Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Why We Left Public School- Age Appropriated Standards

"Squealing." "Answer." "Between." "Phone." "Goose."

The words above are all second grade reading words given to Viking Monkey Boy's 1st grade class.  Students were expected to read words like those fluently. 

"Viking Mom, I want you to consider putting Viking Monkey Boy into Title I Reading since his fluency is still inconsistent." 

Now, for many of you who know me you all should be very proud that I didn't throttle or swear at the teacher. I did remain very calm and firmly told her that Viking Monkey Boy would not be attending any Title I Reading and that I would like him re-evaluated at 1st grade reading after he has a protein snack. (Viking Monkey Boy is Hypoglycemic requiring a protein snack every 3 hours.)  A week later the teacher and I met again to discuss Viking Monkey Boy's reading level. Ironically, Viking Monkey Boy fluency improved after he ate his snack. He does reads at the 2nd grade level but as I suspected he still is comprehending at the 1st grade level. Now, what is wrong with that?

Aha!! Here is the conflict with Public Education. Public Education is expecting our children to read before they are cognitively ready. Many can read, but can they truly comprehend what they are reading? 
Only if reading was this ideal.

Viking Dad and I made the difficult decision to take the Viking Children out of public school and send them to a Waldorf School. It wasn't a quick decisions and it was made over many discussions over several factors.

I have discussed the Common Core Curriculum here.
I shared my concerns over the need to Sleep and Breath here
Last week I discussed the need for teachers to understand students' individual Temperaments here.

One of my biggest frustration as a teacher and as a parent has been knowing how inflated the educational standards have become in public school. Public schools all over the country are expecting children to read and grasp mathematical concepts at very early ages. Programs to give children a "head start" has become million dollar business and to what result. Scores are still not improving!

Now to be honest, when I first heard that the Waldorf Schools didn't start the grades until the child is 7 years old I didn't really buy into it at first. Then I observed and watched how the Waldorf schools approach to reading and math was taught and was able to compare the difference to the Public School's approach. Also, I saw hard data that validated my concerns. 

There is a myth that Waldorf students do not start reading until the second grade. Waldorf education takes reading instruction in an almost opposite approach then public schools. The foundations of reading is started in Kindergarten. 

The Public Schools in the United States approach introduces decoding skills as the first step in the reading process. This is why the demand on teaching fluency is so important. The approach includes memorizing the alphabet and the corresponding sounds, depthongs, et al and this is usually done in repetitive drills that eventually are linked into simple words and sentences.  We all remember the "Hook on Phonics Works for Me" commercials with the little four year old reading some heavy duty book. These repetitive words and sentences limit imagination and creativity. By the time children are in the older grades they want to expand beyond, "See Jane. See Jane run....." 
Is that little girl reading in the commercial? Yes. Is she comprehending what she is reading. NO. Comprehension which is understanding the sequence of a story and recognizing the characters and setting doesn't develop until the age of 7!

Hooked on Phonics. Worked for Me?

KNOWN FACT!!- Nearly EVERY OTHER COUNTRY starts reading when children are 7.
KNOWN FACT!!- There are absolutely no studies that show starting early reading is better in the long run for academic or profession success. 

There is a second concern which is often over looked in the public schools. Children eye muscles have not matured to or developed for lateral tracking until the age of 7 or 8! Sadly, a number of children including Viking Lady Bug have been labeled a slow or remedial readers. Viking Lady Bug if she stayed in public school would have been retained for another year in kindergarten because this fact wasn't discovered until mid year. 

Waldorf education approaches reading instruction in a synchronicity with the development of children. Reading is so much more then recognizing sounds and symbols. For true reading to occur the child must form an inner picture of what he or she is reading so that comprehension can develop. Ahah! That word- comprehension!!! Children, when allowed, have rich imagination that is present during kindergarten and early elementary years. This is why fairy tales, folk tales, pictorial imagery of songs and poems and the desire of the young child to listen to stories and repeat rhymes and sings songs all become the basis for language arts. 

In the first grade, the alphabet is not give whole and in order. It is "seeing" the letter that arise (certain consonants and certain letter combinations that usually travel together) from a picture. Vowels are "heart sounds"  and give feelings that the children can feel. 

Waldorf ABC chart in pictures

Waldorf students are given a strong foundation in comprehension, vocabulary and in the sounds and meanings in their language. Students are then introduced to writing and spelling and words that are part of stories. The final step, the students read what they have written from stories they have heard. In this way, the student demonstrates in a natural way their comprehension of a story. 

It has been shown and proven that if reading is approached in this way, children become life long learners who then want to explore beyond their box. 

Main Lesson Book- The Letter B

The approach to math is the same in the Waldorf School and math curriculum is based on the cognitive development and awareness of the children and not based on a series of state mandated standards. Math is approached visually and with stories Imaginative creatures, like gnomes,  are created to allow the children to manipulate the mathematical equations. How many people struggling to memorize their times table? 

I love the math gnomes that were used in one of the classes I observed. I wish I had been taught the little stories that went along with the gnomes. Also, observe how story continues to be interwoven throughout the lessons.

Math gnomes!

Math stories---

Math Stories

Math story

Public schools tend to put the cart before the horse. Students who can't keep up with the cart are then placed in remedial courses. I so wish public school teachers would see this problem. Why the rush?

Bless Bless

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