Waldorf to Public School Transition - and Work Ethic

Updated on June 29, 2015
M.M. asks from Denver, CO
11 answers

Hi, my five year old son went to Waldorf pre-K program and had a beautiful experience. He is now a creative boy who takes time to appreciate flowers ("smell the roses").

He will be in Kindergarten this fall and we are debating whether to stay at the current Waldorf school (which goes to 8th grade) or switch to public school. he is currently accepted at both.

I am worried about him not starting on any academics until 7 if he stays at Waldorf school. His brain seems to be ready to be more than just play/handwork based program. However, I went to observe the public school and was not fond of all the worksheets and structure they were given even during their fee play time.

I grew up in old-fashioned school system (very structured) and I pride myself in being a hard worker, but I don't like my linear thinking and difficulty thinking "out of the box." I want my son to be able to have both - not losing the creativity and lively spirit, but be able to work hard when he needs to. I wonder if the rigidity of public school is needed to "train him" to be a hard worker or if he'll just dislike learning if he's being put in traditional classroom (he doesn't like doing worksheets now). I'm afraid if he goes through Waldorf he'll end up liking to work on things when things are made "fun" for him but easily give up on things otherwise.

If I could hear about experience of children going through Waldorf program and how they ended up to be I would appreciate it. Thank you!

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Chicago on


I unschool. As such, we life-learn and my children rarely sit down and do "school." I've read a lot about children raised as life-learners, and most of them do remarkably well in adult life without "training." If there is interest, kids will sit down and do the work. Otherwise, it's a waste of everyone's time.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Toledo on

You and your son seem to have very different personalities. I doubt that the schools you went to caused you to be a linear thinker or discouraged you from thinking outside the box. I think it's much more probable that that's just you. Those are your strengths. Your son may have different gifts.

Both schools have the potential to serve him well. You are his first and greatest teacher. As long as you stay involved, keep in touch with his teacher, support him and encourage him when he struggles he'll do just fine!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I went through a non-traditional program from K-8th. It was part of a public school, so not strictly Waldorf or Montessori, but something like both of those. No assigned homework, self-directed learning, etc. I then went to a traditional high school. It was incredibly easy to transition. I was so amazed that I just had to sit there and be spoon fed information. I became very involved in extracurricular to keep myself challenged. This is a very typical transition, from what I understand. If Waldorf is working for your son, I would definitely stick with it. As far as how things worked out, I felt like I learned valuable life skills in elementary that many of my peers lacked. Like budgeting a grocery trip, pitching a tent, sewing, setting goals, exploring my interests. I missed a few "information" things, but that is easy to pick up later. I learned how to learn, and that contributed to my academic success in high school, college, and grad school.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

waldorf doesn't eschew academics. it simply presents them in a more organic fashion.
since your son is responding beautifully to the waldorf paradigm, i can't imagine why you'd want him to be relegated to worksheets and the over-valued 'structure.'
i too grew up in a highly-structured school system (british) and thrived. i was a perfect little student. suited me right down to the ground.
but then, i never had the option of child-led education. it wasn't a thing back in those days.
more than half of our fellow homeschoolers used some flavor of waldorf. the young adults i know now are a thrilling, exciting, surprising bunch, ranging from entrepreneurs who live on a shoestring and make their living, such as it is, from their eclectic art, to those who have masters degrees and are working on doctorates. they are going to be world-changers. they don't know the limits of kids who spent their entire formative years checking the right box.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

If your local public school only gives worksheets, then keep him in the Waldorf school. Your son is way too young to be bored to death, and you don't want him to lose the joy of learning.

Worksheets in moderation are fine, but they should be greatly supplemented by a curriculum that is creative and engaging, especially during the young years.

Tenacity is not built by worksheets. And much of your son's work ethic will be based on what you and his father model in your lives. One of the best ways you can ensure a good work ethic is by allowing him to struggle, and not stepping in and rescuing and doing things for him when they get hard.

Although I disagree with a couple of the Waldorf principles as I understand them, the Waldorf approach is preferable overall to boring a kid with worksheets and stifling creativity, and it is not antithetical to working hard.

As someone below mentioned - money might be a consideration. I would personally put my kid in a decent public school vs. spending a fortune on a Waldorf school, if it indeed costs a fortune, and use the money to educate my child in other ways. Travel, for one. But if you can afford it, stick with the Waldorf.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

A little off topic but I feel strongly about this...
Teach your child to read (and love to read) at a young age and they will forever thrive IMHO. I taught my youngest to read at age 4 using the book "How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 easy Lessons". By lesson 60 she could read any easy reader at the library, went into kindergarten reading Junie B Jones chapter books, left kindergarten reading 4th grade level American Girl books and by 5th grade she had a reading comprehension level of 13. (Higher than 12th grade). Being able to fluently read has made other subjects like social studies and science super easy for her.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

If you cannot decide, look at it from a practical side. How much are you spending per year for Waldorf? Could you put that money in savings for college? Summer Camps? Is that not really an issue?

How good are your public schools?
Will your child be as happy and challenged in your neighborhood school as they are at the Waldorf school?

Is distance an issue? Is the neighborhood school close enough for your child to eventually walk? Less time for you to drive? Is a bus available? Now compare that to the Waldorf school.

How is the community at the Walldorf school? Will your child be able to get together for play dates with the other children? How about your neighborhood school?

How involved to you want to be in your child's school choices? How does that look at each school?

I know this seems like a really hard decision, but I promise, your son is probably going to be just fine, because you are going to be a parter in his education in any school he attends.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I don't see how the training in either case will effect his work ethic.

