Advice about Waldorf Schools
Deciding between a Waldorf school, other private school, or Berkeley public
I'm looking for advice/feedback from parents that were deciding between a Waldorf school, other private school, or Berkeley public starting in kindergarten.
I am very drawn to many of the ideas of Waldorf education, such as, play based learning, not starting on academics until age 7, emphasis on outdoor play, continuity of a teacher for many years, hand-on activities like knitting, limited access to media, assessment through projects etc instead of tests, etc. But, as a scientist I am hesitant for parts of the philosophy that limit access to knowledge/questions that are considered beyond the appropriate stage of development and the potential to teach outdated scientific concepts (e.g. that the elements are earth and air, wind, fire).
I'm wondering if people have feedback on how the Berkeley Rose School and Easy Bay Waldorf handle these issues. Or just feedback in general. Do you love the school? Private school would be a huge struggle for my family. Is it worth the sacrifice?
In searching for other options I found the Walden Center School. I'm wondering if parents have feedback on the school. It seems like it might be a good compromise. How academic are the younger grades? Is there homework? The more play based and less academic it is the best for me. I just want her to love learning. I'm drawn to the idea of mixed age classrooms in the older grades and much of the rest of the curriculum as described online seems great. Do you love the school?
I believe you said you're a scientist -- me too, and I freaked out when I saw the vaccination rates for the three schools you listed. The risk for infectious disease at those places is significant. http://www.shotsforschool.org/child-care/how-doing/
Now, stepping down from my soapbox, our kid goes to Cragmont (public school in North Berkeley) and we are quite happy. Overall, among our friends, BUSD gets good marks. Maybe consider it?
your friendly neighborhood infectious disease epidemiologist
As a scientist, and a parent of an early reader, you should run, not walk, away from any Waldorf school. Did you know that most (yes, more than half) of the kids at Waldorf schools are unvaccinated, because of unscientific superstitions? Did you know that kids at Waldorf schools are not always encouraged to think for themselves, but rather are taught by rote? Did you realize that Waldorf schools are anti-media, which includes BOOKS, and kids aren't allowed to learn to read until they lose a tooth (I have never figured out how those two things could possibly be related to each other)?
You should, instead, consider Montessori schools. They offer some of the same aspects that appeal to you about Waldorf schools (e.g., hands-on activities, continuity for several years in one classroom, etc.) without the pseudoscience and rote learning. At a Montessori school, your bright daughter will be able to pursue reading at her own pace, rather than being told she'll have to wait until she's 6 or 7 to look at a book. Montessori Family School is great through 5th or 6th grade (though bad for middle school). Montessori parent
Hi there! I have two kids at Walden and we love this school. Our son, now 10, sounds like your daughter in that he taught himself to read at the same age. Initially he started at an Oakland public school but after 6 weeks of that we were seeking another kindergarten. Walden felt like home when we first visited in terms of its small classroom size and close knit community, but what really sold us was Pamela Meredith, the amazing Lower Group teacher. She has a way of reaching and really understanding each child, and it is magical. We love all the Walden teachers but we are especially grateful to Pamela for helping our son bloom after such a rocky beginning in another school. Walden isn't for everyone--it's a real teachers' collective, with no admin, and lots of required parent time expected. But its commitment to the arts, to social justice and to the education of the whole child is fierce. And Walden's been doing this for over 50 years. I encourage you to check it out! Please ask the moderator for my contact info if you'd like to talk more. Wishing you the best, melinda, happy walden school mom Melinda
Hello MIS, I've been a parent at Walden for 7 years with two children and I can share our experiences in answer to your questions:
How academic are the younger grades? Is there homework? If what you mean by ''academic'' is sitting at a desk and doing worksheets, then the answer is ''not very.'' It is a place for learning but not as a rote grind. As an arts-based school, there is more of an emphasis on projects and the arts throughout all grades. For example in kindergarten, children may learn by taking a walk around the neighborhood and looking for letters or shapes in the environment. Homework in kindergarten is minimal and may include reading a story and then drawing a picture about it. By 4th-5th grade children usually have weekly homework which is often a project involving both research and artistic creation, but most nights remain homework-free.
Do you love the school? Yes, we love Walden although of course it's not perfect. I think in terms of the children's experience, it is as wonderful as an elementary school can be. Teachers are nurturing, thoughtful, and really mindful of the whole child. The arts teachers are phenomenal. Having plenty of outdoor and playtime is wonderful. Also the social/emotional environment is supportive and loving. Children are generally kind to each other and welcoming of newcomers. Also very importantly, the community is strong and we have strong ties with other families that are continuing beyond the elementary years.
