Gifted child and Waldorf/Unschooling/non-academic - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 36 Old 08-28-2009, 11:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I had no idea how to word that title, so I hope I get the "right" (whomever you may be) people reading this!

So, long before even having DS, DH and I decided (well, just kind of knew) we'd be following a waldorf/unschooling non-academic approach to early childhood. No "teaching" past everyday life kind of teaching, no flash cards, TV/videos, no computer programs, no preschool (unless a part-time play-based for me to have a break!!), etc for the early years (up to 6 or 7) and then homeschooling waldorf style with a leaning toward unschooling (which is what I consider what we do now and what we'll do at 4-6). We really feel kids should play and learn "on the job" from cooking with mom, home improvement with dad, etc. We even plan (or planned) to hold off on teaching him to read until 7 per Waldorf pedagogy (which we agree with, DH was raised waldorf through and through).

then....

we had DS--he's 28 months, talking in 15+ word complete/complex/compound sentences. Using words like "actually" and "eventually" in very appropriate ways (not repeating things we say). He's got all the major prepositions, his tense and agreement are nearly always perfect. He's counting with meaning and starting to add and subtract (not like 1+2=3, but at dinner DH wasn't quite home yet and I asked DS how many people were at the table, he said "2", I said, when Daddy gets here, how many people will be at the table, he said "3".) His memory is astounding, yesterday he mentioned the pussy-willow twigs we had at our condo last winter that were in the kitchen in a pail. We moved from our condo to our house in March, the twigs were around for a week in Feb, I hardly remembered I used a metal bucket/pail instead of the vase he ALWAYS sees flowers in. He even remembered them being in the kitchen instead of on the coffee table/dinning table where ALL our flowers (every week) go.

Anyway, sorry to go on, but my point is that he is really looking like he's gifted. I still feel very strongly about a slow/non academic/ learning from real life approach to early education. I am not asking for opinions on that approach. I'm hoping to hear how that approach can (or perhaps doesn't) work with gifted kids.

I don't want to offend or criticize, but I have to be honest and say I am somewhat suspicious (but openly so, totally open to people correcting me with their experience) of the whole "but he was so bored, needed more" idea. In my mind, more can be "lets talk about MORE bugs, not just spiders and ants" instead of "let's move on to higher and more academic disciplines". I hope that made sense!!

Looking for insight, experience, BTDT from other moms with my pedagogical beliefs who are raising gifted kids.

Thanks!!!
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#2 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 12:00 AM
 
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Welcome to the board.

My DD is only 3 1/2, so I'm not an expert or anything. But we have been largely unschoolers, with a few small exceptions (e.g., we are in a very relaxed homeschooling coop).

I think unschooling works beautifully, at least for our gifted child. We have a lot of different types of activities she can engage in, and she decides what to do and when. She does use the computer, independently, which she taught herself (and which, honestly, I could not have prevented, short of locking the computer away out of sight). She paints, bounces balls, sings, dances, cooks, plays in the dirt, etc., etc. We do not push academics. At all.

As far as Waldorf is concerned, I don't think it would have worked for us. For one thing, DD loves books, and has since birth. DH & I are both readers. Our house is full of books. I can't imagine trying to raise DD without books. She needs to be included in our lives, and reading is a big part of our lives. So we read to her--and she taught herself to read--and that is a part of her life.

I do understand your concerns. But when you have a gifted child--and especially when the child is being unschooled--you are not the one deciding what the child learns. So I guess I don't get where the "he was bored and needed more" idea comes from. That sounds very parent-directed. If you are unschooling and he is bored and needs more, he will ask you, and you will give him what he asks for. I don't think you can assume that he will be satisfied with a variety of basic subjects. He may want to focus in an area, and part of unschooling is allowing him to decide that for himself.

I guess I don't know too much about Waldorf, but from what I hear there is a strong sentiment that letting kids be kids means keeping them from learning too early. Whether that is natural for ND kids, I really can't say. For my kid, learning is what she does. I don't do that to her--it is a part of who she is, and trying to stop it from happening would be like trying to stop her from growing. It's not possible, and it wouldn't be pretty. I am also pretty resistant to the idea that all kids are ready for the same things at the same ages. Gifted kids are ready for some things early. JMHO, of course.
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#3 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 01:20 AM
 
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I absolutely agree with your sentiment against early academics. We didn't have TV, computer, toys with batteries and we didn't teach academics or send our child to an academic preschool. I see huge problems associated with our cultural drive to push academics younger and younger. That said, apparently all it takes for some kids to learn to read are some books in the house. There are plenty of gifted kids who are early self taught readers and contrary to Waldorf beliefs nothing bad happens to them. That has nothing to do with being "bored" but instead with children simply developing in the natural way that makes sense for them.

