Nov 29, 2022 • 1HR 58M

Interview: Jennifer Militzer-Kopperl

Remedial Literacy Specialist, Author, and Waldorf Literacy Curriculum Advisor

 
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Photo Copyright Jennifer Milizer-Kopperal

While at first the following interview might appear only to be of interest and highly specific to the world of Waldorf educators, parents and students - rest assured that I can recommend it to a broader community.  Valuable lessons  and questions arise from the conversation with Jennifer Milizer-Kopperal including but not limited to the role of alternative education, the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, the role of technology in education and learning, the holistic importance of literacy, multi-lingual environments, child development and other related broad topics etc. 

Jennifer Milizer-Kopperal is a literacy specialist/remedial specialist, author, and educator developing and improving literacy programs in Waldorf Education. 

She is the co-author along with Janet Langley of The Roadmap to Literacy: A Guide to Teaching Language Arts in Waldorf Schools Grades 1 through 3.  The guide provides clear guidance on teaching literacy in the early grades. It builds off the work of Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education, by adding in material that is specific to the English language as well as modern research in literacy skills. 

She is also also author of the sequel Continuing the Journey to Literacy: A Guide to Teaching Language Arts in Waldorf Schools Grades 4 through 8  This guide then dives into how to teach language arts in a holistic way in the subject blocks: English, history, geography, natural science, and more. It is a compilation of the Steiner-Waldorf curriculum grades 4-8, an introduction to the principles of Steiner-Waldorf education, and a detailed guide to teaching language arts once students can read.

Jennifer’s two books form a complete program for teaching language arts in Waldorf Schools grades 1–8. She calls this program Renewal of Literacy. Jennifer is also the creator of www.renewalofliteracy.com.

Note: Jennifer added various points of clarification, and additional notes to the written interview below in grey foot note boxes. These add additional context to discussion points. 

Leafbox:

Jennifer, thanks so much for your meeting with me today. Actually, I have so many questions and I also asked some other parents at the Waldorf community that I'm part of, if they had questions about your literacy program. And I think we have a lot of questions. So maybe before we start, could you just give me a quick, how do you describe yourself, Jennifer? Are you an author? What's your quick introduction for yourself?

Jennifer:

Okay. Well first, before we start, I'd like to say thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today, and I look forward to answering the questions that your parents have brought because parent education is a critical piece of Waldorf education. If parents don't understand what's happening with their children, how can they have confidence in the education? So to answer your question, my background, I prefer to call myself a literacy specialist, an author, or a remedial specialist. I go back and forth because I work with students who have been ill served by their Waldorf education. I get the students who do not learn to read, who do not learn how to use math, who experience educational failure, and that's when I step in and try to offer some assistance.

Leafbox:

Great. And then your professional training or academic training before that?

Jennifer:

Oh gosh, that one's hard to explain. I began, let's see, I started off . . . Do you want to know about where I went to school or my background in literacy or both? Because this could be a long, long answer.

Leafbox:

I think I'll split it up because I have a sense of where you're going to go. I was watching your Little Jenny Videos as well. Oh, good. I think before we go into maybe how you learn to read and your experiences, maybe just tell us about your college experience and kind of post-college experience, if that's appropriate.

Jennifer:

Sure, it is. I went to college at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. I was a Russian Studies major, which means that I studied Russian language, literature and culture. I then went on to grad school in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Kansas and dropped out after two years. I realized that I was in the wrong field. I wasn't interested in going on to become a professor, which is what I had thought I had wanted to do when I was younger. I then drifted for a while trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life, and I ended up moving to California where I needed to get a job, and I took a job at Lindamood Bell Learning Processes. This is a company that specializes in working with students who have remedial problems, remedial reading, math, language comprehension.

I hadn't wanted to take this job. I didn't want to become a teacher. I had sworn when I was younger that I would never become a regular public school teacher or that I would never work with students in grades one through 12. I needed a job. I took the job, and the job changed my life. I swore I would not love the children, that it was just a job, that I was going to do it for a summer and then move on and work in Silicon Valley, which had been my dream. However, I met a young man named Brian.

