Thoughts about Waldorf schooling for children in Germany

124 posts in this topic

On 18.1.2017, 20:20:59, andie14307 said:

With all due respect to others' opinions, I must say it sounds like a lot of tak from people who don't have personal experience with this school. My husband went to a Waldorf school K-graduation and he was very successful at university and is now as a computer programmer.

 

Sorry, that is not a good example. I've met great computer programmers who never went to university.

And the best SW programmers actually come from different fields, not from computer sciences.

Regarding SW development, either you have it or not, education path is almost irrelevant.

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Not more recent, but when we used a Waldorf kiga for kid#1 we found it considerably more structured than the 'normal' ones, so I think sometimes it looks woolly to an outsider, but isn't necessarily actually so from inside, as it were.

 

I would be tempted to give it a go, partly because otherwise you may be entering a bit of a toxic situation with the other school, and if you are able to explain your worries to the Waldorf people, you may find they are happy to take over a similar system to that which the previous places have been using. They do have a reputation for being more accepting of individuals with their quirks.

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Have you considered waiting for another year before you send him to school? Maybe he is just not ready yet?

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1 hour ago, kiplette said:
1 hour ago, kiplette said:

I would be tempted to give it a go, partly because otherwise you may be entering a bit of a toxic situation with the other school, and if you are able to explain your worries to the Waldorf people, you may find they are happy to take over a similar system to that which the previous places have been using.

 

Thanks for the reply. You're absolutely correct, that our concern is the potential toxic situation. I explained a bit to the Waldorf Schulleiter over the phone and we've got a meeting with them on Wednesday so hopefully I'll get a bit of a feel for the place (and they can get an idea of how our son behaves).

16 minutes ago, jeba said:

Have you considered waiting for another year before you send him to school? Maybe he is just not ready yet?

well, that was one of the things the teacher at the local school suggested, but he has already been at school for 18 months in England (where, apart from relatively minor behaviour issues, he actually progressed really well), and has just spent the last 6 months out of school (due to the difference in compulsory school ages). These last 6 months don't seem to have "matured" him, in fact, it seems to have made him more determined that he should be allowed to do what he wants. Accordingly, we'd rather not have him out of school for yet another year.  

 

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Well, despite all my prejudices against Waldorf schools (admittedly, formed pretty much out of the usual jokes about dancing names etc), the place and the teachers were really impressive. I'm not going to pretend it will appeal to everyone, but we went for a few visits, including sending our son off with one of the teachers to see how he fitted in, and it seems ideal for him. So much so, that we have decided to give it a go, and he's booked in to start in the new school year. 

The behaviour that the mainstream school found disruptive (squatting, rather than sitting on a chair, putting a name tag on his head, rather than around his neck, making paper planes rather than drawing a picture etc), they identified as "testing his boundaries" and "exploring what's around him". What surprised me most was how well our son reacted to what seemed a really gentle persuasion, and encouragement to do other things (at school in England he was more used to strict instructions), and how they ignored his fidgeting (not sitting still)...which in retrospect seems pretty sensible - after all, what life preparation is sitting still in a chair for 4 hours...work as a cashier? Both he and they were really positive about one another (a new experience for us!), and this morning our son was saying how he wanted to go back there again today - something he never said about mainstream school.

As I say, this isn't going to be the answer for everyone (it is actually true that they learn to dance their names!) Indeed, our current intention remains to send our younger son (very different character) to a mainstream school. It just seems a really good fit for our oldest son, and has put our mind at rest for the start of his school life in Germany: we're no longer worried that he'll get expelled in the first week!

So far so good...I'll try to remember to give an update in around six months time, so that there is direct and recent Waldorf school experience on this thread.

Thanks for your comments by the way @kiplette.

   

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What a great outcome. Hope the holiday doesn't dent his enthusiasm, and that it really does go OK. Interesting that they didn't suggest another year of Kindergarten - they must feel he's up for it in his own way, which in itself is a vote of confidence.

 

Looking forward to reading your updates - maybe you'll get to carve your own flute/harp in parents evenings!

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On 13.7.2017, 17:25:10, dstanners said:

As I say, this isn't going to be the answer for everyone (it is actually true that they learn to dance their names!) ...

 

....direct and recent Waldorf school experience on this thread.

   

Here my direct and recent Waldorf school experiences....

 

Kid one left Waldorf with a good Abitur 2 years ago.

Kid two leaves this week.

Kid three still there.

 

Here are some of our experiences here in the north -  from 2017 and also going back some 12 years.

Waldorf is not Waldorf !

Each school is  different and this is due to the local mix of teachers amd parents.

Some are dogmatic to follow Steiner. Others schools are pragmatic and have computers and sports.

 

All will expect a large input from the parents. This in the form of frequent parent evenings, many weekend 

seminars during the school year, help with clearing the school yard (not to save money but to show

the kids that parents have an interest in the school BTW).

