Our Story (edited version)
She was ready, I knew it. She turned 6 in September, could already read very well, add and subtract. She could jump, follow directions and loved learning. She had lost five teeth. She was definitely ready. I was sure. I also knew it was a year early, that she couldn't tie her shoes, finger knit or ride a bike. Her behavior was difficult, her demeanor somewhat angry. However, everyone in my life kept saying, "that behavior goes along with being gifted, you must jump in and teach her or you'll miss the boat."
They were wrong. And so was I.
She flew through first grade, as well as some of second, and I can say that yes, she is very bright. She also fought me most of the way. I can also say unequivocally that denying her that last year before age 7 to just be a kid, play and have fun, did a lot more harm than knowing second grade math at age 6 will ever do good.
She was moody, tearful, mad and unsure of herself. She wanted so much to please and do everything right, that she became tense, nervous and angry. Life was something of a nightmare when she was having an off day. It was affecting all of us, and it wasn't good for any of us. I did a lot of thinking about it, and in the back of my mind was the idea that it was too much, too soon.
So I stopped. She knew enough academically, that was for sure. But she still couldn't ride a bike, tie her shoes, or relax in a group. So I stopped doing "schoolwork" of any kind, and I just let her play. I read to her, we drew, played outside and sang songs while we made lunch. She spent an entire day playing in the mud. We all smiled a lot more, and it was good. Her older sister and I started having a lot of fun playing too, a very nice unexpected side effect.
I was amazed at what happened next. I had hoped that she would mellow a little, but I never expected that she would pick up some yarn and finally master finger knitting, that she would learn to sew, that she would spend hours every day creating play scenes and washing doll clothes, mostly self directed. She even breathes more calmly when we rock at bedtime. I am so glad that I was at least able to give her this time, even though I have stolen some of that year from her.
I have promised myself that I will never stress her out like that again, and one of the beautiful things about Waldorf education is that I wont have to in order to stay on track. The sequence of the curricula is timeless, and it can be used so creatively that it can meet a child where the child is, without pushing her forward, or holding her back.
Last night she tied her shoes.
She turns seven in September.
NOW she's ready.
And we both can't wait to begin first grade!