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Learning To Read – Don’t Push but DO Support

Posted Aug 31 2009 10:07pm

As usual a week spent with Best, my crunchiest friend, opens my eyes to new ways of raising my child. I usually return with lots of great ideas she has given me as a result of her son’s attendance at her local Waldorf school. This time the tables were turned.


So much of the curriculum at Waldorf schools is supportive of growth in the whole child – learning to knit, play the recorder and exposure to different languages. In many ways though, Waldorf schools are just like any other school – you just can’t leave your child’s education up to the school.


This shocking “ah ha” (JK) came up during our conversation about reading. Waldorf schools delay teaching reading until first grade. While most kindergarteners these days are focused on basic reading skills, those in a WaldorfSchool get to play one more year. First grade is the start of academic work.


This falls under the theory of “don’t push”, with which I heartily agree. But, “don’t push”, doesn’t mean “don’t support”. Best has found that despite the delay in teaching reading, children entering second grade at her Waldorf school tend to have the same range of reading ability that can be found in just about any middle class first grade classroom.


This was surprising to me until I realized that, like some parents of children in any classroom in the country, those parents were teaching their children to read at home.


I had done this with my son. Over a period of perhaps 2 years, since he was 4 and first asked me to learn to read, our nightly routine of my reading to him took on a new component. I give him a reading lesson then I read to him.


These lessons were over in 30 seconds flat in the beginning. But it became a nightly thing – I pull out a Bob book, he reads one word and

then quits – highly appropriate behavior for a 4 year old.


I think though the key, that I learned from other friends was… I shouldn’t quit. Despite the frustration, despite the . ..ummm…lack of cooperation we continued.

It wasn’t until he started kindergarten and was learning in a structured environment though that my efforts started to pay off. Slowly he began to read more of a page, then two pages, then five.


And this I think might be the key. Don’t give up. My friend, Best... had. She was waiting until her son COULD read before HAVING him read. Her thought that sitting him down to read was pushing. I think sitting down with a very easy book every night and “helping” him read it is supporting.


And so I did that with my friend’s son – using the Bob books, helping him sound out words and giving him the ones he didn’t know. (For anyone who has done this you know that it takes a lot of patience and you will feel like jumping off a bridge at least once a week…or alternately giving up.) Don’t.


It worked for my son and seems to be working for Best's son. I’m just passing on wise ideas I got from my smart mom friends – don’t leave schooling up to the schools. We all have to “homeschool”!



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