 

And depending on the size and state of the buildings, the favorite input is to actually build the school

or a new extension.

 

From year 1 to year 8 the same class teacher stayed on. Here is a point that sometimes works, sometimes not.

The mix of children (clever, tricky, wild, quiet, slow) makes it a challenge to give all of them a chance to excel.

But thats not what Waldorf is about !

 

What is appreciated is that each child has something that they can do - and the whole class knows

what that is. Some can draw, some can do maths, some can sing or play an instrument.

All will learn to look for these  talents. 

 

After 8 years the class is a social mix of self reliance. They can depend on each other. They can

look after each other. And they do.

 

There are class trips - starting with bike rides and overnight stops, moving on through the years with :  

-- forestry week (spent tidying woods, sawing, clearing etc).

-- land surveying (spent marking out fields with theodolite and the associated maths)

-- Social  internship at an old folks home or similar 

-- art trip (eg to Toscana or France) 

 

The students can take Realschulereife (MSA) or Abitur. 

All finish with the Walldorf Certificate.

 

But what they really have when they leave is a noticably high social competence

coupled with an ability to express and present themselves.

 

They have been on stage several times a year from year 1.

A Saturday event (I won't say performance ) shows parents what is happening in class at the moment.

This is performed on stage - but definately not drilled to perfection as a show.

It is a snapshot of school life - shown several times a year.

 

They learn English and French from class 1. But don't expect them to read Shakespeare.

They have experienced the language. Its not about cramming their heads but to 

let them experience what the world has to offer.

 

Of course they need to leave school ready for a working life.  

Those with Abitur can go to Uni. Those with FachAbi too.

Lots move into an apprenticeship - there is a lot of practical work

in the school (sculpture, woodworking)

 

It is a well rounded education without the cramming to get exam results.

It also takes a special sort of parent (!) to let the education continue

without yearly exam result. 

 

As @dstanners noted - its not for everyone.

It won't work if you go there because there is nothing else !

 

You need to *choose to go* for Waldorf - and be part of your kid's education.

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for that @HH_Sailor , very interesting. It also matches pretty well with what we've been told by the school themselves, which is reassuring. The school in question seems to be a bit of a mix of the points you've made - so there are computers, but they prefer not to have formal sports. That said (and as is also relevant with the point on English), our intentions are that areas the school may leave out, are things we can compliment at home - some after school clubs for sport (he's keen to join a jujitsu class in September) and continuing to spend time reading and writing English. The other key issue - about parents being part of the school - is actually something which appeals anyway, and seems to make sense to me...as I said, it's early days, so I'll report back. 

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1 hour ago, dstanners said:

 The other key issue - about parents being part of the school - is actually something which appeals anyway, and seems to make sense to me...as I said, it's early days, so I'll report back. 

Other schools, like BIS, allow parents to be part of the school, for example to provide extra time classes on specific subjects.

Do-whatever-you-want-creative-sh*t-omg-unemployment schools are not the only one with that concept.

 

EDIT: I think I am going to register that DWYWCSOU phrase!

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On 7/13/2017, 5:25:10, dstanners said:

Well, despite all my prejudices against Waldorf schools (admittedly, formed pretty much out of the usual jokes about dancing names etc), the place and the teachers were really impressive. I'm not going to pretend it will appeal to everyone, but we went for a few visits, including sending our son off with one of the teachers to see how he fitted in, and it seems ideal for him. So much so, that we have decided to give it a go, and he's booked in to start in the new school year. 

The behaviour that the mainstream school found disruptive (squatting, rather than sitting on a chair, putting a name tag on his head, rather than around his neck, making paper planes rather than drawing a picture etc), they identified as "testing his boundaries" and "exploring what's around him". What surprised me most was how well our son reacted to what seemed a really gentle persuasion, and encouragement to do other things (at school in England he was more used to strict instructions), and how they ignored his fidgeting (not sitting still)...which in retrospect seems pretty sensible - after all, what life preparation is sitting still in a chair for 4 hours...work as a cashier? Both he and they were really positive about one another (a new experience for us!), and this morning our son was saying how he wanted to go back there again today - something he never said about mainstream school.

As I say, this isn't going to be the answer for everyone (it is actually true that they learn to dance their names!) Indeed, our current intention remains to send our younger son (very different character) to a mainstream school. It just seems a really good fit for our oldest son, and has put our mind at rest for the start of his school life in Germany: we're no longer worried that he'll get expelled in the first week!

So far so good...I'll try to remember to give an update in around six months time, so that there is direct and recent Waldorf school experience on this thread.

 

@dstanners, do you have an update?

