As a substitute teacher and child of the somewhat controversial Waldorf school (also known as Steiner school), Victoria Wikhaug (@husetibyen) believes that being creative and using your imagination to think differently is crucial to a child’s development.
Victoria spent her childhood immersed in arts and crafts including crocheting, knitting, whittling, wood carving and pottery.
“My grandmother taught me how to knit and sew for my Barbie dolls,” she explains. “I got my very own kids’ sewing machine when I was just five years old, and from then on I carried on with crafts until I became a teenager.”
As a mother of four, the 33-year-old took knitting back up when she was pregnant with her second child, but she doesn’t like throwing herself into the trendy patterns along with everyone else.
“I’m a bit allergic to popular things – I knit them way after everyone else has done it, because I just can’t bring myself to do it just because everyone else is. I’d rather go to Ravelry to see what else I can find, but that’s just the person I am – against everything trendy,” she laughs.
The creative benefits of the Waldorf school
Victoria explains she has always enjoyed being different, and is often told that it’s a common trait for the kids who went to Waldorf school.
Based on the philosophy of Austrian Rudolf Steiner, it is an alternative to mainstream education, and focuses largely on the role of imagination in learning.
“As a student teacher there, we learn that we should give children the opportunity to discover their own identity.
“When you provide children with the opportunity to be themselves without getting judged, it provides you with strength, and in turn you might perhaps go against the grain.”
But Victoria wasn’t always a fan of the Waldorf education.
She went to public school after primary, and decided she would never let her kids go to Waldorf school.
“I didn’t really like it when I was younger, but when we started looking around for my now 10-year-old, we weren’t that impressed with the other schools and asked for a meeting with Waldorf school,” she says, adding she has been amazed with what they were met with from day one.
“The fact that children are allowed to grow up and unfold their personalities – whether it’s theoretical or creative – to be themselves and to be good at it, I find incredible,” she explains.
Victoria believes that for children who aren’t strong academically, the Waldorf education is designed to provide them with a sense of achievement.
“There are no rules in the creative arts – there’s a sense of achievement in whatever you do. And to grow up without that sense of achievement must be terrible,” she says, and adds that she’s never seen someone so gutted at the start of the summer holidays as her eldest.
The philosophy behind this education is based on teachers seeing the individual child for who they are.
“Development shouldn’t limit the child’s being, but it should build them up where they are in their development. It’s unnatural for a 6-year-old to sit still for eight hours,” Victoria says, and points to Switzerland and the Netherlands who spend an equal amount of time on academic subjects as they do on creative subjects.
How does this mind-set affect your knitting, which could perhaps be seen as a bit rigid when following patterns?
“Well, I always knit from a pattern, but I always make my own spin on it,” she says. “I need to make everything a lot shorter, because I’m not particularly tall, so I need to adjust each garment so it fits me.
“I like knitting from the top-down, so even if the pattern says to knit from the bottom-up, I read the pattern in reverse. I don’t like sewing it together so I weave or knit the elements together afterwards – otherwise I never finish.”
Victoria’s best knitting tip is to knit with a double thread when introducing a new colour or skein – because then you don’t need to sew them in after. “It just means that when you’re done, you’re done,” she smiles.