As you've discovered with your son's talking, parents aren't the ones who get to make all the decisions and certainly not if you are really serious about being an unschooler. Real child led learning isn't a parent deciding what you want is more talk about bugs. I'm not sure we could have even paid our child to care about bugs. As far as Waldorf, I think the stuff is super pretty and I get the appeal. I also think though it can be quite rigid and inconsistent with an interest unschooling.

I don't mean it to sound harsh, but at a certain point you need to parent the child you got not the one who you ordered in your fantasy life from the natural parenting catalog. Some kids are more academically driven that others. Some don't want fairly stories in the place of algebra. Some don't want to water paint instead of learning about real information about science or history. That isn't to say gifted kids don't like Waldorf as I'm sure some do. It is to say that your individual child may or may not like it and it is really too early to know about that. My suggestion would be to the best you can try to remove the ideal of what he should like from your head and work on listening to what he expresses he wants and work from there.
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#4 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 06:04 AM
 
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I totally get where you are coming from- I loved the waldorf philosophy, the idea of holding off on accademics, etc and then I had a gifted child. I think if you homeschool, the best thing you can do is let yourself be open to doing what works, and leaving the rest. My dd (now 7), enjoys cooking, or helping with projects around the house- but she also learned to read with me not really instructing her at all. I learned that when she was 2 I HAD to read interesting books to her, often non-fiction, so she'd be able to sleep at night, or it was like her brain hadn't had enough exercise to relax. I had to adapt my parenting to the child I had.

I think there are lots of parts of waldorf that are great, however, I don't completely see it as working well with unschooling. We've largely unschooled dd, and I have at times done waldorf activities- knitting or such, which we've enjoyed, but to be a real unschooler, you have to respect the child's choice of what you are going to learn above a curriculum or philosophy- which I don't see as gelling with waldorf.

I recommend you look harder at the unschooling side of things. I think unschooling works wonderfully for a lot of gifted kids. Personally, my dd wasn't drawn to wanting to read or do algebra at 3, but was drawn to science- where she is now years ahead of her peers, because I followed her lead. That's the ultimate truth of unschooling- that you let your child lead where you will go- for some kids that means you will end up doing accademics you weren't planning on, because that's where your child takes you.

Peace,

Laura, Mama to Mya 7/02, Ian 6/07 and Anna 8/09
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#5 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 11:10 AM
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Please take what I say with a grain of salt. I say that, because we do send or children to school. My eldest may or may not be gifted (if she is, she has 2E issues, or they are not gifts that are easily quantified), but she was having a hard time in 1st grade with reading, despite having all the pre-reading skills (she just wasn't making the leap from having those skills and putting them to reading). Anyway, the school gave her some pretty intense 1 on 1 tutoring, with a lot of reading homework for her.

I give this as background for the environment that was in the house when my 2nd was around 3. She absorbed everything that was going on around her, and learned how to read in that environment (even though no one "taught" her how to read, reading was being taught). She has driven every single bit of academic exploration she has done. She has begged me to quiz her on spelling words, math facts, etc.

She asks the most wonderful questions, and listens intensely to the in depth answers. Questions ranging from religion (what is god?), to how to become an astronaut, to how tools work. We all got hair cuts the other day, and she watched a very kind hair stylist put dye on a woman's head. The hair stylist explained every little bit of the process. DD2 was enraptured.

So, I guess I would say that early learning for a gifted kid is about providing an environment rich in information with lots of opportunities to explore and experience. Which it sounds like the OP is providing. I would gently suggest that if there is an interest in letters and numbers, that the OP find a way to provide an outlet to that need, regardless of whether it fits in with the Waldorf philosophy or not. Cooking, gardening, home improvements are an awesome way to provide some of those things while still staying in the Waldorf context (from my limited understanding).

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#6 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 12:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I do have a question some of you might answer. What exactly happens when a toddler/preschooler teaches himself/herself to read?

We only read story books, so most of our books have paragraphs per page and there is no direct correspondence from the words to the picture (i.e. a picture of a firetruck and the word "firetruck" under it. I always figured this is how bright little ones taught themselves to read.) Knowing what the word says and then looking at the letters and thinking about the sounds.

But with AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh (ds's favorite) with 200 words per page and a little picture of pooh sitting on a tree branch, this wouldn't work.

But I realize I likely have the method for toddler self-teaching way off, please correct me!

So for those whose kids truly taught themselves , what did that look like?? And did they really learn how to read or did they just memorize what the letters sound like/what shape each word had. Were they reading for comprehension? I have seen 3 and 4 year olds at the library "reading" and it was so obvious that they were just sounding out the words. I am sure they understood many of the words individually and even in some phrases, but it seemed like there was little real comprehension going on.

