Progression of Language Arts Through The Waldorf Curriculum

This is a big subject as entire books have been devoted to this matter.  I recommend that Waldorf homeschooling parents first of all read Steiner’s lectures regarding language arts. The lectures compiled in “Genius of Language”; lectures also found in “Discussions With Teachers” and “Practical Advice to Teachers”.

In the Waldorf homeschooling world, we also books of secondary pedagogy such as “Living Language” from Christopherus Homeschooling Resources, Inc which I think is very helpful for grades one through five if you are putting together your own blocks, the smattering of lessons for grades 2 through 8 such as Dorothy Harrer’s  book “An English Manual” (free as an ebook over at Rudolf Steiner Library On-Line) which includes mainly grammar (but not so much writing or progression to writing).  Also, brand new this year are little grammar workbooks from a Waldorf perspective for grades four and up here (but I think only grade four is out right now).  Unlike “Waldorf math” where a scope and sequence is laid out by such authors as Jarman or York, I have not found a true scope and sequence for language arts (writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation) other than “Living Language” (– especially for the upper grades, since, again, “Living Language” covers grades one through five).

All of this is important because, after all, in Waldorf homeschooling, we have those summaries (I say this partly with my tongue in cheek – read on).  You know, the summaries that run through all the grades in trying to summarize information in the upper grades and sentences in the lower grades.  We do use what we write to learn to read and to practice our letter and word –finding abilities in the lower grades, and in how we work with grammar and punctuation and spelling.  We find this work  in our rhythm of practice, in recall, a deepening of the subject using art as the vehicle and yes, writing as an academic piece.  (Not that this rhythm of “material-drawing-summary” should be the way to do every thing!  Trying to decide what to put in the main lesson book is part of being the teacher, and not everything has to go in the main lesson booktrying to put everything in there is a sure recipe for burn-out on both your part and the student’s part!  Is the goal of Waldorf Education writing summaries? Is art the secondary step to get to the summary?   NO, I say emphatically!)

I find that writing in and of itself is an activity that involves much thinking, and therefore I believe we really see the maturation of writing when we see the maturation of the human being.  Being able to think about a subject and write  about it clearly in order to communicate to other people involves the twelve senses – I think especially in the choosing of words, punctuation, grammar, how we phrase things, how we analyze things and can synthesize this on paper – this involves being able to put ourselves in the place of another “I” on so many levels, to be able to communicate with the “other” in our audience and in our clarity.  To me, good writing is part of the hallmark and culmination of  these senses.

In the homeschooling environment I think this takes place later than in the school setting from what I have seen and heard in working with other homeschooling families.  Therefore,  I am always a bit baffled by this push for more mature “writing” in composing summaries in the grades four and below – to me, this is more the realm of copying sentences and then copying summaries  of a paragraph or two, dictation in perhaps end of fourth and yes in  fifth grade, yes, perhaps working together to go over ideas orally first in these grades so the child can get a sense of how to start compiling things….and then composing summaries gradually and gently in middle school with excellent writing towards the end of eighth grade and in high school.  That is my  own progression in my own  homeschooling, but certainly every child is different, and you as a homeschooling teacher will need to figure out what is right for your family.

I hope to write a series talking about language arts in each grade with a few ideas.  As I have pointed out, there are many books on these subjects and it is worth your time to think about the progression normally found in Waldorf Education and how your progression will be at home. My vote and inclination is that the things we find in Waldorf Education often, again, happens later in the home environment, especially for the very active boys and girls. 

Just my two cents!




12 thoughts on “Progression of Language Arts Through The Waldorf Curriculum

  1. As I read a couple of new (to me) books (Torin Finser’s School As A Journey and Marjorie Spock’s Teaching As A Lively Art), I am coming up big time against the reality of how different Waldorf homeschooling is from Waldorf in a school setting. Let me be clear: I really love both of these titles. They are full of insight and inspiration. Yet, as I read, I sometimes have to take a breath and remind myself that my goal is not to recreate in our home what they describe in their books. I couldn’t even if I wanted to!! And then sometimes I have to remind myself not to experience that discrepancy as a bad thing. Not being able to do all the wonderful, amazing things these teachers did in their classroom communities does not render what I do in my home less, well, less anything, really. Just very different. I think you are absolutely correct, Carrie, that we can’t simply take a grade-by-grade summary of goals or work done in a Waldorf school and overlay it on our homeschool. I understand now (much more than when I started this journey a year ago) why reading Steiner is really the best starting point for us. Understanding the why of his indications will guide us better than trying to apply a model that was created for a different setting altogether. Thank you for specifying those lectures in your post.

    Right now, as we near the end of our first year of Waldorf homeschooling, and as I begin to plan for next year, I’m much more sensitive to this difference. That definitely shows in my planning. Instead of replicating the exact progression of work done in a Waldorf school, I’m trying to focus on the SPIRIT of Waldorf to what we do in our home – the deep connection, the thoughtful intention, the rhythm, the attitude, what speaks to the children developmentally, etc.

    Of all the things I am learning from these amazing teacher-writers, this is what I most want to internalize – becoming the careful, gentle observer who can know what will be just right for that child in that moment of that day – and be able to bring it, whatever it is, regardless of any progression chart. (And to realize that no one gets it right all the time! LOL). Of course, all that being said, I still personally really like to see the whole picture in order to know where we’re heading in a general sense, and those charts are great for that! 🙂

    Thank you for your post! Peace to you.

    • Carly,
      I love what you wrote…it is so true. This is why I really think “Waldorf Homeschooling” should be a separate daughter movement born of Steiner’s pedagogy – it really is different than the school setting!
      Much love,

  2. Hi Carrie,
    A wonderful post, thank you. Are you familiar with “Living Literacy” by master teacher Michael Rose, published by Hawthorne Press? I highly recommend it – it is a wonderful resource. It doesn’t provide a grade by grade progression, but is an excellent discussion of what literacy is, why we seek to achieve it and by what means in Waldorf education. There are also helpful appendices for individuals seeking to learn more about first grade readiness, etc.
    Warmly, Michelle

    • Michelle – What, a Waldorf resource I haven’t heard of?! LOL. And here I thought I collected them all!
      I will search for that one, thank you so much!
      Blessings and peace,

  3. Thanks again, Carrie, for your thoughts on this. There can be such a discrepancy not just between what’s done at school or home but also in comparing home ed. curriculums. Looking at Live Ed, say, or Path of Discovery, and then comparing it to much of what Christopherus suggests is do-able at a certain age for example. The expectations of the child, not just in language arts but in all areas, are quite different.
    I agree with what you say about home educated children – I think they develop to their own individual time-tables, regardless of what experts might say or what other children are doing.
    Perhaps being allowed to linger in a stage of development allows them to really complete it in a way that being hurried on to the next thing does not.
    It is hard sometimes to trust that process and not worry about being behind, or that something is wrong when we’re still writing a few sentences instead of a few pages (for example). Progress can seem so slow sometimes! Our experience has been that some things come very easily with very little effort whilst others are more of a struggle, so fitting into that profile of “what your xth grader should be able to do” can be unrealistic, even when the profile is written by a Waldorf education author.

  4. Pingback: Differing Expectations Between Waldorf Curriculums | The Parenting Passageway

  5. Great post, Carrie. No need to put everything into a main lesson book; we don’t want to get stuck in the material-drawing-summary rut! Steiner created this method for the classroom because that is what he was asked to do. And we need to do some serious translation. I so agree that children develop on their own timetable, and often our homeschooled kiddos are on the slower end. It’s so interesting that Steiner lectured about the temperaments to the group of first Waldorf teachers as a way to individualize that instruction in a classroom setting. He even said that if the teachers were working one-on-one, this wouldn’t be so critical, but alas they weren’t! This is why I love reading Steiner with homeschooling eyes and write reflections on that over on my blog. These conversations about seeing what our own children need are so, so important. Thank you.

    • Yes! This is such an excellent post and chain of comments. I appreciate, so much, what Cathy and Jean commented, as well. I have noticed one of my children is consistently “behind” even where a Waldorf curriculum would have her be within her grade. I.e., she comes into step with her “grade” towards to the end of the grade and the summer that follows. In fact, it has left me thinking, repeatedly, that I am getting a bit “done” with mentally attaching a grade to each of my children when planning lessons or answering questions about where they are in schooling. I feel the same way about parenting. It is very easy to get sucked into what others think is normal for a certain age and forget to look at the child in front of you and what that child needs. Thank you for this discussion.

    • Nicola,
      Yes and I think the birthday can play an even more crucial picture at home than in a school setting with a group to hold things. For example, many mothers of children whose birthdays are in December through March or April for Northern Hemisphere have told me they often didn’t feel as if their children really could deal with the “on grade” topics until they were fully 7 in first grade, 8 in second, etc. Our middle child has a December birthday and it has been harder to straddle that line than with her sister with a summer birthday who was fully 7 when we started first, etc. I am so glad you found this discussion helpful!

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