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: My husband is complaining that our grade 3 daughter isn’t getting enough writing practice. She has been through 6 blocks including LA, house building, and textiles. She has been writing 3x per week 3 to 8 sentences at a time. She has a very hard time physically and her penmanship is poor especially when not from copywork. She is also spelling below grade level but she is getting better with lists and games. Her grammar is spot on for waldorf but much less so than classical education. As she is moving into more cognitive learning do things pick up a bit? How many physical minutes or hours should 9yo be writing? Ty! – J.L.
Reply from Diane: Regarding your daughter, why is she struggling physically to write? Could you describe this a bit more? Have you tried anything to build up her strength?
J.L.: It is a long story. We have done a lot and she has made a lot of progress. She still fatigues easily. If she is writing on her own and not copywork it is mix of capital and lowercase, lots of misspelled words, no punctuation, various sizes. We have done so so much including beeswax, knitting, form drawing, many gross motor and fine motor exercises etc. We are really doing all we can for her and she is making progress. OT told me at 4 years old to just teach her to type bc she would never write very well. She is though! It is just her dad doesn’t really understand and he is demanding more pencil to paper time. He thinks she is behind due to lack of practice. We had a mixed up year and ended up with 3 math blocks and a science block left for grade 3. Supplemental blocks are form drawing and gardening. So I was thinking we would copy poems and review grammar and spelling with that. I wonder how much should be assigned daily and weekly. Also planning out grade 4 and wondering how much writing is part of a typical school day and week. Thank you!
Diane: First, I would highly recommend continuing with all the beeswax, knitting, form drawing, etc. Even through the summer if possible, but in a fun way. No pressure.
Second, continue in G4 to work with penmanship, spelling, punctuation, etc. Work together verbally to come up with a summary of what you are working on, write it out for her (reviewing spelling & grammar rules as you go) and then have her copy it. I agree to give her poems to copy also.
In G4 you could try to give her a dictation once a week, perhaps starting with one sentence.
Also, she could dictate her thoughts on a summary to you, you write it for her, edit it with her, and she can write the final copy in her MLB. I would also recommend giving her a template behind her paper to help with keeping her writing straight.
Regarding how long should she be writing, etc.: for G4 during a language block she should be writing every day. Review the story/work with the story/write the story. Bookwork time should be 20-30 minutes. If this isn’t enough time to finish her work in one session, she could continue for a 15-20 min session in the afternoon and/or leave time during the next ML for her to finish up without affecting her new work for that day.
The amount of sentences, depending on the subject, should be 5-10 sentences. You could also introduce “how to write a paragraph “ – intro, middle, & conclusion – toward the second half of the year as an introduction only.
I would also suggest that she learn typing during the next school year. In the future, if she can type faster than she writes, she could use the typewriter when she puts together her own summaries/thoughts/etc.. edit her work with you, and then decide which pieces she wants handwritten in her ML book, and which can be added typed as is. (I’m thinking ahead to G5 and up when the written work expectations increase. )
o address your husband ‘s concerns, continue to educate him about her struggles and her successes. Celebrate her successes as a family. Acknowledge her struggles and her hard work. Look over her work from G2 with her to see her progress. I don’t think it would help her to throw too much new information/rules/etc if she’s still struggling. Slow and steady wins the race.