Hello Dear Readers,
I am sorry I have been away from here for some time now. I have had a difficult time which I am sure I will write about at some point, but not today. I am back today with a continuation of our series about portals, and pondering health for our children as they grow up.
The portal of media can be one of the most difficult things for families to navigate. This is the post that probably will upset folks and irritate them, so I would like to remind you to take just what resonates with you. Most of us probably make a few choices that are different than what I am laying out below, but I urge you to think mindfully about all of this and decide what is right for your family.
Those of you familiar with Waldorf Education may associate this method of education with no media, no computers, etc. but to me, this is not the intent behind Waldorf Education at all. In fact, Rudolf Steiner felt that one had to love the time in which he or she lived, and that each period in history built something of a foundation for the next one. In other words, we may now be living in the ‘age of machines’ but we are headed into an age of complete imagination, if we do things properly as a society. So we need to embrace where we are in time, but also in a way that makes sense for the development of the child.
The other point I would like to make is not specific to Waldorf Education, but just something I would like to point out, especially for my American readers. American culture is very young comparatively to the rest of the world, but it may find its roots in the Neoclassical movement seen in poetry and architecture and painting when this country was established. We have wonderful poets, artists and writers from that time period, and from later in American history as well. And yet, in America, we often act as if the height of American culture is to figure out when our children can surf YouTube. I don’t hate media, I think media has its purpose, but I so hope that at some point media may point us back toward the themes of liberty and freedom that fueled that Neoclassic movement and unified all Americans, and that we could build more of our popular culture from there. American children should be offered more than just this debate regarding computers and Facebook and YouTube. Where is the poetry, the folksongs and traditional music, the American holidays celebrated with vigor? That, to me, is the balancing of some of this era of the machine. I wish we could see more vitality within American culture, and when it IS there, I wish folks would pay more attention! That is my complete sidenote that probably has nothing to do with media in culture….
So, many people know most Waldorf schools encourage the elimination of media (and media means all visual and aural electronic devices, including videos, DVDs, video games, CD players, IPods, MP3 players, computers, computer games, television, radio/recorded music, Kindles and NOOKs) in the kindergarten through fifth grade, and ideally through eighth grade. Computer and video games are strongly discouraged until high school. Some schools will put in a bit in their policies about how if families are doing media, media exposure in general is discouraged on school days, with a recommended limited exposure of one to two hours on the weekend. Families who choose to allow media are encouraged to keep all televisions, computers, and/or video games in a common area where all usage and content can be observed and monitored.
In the homeschool world, I know very few Waldorf homeschooling children who have not seen at least a video or two. I think this is partly because we live with our children 24/7, and many times we do not have our families around us to provide support when we need it. And some families just feel a video or two occasionally is not going to harm things, especially for a grades aged child. Most of the Waldorf families I know choose their viewing carefully, the children tend to choose from the same selection of videos if there is any viewing time, and the parents are under no illusion that any sort of media is truly “educational” because we know there are real physiologic responses to watching a screen no matter what programming is on it. I have heard of many American Waldorf Schools far more inundated by families who watch a lot of media much to the disappointment of parents who enrolled their children looking for a media-free environment, so if you are considering a Waldorf School for your children, please talk to the other families and really get the vibe of what is going on. I have had more than one family come to me and say one of the main reasons they are pulling their child out of Waldorf School is the media influence in the school. So even the schools are not immune! What one family decides to do DOES affect the health of the school or the homeschooling group. Yet, there is no Waldorf police and nor should there be. Parents should be mindful and actually choose what is going with the media in the lives of their children and not just fall into it by default.
The balance to “plays on the screen” is, of course, to go and see live plays. Support your local theater. I know sometimes for even early grades children this is difficult, because the trend is to take classical tales and “modernize” them to include sarcastic or silly bents, but once children are older, it does become easier to find quality theater.
Our next post will look at computers, emailing/texting. computer games, making movies and cameras.