WWYD re: almost four year old wanting to learn to read - Mothering Forums
Waldorf > WWYD re: almost four year old wanting to learn to read
RollerCoasterMama's Avatar RollerCoasterMama 12:55 PM 12-08-2010

So, one of my original big hang-ups with Waldorf early education was the delayed reading.  Then, the more I read about it, the more I came to understand the practical aspects.  (Anthroposophy and I agree to disagree!)  I saw that the early years were spent subtly learning pre-reading skills, and that the natural progression worked out to about the same proficiency by 1st grade or so as most main stream kiddos. 

 

So I told myself that I wouldn't push reading beyond DS's natural inclinations.  I answer questions, but don't introduce the idea beyond what happens organically in our daily lives.  We read books together a lot.  He is in Montessori preschool, so he's exposed to pre-reading skills during the day and has been learning the alphabet and working on his fine-motor skills.  But they're really not pushing it either.  (I appreciate that!  I'd rather him learn at his own pace than be a bragging right for the preschool!) 

 

I've never had any doubt that he could read early if we pursued it.  He's bright and has a freaky good memory.  When motivated, he can learn anything!  I find that he's one of the most creative, bright, empathetic kids in his little school, so I don't regret my decisions at all!! 

 

But the time has come when he's begun asking to learn to read.  I don't think he's quite ready, but this is the age I learned too.  I was reading at 3rd or 4th grade level by kindergarten. 

 

WWYD?  Show him a word or two so he's got one or two words he can read on sight?  He knows him name on sight, but it's just the first letter.  I don't think he could pick it out of a list of words with the same first letter.  Then drop it until he brings it up again?  Redirect and work on the the rhyming games and story telling? 

 

When faced with an almost 4 yr old asking to read, how would you respond?  Looking for the die-hard Waldorf answers, as well as the "inspired" folks.  I really want to have some ideas!

 

Literacy is a big big thing for me.  I'm very interested in all aspects!!  :-D 



Smidge's Avatar Smidge 12:58 PM 12-08-2010

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cristeen's Avatar cristeen 01:04 PM 12-08-2010
Why does he want to learn? That would have a bearing to me... Is it because he thinks he should or because he really wants to?

I dont believe in stifling the desire to learn, regardless of the learning philosophy. Anybody will learn something faster and easier if they want to than if they're indifferent. I would let him set the pace, since he has time.
Plarka's Avatar Plarka 01:13 PM 12-08-2010

Well, I'm not a die hard Waldorf person, just the inspired type!  I personally think teaching kids things as early as they want to is the way to go.  That's what works for us.  I taught my daughter to read phonetically at age 2 and 3 months and now at 3 years old, every night after Daddy reads her bedtime books, she reads a few books to herself as well.  And during the day too.  She loves it.  I can't imagine if I hadn't taught her, she'd not be able to do this thing she loves so much!  Why not give that gift to a small child if they want it?


RollerCoasterMama's Avatar RollerCoasterMama 01:29 PM 12-08-2010

The why...I don't know.  I think he just likes to know things!  Or it could be just something he's picking up as an idea of a good thing to know.  He honestly hasn't been super emphatic about it.  It was just the first time he really asked so it's prompted me to start thinking about how to respond.

 

I agree that I'd love to share the fun that reading can bring.  Right now, it's our special time together and I think he'll be hesitant to give that up.  So even when he learns, I'll have to make sure to preserve our time together. 

 

I know kids that flat out forced their parents to unlock the code for them starting at 2 yrs old.  You couldn't have stopped them from learning if you wanted!  Their parents are not hot-housing...they're simply answering one question at a time until the floodgates opened and there was no stopping them!  (I have two specific little friends in mind.)  DS is not that child.  We're getting into the grey area for me.  Where I wouldn't feel like I was pushing him, but he could easilly wait another year or two without doing any harm. 

 

Well, we'll see how it plays out!  :) 


nanette0269's Avatar nanette0269 01:50 PM 12-08-2010

well, at least in our montessori, reading must take on a tactile experience first, so writing is actually taught first.  Does he know how to write his own name?  Maybe thats a better step.  Maybe start with simple sight words and have him write those....and before you know it, he'll be reading those sight words.  It will feel slower to you, which i think is what you want, but what he retains will be light years ahead of other kids.

