December 3, 2012

"Would you send your kid to a school where faceless dolls and pine-cones are the toys of choice?"

"A school where kids don't read proficiently until age 9 or 10 -- and where time spared goes to knitting and playing the recorder? A school where students sing hymns to 'spirit' every day?"

20 comments:

edutcher said...

OK, let's define proficiently.

Michael K said...

No, but I'm not interested in regression to the mean where my children are concerned. Lots of rich educated lefties in big cities consign their kids to uneducated child care providers for eight hours a day. This is just one more example. Charles Murray was worried about educated elites resulting from coeducation in Ivy League colleges. I don;t know if it occurred to him that the couples would dumb down their kids in this fashion. He didn't mention it in "The Bell Curve."

Quaestor said...

Supporters of Waldorf say the emphasis on nature is about building tactility.

Tactility? As in touchie-feelie?

John Foster said...

The linked article is about Waldorf (sometimes called Steiner) schools. In Germany, for example, Waldorf schools are the second-largest private school system, after the Catholic schools.
I have 6 children, and all went to a local Waldorf school. All turned out fine, IMHO. All went to colleges appropriate to their abilities, e.g., Vassar, NYU. All have good jobs, with 2 in the Peace Corps and 1 teaching Classical Greek at a university.
That said, my sense is that a local school reflects the local community, e.g., the Steiner School in Manhattan is more rigorous than the Bay Area school in San Francisco. Some of the schools, again San Francisco or Colorado, particularly attract New Age, granola-types.
But the curriculum itself is age appropriate and becomes increasingly academic and rigorous, e.g., fairy tales for younger students, Russian lit for high schoolers. It is particularly good on foreign languages, which are started very early. "Spiritualism" is not part of the curriculum; where it comes in is more with the teachers, who, more or less, have a certain view of human nature and of childhood development.

lgv said...

I would not send my children to a school whose primary goal is to "cultivate spirit". I would prefer the school cultivate reading, writing, and arithmetic.

However, there is nothing wrong with playing with pine cones. As a boy, we played with pine cones all the time. I'm sure we assigned many identities to the pine cone depending on the fantasy, but the primary use of pine cones was as a substitute for hand grenades while playing war with plastic guns, preferably automatic with large magazines.

Somehow I doubt that is how kids play with pine cones at this school.

rcommal said...

I know, personally, a *LOT* of homeschoolers who use Waldorf in whole or in part. It's not been my approach, or one of approaches, but the results I've observed directly and personally have been almost universally positive. The learning of reading at a later point has been precisely ZERO problem. (We overemphasize very early reading, IMO, these days.) I also do know a handful of folks whose kids were in actual Waldorf schools, and that appears to have worked out well for them, though I know less about those situations, personally and directly.

Matthew Sablan said...

Not read proficiently until 9 or 10? That's better than some public schools.

John Foster said...

From my experience, this is the way reading works: Letters and related concepts are gradually introduced, but the children are not reading "to level" until about the third grade. (Children who leave for the public school in, say, the second grade are typically behind in reading but ahead in math.) The point is that you can force a child to read much earlier, but why? (To be able to fill out tax returns or read a train schedule?) If you wait until a more appropriate age, reading is picked up easily and without a hassle. In the meanwhile, again going back to the concept of age appropriate, you can spend the time on, e.g., foreign languages.

YoungHegelian said...

While I'm not a big fan of either theosophy or Rudolf Steiner, the questions has to be asked: How do Steiner kids do on standardized tests, such as the SAT?

If they either equal or surpass their public school peers, I'm not sure I see the problem here.

As to whether public funds should be used, Steiner's stuff skates on the border between a religion & a pedagogy. I mean, there's as much religiosity in much of what passes for environmental teaching in schools nowadays. My neighbor has a bumper sticker on her car that has an image of the Earth that says "Love your Mother". Is there even a bit of science in that?

Marbel said...

Many public-school kids are not reading proficiently till age 9, 10, or even later. Some kids are not developmentally ready at age 4 or 5, but ready or not, they are subjected to endless reading instruction as their desire to read and learn slowly dies.

