It is hard to believe we are almost half-way done with Waldorf First Grade at Home. I have a few friends with six year olds in their second year of Waldorf Kindergarten who asked for pointers for preparing for First Grade.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
1. Now is the time to be working on the skills you will need to be showing your child in First Grade – this means being able to draw with block crayons, working with beeswax for modeling, being able to play the pennywhistle or recorder, woodworking, gardening and knitting at least a knit stitch. Now is a great time to practice one night a week after the kids go to sleep whatever new skill you are working on.
2. Start reading through the Grimms Fairy Tales and mark the ones that resonate with you and ones you think will resonate with your child. Look at fairy tales from other lands – for example, Celtic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian – and really see what lives in those tales and what lives in you.
3. Breathe deeply into that three-day rhythm and see if you can start bringing it to yourself. Memorize a fairy tale for your six year old kindergarten year by reading it every night for three nights and tell it to your child. Your Kindergarten aged child should not be working in a three day rhythm, but it might not be bad to practice after your child goes to bed with the story. The first day you tell it, the second day bring the artistic piece in and the third day the academic piece. Think about how you would do this!
4. Think about what festivals you want to bring to your child and start planning. You can start small with the new festivals and add a little on every year, but at least think about which festivals resonate for your family. If there are festivals that are traditionally Waldorf and make you uncomfortable, explore that!
5. Start making up lots of stories. You will need this in First Grade. Some mothers write a “container story” (more below) to carry the alphabet stories along, or weave a large story with lots of different forms in it for form drawing. You do not have to use gnome stories for math. Think what would appeal to your child and also carry the moral qualities that they need to hear in a subtle way. Waldorf Education is all about the morality of the child as he or she grows into this wonderful human being.
I used a container story for my alphabet fairy tales. It is the story of a princess who is not allowed to wear the crown until she turns seven and undergoes a training period of meeting 26 loyal fairy subjects. In this process, she discovers that the fairies are becoming besieged by trolls within the kingdom and what her father and the fairy queen know is that the princess alone has the power to defeat them (and of course, this is through love), but the princess must discover this for herself. The Grimms tales are all there as each fairy subject has a tale that highlights a letter of the alphabet, the three day rhythm is there with the artistic and academic piece off of the fairy tales, and of course the container story with the moral is there.
6. Look at your own inner work – what do you need more of? Less of? Where are you in your life? Are you lost and depressed and feeling chaotic or are you happy? If you are not happy, then change it!
7. Look at your physical space of your house and work hard this year to find a place to put things, a cleaning rhythm you can stick to. This is important. Make sure clean-up is an important part of your child’s play. Make sure your child has opportunities to see you work and do work themselves.
8. Look once again at the overall tone in your home. Is it peaceful? Fun? Is there joy and laughter? Or is it aggressive and stressful?
These are just some questions to ponder as you prepare! Please do keep in mind that First Grade is just the bridge from Kindergarten,and to put lots of activity in your lessons, in your festival preparations, and to know when to go outside and play and when to buckle down a bit. Also remember, First Grade is a time to just START explaining things, whet their appetite through imagery and art, but leave the dry, textbook explanations behind as this does not speak to a child’s mind or spark their learning process. You are creating First Grade through experiences, not through a bunch of words! Stop explaining so much and DO!
Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.