Learning to Read the Waldorf Way

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Waldorf Homeschool and Pre-literacy

There are many concerns that parents who consider a Waldorf eduction have; whether it is Waldorf homeschool or at a Waldorf school. The largest concern is: will my child learn to read, and when will my child learn to read? However, prior to reading there are many skills that need to be built. Here Waldorf education does a supreme job. Waldorf early childhood educators and Waldorf Kindergarten teachers are constantly singing. They sing for circle time and they sing for transitions from one activity to the other. Singing helps the children to listen better to language and to be excited by language. On top of this Waldorf educators have a strong history of storytelling. Now it is well known how important storytelling is – to learning in general, but specifically to literacy.

Waldorf Homeschool and Writing – Learning to Read

Waldorf educators teach children to read by focusing on teaching children to write. The belief is that writing is a more fundamental skill and one that comes more easily developmentally. Children are able to write and copy words much more easily than they are able to read. Reading requires decoding while writing requires encoding.

When will my child learn to read in a Waldorf school or setting?

Usually children enter grade one the year that they turn seven. It is during this year that they learn the capital letters. In some schools they learn both the capital letters and the lowercase letters. In both cases this is done in a very unusual manner that strives to engage the whole child. For example the first course prior to writing is called form drawing. In this course children learn different patterns and shapes of which all letters and numbers are made.

However, capital letters are all introduced one by one in the main lesson. In the first lesson of the day children begin the day by being engaged in a kinaesthetic manner. They play games and move their bodies and interact socially. Once this is done they may recite a morning poem or songs, or later in the grade one year some flute. After that they start to learn their letters.

How are letters introduced in a Waldorf school ?

Initially the child is introduced to the first letter through some sort of rhyme or tongue twister in the morning warm up. After that the letter is introduced in the first days’ story. The children also experience the letter first through movement, they walk the letter or draw the letter with different parts of the body. They can also experience the letter through beeswax modeling or dance. They then record the letter in the main lesson book. This first takes the form of an image copied from the teacher. The teacher takes a scene from the story and draws it, incorporating the capital letter. Finally on the third day, they copy the capital letter into their main lesson book.

My personal experience with Waldorf reading strategies

I have never taught my Son to read. He attended a Waldorf kindergarten which imbued in him a rich tradition of story telling and imagination. This year [for grade 1] he is homeschooled and goes to a forest school. I am working from home and homeschooling him. In September prior to his seventh birthday I introduced a main lesson block on form drawing. After his seventh birthday I began to introduce the letters in the Waldorf tradition.

However, while I was working from home, he spent several hours, several times a week copying books that he brought from the library. This improved his penmanship considerably. He is motivated to sit down and do this – he is opening a store where he sells his creations. In the process – he has taught himself to read – mainly phonetically. When the phonetics do not work out, I explain to him why [and show him some of the other rules in english: i.e. th, ch, etc]. He remembers them easily and then applies them when reading. He reads everything, signs, cereal boxes, my emails 🙂

What are your thoughts on the Waldorf approach to reading? Have you taught your child to read in your homeschool as an unschooler? What was it like? Let me know in the comments below.

If you haven’t had a chance download my free homeschool planner. It is filled with ideas on how to create a waldorf| unschooling homeschool and provides you with a template to plan your own journey.

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