We’ve all seen the clothing that says “one size fits all” and some times that label is correct. However, when it comes to K12 education who knows what best education model/curriculum fits a child? This would seem to be a no-brainer. The parents who are closest to the child and know that child best likely know what’s best for the child. Surely, parents know better than the government!
Here is an article written by Erin McCarthy-Keeler, who received an outstanding academic foundation at a private Waldorf school in Anchorage before going to Service High School.
by: Erin McCarthy-Keeler
In the wide array of private education that exists in our country, from religious schools to Montessori, Waldorf schools are an often overlooked, yet valuable and unique option for students. Waldorf education is based on using imagination in learning, and striving to integrate holistically the intellectual, practical, and artistic development of pupils. Qualitative assessments are used rather than testing and individual teachers and schools have a great deal of freedom when determining methodology, curriculum content, and school policies.
Until I attended high school, I had a vastly different educational experience than most of my fellow students. With no computers, no text books, and no grades (yeah!), my small Waldorf school was a quite unusual institution in our city filled with public schools. We didn’t spend time taking tests or memorizing facts. We didn’t even have textbooks to take notes from, but instead we created our own books filled with essays and illustrations. We learned through hands-on experiences that had a more meaningful impact to me. In fifth grade for example, we spent months immersed in the Greek culture, doing everything from writing odes about the Greek gods to learning to throw a javelin. While this may seem like an inefficient form of teaching, it is lessons like those that are still with me today. Even years later in high school, when learning about Greek history, it was the stories and experiences from fifth grade that came to mind, not the notes I had taken.
While I sometimes envied my friends who had attended public schools with their computers and straightforward lessons, my Waldorf education was a crucial part of my childhood and was vital in shaping my love of learning. I believe my academic success in high school and college is due to the fact that I attended a school with an educational style and model that worked for me and my family. The methods used in the Waldorf model were aligned very closely with my parents’ beliefs and life philosophies. They strongly believed in the importance of music, art, and freedom to play outdoors. They also believed that rigorous standardized testing was a poor method of evaluation and that learning should be driven by curiosity and intrinsic motivation. It was those beliefs that led them to enroll me at the Waldorf school, even though it would require them to pay tuition when they could have sent me to a public school at no additional cost. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family with the means to do so. However, for many of my peers it was a struggle to attend a private school. Several of my classmates received financial aid, which also placed a financial burden on the small school.
Several years ago, a public charter school opened in Anchorage that was based on Waldorf methods and curriculum. However, because it was not truly a private school they still were required to adhere to testing and curriculum standards set up by the school district. After the establishment of this school, many students from my school chose to transfer solely for financial reasons. While both schools provide excellent educations, and while the charter school may be the best option for some students for other reasons, it is a shame that some parents were forced to compromise their choice of their children’s schools based on financial issues.
The Waldorf School movement has been a strong advocate for cultural and educational freedom and was initially intended as a step towards education free from government control. It built my educational foundation and provided invaluable experiences. I am incredibly grateful that I was afforded the opportunity to attend a private school, however many students are not given this option and do not truly have the freedom to choose the school that is best of them. Good education is the foundation to a successful society, and especially in this day and age, with so much diversity in educational styles, it is crucial that families have the freedom to choose the best schools for their children.
Erin McCarthy-Keeler graduated from Service High School Summa Cum Laude with a GPA of 4.14. She was an AP scholar with distinction and a National Honor scholar. She is currently a sophomore at Dartmouth College majoring in Government. We wish her the best of luck and know she will be a future leader in whatever strikes her fancy.