Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Waldorf Model

Here and there I think I've been mentioning my soft spot for Waldorf Educational philosophy. The truth is that I probably disagree with as much of it as I agree with, but today I shall highlight some of the things I really appreciate about it.

1. I really like the Waldorf community's belief in keeping kids off computers and away from television and other mass media/advertising. I have been to two Waldorf-community-sponsored lectures specifically pertaining to media exposure - one was by Joseph Chilton Pearce, who is the amazing and honorable author of Magical Child, which was a book a Waldorfy person recommended I read while pregnant (and I am soooo glad!!) and the other was by Jane Healy, author of Failure to Connect. Both lectures were really, really good, and very convincing. Joseph Chilton Pearce talked a lot about the flash content of television and movies, and it's effect on the "old brain." Jane Healy talked a lot about why kids appear to be learning really well on computers when in fact they are not. I have yet to read her books but I think I will do so soon.

I will admit Ezra does use the computer from time to time, and he does watch movies twice a week, so we're not totally hard core about this. We don't have a t.v., though, so the kids aren't usually influenced by commericals or low-quality children's programming, at least.

2. I really like the Waldorf idea of children having few toys, and the ones they do have being simple and made of natural materials. However. . . this is more of an ideal than an actual practice in our house. We do have plenty of natural toys, and those are pretty much the only ones I buy (one notable exception being the Duplo legos I bought at the thrift store), but lots of other people have gotten Ezra plastic rockets made in China, and all kinds of other plastic and "unnatural" toys. We have gone back and forth on our feelings about this. In general we just have way too many toys! But I aspire to be more Waldorfy in this arena. On the other hand, the older my kids get, the more influence they are going to have over their relatives, with their desires for plastic! But they really don't see too many plastic toys, since we don't have a t.v.!

3. I love the "whole child" approach to Waldorf education. They learn a lot of subjects through music and art, including math, and they make sure they are using their bodies in all the ways that nature intended (as far as I know). I love that they teach handwork to little kids and consider fine motor skills to be a very important part of development. Rudolf Steiner, whose ideas Waldorf are based on, knew what was up as far as child development - at least as far as school-aged children go. (As for his child development beliefs about infants and toddlers, I have some bones to pick.)

Anyway, I think those are the main reasons I love to stay on the fringes of Waldorf culture. I must say that once I read The Continuum Concept, I could no longer accept Waldorf philosophy wholeheartedly (I was in their adult education/teacher training program at the time), and I have just dabbled in it ever since. Lots of great people involved in the community, though, and God knows I could use some of the skills that Waldorf-educated people possess! (And so could my kids!)

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