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Holistic Education and Learning to Read/ Educacion Holistica y el Aprendizaje de la Lectura

Yesterday, during a lecture in a graduate special education course, the discussion focused on children with reading, writing and spelling difficulties.  I was amazed to see how many things the professor stated, in terms of what good practice or necessary prerequisites for being a good reader are, and how many of them are already an integral part of a holistic approach to education, and at the same time, how many of these things seem so novel to educators.  

Two of the key points under becoming a good reader were *having a good memory* and * having a good attention span*.  I feel for the many children who are almost being set up to fail (without knowing it of course).  These are integral parts of holistic education (whether looking at Waldorf, Montessori or Reggio), Take memory work as an example.  It is common practice in Waldorf schools and homeschools to delay formal reading instruction, with more emphasis on listening skills and memory skills.  In Montessori, while there is a focus on early reading, there is also tremendous focus on development of attention span.  In Reggio classrooms, children will work on a main project, and revisit this for a number of days, not wholly unlike the Waldorf main lesson.

By working primarily through memory in the early years, developing it, like a muscle, it improves over time, and thus it is part of reading instruction, albeit, in a holistic (age appropriate) rather than abstract way.  

Having a good attention span was the second point.  Here again, many forms of holistic education would advocate the elimination or at least minimization of screen time and gadgets, as well as exposure to the fast paced world.  These all help with the development of attention span.  In the end, I was pleased with seeing the parts of the whole :) finally, or perhaps I should say, the logic behind some of the methodology, the real nitty gritty reason and benefits of some of the seemingly 'finer points.'  Unfortunately, many of these things are merely thought of as 'ideals' in mainstream education, and are seldom put into practice, or worked into the curriculum in a consistent way.  It really made me step back and say to myself, hey this methodology that I am following really does have some strong points, even to those on the outside.  And it is nice to know what those specific points are, just in case I am in need of a defense one day.  I imagine that I will since I often hear, well does she read yet.  No. No she doesn't.

Then there was the topic of spelling.  Spelling words should come directly from the curriculum, rather than abstract or random words.  Well of course!  

Another point, later on in the lecture dealt with children with special needs lack confidence. Why don't we just state that many children lack confidence, whether or not they have special needs.  That being said, the professor suggested doing exercises and activities to build confidence.  Here again, I saw the connection in holistic approaches, and had an aha moment.  Knitting, sewing, baking, wood projects, obstacle courses, you name it, our kids are getting lots and lots of opportunities to build confidence as well as find an area of expertise or something that they are good at and that 'calls' to them.  Which by the way is a whole other topic that hopefully I will write about in another post.  A child who has just had their confidence soar watching themselves accomplish a task, will carry those feelings over into the more academic sphere, whence is born an eager learner.  Now if only mainstream education would REALLY implement these ideas.  ha!  I don't foresee that happening anytime soon.  


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