Waldorf Education - One family's story

Warning Bells?


As I said, we thought the school was the answer to everything, and the school certainly encouraged us to believe this. At the beginning I had had some reservations about the late start to academic education but I soon began to see things from the school's point of view. I remember one Kindergarten meeting where early academic education was compared to forcing a flower to bloom early. The flower would be weakened.
However Steiner education goes a lot further than simply not pushing a child on. They believe in holding children back. I didn't realise this at the beginning because the full extent of the education was never properly explained. Looking back, I think this may have been because the school was just starting and, in order to have enough children, parents were to some extent kept in the dark. There was nothing in the school handbook in those days that explained the principles of Steiner education and it certainly wasn't explained at the initial interview.
Once your child has stayed in a Steiner school past the compulsary school starting age, it becomes more and more difficult for them to move into state education as they would be so behind the state school pupils. For this reason I feel there should be an obligation on these schools to explain the principles of the education at the beginning. This was certainly never done with us.

One of my early concerns about the school was the high turnover of staff. A year after we joined, two teachers left, and in the following year two of the replacements were asked to leave. Since Steiner schools put great emphasis on the class teacher remaining with the children for eight years, this all seemed a little worrying. 
One of the teachers who had been asked to leave had become a big friend of ours. Her little boy was Tom's best friend. I remember her ringing me in tears because she had spent so much money on her training. We met the other teacher who had to leave later. He was also in distress as he had come from Canada to be at the school and was now forced to work at menial jobs to earn the money to take his family home. Both had been told they had not been sufficiently dedicated to their classes. Both had family problems at that time.
Despite all of this, I continued to see the school as the perfect environment for my children and it is only with hindsight that I can see the amount of indoctrination that went on. We were being more and more drawn in to their beliefs.

At the end of Class 111 we received what I felt was a rather upsetting school report from Tom's teacher. It stated that he needed more support from home and less television. Steiner schools believe that young children should not watch television. While we agreed that there are certainly a lot of things on television that children should not see and that viewing hours should be restricted, we never believed that it should be banned totally. We also felt that what our children did at home was our business. The whole thing about television was another thing  that we had not been told about until after we joined the school. The tone of Tom's school report upset me and I also felt it was not the place to discuss this issue.
Tom had recently been targeted for a lot of teasing at school. We were not well off, and in order to afford the contributions we had to make great sacrifices. One of these was clothes. We all wore second hand clothes. I didn't see this as deprivation. I am very much against materialism and believe in recycling. However, Tom was being taunted at school for looking like a 'poor Gypsy'.
I found this rather shocking in a Waldorf school, with their accent on non materialism. I also found it racist towards Gypsies. I hadn't complained, however, because Tom didn't want me to, and he didn't seem unduly upset.
When I received the report about 'support' at home I'm afraid I saw red and wrote the teacher a letter about him needing more support at school. I spoke of the taunting and also how shocked I was that this should go on in a Waldorf school. The teacher didn't answer my letter. She did mention on the first day of the September term that she had received it . I have no way of knowing if my criticism of her was connected to what happened to Joanna, but I have always wondered.
Joanna was due to move to Class 1 that year and Tom's teacher had been appointed as the new Class 1 teacher's mentor.