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.
Feb 2002 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