To anyone who thinks waldorf offers education without pressure and allows children to develop at their own pace: you have no idea what it’s like for children like me. You don’t understand what it’s like to get detention in kindergarten because you’re not able to sew hairs and ears fast enough on a wool sock horse mounted on a wooden stick.
Detaining a small child, aged five or six, over recess because that child cannot do what you require him or her to do or what your dogmas prescribe for a child of this age — that is to put pressure on that child. Over something which, moreover, doesn’t matter one bit. I’ve never sewn hair and ears on a wool sock horse again in my life, and will never do it. Waldorf education saw to it that I had had enough of stupid tasks like that in my life; these tasks are nothing but meaningless shit, really, teaching you that being alive is tedious, going to school a waste of time, and that resisting authority is futile. (As far as I’m concerned those may very well be the intentions of waldorf education.)
You may not think that demanding skills at crafts is a kind of pressure — as an adult, you may think handwork as a fun and relaxing hobby — but this is, nonetheless, precisely what it is. For the child it’s definitely not fun, not in the least. It’s not relaxing, it’s not a hobby. It’s a pain. It’s about constantly failing to meet the demands of the grown-ups, the teachers. And you’re certainly aware of your failings. All the time.
Why do waldorf education proponents keep insisting that waldorf lets children be children without pressure? Sure, they don’t want children to be intellectual, thus, the children who are, are taught to hide it. (Another kind of pressure right there!) Stupid children might be happy, because they fit right in. Not being able to read or do maths is, after all, a positive thing in the world of waldorf. There is no academic pressure (other than of the negative variety — the pressure to suppress academic inclinations).
But, honestly, does anyone believe that the child who sucks at crafts, who cannot do eurythmy, who cannot master the flute, who cannot find wet-on-wet painting or form drawing meaningful, et cetera, won’t feel pressure? I suppose adults like delude themselves about this. The no-pressure waldorf childhood is an illusion they cherish and need to keep — not for their children’s sake, but for their own. There’s no paradise of childhood.
If there were one, it certainly wouldn’t involve forcing children to sew useless wool horses.