Q. What kind of homework do Berkshire Waldorf students have?
A. Berkshire Waldorf students do not receive homework until 4th grade, unless it is “read for 15 minutes” or “practice your instrument for 15 minutes.” We can get more done in class because the children are “held” in the form and rhythm of the day. There are rarely discipline issues, one benefit of being in a consistent group with a consistent teacher. A child may occasionally take their book home to finish a drawing or complete a task. They often want to continue working on projects at home which are inspired by their school work, but not required – lots of enthusiastic knitting, crocheting, singing, rope jumping, music making, reading, acting, story telling, tree climbing and adventurous play. All of this continues their brain and physical development in a fun and creative way.
Q. How is student progress reported?
A. Student progress is communicated in personal narratives twice a year from the teachers, both class teachers and subject teachers. You will also have access to discuss your child’s progress with your teachers twice a year during dedicated conference days and on a weekly, drop-in basis for class teachers, by appointment with subject teachers.
Q. At June 1, Berkshire Waldorf School’s cutoff for first grade is far earlier than most. Why should I hold my child back in kindergarten for another year?
A. For children with summer and fall birthdays, many will go to first grade in the fall when they are turning seven. This is typical of Waldorf education, not to push children so that they are “over placed” and stressed, but to wait for their own developmental readiness before moving into academic work. Based on children’s love of being outside and learning by doing and moving, our indoor/outdoor kindergarten where all the senses and the imagination are continually engaged is an incredibly rich and nourishing preparation for the abstract academic work of first grade. As Shakespeare wrote, “Ripeness is all.”
Our middle school math and science teacher, Lynn Arches, gives students letter grades on their work starting in 6th grade, when they begin attending science and math classes in the lab.
Senora Woolf gives older students their grades in percentages (in Spanish), and they figure out how they did!
Q. Is religion taught in Waldorf schools?
A. In Waldorf schools, teachers are working with children to develop all levels of human capacity — one of which is “spiritual,” — the intangible part of who we are. In early childhood, this includes a cultivating feelings of gratitude, reverence and wonder. This may manifest in a word like “God” in a verse but it could also be Mother Nature, Old King Winter or discussing gnomes that visit the classroom. In “building a house for the soul,” teachers offer an appreciation of forces that might work beyond our immediate senses, and align with children’s imaginative capacities.
Q. What is Anthroposophy?
A. Anthroposophy is a formal educational, therapeutic, and creative system established by Rudolf Steiner, seeking to use mainly natural means to optimize physical and mental health and well-being.
Here is a recent talk on Anthroposophy and Waldorf education. At 8:25, Brian Gray talks about the relationship between the two.
Q. What if my child doesn’t speak English?
A. At a young age, English is easily picked up in our school because so much of early childhood is working and playing; outside, in the woods and gardens, preparing and eating snack, and playing in the classroom, with lots of stories, singing, puppet plays and finger games to help him understand the words. At Steiner, your child will learn by doing rather than sitting at a desk being drilled or tested, so they will learn joyfully, without stress.
Q. What do children do at Summer Camp?
A. Our summer camp is very much in line with the Waldorf philosophy of our school. The groups range from 9-12 children in the younger groups (Players and Discoverers on the Early Childhood side of the street) and 14-18 students in the older groups (Explorers and Adventurers), which meets behind the main school building and takes excursions each day. Each group has a lead counselor and two assistants. The lead counselors are usually teachers at the school, and the assistants are often Steiner alumni, high school aged or older. Many counselors have worked here for years and are very experienced. Older groups travel to nearby attractions each week to swim, or ride ponies. Younger children play with sprinklers in the Kindergarten yard and go on adventures to the Green River and around the school grounds.