If I had complaints about Walden it would be more on the administrative side, for example, I found the school schedule to be difficult for a working family, especially the late start of the school year and the extra week off in February. However, these are issues more for the parents and not for the child. For our children, I'm convinced that Walden has been a gift that will empower them for a lifetime. Our older child is now thriving at a public middle school. Wishing you the best in your search. happy walden mama
Walden is an amazing school and community. They meet each child where they are and allow them to grow and flourish. The Arts are truly a part of the school, not treated as a ''break'' from learning. They are incorporated and valued as much as traditional academics. I cannot say enough good about the teachers and the community. Strong, supportive and involved! Walden was a gift for my child and my life. Ruth S
Welcome to the wonderful world of selecting an elementary school! We are very fortunate to have so many great options in the East Bay.
I urge you to stay away from Waldorf schools, until you are fully informed to be able to make a decision. Here's why:
(1) Many of the East Bay's good, progressive schools start with play-based learning, then gradually and gently add the academics: Prospect Sierra, Walden, Park Day School, Berkwood Hedge, Black Pine Circle, Redwood Day School, to name only a few. They implement the same ideas about play-based learning that you will find at Waldorf.
(2) These schools also encourage hands-on learning and tactile skill development.
(3) Your child is bright. She will naturally want to read and explore math, and why shouldn't she? If she is read to regularly and is already exploring books, wanting to write, she should be encouraged. But Waldorf will shut her down and strictly forbid such exploration until after age 7 -- too late in my opinion and in the views of many of the educators at our progressive schools.
(4) Despite the liberal, crunchy-granola propaganda that Waldorf espouses, the Waldorf system is surprisingly, even shockingly, rigid in many regards. Not only academically, but socially as well (very strict dress codes, shaming tactics if children and families don't comply). You have to ''drink the Waldorf kool-aid'' or you're out.
(5) When our kids are 4 or 5 years old, and seem so tender, it's hard for us to imagine sending them out into the big, wide world. We are all lured by the nurturing atmosphere of a Waldorf situation. But you will discover shortly enough that your tiny child will be growing by leaps and bounds, and maturing intellectually very quickly. In September she is 5 and just starting school; in June she is 6 and ready for first grade.
(6) If you choose a Waldorf K-8 education, your child will not have good study habits to be prepared for high school.
Continue your exploration of Prospect Sierra, Walden School and the others I've named above. I think you will find these schools can provide an outstanding education. Additionally, your child will not be the only shy one entering kindergarten. The teachers and heads of schools have vast experience in helping the little ones grow socially. Prospect Sierra, Redwood Day, Walden and Park Day School are very good at this. Good luck! Been there and want to share
Waldorf elementary school for preschooler?
Hi Our son goes to a Waldorf preschool and has blossomed. We want to continue see his communicative and social skills develop as he was a late talker. We are considering sending our son to a Waldorf public school k-8. do the kids seem to have the requisite skills to go to high school?do they seem to find high school easy or difficult?any input about it would be helpful. Thanks very much. Sats
Your best bet is to ask whatever school you are considering to put you in touch
with their graduates and ask them. I looked pretty extensively at all the Waldorf
charters in the north bay and during tours many people asked the same question of
them. In short it didn't seem a problem. But your question is not a straight
forward question which is why it would be best to go straight to the source. It
really depends on the school, the child's teacher, the families going to the
school that have an affect on your child's attitude to school etc etc. I can also
tell you simply that as a Waldorf graduate myself (of a private one) I did fine,
had college professors who specifically asked me where I had gone to school and
why I was so well prepared. Waldorf is developmentally based and most people are
concerned with your very question because of its slow start in academics. But the
curriculum is set up to recognize that in the upper grades and high school
children are developmentally ready to take on tough academics, tough critical
thinking and tough problem solving. As long as you have toured the school, talked
to teachers and feel it is a solid school (I did tour one charter i did NOT feel
is solid but it is a brand new school) I don't think it will be a problem, but it
would be good to talk to some graduates of their school too.
Re: Former Green School family seeking similarly outdoorsy school
From all of the things that you state are important to you I highly encourage you to look into Waldorf schools. They are all over the Bay area, including one on the peninsula (as well as Berkeley, El Sobrante, Marin and SF). Children spend a great deal of time in nature, particularly in the lower grades. Learning is fun and enriching and because it is developmentally appropriate (ie appropriately challenging for ALL ages) children love going to school vs. it being a chore as you state. The festival and community life is incredible, and I find it to be a great support system for our family in this rushed bay area life. The curriculum balances academics, the arts, music, gardening, movement/ PE in a way that teaches to the whole child and educates them to critically think, problem solve and care for their fellow man. Just walking into a Waldorf kindergarten you will see a huge difference- the care teachers take with the aesthetic of the classrooms as well as their interactions with the children is rare. I feel my children are loved by their teachers and because of it show an enthusiasm for being at school and learning. I encourage you to learn more about these schools, and I hope whatever you choose that your children love school again. Good luck!
Hello BPNers. We are preparing to enroll our 4 and a half year old into his first school experience. After visiting many schools it seems we are settling onto a waldorf k-8 school. I would love to hear about others experience with waldorf schools. It seems to me to be a great fit for early childhood, but Im curious how it goes with older kids. Do they feel totally different and out of sync with the rest of the world? Have your kids made the transition from waldorf to mainstreem schools and how did that go? Is the lack of traditional testing a hinderance for them later. Thanks for your insights. Waldorf mama
Hi, I highly recommend Waldorf schools. I went to one in Mendocino county 1st-8th and I can't wait to be able to send my 2 year old to one when he gets bigger. I had to go to a public high school after and had no trouble with the transition. It is an amazing form of teaching and teaches kids to use their minds to the fullest not to just stuff their minds full without the time to let them think. They teach the kids to be creative and to think for themselves. In high school the teachers actually praise the kids that came from our waldorf school because we did so well and were calmed and learned well. Good luck waldorf girl
I am a Waldorf graduate (attended K-12) and although I know each Waldorf school will vary as much as their teachers vary, I can assure you that you need not worry. I'm not sure exactly why Waldorf gets this reputation of being great for early childhood but not strong on academics for older children. My experience was of a highly challenging academic environment in middle and high school, much more so than my public school counterparts. The % of Waldorf graduates who go on to college and graduate school is very high. There was a rather large group of graduates from my high school attending my college at the time I was there and I had a few professors notice the difference in our academic preparedness.
Having said that, yes, your child probably will need an SAT prep course in h.s. and need to learn how to take multiple choice tests, since the reality is that colleges rely on these heavily. But the education for the real world/ career world that he will get from the kind of assessments Waldorf gives will serve him in many more ways than any SAT prep course. I think for any school you have to get to know it's teachers, it's curriculum, and it's expectations, as well as make sure it's a good fit on an ongoing basis for your child, but I wouldn't worry about the testing or academics.
My daughter is 8, and about to start third grade at Berkeley Rose School, a new Waldorf-inspired school in Berkeley. She's been there since kindergarten, and was in a Waldorf preschool (Redwood Garden) before that. My experience has been incredibly positive. Her schools have been great for her socially, emotionally, and academically. We plan to stay through 8th grade so haven't had to deal with issues of transitioning into other systems. I can say, though, that when she is in a more mainstream setting (playing with friends and cousins from different school systems) it hasn't been a problem. They find common ground easily, and I haven't seen that she's felt ''out of sync'' at all. In fact, her confidence (which I attribute partly to her school experience) really comes forward in these settings - she actively seeks common ground and introduces others to things she's interested in that perhaps they aren't familiar with. Mary
We are moving to the Bay Area, not sure where yet - but either Mill Valley or Berkeley/Oakland. Our kids are at a Waldorf School (1st and 3rd grade) now and we have looked at the Waldorf schools in the SF area, does anyone know of a school in the Berkeley/Oakland area that is similar to a Waldorf School? We are thinking we would rather live in Berkeley. Thanks Mara
I imagine someone with children there will weigh in, but the Berkeley Rose School is a Waldorf school that might work for you--it's newish so they are still adding grades, but it goes through third grade (so will have a fourth grade next year). Oakland also has a Waldorf-inspired public charter school that's open to all students from Alameda County, but it's at the far eastern edge of the city so it would be a painful commute from Berkeley (for me, at least!) Welcome to the Bay Area! Another East Bay parent
My daughter is in second grade at Berkeley Rose School , and I wholeheartedly recommend it. The school was begun in 2009 by families in Berkeley who wanted a local Waldorf-inspired school in the community. We've had our daughter enrolled there since the first year of the school. The program is excellent, and it's in the heart of North Berkeley in a very accessible location. You might want to take a look at the website for more information: www.berkeleywaldorf.org. I'd be happy to talk further with you, or other interested parents - email me, or call me at (510) 527-2747. Mary G
My wife, 2 boys and I moved to the Bay Area from Seattle 3 years ago after visiting just about all the Waldorf schools in Northern CA. Our new home depended on which school we wanted, and we decided on the East Bay Waldorf School . Now our first grader is thriving with a fantastic teacher, and the youngest starts pre-school in September. EBWS' stunning campus is on Wildcat Canyon Park which makes the commute easier to take - families come from Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda. We're very happy with our decision and recommend EBWS enthusiastically. Brian G
