Monday, April 1, 2013

A Parent's Story

Here's a wonderful response in the comments of this thread:
Dear Mr. Berlatsky,
We started our daughter in a parent toddler program at our local Waldorf school at the age of one. She remained in Waldorf until age 9. She is going on 15 now and we are still trying to help her overcome the damage that was inflicted. Her best friend at the school is now 16 and still CANNOT READ.
Our daughter is a natural artist -- which doesn't quite fit into the Waldorf scheme. You think your child is learning to draw? Well, only if they COPY exactly what the teacher draws. Your child brings home a beautiful painting and I know how you feel -- so proud and gratified that you've made such a good decision for her, that is, until you visit the classroom and see 30 identical paintings. They actively suppress individuality until the age they determine it appropriate -- MIDDLE SCHOOL.
We abided by the no TV, no computer ban for years. I don't disagree with it -- but it doesn't end there. These people are religious fundamentalists who will attempt to dominate just about every aspect of your parenting decisions. When my daughter was 9, she asked to read Harry Potter, so we got if for her. It was her first long book and she dug into it with joy. She brought it to school with her and the teacher confiscated it. When I picked up my tearful child, the teacher screamed at me for giving the book to her -- hysterical like I'd sent the kid to school with a loaded gun. This occurred in front of my daughter and other students and their parents. My daughter was traumatized by seeing her mother yelled at and the other children taunted her that her parents were "bad."
I relate this story (there are so many more) to illustrate that in reality, only a narrow range of passive children (and their parents) will truly thrive in the Waldorf system. The teachers use the parents, but they are actually taught that the parents are an obstacle to their task, not partners.
Are you aware that Waldorf teachers still utilize PRENOLOGY to assess the intelligence of a child based on the size and shape of their SKULL and that they also categorize your child based on the medievil notion of the "four temperaments" -- Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Melancholic? They use this categorization to direct them away from their natural tendencies and towards becoming what they value -- a well-rounded person. Maybe this sounds reasonable -- but in practice, it means active suppression. So if your child is an intellectual -- early reader for instance, they instruct you NOT TO LET THEM READ. In first grade, my daughter drew faces on the people in her drawings and her teacher scolded her for it and insisted she draw with a chunky rectangular block crayon to ensure that no further detail would be attempted! NO FACES until they say its OK. If your child is LEFT-HANDED, they will force them to use their RIGHT HAND. Bullying is rampant and ignored by the adults in Waldorf schools because they believe that conflicts are due to "past lives" and the children need to work it out themselves.
Look -- I get why parents are drawn to Waldorf. We desire a beautiful, loving environment for our children -- but that is an illusion. Like you, I am jewish also, and I did my best to ignore all the heavy duty Christian stuff -- thinking it quaint, and let myself be seduced by the aesthetics. Problem is -- they are serious about it ALL -- the dark side of Christianity as well as the Gnomes. The fairy stories and aesthetics are not separate from the underlying insane philosophy, and the longer you and your child are exposed to it, the more you will see the damage it does. To those of you who are ethnic minorities and considering sending your child to a Waldorf school, just Google Steiner, anti-semitism and racism -- and think twice.
The people teaching in Waldorf school are not always qualified teachers -- they are more likely, just true believers of Steiner -- their religion is anthroposophy -- and they only need to be trained in the Waldorf system to teach your child. And in their system, the same teacher will be teaching your child for up to 8 years without so much as a college degree. They aren't trained in modern methods of assessing learning disabilities. And they delay teaching reading until age 7 -- so what happens if your kid has dyslexia or other learning disability? They will send you to an anthroposophic "Doctor" who will prescribe homeopathics and silk caps. Like my daughter's friend, they will be illiterate -- maybe for life -- because their problem was treated as some sort of spiritual failing instead of an organic disorder.
And think about what happens when your kid's teacher doesn't like your kid and they are stuck with that negative feedback for YEARS. Think this can't happen? Your kid may be able to endure the treatment for a year, but several years? By third grade, it got to be so bad that my daughter threw tantrums every morning pleading with me not to go there. We found out later that her teacher was regularly punishing her -- putting her outside alone in the winter rain and forced to jump rope. We found out that what appeared to the teacher as lack of attention was really that the poor child was going deaf and she couldn't follow the lesson! The teacher had no training to discern what was happening -- and we only figured it out when we saw red flags noted not by her main teacher, but by her eurythmy (dance) teacher in her end of the year report. She noted that my daughter couldn't follow in dance, looked confused etc. Even when we showed the teacher the shocking audiogram and doctors report, her cold and ignorant response was "She can hear me just fine!" Several years later this teacher was fired for cursing and violently toppling of desks in the classroom -- but only after a full blown parent revolt! My daughter was the first to leave that class -- the most vulnerable -- the canary in the coal mine. I should have believed her when she told me the teacher was terrible and I will live with the guilt of subjecting her to this treatment for so many years -- but like you, I was in love with the IDEA of Waldorf and bought into it completely.
IT IS A CULT, whether you choose to recognize it or not. We built our lives around the place. I loved the parents and children -- and the administration adored me for my volunteerism and donations to the place. But in the end, they did not show any love for my child. I will agree with you that Waldorf for pre-school and kindergarten is magical -- and that is when they hook you. But please take my warnings seriously. Waldorf should be avoided. Its fortunate you are transitioning your child out at 4th grade. You may find out that you waited too long. I predict the transition for your kid will be very difficult -- both culturally and academically. Thanks for your patience with this long screed, but every time I stumble upon another journalist naively enlisting new recruits to this nightmare, I just have to speak up!

