Most of us parents went to school in a regular form of the education system with a set curriculum and pattern. But today, choosing the form of education while picking a school for our own kids, has become hard for parents as we are spoilt for choice. In this month’s discussion with Katerina Fields from the Fields family, we will find out more about the education system using elements of Waldorf and intuitive pedagogy. Katerina is a wedding planner and is born and brought up in Prague, while her husband Jeremy is American and moved to Prague 17 years ago. He works in the gaming industry and they have an eight-year-old boy Logan.
What kind of educational institution does your child go to?
Logan goes to a school which uses elements of Waldorf and intuitive schooling. It is not the regular form of education. But it is part of a Czech State School.
Why and how did you choose this form of education?
My friend has her child in this system and spoke highly of it and so I decided that this would work for Logan as well. The reason I chose this system is that I did not want my son to be in a sort of authoritative form of learning environment where you just get advice and follow instructions.
I personally attended a bilingual high school with Waldorf-approach in Prague 20 years ago and it changed my life for better in many ways.
How is it different from others?
Many people believe that when the word ‘free form’ or ‘different form’ of education is used, the school is only for children with special needs or that the goals of the school are not at the same level as regular schools. But this is not true. In the form of education our child learns in, we have the same goals as regular schools except that we do not have grades. We get a written feedback from the school about the progress of our child. The idea behind this form of education is, it does not promote competition and it does not make children inferior or superior.
Another interesting factor is the teaching methodology. Children are taught blocks of time – for instance, the class will focus on Math for 3-4 weeks and then Language for 3-4 weeks. The Advantage of this system is that it allows a child to learn deep into a subject without losing focus. So you don’t switch quickly from subject to subject. Also, children can take more time to learn certain areas without the pressure.
The children also have one day a week outside the school. So they are allowed to be one with nature and they learn to survive in nature. Most kids live in the city and this reality check with nature helps them deal with challenges.
Another factor that I would like to emphasize on, is the relationship between the teacher and children. This relationship is very important for learning – and kids should not hesitate to approach the teacher. For instance, if there is an accident in school, the teachers don’t take control of the situation and scold the kids. They all sit around in a circle after giving first-aid and discuss why it happened and what should have been done to prevent it. So the teacher gives the responsibility to the children in a controlled environment. In our school, the teachers and students shake hands at the beginning and end of the day, learn to take their turns speaking in a morning greeting-circle, respect each other. The children respect their teacher out of their own free will.
Why do you think it will make your child better equipped for the world? What are the benefits?
The education system allows for intuitive learning as well. And many times children are helping each other learn. Which means they realize that not all of them can be good at everything, but when you work together towards the same goal it can be achieved. So it develops feeling for each other and does not foster competition and jealousy – ideally, of course.
Have you tried any other form of education with him?
Yes, my son used to go to a regular kindergarten before this school and I find that he is doing better here. My son does not have any special needs and most kids in his school are the same. My son is in third grade and still eager to go to school and very curious. And this system helps him to think and to work with information.
Would you recommend this form of education to other parents? Why?
Yes, I would, although it is not for all. It depends also on the character and needs of the child. Because the first two years in this form of learning are a bit slower than regular school – well, in terms of reading or writing, while working on social skills, arts, overall development – so as not to ruin the curiosity of a child. This system allows the child to think through everything in a holistic manner. And this takes time. So it is important for parents to consider the character of a child before enrolling them into any alternative learning methods.
Today there are many forms: Waldorf, Sudbury, Montessori, Homeschooling, SCIO but it all depends on the child´s nature. In general, I believe the traditional Czech schooling system, used in most of our schools, is not the best – especially for the early school years.
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