Readiness for Waldorf Homeschool First Grade

Planning away yet? It is that time of year!   For those of you with six- year- olds who are considering starting Waldorf first grade in your  fall homeschool, this is an important decision.  The standard “rule” in Waldorf education is that your child should have been alive for seven springs/seven Easters  before starting first grade.  I highly recommend starting first grade when your child is as close to seven as possible, so that your child is seven for most of first grade.

There are several reasons I recommend this, and you can agree or disagree.:)  Homeschooling is much different than Waldorf school, as there is no group or older children in the class to “carry” the younger six-year-old at home.   The second  issue with starting first grade at an early age  six, then second grade at an early age seven and third grade at an early age eight  means that you are basically off a year in the Waldorf Curriculum.  The Third Grade’s Old Testament stories are really for a nine-year old, that whole third grade year is to speak to the nine year old change.  The Norse myths of Fourth Grade are pretty dark and are really  best for a child past the nine year change or pretty darn  close to it.  I think the children who are past the nine year change handle the Norse myths better than the ones who have not…just my limited experience.

The last reason for starting first grade at six and a half at the earliest and as close to seven as possible, is that, I hate to see the end of this cycle “cheated” out for lack of a better word.  The first seven years of really being in  the body will lead to greater academic success later on…If parents need help for more ideas for the six year old year, I am sure we can all contribute ideas!

Here are some articles regarding First Grade readiness:

And here:

And here:

Here is a whole book on the subject:

Here is a list and I cannot figure out where I originally found it, so I can’t link you to it; I hope it is okay to reprint it here……

First Grade Readiness Guidelines


Bodily Proportions and Characteristics

  • Head to body ratio of 1:6
  • Loss of baby fat and the “pot belly”
  • First stretching growth of legs
  • Waist and neck incisions in the trunk
  • Visible joints (knuckles) and kneecaps instead of dimples
  • Arch in foot
  • Individualized facial features instead of baby features (a child who has not been able to undergo childhood diseases may be hindered in this development)
  • S curve in spine

Second Dentition

Usually a first grade child should have at least one loose tooth.  (If both parents, however, were very slow in reaching dentition, this factor should not be weighed as heavily for this particular child)

Physical Abilities

  • Walk a beam, log (or line) forward
  • Catch and throw a ball
  • Hop on either foot
  • Bunny hop (both feet together)
  • Habitually walk in cross pattern (i.e. swing opposite arm when stepping out with one foot)
  • Climb stairs with alternating feet on each stair
  • Tie knots and sometimes bows; button and zip own clothing
  • Use fingers dexterously (sew, finger knit, play finger games, etc.)
  • Have established dominance (eye/hand dominance most important) though this may not be firmly established until age 9
  • Not be unduly restless or lethargic
  • Shake hands with thumb separated from fingers rather than offering the whole hand

Social/Emotional Development

School ready child develops feelings for others’ needs – social awareness, doing things for others, goal oriented play – planning, thinking things out; does not need objects in play (can now visualize play rather than needing to collect many items as younger children did; this shows separation of concept – the inner world – from precept – the outer world); begins long term friendships; play of horses and dogs (shows readiness for authority of first grade, obeying a master”)

Other social/emotional abilities:

  • Ability to join in offered activities
  • Ability to look after own eating, drinking, washing and toileting needs
  • Ability to share a teacher’s or parent’s attention and wait for a turn
  • Ability to follow instructions and carry through a task or activity
  • Not unduly dependent on a security item (thumb sucking, blanket, etc.)
  • Not regularly the aggressor or victim; accepted by most other children

Drawing and Painting

Conscious goal in drawing pictures

In painting becomes goal conscious, attempts forms or special effects such as dots; paintings become stiffer, less beautiful for a time but may free up again a child consciously discovers how to mix and blend colors and develops designs or forms appropriate to the medium; symmetrical designs similar to crayon drawings may appear

Content of Picture (Primarily Drawings)

Two-fold symmetry, indicating that two-fold function of the brain has come about; symmetrical houses, often with a tree or flower on each side; symmetrical designs in which the paper is divided into halves; symmetrical color arrangements

Change of teeth pictures, containing horizontal repetitions such as birds flying, rows of mountains, etc. reminiscent of rows of teeth