 

That being said, have you told his teacher that he has expressed an interest?  What is their approach to teaching reading?  Our school has chosen to use the "words in color" approach, which is vastly different than the traditional phonics program, and DD has excelled in it and is writing sentences and loves to try to read entire books by herself.  DS is now writing his name, and recognizes all the short vowel sounds and can read same.

 


RollerCoasterMama's Avatar RollerCoasterMama 02:02 PM 12-08-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by nanette0269 View Post

well, at least in our montessori, reading must take on a tactile experience first, so writing is actually taught first.  Does he know how to write his own name?  Maybe thats a better step.  Maybe start with simple sight words and have him write those....and before you know it, he'll be reading those sight words.  It will feel slower to you, which i think is what you want, but what he retains will be light years ahead of other kids.

 

That being said, have you told his teacher that he has expressed an interest?  What is their approach to teaching reading?  Our school has chosen to use the "words in color" approach, which is vastly different than the traditional phonics program, and DD has excelled in it and is writing sentences and loves to try to read entire books by herself.  DS is now writing his name, and recognizes all the short vowel sounds and can read same.

 


His school has him trace letters of his name.  They seem to work on the alphabet a lot (in Spanish and English).  I don't think our Montessori is strictly traditional, but I could be wrong about that.  School skipped the fall (and last spring) conferences (urgh), so I haven't had any real feedback in a year other than comments now and then during pick-up/drop-off.
 

He's got a lot of the pre-reading phonics skills down just because we play silly games with sounds a LOT.  He knows most of the letters and I can see they've been practicing writing letters.  He knows a fair chunk on his own and can copy anything.  His fine-motor skills are jumping forward hugely the past few months. 

 

I've got an old primer that my folks taught me to read with 30 yrs ago.  I remember loving it.  By the end of that little beginning primer, I was ready to go and just asked questions and read read read.  It's an oldie but a goodie -- the cat sat on the mat with the rat.  :)

 

I don't even know HOW to teach someone to read, so I'm not going to jump right into it.   


honeybunmom's Avatar honeybunmom 02:48 PM 12-08-2010

My daughter just turned 5 and she's been writing her name for at least the past year.  Her given name and her nick name.  She believes she can read.  She can't. But she does have an interest. She has not outright asked me to teach her, though.  If she is trying to read something, I do give her the information.  Point out the word and tell her what it says and what sounds the letters make.  That satisfies her.  Lately, she's been stringing letters together and asking whether they make a word.  9 times out of 10, they do not.  We did not teach her how to write her letters formally.  She has an alphabet puzzle or sees letters on magazines, books, etc. and copies them.

 

All that to say, perhaps his interest can be satisfied by answering a specific question - if he presents like that, as opposed to considering that you may have to undertake a full blown learn to read program with him.

 

I'm reminded of my something my daughter's first Waldorf kindy teacher told me once . . . essentially, when a child asks why is the sun hot, where does rain come from, how does the car run type questions, all the child really wants/needs is for you to marvel and the wonder of it with them.  And they can be satisfied.  If you are certain your son is more than just wonderously curious about reading then you'll obviously need a different approach.


RollerCoasterMama's Avatar RollerCoasterMama 03:01 PM 12-08-2010

@Honeybun:  I'm definitely not going to jump into a formal program.  Unless he's begging me for reading lessons every day, that will just frustrate both of us and defeat my hopes to let him learn organically (plus whatever they're doing at school). 

 

He's only recently started drawing real letters.  VERY recently.  Before this he'd just make squiggles and tell me what they said. 

 

In thinking about it, I wonder if "I want to learn to read" came from a story we've been reading.  We get books through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.  Some are good and some not so good.  A recent one is a really cute story about little dragons taking care of cats.  The owner leaves a note with words and pictures and the dragons can't read so they (mis)interpret the note by the pictures and have silly results.  The book ends with their friend the knight giving them a book about learning to read.  So the comment might have come straight from thinking about that story.  I think what I'm going to do is see what he says next.  If he is interested, I might show him the word "cat" and let him read it with me whenever we're doing story time at night.  Then he'll be able to "read" along with me.  But I'm not going to push it yet. 

 

Thanks everyone for the conversation!  It's so nice to have somewhere to bounce ideas and get different viewpoints!  The pre-kid me would have been gunning for a very early reader...child-led or not.  I've learned a lot since then and I'm much more comfortable about going at his pace.  He's doing great at preschool.  He'll do fine at kindergarten in a couple of years.  And if he's reading and/or writing by then so be it.  If not, that's what school is for!

