Waldorf vs Immersion School

Updated on May 21, 2010
M.S. asks from Chaska, MN
8 answers

My daughter has been in Waldorf for the last 2 years and will be starting K this fall.
Anxiety and the pressures of being a 21st century parent hit me last week when I saw a deadline on a K pamphlet for registering for next fall. How did this time go by so fast?
My ears can’t help but hear the mumblings of other parents when out and about. Ie: Immersion schools, Spanish, Chinese, etc.
I love Waldorf, the individual attention, love and care is like no other and we are so blessed that the school has a financial assistance!! Given our current financial situation and not knowing if the assistance will be available to us in the future I AM open to other education avenues.

I have checked out 4 immersion schools in my area. I love the idea of a child being bilingual. However, I have my concerns. My rambling thoughts are: it’s just to overwhelming for a 5-6 year old to hear a foreign language spoken 100% of the time, won’t she be so confused, frustrated, lost, lack self confidence, will the teacher with cultural background know if she is not learning anything, how does the teacher discipline, how does the teacher get to know the child on an individual level, there is no outside time, ½ day has no art, no music…. isn’t it hard enough for these little ones to learn the basics like how to share, take turns, work out challenges BUT when ALL spoken in a complete different language what does this do to the children? As well as if they do a full day, which is 6hrs and 40 minutes they eat in masses 250 kids crammed into a cafeteria that is a gym when not in use, oh the smell of it was horrible and the kids go outside for 15-20 minutes. 1/2 day is only 2.5 hours, no outside just academics.

I understand the scientific reason (brain synapses) for teaching a 2nd language at the young age BUT I really wish there was a balance. Everything is too extreme, Waldorf is one, traditional/mainstream, and then immersion. Waldorf and immersion you have to commit to a few years to see the advantages, I get it and have no problem with the commitment. We all want the best for our kids and sometimes being a parent in the 21st century can be intense.

I hope that some seasoned Moms and Dads have some of their own ramblings and best yet experiences for me to chew on.

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So What Happened?

I AM so grateful for each and every comment!
You gave me some things to 'chew on', some reassuring, some a light bulb went off, and some thoughts that never crossed my mind :)
I AM still checking out a couple more immersion schools as I still have some mixed feelings about them.
I plan on seeing what is in store for us with financial asst. in Waldorf too.
I AM being open and still gathering information along the way.
Please feel free to send any thoughts my way!
Thank YOU ALL for taking the time to send me your thoughts :)

More Answers



answers from Minneapolis on

Wow. I just typed a long response and can't find it.

We send our three children to an Immersion program. They are thriving and we are thrilled with their education. They are challenged, they are learning, they are making friends, they are having a wonderful experience.

I am not sure what school does not teach art and music. I know my kids (full day kindergarten and first grade) get art, music, gym, etc. Maybe the half-day kindergarten doesn't teach it but I am really not sure what they can teach in just 2.5 hours. Seems too short.

We love their teachers who all have Masters degrees in education. They are just terrific and so great with the kids. If you have questions about the school's discipline style or anything else, just ask. I know our principal is very welcoming of parents coming in and asking questions.

Like about 90% of the other parents, I volunteer in the classroom and get to see the kids learn and play. I really enjoy the fact that our school is so welcoming of parental involvement.

In terms of the 21st century stuff. That is big in our school. There are a lot of initiatives that are aimed at helping kids work in teams, think creatively, be leaders, physical activity, etc.

In terms of your questions about the cafeteria. I am not sure of the smell issue. I know our cafeteria doesn't smell but can't speak to the other schools. The thing is, if you are going to do the Immersion route, in public school, you have to remember it is public school. The school does not have the funding to allow it to have some of the amenities of its private counterparts. Also, public schools need to be follow laws and regulations that the private ones can skirt around. It does make for a different experience.

Immersion is not for everyone. Some kids probably are not cut out for it. Some parents, too. It requires a high level of parental commitment. A lot of the English is taught at home. If that is something with which you don't have a high comfort level, it probably is not for you.

Good luck deciding.



answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter has been in French immersion pre-school and it has not been overwhelming for her at all. It might be confusing and frustrating for our adult brains if we were put in an immersion environment, but it is not for little kids.

We are switching next year to Minnetonka public school Chinese immersion because we can't afford private school tuition. From what I understand,the teachers all know English and the children speak to each other in English. They will be understood, and the teachers I am confident will be understood by the children. You are right that all the specials are in the extended day portion because they cover the core curriculum when all the 1/2 day children are there. The curriculum and structure of the day is the same whether you choose immersion or English language kindergarten.

My advice to you is to enroll in public school so you can keep your options open. You can still choose Waldorf, but if you don't enroll in the public school option you want on time you might not be able to get your child in later.



answers from New York on

My kids are not school age yet, the older on is just turning 4. I investigated Waldorf schools several years ago (my husband was considering becoming a teacher)and I liked a lot of things about the program (almost everything except the delayed reading). There is not a school near enough for our kids to attend.

I know almost nothing about immersion programs. Years ago my friend went to Yushiva which was half a day English and half in Hebrew which sounds like a more workable schedule. I also had friends that went to Japanese school on Saturdays (most moved back to Japan after a few years).