Hi - We are a new family at the Berkeley Rose School - a Waldorf inspired newer school in Berkeley with a preschool and grades program. We would highly recommend Berkeley Rose - it is a nourishing, supportive, loving and creative environment. The school strives to balance all aspects of child development - the kids move, paint, do academics and language (in the grades programs), gardening and music. They retain the best elements of childhood - the freedom to explore, learn and be themselves, while being a part of a kind and caring group of peers. We are very happy here. Best of luck in your search! Mom of a BRS 2nd grader
I'm looking for a school for my 5 year old son, who is a dreamy, smart, somewhat socially challenged, slow to transition little guy. I'm not sure I can even afford a private school - but am considering looking into a waldorf school. I'm just wondering what sort of experience others have had, both good and bad. I believe there's a school in the east bay, and perhaps san fransisco. We currently live in SF, but will likely relocate next year if we can find more affordable housing in a good community elsewhere. Thanks! wondering about waldorf
Our 6 year old son is in first grade at the East Bay Waldorf School after attending kindergarten there last year, and we couldn't be happier! The kindergarten experience was wonderful for our son, who was a dreamy, quiet fellow at home but blossomed into an adventurous, social boy with lots of friends in school. I was particularly impressed by the kindergarten's ability to include all of the children in the life of the day. Everything they did was laying a foundation for the academic years to come - stories, finger knitting, painting, lots of outside play - it really gave my son a firm footing for what will develop in the grades. Transition into first grade has been remarkable to watch. Our son is enthusiastically throwing himself into everything and wanting to go back to school for the afternoon! I'm a firm enthusiast for the Waldorf curriculum. I'm a public school product and ivy grad who worked in high tech so Waldorf might not have been a natural choice at first. But researching it and seeing how my son thrives have given me a good perspective. It's truly a remarkable school.
Another surprising bonus about EBWS is the lively family community. There is a cross section of culture and everyone is working together to support the children, faculty and staff. We've been to parent meetings, family picnics, festivals, etc. and it's been very helpful in expanding our social circle. There's a lot of enthusiasm at the school and a lovely feeling of creativity. Tuition for any private school can be tough but I've found that EBWS is among the least expensive, and financial aid is available. The school is relatively in the sticks...both in a good way and bad. El Sobrante is a fair clip from Berkeley/Oakland, but once you get to the campus which sits on the northern tip of Tilden Park, it's magical. It's just beautiful. You have to visit it to see what I mean. All I can say is thank goodness for carpooling. Good luck on your decision, and I sincerely hope you find the right place for your child! EBWS parent
I've always loved the idea of Waldorf, but here are two things learned from my nieces and nephews attending that I wouldn't have thought to ask about. One is that they believe in the children's karma and you as a parent or teacher are not suppose to directly get involved with their playground disputes- letting them evolve on their own. In one nieces case it translated into her being a bully, my nephew was fine, and my other niece seems the one picked on. All schools are different, so I would ask how they guide the kids to learn how to treat each other respectfully. The second thing to think about is the fact that most parents at Waldorf do not vaccinate their children. The year my son was born there was a whooping cough outbreak and the school was closed for a while- this may or may not concern you. The best for you as you search for schools! Anon
The East Bay Waldorf School has a really sweet and knowledgeable admissions person. She's worth calling, just to talk things through. Juliana (510) 223-3570. Then take a tour. What's special about Waldorf is immediately apparent on that tour. Our experience at EBWS has been great. I'm delighted every day by my son's description of his day. Happy at Waldorf
We love it a East bay Waldorf school . Our oldest son is in the first grade there and our youngest will begin in preschool soon. His loves school and just asked if he could go everyday instead of having a weekend. The teachers are outstanding. The campus is beautiful well worth the 15-20 minute drive we make. We couldn't be happier with our decision to go to East bay Waldorf school. Happy Waldorf Parent
There is a lovely Waldorf school in central north Berkeley called Berkeley Rose . Two of my kids attended and they thrived there. Both just loved school. It's such a warm, magical and nurturing environment. If you are considering Waldorf, you should definitely check it out. Currently it's early child care through second grade. With the plan of adding a grade a year up to 8th. Their website is berkeleywaldorf.org Best Julieana
Waldorf is a beautifully crafted and carefully prescribed curriculum for children from birth to 12th grade. It is not a loosey-goosey program, as many think, but requires commitment and respect for the child's intellectual and emotional age appropriate abilities, from both families and teachers. My husband and I felt it was well worth the commitment.
