“More is going on in handwriting than meets the eye” says Heather Church, Pedagogical Chair, Faculty, Parents & Community Life.
In a society that values typing speed over handwriting, many young children are bypassing an important skill set in their school years.
Why is handwriting such an important part of the Waldorf curriculum?
In her article The Importance of Learning Cursive Writing, Heather Church shows how a child’s pencil grip changes as they develop; from a little fist holding a crayon and using their shoulder and trunk to move it, to the mature grip which utilizes the fingers and wrist, using the shoulder and elbow as support.
While this process may seem to be a natural as learning to walk and run, learning to write cursive goes far deeper. It can almost be compared to a child that can walk, and a child that can dance.
Our fingertips are incredibly sensitive and feed a vast amount of information into our brains. Allowing our children to master only the most rudimentary handwriting skills before whisking them off to keyboards leaves a hole in their mental and physical development.
We have seen how handwriting goes hand in hand with language learning, reading and working memory. In fact, MRI scans on children’s brains who practice writing more, show enhanced neural activity than those who only looked at letters, as you would on a screen.
A child who can write well will enjoy additional benefits. Consider what Perry Klein, professor of literacy at the University of Ontario reported. “If students can form letters fluently, then that frees up their attention to focus on the content and language of what they’re writing.”
When writing essays, children wrote faster and expressed more ideas than they would have on a keyboard.
“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.” And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize,” he continued. “Learning is made easier.””
Waldorf teachers have made the choice to teach the right thing at the right time; when it is developmentally practical to do so. And what better time to teach children the art, beauty, and practical use of superior script?
We feel that the need for keyboards is not an essential developmental milestone and that they have plenty of time to master this skill as they grow older.
However, considering the above facts, we will continue encouraging our children to let their fingers dance over their pages and create their magical stories in increasingly rare and beautiful cursive.
Further information on this subject:
Cursive or Cursor
Ian Leslie wrote an article for The Guardian in which he said, “Curious people are more alive, somehow; their eyes are lit from behind. They know more about more, which makes them more interesting.”
Do you agree with that?
Curiosity is inbuilt in children, as much as eating and sleeping.
From as young as two months old, a child will show a preference for an unfamiliar pattern, and as soon as a child can point, they are asking the silent question: What is it?
In his article, Ian Leslie points to a study which showed that a child will ask around 100 questions an hour. Parents – universally – have experienced this phenomenon.
This insatiable desire to know more is a fundamental key to a child’s mental development. The more they know, the more questions they have on what they know. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle where curious kids learn more, and learn faster, than children who have not been exposed to an environment which encourages their curiosity.
One psychological study entitled “The Wick in the Candle of Learning. Epistemic Curiosity Activates Reward Circuitry and Enhances Memory” made an interesting comment. They said, “In the information-gap theory, the object of curiosity is an unconditioned rewarding stimulus: unknown information that is anticipated to be rewarding. Humans (and other species, such as cats and monkeys) will expend resources to find out information they are curious about, much as rats will work for a food reward (Loewenstein, 1994).”
Not only is curiosity beneficial in young children, but it is also deeply rewarding.
They find knowledge – and the quest for knowledge – fulfilling.
Curiosity leads to discovery, stimulating the reward centre of the brain, creating new neural pathways with exciting new information, and then providing more questions to the thirsty mind.
Encouraging curiosity in young children is a wonderfully fulfilling job for parents and teachers alike. A curious mind is a joy to teach and promotes a highly efficient learning environment which actually works.
How will you encourage your curious child’s learning process?
As parents, we can do our share by spending quality time with our little ones, and being available to answer the inevitable onslaught of “Why?” Providing open-ended questions and encouraging our children to seek their own answers is a valuable tool to grow little minds.
Teachers at the Waldorf schools have been trained to actively encourage curiosity in their students. We welcome the “Why” and we teach children how to find answers.
Without exception, we all want the very best for our children.
As parents, we want to see them live a successful, happy, and fulfilled life. And it’s with this in mind that we see so many parents getting their children involved in a multitude of activities to give them the edge and make sure that they have all the skills they need to succeed in our frenzied world.
