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||Reviews of Waldorf Schools
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
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.
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'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
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
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
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
We are relocating to the bay area in April and are interested in Waldorf based preschool for our daughter. I read a review of Children's Sonnen House in Berkeley but could not find a phone number or website for them. Does anyone have any current contact information for them or any recommendations for other Steiner based preschools in the East Bay? Thank you! Tara
The phone number is (510) 741-8336. And in case it makes a difference in your decision, Mama Bears is not far from the Pinole Valley Rd. exit on 80. We make the trip from El Cerrito and it takes less than 15 minutes. BTW, I found Mama Bears through BPN, so thank you BPN! Annemarie
Does anyone know of an East Bay Waldorf charter school? Thanks in advance. anon.
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.
Although the school we are looking at will be in SF, it is a Waldorf inspired school. I have seen some wide opinions via the parents site but I am looking for any general feedback on the philosophy of teaching, general observations, etc. Our son will be 2 1/2 next year so we just want pre-school observations from those whose children attended a Waldorf school. Thank you Stephanie
I live in Pleasanton and I am looking for a Waldorf inspired preschool around that area. I am familiar with one around the El Sobronte area, but I would like to save that long drive until she is ready for kindergarten. Can anyone suggest one? akchristensen
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
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.
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
I would have loved for my son to attend, in theory, but their handling of the interview/admission process was a big turn-off.
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.
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.
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
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.
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