My parenting style may be different than yours or your friends' style. I think your instinct to look balance is a good one. It can be easy to get sucked into parental peer pressure and end up pressuring and overscheduling your child. It doesn't seem like a good place to start in Kindergarten. I went to a pretty competitive high school and I felt kind of burnt out on the constant competition by the time I got to college. Anyway, that is just my opinion.



answers from New York on

wow. are those your only options? i mean, i know nothing about immersion schools. I have heard good things about waldorf. i don't have one nearby so i never looked into it.
so, back to your concerns:
- no art no music would be a no go for me.
-foreign language: i speak 3 languages. earlier you are exposed to them better you're in the long run. one of my daughters' has been going through stuff so i have not started teaching them my native language yet, though i do speak to them part of the day. they understand me but are not yet comfortable responding to me in my language (my kids are 5). do you get to choose the language your kids would learn or is the language pre-chosen for you?
-and lastly, the high number of kids you mentioned would also be a negative in my book.
whatever you decide to do, do not take the fun part out of school fun part being art and music. they'll end up hating school if it is all just work work work. i went to special math high school (4 years). i love math so that was not a problem. the problem is i feel like i missed on developing my artistic side. i cannot carry a tune if my life depended on it and the drawings i do for and with my girls are laughable. so in the long run i would have done better in a regular high school than a high school geared towards math and critical thinking only.
i chose catholic school for my girls. i am absolutely in love with the school. granted, it's just the first year but compared to the public school it is wayy ahead. plus they're only 16 kids in the classroom, so my daughters get a lot of one on one attention.
good luck (expand your options if you can)



answers from Minneapolis on

Wow- you have shared so many of the concerns running through my head about this decision. The initial reaction is "Wow, what a cool idea" from our family and friends but when you really understand the program I have a lot of questions. I look forward to hearing from a "Been there done that" parent.



answers from Minneapolis on

If you're happy in Waldorf, I would leave your child in the school that she is in. I chose Montessori over Waldorf, and in some ways, Montessori and Waldorf are very similar (in others, they are the polar opposites :)). My daughter started when she was 2, and is now in 2nd grade - still in Montessori. Although financially, it is extremely difficult for me, I have made the commitment to keep her in this school as long as I possibly can. If, for some reason, financial aid can no longer assist you, that is the time to look for another school. I think the shock of moving to a traditional setting from a Waldorf setting would outweigh any benefits that you might see from putting her in an immersion school.
In terms of languages, my daughter has Spanish at school (though it's a very small amount), but we supplemented with a language class at the Children's Museum. If you're really interested in having your daughter focus on a foreign language, there are plenty of opportunities, including through Community Ed programs, etc.

Lastly, to address your 21st century parent concerns - We all worry immensely about our children. I find that what I say I believe for other people's children (I'm a teacher) and what I freak out about for my own child sometimes don't match, and I have to think that through every now and then. Our society is so freakishly competitive about children - comparing who's reading first, who's lost more teeth, who's walking first, etc. I'm guessing that one of the things that drew you to Waldorf (and me to Montessori) is the sense that children will do things when they are ready to do them. They need to follow their own path through life, and as long as basic skills are in place by 6th grade, it's more important to be a child. They will have many, many years ahead of them to be a competitive, driven adult. In my experience, Waldorf and Montessori schools tend to allow children to thrive and to learn to love learning - whereas more traditional schools tend to teach children not to think and to fear and dislike school.

I teach Junior High in a Montessori setting, and from talking to admissions directors, counselors, etc. at a variety of high schools (from public to elite private), high schools love to get Montessori and Waldorf students, because they are still excited to learn, they are often more advanced than their peers, and they participate more in the community than their public school peers.

I hope this helps. Good luck!



answers from Las Vegas on

What concerns me about the immersion schools that are cropping up left and right is that are they calling it an immersion because most of the attendees speak a specific language and hence, let's call it an immersion school and make it sound like kids are getting some better education.... when really they may not be...and the only reason they teach in a specific language is because most of the kids can't understand English and in order to retain government funding, they have to change the charter to "immersion" OR is it an immersion school that simply teaches in a specific language but also stresses that English be spoken as well? I am down for kids being bilingual, in fact my son has spoken, Italian and English since he could speak, BUT more important than learning another language was that he be taught a solid education and that the school I send him to have HIGH marks.... is their math program good, English, Science..what kinds of grades do their graduates get??? I don't think it's such a big strain on the brain for kids to learn multiple languagea, I will say that whatever language they learn, be it Spanish, Italian or English, they should definitely be taught in a formal manner.
To me, from what I can tell, all these charter immersion schools switch the language in many cases (At least in the city) from English as the main language to Spanish... I don't consider that an immersion school, I consider that cutting thru red tape so that the school can now cater to non-English speaking rather English.
I guess you could say.. I am not for all immersion schools..but bottomline, wherever you send your child, use your gut instinct and don't send them to a place you don't feel comfortable with..


answers from San Francisco on

I am going through the same thing. I was already set on a dual language immersion charter, where there is dancing, music, and gardening as enrichment programs. But this week, we just heard from a public Waldorf inspired Charter school. They do teach some Spanish. But, I would love my son to be fluent in another language, yet I love the Waldorf curriculum like no other and embrace its interweaving of math, science, art, and history.

My son, 5, going into K, next year, enjoys children of other cultures. The Waldorf charter seems mostly white. Whereas, the dual immersion program, is diverse.

At least, I have these options. But, what to do?

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