Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chicago Waldorf School Reviews by Parents

I'm hoping, by posting all these critical reviews of Waldorf, that I am
answering the age old question of whether Waldorf Critics are a "small group of
disgruntled secular humanists in California." The problems in Waldorf are
international. We hear the SAME complaints from Waldorf schools everywhere -
whether public or private, whether in California or the UK... The SAME behavior
by Waldorf teachers and administrators EVERYWHERE is identified in these
criticisms... criticisms NOT by critics, but by ORDINARY PARENTS!
The Waldorf School decided to paint over the mural at the intersection of Albion and Lakewood 3 years ago, without talking to anyone on the block about it. The mural had been voted on in a contest several years before in our neighborhood group and had been touched up over the years.  They thought it was ugly and just started painting over it but were stopped by neighbors who saw them doing it.  Since then, they've done nothing.  The blank wall encourages graffiti, but they don't have the time, money, etc to actually repaint it with a new mural. It's been 3 years now that they've done NOTHING.  So they destroyed a mural that the neighborhood had been behind (without asking anyone for input!) and now have left an eyesore for years. Thanks, guys!

In addition to that, the Waldorf parents don't seem to think rules apply to them. Every morning dozens of them go the wrong way down part of a one way street at the same intersection as the mural was at, because it's more convenient for them to drop off their kids that way.  There are arrows painted on the ground, one way signs and do not enter signs, so there is no way they don't know they're going the wrong way. They just think the rules don't apply to them, because they are going to Waldorf.  The ones going down the road the correct direction often are going at very unsafe speeds as well.  I've nearly been hit by people going the wrong way several times over the years.

Waldorf  is a bad neighbor.

Very rude staff. Went for an open house and was told by receptionist we weren't on list so couldn't attend. Turns out we were on list. We  arrived at 8:45 not 8:00 when open house started and were told to come back later. No one could enter after the open house started. Seriously? Prospective business and I'm being turned away? My husband took off work to attend. Receptionist says he told everyone to be there by 7:45. I tell him that he did not tell me because i would have put that right into my schedule plus my daughter has to be dropped at school at 8:00 so I would have definitely remembered if he said something.. He replies he's very thorough too. Really? You were just telling me i wasn't on the schedule when i was. This guy has a real smug look on his face too like, "oh well too bad for you". My husband can't stay too long so we cannot attend the 10:30 time plus I had requested to view the 4th grade class but at 10:30 we'd have to observe the 2nd grade class. This makes no sense to me. Why would you inconvenience prospective customers especially since the schools reviews are less than stellar, average at best. This guy then goes on and asks me to recall the exact phone conversation I had with him and starts getting loud. I ask him why he's getting loud. Wait isn't this school all about peace and harmony and they have this belligerent receptionist insisting he's right I'm wrong? My husband runs a successful business for over 20 years. He says he's successful because he never treats customers this way. Forget this school. If this guy is an example of the attitude or mentality there then forget it. I understand all the negative reviews now.

This is not a school, it is a CULT!

This is the most horrific school I had ever stepped foot in.

I feel ashamed to say I sent my son here for a year. He was abused. Once he told me about what was really going on behind those doors, I took him out  immediately. He was in the 5th grade, and has been going to therapy for years now to try and work through what this school did to him.

The children are cruel. He never used to swear before he went here, and the teachers did nothing to protect him while other students called him names like kaka and n****r. My son never liked school, but this was different.

They always threaten with this saying "you'll never find a better education anywhere else." Well, if you think physically and emotionally abusing young children is part of a "good education" you have got to be out of your mind!

I will never let my son or any children I know even near this school. I even tell them to never get off at the Loyola train stop because I want them nowhere near this horrid place.

This is a warning to all parents out there. I love my son very much, and I wish every day that I did not send him to this school.

My child was in the early childhood program for three years before moving on to a public school. There were a number of positive things about the program. Unfortunately, for the amount of money we paid in those three years, I wish I could say it was so amazing an experience we were willing to keep him there. I get the sense that the happiest families are those that donate the most money and that wholeheartedly drink the anthroposophy / Steiner kool aid.

Beneath all the time spent outdoors and the wet on wet water colors and lyre playing is an education philosophy that is based on some unconventional beliefs. I'm all for unconventional, but when you try to convince someone that their child behaving like a bored six-year-old is something bigger that is the consequence of  their particular birth experience and that because of this they need to see an occupational therapist, that's when you lose me. This recommendation was based on limited observations by individuals not even a part of the particular classroom. One of my biggest criticisms in this entire process was the lack of support we received from teacher/s who actually know the child. But then, what can you expect from someone who wants to keep their job? Waldorf likes to push occupational therapy for any and all quirks. We were told that unless we took our child to an occupational therapist to help with reflexes that weren't developed due to his birth experience he would not be able to function properly in a first grade classroom. My child was acting no different than the average six year old--goofing around during circle time, being a kid. We did not follow the occupational therapy recommendation. We chose to not return.

