Why do you begin formal reading instruction later than the public school?

A distinctive strength of the Lighthouse educational program is its approach to Language Arts. In the early years, the curriculum differs most from conventional schools, public and otherwise. In particular, parents of 6 – 8 year olds will note that a child’s public school peers are expected to read at an earlier age. Why?

Children who are encouraged to be active, playful, and creative in early childhood are often the most enthusiastic learners during the elementary years. Traditionally, Kindergarten was intended to serve as a gentle introduction to school for young children and in first grade children began more formal learning to read activities. Kindergartners engaged in play, cooperative activity, arts and crafts, and experiential learning. Social development was the primary focus as children grew accustomed to working and playing together as a group and away from home. In first grade, children were more formally engaged in reading and writing lessons and acivities. This has changed. In the ‘race to nowhere,’ Kindergarten has become the new first grade with many preschools now striving to ‘prepare’ children for the more academic Kindergarten. At the same time Kindergarten entry age has dropped to accommodate the increased economic need and desire for childcare. Despite societal changes and requirements regarding accelerated academic expectations and curricular goals for young children, the development and needs of a healthy and whole child will not be ‘hurried.’

Jean Piaget and Rudolf Steiner both point to the seventh year as a watershed age, in that a child enters into a new and critical stage of development in which new faculties emerge. The seven-year-old has a new sense of self as an individual and thus can start to consider other points of view. At this age, the imagination and conscious memory arise, enabling the child to experience mental imagery and to recall information at will. There will always be children who demonstrate reading readiness at an earlier age and so each child needs to work at his/her own pace. A developmental approach combined with small class size enables Lighthouse teachers to meet children where they are, and to design age-appropriate lessons and expectations.

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