Strip of sky and earth, showing child’s awareness of above and below, rather than the child’s feeling of wholeness

Use of the diagonal (related to perspective).  Frequently seen in triangle form of roof or in drawing of stairs

Square form in base of house

Windows with crosses

Chimney with smoke (birth of the etheric)

People and houses resting on grass at bottom of the page

Soul Life

Signs of First Grade readiness in the WILL

Conscious goals appear in play, drawing, handwork; consciousness of self as creator results in awareness of the distinction between inner (desire) and outer (result).  At “first puberty” this leads to characteristic feelings of loneliness and inability which may be expressed as “I’m bored.”  This is an important stage, as it leads to the basis for natural respect which is to be found in the grade school years – the realization by the child that there are some things he can’t yet do as well as an adult.

Use of limbs is vigorous, active; the child likes to move furniture and heavy stumps and use all available play cloths

The child likes to run errands (again, goal consciousness)

Signs of First Grade Readiness in the FEELING LIFE

  • Stormy period of first puberty proceeding to more calm; can handle feelings better, needs less adult intervention
  • Wrapping of objects as gifts (child “wraps himself around the object”)
  • Loves humor, limericks, rhymes, play on words, silly words
  • May say verse faster than the rest of the group, or hold note longer at end of song (is beginning to grow aware in the realm of rhythm)
  • Likes to whisper, have secrets (distinction between inner and outer)
  • May like to tell of dreams (souls has made a step inwardly), awareness of inner and outer life.  (Be careful this isn’t imitation of adults or just telling a story; don’t question children about dreams.)

Signs of First Grade Readiness in the THINKING/COGNITIVE REALM

  • Development of causal thinking (use of “if”, “because”, and “therefore”, for example).  “If I tie these strings together, they will reach the play stand.” Also shown in the wish to tie things together with yarn (signs of tying thoughts together shows causal thinking)
  • Correct use of verb tense (“I stood”, not “I standed”)
  • Enjoys cunning, planning and scheming
  • Enjoys humor and making up or repeating simple riddles (typical for this age mentality is “Why was the cook mean?”  “Because he beat the eggs and whipped the cream.”)  It is best that the teacher not introduce real riddles at this stage; they are appropriate for older children 
  • Memory becomes conscious; children can, at will or upon request, repeat songs and stories with accuracy
  • Speaks fluently and clearly and can express ideas easily and fully
  • Can concentrate on a chosen task for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Image formation is no longer dependent on objects in play, but can visualize (e.g. may build a house and then, instead of collecting dishes, food, etc., may simply talk through the play).  Conversations and discussions among the children become important to them.
  • Appearance of “real: questions (not the typical younger child’s constant asking of “why” or other questions for the sake of asking)

                                                                                                                                Detroit Waldorf School, 1999                                                                                                                               

My personal  rule is that a child should be seven for most of first grade, eight for most of second, etc and if one must start in January, then aren’t we glad to be homeschooling? LOL.

This is such a really important question, so please think about this carefully.  If you need help, I suggest you arrange a phone consultation with one of the national Waldorf homeschool  consultants  – I recommend Christopherus Homeschool Resources or A Little Garden Flower.

23 thoughts on “Readiness for Waldorf Homeschool First Grade

  1. My daughter is in a private kindergarten right now, but we are going to be homeschooling starting in the fall. I have been looking into waldorf style homeschooling for the past few months, and I think we have decided to go this route. What would you recommend us starting with? She will be 7 next year, so according to this post she will not be ready for Waldorf first grade until next spring. So for this summer and fall should I just focus on the play aspect? And how should I transition her from a tradional kindergarten to a waldorf homeschool? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Cheyenne,
      Have you seen the back posts regarding the six year old kindergarten year and the six/seven year old change? Those could be helpful..I would also suggest you do a phone consultation with either A Little Garden Flower or Christopherus Homeschool Resources, Inc regarding your specific situation. I think this is actually a GREAT year to start homeschooling because you would have a year to deschool and do six year old things and really, really evaluate where your daughter is..waldorf homeschooling is such a healing and wonderful path. The one book I would recommend is “Your’re Not the Boss of Me! Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation”
      Hope that helps, if you need more feel free to leave a comment here and I will email you off list..
      Blessings on this exciting adventure!