Not surprisingly, our child has thrived in his new school. He is happy, he is learning, we feel like we can communicate easily with his teacher and feel supported in his needs, and that we are part of a community. At CWS parents are also not really welcome in the classroom unless it's a birthday for a younger child so if you're looking for a school in which you can be involved in something other than volunteering for a couple of larger school-wide events or donating money, this isn't the place to do it. I can't speak for academics, as we did not stick around long enough, but I can tell you that when we toured the first grade classroom it looked like the kids were learning very basic math--counting up to 10 at that point and I'm pretty sure it was well into the school year. As for diversity, considering the city we live in, it isn't diverse in its student body nor in its faculty.

Updated - 7/16/2012 Sophie C. Chicago, IL

This school is a disaster. First, the administration is incompetent and inexperienced in both educational and financial matters. Second, while the Waldorf philosophy is a good educational philosophy, it falls down in practice at CWS. Instead of encouraging creative growth, my son was being asked to copy essays into his Waldorf book--appalling! Those Waldorf books are supposed to be the child's own interpretation of the material, not some copied essay. Third, while many parents are great, the teachers and administrators play favorites and demonstrate intolerance if you do not go along with their philosophy 100%. Finally, while CWS claims to be whole child centered and understand the individual, watch out if your child is a little different and does not fit in. They are very poorly equipped to deal with any learning, social or emotional problems and do more harm than good.

6/1/2010 Em K. Chicago, IL
The Chicago Waldorf School....although I have much to say, I will leave this
brief and to the point.
The school is poorly ran, they don't know how to accept change, they use people
that willingly volunteer their limited free time until the person feels so used
they never return to the "community".
I happen to think that the philosophical base behind Waldorf education is way
ahead of the curve; however, the people running the Chicago school are way
Maybe one day everything will click for them and the students can get the
education they deserve without the distractions that have constantly plagued the
- Alum

My daughter was at CWS for 11 years, making it halfway through high school. I
was an extremely active volunteer. The best part of the place is the community.
The school itself has many internal issues that need to be resolved. Waldorf
education is a great thing and its founder, Rudolf Steiner, a brilliant
innovator. But CWS as an example of Waldorf learning falls down, especially in
the middle/high grades. Maybe other Waldorf schools are more satisfyingly run.
If those in charge of CWS were open to real change, such as the painful but
necessary retirement of some instructors, it would help. They advertise
constantly, rather than letting the education/school speak for itself. The
tuition is disturbingly high. In the end we were deeply disappointed with how
they handled our child's situation, despite having been a long-term attendee.
Some kids there do have it very good--keeping the same teacher all the way
through, for instance, or being on the receiving end of someone's favoritism.
(The happiest families usually have students still in the lower grades.) But the
teachers of our child changed 3 times through 8th grade, and the class kept
accepting new students who brought in disruptive behavior and a sorry lack of
the philosophy of the place. I'm a little sad to find that neither my child nor
us, her parents, miss the place.

They talk a great game but it is a bizarre education philosophy. My children
needed extensive tutoring to bring them up to grade level when they transferred
to regular schools.

My kind of town...\

Posted June 7, 2011
When one reads the Waldorf curriculum, it sounds great and those morning lesson
books look fantastic. One feels that his/her child is going to great this
creative education that fosters critical thinking, but don't kid yourself!
Mostly, the kids are copying from the board. There is no thinking and one is not
allowed to question the philosophy. —Submitted by a parent

Posted May 4, 2011
This school really does not teach anything. After several years of attending
CWS, my son had to go to a reading specialist, not because he had any learning
disabilities, but because Waldorf had not really taught him to read. They say
that they are all about creativity but really the lessons are about copying
lessons from the board. Needless to say, we transferred our child and had to
send him to extra tutoring to get him on grade level. —Submitted by a parent

Posted May 4, 2011
My child has serous learning disabilities that they failed to even recognize!
They did some weird "birthing" investigation and then wanted to have my child
realigned. My child has dyslexia! My child is now getting the correct help, but
stay away from Chicago Waldorf!
—Submitted by a parent

Posted March 20, 2011
This school preaches tolerance and understanding, but they are Neo-Pagan
fundamentalists. They are judgmental and arbitrary in their decisions. The
administration is incompetent and weak. The school lacks process and procedures
for any difficulty. And the education quality is very disappointing. —Submitted
by a parent