Have you considered how music can benefit your child?
The Roseway Waldorf curriculum introduces music at an early age – and for good reason. Besides the sheer joy and excitement that it brings to young children, there are a plethora of studies which point to early music learning as a serious brain boost.
Language skills, in particular, are positively impacted by early music experiences.
A fascinating study breaks down the science of this premise and notes, “…musicians learn and repeatedly practice the association of motor actions with specific sound and visual patterns (musical notation) while receiving continuous multisensory feedback. This association learning can strengthen connections between auditory and motor regions (e.g., arcuate fasciculus) while activating multimodal integration regions.”
The training of the brain in this way enhances other behavioural and cognitive functions outside of the musical abilities; developing a plasticity of the neural network.
Just an hour a week of music – especially for children under the age of seven – is enough to see significant benefits to the brain.
Liisa Henriksson-Macaulay, author of The Music Miracle: The Scientific Secret to Unlocking Your Child’s Full Potential, writes, “When children start studying music before the age of seven, they develop bigger vocabularies, a better sense of grammar and a higher verbal IQ.” This applies both to their own language, as well as their ability to learn foreign languages, and is a gift that lasts well past childhood into adulthood.
Liisa further goes on to point out that our children learn the most during free play and discovering the word around them for themselves. So a combination of gentle, enjoyable music lessons combined with a lot of unstructured play is a wonderful recipe for our children’s growing minds.
If you would like to know more about the Waldorf way, we would love to assist you. Please contact us with any questions.
They’re called originals, creatives, and innovators. They drive change, stand out and speak up. They’re the ones with new ideas, with wide-eyed Aha moments at 02:00am.
Who are they?
Business psychologist Adam Grant talks about the value of creative thinkers in our modern world with almost grudging admiration. He talks of their contribution to innovation with their original and non-linear solutions, and the value of these thinkers both in society and in business
Many people consider creative thinking as something you’re born with, much like being left or right-handed, or having red hair. However, quite the opposite is true.
Like anything, creative thinking can be taught.
Consider how a young child learns: He turns things around, tastes them, throws them, and fits pieces together. He can create a space ship or a pony out of a cardboard box, because in his incredible mind – it could be anything.
Once children enter the modern school system however, things change. They are given information, and not lessons. They are given solutions to problems and taught how to practise solving them. So many little minds rebel in the classroom because inherently, this is not how they choose to learn. Giving a child information may teach them that piece of information, but not necessarily how to implement it, what it means, or how it can be used.
On the other hand, a Waldorf education actively nurtures the developing creative minds of children, encouraging them to stretch as far as they can into new and unexplored territories. It teaches them to ask why, and to unpack information to fully grasp it.
For example, a science lesson may involve combining two compounds in a particular way, and noting the result. Conventional education systems often give the process, the result, and the reason for the experiment. However, a Waldorf science teacher may only offer the smallest piece of information – and give no solution or reason for the experiment. The science student will perform the experiment, and note down the result, after which they may spend a few days considering what this means, what exactly happened, and why.
This journey of discovery allows the child to filter through the information that they have and draw conclusions – encouraging a creative thought process. Thus innovation is born, with new ideas and thought patterns bursting through and making themselves known.
Are they likely to remember this information that they’ve discovered themselves? What do you think? How do you imagine this process could help them in their adult lives?
Many people have questions regarding the teaching methods and educational processes at Roseway Waldorf. We would love to answer your questions in full. Please feel free to contact us.
A child with a strong physical core is a happy child.
Poor core strength (the muscles in the trunk of the body) leads to poor posture, affecting both fine and gross motor skills. This affects balance and can also result in limited endurance, fatigue, and frustration.
The fix is easy: Outdoor play!
Children should be given every opportunity to run, jump, climb and crawl in an unstructured environment. Fun activities that build core strength include bouncing on a trampoline, swinging, The Wheelbarrow (a personal favourite), Twister, skating, and bike riding.
Remember: Don’t call it exercise. And offer support and encouragement while your child builds a solid, healthy physical foundation.
A word from Waldorf