writer, listener


I’m in my third decade going hard at this parenting thing. And like many parents, I’ve contradicted myself over and back again, changing my mind about what’s optimal. I frame it all as growth to convince myself that, overall, it’s best to remain open to new possibilities. Still, I can’t remember a parenting trend that’s gotten deeper under my skin than Extreme Waldorfing, for lack of a better description. I realize this is a risky thing to put in writing (especially in an abbreviated form) while we’re in the throes of the Screen Time Bad Movement. But to me, it’s misguided to insist that nature and technology are opposing forces and that the use of technology should be staved off as long as possible.

As an unschooling parent, it was interesting to learn that the founding mind behind Waldorf education was a relatively high-tech dude from the time he was young. Reading (admittedly little) about the origin of Waldorf leaves me feeling that, at their core, Waldorf and unschooling are similar, at least in the belief that vast amounts of creative play is central to healthy child development. For me, the divergence is in the level of trust in a child’s natural ability to learn outside a narrowly contrived perimeter.

Also, to be fair, my experience with the Waldorf approach is limited mostly to interaction with parents who have pledged allegiance to it as an extreme nature-based, anti-tech lifestyle. They are visibly uneasy if their children of pure mind, heart, and creative spirit are breathing too long in the same space as kids who have regular exposure to physical objects not made of wood, copper, or sprouted chia. And purely anecdotally, they’re some of the judgiest families I’ve ever met–moreso, even, than the Extra Super Christian Homeschool set (which is really hard for me to admit).

Spoiler: Our sun will die, and with it, all life on Earth. When that happens, I hope my great, great, quadrillionty great-grandchildren aren’t huddled in Future Forest, eating dandelion greens, playing with vintage petrified Waldorf blocks as they’re wiped into extinction. Instead, I hope they’re safely on another healthy, thriving planet, taking good care of it. Is there anything more natural than survival instinct in living creatures? Survival means we need to preserve our planet for a crazy long time–long enough to figure a way off it before the sun burns out. Hey, it could happen.

Seriously though, let’s quit with the either/or nature vs. technology mentality already. Stop giving kids the idea that technology is inherently harmful–that it’s some kind of guilty pleasure that interferes with their natural development as creative and moral people. Stop feeding into the fear-based cautionary tale du jour.

In the future, the hard evidence we use to legitimize our technology fears will seem as ludicrous as the hard evidence against 19th-century children reading fiction seems to us today. To refresh, the evidence was clear that novels deteriorated the young mind and squelched the real creative abilities of children. Fiction left children with unrealistic expectations of reality and desensitized them to real life–the younger the child, the more dangerous the exposure. Children reading too much would be the end of us, it was obvious.

The greater good can be, should be, and IS served by responsible development and use of technology. Let’s focus on ethical behavior, not on shaming and demonizing our kids’ natural drive to evolve as a species. Instead of putting the brakes on technology because of our unfounded fear of change, hit the gas on the moral component of tech consumption and innovation while they master the tech tools of society through play. Highlight, inspire, and nurture healthy connections between protecting resources and the evolution of technology. Show that those who love and respect Earth most are EXACTLY the people we want highly involved in guiding technological advancement.

We need our little gamers as much as we need our little wild shroom foragers and homemade cricket flour makers. All the better if they’re one and the same (or at least grow up wanting to work together instead of thinking the other is good for nothing of real value).



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