That being said, I am sorry that the East Bay Waldorf School is the only K-8 option for Waldorf for the East Bay. (There is a K-3 Waldorf school in North Berkeley and a number of preschools.) As with any pedagogical model, the desired results are contingent upon how the staff of an individual school implement that educational philosophy, curriculum, methods.
Over the years we found that our children's teachers had what seemed to be some difficulty with child development and/or classroom management. My son reported, multiple times, that his teacher yelled at children in the classroom, and then changed his/her behavior when other adults came into the room. My daughter complained, with tears, that she couldn't learn because her teacher was always preoccupied with kids acting out.
We continued our commitment to Waldorf while we watched as families withdrew their children, and enrollment in my children's classes dwindled to less than half what they started with. When we expressed concerns or simply inquired as to why families were leaving, the staff told us that those parents were disgruntled or that their children were troubled. We regretfully decided it was a place not conducive to our childrens' learning or healthy social development. We finally withdrew them after attending for several years.
Waldorf aims to surround children with three things: beauty, truth and love. After pouring our hearts and souls into the East Bay Waldorf School, both financially and as active parents, people asked why we left. With disappointments too many to number, I simply respond with 'The school fell a little short on truth and love.' C.
I don't know of any full-day preschools (centers) that are specifically/officially Waldorf - probably because Steiner believed children shouldn't start school until age six, which doesn't really work for the reality of most of today's working families! There are several Waldorf-inspired family day cares - check the BPN listings if that interests you.
Can anyone suggest a kindergarten and first grade that is a small setting or home school, in the east bay, that is not the east bay Waldorf school? Thank you. Kathryn
For a magical, solid, home based Waldorf school, try Diana Mei's Rose Kindergarten in El Sobrante. Her number is 510.223.8363. Satisfied Parent
The Rose Kindergarten is a home-based Waldorf pre-K/K. My son is there now and we couldn't be any happier! Diana Mei is the teacher. She has a full time assistant, a garden teacher, a yoga teacher and a Spanish teacher. The children get two hot, organic meals a day. The children gather their own eggs from the hen house. Need I go on? It's heaven. call her. (510)223- 8309. emi
It's looking likely that my son will be starting Grade One at the East Bay Waldorf school this fall, but I need some part time care (1-2 days a week) over the summer. I'm wondering what other EBWS parents do over the summer; Waldorf compatible summer camps, child care swaps, etc? Ideally we'd find something where he would meet other incoming Grade One children, and/or be out in nature as much as possible. mch
You will find Waldorf kids all over the place; we like Monkey Business Camp because of the outdoor aspect, and the upbeat energy of the staff and the focus on getting along (as opposed to whatever the activity is). To connect with your class, you might arrange a few family gatherings over the summer... waldorf parent
Hi - our kids go to Wildcat Community Free School in Richmond across from Alvarado Park entrance. They have a wonderful summer camp program. You can call to get the info. Very much out in nature. This summer the theme is music with lots of different musicians coming to fool around with the kids! the website is: wildcatcommunityfreeschool.org Sarah
Does anyone know of an East Bay Waldorf charter school? Thanks in advance. anon.
In short, no. (at least when I was looking a few years back.) In my recollection there is one in Napa, Monterey, and I think Sebastopol/ area. And then there is an extremely small mixed age (one class for K-5? or however old they go up to) private- yet not quite as expensive as other privates) on College Ave. called Our School. Started by dissatisfied EB Waldorf parents some time back. We looked at it and the teacher seemed very warm, the size however was not a good match for us as we did not have many neighborhood children/ friends from outside of school. FYI the group PLANS www.waldorfcritics.org is a large group of dissatisfied ex-Waldorf parents (and some students) from all over the country who had been pursuing a lawsuit against charter Waldorf schools, feeling that they are not separating church and state and are in fact religiously based. I am not trying to dissuade you from waldorf schooling but I found the website very compelling in my search and I appreciated hearing a myriad of experiences from people who had sent their children through the Waldorf system. good luck
My pediatrician suggested we consider the Napa Valley Charter School as a possible place to send my son for kindergarten in Fall 2003. I visited the school last May with my daughter who was finishing a successful year of kindergarden at our local public school. We were immediately impressed by the school's sense of community, creativity, and pastorale-inspired environment. My daughter begged to attend there for first grade, and now she is. We don't regret our decision. My son will attend kindergarden there next Fall.
