waldorf in the ny times.

October 24, 2011

{this looks very much like our children's nursery and kindergarten classrooms: photo © Sarah Baldwin, Bella Luna Toys}

Did anyone catch the article about Waldorf Education on the front page (!) of the NY Times on Sunday? It was an interesting take on the subject....apparently lots of high-tech types working at companies like Google, Apple and Yahoo are sending their kids to a Waldorf school in Silicon Valley. This would be of interest, of course, because Waldorf schools have a pretty strict no-screen policy. I loved the quote by one father (an executive at Google) in response to the argument that kids need computer time to compete in the modern world: "It's super easy. It's like learning to use toothpaste....we make technology as brain-dead easy to use as possible. There's no reason why kids can't figure it out as they get older." Also: "If I worked at Miramax and made good, artsy rated R movies, I wouldn't want my kids to see them until they were 17."

I personally have been surprised by how many parents with science and technology backgrounds send their kids to our school. You sort of expect the artsy, hippie, educator types to be there (and they definitely are!), but there are many of the other that I didn't expect.

The part of the article I found a little disappointing is that it didn't highlight the curriculum of a Waldorf School and the things it does offer....only what it doesn't. The curriculum is very rich and dynamic....and purposeful. (Here is a super brief overview.) This is what keeps us coming back (well, that and the wonderful community of families). I guess the article served its purpose however: to highlight the education and challenge the idea that our children need to be taught through technology. As Alice said this morning: "I wonder if this will lead to an explosion of interest in Waldorf Education. One NY Times article can change the world!" Preach it, Alice Q. Foodie!

So, did you read it? Thoughts? (This subject is probably the one that I get the most comments and emails about so I am curious... There is definitely a lot of strong feelings on the subject from both sides!)

p.s. Another NY Times article on Waldorf Education.

photo credit: bella luna toys blog (a new favorite....by a waldorf early education teacher!)


  1. The other thing that resonated with me is the quick obsolescence of technology. Teaching kids how to think, create and analyze is a lot more important than teaching them how to use technology that won't even be around by the time they are adults. The ability to use technology also has nothing to do with creating or improving it, which is where the success actually lies. (I also thought the comments were really interesting, if you haven't already read them.)

  2. I did read it. Interesting concept. I'm looking at kindergartens in SD right now and one that I liked has a great mix of technology and art/music/books but the whole focus is on how to use those as tools to be more effective later on as a communicator. The thought is that these things are just tools and a child who can effectively communicate, think and write, and who is curious and can ask insightful questions to learn is going to be the most successful later in life. (Similar to Alice's comment, actually!)

  3. I read it. We have a strict no-screen policy for our son (he's only 2) that I hope to continue for years to come. I would love to send him to a Waldorf school but there's only one in our town and it's far away, and it's also very expensive. I wish more schools would spend their money on quality teachers rather than technology so that this type of interactive education was more widely available and accessible. Private school is not in our budget and I worry a lot about public school ruining my child's natural interest in learning and his amazing curious little spirit.

  4. I did read it. While certifiably a technology geek with a pretty wired kid (a four year old who can read, but who can also kill your score at Angry Birds), I have always found the idea of Waldorf to be quite comforting. It's calm, it's gentle, it's centered. It's slow and contemplative. SOmething that is missing in so much of education, and the culture, as a whole.

    However, at least here in the US, Waldorf outcomes are no different than what can be expected from any other small population private school. As the article sates, " these are students from families that value education highly enough to seek out a selective private school, and usually have the means to pay for it. And it is difficult to separate the effects of the low-tech instructional methods from other factors." When your parents have the financial means, rarely will your education suffer.

    So, while it may seem eccentric to the NY Times for Silicon Valley parents to opt out of the uber-high-acheiving private schools that the affluent of the East Coast seem to prefer, it's simply another example of the choices that those parents are able to make for their children that fall outside of the woefully inept public school system. Regardless of the education philosophy, these parents--and their children--are indeed lucky to be able to exercise the choice. And their ability to have such choice--along with all of the social factors that give them such choice--means that their kids will be just fine. Even if they touch their first computer on their 18th birthday.

  5. cutest classroom ever! i am going to read it tonight. So curious to see what the NYT has to say. I really admire you and other parents who enforce no screen policies. We rely on the tv/ipad/iphone quite a lot to entertain our girls so that we can get dinner made, get ready for work, etc. and I feel pretty guilty about it. I will say this though, Maia remains super creative and incorporates characters she knows about via tv in creative play a ton. my kids also don't care much about tv and will always choose playing outdoors, playing games, etc. over tv, so a little part of me hopes that by not making it a forbidden fruit it won't be crack to them. at the end of the day i don't think there is any questions that no screen time is preferable, but like to hope exposure isn't causing too much damage!

  6. I just discovered waldorf schools as i was searching for a preschool for my daughter. i have to say, i am in love. I am also blown away by this post at marvelous kiddo: http://marvelouskiddo.blogspot.com/2011/10/some-thoughts-on-unschooling-rather.html you should check it out. a very interesting idea to think about in terms of educating this next generation...how to thoroughly engage and enrich your child. the possibilities!

  7. Yes! Totally read this article and it totally made me want to look into sending my daughter to a waldorf school. The pace of technology sometimes freaks me out. I feel like our generation was lucky to have straddled the world of "before" and "after", and I sometimes feel sad that our kids will not know a world without cell phones, google, facebook, etc. I found this article and the waldorf worldview reassuring.