Thanks!

Please also continue on with my original question, too!!
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#7 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 12:52 PM
 
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I do have a question some of you might answer. What exactly happens when a toddler/preschooler teaches himself/herself to read?
Millions of different answers to this I'm sure. It is probably hard to answer accurately this because there we can't really see the inter-workings of what is happening in the child's head. So, I can only speak to the parts we observed from the outside.

The original Pooh stories were the favorite here too. We would also check out a big stack of library books and there were probably direct correspondence books in the pile from time to time but I don't know think that was a major part of reading evolving here. We also read shorter stories like Jamberry, etc.

The world is full of print a child sees every day. It says yogurt on the yogurt container. It says Beatles on the CD box. It says Winnie the Pooh on the cover of the book. Kids with good memories sometimes memorize stories and begin to follow along. Some kids just crack the code without going through a lot of visible steps along the way. It can happen, as it did at our house, without the child having learned the alphabet or letter sounds. We became aware our child could read when he was able to read fluently. He sounded like a mature reader who had been reading for a long time (and maybe he had been!) no sounding out, good inflection and strong comprehension. This is just one of many paths though and I'm sure there are other early self taught readers who got there in a totally different way.
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#8 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 12:53 PM
 
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You don't read any picture books with your son???

All kids are different, but I can tell you what DD's progress was like. She began by memorizing books (including long ones, like Peter Rabbit). She went through a lengthy phase of insisting that I point to the words I was reading, so I'm sure that helped. I discovered that she had a handful of sight words shortly after she turned 2. Her sight word vocabulary skyrocketed over the next year. Then, suddenly, she went from reading at a first grade level around the time she turned 3 (still relying exclusively on her extensive sight word vocabulary) to reading at an early fourth grade level at newly 3 1/2 (and sounding out unfamiliar words in her head).

She reads quickly, with expression, without pointing at the words, and with understanding. My only concern is that she doesn't pause when she gets to a word she doesn't know--she just takes a guess and keeps right on going. I don't correct her. But usually by the third or fourth time she reads a book she'll either figure it out or ask for my help.
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#9 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 01:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes! We do "read" picture books with DS, but they are JUST pictures, or art really--like scenes. No words, we make up the story together.

We do have a very few board books with 5-10 words per page, but none of the "kids dictionary" books that just name items. This just doesn't sit right with me, no problem with others doing it, just my feeling.

As far as memorizing the story, we checked out John Lithgow's Carnival of the Animals: http://www.amazon.com/Carnival-Anima...9867212#reader and DS can recite it with only a few prompts along the way. I know he doesn't understand all the words, so we talk about the story and what is happening. I never meant for him to memorize it and certainly never drilled it, he just talks over me/with me when I recite it (its been back at the library for a few months, but DS and I both still have most of it memorized, even though we only recite it once every couple of weeks). But really, even with memorizing most of his books (which he definitely does--and he knows dozens of mother goose rhymes), I still don't imagine him reading without being taught. That doesn't mean I don't believe it can (or will) happen, I just can't imagine it!
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#10 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 01:57 PM
 
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It can be tough to fit in socially with the unschooly folks when you have an academically driven child. I follow my dd's lead and it often leads to very schooly type things - not always, but often. I would be the one to pick up some Singapore math workbooks at a used curriculum sale (held at a play day at the lake), but she would be the one to ask to see them and fill out 1/3 of the book before we got home, even though it was several grades 'above' her level. She loves to learn, she loves school like things. She's now attending school part-time. I love when she follows her own strange interests and creative journeys, she's made some amazing things, but she really loves some structured learning as well.

I guess I agree that you just need to listen to the child you have, and filter any and all parenting/teaching advice by what your particular child needs. When you have a child that learns at a different rate than most, you have to be ready for some people to think you are pushing when all you are doing is following while holding on as best you can. I think your idea of enriching ideas rather than accelerating is a good idea, but don't expect it to significantly slow your child's progress. They seem to jump ahead no matter what you do. Before you know it, it isn't that you are trying to get them to do higher level study of insects, but nothing below a high school or college level book or website is of interest. You may not want to jump ahead in math, but the higher concepts enthrall them and what do you do, say no you can't learn that?

Your child's personality and temperament will be a huge factor in what 'style' their learning looks like. It also will change over time. Be prepared for change, and enjoy the moment. It will be fine!
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#11 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 02:18 PM
 
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Would following your child's lead, wherever that may take you, fit into your pedagogical world view? I have my ideas, then I've got two kids with their own ideas, and the two kids are quite different from one another. I've always found the greatest success in trying to meet them where they're at.