My husband and I read the pros & cons literature about Waldorf (see PLANS at waldorfcritics.org) and discussed those concerns at the enrollment interview with the teachers. We were told that because NVCS is a public charter, much of the criticism (teacher training, racism, and religion) is not found at NVCS. The teachers all have California credentials as well as some Waldorf training.
I have never heard the term ''Anthropophy'' and certainly do not consider the environment, parents, or education ''occult'' in any way. They are all very regular people, albeit, a few are uncommonly wealthy (it is Napa, afterall). The racial mix is a bit heavy on the white Caucasions, but there is a large minority of Black, Asian, and Hispanic students, parents, and teachers. There are 130 students in grades K through 5, growing to 8th grade in three years.
The best part of this school is the dress-code. After a year of public kindergarden (Hello Kitty, Power Puff Girls, and Barbie on everything), none of that popular consumerism pressure exists at NVCS. And my daughter loves her school. She knits, plays recorder, and learns French, and comes home nearly every day with some wonderful creation crafted out of sticks, cotton balls, seeds, pine cones or some other bit of nature. Reading is not pushed at this school, but my daughter gets plenty of reading experience at home and is a strong reader. The academics in general seem age appropriate to me.
My daughter is happy, learning, challenged, and nutured. My son is looking forward to attending kindergarden there. I can't ask for much more of a school.
Feel free to email me if you'd like to ask me about this or want more information.
There are good things about some parts of Waldorf- teaching to the whole child, but and it's a big But there are some parts that aren't too great. Academically I worry about the level and quality of academics. While some schools may really overemphasize reading- Waldorf isn't very fast on the draw with reading. On the surface, this sounds ok- but in reality, your child may not have the emphasis put on reading that he or she should have. Math is another weak area- I have concerns about math teaching. While there are great classes such as eurhythmics (movement) taught, the curriculum is not clearly articulated. Parents are not, and I mean not encouraged to give their feedback on curriculum. The school believes that they, and only they know the appropriate methods for teaching children and they definitely, have no interest in parents giving input into curriculum. Hope this helps anonymous
I am writing in response to the recommendation given regarding Waldorf schools in the 6th grade.
When assessing any school, be it public or private it is important to keep in mind that no school or curriculum is going to be a 'one size fits all' curriculum. Therefore, be certain to ask yourself the question 'is this a good place for *my* child'. For my wife and myself, the answer was an emphatic yes when we were looking at the school for our oldest child. Ironically, from the perspective of the previous recommendation, math was one of the areas where Waldorf was better *for our child*. My regret now is that we didn't start at a Waldorf school earlier for our daughter. I feel she would have acquired a stronger foundation in math and be less turned off by the subject.
As for reading, when our daughter moved from public school to Waldorf for the 4th grade we found that she was surrounded by many classmates at the same level in reading. Our daughter was and continues to be an avid reader.
As regards parent input into the curriculum, I can only speculate on what prompted that comment, as the poster did not make clear that they were or are a Waldorf parent, or if the comment was anecdotal and second hand. The first comment I'd like to make is that the poster's comment about affecting the school's or the classes curriculum could quite easily be made about public schools as well, where the curriculum is not decided within the neighborhood school itself, but at most on a district level with input from the state no doubt.
We can only speak directly about the teachers our children have (our son also attends, in first grade, and our daughter is in the 5th grade) but without reservation I can say that these two teachers are gifted, dedicated, committed and open minded teachers. We are very pleased that they are teaching our children, and we feel lucky in that regard. When I was in college, I was enrolled in the Education program at Michigan State University. I visited many teachers and many public schools, as well as being a student teacher myself. I met many good teachers during that time, people that I respected. I don't think they are as good as the teachers I've met at our Waldorf school. As for the school not accepting input, without going into specifics, our experience has been decidedly opposite of 'annonymous'.
Parents looking at Waldorf schools for their children should know what the curriculum and culture is first and spend the time that the decision to enroll their child (in any school) deserves. For our children and for ourselves, we made the right decision choosing Waldorf.
We would not hesitate to suggest to another parent that they consider Waldorf schools for their child. We also have no problem with someone finding out that Waldorf is not a proper fit for them or their children. Rob, East Bay Waldorf parent
I would like to hear from anyone involved with Waldorf schools, their child's experience and just general feedback. Thanks.
regarding waldorf education: I worked in a waldorf school for a time, and I believe it is one of the most holistic methods of education. It is more about raising a child than educating them. Children learn to value diversity in approaches to every aspect of life. Physical movement, art, imagination are emphasized. I worked in a kindergarten and the majority of our time was spent in the following ways : singing, cleaning, cooking, watercolors, stories, physical play, crafts.
