‘it’s really hard when you start your hat’

From an article found by PeteK:

In a sunny classroom, first graders at the Chicago Waldorf School are not picking up books.  Instead, in every student’s hands are two wooden knitting needles.

Seven-year-old Henry Gordon is carefully wrapping the yarn around one needle, then pulling his stitch through with the other hand.

“It’s really hard when you start your hat—it’s like, complicated,” says Henry. “And then, pretty soon we all got better at knitting and we started finishing our hats and going on to our scarves and then doing our sleeping bag.”


“I think the fact that these children have not been pressured at a young age to learn how to read has allowed it to unfold in a very natural way,” Triggiano said.

Again, the waldorf folks go on about reading early being horrible because it’s ‘pressure’. What about pressuring children to knit early? Really? Why is it ok to pressure kids to knit? Why is it so difficult for waldorf proponents to see that what they subject children to is merely an other kind of pressure? Whether it’s good or bad is another thing — and I don’t think you can avoid pressuring children. But pressure it is. And, although they rarely seem to want to acknowledge this, there are children who don’t experience reading as a ‘pressure’. Because what is felt as ‘pressure’ must vary from person to person. If you suck at knitting, a school focused on knitting puts some pressure on you. Actually. Perhaps there’s a good reason for it, but you can’t deny it’s pressure. The risk of this late reading but early knitting policy is mentioned: that dyslexia goes undetected for too long.


23 thoughts on “‘it’s really hard when you start your hat’

  1. I remember my kids coming home in tears after some batshit crazy knitting teacher would unravel two weeks of knitting over a missed stitch. This was done in a humiliating way in front of the class. They STILL remember experiences like these.

  2. You need to knit more, Shane! And perhaps even do some eurythmy!

    Pete, I had a quite horrible handicrafts teacher too. Stern, german(ish). Depressing personality. Nothing was ever good enough. Or, rather, she only saw what was bad. I don’t know how many times I had to do the same thing over and over again, sewing the same seams of that waldorf doll over and over because they were never good enough.

    Also, you were supposed to understand everything through watching and imitating, which was quite hopeless. I can’t help but think that it was her bad instruction that made children fail over and over and being forced to do things over and over. Perhaps some kids are more clairvoyant, but I needed words — someone to say what was wrong, what I should do instead and how. In words. Not like, ‘this is not good, do again’ and not much more.

  3. I nearly forgot about knitting, but now the memories of sheer endless handicraft lessons come back. My teacher was also germanish (well maybe even german) and i was so afraid of her that i wouldn’t dare to talk in her lessons. Whenever I didn’t manage to finish my knitting during class, i would take it home so my parents could help me. Once my teacher found out and she got really furious and she was humilitiating me in front of class. From then on I had to sit next to her every lessons and I was being watched very carefully. Soon I was too afraid and I didn’t want to participate in her lesson any longer. As a replacement I got “curative eurythmie” which didn’t make it any better. Memories oh Memories.
    Strange enough I learned knitting at some point, yet until today I am more into writing..

  4. Awful.

    I also took my knitting (and other handicrafts things) home to my mother, who was very good at these things, perhaps even better than my teacher… (My grandmother was actually a trained handicrafts teacher, although she never worked in any school, as far as I know.) My teacher of course must have suspected someone else was doing my work. But she didn’t say anything. She did complain, however, that things were done wrong, and when I told my mother, who of course knew better, she said the teacher was wrong. And in between I was. Ah well…

    Curative eurythmy, oh darn. I got that, too, at some point (not because of bad knitting (or at least not only!)), but luckily my parents protested.

  5. Interesting question, Helen. My (UK-centric) answer would be no more legal than any other form of complementary therapy, under Trading Standards legislation. David Colquhoun has a good post on this: http://www.dcscience.net/?p=790 The clause on misleading omissions has me wondering…

  6. if it came to it, I think they’d happily redefine it as a ‘just a dance’ (perhaps they can borrow that definition Jeevan Vasagar used) and not a therapy.

  7. I bow before your superior legal mind, Alicia. :) And of course physical exercise *is* thought to be beneficial, in some mild cases of depression for example. Nevertheless I have seen some very suspect therapeutical claims for curative eurythmy, outside of educational settings.

  8. There’s a (depressive) psychological side to eurythmy that counteracts any benefit from the tiny amount of physical exercise that eurythmy, against all odds, contains! That feeling of doom and gloom… And it’s not very physical actually. I mean, you stand up, which I guess is better than sitting down. And then you move around slowly, without jumping obviously, you flutter slowly around the room. Not much. But a little. And then stand still again. Occasionally, there’s some slow and dull arm-waving that will exhaust nobody, especially not prepubescent kids. I think the pianist gets more exercise than the kids.

    It’s supposed to cure lots of things. Bad eyes, near-sightedness. Having no foot arch. Just examples I come to think of spontaneously.

    Then, of course, being badly incarnated and having bad karma…

  9. A wonderful description of eurythmy, Alicia. Much better than Jeevan’s! Obviously, I’ve never tried it…

  10. I think there are many things anthroposophical worth trying, looking at, eating, reading, and so forth. If not for anything else, then because it’s kind of fun. Eurythmy, however, I have severe doubts about…

  11. I’ve been told eurythmy can accelerate (or decelerate) the loss of teeth (in children of tooth-loss age, that is …) I remember a mother at our school who believed she could make her kid’s teeth fall out. A little voodoo-ish for me …

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