  2. I have wondered about this very thing often. Both of my boys are January babies! We tend to start our year in later September so my son has been 8 for most of second grade. My little guy is 5 so we have a while 🙂

  3. wow. this is great info! we just made the difficult choice to keep our son in his waldorf kindergarten another year and have him start 1st grade in fall 2011. he’ll be 6 this coming July. even his teacher was a bit unsure as he shows many of the signs of readiness. but we feel good about him waiting.

    now we try to decide if we want to homeschool or not.

    do you have any experience with children going from school to homeschooling and not the other way around?

  4. i’m not sure what kind of list you mean, but whatever you have that might be of help–i’ll take it!

    i read teh first bit on that post and it soundslike us. we love waldorf, but affording it is really tough. and we have a daughter who we want to start in january. . .

    thanks for the info!

    much appreciated!

    kate AT the clean plate club DOT NET

    • Kate, Have a look at what I just suggested to Cheyenne, it may resonate with you.
      Off list just means I would email you privately should you need a bit more, but do investigate a bit first and see what resonates with you regarding this decision… I would recommend the A Little Garden Flower website and radio shows and the Christopherus Website. There is a lot there to help you..
      Homeschooling is different than the Waldorf classroom, and it is a wonderful experience!

  5. Thank you so much for such an informative post!!! I am currently home with my youngest three boys, and have been wondering what grade of Christopherus to start them with!!! My 9 year old[just turned 9 in April] has been to school from sep.-Dec and That was a BIG mistake!!!! My 6 year old boy will be 7 the end of June,He has Aspergers and is Totally not ready to read…He is still very much in his own “land” and my 5 year old..turned 5 in April is our firecracker!!! He is ready for everything and anything!!! I have the Christopherus first grade curriculum from a few years ago, and I guess according to your post my 6 year old should use this. What should I do with the 9 year old? SHould I start third grade Christopherus now? My boys have done Math-u-see for a few months and LOVE it! What do you reccomend? Thank you!

  6. This is great. I have a late August child. She’ll be 5 this August and I was wondering if she should start first grade in 2011. She so much wants to follow her three older siblings! It’s hard to hold younger children back when you have older children who are being taught at home. I will print out your post to have it as a future reference.

    Eva (

  7. Thank-you, Carrie. I’ve been living with this tough choice for a few months now and reading, reading, reading. I know that at a Waldorf school, my child would be in K again, but it was so much harder than I ever thought it would be to ‘de-program’ myself and decide to go with that. My child shows almost all of the readiness signs, and if I am honest, I will tell you that one of my reasons for choosing homeschooling is that I perhaps didn’t want my kids held back by the group-ness of school….I wanted my kids to fly ahead of the pack.

    Waldorf (and you, thanks again!) have shown me that what my kids really need from me is the freedom to fly at their own pace, to really mix a metaphor. So, my oldest, who will be 6 in August and falls within the district’s age cut-off by just a few days, will remain in Kindergarten next year. Yes, his play is imaginative, yes he’s ‘bored’, yes, he’s lost teeth and has a waist and no more Budda-belly. Yes, he can touch his ear over his head, yes he loves jokes about throwing a clock out of the window to see time fly, yes he is a social butterfly. Would he do well as a first-grader? Yes.

    But he’s also only 6 in August. He’s a sweet, other-worldly boy with his head in the clouds and a disarming ability to know what everyone about him is feeling. He’s open as a flower, and I wouldn’t do anything to push him prematurely out of his little cocoon. I’m so glad I found Waldorf!

    You know, though, it’s still a really hard choice. I still haven’t planned our curriculum, waiting, I think, to be firmly convinced that I’m not making a mistake. It’s such a hard shift to make and SOOO different from what everyone around me is doing in this intensely academic area. It’s nice to come here and feel less like I’m off my rocker.

    I have a practical question for homeschoolers, too: In my state and district, homeschool reporting begins when a child is 6 (First Grade here). It’s been suggested by some wise parents in my homeschooling circle that it may be a good idea to actually register him as a first-grader to the district for a number of reasons, not least because they apparently frown on homeschoolers ‘red-shirting’ their kids. Do you have any words of wisdom regarding reporting and the perceived ‘holding back’ of Waldorf kids?

