In Waldorf schools, one must consider Rudolf Steiner’s beliefs and views on shape drawing. Shape drawing is the foundation for developing fine motor skills in preparation for writing. Remember, the movement of the hand also educates the brain. From the book Form Drawing Grades One to Four: “It is part of the evolution of art and, as such, it develops the aesthetic sense and the feeling for the form. It also teaches to think, but not in a non-intellectual way; it trains the intelligence to be flexible, able to follow and understand a complicated line of thought. “
A child experiences the forms and this develops the forces of the will. It is a way of “seeing” with the hands. Rudolf Steiner said that “the line is the subject and not an image of something in the outside world”. This is also the reason why when drawing shapes you should not allow the child to color between the shapes and the lines. Children in Waldorf schools learn in a very meaningful way through the arts.
When looking at first grade work, following Steiner’s directions, we would start with two lines: the straight and the curve. The first year is the year the child becomes upright, so in this pose the child actually “draws” this shape with his body upright. So you see, it’s not just about drawing a line or letters or writing words … the reasons Steiner laid out for his specific teaching methods go much deeper, and as a Waldorf homeschooler, you really need to do your homework to fully understand what is going on. You must have a real understanding of coordination, movement, senses … the human ego and the forces of will and soul force. Waldorf is about loving, thinking, feeling and all of this happens in your child at all times.
Physical movement with the child’s whole body should always precede any attempt to put something on paper. The child should be asked to stand with his arms straight above his head. They should be able to run straight ahead. They should try with their eyes closed, then walk the line back and so on. Then they should draw the line in the air in front of them, and practice drawing it with their arms, hands, legs … A ribbon is a wonderful tool for this practice.
In the Waldorf approach, writing is always taught before reading. The reason for this is that writing is a much more concrete, practical and less demanding activity. When writing (again) the whole being is involved. Ideally, the child begins with beeswax paper on the larger sheets of paper so that the child can fully (physically) experience the scale of the form. Also, when it gets very big, the child can clearly differentiate between the straight lines and the curves of the letters. In Waldorf schools, letters are taught by “drawing” them in the air, on the ground, drawing, painting and modeling them … Each letter, each shape must be “alive” for the child.
In this way also follows the natural development of civilization. The first writing was the writing of images and writing as we know it today evolved very slowly and gradually out of the consciousness of the image. The little printed letter shapes that we ADULTS use are completely foreign to young children!
Also note that reading came much, much later, after printing in Europe in the 15th century. As recently as 100 years ago, relatively few people around the world could read or write. So when you start thinking about it this way, it really is quite “strange” for our life and soul consciousness to grasp or understand reading effectively, at such a young age.
This is also the reason why the introduction of letters is ALWAYS accompanied by a certain drawn form, because the child sees and understands the image. The little boy lives in a world full of imagination where animals can talk, fairies and witches live and all kinds of wonderful things happen. When he plays with a stick he sees it as an airplane or a train, a man, etc. We must recognize the world of fantasy and use it in our teaching. The child will learn much more quickly and easily because he has not been forced to work as an adult with concepts and facilities that have not yet matured, it will have a healthy influence on his later life.
Drawing and writing between the lines is an adult concept. Writing may seem orderly and organized to us, but are we doing a service to our child’s soul and willpower? Are we allowing the child to fully experience the shape of the letters? These are the questions we must ask ourselves.
I know it’s difficult because everyone else IS writing on the handwriting paper and it doesn’t scroll down the page … but if you can’t understand the importance of allowing creative forces to live within your child, it is possible. you want to do it. Consider another method of education because this is the CORE of Waldorf education. Wanting, feeling, thinking …
How does a child feel when presented with a lined paper notebook? Do you allow the child’s imagination to wake up and get involved? Because without imagination the child becomes apathetic, anxious or burdened by the very weight of knowledge that he does not understand. Because what affects the child emotionally will eventually reach the physical body and your child may get sick due to this kind of “learning.”
In Waldorf education, letters are presented as pictures that appeal to the child’s imagination. All the letters of the alphabet were once pictures in themselves. Are drawings ever drawn on stiff lined paper? (And coloring books are NOT pictures!) Also, lowercase letters came much later, so we ALWAYS started with capital letters ONLY.
Here are some examples
1) Think of a picture that LOOKS like the letter you are drawing. Example F = fish, W = wave, M = mountain, S = snake
2) Build a story around that image.
3) Make up a simple one or two line poem, this is called a consonant verse.
F = flirting fish blinking freely
W = Over the wind swept the waves, the white gulls sweep wildly.
M = Many brave climb the mighty mountain
S = Six silver snakes slid silently over the smooth sea of sliding sand.
These verses and images are represented in a story, drama, rhyme, song, verse, poem, and movement, as well as in drawing, painting, modeling, etc. Letter shapes must be “alive” for children to fully experience and feel within themselves. Children need to absorb the letter and make it their own …
So looking at it from these basic beliefs, you quickly realize that the very concept of keeping them on a little lined sheet of paper is as far from Waldorf as possible.
All belief can be compared to observing a child’s speech. It goes from infantile speech to more articulate speech. The child is not born speaking! Reading and writing are technical and mechanical skills that are learned more naturally and appropriately at a later stage in a child’s development. The value lies in the child getting a good foundation, where all of his cognitive and creative abilities can be developed before being pushed to “stay within the lines.”
An interesting but little known fact is also that Steiner said that cursive writing must precede printed words …! (All about the forms again). But generally, in American schools, cursive writing is not taught until third grade because of the American vision of learning to read. So in effect, to keep up with American reading standards, this very important part of learning has been pushed aside due to pressure from outside sources! Current philosophies of the modern, mechanistic world aim to see early results. As a result, they have devised one-sided left brain achievement tests that have become the indicator of success or failure in education. These tests, as we all know, are useless. However, they are a representation of the current system in force.
I highly recommend getting a copy of Putting Your Heart Back in Teaching because it is a wonderful guide for homeschooling parents and covers much of the BASIC basics that many parent teachers tend to forget, or sadly never fully understand. . A second “must” would be A Path of Discovery Volume One: Grade One.
Finally, to specifically address your question, the only actual mention I have heard of writing on the lines was a brief mention of writing on FOLDED paper. (An article folded in three parts) and this was a reference for the later stages of second grade, and I couldn’t find any other information to support whether this is a Steiner / Waldorf idea or a personal idea of the author. This author suggested folding a large sheet of paper into three parts (two folds, as if folding a sheet to place in a business-size envelope) and not making the child aware of the folds, simply asking him to draw the corresponding image with the letter …
Most Waldorf students learn to read or write without ANY pressure or anxiety. Most do not need to be “taught” to read, but learn on their own, naturally and joyfully. The environment of the Waldorf school is permeated with language and literature and all subjects are first introduced through the spoken word. As a result, Waldorf students develop a deep appreciation for language in all its forms and become highly skilled in its many applications.