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Waldorf: Unplugged vs Mindful Plug

I have been "Waldorfy" since before I really knew what Waldorf education was meaning that I was intrinsically motivated as a mother to foster creativity and imagination, avoid screens and technology with the children, read living stories, enjoy ample time in nature, making rather than consuming and only have clothes and toys made from organic, natural materials.


But, one of many areas I've begun to take a more modern approach to is screen time and I'll tell you why. I believe that we should model moderation for our children by setting limits with screens, carefully selecting the media they're exposed to and teaching THEM to also be mindful of their intake. We live in a high tech world and the age of information. Children who are one hundred percent "tech free" will be at a severe disadvantage compared to same aged peers as they enter the workforce and the real world. I understand why Waldorf schools have tech policies- I do, but I do not have a tech policy for Epoch other than: "Use Tech Wisely".



In an increasingly digital world, where technology permeates nearly every aspect of daily life, Waldorf schools stand out for their steadfast commitment to a low-tech educational approach after Steiner's guidance in the early 1920s, but is this STILL what's best for children and why are Waldorf schools anti-technology?


Developmental Considerations: Waldorf education is deeply rooted in an understanding of child development. Educators at Waldorf schools believe that excessive exposure to screens and technology can negatively impact children's physical, emotional, and cognitive development. They argue that young children learn best through sensory experiences, real-world interactions, and imaginative play, all of which are hindered by excessive screen time.


Waldorfy approach: But, is it possible to engage your child in art, music, outdoor play, handwork, reading, writing, imaginative play with carefully selected toys and materials and play lyre music or piano in the background via Spotify? Would it be okay if they played 20 minutes of Wii tennis or boxing while mom cooks dinner? I think so!


Emphasis on Creativity and Imagination: Waldorf schools prioritize the development of creativity and imagination, qualities that are believed to be stifled by excessive screen use. By limiting exposure to screens and technology, Waldorf educators aim to cultivate a rich inner life in students, fostering a love for learning that extends beyond the classroom.


Waldorfy Approach: We follow a Waldorf curriculum and Waldorf guidance for rhythm and daily life; however, my boys also play Minecraft online and create amazing magical worlds with pixels much like miniature virtual legos. In Minecraft, kids must solve complex problems in these magical worlds much like they do with peers when they're playing outside the other eighty-percent of the day. They also use YouTube to look up videos about cryptids, mythology, fantastic beasts and lost cities. They'll research these beasts and take notes in their journals and track these beasts on world maps They enjoy the sing-a-long versions of their favorite songs on Apple Music and make up dances and skits to perform with friends. Isn't this also fostering creativity and imagination?


Concerns About Health and Well-being: There is growing concern about the effects of excessive screen time on children's health and well-being. Studies have linked excessive screen use to a range of issues, including obesity, sleep disturbances, and behavioral problems.


Waldorfy approach: I'll never forget the night I was reading, or working, upstairs and I overheard loud stomping noises from my children. I rushed downstairs to find them following a Navy Seal training routine they'd discovered on YouTube fitness. They had created a "spy team" with their friends at school and were researching drills and fitness training to become the "optimal" versions of themselves to be successful spies. They taught these exercises to their peers and had a small cohort of kids doing rigorous training routines daily to be on the spy team!


Check out the image in this blog. I'm at an arcade with my son...sound the alarms and alert the Waldorf-police that I'm not spiritually minded enough to join the Waldorf movement! This arcade actually has games that require energy output and physical movement such as boxing, Ski-ball, dancing, air hockey, and basketball. We have a blast here, but we limit our time and we balance our play-days like this with hiking, biking, skiing, creek play, rock climbing and so forth. Those things are the majority, but avoiding arcades entirely when you have two little boys and you live in a snowy mountain town? That's just animal cruelty, LOL!


Focus on Social and Emotional Learning: Waldorf education places a strong emphasis on social and emotional learning, believing these skills are essential for success in life. By encouraging face-to-face interaction and real-world experiences, Waldorf schools aim to help students develop empathy, communication skills, and a sense of community, qualities that are often undermined by excessive screen use.


Waldorfy Approach: I LOVE that my boys can FaceTime their Grandma and Papa, their teacher, their friends and show things they're building like Lego villages, forts, and new knitting projects. FaceTime is technology, but aren't kids still getting the feedback needed for socio-emotional development by reading facial cues and body language much like being in the same room as one another?


Could we also ask children to type emails for a pen pal across the world and expand their horizons by learning about another culture via email or online educational groups like PenPal World or Global Penfriends? Yes, handwriting personal letters is a lost art we should bring back, but when is the last time you actually remembered to buy stamps?


Preparation for the Future: Some critics argue that Waldorf schools are out of touch with the demands of the modern world, where technology plays an increasingly central role. However, proponents of Waldorf education argue that by focusing on fundamental skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving, students are better prepared to adapt to an ever-changing technological landscape, but why can't we have both?


Waldorfy approach: I allow my kids to use an iPad for games such as Minecraft, Prodigy Math, DuoLingo (foreign language), and piano practice especially when we travel or take long road trips. They know they can only have 20-30 minutes a few days a week and only after they've done their schoolwork and taken care of any household responsibilities for the day. They also use my computer to research topics they're interested in, type creative stories, or play Adventure Academy or Night Zookeeper (both academic and imaginative!).


I am a total Nazi when it comes to TV programming though. I've taught my boys what to look for in TV shows and movies they're watching. They are NOT allowed to watch mindless toy reviews or unboxing crap on YouTube. I refuse to let my children watch other children play! My boys watch mostly shows and movies that are educational or inspirational, have realistic tones (no neons or technicolor crap that is offensive to the senses) and may not contain any political agendas. I usually don't approve of movies by Netflix or Disney. If I do- its RARE. I find the name calling, finger pointing, cliques portrayed and back talking to parents far more detrimental to child development than a war movie that shows WWII planes bombing ships. For the most part, my boys watch shows like Lassie, Little House, Hey Dude, sports movies like Iron Will or Rudy and fantasy movies like Harry Potter or the Greatest Showman.


In conclusion, while the use of technology in education continues to be a topic of debate, Waldorf schools remain steadfast in their commitment to a low-tech approach, but my Waldorf-inspired, or "Waldorfy" approach practices moderation and careful selection! Technology can be very beneficial when used wisely and in moderation. If we have a hard "no" to it, it could backfire and they may become more fascinated, more addicted, and less likely to self-monitor when caregivers aren't around.


I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments! Be well, Chelsea Vail

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