Rising First Grade ReadinessJun 02, 2022
Waldorf is intentional in every aspect of the curriculum. From how and when a subject is brought to a child, to how a teacher meditates and meets the children they are teaching. There is no exception to the intention that is brought when a child enters into academic learning and crosses over the Rainbow Bridge from the magical world of Kindergarten to the adventurous journey of Grade One.
Sometime during the later part of the first year of kindergarten or during the second year of kindergarten the children begin the transformation of the six-year change, a sort of ‘first puberty’ as well as a huge developmental shift for the child. This is the time when the child completely transforms developmentally, physically, socially, emotionally and intellectually from their dreamy early childhood to a child that is ready to take on grade one and deep academic work.
This ‘6 year change’ is almost complete or fully complete by the time the child is ready to begin grade one. They have changed from the baby caterpillar to the beautiful butterfly and have crossed over into their second seven-year cycle of childhood which are the ages of 7-14. They are hungry for the beauty of the world, for stories that touch their hearts and to truly begin their academic journey with reading, writing and mathematics.
At the end of the second year of kindergarten both teachers and parents can observe the child and using guidelines can observe readiness for starting in the grades. The first factor usually considered is if the child has celebrated “seven springs or Easters”. This means the child will be close to seven or around six and a half when they begin grade one. As they get further into the grades the curriculum speaks to a child at different ages and it’s important that we place them correctly at the beginning of their journey so they can benefit the most from this design. If a child is born early or has developmental challenges this is also a consideration when placing a child for grade one. The birthday cut-off for grade one at Seasons of Seven is March 31st.
Age however is not the only consideration. There is also memory, social, and emotional development, physical abilities and soul readiness taken into consideration. As Waldorf educators we believe that the life forces or etheric forces of a young child, ages zero to seven, are being used to complete internal organs, fuse bones, a help with the tremendous growth that happens from newborn to first grade. Once those life/ethereal forces are freed up they can then be used for thinking and academics. If they are used prematurely for early academics it could put certain future growth and heath in jeopardy.
Some of the physical changes and abilities that can be observed in your child for first grade readiness are: loss of roundness/baby fat, lengthening of all limbs and growth in height, losing teeth and also the eruption of the 6 year molars, curvature in the spine and arches in the feet, and also noticing the proportions of the body changing. There is a good tool for observation of the head and body proportions and that is asking your child to reach up into the sky with one hand and then ask them to bend their arm and try to tough their ear on the opposite side without leaning their head. The arm should make a 90 degree angle if the head to body proportion has changed. Besides physical changes there should also be changes to their physically abilities. They should be more coordinated and have good developing gross and fine motor skills. This is why Waldorf Education puts so much emphasis on movement and handwork in the kindergarten years to help develop these skills.
After observing physical changes and abilities you can then observe social, emotional and memory development. Some signs of social readiness are if the child can listen to an adult or teacher and take in instructions and directions. They should also begin to consider the feelings and interests of both themselves and others and also to learn not to be a distraction to others. Emotionally there should be an emerging maturity and the child may also be trying to show independence. They should also be working on impulse control and be working on the ability to being able to sit at a desk to complete tasks such as paintings, drawings and writing from main lesson stories. Memory also changes and the child begins to draw up memories from their own will instead of their memory being triggered by an environmental cue or an object. This memory development is especially important because it allows them to begin to create picture in their mind which is a skill that is important when hearing stories in grade one that will then be used in additional activities in main lessons like reading, writing, painting, modeling and form drawing. Their imagination also develops so that they can play out cause-and-effect, plan their play scenarios and stories and begin to think more deeply.
Lastly there is the soul readiness. As a homeschooling parent you know your child the best. Do they show a hunger for further learning, are they trying to figure out their place in your family and in the greater community, do they show a higher consciousness for the world around them?
As both the kindergarten and grade one teacher here at Seasons of Seven I have a unique opportunity to work with families as they are supporting their child as they transform in the six-year change in kindergarten and also to give guidance and help during the rising first grade readiness observations. I then can guide them fully though the transition to Grade One and begin their academic journey while still holding onto the beauty and gentleness of early childhood. Lastly I can send them off fully transformed and with a solid foundation in academics as they are launched into the second seven year cycle of their childhood years, the elementary grades.
Miss Tiffany (Grade One, Kindergarten and Parent & Child Teacher)
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