Waldorf First Grade With A Fluent Reader

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.

3 thoughts on “Waldorf First Grade With A Fluent Reader

  1. I really appreciate this post. I have a 4 year old (she won’t be 5 until October), who mysteriously taught herself to read. She’s not an ‘early bird’, so to speak, on anything else. In fact, she tends to have a slower timetable than other children her age. I understand your recommendation that one not skip First Grade and go straight to Second, but do you think the same would apply to Kindergarten? Should I make the next fall Kindergarten, or start with First Grade? I feel like the last year has been Kindergarten, and while I have no desire to fast track her education, I also want to take advantage of the opportunity home education will give me to adapt to her levels that seem to vary quite a bit from skill to skill.

    • Waldorf Kindergarten goes from ages 3 to about 6 …..First Grade starts at ages 6 and a half or 7 years of age. So yes, she would still be in Kindergarten. Waldorf Kindergarten is not about academics, in fact, we look toward balancing all other areas of life in these Early Years….So it is not so much that reading is discouraged, it just really isn’t addressed at this point because there are so many other considerations and things to work on. Waldorf Kindergarten is about gross body movements, singing, circle time, learning lots of oral recitation, listening to lots of wonderful stories, outside play and nature walks, learning things such as finger knitting, wet on wet watercolor painting, lots of sensory and bodily experiences…
      So, in short, Waldorf Kindergarten is just where your daughter would be, whether she can read or not. There are lots of other skills to work on besides reading. If you search the posts under “Waldorf Kindergarten” you will find many examples regarding how to structure your upcoming year. Also, I can recommend Donna Simmons of Christopherus Homeschool’s “Kindergarten with Your Three to Six Year Old” book and her “Joyful Movement” book as well… And if you have not read Rahima Baldwin Dancy’s “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher” that may be another great place to start. Or just look through Bob and Nancy’s bookshop at http://www.waldorfbooks.com and get an idea of the titles under the Early Years section.
      For your daughter, I would look sincerely at many other areas…Gross motor wise, what can she do? Skip, jump, hop? Run well? Swim? Ride a bike with no training wheels? For fine motor, can she do arts and crafts, can she finger knit (which sometimes doesn’t come in until later) or use a knitting nancy kind of tool, how about wet felting? How does she participate in festival celebrations? What is her temperament like? Does she need balancing in areas of her temperament? How does she do sitting quietly for stories, and listening? How does she show wonder, reverence, gratitude, respect? How does she do in nature? Does she spend lots and lots and lots of time outside? Do you garden, cook, bake, clean the house together? Can she sing simple songs? Does she know simple fingerplays for each season? Does she rest every day after lunch and get up and go to bed early? How does she do with other kids? With animals? Taking care of things? Is she helpful? Can she play alone, what is her play like? Does she play roles in her play, such as the storekeeper, the cook, the mother, the nurse, etc?
      These are the sorts of things you would be looking at…It is really hard over email/Internet to get a feel for things, I would highly suggest you contact either Melisa Nielsen of A Little Garden Flower or Donna Simmons of Christopherus Homeschool and do a phone consultation and get some guidance as to how to plan for fall for your specific situations….
      It is a great question you asked, it is just that in Waldorf we look at balancing and protecting the senses in the Early Years, so you may need to find out a bit more about Waldorf education to decide if it is right for you and your family. The academics really don’t enter in a direct way until First Grade, and the stories and activities of each grade are based more on the age of the child than their academic skill level. Even then, the entire picture of gross and fine motor skills, temperament, attention span, outdoor play, social skills, cultivation of warmth and all those things are looked at carefully. However, Waldorf education is extremely academically rigorous, but it is approached through an entirely different way in the Early Years and even the first few grades.
      I understand having an early reader, usually little girls :), but really many times there are so many other things to balance out with them and we must be very careful not to pressure them or they just burn out by the time they are eight or nine and rebel against anything to do with writing, academic work…I have seen this time and time again.
      Keep us posted as to what you learn and find out!
      Many, many blessings to you and your precious little one,

  2. Pingback: It’s That Time Of Year!! Questions About Waldorf Homeschooling! « The Parenting Passageway

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