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So, kid 1 has been at the Waldorf school for just over 6 months now. Overall it has been a very positive 6 months, and I’m very close to being sold sufficiently to send kid 2 there as well ….as I probably mentioned in my first post, my starting point was negative about the whole idea (dancing rather than writing their names, messing around all day etc).

I guess the update should start with the basics:

1)      my son is actually learning stuff (not just their funny dancing thing, but also maths, writing etc);

2)      he loves going to his new school (like me, he always resented time spent at school in England);

3) he enjoys the way they teach, and (for the first time ever) he actually comes home showing and telling us what he has been learning;

4)  has made friends, and settled really well.

When summarised in those terms, it is hard to see what more I could have wanted, and it reinforces that it was the correct decision for him.

So, Waldorf schools aren’t THAT out there – after all, they still have to do proper subjects. It is the approach that is really different. Lots of learning is done by way of rhymes, songs, stories and drawing – but the kids seem to enjoy it, and as long as it works (and it seems to for my son), then I don’t see any harm. In fact, when you see kids enjoying learning, it has made me wonder why more schools aren’t like it. Likewise, I see no problem in the fact that the kids are allowed to move around more than in regular school rooms, again, it is possibly even advantageous.

Of course, as you would expect from a Waldorf School there are a few things to get used to. My son has refused a haircut for the past few months (oh, except for the one time I was called up by his teacher asking whether it was really ok for my son to cut his own hair), but I think that is just part of fitting in – they all seem to have wild hair….oh, and probably linked to that, nits seem to be a bigger issue than at “regular” schools. It isn’t just the long hair though, there are some hippy parents who believe that the best ways to get rid of nits are 1) ignore them; or 2) (and you couldn’t make this up) use coconut oil!  

So, along with the nit deniers, some of the parents are true believers in the whole Waldorf concept, and that seems to include things like, no TV, no meat or alcohol…..but again, that might be more of an aged hippy thing, rather than Waldorf. The good thing is that there seems to be a silent majority of more “normal” parents there too….as I write this, my son is sitting on the sofa with a school friend, watching a DVD after digesting sausages for lunch.

My advice to anyone considering Waldorf is simple – just give it a go. At least take a look around the school, and ideally take your kid with you. Get a feel for the surroundings and see how the child reacts to the teachers and vice versa.

My experience is based on just this one Waldorf school. It is a very new school (2 years old, but already with a waiting list for kids for the next two years), so the teachers are really motivated and the parents are perhaps more involved than would otherwise have been the case. The parental involvement is everything from typical school fund raising, to selection of teachers/staff and to actually working on the school building itself, so they make a fair demand on your time – again, something with which I have no problem.

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Hi DStanners, my child has been at a Waldorfschule for nearly a year now.  I am very pleased as well.  In fact, I am envious as my kid learns the coolest stuff - from farming to knitting to the Old Testament and next year Norse Mythology, playing the harp and poetry.

Agree with you about the nits though.  I don’t understand why it’s a bigger problem at Waldorfschule but it seems to be the case (yes, I ignore the coconut oil advice) but my kid has managed to avoid the nasty critters, thank heavens.  

 

My German husband is more skeptical than I, and wants to see more focus on the fundamentals but what he doesn’t pick up on is that the future won’t belong to the robot-people, it will belong to the creative thinkers.  

At Steiner schools, kids learn to read through writing and math is learned through stories and through geometry.

 

in general, those most skeptical of the Steiner schools are those who don’t educate themselves deeply about the pedagogy and curriculum.  

 

I love it, and wouldn’t change a thing (except for the nits, lol)

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2 kids finished their Waldorf education and are continuing their

education. One happy at Uni, the other happy in an apprenticeship.

 

Now the youngest is preparing for his last few years of Waldorf school

before he (probably) sits his Abitur.

 

School here has started in the national Waldorf "Portfolio" scheme.

Students don't just get a final year report (Bio 2 ; English 2.3 etc) but get documentation of

their work over the entire secondary grade based on their projects and praktika.

 

Details in the link from the portfolio starters in NRW.

 

Response from employers in the NRW area has been very supportive as they get to

see what a young person has achieved in a range of subjects, not just exam marks.

 

German link to Waldorf Portfolio info

 

Same link via Goo-Translate

 

Quote

Final portfolio of Waldorf schools

Since 2009, the Waldorf School movement has developed the form and content of a qualification portfolio in a joint project - initially in NRW, now nationwide. The final portfolio of the Waldorf schools is based on a broad documentation of the competences and Waldorf-specific content and is awarded at the end of the 12th grade. The final portfolio refers to the entire upper secondary level and pursues the stated goal of documenting the school achievements of the student, especially during the upper secondary school, in such a way that his individual competence profile appears. The final portfolio not only fulfills the wide range of learning opportunities offered by a Waldorf school, but also enables a transparent and holistic description of the respective skills of young adults beyond their academic achievement. Thus, the Waldorf schools connect far-reaching expectations and goals, including the goal of attaining a generally recognized Waldorf school degree on this path.

