Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Slowly and gently unfolding flower

People pay big bucks to send kids to private schools like Waldorf that takes its name from a cigarette factory.

It's a dubious achievement to outdo even public schools on academic underachievement.

The timetable for academic achievement is slower. In the early grades, children lag behind their public-school counterparts in reading and math.
I don't understand this letter and number phobia. Kids can be playful and happy and still learn about letters and numbers.


Author said...

My son attended a Waldorf school from mid-second grade to mid-fifth. We put him there because we thought the public school was holding him back academically.

He had the same teacher for 3 years - an older woman with extensive experience in the public school environment and class sizes of 8 to 12. This experience was as close as you could get to homeschooling in a school environment.

I think progressive methods can work with high SES kids that come from cognitively rich environments with well trained teachers. Such kids do in fact pick up reading along the way.

We pulled Jonas out of the school when he began having personality conflicts with his teacher. He wanted a more structured environment with objective standards, etc.

Jonas did well in a good public school in the 5th grade. He found the transition to middle school in the 6th grade very difficult - but not for academic reasons. He went on to score 32 on the IB test. Next year he starts a 3 year graduate fellowship in writing at SUNY Albany with no teaching requirement.

The strong arts focus in Waldorf education is a real strength. So is the opportunity to build lifelong friendships with fellow students. Having the same solid teacher in a small class from K to 6 can also be a plus. The parent-teacher relationship is very effective as well.

I am skeptical that the Waldorf concept is best for all students, that it can be implemented in a public school institutional environment, and that it is cost-effective if the teachers are to be paid a fair salary. I see my experiences with Waldorf as evidence that vouchers are the way to go in reforming education.

By the way, since the teachers worked for a small salary and there was strong parent support, the cost was reasonable, 2500 per year in the 1980's.

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