Many parents are concerned that somehow their child will be “behind” by waiting until First Grade to start learning the letters of the alphabet. The flip side to this is the parents that say, “Won’t my child be bored in Waldorf First Grade? My child taught himself to read at the age of 5 and can read almost anything. Should I just skip Waldorf First Grade and move onto Second Grade?”
No,no, no. I have one of those fluent readers, and I think Waldorf First Grade at home provides so many wonderful opportunities for your little one.
First of all, look carefully at your child. How is their health? What are they like in their bodies? Socially? How are their fine motor skills? Work in the areas in which your child is lacking or challenged. If your child would be happy to sit and read a book all day, I do think it is our job as parents to introduce them to other things and yes, even to limit the times when they read and how many books are out at a time. You would do this with TV, and books can be the same way to stimulate oneself and avoid having to think of something to do out of one’s imagination when one is bored. The boredom is necessary, let your child go through it!
One special consideration is the switch in First Grade from hearing a tale several weeks or a month in a row to a three day rhythm. If you talk to a six-year-old, a fluently reading six-year-olds who is reading chapter books (LONG ones, not just Frog and Toad or something like that), they cannot remember well what they read other than they enjoyed it. That is what my little one used to say to me – she wanted “long” chapter books and enjoyed reading it, but then would say, “I think I need to read it again. I can’t remember it very well.”
In First Grade, presumably your child is still only six and a half or seven years old. He or she still needs the soul-nourishing qualities the Waldorf First Grade curriculum provides through the fairy tales. This is another reason why you should not skip ahead to second grade content – the curriculum is carefully set up to match up to your child’s age, no matter what their academic level.
All that being said, let’s move on to what you can do within your homeschool to satisfy your first grader. Homeschooling provides a distinct advantage for children and gives them lots of time to play, to dream and to create. Many children who are fluent readers will start making up written projects during their free time. This may range from little comic strips to making up stories in a special journal, to writing down little poems or even their own language or menus for playing restaurant. This is ideal because the first readers in Waldorf First Grade are created by what the student has written.
Many good readers of this early age display handwriting skills that are below their reading level and also many enjoy “silent reading” but not reading aloud. So these are two important areas to work on. Have your child read aloud to the dog or to their siblings. Work on handwriting as you work through the alphabet – after you draw the picture that the letter of the alphabet is coming from. Work on vocabulary by writing down a list that your child dictates of all the words that begin with “B” for example, or work on writing a short sentence about the fairy tale if they are interested. At the end of First Grade, many parents do work toward a small writing block with the beginning of punctuation and word families.
But please, above all, do not push. Many fluent readers I know are very happy to just go through the letters in First Grade and work on writing simple sentences. They do continue to read a variety of things on their own time, to listen to a parent read orally to them, but they are not in the least distressed at listening to the fairy tales and drawing the letters. I attribute this to the fact that the Waldorf curriculum is so tailored to the age of the child and what feeds the child’s soul. The child knows this, even if we are the parents put our adult baggage on it and think they should be doing “more”. Please see my post on this blog entitled, “Letting Go.” This is an important lesson for the parent to learn in First Grade.
I would love to hear from those of you who have homeschooled a fluent reader through Waldorf First Grade and your experience.
Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.