I wonder if the parents you hear/read saying "he's so bored, he needs more" are more typically in school environments? Because in many school environments kids are offered pretty much the same Happy Meal combo as every other kid, so it's not necessarily a comment on acceleration versus expansion of material - it's wanting something that engages the kid and meets their mental needs.

I wonder if Lisa Rivero's Creative Homeschooling book might be of some use.

As for reading, I wouldn't dis the 3 and 4 year olds "sounding out" words - that's remarkable and no indication that they were "taught" (which to me is a back-handed implication that the kids don't own their own learning). I have a phonetic reader and a sight reader. My phonetic reader was early at everything, hungered for print and actively worked on breaking the code while I tried to stand in her way because I didn't want her to learn to read before kindergarten or she'd be bored. I'm sure I frustrated her, and me, and she was reading before kindie all the same. My sight reader, a classic visual spatial, showed no signs (that I noticed) of giftedness before 3, HATED being read to but then developed a passion for non-fiction books at 3.5 (atlases and encyclopedias mostly). We were not allowed to read them to him, and suddenly he was reading multi-syllabic words from his books to us. The only part we had in it was he would ask us how letters fit together while out walking (ie "is b-a-l-l ball?), or confirm environmental print with us, and verbal word play.

There are quite a few threads in this forum about reading acquisition and differences in learner style that you might find interesting.

Mom to a teenager and a middle schooler.

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#12 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 02:50 PM
 
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we're still sorting out schooling but right now our 5 year old (who sounds a lot like your younger son) goes to a waldorf-inspired home preschool. this will be her third year there.

longterm, we've been considering waldorf school for both of our kids. we are also very drawn to unschooling.

i've talked to a lot of waldorf teachers about our dd, trying to determine if it could work for her. (i love waldorf and i feel it would have been a great match for me but i'm trying to stay focused on what *she* needs and not what i want. )

what a wonderful waldorf teacher i know told me, and i have found to be true, is that when children are very academically gifted, they are often delayed in other areas...fine motor skills, gross motor skills, social interation etc.

the waldorf curriculum helps to "balance" young children. (this idea did not resonate with me at first but as she is getting older i am starting to see some of the areas where this is true.) for exapmle, our dd has a lot of anxiety and difficulty adjusting to new situations.

we could have sent her to (public) kindergarten this year, but opted to keep her in her part-time nursery school, which is a very open-ended play-based program.

i feel in school she could easily get tracked into a very accelerated program and that because learning comes easily for her, she might never develop the social skills we'd like her to have.

i am not sure, however, that a strict waldorf program that would not allow her to advance academically or explore her creative interests (much of which fall outside of the waldorf early childhood curriculum) would work for her either.

honestly...what i would love (and what i am working to create) is an environment that is very similar to the preschool my kids attend now but for older mixed-aged homeschoolers/unschoolers....someting that is part-time, in-home (or on-farm), nature-based, waldorf-inspired, unschooling-friendly, and fosters creative, open ended learning in a small supportive community.
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#13 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 03:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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honestly...what i would love (and what i am working to create) is an environment that is very similar to the preschool my kids attend now but for older mixed-aged homeschoolers/unschoolers....someting that is part-time, in-home (or on-farm), nature-based, waldorf-inspired, unschooling-friendly, and fosters creative, open ended learning in a small supportive community.
YES!!! YES!!!! Can we come?????
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#14 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 05:51 PM
 
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what a wonderful waldorf teacher i know told me, and i have found to be true, is that when children are very academically gifted, they are often delayed in other areas...fine motor skills, gross motor skills, social interation etc.

the waldorf curriculum helps to "balance" young children. (this idea did not resonate with me at first but as she is getting older i am starting to see some of the areas where this is true.) for exapmle, our dd has a lot of anxiety and difficulty adjusting to new situations.
It sounds like you are very accurately summing out the Waldorf view. My concern about it is that I've known a handful of different kids who were early readers who attended Waldorf and in every case the school believed they had delays in other areas whether or not they really did. The school started with idea early readers must be out of balanced and delayed and sure enough they'd find something. I don't agree there is one right path to development and skills must develop according to a certain sequence or it is indicative of a problem. Kids are all different and are not meant to all develop the same way.

The schools don't to seem have the same opinion about non academic gifts. They don't assume that a child with exceptionally good fine and gross motor skills will have trouble learning to read.
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#15 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 08:01 PM
 
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My self-taught reader is a dancer, plays the violin, works on her own ceramic projects, and is a leader in her group of friends. So no, early reading does not presage some other deficit. Sometimes children are just "ahead" of the typical schedule--they do not need to have deficits in other areas to "make up" for the places where they are ahead.

