There seems to be a perception amongst mainstream parents that children within the first, second and third grades should be “buckling down and getting to work”, which essentially means loads of worksheets and sitting with pen and paper in hand.
I have a different view, one that coincides with the way the grades are laid out in Waldorf Education, and one I would like you to seriously consider.
You will never get the ages of 7,8 and 9 back. Seven, eight, and nine-year olds are still small, believe it or not. The way they learn best most likely is not pen and paper and workbooks. This only involves the head, and nothing about the rest of the body. Most of us learn best when we involve as many senses as possible, so why would we not offer the option of learning through movement, art, music and yes, paper and writing as well to the smallest members of our schooling community?
Seven, eight and nine are still ages of wonder! These are not the ages for stuffing facts into their heads. This is the age for igniting interest, for providing those valuable hands-on experiences that stimulate wonder.
Some of the physiologic parameters are not even there yet for true “sit down learning.” A seven-year –old can still be fairly distractible, an eight-year-old finally has the development of the eyes completed, the nine-year-old is starting to be on the threshold from feeling as if he is one with the Universe and everything in it. To treat these seven, eight and nine year olds any differently is not in accordance with their developmental level. It is rushing, it is putting the horse before the cart, and it will set you up for problems as you actually reach the stages for greater “head-oriented” learning.
Here are some simple suggestions:
1. Find and plan the ACTIVE part of each and every lesson! A Main Lesson does not mean just sitting and writing!
2. Have respect for the attention span and fatigue factor of the seven, eight and nine-year old!
3. Realize that not every block calls for a Main Lesson Book creation. Third Grade is full of hands-on projects, building and farming and gardening. These bodily experiences are just as important, if not more important, than sitting and writing.
4. Ignite the WONDER! You are not there to stuff facts, you are there to distill the essence of the subject down into your Main Lesson, you are there to give SPACE to the child to let them form their own conclusion.
5. Leave your adult baggage BEHIND! They don’t need it (and truth be told, do you really need it as well?) Saints are wonderful other-worldly beings that the eight-year-old can still relate to as they do battle with the more heavy side of being human, the Old Testament Stories are stories of a people and how they dealt (or didn’t) with such concepts as authority and law and place in society.
6. Utilize REST and SLEEP as the true learning aids that they are to education. Waldorf Education utilizes a three-day rhythm (some Waldorf homeschool curriculums utilize a two-day rhythm simply because Waldorf at home is not Waldorf at school). This is vital!
7. Understand the big picture for the 7 and 8 –year old, and also for the nine-year change. I guarantee it is not textbooks and worksheets and workbooks that will speak to their heart, their soul development and their developmental stage. I recently had the pleasure of speaking to a young lady who just finished public school first grade and she told me excitedly that her teacher had made snow in their classroom! (Yes, making snow is a BIG deal in the Southeastern United States because we don’t really get any that lasts for any length of time). That was the thing she mainly remembered from first grade, that is the one thing she really carried with her from the whole school year!
Work for creating wonder, for respect for the fact that 7 and 8 and even 9 year olds are still small. Plan ahead with your 7 and 8 year olds for what they will need for the nine-year change.