Waldorf Education - One family's story

Between the devil and the deep blue sea

After Joanna started at state school,  life became a permanent struggle. Our lives were a battle between two educational ideologies and two different belief systems. No one who has not been there can imagine what it is like to have children in a Waldorf school and a child in a state school at the same time. It is even worse when the child in the state school is there because she has been thrown out of the Waldorf School for what she feels are unjust reasons.
Although we were very upset about Joanna's leaving, we were still committed to Waldorf education. In fact we felt it had been particularly sutable for our daughter who was not an academic child but who had considerable artistic talent. She is also the most spiritual of our children.
 Feeling this way we had to continue to be quite heavily involved with the school as part of our committment, while, all the time, my heart was breaking every time I saw children enjoying craft and art lessons that she would have excelled at while she was struggling to cope with the pressures of the National Curriculum. Every time I met a member of her old class the anger would rise, especially if it were one of the boys who used to bully her.
For a while I worked in the school office. On one occasion a prospective new family arrived with several children, one of whom would have gone into Joanna's old class. I recognised another sensitive, nervous child and thought I should warn them. In the end I chickened out because I was afraid I may make things difficult for my boys who were so happy at the school, so I said nothing. Sadly the girl went on to become a school refuser like Joanna, and the stress of the situation broke up her parents relationship. After that I found it increasingly hard to live with my guilt and the anger that the same mistake had happened again. In fact it was to happen yet again.
Joanna, with some justification, now hated the Waldorf School, while the boys were faced with a situation that their school, which their parents had always loved and praised was now being criticised by them and their sister. Tom, in particular was upset. How could he sit in class and respect a teacher who had so upset his sister and his parents. How could he continue to have a good relationship with a sister who now had serious emotional problems that she blamed on his school.
I remember one day in school he attacked one of the boys who had bullied his sister and Joanna's old class teacher told him that it was not the boy's fault.
"Who's fault is it then?" asked Tom. "It must be somebody's fault that our family is so unhappy." The teacher just walked away.
Another problem was money. We were not well off and had always had to go without to pay the school fees. I would explain to the children that we could not afford a holiday or new clothes because we wanted to keep them at this school. I won't say they were easy with it but it was possible. Now, how could I say to Joanna "You can't go on the school trip because we have to pay the Waldorf School." We had terrible rows. She said we gave all our money to that school that threw her out. In the end we ran up some arreas because I felt I had to be fair to her. It was reasonable for the boys to go without but not her, so I sometimes spent too much on her and then we couldn't find the school fees.
We never had any understanding from the school in dealing with these problems. Sometimes they even put us under more pressure by refusing to understand that I couldn't help at a certain event because Joanna would not go near the school.
Then there was the culture clash. The Waldorf child is not suposed to watch television. The state school child is expected to engage in discussions on what was on TV last evening. The Waldorf child should not listen to electronic music. The state school child is going to the school disco. The Waldorf child is not encouraged to take part in competitive sport. The state school child plays football every week.
We ended up compromising and losing both ways. 



We also had to deal with an increasing rift in the family.
Joanna now hated the Waldorf school. With some justification.
Tom still loved his school.
Eventually the relationship between Tom and Joanna was all but destroyed.