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Are Waldorf Schools Anti-Reading?

One of the biggest misconceptions about Waldorf education is that children can’t read and that Waldorf schools are anti-books.

In this week’s Sunday with Sarah , I try to dispel some of the myths and describe how reading is approached in Waldorf education.

I’m sure this topic will raise lots of questions, so please a comment below, and I will do my best to answer them all!

And if you want to be sure to catch all future videos, be sure to visit my Sunday with Sarah YouTube channel and SUBSCRIBE!

Warmly,

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TRANSCRIPTION:

Today I’d like to dispel one of the biggest myths you may have heard about Waldorf education: that Waldorf kids can’t read. I’m here to tell you that is not true and to share with you some information about how reading is approached in Waldorf education.

Now, it’s true that Waldorf kindergartens and nurseries don’t formally teach reading, writing, and other academic subjects, but that doesn’t mean that the children aren’t gaining valuable development in those areas. In the early years, they’re developing so many pre-reading skills and language skills. Children in a Waldorf preschool environment—nursery or kindergarten—are hearing verses, they’re learning songs, they’re hearing stories and fairy tales. They’re hearing rich language and they’re hearing it repeated over and over. They might hear the same story every day for a week or two weeks or repeating a circle play with the same songs and verses until they really memorize them and learn them by heart.

They’re building mature vocabularies. If you meet a Waldorf kindergarten student, who might not be reading any words yet, you may notice that they have a very advanced vocabulary and spoken language skills.

One of the reasons Waldorf schools don’t push reading at a young age is that children’s brains are all wired differently and some children are predisposed to read early while others are not. Other children might be developing their physical skills first, and the decoding ability necessary to read will come later. Most children under the age of seven will be more advanced in some developmental areas than others.

Some children can get really frustrated when reading is introduced too early, before they’re ready. It can turn them off to reading for a lifetime, convincing them that reading is a chore and not inherently rewarding or fun. In Waldorf we choose to allow these skills to develop naturally at the individual child’s own pace. It’s similar to walking: kids learn how to do it on their own, at different ages, without us having to teach them how!

I always give the example of my two children. My older son, Harper, didn’t start to read fluently until the middle of 3rd grade. My younger son, William, taught himself in kindergarten. Nobody taught him, he just started reading one day. I, like a lot of parents, was really worried when their cousins were their age and reading way ahead of them, but both boys grew into very voracious readers with excellent literary skills. When it happens, it happens.

Around the age of seven, all those different developmental areas should be more or less caught up. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, believed around seven, or the year the child is turning seven, is the ideal time to start first grade and academic learning.

When they do get to first grade, letters are introduced in a very imaginative and living way through stories and art. For example, the letter “M” might be introduced as a drawing of a Mountain in the shape of the letter.

By third grade, most children in a Waldorf school should be reading competently. Some children do develop learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, so when they do get to grade school it’s important to keep an eye on them and to be in touch with a child’s teacher. If by third grade they’re still struggling, you may want to consult with a learning or reading specialist for analysis because the earlier a problem like dyslexia is diagnosed the more can be done to help the child.

I can assure you that Waldorf schools are not anti-reading and they’re not anti-books. Being concerned that your child is falling behind can be a natural reaction, but I’m here to tell you to relax and let it happen when it happens.

Wishing you a day full of play!

Sarah

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Archives, bella luna toys, Childhood, Education, Family, Parenting, Storytelling, Sunday With Sarah, Waldorf Books, Waldorf Education

Storytelling from the Heart

Sarah Baldwin, Waldorf educator and owner of Bella Luna Toys, explains the importance of storytelling for children and gives parents ideas on how to make up their own stories, and tell stories “by heart” in this “Sunday with Sarah” video.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hi, I’m Sarah Baldwin. I’m a Waldorf teacher, an author, the mother of two Waldorf graduates. I’m the owner of Bella Luna Toys, and I’m also a storyteller.

And guess what. So are you!

Today on “Sunday With Sarah” I’m going to talk to you about storytelling and why I think it’s so important to TELL children stories–from memory or from the heart, or stories that you make up–as opposed to just reading them from a book.