Waldorf schools are lovely places for play-based preschools. But in the grades, they are extremely prescriptive, and often the philosophy trims the child to fit the mold, rather than the mold to fit the child. Obviously, Waldorf-trained teachers can and do incorporate their own philosophies, but Steiner's pedagogy assumes that children of a certain age all need the same thing, and that if they're not getting that thing, or they're not open to that thing, then something else must be going wrong--even spiritually--which doesn't work as a philosophy for me.

My older child is 7 now, so obviously, I do not have years and years of experience with many children. But the underlying concept that has worked for both of my children educationally is the notion of a system. We've done Suzuki violin lessons, which are based on the strength of the relationship between parent, teacher, and child. We've done play-based preschool, which places importance on creating relationships between mixed-age children. And we homeschool, choosing materials like Miquon and Singapore Math, which have an internal system for learning and which are internally compelling for both of my children.

What I've found with my kids is that they are constantly looking for rules, for the internal workings of the various systems in their world. Whether the rules are phonetic ("T makes the /t/ sound") or Golden ("I wouldn't want to be treated that way.") they are always happier when they've worked out the ruling system of organization and can understand the deeper structure. They like activities when they understand how they work, regardless of the "academic" veneer, and dislike activities that are chaotic or without systematic organization.

For us, activities that have an internal structure or shape are more satisfying than those without, and the designation of "academic" or "delayed-academic" is not as important.
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#16 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 08:38 PM
 
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DD1 attends a waldorf/enki preschool and loves it. However, we will be homeschooling for the "grades". We selected this preschool in large part because dd1 would have been miserable in a more traditional preschool setting... she reads, writes stories and elaborate plays, enjoys playing with math and has a blast doing more "academic" stuff and has since the start. She craves this sort of interaction with her environment. But she also craves peer interaction and she doesn't really understand why other kids her age aren't interested in these things too. So in a setting where "age appropriate" pre-reading/pre-writing/basic-counting is part of the package dd1 gets worried that there is something wrong with her or with the other kiddos and ends up isolating herself from the other children.

So we thought we'd give waldorf/enki a try. It's been great (3x/week, 5 hours each day). DD1 has a group of similarly aged children (2-5yos), the academic issues don't come up (the teachers simply say "we don't do that here" if the topic of book reading or tv viewing or junk food eating or whatever comes up), and she gets time to explore/play outdoors/care for the farm animals while learning a bunch of handicrafts, instruments, dances, and songs.

Then when she comes home she may ask for a book on chickens and we'll search the web together learning about chicken development or ideal avian diets or egg shell composition of whatever it may be... (this happened last year when the school hatched a small flock. They now have lambs and I'm expecting to learn a lot about sheep after school starts next week. )

But this is just our experience with one specific school. It works for dd1 and for us in large part because we're not thinking of it as an "academic" preschool. It's a fun, colorful, hands on, play time and dd1 enjoys that. But the waldof grades wouldn't be appropriate for her and if she stopped enjoying the preschool we'd stop sending her. We don't look at it as "necessary" in any sense of the word.

Anyway, that doesn't address your whole post, but it's our experience with blending waldorf and a gifted child so I thought it might help.


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#17 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 11:17 PM
 
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Looking for insight, experience, BTDT from other moms with my pedagogical beliefs who are raising gifted kids.
Assuming our kids are gifted that's me!
I am a natural 'unschooler' and firmly believe in learning through living. I was strongly opposed to flashcards, workbooks, and all those 'smarter baby' hothousing systems. I think the only place we differ is that I am passionately drawn to the Reggio Emilia approach (child led, teacher as observer, your whole bug analogy) versus Waldorf. Waldorf was to structured for my liking.

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Originally Posted by Holiztic View Post
I still feel very strongly about a slow/non academic/ learning from real life approach to early education. I am not asking for opinions on that approach. I'm hoping to hear how that approach can (or perhaps doesn't) work with gifted kids.
This approach can work, but if one has age based expectations then I expect there will be quite a few times where those will need to get tossed out the window or one will have to say "No, we aren't going to learn that now". One learning approach does not work for all kids. As children age it can become more apparent as to what their natural learning style is. FWIW while I LOVE RE and felt it was the best thing for our girls it turned out not to be. Somehow, someway, I managed to produce not one but two kids who are desperate for text book style materials. It's possibly because our eldest wasn't introduced to them until she literally begged. Maybe it was the novelty of them but both girls are very organized, structured, logical creatures. They seem to crave that immediate satisfaction of the pen and paper and being able to look again at their accomplishments.

