Some distinctive features of Waldorf education include the following:
- Academics are de-emphasized in the early years of schooling. There is no academic content in the Waldorf kindergarten experience (although there is a good deal of cultivation of pre-academic skills), and minimal academics in first grade. Literacy readiness begins in kindergarten with formal reading instruction beginning in grade one. Most children are reading independently by the middle or end of second grade. (note- I think you are all well-aware of my feelings towards early literacy, so I don't totally agree with this and would certainly be teaching my children from a very early age to read and hope to give them a love of reading. I want my children reading before second grade! )
- During the elementary school years (grades 1-8) the students have a class (or "main lesson") teacher. The ideal and goal is that the class teacher stays with the same class for the entire eight years of elementary school. This, however, is not always the case, for many different reasons, one being the high demand this puts on the versatility of the teacher
- Certain activities which are often considered "frills" at mainstream schools are central at Waldorf schools: art, music, gardening, and foreign languages (usually two in elementary grades), to name a few. In the younger grades, all subjects are introduced through artistic mediums, use the children respond better to this medium than to dry lecturing and rote learning. All children learn to play recorder and to knit. (I love this! I want my children learning other languages from an early age, and I love the idea of them learning to knit!)
- There are no "textbooks" as such in the first through fifth grades. All children have "main lesson books", which are their own workbooks which they fill in during the course of the year. They essentially produce their own "textbooks" which record their experiences and what they've learned. In some schools upper grades may use textbooks to supplement skills development, especially in math and grammar.
- Learning in a Waldorf school is a noncompetitive activity. There are no grades given at the elementary level; the teacher writes a detailed evaluation of the child at the end of each school year.
- The use of electronic media, particularly television, by young children is strongly discouraged in Waldorf schools.
With regards to the first point, they specifically mention reading...
9. How is reading taught in a Waldorf school? Why do Waldorf students wait until 2nd grade to begin learning to read?
Waldorf education is deeply bound up with the oral tradition, typically beginning with the teacher telling the children fairy tales throughout kindergarten and first grade. The oral approach is used all through Waldorf education: mastery of oral communication is seen as being integral to all learning.
Reading instruction, as such, is deferred. Instead, writing is taught first. During the first grade year the children explore how our alphabet came about, discovering, as the ancients did, how each letter's form evolved out of a pictograph. Writing thus evolves out of the children's art, and their ability to read likewise evolves as a natural and, indeed, comparatively effortless stage of their mastery of language.
Interesting approach, wouldn't you say? I still want my children reading well before then...