Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What makes Camellia Waldorf special?
Camellia Waldorf offers a unique blend of quality, community and convenience. Set in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the capital city of Sacramento, it provides families with an oasis where dynamic and creative learning unfolds under the attentive guidance of a supportive community. Camellia’s central location makes this unique style of education conveniently accessible to numerous residential neighborhoods throughout the greater Sacramento area.

In addition, Camellia Waldorf teachers are impressive. Our faculty of experienced, high quality teachers forms the bedrock upon which the students’ educational experience is built. Because the teachers enjoy a strong sense of collegiality at Camellia, they feel bonded with and committed to the school and the students. Their creativity, intellect, and enthusiasm for their work translate into an exceptionally enriching experience for the students.

Camellia’s parent community is also highly dedicated and present in the everyday effort to promote the students’ growth and achievement. With one of the most diverse Waldorf school student populations in the nation, Camellia’s special community is widely regarded as thoughtful, open-minded, and generous in spirit. The warm atmosphere at Camellia that welcomes anyone who shares a passion for the wonderful world of Waldorf has truly become a treasured hallmark of our school.

For specific Camellia Waldorf parent and teacher testimonials, visit www.greatschools.org.

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How is Waldorf different from Montessori and Reggio Emilia?
All three of these philosophies believe in teaching children in a manner that is developmentally appropriate and in a way that is tactile, experiential and intellectual. Beyond these shared beliefs, there are significant differences among these educational approaches.

For example, the role of imaginative play in early childhood is noticeably different between Waldorf and Montessori. Waldorf philosophy views imaginative play in early childhood as an integral part of the development of the child’s brain, forming the neurological pathways for creative problem solving later on in school and in life. The Waldorf approach sees children as naturally and instinctively drawn to these activities in order to provide themselves with this vital foundation. Children are permitted to allow their imaginations to explore toys and materials in a variety of ways. The Montessori approach, however, encourages children to remain in the “real world” using the materials for their intended or designated purpose.

The role of the teacher is also distinctly different among these education philosophies. Both Montessori and Reggio Emilia encourage children to exercise significant self-direction in the classroom, choosing for themselves which activities to do, when, and how much. Teachers are viewed as facilitators, rather than instructors.

By contrast, in the Waldorf tradition, teachers guide the children through the rhythm of the day, serving as role models and respected leaders who provide a fundamental structure within which the children learn. There are periods for coming together as a group and periods for individual work. There are times for teacher-directed activities and times for independent creative expression and play. Waldorf philosophy also recognizes that children, and human beings generally, naturally gravitate toward areas where they feel most comfortable. Accordingly, the Waldorf teacher’s role is to encourage the children to grow beyond their “comfort zone” and develop competency in areas they find more challenging and would therefore not choose for themselves. The ultimate goal is twofold. One is to turn out balanced individuals who have an appreciation for all things. Yet, an equally important and far more subtle lesson for the child lies in realizing that great things can be accomplished when you dedicate yourself to the task and give it honest effort. When we learn to challenge ourselves, our lives become more fulfilling. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” You Learn By Living – Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life, by Eleanor Roosevelt (2009).

For more information on the comparison of Montessori and Waldorf, see the following resources:

