I believe that the Rudolph Steiner philosophy is amazing, and I have no prior experience with the lower school (Which as far as I know could be absolutely phenomenal) but the high school caters to a very specific type of student. If you do not fit into that specific demographic you are gradually pushed away, whether it be intentional or unintentional. Many of the students and some of the teachers are quite judgmental and there is a great amount of favoritism going on as well. The staff also generally handles situations very poorly. As far as the education /curriculum goes, it's fairly good and there are quite a few dedicated teachers. It's certainly worth checking out, but I suggest really doing your research and visiting before investing your time and money into this school.
The Waldorf curriculum is amazing and really meets a child developmentally. In this school most of the teachers are really dedicated and work hard to create a beautiful learning environment. Great community and parent involvement. The most disappointing aspect of this school, is the way they communicate with parents in difficult situations. There are many parents who have felt frustrated by the way in which things get communicated and have finally left the school.
I was shocked to discover that not all the teachers have a teaching degree. Can you imagine? I know people can be very intelligent without a college degree but when it comes to teaching I really expect a certain level of college education. Especially when I am being asked to pay thousands of dollars each year in tuition. I also noted a morale problem among the employees, issues with the early education department, and rumblings about the head of school's leadership and human resources abilities. Some people are certainly very qualified and the philosophy great if everyone were operating by it. I hope it can find the right leadership to bring everyone together in an organized fashion to truly live the philosophy they use to get people to sign a contract. Some of the administration do not act in a manner consistent with the marketing. They are just too divided and it can be noticed by anyone spending even a little time on the campuses. Recently they seem to have lost key employees for various reasons and the turnover is alarming. This is a sign that things at the top are not running correctly. The board should take notice and the teachers should take back some control.
I have heard and learned about Waldorf education and actually went to all 3 Waldorf schools in Michigan. They are all wonderful schools and although Detroit Waldorf was closer from our house but we chose to send our daughter to RSSAA. One of our reasons is because at RSSAA my child spends most of her day in this beautiful magic woods (that's what they call it). They actually started and finished the day outside. One day my daughter told me proudly that she can now climb a tree by herself! Something that has lost in this new high tech world and this was the very reason why we sent her there. I want her to grow up knowing her surrounding and to love nature just like I did when I was a kid. She often came home with clothes full of mud and I want that for my child. Now, is there any other schools out there who can give that to my child? She also learned to bake her own bread and make her own oatmeal for snack. I also feel the most positive environment when I am in the school, although I do believe you have to be willing to learn more about Waldorf education and also willing to get involved with the school's activities. This is definitely not a drop off your kid school.
I believe in Rudolf Steiner's ideas about childhood and education, but this school has a "one size fits all" approach to learning -- all children are expected to conform to it and the Waldorf pedagogy is the only one relied upon to address issues. Our child was there for two years and we found the atmosphere to be strict, extremely rule-oriented, and much too teacher-centered, leaving the children little or no freedom for self-discovery, self-discipline, and creative expression. There are some happy, confident, experienced teachers at the school, and you are fortunate if your child has one of them for 8 years. In our experience, Waldorf philosophy did not translate into joyful learning and positive child development.
My children attended this school for several years and there were many things we loved about it. Waldorf education can be a wonderful thing, and was in the school that my children attended in another state before moving here. What eventually drove us away, however, was the school's inability to resolve conflict and deal with issues as they arise. In two of the three we were a part of, there were numerous families that had relatively small problems arise (learning disabilities, minor conflicts with teachers or other students, etc). We watched all of these families, some of them close friends, as they tried to navigate through these issues using the "process" set down by the school which includes various levels of administration, teachers, board, etc. Most of these issues were never resolved, and many of the families pulled their children out of the school. The ones that stayed were so resentful that it created a constant atmosphere of tension and conflict in the two classes. Eventually, we felt our children were being negatively affected by all of the conflict, friends leaving and overall instability of the school so we decided to find another school.
I love Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor (RSSAA) because their philosphy treasures childhood and the curriculum meets the child as a whole being, with lots of movement and outdoor time besides academic learning. I find RSSAA a rare and unique educational community. The Waldorf curriculum emphasizes academic intelligence, social intelligence, and community consciousness. Waldorf s hands-on experiential curriculum cultivates a love for learning, self-confidence, and a creative and imaginative mind. The dedicated faculty, place a high importance on their long term relationship with the children. This relationship enables the students to grow and develop to their full potential. I am grateful that our family has been apart of this education for all these years.