I'm not sure if this applies to every waldorf, but there were firm rules at my school prohibiting (basically) pop culture during school (ie no talking about television, no wearing clothes with cartoons on them). The children accepted this fairly readily, and there was much less time spent imitating violence.
one drawback is that it tends to cater to the upper end of the economic spectrum, and therefore usually lacks cultural diversity.
as is usually the case, Im sure it depends on the particular school. I would encourage spending at least half a day sitting and observing whichever school you are considering.
also, there is a discussion group on www.salon.com in their table talk section dealing with waldorf. good luck
Each Waldorf school is different and a visit is important in your decision-making. Notice how they treat you in the process of checking out and enrolling because these can be flags for how your child will be treated. I guess this goes for any school. But our experiences with both Waldorf schools in the East Bay were poor. The curriculum is wonderfully rich and diverse. Children juggle bean bags while reciting math tables, or do a dance with the beanbags on their heads. They learn practical things for everyday life like knitting, sewing, weaving, carving and cooking. The schools require or recommend (depends upon the school) no TV and computer for the children under age 10, I think. The Elmwood school is more progressive and eclectic in their ability to embrace non-Christian holidays. The East Bay Waldorf is more dogmatic and has a reputation for having teachers who yell, although some may have since left. Their campus is splendid.
I would have loved for my son to attend, in theory, but their handling of the interview/admission process was a big turn-off.
We sent our daughter to Waldorf in Emeryville, lo those many years ago (1993). Maybe we were out of our minds (we were victims of the east bay firestorm and were in the middle of a three year nomadic period in which we moved 7 times and were forced to sue the insurance company or face starting all over from zero with toddler twins and two teen-agers. Yes, our decision to send her there may have been unbalanced).
What attracted us was an active music program and a certain global, intellectual/educational curiosity on the part of the teachers. It looked good. We tried to ignore our initial gut reaction that the staff and dedicated parents seemed all to exude an eerie, Landru is All. Are you part of the body? syndrome. We felt like alien hyper-intellectuals. Firstly, they misrepresented themselves. We asked explicitly about the religious nature of the school and were told that, though they were, in some tangential way, a Christian organization, historically, there was no theological/religious bias. Around the winter vacation, our daughter came home, rattled, and in tears.
I don't understand, she said. At school, they told us that the child is coming and everything will be o.k.
Who's the child? we asked her.
I think it's a boy in the other kindergarten class. He's in a play about the saviour. Is he the saviour? Why is everything going to be all right? Why is he coming again? He didn't even come into our class once.
We marched off to school and asked what was going on. The answers were feeble and meandering, at best. It was evident that they had no clue of the effect of their tangential Christian metaphoric roots on growing young children.
Then there was the Landru effect. They really did have an image of children being these innocent little waifs, happy, serene receptacles into which their teachers might pour an entire Waldorf world-view. The rigidity of materials used in class, the dim lighting, the low energy level....were geared to kids with low metabolic function who were, by nature, obedient, malleable and unquestioning. O.K. My obvious bias is showing. I recognize that. It wasn't long before the teacher took us aside and suggested that since our daughter wanted to explore outside the prescribed lines, question the logic of instructions, and pretty much, follow her own creative, exuberant curiosities (that different drummer), she must be hyper-active and have oppositional problems. Hmmmm. I understand that the Waldorf systems in Europe are not so rigid or sanctimonious, so lecturing or idiopathic. And I hear that even in the states, the severity of the intellectual/spiritual anti-gravity effect differs from school to school. But, gee whiz, if your child is an independent thinker and a vibrant personality, I would recommend against Waldorf.
Oh, I forgot: They have a mystical ceremony on a child's birthday. There are a lot of candles lit, and the birthday kid sits in a chair across from the parents, separated by a bridge. The teacher explains that the angel child, before it was born, selected the two perfect parents, and then after much mystic m-bo jm-bo, crossed over this ethereal bridge to join its parents in the physical world. Then this bridge-crossing is acted out. There was a hitch in our ceremony, because our daughter, while lighting the candles along the bridge, caught her hair on fire. It was hard to return to the ethereal, metaphoric plain after rolling her in a towel and drying her tears. Still, that weird smell of burning hair..........happy birthday to you....happy birthday to you...happy biRTHday.......
This was kindergarten. I shall give them the benefit of the doubt in suspecting that this kind of air-headedness subsides as the children get older. This has been simmering in me for a number of years. I apologize for the strength of my opinions if they have offended anyone. But this has been completely honest. I am also very sure that there are inquisitive, gifted and unusual children who are suited very well to the Waldorf atmosphere. I also hear that the dogmatic, religious adherence to Waldorfian principles varies from school to school.
