Most Waldorf students learn to read or write without ANY pressure or anxiety. Most do not need to be "taught" how to read, but learn on their own, naturally and joyfully. The Waldorf school environment is permeated by language and literature and all subjects are presented first through the spoken word. As a result, Waldorf students develop a deep appreciation for language in all of its forms, and they become highly skilled in its many applications.
A growing number of schools is teaching cursive letter formation right from the start. There are a number of advantages to this: Children only have to learn one way to write letters so they get lots more practice in the desired style. Children are not taught `bad` habits that they will have to unlearn later. Cursive letter shapes are more distinctive than print which reduces the chance of reversal mix-ups e.g. b/d. Cursive from the start is recommended by many dyslexia specialists. There is no messy transition stage to dent children`s confidence as they progress from print to cursive. Children need to be given lots of opportunity to write. The first word most kids will want to write is their own name. Parents can help by providing a good handwriting model for children to trace over at first, then later to copy. One way is to write the child`s name using a light color then the child can trace over it with a darker color.
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. In writing (again) the whole being is involved. Ideally, the child begins with beeswax paper on the largest sheets of paper so the scale of the form can be fully (physically) experienced by the child. Also, when done very large the child can clearly differentiate between the straight lines and curves of the letters. In Waldorf schools the letters are taught by "drawing" them in the air, on the floor, by drawing, painting and modeling them... Each letter - each form must be "alive" to the child. This way also follows the natural development of civilization. The first writing was picture writing and writing as we know it today evolved very slowly and gradually out of picture consciousness. The little shapes of printed letters which we ADULTS use are completely foreign to young children! Also note that reading came much, much later - following the printing in Europe in the 15th century. As recently as 100 years ago relatively few people worldwide could read or write. So as you begin to think about it in this way, it really is quite "foreign" to our soul life and consciousness to effectively grasp or understand reading - at such a young age.