And in response to another poster...

You are most fortunate that your daughter had a good experience, but from your description, I think she is academically gifted and would have thrived anywhere she went. As for taking the crazy stuff in stride -- I naively assumed that these were modern people, politically liberal, artistic and therefore open-minded. I really thought that they were talking metaphorically and that they were just trying to create a magical place for the children. Unfortunately, after we left, I recalled many of the nutty things that happened, things that were said, and edicts handed down that in hindsight clearly were directives of Steiner's "truths." The teachers actually did their best to never let parents know what the underpinnings of their actions were -- but sometimes things slipped out. Once, I asked a teacher about how seriously they took the PASSION story because my daughter came home from school and told me the jews killed God. She was upset and so was I. I never did get a satisfactory explanation -- just a weird story about how there were really two Christs. HUH?


When we were deeply immersed in Waldorf, I would read stories on-line from people who'd had bad experiences and I thought something must be wrong with them and/or their kid. When a family would leave the school in a huff, we thought of them as troublemakers and good riddance. Now those that are still there probably say the same of us!
I hope you understand just how sad I felt writing all of this to you -- but I want people to understand that it is not just cute Gnomes and all. Waldorf is the educational branch of a religious organization and the teachers are true believers. What they teach is not innocuous -- and the proof is that they hide the questionable stuff from the parents. I think your kid is doing fine there -- you are lucky. But as a journalist, perhaps you might do a bit of research on your subject and follow up.


  1. How do you ensure that the story above is genuine and not the work of a troll? No details about the school. Just the usual collection of half-truths. One teacher did all this, and the parents kept the child there for years? Really? Or, if the troll is on your side then it's OK? Statisticians who lop off the 5 star reviews would also lop off the 1 star reviews.

    1. "How do you ensure that the story above is genuine and not the work of a troll?"

      Any of these could be the work of a troll... but seriously, what are the chances that ALL of them are? That's the number one reason for this blog... to assemble all the stories. There just aren't *that* many trolls with a self-invented ax to grind against Waldorf. I have no reason to believe these aren't real people. They would have no reason to put up one-star reviews unless the schools were problematic.

      "One teacher did all this, and the parents kept the child there for years? Really?"

      Yeah, really! It's not that easy to take kids out of Waldorf. Often they are way behind if they move to public school. Often, as was my case, a divorce may be involved (I've heard from many dads who have had similar experiences to mine). Then the parent has to prove in court that the schools are harmful. Not so easy. That's the number two reason for this blog... to provide real-world evidence of how problematic Waldorf schools are. There are other reasons why parents take so long to pull their kids out - among them, the feeling of community they have in Waldorf. After a year or two, they have found themselves isolated from their former friends (and family) and Waldorf is literally all they have.

      "Or, if the troll is on your side then it's OK?"

      I'm here to post critical information about Waldorf. If I had any information to suggest this person is a troll, I'd remove the post.

      "Statisticians who lop off the 5 star reviews would also lop off the 1 star reviews."

      I'm not a statistician. There are good reasons why the 5-star reviews are there. Waldorf schools put them there to boost their review ratings. There is often a conflict of interest with these glowing reviews - a school administrator, teacher, teachers' aide will place a 5-star review and not identify themselves as such. Almost all 5-star reviews are by "Anonymous".

      Finally, not only do I say up front that I'm not providing 5-star reviews, I'm also very careful to link to the pages where I've harvested the critical reviews - so anyone reading my blog can check out the 5-star reviews if that's what they want to look at. I think most people reading this list understand it is critical of Waldorf... and that I'm not trying to present the Waldorf propaganda on this blog.

  2. Do you actually allow comments?

    1. Yes, I actually do. I get lots of spam comments so I don't check the blog every time comments are waiting.

  3. To help make learning to read fun and engaging, our reading program includes lesson stories that are matched to the progress of your child's reading abilities.

    These lessons stories are part of the learning program, and comes with colorful illustrations to make learning reading fun and engaging for you and your child.

    These are the exact same stories and step-by-step lessons that we used to teach our own children to read!

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    Best rgs


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.