The whole belief can be compared to the observation of child`s speech. It goes from baby talk to more articulate speech. The child isn`t born speaking! Reading and writing are technical and mechanical skills which are more naturally and appropriately learned at a later stage of the child`s development. The value lies in the child getting a good foundation, where all of his cognitive and creative capacities are allowed to develop before being pushed to "stay within the lines". An interesting but little known fact is also that Steiner said that cursive writing should precede printing words..! (All about the forms again.) But generally, in American schools, cursive writing is not taught until the third grade because of the American view of learning to read. So, in effect, to keep up with the American standards of reading - this very important part of learning has been tossed aside due to pressures from outside sources! The current philosophies of the modern and mechanistic world are aimed at seeing early results. As a result they have devised one-sided, left brained achievement tests that have become the indicator of success or failure in education. These tests, as we all know, are useless. Yet they are a representation of the current system in place.
This is also why the introduction of letters is ALWAYS accompanied by certain form drawn - because the child sees and understands the picture. The young child lives in a world filled with imagination where animals can talk, fairies and witches live, and all kinds of wonderful things happen. When playing with a stick he sees it in turn as an aeroplane or a train, a man, etc. We must recognize the world of fantasy and use it in our teaching. The child will learn far more quickly and easily because he has not been forced to work in an adult way 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. It may appear that the writing looks neat and all organized to us, but are we doing a service to the soul and will forces of our child? Are we allowing the child to fully experience the form of the letters? These are the questions we must ask ourselves.
In looking at work for the first grade, following Steiner`s indications, we would begin with two lines: the straight and the curved. The first year is the year when the child gains uprightness - so in this posture the child actually "draws" this form with her upright body. So you see it`s not just about drawing a line or letters or writing words... the reasons Steiner set forth for his specific methods of teaching go much deeper and as a Waldorf home educator you really do need to do the homework to understand completely what is going on. You must have a real understanding of coordination, movement, senses... the human ego and will forces and the soul force. Waldorf is about willing, thinking, feeling and all of this is going on in your child at all times! Physical movement with the child`s entire body should always precede any attempt at putting anything on paper. The child should be asked to stand straight with their arms straight above their heads. They should be able to run a straight line forward. They should attempt it with their eyes closed, then walk the line backwards 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 stick is a wonderful tool for this practice.