Early childhood education from a play-based approach to learning

Waldorf kindergartens are set up like home environments and give children the chance to learn through play.
WALDORF KINDERGARTENS ARE SET UP LIKE HOME ENVIRONMENTS AND GIVE CHILDREN THE CHANCE TO LEARN THROUGH PLAY.

Kindergarten instruction at Wasatch Charter emerges from an understanding of the developing child. Because the kindergartener at age five to six is a concrete rather than abstract thinker, the curriculum emerges from those things that already exist in the child’s world, that which is known, familiar, and capable of being understood. Kindergarten is a play-based, home-like environment. The rich life of the imagination is most potent in a child during kindergarten and the early primary years. The foundations for reading are built through areas such as writing and drawing, oral storytelling, memorization, and sensory motor skill development.

Kindergarten

View comparison to Common Core Standards
Language Arts Science History and Social Studies Math
Fairy tales from around the world; singing; poetry recitation with emphasis on the oral tradition; upper case alphabet is introduced Cooking; baking; nature stories; nature walks; observations about weather; gardening; understanding of basic needs vs wants Multicultural stories; festivals; foods; understand rules and safety; community formations: school, family, neighborhood; develop social interaction skills with peers The qualities of numbers; sorting and ordering; rhythm counting with movement and song; measuring in baking and cooking; woodworking
Handwork Foreign Language Visual and Performing Arts Movement/Phys. Ed.
Finger crocheting; sewing; cutting; pasting; drawing; seasonal crafts; woodworking Introduction to Spanish, through songs and rhymes Drawing; painting; beeswax modeling; drama; singing; percussion instruments; puppetry Circle games; finger games; Eurythmy; jumping rope; climbing; outdoor imaginative play

Wasatch Charter School approaches reading instruction from a different perspective so that instruction is synchronous with the development of the child. Reading is much more than recognizing sound/symbol relationships. For true reading to occur, there must be a corresponding inner activity that takes place as the child decodes words; that is, the child must form an inner picture of what he or she is reading so that comprehension and vocabulary develop.

In the early elementary years, math instruction will flow from the whole-to-parts and be especially integrated and playful. Stories, art, manipulatives, music, mental games and movement will be used to stimulate students’ neural resources and to create a learning context.

Reading instruction begins in Kindergarten through story-telling, arts, and a picture-based introduction to the alphabet.

“Learning to read is an entire process with many contributory facets, and Waldorf Education undertakes reading instruction in almost the opposite way that it is introduced in most schools across the nation Indeed, the foundation for reading instruction is laid already in the kindergarten.  In the United States, the mainstream approach to reading has been to introduce decoding skills as the first step in the reading process. This entails memorizing the alphabet and its corresponding sounds through repetitive drills and then linking these sounds together to read simple words and sentences… Because the content of these early readers must be very simple to restrict words to those that can be easily sounded out, teachers are forced to wait until the middle and upper elementary years to work on more sophisticated texts. Then teachers must work hard to improve comprehension since the pupils at this age have already moved beyond the phase of where imaginative thinking is at its peak.

There is a second concern about teaching reading skills in this sequence. This approach is difficult for many young children because, in many cases, their eye muscles have not matured to the point where they can track properly on a page. Thus, a number of children will be labeled as slow or remedial readers simply because their eyes may not have matured as early as other children. Waldorf Education approaches reading instruction from an almost opposite direction specifically so that instruction is synchronous with the development of children. Reading is much more than recognizing sound/symbol relationships. For true reading to occur, there must be a corresponding inner activity that takes place as the child decodes words: that is, the child must form an inner picture of what he or she is reading so that comprehension develops. The rich life of the imagination is most potent in a child during kindergarten and early elementary years and is present at the same time that the child’s sense for the sound and rhythm of language is at its peak.

To capture these capacities at the time that they are most present in the child is the rationale for a foundation of reading that begins first with spoken language…For all of these reasons, Waldorf students will be given a strong foundation in comprehension, vocabulary and in the sounds and meanings of their native tongue. Then students will be introduced to writing and spelling the letters and words that are part of their stories. And, as a final step, the students will read from their own texts describing the stories that they have heard. In this way, students have the proper time to develop all of the skills that are part of the complex skill of reading at the time when it is most appropriate for them to do so. When reading is approached in this way, children become voracious readers who love and understand what they choose to read” (Is it True Waldorf Students Are Not to Read Until Second Grade).

Parents registering their children for kindergarten at WCS should be aware that the delivery of curriculum differs in sequence from traditional schools.  There are significant benefits to remaining in the school throughout the grades and long-term commitment to the school is sought. Parents are highly encouraged to support the school’s literacy efforts by reading to their children for a minimum of thirty minutes each evening.