Monday, January 13, 2014

Waldorf: A New Adventure

     I spent a lot of time trying to decide where Violet would go to school next--probably too much time. I talked to the local Montessori principal, the local elementary school principal, the principal at the Sudbury school, and two Christian preschools. Some of these places, like the Montessori school, I spoke with twice. By the time I decided on the Waldorf school, I'd had a tour and sit-down with the director and kindergarten teachers, Ryan had attended a lecture at the school and spoken with the
director, Ryan and I each had two private conversations with the director, and we'd had a school interview with the teachers. And still I'm not sure.

     I was--and am--looking for something different. I want a place where I know my daughter, as well as the other students, will be led with calm authority. I'm looking for an environment where my daughter has the space to engage in undirected play, a place that is stress-free and slow-moving so that she can think and process and focus. I want the school that she goes to to prioritize imagination, relationships, and self-reliance over rote memorization.

     My hope is that the Waldorf school that she is starting today is that school. What appeals to me about it is its homey feel; the open-ended toys; the soft-spoken teachers; and the play-based activities, like painting and baking. My concern comes mostly from the things I've read online about Waldorf practices and beliefs, which includes beliefs in reincarnation and karma, and anthroposophy, a pseudoscience. They also don't teach reading in a traditional way. The more traditional reading instruction starts when a child is older, around seven, which I can understand from a developmental point of view, but which causes me a lot of concern. I want to make sure my daughter is on par with her peers, from any school. When I asked about this, the director assured me that they do in fact teach reading before seven, just through what I consider a whole-language approach. They learn to read through writing and context, which is how I learned to read in upstate New York, so--so far anyway--it sounds good to me.
     As far as the spiritual beliefs go, I don't mind it too much. If Violet were in a traditional school setting, I wouldn't go around asking all her teachers what their beliefs were. It's none of my business. What I care about it what goes on in the classroom and how those beliefs inform the curriculum. When I asked about this, I was assured that these beliefs did not impact the curriculum or the teachers' practices in the classroom.

     Of course, my greatest hope is that my daughter loves it there and that it's a place where she thrives.

We'll see how it goes. Wish us luck!