all my waldorf guilt

July 24, 2008

I post this photo of our sunflower-house-in-progress* to mollify My Waldorf Guilt.

Long ago–so long ago–when H was a bald baby with a big head, I read about Waldorf. There were so many things I loved about Waldorf education–the focus on play, and handiwork, and the ebb and flow of the seasons. The way it values the imagination. As a former public school teacher, I had questions too–methods of learning for older kids seemed somewhat unprogressive; technology seemed to have no place in the curriculum.

As I made our home a learning place when the kids were young, I included lots of Waldorf-ish things–wooden toys, instruments, garden tools, book with fairies and princes, and copious, copious craft supplies. But somehow other things managed to sneak in through the backdoor, things like computers and (shudder) gaming systems.

And that’s when this little creature I call My Waldorf Guilt began to sit on my shoulder and taunt me, to whisper how much I have failed.

Lots of items call forth My Waldorf Guilt. The storytelling book in the hallway that I was sure would transform me into a great storyteller—though I have yet to tell my kids a single story. The wooden kitchen that gathers dust in Mr. T’s room, the one that once found its way into so many of H and Lulu’s games, but sits waiting for me to “play restaurant” with my boy. The space on the counter that would be such a lovely place to display seasonal treasures—but instead has become a repository for laptops and iPods and all their requisite cords.

The computers have been an issue since H was three and my parents bought him a Richard Scarry computer game. H would gladly have spent hours maneuvering Huckle around Busytown if I would have let him. But I didn’t let him. I went on to spend years monitoring his computer use—trying to limit the time spent in passive entertainment, to give free reign when the computer was used as a tool. My Waldorf Guilt nagged at me when he played too much Age of Empires; I told it to shut up when H used the computer to write stories, to record music, to make movies.

Almost all H’s creativity is connected to the computer these days. He’s taught himself to podcast, to record soundtracks for his films, to use professional film editing software. I’m glad I listened when he argued for more computer time; sometimes kids know what they need.

But I’m sure kids don’t need gaming systems. I’ve stayed stubborn on that one for years. But this past spring the kids wore me down after they played on a Wii at a neighbor’s house. They needed one. They would pay for it themselves, they insisted. They would be moving when they played, instead of sitting at a computer! It would be a fun thing for the family to do together! Something H could do with his brother, ten years younger! And knowing their mother, they promised to monitor their time.

I caved. And My Waldorf Guilt screamed in my ear.

I’m not so concerned about the Wii for my sixteen and twelve-year-old. But having my six-year-old grow up with a gaming system puts My Waldorf Guilt on overdrive.

Still, I want to listen to my kids. If they’re willing to work with me and all my limits, I need to work with them.

And the Wii hasn’t been so bad. After an initial week or so of gorging on gaming, their play has been reasonable. But the one thing that still gets My Waldorf Guilt hollering is that the stories Mr. T tells are now filled with characters named Mario and Luigi.


I argue back at My Waldorf Guilt, taking on the role that H has always taken with me: Mr. T’s characters may be named Mario and Luigi, but the stories are all Mr. T’s. Pure, unrestrained, stream-of-conciousness imagination. And quite honestly, the stories themselves would no different, even if the characters had Waldorf-y names, like Little Pip Acorn or King Beetle-Tamer.

Oh, My Waldorf Guilt. Surely the saga will continue.

* The sunflower house is “built” by planting sunflower seeds in a rectangle–don’t forget to leave a door! At the same time, sow morning glory seeds around the sunflower perimeter. As the plants grow, thin the sunflowers to about 2 feet apart. The sunflowers will grow up; the morning glories will wrap around them. When the sunflowers are near maturity and the vines are reaching their heads, wind twine back and forth, from one sunflower head to another, spider web-style, and form a roof. The morning glories should crawl across the twine, forming a glorious roof of green and morning-glory-violet. I’ll post photos if ours works. Here’s where we learned how to do it.

(Edited to add: this early post inspired a collection of similar posts, which fellow guilty folks can now find by heading over to the my waldorf guilt category.)