I didn't have age expectations for our eldest. I just knew what I wasn't going to push on her. Shortly before she turned 3 she wrote her name in the steam on the shower door and no one had ever shown her how to do it. Sometimes I would write "Mama loves 'dd's name'" on her art table paper but that was it. There was no actual teaching, but she was learning. By 3 she would sit at her art table and write, write, write. She would ask me how to write certain letters and I would describe them to her, "Two lines down, one line across in the middle". That's how she learned to write. No one taught her how to hold a pencil until she went to K in a RE school when she was 5. I guess I could have said 'No', but that also went against my parenting philosophy.

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Originally Posted by Holiztic View Post
I don't want to offend or criticize, but I have to be honest and say I am somewhat suspicious (but openly so, totally open to people correcting me with their experience) of the whole "but he was so bored, needed more" idea. In my mind, more can be "lets talk about MORE bugs, not just spiders and ants" instead of "let's move on to higher and more academic disciplines". I hope that made sense!!
In line with our teaching/parenting philosophy we found a wonderful play based preschool for DD. ODD went a few days a week for 2.5 hours when she was 3 and again when she was 4. At four she went to her teacher and said "School is fun, but it's just a big play date. You don't really teach anything here, well, you teach children how to communicate but I can already do that. I want you to teach me more!" The teacher asked her what she wanted to learn about and she said "Space, homophones and homonyms". She didn't require sit down, text book, pen and paper education but she did require more. It's possible to go wider and deeper without those things but it does take a lot of parental ingenuity.

You can watch your child evenly divide crackers, or pick out corn from the market so everyone in the family can have 2 pieces but eventually they will draw the connection to written numbers. Ours watched me balance the checkbook and asked to know what I was doing, then promptly sat down to balance her own. Ours watched me sign receipts and asked what the scribbly writing was and wanted to be taught how to write her name in cursive.

I think kids will complain about boredom if they are not being engaged. The choice has to be made by parents to either engage them or not. If one does choose to engage their bright, inquisitive child and they go off to an institutionalized school chances are they may express some boredom there.

Built into our parenting/teaching philosophy is the desire to follow our children's lead. ODD sat down and drew pictures of a son and a sun, a ferry and a fairy and thought it was the most hysterical thing ever. She wanted more for her 'funny words collage' so we obliged. In the process Dh and I had a discussion on the differences between homophones and homonyms and she soaked it all up. The unschooling approach works, but they still learn and in my schooling example above they may have expectations to be taken wider.

So, what do you if your child sees a math workbook in a store and begs for it, or if they are 4 or 5 and begging to be taught to read? We went ahead and got them materials and leave them accessible. We let them take charge of their learning and how it happens. We don't push, but we don't hold them back either. I have made some concessions, like when YDD went to target with her wallet and all the money she had saved up and pleaded for me to let her buy flashcards with it. Flashcards? Seriously kid.... At least she has an older sister who will do them with her.

In the end I gave up that ghost.
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#18 of 36 Old 08-29-2009, 11:37 PM
 
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We have MANY years of experience with waldorf here, one child who is gifted, another most likely 2E, so we've seen a lot in terms of your questions. Our experience was waldorf school based, not homeschooled, so that flavors the experience in a certain way. One of the more frustrating aspects of waldorf is that the mantra is that if your child has early and advanced academic skills, they are experiencing a deficit somewhere else in their lives. I simply found this to be wholly untrue, not only with my child, but other children who were advanced as well. Often the deficit would be seen as being unable to attend in the classroom, or not being fully immersed in eurythmy,for example, but honestly, it was usually boys who were underwhelmed by the curriculum, and bored to tears. Anyway, the waldorf view does not take into account the individual child. Early reading is often singled out as a problem, but in our case anyway, early reading was just a piece of the larger picture of a fully engaged, inquisitive, persistent child. Who wouldn't want to ask a hundred questions, or explore something new? Bright kids are usually bright kids in lots of different areas. trying to get them to be something different, or MAKE them learn on steiners' timetable and in steiner's way, is very counterproductive, and unless you want to quash some spirit, probably will be very frustrating.

My ds was astoundingly frustrated-books were kept from the children, and then the pictures were shown, but the author's language was not used. You use the idea of kids wanting more, and disagreeing with giving them "more"-is that right? With many gifted kids I know, including my own, you would have to actively work hard not to provide "more" because persistent kids have a way of really asking for what they need. You have to consider whether this is the relationship you want to have with your child.

If you homeschool, obviously you can pick and choose quite a bit more. For us, we unschooled (de-schooled?) for a year, which was really good. I agree with Roar in that the pushing of early academics is a problem. But withholding from a child is also problematic.
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#19 of 36 Old 08-30-2009, 05:04 AM
 
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I think the way in which waldorf and unschooling can blend is if you take what works for your family from the waldorf philosophy (or toy catalog ) and leave the rest... like someone else said, you have to raise the kids you have, not the kids you dreamed of having! the waldorf philosophy, as a whole, isn't particularly unschooly, IMHO, but that doesn't mean that you can't grab ideas from it and approach life with a bit of waldorf inspiration, if that's what you're into.