 

Oh, and I emailed the owner of the preschool asking if we could have our conference since we skipped last spring and this fall never happened.  I want to know more about what to expect of the curriculum in the next year.


teamsalem's Avatar teamsalem 07:44 PM 12-08-2010

My son is 4.5 and asks us how to spell words all the time.  We always answer his questions, and he can read and write some simple words.  He knows phonetic sounds of letters and he can sound things out on his own.  I've never formally sat and showed him how to spell or read, I think he would lose interest fast.  Anyhow, if he did ask, I would show him.  I do believe your son's genuine interest in learning to read is a window of opportunity.  If he is in Montessori, it prolly won't be long before he learns at school anyway.  I have "Montessori Read and Write" and I find it helpful.


lyrebird's Avatar lyrebird 10:20 PM 12-08-2010

Just a couple of points from a Steiner perspective.

Someone said the Montessori approach is to teach writing first and someone else said something about tracing letters.

The Steiner approach also teaches writing first (among lots of other pre-reading skills). Forgive me if I'm not very clear on this but I believe the reason is that the young child up to 7 is seen to learn primarily through the will - doing. And it is important to keep their activities mainly in this sphere, and avoid using cognitive skills until the child is ready (e.g. change of teeth, etc.) So learning to read through writing/doing is just this. They also do a lot of form drawing to help their writing skills, but I'm not able to comment much on that. Tracing I think would not be encouraged at a Steiner school. Much better to come from within, I think they would say. I kind of agree (think: colouring in...).

 

I remember my son's pre-Kindy teacher suggesting teaching to write his name if he's really keen. I don't remember much else, I should ask her again.

I think there has been a discussion on reading readiness somewhere here - some of the signs as seen by Steiner e.g. change of teeth and others.

Hope this helps.


Tashakittie's Avatar Tashakittie 10:50 PM 12-17-2010

Inspired here. My DS who is 4, almost 5, wanted to learn to read at 3. I never pushed it, but he was very aware of graphic symbols, signs and logos that appear in our everyday life. He wanted to read the books we read, and was beginning to understand the letter formations that make up words. He was keen on drawing letters into his daily drawings, as well as number too. I just let it flow, I let him lead, and we just did what we normally did in terms of reading and drawing. I let him decide where he would go with it. Then, around the age of 3.5, as our 2nd son was born, he stopped all interest in reading and writing entirely. Now, he is slowly rekindling an interest in reading and writing, esp. when his mainstream friends are showing an interest. For instance, yesterday he was playing with a friend who is 3. She is learning how to write by much encouragement from her parents. As she was drawing/ writing her letters on the window with window crayons, my DS decided he wanted to as well and did so. So, for him, it was I think, a means of keeping up with his friend. Otherwise, at home, he's not interested.

So, my point is, if he wants to, and takes initiative, gently encourage, allow him to decide.


dogretro's Avatar dogretro 12:46 AM 12-20-2010

I do not have time to read this entire article right this moment, but I did read the first part & it is interesting & makes total sense.  http://www.waldorfinthehome.org/2008/02/teaching_reading_writing_and_s.html  I know that a big part of Waldorf for the under-seven set is to pull them "out of their head" and focus them on the work of their body.  This is b/c Steiner believed that the work of the body was THE work of the youngest child & that advanced mental development came later.  Really, this does seem to be true & I even learned in college that movement (dancing, running, skipping, jumping, playing games, etc) has been proven to help w/ reading comprehension.  I would think that if your child is showing mature signs of body-in-space awareness (I know my dd1 does), then he may be ready for some teachings of reading.  DD1 loves letters all the time & can even identify their sounds & beginning of word sounds.  Good for her, but she still needs more body-awareness work :)  We go over letters as much as she would like & the ABCs is her favourite song, but we do not attempt to teach reading or make a big deal about it or anything.  It will come when it comes &, for many reasons, I want her to focus on her physical development and imagination more right now, so that is what *I* encourage.


lyrebird's Avatar lyrebird 03:05 AM 12-20-2010



good on you! Quote:

Originally Posted by dogretro View Post

 It will come when it comes &, for many reasons, I want her to focus on her physical development and imagination more right now, so that is what *I* encourage.

So hard in this day and age with such pressure on reading. One can easily find oneself succumbing to those thoughts - what if his reading develpment is negatively affected by holding off? It actually takes quite some courage these days to follow through with one's thoughts and instincts on this.

