When I talk to new grandparents, my advice to them is get on board with the parents program. Today’s young parents have so many new approaches to child-rearing that we grandparents can sometimes have a steep learning curve. But if you want access to your grandchildren, you better be open, non-judgmental, and enthusiastic about learning their new parenting philosophies.
I’ve had to practice my own advice since the day my daughter announced her pregnancy and told us she wanted to have a home birth. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s taken some tremendous faith and self-restraint. With each new developmental stage has come a new philosophy to learn about and embrace. I’d never heard of attachment parenting or co-sleeping before my granddaughters were born. Once I understood these theories and witnessed the wonderful results, I was “on board” with their latest program. I also became a believer in teaching sign language to babies and making your own baby food, to name a few others.
But the biggest challenge to date was understanding Waldorf education, particularly their reading and literacy philosophy. Waldorf education emphasizes the oral tradition, deferring the introduction of reading until age seven. While students at more competitive schools are mastering texts in first grade, sometimes even in kindergarten, most Waldorf students aren’t reading fully until the third grade.
Once again, as with every other new philosophy my daughter has introduced, I’ve become a believer. My granddaughter turned seven last April and her first grade teacher did not introduce any reading curriculum into the classroom. The children explored how the alphabet came about and practiced writing letters. They listened to fairy tales, learned how to knit and sculpt with wax, and they memorized verses. At home my daughter and son-in-law read aloud and took both of my granddaughters to the library story hour.
Last spring my daughter decided she was going to start homeschooling my granddaughter this fall. A little voice inside my head wondered how she would teach her to read since she’d never taught school before. In one month my granddaughter went from not reading at all to reading at third grade level. She is also writing short essays about the different activities she does each week. During my last visit I had the thrill of seeing her read for the first time and it absolutely blew me away. She read fluently and with expression, sounding out new words with ease, and understanding what she read.
I’ve been blessed to witness most of the big milestones in my granddaughter’s life. I was there for her birth, her first words, her first steps, her first time using the potty, when she lost her first tooth, and rode a two-wheeler. But this milestone beats them all. Coming from a family of avid readers, it was such a thrill to welcome her into the world of reading.
As I marveled at the ease with which my granddaughter mastered reading, I couldn’t help but remember the Waldorf philosophy: reading evolves as a “natural and comparatively effortless stage of a child’s mastery of language,” as well as a good deal of dedication from a homeschooling mom!