In light of the person who had the bad experience during the interview process at East Bay Waldorf School, I have to present the other side and say that we did not have a bad experience at all. The other respondent did not provide details, but in our case the interview process was very straight-forward. We saw the campus, we talked about the Waldorf approach, we saw some classrooms in action, we visited the Kindergarten and talked to the teacher, who was very nice (our daughter had Deborah). By arrangement, we then brought our daughter back for the teacher to meet her. She played with the toys in the kindergarten room while the teacher watched her, they chatted a little bit and took to each other immediately and the teacher told us right there she would be thrilled to have our daughter in her class. Our daughter has loved her school experience and her teachers all along and is learning some of the most wonderful things. She went to two years of kindergarten (2-yr kindergarten is standard in the Waldorf system) with Deborah and is now approaching the end of her first grade year. She is learning Spanish, German, letters and their sounds, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and the multiplication tables, in addition to playing the flute, painting, sculpting, knitting, and listening to long, spoken stories. And she enjoys all these lessons and looks forward to going to school! (Yay!)
As I said, my daughter loves her teachers and has never come home and said anything about any yelling. I know that, in her class, a child may get kept in from recess if they disturb the class too much. And that if they (as a group or as an individual) are especially good, they (as a class, not individuals) get stars and a certain number of stars earns the whole class extra recess time. There is a lot of focus on making the class into a loving group, where the children help each other and work together because they are a class together.
It is obvious that the Waldorf approach does not work for every child. There was one boy in my daughter's first-grade class that acted out frequently and challenged the teacher on many occasions. He had had difficulty in kindergarten as well. Interestingly, this child came from a Waldorf family; his mother had gone to Waldorf school and his grandparents were Waldorf teachers. When we visited his home, it looked like a Waldorf classroom! I guess it was just too much for him, because he hated the wooden toys and all the natural stuff. Finally, his mother told me she had realized that Waldorf was what she wanted for him, but he himself did not want it and they removed him from the school, unsure what would be their next step. Last time, I spoke to them, they had enrolled him in the public school and he LOVED it! Was attentive and well-behaved, an entirely different scene/child. The point being that it's not for everybody, so you need to consider your child's personality in making this decision.
I'd like to respond to the criticisms of Waldorf education with some positive thoughts, which perhaps I can best give on a personal level: My three children were in Waldorf Elementary School from kindergarten through eighth grade. Each one has turned out OK! My oldest daughter is studying now at Claremont University in Southern California for her Ph.D., after graduating from Wellesley with a double major in French and psychology. One of her friends, also in Waldorf at the East Bay School (when they were in Emeryville) is here at Berkeley working on her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, after graduating from UC Santa Barbara in bio-mechanics. My son is a Junior at the Urban School of San Francisco, where he enjoys biology, chemistry, physics, and acting. For the past two years he's worked during the summer as an intern at a computer software company in the city. For sports he does rock climbing, biking, cross-country skiing and snow-boarding, and kayaking. My younger daughter will be attending the brand-new EBWS High School in El Sobrante in the fall. She writes poetry, draws, and recites essays to us in Spanish at the dinner table. She swims with a local swim team, baby-sits, and is concerned about the environment.
None of them are low-energy or extraordinarily obedient. And they each take their own path in regard to religion. My oldest is not involved in any religious group, her friend (above) is Jewish, my son has expressed some interest in Buddhism, and my youngest is an active member of a youth group with a congregational church in El Cerrito. If they have anything in common, it may be a tolerance for diversity. In class as youngsters they did celebrate various holidays with parents and classmates. My youngest's entire class just recently participated at the Bat Mitzvah of one of the girls.
My children all had different teachers and naturally some were more liked than others. But we all came to respect their teachers for what they knew and what they did, and for what they were attempting to learn and do. The 'class teacher' at Waldorf school teaches the main lessons (English, math, history) for the class from grades one through eight. The teachers are striving human beings who are not perfect. But they learn and grow along with the class in a sustained, committed effort. --Bonnie
hello, a bit late, but I just came upon this informative Waldorf FAQ on the web: http://www.waldorf-toys.com/shopuk/waldorfeducation.html
Can anyone familiar with the Waldorf approach to teaching math to children recommend any reading on it? I understand it is (or can be) a whole-body approach rather than just memorizing. My daughter is a first-grader who seems to learn a lot through movement. An article about the Waldorf philosophy described something I think might work for her. Transferring to the East Bay Waldorf School is not an option, unfortunately.
My husband has taken a course on Waldorf/anthroposophy. He recommends the book: Teaching as a Lively Art. You can order it at Anthropress.com Jennifer