Ask a Waldorf Teacher: Deciding Grade Placement

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 Earthschooling Member: Are there any guidelines or cues you use to determine what grade a child needs to be working in with the Earthschool curriculum? I have a 12 year old 4th(?) grader, who has special needs (well, kind of…he has a pre-birth brain injury/malformation that resulted in Apraxia of speech, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy, but most people cannot tell). He did 3rd grade in a Waldorf school, two years ago, right on academic level with the rest of the class. Emotionally, he is immature, so he fit in with the 3rd graders at the time. He is reading now at about a high 4th grade level, but is just being introduced to long division now. So, for math, I’m comfortable working on 4th grade material now. However, knowing that stories and material in the curriculum brilliantly “meet” kids at the level of their “inner world,” how can I gauge what “inner level” he is at, and what grades’ stories/work “speak” to him? Literally show him some material and ask him? As another example, I recognized that he started the 9 year change at least a year “late” (but I totally know, because of his challenges, he’s neurologically immature and has always been late on many other milestones). What is the next noticeable “change” to give me a clue about what “age” he “is”? – K.C.

Answer from Waldorf Teacher Diane Power: Hi K.C.! I think that you are absolutely on the right track with wanting to “meet” your son where he is developmentally. After the nine year change, the next important turning point is at twelve when “a child begins to develop the capacity to perceive other people and the world with new interest and understanding.” Steiner, Rhythms of Learning, p.215. Edited and introduced by Roberto Trostli.

Grade 4 really speaks to the nine year change. Grade 5 is a moment of balance, of grace and beauty, before launching into grade 6. This is the year of crossing the Rubicon. It is the gateway to pre-adolescence and idealism. Changes are beginning in the student’s physical body.

You could read over the Norse myths (they have a strong Trickster character in Loki), and the stories of ancient Egypt, India, Persia, and Greece to decide and then try a language block.

Note from Kristie: You might also want to check out this wonderful article by Rahima Baldwin Dancy on our blog here: Parenting the Nine-Year-Old.

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