 


dogretro's Avatar dogretro 09:43 AM 12-20-2010

I also wonder how I would feel if I didn't have such a reading-inclined child :)  Hopefully, I would be able to trust myself as much then, too.  I used to work at a daycare that had a heavy early literacy emphasis, even w/ the infants and toddlers.  I was always vocal there about how I thought it was dumb and not where we should place so much work.  This delayed reading thing, I know this is what freaks a lot of parents out about Waldorf, but it is one area that speaks loud and clear to me.  I really think Steiner was on to something w/ spending the bulk of time focusing on physical and imaginative play & building a foundation there before moving to reading and pursuits of higher intellect.  Heavy work, hand work, house work, etc.


RollerCoasterMama's Avatar RollerCoasterMama 10:02 AM 12-20-2010

Since I started this thread (great discussion btw thanks!)...I'm popping back in with a follow-up.  I know he's getting lots of pre-reading skills at preschool because he's in full-time Montessori.  So Steiner or not, they are working on those skills.  And I'm ok with that.  I decided a couple years ago that I'd try to preserve home for more Waldorf-ish pursuits and let academics happen at school.  The structure is very good for him vs. what he was getting at a home daycare, and Montessori was readilly available...Waldorf was not.  The home daycare was great when he was younger, but I had reasons for switching when I did, and I don't regret it. 

 

[Just a quick aside...before preschool, I worked really hard to establish the play-based learning and creativity because I was afraid that put into a formal Montessori, he'd miss out.  This was based on his personality at the time.  By the time he started preschool, he really needed the rythym during the day because of a tendancy for over-stimulation.  Now, in his little class, he is markedly more imaginative, creative, empathetic than the majority of his classmates.  He wants to fit in with his peers, so he's learned about super-heros and the like, but he's defintitely different when there aren't other boys his age around.  And his teachers frequently comment on his imagination.  We don't have a perfect blend of the two, but the combination of Montessori/main-stream-ish during the day and Waldorf at home is a good one for us.]

 

As for the reading...I offered to show him one word when we were reading...he really wasn't that interested at all.  He's happy to repeat a word that shows up in our story as we're reading, but he doesn't care at all about knowing what it looks like.  And that's my answer right there!  Not going to push it!  He'll be 4 yrs old next week.  We've got plenty of time.  And he's super bright and learns anything he WANTS to learn.  His comments must have just been something in passing because of the plot of the story we'd been reading at the time.  In the meantime, we just play games with letters and sounds and table the issue.  I'm sure he'll keep getting bits at school and if he asks again, we'll re-evaluate at that time.

 

I'm glad I got a chance to think about this early though.  Thank you everyone for all of the opinions...very interesting and lots of food for thought!


dogretro's Avatar dogretro 11:03 AM 12-20-2010


Sounds like a good idea to me!

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by RollerCoasterMama View Post
I decided a couple years ago that I'd try to preserve home for more Waldorf-ish pursuits and let academics happen at school.  

deditus's Avatar deditus 08:53 PM 12-24-2010

My Waldorf-inspired take on it is that I feel fairly strongly that academics should be delayed. I think it takes away from other development that is more important. And I come at this from the view of being "gifted" myself and learning to read early. I think I would have been better off less "in my head" and more "in the world". I used to think, to each their own. It is ok that I am an introvert, shy, etc, but it really would have been valuable to have better social skills earlier in my life. It was semi-painful to learn how to make friends at 30 when I moved far away from friends and family and desperately needed connection. I am seeing in my 4.5yo dd that she is interested in writing/reading because she wants more of  a challenge. However, I see that I can challenge her in other ways that don't involve academics. She needs to work on being a kid, on learning about the world, not how to read and write. My view is obviously colored by my personal situation growing up and my current situation with my dd.


tea4tamara's Avatar tea4tamara 08:32 PM 12-28-2010

Oh wow, I posted a very similar question in the homeschooling forum (our Waldorf school only does Kindergarden, we plan to homeschool after that) but I wish I'd come here first! My MIL is trying to teach my 3 yo to read and it drives me crazy!! She's bought my daughter flash cards, phonics books, and this Christmas, a LeapFrog computerized toy that promises to teach literacy skills. She is a literacy specialist at our local school board and I feel like she has something to prove by getting my daughter to read before the age of four.

 

I have no real insight to add to this thread, other than its so nice to find people who understand holding off on the reading! :) Honestly, your answers have been so refreshing to read. 


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