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

gina February 11, 2009 at 2:57 pm

I am so curious to see if your sunflower house worked. Did you ever post pics? I’d love to try something like this when we move!!


Kristin February 12, 2009 at 8:21 am

What great ideas. Yes, to the sunflower house. Yes, to the clever title that made me want to find out what the heck you were talking about. Yes, to the humor, “I caved. And My Waldorf Guilt screamed in my ear.” Nicely woven piece.


patricia February 12, 2009 at 10:54 am

Woah, Kristin, you’re getting sucked into Blogland and leaving comments now!

Thank you for the kind words. It’s rewarding when readers appreciate the “craft” that goes into a post.

Keep blogging!


patricia February 12, 2009 at 8:30 am

(I’m double-posting this response so folks who might visit this page later will know what happened with the house.)

Gina, regarding your question about whether or not our sunflower house worked: it didn’t exactly. The problem was that I got negligent about watering it. The sunflowers could handle the piddly amounts of water I gave them, but the morning glories couldn’t, so few of them grew as high as the web of strings. Of course, I didn’t realize what was going on until it was late in the season. So…I would definitely recommend trying a house of your own. Just make sure to keep watering it well. And if you have more space than we do, I’d aim for a large, square house, not the long rectangle that we had to settle for.


Carrie Pomeroy March 10, 2009 at 10:04 pm

I don’t know how I stumbled across your “My Waldorf Guilt” posts, but I read them at just the right time, when I was experiencing a great deal of guilt about my inability to create a predictable rhythm in my house and my general resistance to woolen crafts and talking about math operations as trolls or whatever Waldorf people say you’re supposed to do.

I do think the Waldorf folks have some wonderful ideas. But when I get too focused on thinking about what I’m supposed to be doing or how my kids should be developing, that is the road to major, creativity-crimping anxiety for me. You captured that well.

I enjoyed your “Mothering” essay, too. Glad to find your blog, and look forward to reading more.


patricia March 13, 2009 at 7:36 am

Hi Carrie! Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m not one to use “LOL” when I write online, but I did actually laugh out loud when I read this line of yours: “…I was experiencing a great deal of guilt about my inability to create a predictable rhythm in my house and my general resistance to woolen crafts and talking about math operations as trolls or whatever Waldorf people say you’re supposed to do.” Ha–talking about math operations as trolls! Yep, that’s just the sort of Waldorf-y thing that would never fly at my house.

I’m so glad my posts have been helpful. There’s so much to embrace in Waldorf methodology–but so much that just doesn’t work for our family. I do feel guilty about it sometimes; I’m glad to hear I’m not alone.

I’m off to check out your blog…


Lynnie April 14, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Had to read this when I saw your linked phrase in the Easter post! We were attracted to Waldorf early on when our oldest was begging to go to school. We thought a Waldorf preschool would be simple and home-like and a good fit for our farm family, etc., but it turned out our girl was interested in much more than what they could offer! She was really into Geography and China and learning to read and they were all about fairies and following precise directions to finger knit (neither of my kids is really into precise directions to do anything!). So, we accepted the bits we liked, eventually took her out, followed her lead which has been TOTALLY a ROCKING good time, and tried not to feel guilty about anything! Kids are such amazing combinations of needs and obsessions and special skills and gifts. It’s hard to box them into one philosophy. And if anyone is good at following her kids amazing minds, it’s you! Reading what your kids are up to totally amazes me!


patricia April 20, 2009 at 7:03 am

Lynnie, it’s always great to hear that there are other people out there who think like I do! I’m so glad you were able to take what you wanted from Waldorf, but also to follow your daughter’s interests. I think that would have been harder for me if my son was actually enrolled in a Waldorf school. Good for you for listening to your instincts!

Like I said in the post, years ago I especially worried about how my oldest son embraced our computer. So I kept the Waldorf lifestyle in mind, and I limited his computer use–but I’m so glad I allowed it. Now he’s following his trajectory into filmmaking, which he never would have done if I hadn’t allowed him time on the computer when he was younger. So, ironically, computers have absolutely fostered his creative life. I don’t think the Waldorf philosophy would allow for that.

