Along with all the wonderful ideas and possibilities of homeschooling, there are also some downsides. As with most things, there is NO such thing as the perfect homeschooling curriculum and there is no perfect way to educate your child. There are several real problems with the general Waldorf concepts, homeschooling in general, and the resources available.
1) Technology: In general, Waldorf shuns the use of all but the most basic technology. Well, we are a technology family, by virtue of my husband’s passions and job. Part of McRuger’s job is having and knowing how new technology operates. He spends vast amounts of time reading, researching, and even testings new things. Clearly, Cadet is going to spend a good amount of time near the best tech in the world.
That being said, we have made a decision to keep Cadet as “tech free” as possible for his first few years. Cadet is rarely allowed to watch TV shows. Of course late last week, he was watching a show as I typed this. He had a very bad stuffed nose, was feeling miserable…and it was either a show or 2 hours of melt-downs because I wouldn’t let him play in the sprinkler outside (it was 6am and 43F degrees outside). However, on a normal day, the TV/iPad stays off while Cadet is awake. And I generally stay off the computer as well.
For me, I feel that TV really hinders a child’s ability to be imaginative and creative. Instead of having a world created for them, the child is forced to create his/her own world of play out of what is around them. That is a very important skill for children to hold on to.
2) Diversity: There is a grand lack of diversity in most homeschooling curriculums. Waldorf is no exception. In fact, the creator of Waldorf has often been accused of racism, although the evidence is pretty thin on that. The statistics on homeschooling based on race is a little hard to find and the several sources I was able to find conflicted. However, the most reliable number was: 70% of homeschooling families are white. So, no matter what, a vast majority of these families will not look like ours.
This is a challenging one. I am already building up a hefty stock of books, toys, pictures, and art work with predominately black characters. However, it’s harder than you think. Next time you go to a toy store or Tar.get or even just a grocery store…really look at how many of the faces on the toys/dolls/packaging are white vs more “ethnic” looking.
3) Religion: I am not a religious person. Spiritual, yes. Religious, no. It’s not for lack of exposure to religion or even a lack of interest. Mostly, it’s just that I have found my spiritual needs have been met without the need of an organized religion.
From my research, a vast majority of home schoolers in my area are religious (and homeschooling for religious reasons). There is a lot of talk about how G-d created the world, and not a lot of modern science. This is a problem for me. I want to have a support community around our family as we embark on this venture. People who think like I do, or at least don’t shun me for my beliefs.
McRuger and I have often thought about joining a church community. However, McRuger has had major issues with organized religion in the past and isn’t eager to rejoin the ranks. So, the discussion continues.
Waldorf incorporates a lot of religious traditions from around the world (mainly Christian) : advent, Michaelmas, Solstice, Dwali, May Day, Candlemas…and so on. Personally, I love holidays, and especially enjoyed them while at college (which was Catholic). But, I need to put all of this together for Cadet, which I fear may be more of a challenge without a religious community or other Waldorf families to support us.
4) Magical Thinking: If you’ve done any research in to the Waldorf way of schooling, you soon discover a whole lot of magical thinking: gnomes, trolls, fairies, sprites, Father Winter, Mother Earth….the list continues. I’m a fan of children believing in a certain amount of magic in the world. However, some Waldorf families take it too far…and you end up with teenagers talking to gnomes and a good amount of day dreaming of the fairy world. So, I need to avoid that.
A quick look at popular culture shows that magical thinking is very prevalent in children’s books/shows/toys. And whether it’s fairies, a kid “doctor” who can talk to stuffed animals, a flying rocket which transports 4 friends, a magic school bus, or even talking animals…magic surrounds kids. So, I’m not concerned about the magical thinking, in of itself, but how seriously some families take it.
5) Fanaticism: The world of homeschooling (and a lot of parenting theories) have a degree of fanaticism surrounding them. It suggests a lack of flexibility and open-mindedness that is hard to understand. Waldorf is no different. Several of the Waldorf face.book pages I belong to are wonderful, but there’s a ton of “should” and “shouldn’t” being tossed around. This always makes me wary. Like the breast/bottle debates or the crib/co-sleeping discussions, I find that the level of adherence to one way of thinking completely baffling, if for no other reason than every child has different needs.
So, as I begin to walk this path, I am constantly aware that there is not just one way to proceed. I am approaching Waldorf as a guide, not a mountain to die on. I just hope and pray that others (no matter what approach to education they have chosen) view their choices in the same light.
6) Support: The area we live in is fast-paced and very commercially minded. Heck, the mall is already hopping for the holiday season. Many of my friends (parents and not) look down on homeschooling as “simple” and “strange”. Some of the few people I have told have been supportive, but a bit circumspect. I truly worry about finding a decent support system here.
I am very worried about how to share our choice with our extended family. Bro and Jewel have raised Bug and Mouse to be very materialistic. They have all the latest toys, demand everything they see on TV, and have more toys (big and small) than most of the families on my block combined. So, how do I garner any support from them? And McRuger’s family? What will they think?
With the changes we’re making, I am also overhauling gift-giving to friends and family. Gone are the days of plastic toys from Ama.zon. I am going to try to give gifts that are simple, well-made, and have meaning to them. Heck, perhaps even make some myself (candles, herb mixes, knitted/felted toys).
7) The Finish Line: At some point, Cadet will need to be enrolled in a school. Why? Because there is a point in the future that I will no longer be an effective teacher for Cadet. My skills, especially in math, will conk out around 5-6th grade. And my ability to find effective resources for Cadet will be limited as he gets older. Plus, both McRuger and I know how important socialization is for kids (especially in the pre-teen/teen years). The problem is that we don’t know where that line is. And we both like planning for the future! Of course all of this will develop as Cadet gets older and begins to communicate his needs/wants.
What are your thoughts on the positives/negatives of home schooling?