  8. Thanks for sharing this article. I love the irony! I also love the simplicity and creativity of Waldorf methods. I taught at High Tech High school in San Diego which, by the name, seems like the antithesis of Waldorf, but it was actually extremely creative. But this was at the high school level-- not elementary. AND..I definitely think there are multiple downsides to the reliance on technology for learning.
    I completely agree with Yolanda's comment above-- that those students with financial means are at an extreme disadvantage in education--and that the results of research on Waldorf methods could actually be skewed because most of the students who attend Waldorf schools are wealthy. The "achievement gap" in the U.S. makes me angry. I am so passionate about education and find it heartbreaking that we provide such piss-poor public education.
    That said-- Waldorf methods and Steiner philosophy ring true with me. I know that the Waldorf school near me offers financial assistance. When my children reach school age I will be looking into it. I wish there were more Waldorf charter schools (public options). We only have a few options in this small town-- Christian, public (and in California so these schools are hurting right now), and Waldorf. I would choose Waldorf.

  9. haven't read it yet, but I now plan to. Must have been under a rock this past w/e. I love what I know about waldorf, but it isn't a very in-depth knowledge. And, echoing what some wrote above, my REAL wish is that our neighborhood elementary school (which is gradually improving and taking on shades of the progressive) would step up and provide this type of environment. To me, providing a nurturing, slower, un-branded, healthy, contemplative environment should be the default, not an expensive alternative. Need to investigate more; thanks for the tip.

  10. I like what Alice said about kids using technology that will be obsolete when they are older. Such a great point!

    We have a balance of screen time in our family. We don't have cable, we only watch movies and since movies take a while to watch, they aren't just plopping down in front of the tv all the time. Watching a movie is an event. We're pretty big into movies so it's a family thing.

    As far as education goes, I'm just so glad there are so many options out there, although I echo what some have said about making some of the better options more affordable. We homeschool and the kids attend a resource center, or what we like to call "college for kids", a few times a week. They take musical theater, latin, geography, sewing and swing dancing classes this semester. It's a great mix of learning at home and in a class setting. There is a lot of room for creative play and interaction.

    I've known several people who really love Waldorf, and everything I've read makes it look like it's a great choice!

  11. I'll choose The Children's School for her education and provide a Waldorfesque home life; truly the best of both worlds in my book: ) Jen

  12. As I was getting ready for work I saw a segment on one of those morning news shoes about this topic. I thought, "This isn't news, I've known about this school for a long time." (Because of this blog, which I've read for a long time - so thank you!)

    It sort of annoyed me, the way it was being discussed...as you said, it focused on "They can't watch TV!! Isn't that crazy??!!" instead of discussing what the school believes in and teaches.

    I feel I grew up between "old school" and modern times...as in we had Nintendo, but only once a week, and the games were geared toward children. TV was a treat. To see my 10 year old nephew beat Grand Theft Auto, and yet he can barely read and has been left back 2 grades in public school, is frightening on two levels: First, that public school's solution is to embarass him by making him repeat a grade. If he didn't understand the first time, why would he understand it a second time without additional help? Second, because if I was a child growing up in this day and age I might be in the same position. It's so easy to slip into.

    Anyhow, thank you for sharing your Waldorf experiences on your blog. It might seem like a tiny thing, but it heartened me to learn that there ARE alternate choices to public education. And that at 26 I'm not completely an old fogey by flipping out whenever I see an 8 year old text messaging.

  13. Perhaps they'll actually make it affordable if the popularity increases! The lucky few who can afford to send their kids to Waldorf are just that, very lucky but not many people can shell out serious money and have no choice but to depend on the public school system. I love Waldorf but personally find it way too exclusive in that regard and find that exceptionally off putting.

  14. I have been meaning to respond to some of these comments all week....sorry!

    The main thing I want to say is that I think balance is best in most areas of life, including child rearing. I don't believe in absolute "No's"....that being said, our kids don't watch TV, see very few movies, and are on the computer or my phone only to look at photos (very occasionally). This will change as they get older. One of the main reasons we have taken such a hard line on this issue is because we find that if they have a little, they beg and beg and beg for more. Having a general no-screen time rule makes things easier. They "get it." Plus, since their friends at school are in the same boat, they don't feel deprived or even know that there is a different way.... Except when they go to my parents' house and watch a bunch of crap which drives me insane!!

    The other thing I wanted to address was the cost of waldorf education. It's true that the schools are private and therefore cost money that a public school wouldn't. However, at our school, more than 50% of the families are on tuition assistance and I am told we give more assistance than any other school in San Diego County. Most of the parents who send their kids to our school believe strongly in it and make many sacrifices to be there. I know several public school teachers who send their kids there (and we all know they don't make very much money!)....it isn't a "fancy" school that is status conscious (unlike some of the other private schools in SD!) Unfortunately, schools are just very costly to run. NO ONE is getting rich working there.

    There are some charter schools that are "waldorf-inspired" .... none in San Diego have been around that long so I think there are some kinks to work out, but maybe this will be the best of both worlds!

  15. Ooh, didn't see but will definitely read. I'm always into the education articles. Thanks for sharing :)

  16. Wow, I was just reading about the Waldorf school on the Penninsula. I wonder if this is the same one featured in the story. I'm off to check it out. My daughter is three and I've started to look at different option for school and I'm really drawn to this philosophy. Thanks for sharing your take on it.

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