Thanks for the kind words about following my kids–it’s always been one of the most fascinating parts of parenting for me.


Barrie June 24, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Once again I find myself at your blog, and as the previous poster said, it was exactly what I needed right now! This post echoes so many things I’ve been thinking and wondering all along, and it’s good to know that your kids still turned out to be intelligent, creative people in spite of intrusions from the ubiquitous technology that is, for better or worse, a part of this generation’s world. I also read your Mothering article, and it, too, speaks to so many of the things that are going on with us–dust thickening to velvet, kids not reading until they’re 6 and then devouring whole series of books at 8, similar transformations around math, and so on. At least, I’m hoping such transformations occur for us, as my eldest is only 5–but it’s your kids’ experience that gives me the hope and reassurance I need right now, all wrapped up in an article I can hand to my supportive yet at-times skeptical husband to reassure him as well. I also like how your writing encourages me to consider mine, rather than leave a slap-dash comment as I am increasingly prone to do. You prove that we can hold on to our love of words and our commitment to using them well instead of leaning on the crutch of inane acronyms and–my personal El Guapo–ridiculous punctuational faces, and I aspire to your example. Thank you!


patricia June 25, 2009 at 11:00 pm

Barrie, so good to hear from you again! I’m glad you found the “Waldorf Guilt” post–it’s one of my favorites, close to my heart, I suppose. It was the third post I wrote, but it didn’t get a comment until months later, and now every once in a while someone finds it, relates to it and leaves me a comment. I love that.

I’m glad the article was helpful too. Hanging out with other homeschoolers is another big help to give one confidence–hope you get to join us in the fall!

And I’m glad I’m not alone in my love of words. But I do admit to relying on ridiculous punctuational faces from time to time! 😉


christina May 19, 2012 at 8:46 am

Wow! I just discovered your blog through rhythm of the home and it is wonderful! 🙂 No pun intended, but after writing that I’m resisting the urge to backspace and make it say “wonder-full.” Oh my. Anyway, I just had to comment on how inspiring your thoughts on homeschooling are… my family is in that same strange world that drifts between waldorf and unschooling, freedom and form. My oldest is only 9, so sometimes we are still struggling to find our way, and reading the experiences of someone who has been there are such a help. I too have my fair share of Waldorf guilt (love the term!) but I’m slowly learning that you have to take the parts of the philosophy that fit well and work for your children and leave the rest behind.


patricia May 21, 2012 at 9:24 am

So glad that you found your way here, Christina, and that you can relate to my waldorf guilt! It’s been almost four years since I wrote this post, and I worry about these things less now that my youngest is ten. But I think I will always struggle to balance technology with the tactile, and the virtual world with the world outside my door. It’s a good struggle to have, though, and I wouldn’t want to place myself entirely in either place.

Nice to have you visit here!


KC June 30, 2013 at 9:07 am

Now I finally have something to call it! My husband is a computer programmer and a very very good one at that. That’s why we are here in France. He started programming at 10 years old. He was the only person in his town with a computer at the time. At 10 he taught himself to write a program that would do his math homework for him. He is a bit “lazy” he says. To this day he loves technology and video games. He plays very interesting games and even began to design his own one time.

This love of technology has been rubbing off on my kids much to my dislike. However, I monitor time used and what is being used and I feel less guilty that way. My three year old loves ballet and thanks to You Tube she can watch classic ballets. She adores Swan Lake and the Nutcracker and can tell you the story start to finish. Without a bit of screen time something like ballet probably wouldn’t be as interesting to her.


patricia July 16, 2013 at 8:38 am

Funny that you found this old post, KC! Yes, there is a lot of good that can come from technology. How fascinating that your husband taught himself so much about computers before computers were common. I’m sure that my oldest kid wouldn’t be a filmmaker if I hadn’t let him mess around on the computer as much as he did as a kid. Love that your girl watches ballets on YouTube. It’s all about balance, right?


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