    • Gwen, If he is only six in August, you are making the right choiction, ..I highly recommend “You’re Not the Boss of Me! Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation” and the section on the six-year-old Kindergarten year in Donna Simmons’ Kindy book…As far as your question, I would ask on Marsha Johnson or Melisa Nielsen’s list and see what comes back in…We report at six here as well, but I always consider a six year old a Kindergartner, esp because testing starts at the end of third here, no need to rush up to that testing year, LOL.
      PS There are many things you can do to really make the six year old year MORE!

  8. After reading my post I think I need to ask a different question. Should I start new grades in the spring when my boys have their birthdays? Do any other homeschoolers do this? Also, should I be doing 2nd grade work with my soon to be 7 year old..his is an early summer birthday. He has heard all the first grade stories for two years, since older siblings needed it and then he requested them. He is not ready to read, but learns a lot through listening and any hands-on life learning. He is very sensory oriented. My just turned 9 year old is definatley into building, making and doing RIGHT NOW! DO I let this ride and just teach that in the Autumn…or do I start the curriculum now and “sieze the moment”?

    • Lolo, I think this is where a phone consultation could really help you decide…I know of homeschoolers who start a new school year in January, but I don’t know of any who start now per se. I think I would try to schedule a phone consultation with either Donna Simmons or Melisa Nielsen and tell them in detail what tales you have brought in so far, and use that expertise to make your homeschooling adventure really tailored to your family.. If your little guy is 7 in June, it just seems that being 7 throughout first grade would be could bring in a lot of nature tales if fairy tales have been done a lot, or fairy tales from other cultures that you haven’t done yet…As far as your second grader, second graders still can garden, make butter, knit, make forts now – seems there are ways to work with that now with where he is but not to go to OT stories until fall. I am sure you will hear varying opinions on this, I will be curious to hear what Melisa or Donna thinks!

  9. For those of you considering changing from school to homeschool. Here is our experience in case it can be of help to you. My daughter went to a public Kindergarten, and has a january birthday. So k was 5 and 6years. Then we started 1st grade at home with a consultant to help my planning, (6 and 7 years old). The consultant was very helpful to me, for me. She helped me feel anchored. Maybe if I had more research under my belt I wouldn’t have needed her. Since we had already started school and I had to check in with my county school board, I followed a standard waldorf 1st grade plan.
    Like Carrie has said, when we actually turned seven and started loosing teeth— wow, suddenly she was getting so much more emotionally and spiritually from what we were doing. So I have decided our school year will follow her birthday. We will continue first grade until next January ( with time off over the summer and pick up again in the fall, through november). Then officially start our second grade in January.
    If I was nervous about my decision last year, I’m not in the least anymore. I am totally and completely confident in myself as a teacher and that I’m doing the right thing for my child. It can be very hard to pull out of school, because it looks like your saying something about all those friends that stay in. Luckily, we had a lot of support from very caring friends and family.

  10. This is all so confusing to me!!! On one hand, I hear the seven easters reference which applied to my Feb son who is in second grade, but just turned 8 this year. On Mrs. Marsha’s site, she said 6 by June, which would apply to my soon to be six year old. He has shown most of the readiness signs including losing 5 teeth already, but that would make him six for all of first grade. So much conflicting advice confuses me!

  11. Hello !
    This is my first year waldorf homeschooing ( first grade ) and I am unsure of how to
    register my child? Could you help with that please? We are currently in Tennessee.
    Thank you so much,

    • Hi Kerry,
      Every state has different requirements and such for homeschooling, and different forms. Typically one registers through the school district or county, there should be an office that deals with homeschooling forms and attendance reports and the like. I bet if you search for Tennessee homeschooling forms or something to that effect, a contact for the correct office should spring up!
      Best of luck, so glad you are here.
      Many blessings,

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  15. I realise this was written a long time ago but your input is appreciated. My ds is 9.5 (10 next May 2019). We are fairly new to waldorf and I wonder about which grade he should start. He is well into the 9th year changes and im sensing grade 3 is good as he is highly sensitive and was diagnosed with low muscle tone, hypermobility and sensory processing disorders. He still joins his younger sisters for circle time, we do lots of movement in songs, games and active math which we only started this year. We get out for bush walks/nature walks and river play as much as possible. We are in Australia and school year starts January though I feel he is always ready for a new grade/development cycling around his birthday.
    Could I maybe do third grade until I see a major change after his birthday next year?

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