The heart of the Waldorf method is the conviction that education is an art—it must speak to the child’s experience.
Waldorf is a sought after and creatively inspired school system that parents of many sensitive children adore. Having visited dozens of their schools, spoken with countless Waldorf educators and mentored many of their students I have to say they have a wonderful thing going, but it’s not perfect. The one whopping shortcoming for some students—not all, is that this school system doesn’t allow technology at home or school. So is this elite and often expensive school behind the times?
The Technology Question
Maggie called me up because her seven year-old son, Peyton, refused to go to school and needed help. We made an appointment and after meeting it became clear her son’s biggest problem with his Waldorf School was the “no technology” rule. Peyton’s a second grade computer whiz kid and has been hiding his gifts since they aren’t allowed to use computers at school (and they frown upon home use).
Of course, Peyton’s parents didn’t want to penalize him so they’ve let him have screen time at home. It was here when they realized their son was gifted with technology, coding computer programs and building networks at age 7 that they had to seriously reconsider their school choice.
What do they do? They’ve decided to finish the year and send him somewhere computer friendly next year. But what will Waldorf, which is focused on “physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks” do when faced with student departures due to their no-technology rule? I am not sure. (New York Times)
Ultimately, I believe they are either going to be a) a school for the non-techies who are dwindling in numbers, or b) change with the times. Since Waldorf was inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy on child development and he’s dead almost a century perhaps it’s time to readjust things to fit the modern world? Or perhaps they have it correct for a certain substratum of students whose main interests aren’t technology, and are focused more squarely on social and emotional development?
Time Will Tell
What I can definitively say is that change is inevitable, and those schools that don’t embrace the upside of technology must have other benefits that far outweigh the costs of a computer-less environment. Since I am pencil and paper type of person it works for me but then again, I am four decades in, and our new ones are just about born with an iPad in their hands so it’s a different world. It might be time for Waldorf to enter that world or at least not-shame the parents if they want computers at home for their children’s learning pleasure.
By Maureen D. Healy
Maureen Healy is an award-winning author, speaker and leader helping highly sensitive and intuitive children thrive. Her books include: Growing Happy Kids, and The Energetic Keys to Indigo Kids. You can learn more about her, or her mentoring program for sensitive kids at: www.highlysensitivekids.com or @mdhealy
New York Times Article Archive: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silico...
Note: Some Waldorf schools let computers use technology starting in sixth grade, but 84% reported not having computers in the classroom when surveyed. Link: http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/11_EffPractices/pdfs/AWSNA%20SURVEY%20ON%...