In Waldorf Schools, one has to consider Rudolf Steiner`s beliefs and views about form drawing. Form drawing is the basis for the development of fine motor skills as a preparation for writing. Remember, the movement of the hand also educates the brain. From the book Form Drawing Grades One through Four: "It is part of the evolution of art and, as such, develops the aesthetic sense and a feeling for form. It also teaches thinking 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 will forces. It is a way of "seeing" with the hands. Rudolf Steiner said "the line is the subject and not a picture of something in the outer world". This is also why when form drawing you should not allow the child to color in between the forms and lines. Children in Waldorf schools learn very significantly through the arts.
The fashion for cursive writing comes and goes. Many years ago all children were taught to write in an elaborate cursive script, requiring many hours of weekly practice to perfect. Over the years as other subjects began to crowd out handwriting lessons in the school curriculum this gradually gave way to teaching a basic print style of handwriting (ball and stick). Many people now believe that keyboarding skills are more important than good handwriting. Others believe that even computer keyboards will soon be defunct with speech recognition software becoming more popular. However, many schools do still teach cursive writing. Traditionally schools teach children a simple print style of handwriting first, moving on to cursive at a later stage. This has the advantage that the initial letter shapes are less complex to write and most of them match the style of letters which children come across in their reading books. One disadvantage is that children spend many hours practicing one style of handwriting only to be told after two or three years that they now need to write in a completely different style. As any teacher or parent knows, it`s very hard to get children to `unlearn` well-established habits, whether it`s thumb-sucking or a writing style.
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.