I get a lot of questions about placement for grade one and I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about the different place I see first graders in and how to meet each of them. Hoping this will help you when worrying about or planning for placement of your child.
Meet Zack. He is starting first grade. He is 6 years and 9 months old. He is busy, happy and he has picked up his colors, shapes and even some of the letters just from living a full and fun life with Mom. Zack loves is Aunt Sally. She is a school teacher and she is often trying to sneak in some school without Zach’s mom knowing.
Meet Andrew. Andrew is also starting first grade. Andrew turned 7 in July. Andrew loves to run and play and he is very excited to read but he doesn’t know any of his letter. Andrew is the first and only child in the house and Mom has been very connected to Waldorf since he was born. No media for Andrew, just a lot of outdoor fun and rhythm at home. He loves to bake with mom. Grandma and Grandpa are very much on board with Andrew’s path and haven’t tried to teach him anything.
Meet Mike. Mike turned 7 in August and he is already reading chapter books. He has worked out a lot of math and he is writing his own comic books. Mike loves school. Mike’s mom didn’t know about Waldorf until last year and Mike was already reading by then. Mike’s mom slowed down and spent all of last year focusing on her rhythm and her own skills. She is excited and confident that things will go well.
All three of these boys will do the exact same curriculum but Mike’s mom might present things a bit differently. All of them need those nurturing stories from grade 1. They need to learn how to write a summary and they need the movement, music, knitting, math and all the other pieces that go with grade 1. Grade one is NOT just about learning to read.
How will it look differently for Mike’s mom since he is already reading? Well she will still present a story on day 1, draw/paint/model from it but she will likely skip the letter introduction since Mike is already fluent in reading. On day two she’ll work on recalling the story and helping him with a proper summary. Since he is already writing a lot, she will help him refine a bit. She’ll still make sure they do form drawing and she’ll make sure that his handwriting is in good shape.
It is easy to get stuck thinking that once our children are reading then we can zoom forward but that is not what Waldorf is about. Waldorf is about the content. It is about bringing age appropriate materials at the right time.
A day for a first grader might look like this:
Gather/circle – you can switch from a formal circle to just a gathering if your 1st grader resists.
Math toss/bean bags – not new material, just things they are reviewing which in grade 1 will be counting by 1s, 2s, 5s, etc.
Handwork finger knitting becomes knitting before winter.
Reading practice – only if it is second semester and they are through all the letters.
Main Lesson – day 1 new story then draw/paint/model. day 2 recall & written summary. *note, some early first graders will not be writing until the second half of the year, this is okay, practice is the key.*
This process is easily 60 to 90 min or more.
First grade is full of so many things that have nothing to do with reading! Make sure you don’t sell yourself or your child sort by skipping or rushing this important first year of academics.