Disclosure :: This post was written as a response to a post NOMB published in January called “Thoughts on the High Expectations of Kindergarten.” The Waldorf School of New Orleans feels passionately about this topic and wrote this sponsored post to share and inform parents that there is another local option.
Thoughts on the High Expectations of Kindergarten :: Via The Waldorf School of New Orleans
As “success-targeted” pressure mounts in ever-earlier academic benchmarks for children in Kindergarten and even pre-K, we increasingly encounter reactions like Andie’s, who in her January 4 Thoughts on the High Expectations of Kindergarten, voices the poignant wish that her son could have “a childhood like [she] did”, with an education that would allow him “to play, to explore, to experience life” and “learn by doing”. Instead, Andie’s son must adapt to the academic expectations for Kindergarten, which, distressingly, now include “desk and classroom instruction,” homework, and standardized testing. Andie cites scientific studies that demonstrate the importance of play for brain development, the basis of both social and academic skills.
Andie is spot on when she says that children need time to be kids! The US educational system could indeed take some cues from Finland, where children do not receive academic instruction until they enter first grade …at age seven!
So my question is, if we all agree that it is against the very nature of five-year-olds to force them into a desk all day, why are we abrogating power over our children’s education to state and federal requirements that fly in the face of scientific evidence and of what we know in our hearts? Why do we allow fear that our children won’t be competitive in some future marketplace if they’re not hitting academic benchmarks at age four or six, drown out the voice of common sense?
What contemporary researchers are discovering about brain development is what philosopher-scientist Rudolf Steiner incorporated into the curriculum of the first Waldorf School, founded in Stuttgart, Germany, nearly 100 years ago. With its emphasis on imaginative play, physical activity indoors and out, and full integration of the arts, Waldorf Education offers precisely what Andie seems to be longing for. And because Waldorf schools are private and independent, they subject neither students nor teachers to standardized testing.
Waldorf Education Respects and Protects the Integrity of Childhood Itself.
Each stage of childhood offers the growing human being a window for developing certain capacities. From birth to age seven, the child’s physical body is experiencing its developmental “moment.” This is the chance-of-a-lifetime for brain and body, as the child gains mastery over gross and fine motor skills, proprioceptive and spatial processing, midline crossing and bilateral integration – all of which are foundational to academic learning, as well as to healthy functioning throughout our lifetime. We can attempt later remediation in these areas, but it is at best only that – trying to catch up and recapture lost learning opportunities. Nothing is lost by preserving a play-filled childhood—in fact, everything is gained by protecting this need to play!
The Waldorf Kindergarten teacher’s job is not to “instruct,” but rather to lead the children into engagement. Young children who are allowed uninterrupted time to build, create their own stories, dress up, play in the sand, run, splash in puddles, investigate the outdoors, watch bugs, craft, cook, are developing their bodies and minds so thoroughly, that by the time they reach the age of academics, sitting at a desk, listening attentively, learning to write beautifully, discovering the wonders of reading and computation are easily and joyfully embraced – all without sacrificing their childhood or their academic progress.
Qualities of creativity, wonder, curiosity, empathy, cooperation, innovation, competence, and adaptability all are cultivated in the Waldorf Kindergarten, and throughout the Waldorf Grades curriculum. Surely these are the tools that will serve our children in the long run, whatever path they choose and whatever challenges they may face – whether they could read chapter books in Kindergarten or not!
As for reading chapter books, the Grade School students of the Waldorf School of New Orleans scored the highest per capita reading minutes in the 2016 New Orleans Public Library Summer Reading Contest. Obviously, allowing children to come to reading when they are ready (and minimizing screen time), does not hold them back! Our Grades curriculum is comprehensive and rigorous, and fully arts-integrated. Waldorf graduates are sought after by the best local high schools for not only their academic abilities but also their creativity, social competence, and self-confidence.
And it all starts in Kindergarten! I warmly encourage everyone who, like Andie, understands that what it takes to become a great person is indeed not all “learned in a classroom” to explore the true, and truly human alternative that Waldorf Education offers. The Waldorf School of New Orleans offers weekly tours of its Early Childhood Center and monthly tours of our Grade School campus.
Want to learn more about the Waldorf School of New Orleans? Please sign up to come see for yourself, or contact Margaret Runyon [email protected] 504.525.2420
This summer, Camp Walden offers a three-week experience of Waldorf-inspired fun for children ages 4 to 14. Discount for early bird registration through March 31.
Margaret has been supporting and promoting Waldorf Education in New Orleans since 1985. After a 40-year career in high-end retail, she is thrilled to finally merge vocation with employment as Enrollment and Outreach Director at the Waldorf School of New Orleans.