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.
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?
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.
Blessings and magic!