Discovering Waldorf is a weekly series of articles written by ‘everyday’ Waldorf families. The contributors to this series share their ‘real-life’ insights and inspirations on all kinds of Waldorf topics. This series is not meant to be Waldorf philosophy in its purest form, but rather a snapshot of how we can all incorporate Waldorf ideas into our lives to help nurture and encourage the magic that is in our children. If you have a topic you wish to learn more about (or want to share) on Discovering Waldorf,  contact me.

Learning to read the WALDORF way with The Magic Onions
So, Lucky Friends, I am honored to introduce Shayne Jackman as today’s Discovering Waldorf guest. She’s here to explain a little about the way the alphabet and reading is introduced to children in Waldorf inspired education. And, she’s offering a set of her wall friezes to one lucky reader!
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Learning To Read The Waldorf Way by Shayne Jackman

In a nut shell, human language progressed from spoken form, to pictures/pictograms, then to a written form.   This progression is mirrored in Waldorf education, which is why the development of spoken (not written) language is emphasised up to the age of seven.
Spoken stories nourish the soul and invite the child’s heart and mind to partake in linguistic development.  Children are immersed in a world of oral storytelling and then, in class one, children are introduced to letters as pictograms that bridge from the picture consciousness of childhood to the abstract symbols which make up our alphabet.
When you think about it, each letter of our alphabet is, in itself, quite meaningless.  Each has a corresponding sound or group of sounds that it “represents”, but no richer meaning.  A picture, on the other hand, is alive with meaning.  So whilst in a mainstream context ‘A’ may be for ‘Angel’, in the Waldorf method ‘A’ is the ‘Angel.
The idea that thinking and feeling are inextricably linked, and that by reinforcing this link, both are more deeply experienced, strikes me as one of perfect symmetry and sense.  The idea of enlivening each letter – giving it characterisation – and allowing a child to experience each letter with his or her mind and heart plays more wholly into the imaginative nature of children.  The child’s imagination is engaged rather than dryly striving to commit a context-less symbol to memory – and so a deeper, richer and more joyful learning experience is had.
And, to me, that’s really the crux of it – the lucky child who learns to write and read this way is fully immersed, engaged and delighted by the journey of learning, which means that not only do they learn, they learn to love learning.    It just makes sense, doesn’t it?

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It makes sense to me too! What a wonderful way to learn. Thank you for explaining the Waldorf journey to reading in such a great way, Shayne.

Dear Friends, I am sure you are all wondering where you can get a copy of Shayne’s beautiful book. You can find a copy here or in Shayne’s Etsy shop Old Freedom Train.


Learning to read the WALDORF way with The Magic Onions


Here are the other inspiring posts in the Discovering Waldorf series.

Blessings and magic!



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61 Responses

  1. Another great edition of ‘Discovering Waldorf.’ My daughter just completed her class 1 and was great to see her enthusiasm for learning the alphabet. Class 2 is about to start and I am looking forward to seeing her enthusiasm and discoveries while she’ll learn to read. Her 2 brothers will soon follow her lead – It’s such a joy to see them learning and discovering in the Waldorf setting.
    The wall frieze would be a fantastic addition to our home, especially with the Australian pictures of the alphabet.

  2. Thank you for this on-going series. I really enjoy it, even though, sadly Waldorf has not been a good fit for my son (but, it’s still a good fit for me! ;-). I would love these. I’ve been by Shayne’s etsy shop and gave it a <3.

  3. I too love the way Waldorf introduces the alphabet to young children. Shayne’s items are beautifully done. I have placed them on my favorites list on etsy. Thank you Shayne for sharing your gift with us.

  4. I am planning on teaching my daughter “preschool” this fall, and these would be such a great addition to our lessons. I especially love Shayne’s alphabet wall frieze, they are simply stunning! I’m going to keep my fingers (and toes) crossed. Thanks for the chance!

  5. Such a nice shop! We use moveable alphabets in much the same way, allowing free play with the symbols and a chance to internalize them in a tactile way, as well.

  6. How nice it is! You can spend time looking at the beautiful alphabet. The old freedom train web is also very nice! Hope to be lucky and get the wall frieze.

  7. Wow! what beautiful pictures and such a great way to learn the letters! I love it! Plus it would be such a great addition to the alphabet work we plan to do each week this year! These would be just perfect!

  8. We are new to Waldorf and I find myself absolutely enchanted by it all! What a beautiful book! I visited Shayne’s site and I know my son would love the wall frieze!

  9. My older daughter is reading, however, at seven, she is still very impressionable, and I love the frieze. She goes to a progressive school, and I really didn’t get deeply enmeshed inspired by Steiner until she was already used to the rhythm of her school. My younger daughter I can’t imagine not doing Waldorf. It is the perfect time for us to have this beautiful frieze :)

  10. Myself a few other Waldorf mamas have started a Waldorf Homeschooling co-op this year and this would make a lovely addition to our classroom. I love all things ETSY and you just gave me one more reason to visit that site! (as if I needed an excuse);)

  11. The wall frieze is stunning! I loved looking at it and I imagien my daughter would too!

    fjkelly6 at

  12. Oh I wish I could start all over again and teach the Waldorf Way–such an authentic and gentle course. Maybe my grand babies will get the opportunity. THe frieze and book are just beautiful and perfect for an Oma to share.

  13. I just found your blog and I love this! The pictures are beautiful. I have 5 wee ones (under age 6) who would love them even more than me. :) I’m new to Waldorf and thankful for the explanation. :)


  14. I am pretty new to the Waldorf learning methodology but I love it so far!! And I absolutely love the alphabet wall frieze. My son is about to start learning alphabets so these would be perfect!!

  15. Truly and magically delightful! : ) I just had to “heart” Shayne’s shop on Etsy. Thanks so very much for this truly wonderful giveaway! : )


  16. i am fairly new to Waldorf and would love to learn more. I anyone has any infoirmation for me or know where i can learn more that would be fantastic.

  17. Ohh, what a beautiful alphabet set! I did visit her shop and will definitely be saving it for when we might be able to purchase her book. Thank you both for the wonderful giveaway opportunity.

  18. First, as a new reader of your blog I just want to say WOW! I feel like I hit the jackpot just coming across this incredible wealth of information in all of your thoughtful and informative posts. I have been incorporating some Waldorf teaching into the home learning that I do with my kidlets, and after reading just a tiny portion of your blog feel inspired and equipped to use Waldorf learning even more. I also stopped by the Mama West wind Etsy shop and fell in love with everything there too! I just started my first blog and would love to link to some of your posts, as well as include your blog on my resources page if that’s okay with you.

  19. Having a son who is very curious about letters and writing early, he’s 4, I love this! Her shop is added to my favorites on Etsy…if I don’t win I see Christmas present idea :-)

  20. Timely post for this mama. We have the Wise Enchanter but my kids are just not interested in the storyline. This looks like a much gentler way to go through the alphabet. I made her etsy store a favorite.

  21. A lovely website and Etsy store. I will be purchasing the book, it’s beautiful. I would love to display the wall frieze in our home for my daughter. We are just getting started on our Waldorf journey by beginning a parent/child class this fall.

  22. Thank you so much for introducing us to Shayne’s beautiful art. What an enchanting book and wall frieze she has in her etsy shop. We will be doing an extended first grade year this year and would love to grace our walls with these beautiful images.

  23. Thank you so much for introducing us to Shayne’s beautiful art. What an enchanting book and wall frieze she has in her etsy shop. We will be doing an extended first grade year this year and would love to grace our walls with these beautiful images.

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