Waldorf education does provide an academically rigorous education that can take a graduate wherever they want to go, whether that be Harvard or Princeton, to art school, to medical school, or to law school.
People who do not look beyond the Kindergarten Years of Waldorf education typically do not understand the scope and sequence of the curriculum and how invigorating and challenging it is. The fact that subjects within the grades are taught within active movement, art, rhythm. music, hands-on work, where the active always proceeds the passive writing part, where the curriculum is tailored toward the fact that logical thought doesn’t come into play until the teenaged years (and this is based on a number of psychological studies, not just a bizarre Waldorf notion) is baffling to people who think learning can only take place within workbooks and a group of children the same age sitting together in a classroom.
Donna Simmons wrote several really good posts about the academic rigorousness of Waldorf here:
Some folks wonder with the delayed start to academics how children ever “catch up”. In this regard, Waldorf education has something in common with our friends the unschoolers. A friend of mine was telling me a story about her friend who has grown children who now have Master’s degrees in technically demanding fields – engineering, etc. The foundation the mother had provided was lots of creative play, going to the museum (and NOT dissecting everything there, just LOOKING! What a novelty!) The children learned to read around the age of 11, and essentially “caught up” in reading and mathematics to their grade level and beyond in SIX MONTHS.
I liken the fact that the Waldorf curriculum is so precisely orchestrated, everything does build on each other, starting in the Kindergarten (and yes, those sensorial experiences are the hands-on basis of science and other subjects as the child moves on). Look at the curriculum and see the in-depth choices that make up the curriculum.
Donna Simmons pointed out to me the other day that the Classical movement is based upon being academically rigorous and I would add somewhat more “serious” schooling, modeling off a Greek style of education…….The Greeks did not start formal education until the change of teeth and relied on movement, rhythm, and other elements to bring the learning in. Sounds an awful lot like Waldorf to me! Investigate, and do not blindly believe!
Waldorf works because it is a support of the unfolding that is there within the child. My mother-in-law remarks that almost every four, five, six year old she has taught in her million years of teaching is “bright”. However, the truly gifted children come out later, around the ages of 9-11, the children who truly can take the concepts learned, manipulate those concepts and come up with something new. In my opinion, Waldorf builds the very best foundation for that. Einstein thought fairy tales was the basis of being a better scientist. There is a reason for that.
I fully expect my children to go and do whatever it is they want to do when they are grown, and if they want to go to a top-rated University, they will have the skills to do it. However, Waldorf will allow things to unfold in its own time without burning them out academically by the time they are 8 or 9.
Be careful with the educational choices you make in your homeschool; your homeschool can be anything you want it to be, but please keep in mind the developmental stages of childhood and how children learn best – they don’t learn the same way a 40 or 50 year old would learn because they are not 40 and 50 years old. Just food for thought today.