I was so thrilled this morning to see Carrie’s blog have Donna Simmons of Christopherus as the guest blogger. SO THRILLED! Really! While we are competitors, I know that many of our readers are also her readers and vice versa, it is great to see support for Steiner’s indications for first grade. It is summer and moms are planning so of course there has been a lot of discussion on Waldorf homeschooling lists about when to start first grade. It makes me sad to see so many mothers confused on what to do and who to trust. One mom emailed me just yesterday and said she was just beside herself because the advice she received on one list was just so counter to what she felt Waldorf was all about and in the face of all the other pressures she was under from her husband, in laws and neighbors, she was sure she’d get the right answer from someone she trusted. I am now and will always stick to what I believe Steiner recommends for readiness. Seven or nearly 7 is best. I speak from my own experience with children that were 6.9, 6.5 and 6.9 when entering gr1 (under pressure with my middle son) the two that were 6.9 (January birthdays) have been much easier all around that the 6.5yrs one. Temperaments aside, each year I have to do a bit of shuffling so that he is met developmentally as he should be.
I also speak from my experience with hundreds of families over the years. Children that are born in those spring months take a lot of observation. It is very rare that a child is truly ready for first grade in the fall with a March-June birthday and most of the mothers that I have worked with over the years that opt to start early (I can’t stop them! lol) end up contacting me mid year and asking for help because they are getting so much resistance or because the child isn’t retaining the information. A ripe child doesn’t offer resistance and generally is very eager to learn and practice.
A child that is reading at age 5 or 6 on their own is still not ready for first grade. Remember that Steiner’s work meets the child’s age. In Waldorf education we have to throw all that school training we think we know from mainstream learning OUT THE WINDOW. It doesn’t apply and if you try to stick to it then you will feel like you are beating your head against the wall. Waldorf takes faith. It takes prayer and meditation – it takes inner work on your part. It takes looking at your child objectively – not as the sweet, smart, little person you know they are, but really are they ready? Are you getting pressure? If you are then call it first grade but do another year of kindy and start first grade later in the year – you drive the boat!
My dear friend Lauri sent it on to me the other day – this topic of when to start first grade is one we discuss often – anyway I was so comforted to find, beginning on page 94 a discussion on first grade readiness. This book also delves into why some Waldorf schools are bringing summer birthdays into the first grade when they are 6.3 or even younger. Money. It is so sad that it comes down to this in the schools – but we are at HOME, this doesn’t have to be our motivation. Many states don’t have compulsory kindergarten – is yours one of them? If you don’t have to report for that kindy year then don’t, just enjoy yourself!
I am HAPPY to help you if you are still wondering where to begin Just drop us a line.