What a waste of time! Wouldn't it be better to use that time learning to knit, playing with pinecones, being read to, and otherwise developing a love of books and learning?

My homeschooled kids were "late" readers, but now in their teens, they are reading at least as well as their age peers, and they don't view books as the enemy the way most of their schooled friends do.

Never did like those Waldorf dolls, though, or the disdain for plastic toys. We like Legos too much.

Synova said...

My kids read late. I probably should have not let them but really, lacking the difficulties of being in school they went from not reading much at all at 9 or so to reading at college level at 11.

Some kids seem to learn to read so very young and they really aren't smarter than those who struggle, but those who struggle may well internalize that they're dumb or that they really hate school (and who wouldn't?)

EMD said...

Sounds a lot like "Openings."

Ann Althouse said...

"My kids read late. I probably should have not let them but really, lacking the difficulties of being in school they went from not reading much at all at 9 or so to reading at college level at 11."

Similar to the way some children (including my own sons) speak late but then in complete and relatively sophisticated sentences.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Playing with pine cones and faceless dolls.....like these? Amish dolls. How horrible. The humanity!!

BTW: notice that boys have dolls too.

Reading seems to just happen early in my family. My daughter was reading very well at the age of 4 and in first grade was reading at a 7th grade or better level. We didn't force reading/learning. We just read aloud and enjoyed books and she picked it up on her own.

My brother also a late talker (didn't speak words until about 3 1/2 years old) and suddenly sprouted complete sentences. The doctor gave my mother the best advice then, back in the early 50's. It was clear that he was smart but my mother was worried about his lack of talking. "Don't worry about it. He is fine. He will talk when he has something to say". In today's world he would be in therapy and warped for the rest of his life.

John Foster said...

In Waldorf schools the rationale for dolls with minimal features is to encourage children to use their own imagination to "fill in the blanks."
Along the same lines, the parents of young children are encouraged to avoid TV and other electronic media. Instead, children should go outside and play. How weird is that?

Freeman Hunt said...

Someone is starting a "Forest School" around here. Lots of Waldorf folks.

It's not my thing, but I don't have a problem with it. The biggest benefit is probably the tearing kids away from screens and thereby fostering concentration. I think part of what draws people to it is the aesthetic. If minimalist nature fantasy sounds appealing to you, you should probably look at Waldorf.

Freeman Hunt said...

Count me in with those who think early reading is overemphasized. (And I write that as someone with a son who read incredibly early.)

rcommal said...

It's interesting to me how often folks who were naturally very early readers and/or parents of natural, proficient readers view the overemphasis on early "forced" reading with skepticism. Well, it's hard for people like us to see young 'uns not yet ready struggle and too often get turned off to reading, if not learning and school because of it. And for what? Often enough, those forced to learn earlier don't end up as better readers in the long run, by which I mean a relatively short run--say, by 4th or 5th grade thereabouts. Obviously there will be exceptions, whether of so-called born readers or those who will always struggle for one reason or another. But we're talking on average here, and educational approaches.

Synova said...

Another aspect to pushing reading early is kids missing content comprehension. Some kids sound out words and never think what the words mean, and if they're reading aloud they'll sound out words that make no sense and just keep going. So the bright-bulbs say phonics is the problem, but the kids will just do the same thing with words they've memorized whole-word fashion.

My kids don't have the vocabularies they have because they studied vocabulary lists, they have the vocabularies they have because they have unnatural parents. They understand the meaning of what they read because they almost always have read because they want to know what something says, and not because it's an assignment to get through.

wyo sis said...

If it sounds goofy there's probably something about it that's goofy.
It's too bad we have to take everything as a whole thing. Why can't we use what works and toss what doesn't?

As for early reading, after 20 years watching kids learn to read the one thing that stands out is that no matter how soon some kids start reading 70% or so get caught up by 3rd grade and there's not much difference in reading ability or comprehension between the early readers and later readers.

The thing that makes a difference is the amount of reading. Kids who read a lot are just better at it. It's possible to increase how much kids read by providing the right incentives.