There are divorce and custody cases where Waldorf homeschooling (and any kind of homeschooling) is being contested by part of legal proceedings, and I am NOT referring to that here). This post is more in relation to regular criticism.
Criticism of how one is homeschooling one’s children is always difficult, and it is even more difficult when the criticism is leveled by close family and friends. I personally have found this very difficult. As frequently as I explain that the things within the Waldorf curriculum are picked and developed for a particular chronological age, not so much an academic level, there is still doubt on the part of friends and family that this is the best way to educate a child in the early years.
The places I have found family and friends to have the most trouble in the early years (K-4) are these:
- The lack of academics in the Kindergarten years, and the fact the Kindergarten years covers the six-year-old year. That is a biggie for many people, especially in the United States, when most six-year-olds are in first grade.
- The way science is approached through nature stories in the first and second grade with the practical science bridge being things like farming and building in the third grade. People seem relieved when they see zoology and such starts in the fourth grade. For more details on science within the Waldorf curriculum, please do see this post on this blog.
- People have a huge lack of understanding about the numbers and letters being introduced in the first grade. First of all, they think this takes the entire year with no true reading or mathematic operations taking place, but even if they do understand that, they think your child must be “bored”.
- If you have a child who is a good reader, then your child should not be in Waldorf because “it moves too slow” and “they know all those stories already.”
- The fact that “true and proper” history doesn’t start until the fifth grade can be a problem for some people.
- They don’t understand the lack of worksheets, and paper clutter in general.
- Teaching through artistic mediums seems “too fluffy” to many people.
- Any others you all have heard and would like to add in the comment section?
Personally, I have explained, I have provided lots of information (sometimes the same information over and over, sigh) and for some people, the mindset of Waldorf education is just too far from what the traditional view is and they just cannot wrap their heads around it.
And, quite frankly, most people do not seem to want to take the time to really listen and understand. If they did, they might find out that protecting your child’s academic progress so they do not completely burn out and truly are bored and tired of school when they are teen-agers is important to you. They might find out you really want to have your child enjoy their childhood in a developmentally appropriate way. They might find out that the seven-year cycles and Steiner’s view of the child’s education is very important to you.
They might find out that Waldorf is extremely academic rigorous in the middle and high school grades, that there really is a shift in the third grade, and that you do not believe you need to stuff your child’s head full of unrelated facts and worksheet drills to provide a good education.
You can talk to people about the truth of Waldorf, you can ask them to look at your whole child and the strengths and weaknesses they possess and how the curriculum really addresses that, you can talk about the rigorousness of the education and how it fits where the child is developmentally right now because a k-4 child is not a miniature adult, but this is the truth:
You can provide information, but you cannot make people believe for themselves. That is their own journey, not yours, and you have to sometimes let it go, agree to disagree and be rather pointed about saying, “I know you want what is best for my child, I know you care, and I appreciate your concern and I value your friendship/the fact we are part of this family together, so let’s let this go. Thanks!”
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