Resources, Insights, and Tools for Waldorf Educators
Nancy Blanning, Editor
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Some history first:
In my more than 30 years involvement with Waldorf Education, I have not encountered a topic that generated more interest, anxiety, misunderstanding and bewilderment than the question of what really constitutes first grade readiness in a child.
In the early days, there was a tendency for educators to draw a line in the sand in relation to a child’s age. Which line it was varied from school to school (“must be age 7,” “must turn 7 in the first semester,” “must turn 7 by the end of summer” and so forth). There was also “must have begun the change of teeth.”
Of course, all of this missed a couple of very important points. The first was that Rudolf Steiner never once said that children are ready to learn to read “at age 7.” What he said was that “sometime during the 7th year” they become ready – this means anytime after the 6th birthday, not after the 7th birthday. Then, there is the modern fact that (in my opinion) our lives have created conditions wherein child development has become a bit chaotic: children can begin to lose their teeth at, say, 4 years old, but don’t seem to mature mentally so far as grammar school readiness is concerned until 7 or 8 years of age. While there are beautiful ways to pull this development together, it did leave the adults in a predicament of not knowing where to look for criteria that would offer the child the best possibilities of sound education.
Later on, there were a variety of coordination and drawing criteria that were sometimes applied, but understood by only a few and contested by others. Given that each school (and sometimes each teacher) had different requirements and assessments, it’s small wonder that parents often looked at the process as arbitrary and poorly substantiated, regardless of everyone’s best intentions.
Now, my review of this GREAT book:
Happily, all of this is changing through more research and broader understandings of child development needs. I have recently seen in the mainstream press many articles on the needs of young children that would have been at home only in a Waldorf school 30 years ago. And, with increased knowledge and awareness, it has become possible for a true flowering of understanding to arise within the Waldorf movement.
It is a flowering of understanding that Nancy Blanning has brought together in First Grade Readiness. This book is packed with the most comprehensive, detailed, sound and wholesome guidance about what first grade readiness really is and what teachers and parents should look for when considering whether or not a given child is ready to move into the world of abstract learning.
First Grade Readiness is both healing and inspiring. My feeling is that both educators and parents will be heard to sigh with warm relief upon reading it, it offers so much loving common sense and light-filled wisdom.
Read it, use it, share it.
- Part One
- Reflections on First Grade Readiness – Nancy Blanning
- First Grade Readiness – Joan Almon
- Some Guidelines for First Grade Readiness – Nancy Foster
- School Readiness: A School Doctor’s Perspective – Bettina Lohn, MSc
- What are the signs that my child is ready for school? – Michaela Glöckler, MD and Wolfgang Goebel, MD
- The Transition to Elementary School Learning: When is the right time?
- School Entry and the Consolidation of Developmental Processes – Audrey E McAllen
- The Development of Memory and the Transformation of Play – Louise deForest
- Creating Partnerships with Parents in First Grade Readiness Decisions – Ruth Ker
- Carrying the Transition to First Grade – Janet Klaar
- A Transition Group at the Edinburgh Steiner School – Melissa Borden
- Building the Bridge to the First Grade: How a Class Teacher Can Lead Children Gently into the Grade School – Kim Holscher
- The Lowering of School Age and the Changes in Childhood: An Interim Report – Claudia McKeen, MD; Rainer Patzlaff; Martyn Rawson
- Part Two
- Developing Our Observation Skills for Understanding First Grade Readiness – Ruth Ker
- The Red Queen: A First Grade Assessment Story – Valerie Poplawski, Celia Riahi, and Randi Stein First Grade Assessment Form
- The Red Queen Materials List
- Reverence List for The Red Queen
- A Therapeutic Educator’s Approach: Keeping It Imaginative and Playfully Objective – Nancy Blanning First Grade Readiness Observation Form
- Equipment List
- Activities to Support Healthy Sensory Development
- Observation Forms for the Documentation of Development and Learning Observation Form for Early Childhood Educators