 

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6 hours ago, EngelvonHeimat said:

My German husband is more skeptical than I, and wants to see more focus on the fundamentals but what he doesn’t pick up on is that the future won’t belong to the robot-people, it will belong to the creative thinkers.  

You are right, soft skills will be more important in the future, but I don't think Waldorf has the correct curriculum for it.

Free thinkers != do what you want.

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Not sure which Waldorf school yours are at, but mine certainly cannot just do as she wishes.  In fact, this was one of many reasons I chose Waldorf over Montessori.  When a lesson block begins, the kids will learn the related concepts over the next 6 weeks through 3 or 4 means (music, theater, art, hands-on activities,etc.) but nobody gets to say, for instance, „I ain’t gonna make a model of the solar system.“ if it is in the lesson block.  They really all have to do it.

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Thank you for the links HH Sailor.  Glad you are as pleased as I am with the Steiner method.  

 

I did not mention this, but maybe it will help some parents, my child was a wreck in the public system.  Not talking so much about academics, but physically.  We started our daughter in the Waldorf School in March of last year.  

 

Our daughter has finally stopped getting headaches and throwing up.  It took two months of going to Waldorf school, but she sort of “got healthy’ after we switched out of the public system.  

 

To this day, I don’t know why the German public system was so traumatic for her (she was always vague about her feelings)  All I can do is be ever grateful we discovered Steiner.

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4 hours ago, EngelvonHeimat said:

Not sure which Waldorf school yours are at, but mine certainly cannot just do as she wishes.  In fact, this was one of many reasons I chose Waldorf over Montessori.

I have the same disdain for Montessori and Waldorf. Montessori is very narrow minded and only works if done with other concepts at the same time. Montessori is a 100 years old concept and the world has evolved since. Strangely, in the anglo-saxon world, they still think it is the best...

 

New concepts also use some Montessori ideas, but as one of 4-6 concepts "toolbox" and adapting to each student.

And definitely, the age mix of Montessori is now regarded as simply bad.

 

Here are some comparisons between IB, Montessori and Waldorf:

 

http://intlschool.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Montessori-Waldorf-IB-comparisons.pdf

 

https://elliezarfatycompendium.weebly.com/comparison-between-international-baccalaureate-and-the-montessori-method.html

 

For me, IB has all the advantages of developing soft skills, free thinkers, but with stricter, constant supervision and constant pace. But of course for that to happen, teacher to kids ratio has to be larger, so IB is usually more expensive.

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4 hours ago, EngelvonHeimat said:

Our daughter has finally stopped getting headaches and throwing up.  It took two months of going to Waldorf school, but she sort of “got healthy’ after we switched out of the public system.  

 

To this day, I don’t know why the German public system was so traumatic for her (she was always vague about her feelings)  All I can do is be ever grateful we discovered Steiner.

Because the German public system is great, but just if you are German.

That's why my kid went to an international school, after many horror stories from friends.

 

I talked with a German retired teacher and she told me that in the past 15 years the German public system changed a lot (for the worst) and teachers now simply don't care.

That explains why older Germans don't understand when you say "no" to the public system, it was fine when they went there.

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8 hours ago, EngelvonHeimat said:

I don’t know why the German public system was so traumatic for her

There are obviously pros and cons to all schools and systems, but we found that taking our kids around different schools and seeing how they reacted (both kids to teachers and teachers with kids) was helpful. Our local state school has a good reputation, and we had originally considered sending our kids there. However, our oldest son hated it, and I'm aware of various other kids from our village who haven't got on there - much of the issue is little more than a failure to "fit in". That doesn't make the local state school a bad school, just not right for our son. The other point I gather from speaking with parents at the local school, is that there is now quite a determination by all parents to push their kids at Grundschule to ensure they get into the (very good) local Gymnasium. I can easily imagine that feeds through as pressure on the kids too (they have lots of homework, and several have additional tutors even in the second class.

That pressure simply isn't there at a Waldorf school, because there's already the option of the Abitur anyway (in addition to the "Waldorf Abi" after 12 classes, which @HH_Sailor mentioned.)

As @EngelvonHeimat said, kids are NOT allowed to do/learn whatever they want at a Waldorf school, and the schools themselves have a curriculum which is approved by the state, so they still do all the regular subjects in addition to the more stereotypical Waldorf subjects (movement, woodwork etc). By way of example, my son certainly prefers his language lessons involving taking the school dogs for a walk in the woods. 

We never really considered international schools, mainly because there isn't one near us, but also because our kids speak German and we are here for the long haul (at least, that's the intention!). I can imagine international schools are really useful for the more typical "expat" situation i.e. families going from one country to the next each few years. 

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