So many view points about when you should start teaching your children to read. In the evolution of humanity, spoken language developed first. Then came written language, originally through symbols (think hieroglyphics). Finally, once there was a written language, people learned to read.
This is exactly the sequence in which children master language, and so is the sequence in which reading is taught in Waldorf education as well as the Charlotte Mason Method. From birth to age seven, the focus is on the spoken word.
In Waldorf education there are many factors that are looked at to see if a child is ready for 1st grade. Entering 1st grade too early may not be good for a child. They say some of the highest suicide rates are of teenagers who are the youngest in their classes. (I am not saying just because someone is young they will do terrible, I am sure some flouirsh, but the rates of suicide are high) ,eek.
Rudolph Steiner explained that there are forces in the body always working. In a young child these forces are building their physical body, getting ready to grow up with a strong body. It is believed that although many children could read if we instructed them to at 3 or 4, it may redirect there forces. That is why they don’t push reading until 1st grade. But, please note that many of the activities that happen in Waldorf KG are pre-reading skills. Anyway, when the teeth begin to come out it is a sign that the forces are more able to be redirected because its hard work in forming a healthy body are done. (of course children will still grow and develop but the main physical structure is there). So, we are seeing that children are given adult ideas sooner than they used to and that children’s developing forces are turning away from the body sooner……..kids loose teeth sooner. But we don’t want to contribute a child’s developing forces turning away too soon because we pushed reading too early. In my experience, my daughters were ready to read when they were ready, and there was nothing I could do about it. I have noticed though, that the early readers did lose their teeth earlier.
Rudolph Steiner spoke many times about the significance of the change of teeth. He explained that for the first seven years or so, the child’s physical body is being built up by the etheric (or life) body. The peripheral formative forces mold the physical organs and systems, and set them in their right relation and functions. To me, this feels like I’m rushing the sweetness.
Another aspect of this formative phase is that the very young child has an inherited physical body, one that is the product of heredity. If you observe a room full of babies, you will see a marked similarity in their forms and faces. It is as their bodies are merely prototypes. In this first phase of human life, the child constantly remolds this inherited body into essentially a brand new, self-created physical body.
Interestingly, they say this is part of the wisdom behind all of those colds, infections, and childhood diseases: to help the child re-create the physical body anew, so that the child’s spirit can have a distinctive vehicle all its own. When this remolding process is complete, the child has exchanged the generic prototype for his or her true, individualized body. It’s so beautiful seeing my childrens face structure change into their own “looks”. Being witness to this has touched my heart and hushed my soul.
One thing Waldorf teachers and physicians have noticed is that children’s permanent teeth are erupting sooner. Steiner always mentioned age 7 as the time of the change of teeth; now it is more likely to be 5 or 6! Many people theorize that this is a sign of the overall speeding up of child development, possibly exacerbated by the general intellectualization and abstraction of modern life. Perhaps our etheric forces are being forced to finish their work too soon. Some anthroposophical physicians are concerned that this may cause negative health effects in the future, because the etheric forces are somehow weakened by not being allowed to develop in their own time.
Taking all this into account I allowed my children to lead the way. I didn’t really start trying to teach my daughter until she begged. I understand her, there is a whole new world out there once you learn how to read. Think about how it must feel ? I love to read and love learning. Her teeth were still not falling out yet, but one was loose. So we began preparing to learn to read, but with no pressure because I don’t want to rush her transition, I want to protect it. This is also one of the most controvesial things about the Waldorf education model. How do you feel about this?