Prepare for kindy and first grade
Today let’s take a look ahead to kindergarten and homeschooling in the grades.
Many families like to do two years of Waldorf-inspired kindergarten starting around age 5. Five- and six-year-old children enjoy having some more challenge and more “big kid” projects. At this age your child might be ready for handwork such as fingerknitting and hand sewing, nature crafts, festival preparation, watercolor painting, and modeling with beeswax. This is a wonderful age for circle time (lots of singing and movement) and story time with fairy tales. It also works well to have a weekly rhythm in kindergarten with a different activity for each day of the week, such as baking, drawing, crafts, painting, modeling, cleaning, gardening, or whatever artistic or practical activities you want to focus on. A more formal structure like this often feels good for both mama and child; “We’re in kindergarten now!”
The most important thing to remember, though, is that kindergarten is still early childhood. Everything we’ve covered in this series on preschool is still highly relevant! The kindergarten child needs to play and move for most of the day. He needs to be protected from sensory overload and schedule overload. He needs strong relationships and rhythms in order to thrive.
From a Waldorf perspective he also needs this time to grow into his body before he starts academic lessons. Two years of old-fashioned play-based kindergarten with no academics at all is actually a fantastic preparation for future lessons and such a gift to your child!
First grade begins around age 7. Many of the early years foundations are still very important in the grades as well! First graders are still small children and they need to play and get lots of movement. Rhythm and warmth are still crucial at this age but first graders have mostly completed the task of coming into their bodies and are leaving behind the active “willing” years of early childhood. They have entered the “feeling” years when art and story become the primary vehicles for learning. They are ready for reading, writing, arithmetic, knitting, and recorder.
The first grade child is different than he was in preschool and he needs the teacher to teach differently too. In Waldorf education the teacher is an artist who engages the children by capturing their hearts and imagination. Storytelling, painting, rhythmic movement, speech and poetry, crafts, modeling, and drawing are central teaching methods in all subjects.
Wait! Don’t run away! It you’re thinking “I’m not an artist so I can’t do this,” you are not alone. Also, I disagree with you! If you feel drawn to this method then I feel sure that you can do it. In my experience all you need to do is just start doing something creative every day. Take tiny baby steps and start with something you’re excited to learn. If you need help to get started please read this book - it literally changed my life!
How to prepare for kindy and first grade:
1. Don’t rush the early years! A full seven years of the early childhood “curriculum” is such a gift to your child. Find community for yourself that “gets it” and will support you to let your child play and be in the early years, even if that community is only available to you online.
2. Do something creative every day. Build your skills and confidence one little bit at a time.
3. Remember that the most solid foundations for teaching in the grades are your rhythm and your relationship with your child! Working on these in preschool is energy well spent.