release some aggregate info?

Also, I am not sure how a mix of gifted and normal kids makes a difference? Traditional schools and Montessori schools also have a mix of kids, so that shouldn't make a difference in performance.
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