I have two children and a niece and nephew at DSW. They all started early education with DWS at 3 years old. Our experience has been wonderful in every manner. Our children have all thrived academically, physically and socially. I believe in the teaching staff, support staff and the learning philosophy whole-heartedly. I wouldn't think of sending my children any where else (especially pre-K -8th grade). It is a truly beautiful learning experience and we have fully embraced the community.
No homework at all until close to middle school - dioramas and practicing for plays were the homework for many years. This handicapped our child upon entering the real world of schools. It took a lot of help to get caught up.
I have waited a long time to write a review on this school to make sure I am completely objective and unbiased by emotion. In general, I would say that our experience was that DWS was spectacular at what they did well, and terrible at what they did poorly, with little receptivity to feedback and change. The staff as generally unmanaged, and do not receive any performance reviews, and parents were never given an opportunity to give feedback on teachers, administrators or staff members. In fact, every time it was even suggested that one of the staff were sub-par performers, the leaders fell into a tail spin of ugly defensiveness. Perhaps that has changed since we left the school several years ago. They do certain things beautifully: creativity, arts, music, dance, physical exercise, outdoor play time, unstructured play time, independent thought, and harmonious relationships with students. Academically, based on all of my research, I believe they deliver a modified version of Waldorf methodology. The kids get terrifically proficient at knitting, playing the lyre, and illustrating letters and numbers, while true academic functions are taught in an unorthodox manner. This approach works really well for certain kids and not so well for others. For kids who are natural-born readers and who just learn by osmosis, they do well. Anyone who needs more structure will lag far, far behind. When we left, our child was three years behind in both reading and math, which seemed of little or no concern to the teachers or staff. Their theory was that the child would "simply catch up by 12th grade", a chance we ultimately were not wiling to take. If I had to do it again, I would do Parzival pre-school and 1st and 2nd grade at DWS and then get my child into a more academically structured environment. We have heard from parents who stayed and left later that they regretted the decision, and behavioral issues got worse as the years progressed. In sum, great, great school for young kids, pull them out by 3rd grade if you have any aspirations for your child to attend competitive schools in the future.
I have attended Denver Waldorf since I was six. I love the curriculum and the artistic ways the students are taught, but your experience all depends on the class teacher and classmates you get. If you get stuck with a teacher who is mean, or doesn't like you, then your learning is put at risk. I have been bullied before, and the teachers don't step in. If I could go back to first grade, I would not go to Denver Waldorf. Some people have really good experiences with Denver Waldorf, and others don't.
Denver Waldorf School certainly is a kind and loving place. However, it is also a SCHOOL. It needs to shift a lot of focus to academic rigor so that it balances out the social/emotional/spiritual curriculum. Any private (and well compensated) school faced with a student clamoring for more learning and more engagement academically should meet that kid, should stretch to push her and give her the expansion she seeks. Waldorf did the exact opposite with our kid, so much so that she concluded on her own that it couldn't possibly be serious (in high school or otherwise) about academic excellence or even academics generally. If a child begs for challenge or rigor or higher standards from 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, and the school ignores her, then there is something terribly wrong. The school is run by committee and is nearly paralyzed from the start of every decision of consequence. The "head of school" is solely a figure head and has little power to make any significant or important policy (or frankly otherwise) decisions. I love the Waldorf education. This version of it at the Denver Waldorf, however, sadly leaves a lot to be desired.
This is a great school where the teachers and administration really care about the children. They show great respect and understanding for each child and create the type of environment needed so that children can learn and become happy, well adjusted, caring, educated, conscious human beings.
We just started pre-school at the Waldorf. We are extremely happy with everything and our son (3) seems very happy and comfortable. My son commented "There are no bad kids in my class". What he means is that the kids are gentle, caring, and well behaved. This is credit to the Waldorf phylosophy and the wonderful implementation by the DWS. I do not know how doing the full curriculum at the Waldorf works out but this is an excellent start.
Both of my children have attended DWS since they were preschool age (one currently in first grade, the other in fifth). It has been a wonderful choice for our family, with nurturing community and a focus on creative and artistic expression in learning. Both of my kids have tested gifted and have thrived without any sort of "special program" here at Waldorf. The teachers, which stay with the kids from 1st to 8th, are the reason for their excellence. Their love for the children and for teaching really shines through.