Parent’s reasons for considering a school switch for their child range from concerns about academic achievement, to their child’s social and emotional well-being, and everything in between. A common misconception about Waldorf schools is that it’s impossible to transfer in elementary school. Simply put, this is untrue. Waldorf schools are known for providing a warm and nurturing environment in which every student is encouraged to reach their full potential, and the Waldorf School of Philadelphia has a strong track record for the successful transition of non-Waldorf students.
Any student changing schools, of course, encounters an adjustment period. Transitions can sometimes take an older child longer. However, because Waldorf Education speaks so directly to the children’s experience and developmental level, students assimilate comparatively quickly when they transition into a Waldorf school.
There are several of these transitional pieces to consider, some unique to Waldorf, and others that children would experience switching to any school, public or private. While some challenges may come about, almost all these changes will bring forth positive results for the transitioning child.
New Classmates and New Culture
“New students are always surprised that we’re all friends.”
Younger students may be surprised by differences in handling social issues within Waldorf communities. Whereas no tolerance tends to be the mantra of the day, it is assumed in Waldorf Education that every child has social and emotional work to do. A child acting out rarely receives punitive correction, voices are almost never raised and separating or calling out of younger children on disruptive behavior is also rare. This can take some getting used to for a child who expects swift justice, star charts, and exclusion of “troublemakers.” This is all part and parcel of the primary school years developing the classroom as a small community.
When older children enter established classroom communities in later grades, they may expect to feel odd at first as they are newcomers in a surprisingly tight knit, communal, stable environment. As one sixth grader says, “New students are always surprised that we’re all friends.” Not to say there are never class or personal conflicts, but by the older grades, most Waldorf students have established the ways and means of handling conflict and honoring differences. While this may be surprising to newcomers, it naturally benefits them because Waldorf students tend to more easily assimilate new students (they’re interesting and different!) into their classroom community.
Ahead Of and Behind The Curve
“Transition plans can be created to make sure students are caught up and competent within a few months”
Academically, because of differences in curriculum, new students can find themselves ahead or behind in certain areas. Teachers of new students occasionally hear, “but I already learned this!” in cases where curriculum differences can sometimes lead to overlap in earlier grades. In other situations, students are behind their peer group, where academic material is introduced at a deeper and broader level.
Waldorf teachers are adept at managing developmental and academic differences. Inevitably, new students ahead in one area, will have catching up to do in other areas such as math, geometry, Spanish, handwork or string orchestral instruments. Older students are likely to experience the Waldorf curriculum as rigorous in the later grades. Teachers are still well versed in dealing with students at different academic levels, and transition plans can be created to make sure students are caught up and competent within a few months time.
“Waldorf teachers are trained to learn to balance their relationships with each student.”
New students and their parents may sometimes be concerned about only having one Main Lesson teacher for the bulk of their education. What if the student doesn’t like the teacher or vice versa? Waldorf teachers are specifically trained to both work on their own inner selves and learn to balance their relationships with each student. This includes a study of how to work with different personality types and learning styles, home visits to understand the child’s world, and regular parent teacher conferences and class meetings to better understand the child and his or her family. It’s also important to remember that the student’s Main Lesson teacher is also not their only teacher. Students will interact with several special subject teachers throughout the day.
Techies Need not Apply
“Cyber civics, etiquette in the digital world, is an element of the seventh-grade curriculum”
When it comes to technology, what older student with a Smartphone wouldn’t be worried about a school that eschews computers! What those older students will find, however, is that Waldorf schools are particularly interested in limiting media at home, especially for young children, and eliminating media use at school for all k-6 or K-8 children. While it varies from school to school, for the most part older children and their media use is a family decision and the schools asks families to honor balance and limits. No one needs to throw away their Smartphone, but students may be surprised that their new friends do not have them!
While there is no actual technology in Waldorf K-8 schools, there is talk of technology. Cyber civics, etiquette in the digital world, is an element of the seventh-grade curriculum. Later, on-line research becomes an aspect of the middle-school program, including how to find credible sources. Some teachers may decide to introduce a touch-typing class with an eye towards reaching keyboard proficiency.
Younger children may learn that some topics and clothing related to popular brands of programming on television or in movies and video games will be discouraged as topics in school. They will soon find that their classmates engage in many pleasing imaginative alternatives. To build something on the playground that was built in Minecraft, will be redirected by peers as simply a game of building generally. Soon enough new students learn that school is a place for imagination outside the influence of media references.
“When the time is right, they are ready”
Different Waldorf schools introduce the concept of testing at different times, typically between 4th and 6th grade. Here at the Waldorf School of Philadelphia, teachers introduce the concept of taking standardized tests in grade 6. By grade 7 students take high school standardized tests resulting in test scores that lead to acceptance for select admissions high schools, both public and private. In Philadelphia, the current test threshold for entry to the majority of select admissions public schools ranges between the 84-88th percentile. The average test score of students in the Class of 2017 was the 90th percentile.
In other words, we don’t notice a detriment to this later testing introduction and neither do our students. When the time is right, they are ready. Few younger students will complain about this aspect of Waldorf Education. There is, however, the understandable issue of motivation. Some students will go through a transition period where they must adjust from having more traditional external motivators to appreciating the internal motivation fostered in Waldorf academics.
How to Transfer to a Waldorf School Mid-Stream
Start by defining your ideal school, explore school websites and arrange campus tours with the admissions office. At The Waldorf School of Philadelphia we wish to ensure a good match between students, families, and our school’s programs and philosophies.
For admission to the grades school, families should submit an enrollment application including all supporting documentation as soon as they are interested. Paper applications are reviewed by the admissions office, and families are invited to meet with the admissions office and the class teacher. Prospective students are invited to join the class for a visit that includes a range of subjects, including Spanish, movement and games, handwork, woodworking, and eurythmy.
At the Waldorf School of Philadelphia, we accept applications year-round until until all programs are full. Occasionally there are waiting lists for some classes, we therefore recommend contacting the admissions office prior to submitting your application.
Do you have a mid-stream enrollment question we did not answer? Please email or call our admissions office with your question and learn more about the benefits of Waldorf Education at any age.