We're Tiffani , Mark , Lucy (9/99) , Dexter (8/01) ,and Zachary Marvin (3/07) and Naomi Rose (6/09), home 11/10, by way of Ugandan adoption.

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#20 of 36 Old 08-30-2009, 09:50 AM
 
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I don't think it would be helpful for me to post my thoughts on Waldorf (despite the fact many of my friends are happy with their Waldorf schools and that I am very drawn to Waldorf materials and maintain a 95% TV-free and character-free home). But I did want to say that I don't think most kids learn to read via books with pictures of a firetruck and a word underneath saying "firetruck." By the time a child who is bright enough to learn to read early (and untaught) is old enough to do so, he/she is not really looking much at board books, IME.

What is the philosophy behind not reading picture books? I can't imagine not reading my child picture books, even though of course she has enjoyed "storybooks" (I'm not quite sure I understand the distinction) for years as well.

grateful mother to DD, 1/04, and DS, 2/08

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#21 of 36 Old 08-30-2009, 10:37 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Holiztic View Post
I do have a question some of you might answer. What exactly happens when a toddler/preschooler teaches himself/herself to read?
I can only answer how it looked when my son did it. I know nothing about other self taught readers. First he memorized his favorite books during bedtime reading. Short books like "Goodnight moon" and "Where the wild things are". Shortly after that he started asking what words on signs and other random places said. Then he started insisting that we follow the words we were reading in the book with our finger while reading to him. Next thing I knew he was reading.

Sorry I don't have much advise for you on the issue of schooling.. We do PS. But I am against pre-school for my kids and think they need as much time to be kids as they can get before school starts. However my son still taught himself to read at 3 1/2 and it was obvious it was time to start school when he turned 5 despite lots of advise to wait because "he's a summer birthday" and red shirting is the norm in my district.

Mom to DS 4/24/03 and DD 4/17/06
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#22 of 36 Old 08-30-2009, 11:49 AM
 
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Originally Posted by tiffani View Post
I think the way in which waldorf and unschooling can blend is if you take what works for your family from the waldorf philosophy (or toy catalog ) and leave the rest... like someone else said, you have to raise the kids you have, not the kids you dreamed of having! the waldorf philosophy, as a whole, isn't particularly unschooly, IMHO, but that doesn't mean that you can't grab ideas from it and approach life with a bit of waldorf inspiration, if that's what you're into.
thank you for this!!! i feel like this is exactly the place i am (finally) coming to with my children.
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#23 of 36 Old 08-31-2009, 12:41 AM
 
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My mother firmly believed that children should not learn to read before being taught in school, because of her own negative school experiences. Her older sister taught her to read at three. So she tried to avoid having me learn to read before I was in first grade, but I learned by 5 anyway. She did read books aloud, though they certainly weren't of the picture dictionary type. Words are everywhere, and reading just became obvious eventually.

My feeling is, listen to the child. Having a philosophy is great, as long as it's adapted to the real-life situation.

Sonja , 40, married to DH (42) since 5-29-93, DD born 11-3-2004, DS born 1-18-2007.
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#24 of 36 Old 08-31-2009, 03:50 AM
 
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I LOVED the waldorf philosophy, and we sent our DS to a waldorf-inspired preschool. But it was not as good of a match for DS as it was for me. LOL.

My DS is very academically driven---he wants to know everything about everything, and he wants to know it right now. He had no patience for the open, creative, sensory focused projects there.

He started reading at 2 1/2, and so he was already reading when he got to preschool. His teachers were really very discouraging about it, and several times 'lectured' me about the need for him to explore and be creative rather than learn academics...as though I had taught him to read. I.E these particular teachers were holding the tenets of the philosphy higher than the knowledge of a particular child's learning personality.

That said, I still love the Waldorf philosophy. It just wasn't the right one for DS.
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#25 of 36 Old 08-31-2009, 10:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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What is the philosophy behind not reading picture books? I can't imagine not reading my child picture books, even though of course she has enjoyed "storybooks" (I'm not quite sure I understand the distinction) for years as well.
I think I let my original remark about only reading "story books" get a little misconstrued. What I meant was that we only read books with some story to them (whether the story is in the text or the pictures.) I was specifically commenting that we don't care for books that I previously referred to as "picture dictionaries" with a bunch of disparate cut out snapshots of items and the word of each under/beside.