Posted July 30, 2010
Our son attended the parent-child and early childhood programs which were truly
excellent and enriching experiences . He continued to the grade school where
problems began. His teacher appeared to have a bias against boys as well as
reported anger management issues which erupted in the classroom. She was also
very condescending and defensive with us in our attempts to discuss our son's
increasing distress. We realized that he needed to leave this school and began
searching for options. We found a much better fit for him at a small private
school that was not only much kinder, but provided a genuinely grounded
educational philosophy with a stronger academic curriculum. To summarize, this
school has an outstanding early childhood program, but be very wary of
continuing into the grade school. It is all about getting an excellent, caring
teacher and having a positive classroom environment. Unfortunately, our son had
neither. —Submitted by a parent

Posted December 23, 2009
There is a vague spiritual quasi - religous vision that guides every decision a
teacher and the administrators rely on to both teach and run this school. It was
our experience that the teachers do not want to partner with parents at all and
parents are barely welcome to step foot inside the school, it is all very
precious. Academics are faulty and if your child has a learning disability this
is NOT the place for them, they don't have the resources or training to assist
or identify a learning disabled child. —Submitted by a parent

Posted June 11, 2009
The teachers are given the most power over your children and you 'ideally' have
the same teacher for 8 years. The teacher will interpret and treat your child
based on their opinion of your child. They believe they are somehow qualified to
assess your child's soul or that they know more about the spiritual realm than
anyone else could. A lot of parents seem to crumble at the mystique that is
portrayed by teachers but it is really just a fallacy. They are teaching and
thus interacting with your child based upon esoteric studies that they
wholeheartedly believe in but are they really what you believe? Money talks at
this school although you'll find some pretty poor people who receive assistance
who are there basically because they totally believe in 'the way' and make the
place seem ideal and authentic. Proceed with caution. Don't believe the hype no
matter how pretty —Submitted by a parent

Posted January 11, 2008
Our daugher was enrolled in the pre-school parent teacher program. The original
teacher had a gift for recognizing the individual traits of the chilren; she
also appeared to be well attuned to Steiner's philosophy, with special emphasis
on nature, the outdoors, and the individual traits of each child. Alas, she
moved on. Now, the program is quite mechanical. Little attention is paid to
nature - the children do not even go outdoors. The teacher is not inclined or
able to recognize the invididual traits and characteristics of each child. And
the parents are quite competitive among themselves - a function, perhaps, of the
rather mechanical approach that now pervades the classroom. —Submitted by a

Posted April 15, 2006
The CWS is a school based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, but is
interpreted by teachers so there is room for error. The staff runs the school
and parents have little room to do anything that involves themself in their
children's lives except volunteering for fundraisers. Parents are not easily
welcomed into the classrooms and have little knowledge of what goes on. The
quality of the education varies from teacher to teacher and parents do not have
a choice in the selection of the grades teachers. All first grade classes fill
up to a capacity of 32 children even with the high tuition.
—Submitted by a parent

Posted February 16, 2006
For those interested in Waldorf education, this is the only school available in
the Chicago area. Unfortunately it's wildly expensive (approx. $12,000/year).
The quality of the academic program varies from teacher to teacher and subject
to subject. The school emphasizes art and music, incl. instrumental. The level
of parent involvement is high, but it's gone down over the years due to burn-out
and the fact that some parents get paid while others don't. Those interested
should be sure to at least know who Rudolf Steiner was, since Waldorf schools
are based on his philosophy. Definitely not for parents who want a high-tech
approach for their kids' school, e.g. computers, or who are very attached to the
media. I rated the Principal Leadership 'don't know' because they're looking for
a new one now. —Submitted by a parent

  • Reviewed by Parent/Guardian on July 24, 2010
  • This school does not tolerate other points of view. Their academics are weak, particularly in math and science. The administration is incompetent and does not follow their own policies and procedures.
  • Reviewed by Parent/Guardian on April 30, 2010
  • This school is disorganized and chaotic. The administration is inexperienced and incompetent. As much as they say they have your child's best interests at heart, they do not. All they care about is their philosophy and have no respect for the parents or other points of view.

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You may ask, "where are all the 5=Star reviews?" Well, the problem with those reviews is that many tend not to be too honest. I have included 4-star reviews that appear honest. Often, gushing reviews are placed by teachers and administrators - as some comments here indicate. "This school educates the whole child!!!" - 5 stars - by Anonymous... I say baloney! Notice, many of the reviewers have been misled by Waldorf and are still buying the PR, even after having been disappointed. Feel free to comment but understand the intent of this blog. Comments are no longer moderated.