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
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
"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.
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