So rather than a "farm animal" book like this: http://www.amazon.com/Big-Animal-Boo...ref=pd_sim_b_6 , we prefer the Tomten (a farm gnome that visits all the animals at night) http://www.amazon.com/Tomten-Astrid-.../dp/0698115910 .

We DO read picture books as in books that have more pictures than text, but they also have simple stories to them and the pictures are scenes instead of just collaged cut-outs. I am thinking of "Guess How Much I Love You http://www.amazon.com/Guess-How-Much...1726172&sr=1-1 or the like.

The philosophy behind this mostly is just my gut reaction, likes, etc. But it's also Waldorfy and in line with the avoidance of flashcards and drills and rote memorization.
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#26 of 36 Old 08-31-2009, 10:58 AM
 
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Ohhh, I see. Yes, I agree with that. As I said before, I only bought one picture/label book, and it was an animal book (which I bought in response to DD asking me repeatedly to name another, and another, and another animal, until I couldn't think of any more). Otherwise, we probably had two of those picture/label books, both of which were gifts, and which were certainly not favorites. We are also very anti-flashcard (though my MIL has given us many, we use them only for skating on).

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the Waldorf view was that children should not be introduced to any books or recorded music at all in the preschool years.
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#27 of 36 Old 08-31-2009, 11:15 AM
 
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Count me in as another who finds the Waldorf idea that early readers are deficient in some other area as misguided. Frankly, children develop at different rates. (Steiner's idea about the stages of childhood is based on dentition -- he felt that they start getting adult teeth at age 7, heralding the exit from young childhood. This is only sometimes true; there's lots of variation in this area as well.)

I was an early reader, but I was also good at math early, physically competent and adept, and socially successful with my age mates and with adults. It may not be surprising that I even got my permanent teeth early. My parents didn't "hothouse" me at all, either, but they did help me learn to read because I kept asking them to. I viewed all of the activities in my early life as play, not work or "academics," so it doesn't seem to me that withholding structured learning from me would have made me happy. I was internally motivated.

(BTW, I also went to regular school and wasn't so bored that I hated it. The social environment was fun for me and my early teachers were good at giving me supplemental activities that I liked.)

Anyway, my older dd went to a Waldorf preschool for a year and we didn't like the rigidity in approach. That said, she had no interest in reading until age 7 anyway, so she fit right into the Steiner philosophy. Just like pps have said, we parented the child we had, didn't push her, didn't rush her, and let her develop on her own. Reading was not in the cards for her as a toddler but she loved science from an early age, so we had many experiments and visits to science museums.

Keep your own child and his happiness firmly in your gaze, and don't stop him from progressing in areas he truly wants to. If he has the mental energy to learn more "academic" things at a younger age, it'll just benefit him later.

DD1 (Oct 99), DD2 (Sep 02), DD3 (Oct 09)
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#28 of 36 Old 08-31-2009, 03:53 PM
 
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Oh, I see. Well, I certainly don't think you're missing out on anything particularly important by avoiding those books, then! Although both my children enjoyed such books as young babies (under 18 months), they have never been of much interest after that age.

grateful mother to DD, 1/04, and DS, 2/08

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#29 of 36 Old 08-31-2009, 07:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the Waldorf view was that children should not be introduced to any books or recorded music at all in the preschool years.
Well, I am no expert on Waldorf, but DH and SIL were raised Waldorf from the get-go as their parents are serious anthroposophists, MIL has a master's in Waldorf ed and they helped to start the Richmond Waldorf in VA.

With all that in mind, it is MIL that GAVE us many of the beautiful picture/story books we have--tons of them!!!

She has talked about the importance of oral story telling as well as the issues with recorded music. I try to tell DS as many stories as we read, and I sing, but not well, so we listen to appropriate CDS (yes, MIL has even given us a few CDs). But she seems more lenient on those two issues, as I think much of the Waldorf community is, than on things like TV or early computer use.

I think Waldorf is a lot like modern religions. Very few bible-reading/following Christians would support stoning liars to death (do I have that one right?). Same way I am sure there are a lot of pretty serious Waldorfer moms that don't wear long skirts everyday (though I am sure some do!)
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#30 of 36 Old 08-31-2009, 07:32 PM
 
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I think Waldorf is a lot like modern religions. Very few bible-reading/following Christians would support stoning liars to death (do I have that one right?). Same way I am sure there are a lot of pretty serious Waldorfer moms that don't wear long skirts everyday (though I am sure some do!)
Well, but there's a biblical explanation for why stoning liars to death is not Christian. Perhaps this is more like how Catholics often use birth control (if indeed it is merely a matter of personal preference rather than a different interpretation of the philosophy). At any rate, I do like your analogy. And thanks for correcting me.
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