There are so many things to love about a Waldorf education but there’s also many things to question. Although many parents aren’t comfortable with waiting to teach children to read until the first grade, I have always embraced this idea. I have loved that my children spent their Kindergarten year learning to bake bread, make soup, do beautiful handwork, paint, and have an abundant amount of time to play outdoors…Waiting to learn how to read in the first grade was perfect to me. And for most kids at our school, this is perfect for them too.
The problem is when you have a child with dyslexia. Dyslexia and Waldorf sometimes works…and sometimes doesn’t.
My daughter, who is now in the 5th grade has always loved books from the time that she was a toddler. She would spend hours going thru stacks of books–first looking at the pictures, then beginning to read a little, and then pretending to read a little. Sadly though, at the end the end of 3rd grade, she still was reading at a beginning level. She was still reversing some letters (both in reading and writing) and so we suspected that she was dyslexic.
We of course discussed this with her teacher who was very supportive and proactive. We committed to movement therapy (therapeutic eurythmy and other cross lateral movement programs) that hard science has proven opens neural pathways for learning. We obsessively read to and with our daughter every…single…night.
One day that summer (of the 3rd grade going into 4th) like magic something “clicked” and my daughter suddenly began to read fluently. She literally started attacking books voraciously, reading series after series. In 3rd grade she was struggling with “fairy” books and in 4th grade she was reading the entire Harry Potter series. We would literally have to tell her to stop reading and go to bed. (although there were many nights when she would take a light and read under her covers)
So for my daughter, (she’s now been formally diagnosed) dyslexia and Waldorf worked. She was able to learn at her own pace and discover her own way of reading. She never felt “different” from the other kids (thank goodness for no testing at Waldorf!) and always maintained her self esteem. And, the most important thing of all? She has kept her childhood love of books alive. As much as she loves other things like playing violin, I have to say that my daughter loves reading more than anything. I truly credit Waldorf for preserving that.
There are other challenges with dyslexia that she’ll need tutoring support in–like spelling–but we’ll start that as we need to. We feel good at where our daughter is academically now…
For others though, dyslexia and Waldorf doesn’t work well.
As the fate would have it, my son has also been recently diagnosed with dyslexia. His school journey has not been the same however and I am doing all that I can to help preserve his love of reading because he too loved books as a child. I’ll save my son’s story for another time…
So that’s my daughter’s story of dyslexia and Waldorf. If anyone else has a story or advice to share from their experience with dyslexia and Waldorf, I’d love to hear from you either in the comments section of via email…
P.S. Did you know that Steve Jobs (Apple), Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso and many others were dyslexic?
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