Our daughter went to a top rated public school district in the US and her high school is consistently in the top 50 in the US and climbs each year. Our system does have its share of worksheets but as the students progress to higher levels, they are taught in different ways.. critical thinking, solving, working together to solve issues, working together in small groups etc.

As for work ethic, I think that is somewhat modeled by the parents. If a child has parents who are lazy, do nothing and expect someone to do everything for them, then they will most likely turn out that way.

In our case with our daughter, we are educated, hubby with MBA, very motivated, entrepreneurial and have running mottos that 'failure is not an option", "never give up" and so on. She has lived the life of striving to do more. She has watched us form and run a very good company where she is shadowing both of us for possible takeover when she is ready after her grad school. So in our cases, we were all in public school and we all did well but there are also people who just don't care.

If YOU care and you participate in your child's education which is not all about book knowledge... also hands on experience then your child will appreciate hard work and the payoff.

Good luck. It is hard to decide what to do because we as parents do not want to make mistakes, however, we do and will make mistakes, we learn from them.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

I had your dilemma a bit. My kids are now 9, 7 and 6 in public school after homeschooling, I'll share my experience...

My ex and I are extremely artsy and think WAY OUTSIDE the box. I'm a painter and he's a heavy metal musician. We're both self-driven, hard workers who had to build our own careers AND had to conform to many jobs before building our own careers. We're both products of good old-fashioned public school and straight-laced, non-creative parents. We had kids late.

Many people who knew me well recommended Montessori and Waldorf schools since we're "creative types". I was skeptical of all that play but I went to tour a Quaker school near us (similar to those). The principal showed me all the fancy, crafty spaces and how fun everything was, and bragged about how child-centered and individualized all the teaching was. I don't know. My gut was screaming to get out of there. Our house is like one big loopy doopy art center. All my kids know is art, music, playing...I needed someone to CRACK THE WHIP on all the boring, mundane, sitting still stuff, because self-discipline, conforming, and rote learning are important skills too. (I think I was French in another life). HOWEVER, I was aware of the deficient quality of public education too, so for a few years I homeschooled in the Classical style with very advanced materials. The kids thrived on the structure and formal work and entered public school way ahead on all their levels a little over a year ago.

The pros and cons of public school are as I thought they would be: Good structure, socialization (thought we had plenty of socialization homechooling too), following an institutional program, conformity...blah blah. Cons: Work is way too easy. Lots of time is wasted waiting for behavior issues in classes, and the classes are test-geared and catered to medium/slow students. We live in a poor town, so the average child has not been pushed at home, so the levels are lower than if we were in a more educated area. My kids are no longer way ahead, they went down to the levels of their classes of course over the year (on paper, though they had untestable assets from home) because they only learned what was taught there.

So. I still wouldn't switch to an expensive alternative school, because our home life is so creativity based, but I do supplement at home with classic literature, cursive, advanced history, and lots of hands-on play and learning to try to counter-balance the long school days.

The kids love school and learning though so far, and that's what really matters. The experience can be enriched at home whatever the base...

I kept learning very loose through kindergarten and didn't start advanced writing stuff and grammar/ math til first grade in keeping with European countries I admire. Mainly reading aloud and hands-on learning for kindergarten...my younger kids listened to my older kids more formal lessons, but mostly they played. So if you did want to keep him Waldorf for kindergarten, he might be behind at first on sitting still a long time and worksheet stuff if you move him to public first grade, but he'll catch on and no harm done. My son entered kindergarten for the last 6 weeks of school and he was behind his class on worksheet writing even though he knew lots of stuff his classmates didn't. He caught up quick and enjoyed the challenge though. In first grade he was way ahead because of his homeschooling plus acquiring public school skills...again though, he leveled out by end of year because there was no way to move ahead of what his class was learning. He got straight As and highest marks though on that material.

As for longer term...I don't know how Waldorf kids perform in adult years compared to public school educated kids. So many variables....

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I have an entering 2nd grader who went to a play-based preschool. For kindergarten we tried to get into the public Montessori but didn't, and ended op in an accelerated kinder program. in preschool we had concerns that he wasn't gettting the academics he seemed ready for, but the school was very laid back and didn't prepare, push, or try to motivate kids to learn basic academics - my son lwft there still writing his name backwards and not knowing basic letter sounds. Which we weren't worried about until we got to the accelerated school and realized these were families who signed up for kumon when pregnant. We would have loved a Waldorf school in the area. I think reading at 7 is developmentally appropriate and takes half the time that it does doe those who start the process at 4 and 5. We have a 4 year old also, and with her we aren't interested in rushing her or sending her to an accelerated program.
Have you considered supplementing academics with a separate program to see how your son responds first?
I really wish we knew more about our sons personality and learning style prior to kindergarten. We would have done something different. We are now in a private school that focuses on the whole child, but is rigorous nonetheless. It is a perfect balance with strong academics, but lots of art, foreign language, music, technology, movement, etc...amazing. Sometimes you have to try different things outside of what seems like the only options.
Best of luck in your decision.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My son seems similar to yours - ready to progress academically. He will enter 3rd grade next year. Each year I have this same conversation. We have not had a good experience because my son, when he gets bored, wants to interact, which causes problems in the classroom. I think it depends on the child. The classes do ramp up exponentially academically and they end up ahead by the end of 8th grade (in general)
There are some wonderful things going on at the Waldorf school. But the lack of academics has been a real problem for our family. But for a kid who would not cause a disruption, it could be fine. At our school, it also seems like there is a rigid interpretation that has actually stifled some of his creativity. (No, you can't color the gnome's pants brown; the teacher did blue so you have to also). It's a long story, and I could talk more via PM but my son will be changing schools. We are working on making sure he is ready academically for a different environment.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions