Waldorf educators are not alone in their call for developmentally appropriate learning in early elementary education. The month of May adds another study on the pile of research supporting the benefits to delaying overzealous academics in early childhood.
This report from New Zealand, covered by The Telegraph, says, “Pupils kept out of formal schooling until the age of seven perform just as well those subjected to normal lessons at five… In some assessments of reading skills, those with a later start actually overtook their peers by the age of 10, figures show.”
This study release comes close on the heels of recommendations by Dr Richard House, a senior lecturer at Roehampton University’s Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, to delay formal schooling for bright kids.
This article summarizes his recommendations, saying, “…gifted pupils from relatively affluent backgrounds suffered the most from being pushed ‘too far, too fast.’ He quoted a major US study – carried out over eight decades – that showed children’s ‘run-away intellect’ actually benefited from being slowed down in the early years, allowing them to develop naturally.”
The Harvard Education Letter harps on these issues as well. The results from this study, answer these questions: “Have kids gotten smarter? Can they learn things sooner? What effect has modern culture had on child development? The surprising answers—no, no, and none.”
This prompted Jerlean E. Daniel, executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, to say: “Above all, young children need time—time to manipulate objects and ideas, time to make the information their own,” says Daniel. The Gesell study, she says, “is a resource to people who want to find greater balance in kindergarten.”
Why find greater balance? Because, as the Harvard Education Letter also reports, there are serious concerns about the current state of the early education environment, including:
– A narrow range of literacy and math skills
– Eliminated recess or physical education
– Scripted curricula
This piece says these have caused, “Several prominent early childhood organizations [to issue] reports on the importance of incorporating developmentally appropriate practice into elementary school classrooms, based on what research has confirmed about early learning.”
They’ll be in good hands with Kathy Miller, SGWS parent and our Early Childhood Extended Care Lead teacher. Kathy has worked with children for over 20 years, has a BA in Early Childhood Education, and has graduated from Lifeways Waldorf training. Learn even more about Kathy Miller here.
Children will experience a typical Waldorf rhythm each day, including purposeful work in and out of doors, snack, circle, free play, lunch & rest. A morning snack is provided. Lunch and an afternoon snack must be brought from home.
Summer Care is available every week this summer starting on Monday June 25th and ending on August 24th. Children start their day at 9:00 and go home at 3:00. Three and five day options are available. Three days will be W, Th, Fr. Cost is $200/wk or $140/3 day option.
Space is limited and registration is required. Sign up online HERE or visit the office for a registration form.
“According to the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 37% of fourth graders and 26% of eighth graders cannot read at the basic level; and on the 2002 NAEP 26% of twelfth graders cannot read at the basic level. That is, when reading grade appropriate text these students cannot extract the general meaning or make obvious connections between the text and their own experiences or make simple inferences from the text. In other words, they cannot understand what they have read.”
When learning to read, comprehension is key, not the ability to decode letters and form words. In many U.S. schools, children are taught to first memorize the alphabet, then sounds, and then piece together phonics into words and finally sentences. Vocabulary and spelling lists are then memorized and readers are often timed for speed. Teachers then guide students toward sentence and paragraph comprehension.
Teach Comprehension First
As outlined at WhyWaldorfWorks.org, Waldorf schools take an opposite approach, believing that for comprehensive reading to occur, a child should first obtain the skill of forming an inner picture of content, inside their mind, as they decode. So, in consideration of child development, Waldorf educators work to develop these comprehension capabilities at a time when imagination thrives in the child – before age seven, which is also before eye tracking and other developmental milestones for reading are strong.
Fairy tales, songs, poems and rhyming become the basis for the Waldorf language arts curriculum through which a child comes to learn expansive vocabulary and eventually printed word. The idea being that younger children are first given the gift of a strong foundation in comprehension, vocabulary and the sounds and meanings of language. Then, and only then, are students introduced to the external expression of those well-formed concepts and taught to write and spell the letters and words that are part of these richly imagined texts.
Introduce Decoding Through Writing
Wade B. Holland in his book, The Waldorf School: 32 Questions and Answers, talks about those first steps toward reading, which begin in first grade by hearing story and then writing what the teacher prints on the board.
“Reading in a Waldorf school follows acquisition of a firm grounding in writing — just as humankind had to develop systems of notation in order to have something to read. By exploring throughout the first grade year how our alphabet came about, and letting the children discover each letter in the same way that its form evolved to the ancients out of a pictograph, writing comes out of the children’s art, and their capability to read evolves as a natural, and indeed comparatively effortless, stage of their mastery of linguistic communications.”
Does This Approach Work?
Barbara Sokolov, author and Waldorf parent, gives a highly echoed testimonial to the results in her popular article There’s More To Reading than Meets the Eye.
