This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Pasadena Waldorf School1
Posted April 23, 2015
- a parent
Here's what I wish I had known before I enrolled my children at PWS: as soon as you start feeling nervous or scared to speak out about a concern, as soon as a teacher starts to "wonder" about your child, as soon as you begin to feel slightly uncomfortable -- it's time to get out. It's hard to believe this is an actual school that purports to take care of children. It is an ideology taking care of itself. Be careful.
I have two children who attended Pasadena Waldorf School from K-8. I didn't know much about the school when I attended the first look-in, but liked the arts and music, and liked that the pedagogy addressed age appropriate learning methods. As a new parent I was amazed that everything I liked at the look-in was just the tip of the iceberg. What my kids learned was solid no rote memorization. They could speak from the heart about ancient civilizations and scientific discoveries. They learned to play multiple instruments and composed music. Both were accepted to all the high schools they applied to, and chose a Catholic high school. PWS high school was not started at that time. They distinguished themselves in academics and arts, and went on to top universities. One graduated from a 5-year professional program and the other is a junior with college honors already. All of their educational experiences were good ones, but the early years at PWS were probably the most important in building the foundation. In addition to the solid education they received there, they left with a lifetime love of learning.
Pasadena Waldorf and Waldorf philosophy has been and continues to be the best fit for my 8 year old daughter, now in second grade. We have been at the school for 4 years, since Kindergarten. Waldorf kinder is 2 years. I have learned so much about the pedagogy,and how best humans learn ,by being at this school,Ive learned about how to better parent my child, understand her temperament, parent with empathy but not permissive/passive and truly connect with my child and her learning style. Waldorf education is for the whole family and requires a certain knowledge and commitment by the parents. If you are looking for a place to drop off your kid, minimal involvement and have them become great test takers ,this is not the school for you. The staff and community are overwhelmingly supportive,our class teacher had paid home visits to see my daughter when she was struggling with some things.Continually follows up with me and her progress. I am thrilled that we now have added a high school. I best see the results when I meet and speak with the graduates of a Waldorf curricula. The proof is in the results of the Waldorf kid
I was highly disappointed with this school. I was seduced by the beautiful grounds healthy vegan snacks and gorgeous gift shop. But beyond the exterior I experienced an extraordinary rigidity. My daughter was told not to do yoga (unhealthy - do Steiner exercises instead) not to do family bed (encourages too much dependence - she was a toddler ) and to play with silk scarves instead of write letters or read (frowned upon before the age of 7). I also felt the practice of having only one class teacher for all the grades was fundamentally limiting. Most importantly I felt our teacher didn't have the skills to cope with either conflict resolution or bullying (which happened). I ended up taking my daughter out of the school.
My daughter has attended PWS since 3rd grade and is in 6th grade. I think Waldorf is extraordinary. Her class teacher loves and nurtures her students. They are family to her. This was clear to me when I visited before enrolling her in 3rd grade. The students had just put on a Greek play and ran up to their teacher enthusiastically hugging and kissing her. They adore her. And I was blown away by what the 3rd graders were capable of! They all memorized every line in the play and it was about 30-40 minutes long. This is something I have come to see is an exceptional quality of Waldorf students: their attention span and enthusiasm. My daughter's teacher ensures the students are on or above grade level standards and my daughter is performing very well academically. But her biggest learning has been in becoming a happy, well-rounded person who knows how to learn. She is surrounded by beauty and adults (teachers and parents) who "walk the walk," who demonstrate through their way of being integrity, hard work, passion and creative problem solving. I can see the gifts of PWS in my daughter's loving attitude, demeanor, confidence and enthusiasm for learning and life.
After much research and experience, and two kids at PWS, our family has found that there is nothing like a Waldorf education and we believe that Pasadena Waldorf School is committed to providing the very best Waldorf education. By 8th grade, my older child had an incredible depth of knowledge about a wide variety of subjects. He has a strong sense of self fostered by this education, he knows how to work with others understanding the importance of this, and his critical thinking skills are off the charts. My younger child is clearly on the same path. This school had a positive, life-changing impact on our children and on our family.
While Waldorf education is something I believe in the Pasadena school is a place I cannot recommend in good conscience. My child went to the school from pre through 2nd grade. Everything was great until we got a specific teacher in 1st who was terrible. When our child was singled out for mistreatment by the teacher we asked the administration for help. Big mistake! They were both clueless and had "it's the parent's fault" attitude. Our opinion didn't matter, the teacher is always right and if we didn't blindly trust the school then there must be something wrong with us. Thus began the shunning and systematic undermining of our child's trust and confidence in class. Yes, it's that bad. There are only two types in the eyes of the school. You are either one of the chosen few in the inner circle or you have not embraced the dogma as presented by the dysfunctional administration, teachers and college of teachers. Unless something drastically changes at this campus my advice is to look elsewhere for your child.
We were unaware that the Steiner model placed the needs of one needy child above the safety and education of the rest of the students. My child learned to fear school based on the behavior of a child who hit, pushed, and interfered with my child's work and play at school daily in the PRE-preK class. PWS claims a "safe schools policy" but uses no specific strategy or culture to encourage or implement it. The teacher appeared ill-equipped to manage the misbehaving child, and neither of the 2 strategies she tried with him worked. It did not seem that she was even seeking other solutions to resolve the situation via mentors, books, other resources. We left PWS mid-year. The Sweet Pea program is developmentally inadequate for 3yo's, despite enthusiastic Waldorf rhetoric claiming to "meet the needs of the whole child." The materials are not engaging to 3yo's interests [even for non-TV/media kids like ours], and student behavior reflects it. 3yo's should be offered a preschool environment, with Sweet Pea concluding at age 2.5 in its current structure. This school seems more interested in "appearing Waldorf" than in meeting student needs. Ask for specifics on their bullying policies.
It was our experience that the Steiner model, while it might be adequate for Gr.K-1, showed its lack of relevance by Gr.2, and was clearly deleterious to our child's educational and emotional growth by Gr.4. PWS compounded those failings with stultifying teachers and a cliquey administration which refused to address classroom issues (inc. bullying, and the increasing presence of technology in the classroom), apparently because the offending students were the children of the wealthier parents; in a word: useless, the lot of them. The quality of education PWS was very shiny and showy, but surprisingly poor, with an appalling lack of focus on basics. We have a child who tests near the top of every graph, but whose years at PWS left gaping holes in his apprehension of the basics. The year we withdrew our child from PWS, a quarter of his class left at the same time...and the conversations had with those parents in the ensuing months were amazingly similar in tone with many of the same complaints. I think it's time for the Steiner adherents to get their heads out of the sand and reevaluate both the model and PWS execution of it; meanwhile, our child is flourishing in another school.
Pasadena Waldorf has been an incredible experience for not just our child, but our family. The focus on creativity, the arts, and mechanical skills has been very beneficial for our child. The teachers are caring and clearly want to be there, and all of the parents with whom we have interacted are very engaged. The impact of the school has gone beyond the classroom. We have simpler, more fulfilling lives now, as we stopped being consumers and instead started to make our own things and cook our own food. I attribute this value directly to the culture of the school. Our decision to stay at Waldorf hasn't been about private versus public school. It's been about staying with the very unique and satisfying curriculum at this school, which is admittedly, not for everyone.