Ask a Waldorf Teacher: Can My Waldorf Child Work Above His/Her Grade Level?

Every Wednesday our members get to ask Waldorf teacher Diane Power questions about their homeschooling experience, Waldorf education and more. These Q & A sessions are posted on the member blog every week so you have access to all the past Q & A sessions. Become a member of Earthschooling to get your questions answered personally every week.

Question from Member: Can you direct me to some articles or books, or what is your opinion on letting a child do work above his grade/age level? For instance my son shows great comprehension and interest in math and we are set to finish our work ahead of time. Is it ok to move up or skip things he easily grasp or will this not be beneficial in the long run and he’ll miss the foundations and natural brain development he needs? – N.J.J.

Response from Diane: How old is your son? My answer would depend on if he is under or over 3rd grade. If he is 3rd grade or younger, I would celebrate the fact that he is picking up things quickly. How is his reading and writing? Can he use a flute and knitting needles well? Does he enjoy movement and exploring outside? During this time I feel it is much more important for the student to become balanced and practice in all areas. In fourth grade, I feel you have more room to move ahead once all the basic skills have been well practiced and fractions have been introduced.

Response from N.J.J.: He is 7. We have done a little bit of knitting and he does ok. He plays the piano. He enjoys moving and playing outdoors but I feel he is a bit behind other kids his age ability wise. He struggles a bit with writing but not sure that’s an issue at this point. I agree with getting him balanced in all areas.

Diane: the reason I asked about knitting and flute is that they are excellent ways to strengthen the fine motor skills needed to write – and to write without fatiguing quickly. Beeswax modeling also helps.

I would also give him more time outside to run and play to strengthen his entire body.

N.J.J: Ok, that makes sense. While doing that will it harm him to keep working, as long as it doesn’t frustrate him of course, ahead in the areas he excels? I want him to be able to make the right pathways and connections for well rounded development. Any other advice on things to strengthen this?

Diane: To continue to present lessons at a second or third grade level to a first grader would go against the Waldorf belief that subjects are brought at specific times to assist and meet the child’s development. That being said, there are many instances of combined classes in Waldorf grade schools.  Does he ask for certain advanced lessons?

N.J.J: He will usually make comments that this is so easy, I can do this so fast, and sometimes ask to do more.  So from what I understand it’s best to hold back until after 3rd grade and work on mastering other skills more equally until then? Any literature you can recommend on the topic? Or about pushing academics too soon?

Diane: On days he asks for more, I would give him more problems. You could also introduce something now in the spring (for the Northern Hemisphere) as a peek into next year and see how he handles it. I would also recommend the film Race to Nowhere or this article here called, Pressure and the Spirit of Play.

N.J.J: Thanks so much for your help and advice. This was something I was thinking about at the end of the year..just very lightly dipping in to the next year’s lessons. He’s just one of those kids that seem to pick things up quickly on his own before I have even presented it.

Diane: Thanks for your questions. Keep us posted on how he’s doing. It’s also a balance as an educator to keep the student interested, excited about the lesson, wanting more.

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