“The first book that my daughter, Anna, read when she was “finally taught to read” was not a dull primer, but beautiful prose by E. B. White,Charlotte’s Web. True, she learned to decode later than many of her public school counterparts, but she learned to read fluently, with understanding and enjoyment, much sooner than most. Take a look at the sophisticated novels and poetry that upper grade Waldorf students are reading. Take in an eighth grade production of Shakespeare, and you will see the wisdom of the Waldorf approach to reading. Working with a true knowledge of the human being, a true understanding of the stages of child development, the Waldorf teacher is able to educate children in ways that enable them to blossom forth with joy. As Rudolf Steiner says, “It is indeed so that a true knowledge of man loosens and releases the inner life of soul and brings a smile to the face.”
What is your favorite quote about teaching or education?
“My hunch is that if we allow ourselves to give who we really are to the children in our care, we will in some way inspire cartwheels in their hearts.” — Fred Rogers
How did you first hear about Waldorf education?
When Gaby was 3 years old and Jordan Judy was 3 months, we attended the play group class at Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Wisconsin. I’ve become hooked on Waldorf Education since that time.
How long have you been teaching? How long have you been teaching at SGWS?
I’ve been involved with little people over 20 years. I worked as a primary caregiver at a family daycare center in Australia. During my 7 years there, I worked toward an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. When I moved to the U.S., I attended college and received a BA in Early Childhood Education. During this time I worked at the Children’s Center on campus and after my 6th year there, became the Lead Teacher of the infant toddler program. After my girls were born, I found Waldorf Education. In 2008, I graduated from the “Lifeways” training in Wisconsin and became a caregiver and later Director of the Early Childhood Lifeways Center in Hartland, Wisconsin. We moved to Ohio about 1-1/2 years ago and I’ve been blessed to become part of our Early Childhood faculty. The little people continue to teach me and it is through them I continue to learn through my work and play.
What is the most interesting thing about you that most people don’t know?
I am an Aussie and I have a twin brother. I enjoy learning about Reiki and practice Hands of Healing. I enjoy learning about the properties of crystals and essential oils.
What has changed about Spring Garden since you started working here?
The communication lines have been opened! It is wonderful to receive updates about SGWS from John [Bailey]. Ross and I also find the classroom teacher updates informative. It’s wonderful to receive a glimpse of the main lesson content and also what the kindergarten class is doing in their daily Rhythm.
What is your dream for the future of Spring Garden?
To have a Kinder House!! An Early Childhood building that has a Lifeways Center: birth through nursery preschool age. To educate parents about the importance of the early years (birth through 7 years). Parents have become lost in our society, gobbled up and pressured into producing little adults out of our young children. The simplicity of childhood is disappearing.
What is your favorite subject to teach?
Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers. These little people have been my teachers for many, many years.
What is your favorite food or favorite meal?
Anything. I love food! Sweets are my favorite.
Who is the person that has had a profound effect on your life and choice of path? Why?
I knew I wanted to work with children from a very young age. Susan, a very close friend of mine who has since passed, also told me to love and enjoy my work, follow my passions in life and remember “not to take myself too seriously” along the way. Laugh and have fun!
So, why do we at Waldorf not only read but teach fairy tales to our early grade schoolers? This fabulous article on ImaginationSoup.net perfectly encapsulates the importance of reading fairy tales to children.
Here are summarized article highlights after the click.
1. Fairy Tales Show Kids How to Handle Problems
Characters in stories help us because we connect them to our own lives, dreams, anxieties, and consider what we would do in their shoes. As G.K. Chesterton once said, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
2. Fairy Tales Build Emotional Resiliency
Children need to discover in a safe environment that bad things happen to everyone.
3. Fairy Tales Give Us a Common Language
Neil Gaiman writes, “We encounter fairy tales as kids, in retellings or panto. We breathe them. We know how they go.”
4. Fairy Tales Cross Cultural Boundaries
Many cultures share common fairy tales like Cinderella, with their own cultural flavor. We read the versions and know we all share something important, the need to make sense of life with story, and the hope for good to triumph over evil.
5. Fairy Tales Teach Story
Such as setting, characters, and plot (rising action, climax, and resolution) as well as the difference between fiction and non-fiction.
6. Fairy Tales Develop a Child’s Imagination
“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.” ― Albert Einstein
7. Fairy Tales Give Parents Opportunities to Teach Critical Thinking Skills
Even though some fairy tales show bad examples (Disney’s The Little Mermaid [the original version shows a weak woman who dies for the man]), kids can benefit from exposure and guided conversation to encourage critical thinking.
8. Fairy Tales Teach Lessons
Many fairy tales to teach morals and lessons. Will Goldilocks break into a house again? Probably not.
Do you read your children fairy tales?
Yet another beautiful video about Waldorf Education. This time from the Marin Waldorf School in San Rafael, CA.