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How is Camellia Waldorf different from a “Waldorf-inspired Public School”?
As a private school, Camellia Waldorf is free to adhere to all aspects of traditional Waldorf philosophy. Some areas where Camellia Waldorf differs from public Waldorf settings are governance, administration, teachers and spirituality.
As a self-governing organization, Camellia Waldorf sets educational standards independently, in a manner that is consistent with Waldorf philosophy. Rudolf Steiner believed that educational institutions should function independently from governmental influences in society so that the competing interests of the state would not compromise the best interests of the students. Camellia Waldorf is not subject to state education policies and directives, including the California state assessment standards that are applicable to public schools. By contrast, public Waldorf schools take inspiration from private Waldorf schools, but seek to adapt a subset of the Waldorf educational philosophy that is consistent with the public educational framework.
Administration is also quite unique at Camellia. Like other private Waldorf schools, Camellia does not follow a traditional “top-down” style of administration within the school, and therefore Camellia has no headmaster or principal. Rather, the school operates by a combination of efforts from the Board of Trustees, the faculty, and administrative staff and committees. Parents are involved through positions on the Board of Trustees and committees. The wide variety of input promotes thorough and thoughtful decision-making. The inclusive atmosphere promotes mutual respect and consensus building, giving rise to a strong foundation for long term community satisfaction. The entire “village” of Camellia works together to promote the common goal of exceptional education for the students.
The role of the teacher at Camellia Waldorf is also consistent with Rudolf Steiner’s original intentions. Camellia teachers are all fully trained in the Waldorf method. Camellia teachers also retain significant control over the curriculum for their students, within the framework of Waldorf philosophy. Rudolf Steiner contemplated that teachers should be vested with the authority to make decisions regarding the content and administration of the education they are responsible for delivering. This uniquely empowers the teachers to move the students through the rhythms of learning in an inspired fashion.
The “empowerment” of teachers that is inherent to Waldorf education has been thoughtfully recognized elsewhere as a crucial component of successful education. For example, in Finland, where students have been ranked #1 by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), teachers are treated as entrepreneurs and are given control over textbook selection and lesson plan development, customizing the education to shape the individual students that are before them. The article What Makes Finnish Kids So Smart? is informative on this topic: Wall Street Journal (2008), Dallas Child (2008)
Finally, as a private Waldorf school, Camellia is free to offer students the moral, spiritual, or ethical aspects of Waldorf philosophy. For example, teachers may choose to incorporate these concepts into the curriculum through storytelling, class discussions, or other work. Camellia also presents festivals consistent with the original Waldorf tradition. For example, the festival of Michaelmas is held every fall, celebrating the figure Archangel Michael and his role in strengthening us when we call upon him for help.

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How diverse is Camellia’s student population?
In 2002, Time magazine hailed Sacramento as the most racially and ethnically integrated major city in America, based on research by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University. More interestingly, Time noted that while many cities are diverse, “Sacramento’s Crayola culture” is a unique one where “people seem to live side by side more successfully.” Read the article Welcome to America’s Most Diverse City (time.com)
Camellia Waldorf School reflects the diversity, as well as the unique integration of, our home city. Camellia’s student body is 43% students of color, and our community comprises a wide variety of racial, ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds. This cultural mix is not consciously orchestrated but rather arises naturally from a pervasive atmosphere at Camellia of respectfulness, appreciation, and acceptance. In addition, a generous tuition assistance program allows Camellia to open its doors to a wide range of families, promoting a diverse socioeconomic representation. With this environment, Camellia offers the best of both worlds — the diversity that many public schools offer, with the attentiveness of a private school culture.

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Camellia’s Teachers

Why do students stay with the same class teacher for eight years?
At Camellia, a class teacher begins with a first grade class and may accompany this class for eight years. This practice of teachers and students staying together through the years is called “looping,” “cycling,” or “teacher-student progression.” According to Jack Petrash’s book Understanding Waldorf Education – Teaching From the Inside Out (2002), the tradition of looping “is not new and is currently in use in public schools in the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, China, Taiwan, and Japan. “ Generally, it offers many benefits, such as security, efficiency, and responsibility in the education process:

Security – In elementary school, as the child expands his or her experience beyond home and family, the teacher’s role becomes somewhat analogous to a parent’s, and the class is similar to a “family.” This creates an environment of welcome security for the children, particularly in the lower grades. Security fosters trust and, over time, both teacher and student benefit from the increased level of trust that allows the relationship to grow.

Efficiency – Looping makes the education process highly efficient in a number of ways. First, it eliminates the “ramp-up” time at the start of each school year, during which students and teachers at other schools spend weeks getting to know each other. Second, because the teacher and the students are able to know each other very well, the teacher gains heightened insight into the best ways of helping individual children progress along their individual educational journey, taking into account their particular strengths and deficiencies. Waldorf teachers know their students well enough to keep them academically challenged at a level that is appropriate to each child. Third, looping provides an added measure of continuity in children’s lives.