Now books are great. We sell a lot of picture books and chapter books at Bella Luna Toys. I don’t want to discourage you from ever reading to your child or encouraging your child to read, but when we can take the time to TELL a child a story–eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart–there is no greater gift. Children love it!

Now you may think “I’m not creative, I don’t have any ideas. How do I possibly make up a story?” Well, it’s not that hard, and the more you start exercising that storytelling muscle, the easier it becomes.

The easiest way to get started, I think, is to just start telling your child stories of when you were a little girl or you were a little boy. Children LOVE to hear stories about their parents when they were little, and remembering the adventures they had or the trouble they got into!

You can also tell a story reviewing the child’s day. Now, reviewing the day before sleep, in bed, is a wonderful, relaxing way for children to let go of the day and drift off to sleep.

And you can disguise the child. You can change his or her name, or it could be a story about “Squirrel Nutkin” or another little animal, but then use the events that child’s day to help them review the day and soon they’ll begin to recognize themselves in the story. “Oh, that’s what I did today!” and they’ll get really excited to hear a story about themselves.

For instance: “Squirrel Nutkin woke up early one morning and his mother had made him a bowl of oatmeal. And after they ate their oatmeal, they washed the dishes together and took a walk to the park…” and so on, reviewing what the child had to eat that day, who they saw, what activities they did.

So, if you need more ideas, one of my favorite books, and we offer it at Bella Luna Toys, is called Storytelling with Children, written by Nancy Mellon. Nancy is a master storyteller who has taught teachers and given workshops, and it’s full of great ideas.

And stories don’t have to just be told. They can also be told as a puppet play with little figures. Nancy gives lots of ideas in this wonderful book.

So I really encourage you to start, if you don’t already, making up stories. You can also memorize a story, like a fairy tale, and try telling it by heart. I like saying “telling it by heart” rather that “memorizing.” It just is warmer.

A fairy tale you know well, like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” or “Little Red Riding Hood.” You know what happens in the story! Tell it in your own words and when your child makes that eye contact with you and has that heart-to-heart connection, they will just warm right up, and you’ll enjoy it, too.

So, leave a comment! Let me know if storytelling something you do regularly. If not, and you decide to give it a try, let me know how it goes. Let me know if you have any questions. Happy storytelling! See you next time.

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Book referenced in video: Storytelling with Children by Nancy Mellon

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Archives, bella luna toys, Childhood, Education, Homeschooling, Parenting, Play, Reading, Rhythm, Sarah's Silks, Storytelling, Sunday With Sarah, Waldorf Education, Waldorf Homeschooling, Waldorf Toys

Sunday With Sarah LIVE

Sarah Baldwin, M.S.Ed., Waldorf teacher, author, and owner of Bella Luna Toys, answers viewers’ questions on:

  • Boys and Gun Play
  • Waldorf Education
  • Learning to Read
  • Resources for Puppet Plays
  • Parenting

and more in this one-hour Facebook Live event (recorded July 31, 2016).

Note: The Sarah’s Silks giveaway mentioned in the video has ended.

0:00    Welcome and Introduction

0:45     Be sure to Like Bella Luna Toys on Facebook. Then hover on the “Liked” button and choose “See First” to be sure not to miss my posts.

3:24     Boys and Gun Play

14:56   Is a Waldorf school appropriate for a child on the autism spectrum?

18:32   What is the difference between Waldorf education and Montessori education?

25:48   How do I respond to a four-year-old who is showing an interest in letters and reading?

31:19    How can I incorporate Waldorf elements, like “rhythm,” into my Montessori classroom?

35:05   How should I go about introducing Waldorf homeschooling to my 6-year-old and 4-year-old?

38:31   What ages does Waldorf education cover? What about homeschooling through middle school and high school?

43:34   What toys would you recommend for a 6-month old girl?

48:47   What components would you feel are essential in a 3-year-old’s home and school environment?

51:58    What resources would you recommend for puppet plays for 3- to 6-year-olds?

57:14    Thank you so much for joining me for this first live event! I’d welcome your feedback and hope you’ll join me again!

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