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Waldorf Education - One family's story

The psychiatrist

Several weeks into the spring term of Joanna's Class 2 year the child psychiatrist from the local Child Guidance Centre rang me to arrange an appointment. We discussed Joanna's problems, and I said that I felt she may be being bullied. The doctor immediately said that, if I thought this was happening at a Waldorf school, I would probably think it of any school, and that maybe part of the problem was that I was overprotective.
 
The whole family saw this doctor regularly for almost a year. I respected his opinion because he was a psychiatrist, but I began to feel more and more that he had no real understanding of Joanna's problems. His advice was that we should make her attend school even to the point of the teacher holding her until we had left. He felt that we were not firm enough with her and that this was the cause of her insecurity.
 
His opinion of the school was that it was too child centred, that they were not strict enough. He advised that Joanna must stay at school unless she was ill. We tried to follow his advice, although it was difficult because the teacher was frequently ringing us and asking us to fetch her home because she was "Disrupting the whole class."
 
From what Joanna told me, she was sitting in silence doing nothing at all. She did not join in with the class. There were occasions when one or other of the girls, and sometimes even the boys would ask her what was wrong, and the teacher would get angry with them for not paying attention. I presume this is what he meant by disrupting the class. I felt that the other children were learning a very important lesson, that of compassion, but the Waldorf curriculum is very ridgidly enforced. Each lesson must be learned at the appropriate time. There is little flexibity.
 
Joanna told me how sometimes she would look out of the window and see her father coming to fetch her younger brother, who was still doing half days, and the tears would flow down her face because he had not come for her. I was really beginning to feel that the doctor's advice was wrong, but I didn't know what else to do. He insisted I was overprotective, and at this time, I was unaware of the full extent of the bullying as Joanna was afraid to tell me.
 

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Waldorf people do seem to be amazingly out of touch with the real world. My son was accused of using sexually precocious language because he knew what the word 'gay' meant. The kindergarten son someone I know was punished for using the word 'penis'.

By the following autumn term we were seriously considering removing Joanna from the school. We visited a local primary school. I remember sitting in the headmaster's office and Joanna mentioning the fighting in the playground that went on at the Waldorf School. The headmaster looked quite shocked. It was not at all what he had heard about Waldorf schools.
 
We liked this school and were on the point of moving Joanna there when a new child arrived at the Waldorf School. This new girl really took to Joanna and Joanna liked her. It seemed like a sign that she should stay. Maybe it was, as I had a great deal more to learn.

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At this time we had begun to have some problems with our younger son. He was five and still in Kindergarten and had begun to soil himself. The psychiatrist was of the opinion that this was further evidence of our inability to parent our children We felt that the stress on the family caused by Joanna's problems were largely to blame.
 
The school was of the opinion that we had simply not bothered to toilet train him! This was ridiculous as he had been toilet trained and then began to soil again. The kindergarten teacher had had a long talk with us the previous term and seemed very understanding, although she still felt the problem lay with us.
 
Later that term there was a meeting with the school, social services, the educational welfare officer and the psychiatrist which we were not allowed to attend. In fact we only found out because the new girl's mother, who had become a good friend, and who was covering for the class teacher, thought we already knew.
 
What we didn't find out until two years later was that the school had reported us for suspected abuse, siting Richard's precocious use of sexual language in kindergarten, his soiling, Joanna's school phobia and Tom's chronic headaches.
 
Richard's precocious use of sexual language was laughable. He had asked me one evening what 'gay' meant and I had told him that it was when two people of the same sex fell in love with each other. He had then stated in Kindergarten that he knew what 'gay' meant and repeated what I had said. I remember this being brought up in a class meeting as totally inappropriate knowledge for a Kindergarten child.

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