Accountability – Looping brings out the best in teachers. Teachers who are attracted to the opportunity to commit themselves to a class over an extended period of time usually feel increased dedication and responsibility for those students. Energized by the chance to make a difference in children’s lives, class teachers are actively and emotionally involved in their teaching. When challenges arise with particular students, it is not to their benefit to “coast” through to the end of the year, since those same challenges will be back sitting before them again next September. Looping increases the stakes for teachers, and as a result, it tends to appeal to the best in the profession. Not surprisingly, “experts say some of the most innovative teachers are asking to loop ” in public schools. (Chicago Sun Times, Familiar Teachers, by Rosalind Rossi, 1999.) Looping dignifies and elevates the profession of teaching to a level that it deserves. In a time where the lack of quality teachers is a national crisis, the Waldorf tradition of looping demonstrates a winning strategy. Indeed, John Wilson, Executive Director of the National Education Association, laments that the lack of quality teachers is a problem in America and he advocates reform in this area under the “Tough Choices or Tough Times” initiative. You can watch Mr. Wilson’s video address on this topic on the NCSAW website.

Sometimes changes in life circumstances result in a class teacher leaving before the completion of the full eight years. In this event, Camellia makes every effort to effectuate a smooth transition to a new class teacher with as little disruption to the students as possible.

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What if there is a mismatch between teacher and student?
Although this is a common question raised by parents, in practice it is rarely a problem. Both the nature of Waldorf teacher training and the supportive environment of Camellia make this an uncommon occurrence.

Since Waldorf teacher training incorporates study of the developmental needs and temperaments of children, Camellia’s experienced teachers are equipped with methods for identifying various personalities and tendencies in children as well as methods for managing these within the classroom to promote harmony and positive growth for all involved. Waldorf teachers are also trained to evaluate such situations and assess what they might do to improve the relationship, as a parent would do with one of his or her children in a family.

In situations where a teacher feels the need for further assistance with a student or family, the strong sense of collegiality among Camellia’s faculty takes on paramount importance. The reflective evaluation by the teacher involves the consultation and support of the entire faculty of teachers at Camellia. Students benefit from the collective experience and ideas of the full faculty and the teachers are grateful for their internal support network, which results in an improved learning environment for the students and a high level of professional development and fulfillment for the teachers.

Ultimately, it is the high level of commitment and responsibility that Camellia’s teachers feel in their work that keeps classroom relationships healthy and strong. Because teachers stay with students for the duration of their years at Camellia, the teachers are highly motivated to resolve conflicts, improve relationships, and promote their students’ advancement. Certainly, there is also a subtle lesson inherent in this process for the student – that healthy, meaningful relationships involve effort and attention. In a world of “disposable” things, Waldorf aims to instill in children the value of establishing and maintaining a network of quality long-term relationships that will bring them a lifetime of “returns on their investment.”

Nevertheless, if it is determined that there are irreconcilable differences, the parents may be asked to withdraw the child.

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How can a class teacher teach all the subjects for every grade in elementary school?
In actuality, students are exposed to a variety of teachers during grades one through eight at Camellia. Students receive instruction from their class teacher, as well as a variety of specialty teachers in particular subjects. Class teachers are responsible for the presentation of main lessons in core topics including language arts, history, mathematics, and the sciences. In addition, they involve the students in other activities such as painting, music, clay modeling, singing and handwork. Specialty subject teachers cover areas such as foreign language, eurythmy, movement, handwork, woodwork and music.

Indeed, Camellia class teachers are impressive. They are not only teachers, but also storytellers, musicians, artists, and actors. How do they do it? They devote themselves wholeheartedly to their daily lessons, and often spend their summers preparing to teach the next year’s curriculum. They rise to the challenge, just as they ask of their students. They are models of vitality and spirit. Camellia Waldorf teachers are never bored. For them, “[v]itality replaces complacency, as teachers strive to master a new curriculum each year.” Understanding Waldorf Education – Teaching From the Inside Out, by Jack Petrash (2002).