I had been working with students who had remedial reading comprehension. Brian was different from every student I had ever worked with. Most of the kids just wanted to get done as soon as possible and leave and get on with their lives. But Brian actually wanted to be there. He did everything that his teachers asked and more, and he was profoundly grateful for it. He would say thank you at the end of each lesson, and after a while, I began to ask why Brian had so much gratitude. And he told me after I taught him how to use [the word] "or" to join two sentences together, that he had always wanted to know how to do these things, but no one had ever taught him, and that's why he was so thankful. I went home that day and I thought to myself, "How is it possible that someone who was in fourth or fifth grade does not know these things?" And then I realized that what I was teaching Brian was going to change his life. And then I realized why Brian was so grateful: He knew it. And as soon as I knew it too, my relationship to my students and teaching changed, I realized that this was probably the most important thing I could do with my life, giving these students a second chance. And at that point, I went from hating my job to loving my job, and I went from, "I shall never teach" to "I want to be an educator."

After a few years at Lindamood Bell, it was time to leave, and I didn't know what to do next. I decided to do the opposite of Lindamood Bell, which is Waldorf. Lindamood Bell specializes in teaching remedial reading, and it's highly effective. Waldorf specializes in everything else, and its reading instruction is God-awful. I, I'll go out and say it. It's horrible. It needed to be changed. I wanted to learn the opposite of what I had been doing. I wanted to learn everything else because literacy is so much more than being able to read and spell. It's so much more than language comprehension. These are just skills. These are just capacities. I wanted to get the rest of the story. I wanted to see education that looked at everything else. So I became a Waldorf teacher, which is sort of like becoming a Christian science doctor. With my background in Lindamood Bell and Waldorf, I joked that I was now a Christian science doctor. I was now a person who advocated the opposite of the philosophy she was in. But I found that looking through both lenses really gave me a better perspective for helping children.

My goal then was to become a Waldorf teacher, but it didn't pan out. I didn't get hired as a Waldorf teacher. Instead, a person came up to me, a person I knew, a colleague who had been working as a private remedial specialist at two area Waldorf schools. And she said, "I am going to retire from Waldorf. I need to return to public school teaching. I need to make more money. I have a caseload of students at two schools. I need someone who can help them. Someone who understands Waldorf and who knows how to teach reading. You're the only person I know who has the background. Will you take my clients?"

Well, I was looking at the prospect of being unemployed after investing three years of education to become a Waldorf teacher. So I said, sure. And then I started working with students at two area Waldorf schools. I then realized just how bad the situation was. I was getting students whose skills were as bad as the students I had been working with at a non-public school. A non-public school is a school for students who have such profound emotional needs and disabilities that they cannot attend a public school. I had been working at one of these schools while I did Waldorf teacher training. I had been working as a resource specialist, and the students I met at the Waldorf Schools, these private schools, they had skills in reading and spelling that were on par with the children I was working with who were in the most, the most, how shall we say this, deprived economic situations. You could imagine students who had to be institutionalized.

Footnote 1: “I graduated from Rudolf Steiner College (Fair Oaks, California) with Waldorf teacher certification in 2005.”

I realized something was profoundly wrong, and I started assessing students in order to get a feel for what they were missing, these Waldorf students. I then started assessing on behalf of a school that needed to do accreditation through AWSNA. They wanted me to assess all their second graders every year and let them know the results. And so I did for six years, and I discovered a Waldorf profile--that there were students out there, Waldorf students, who were failing because they were missing key academic skills. Their education wasn't providing them. And I started to ask myself, well, why not? And I found that question easy to answer because Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, gave indications for the German language. We speak English. The mismatch was as simple as two different languages with two different codes, two different skills.

Leafbox:

Jennifer, sorry to interrupt you before we maybe switch about the phonetic differences between German and English and the educational implications of that. I'd like to know what attracted you to Waldorf in the beginning, other than the differences with the public school system. I think we've overviewed some of the negative points of traditional Waldorf education. What are some of the strengths that you found that were, so

Jennifer:

Everything else.

Leafbox:

So maybe we can just spend a minute or two on those so people who are listening might not get total. Yeah, not totally . . 

Jennifer:

. . . down on Waldorf. No, I'm not. I personally think that the Waldorf system has the seeds for the future of education. It has a nice balance between the different subjects. For example, it looks at natural sciences, natural history. It looks at teaching students botany, zoology, mineralogy. It has history, it has geography, and the way how the subjects are arranged is very beautifully done. It's designed to work with child development. I personally think that it's one of the best systems that I've seen as far as understanding how an education needs to jive with how human beings develop. And that is what attracted me to Waldorf Education. Lindamood Bell is a wonderful system for teaching children how to read and do math, but literacy is so much more than reading and math and comprehension skills and spelling. Waldorf education has this 'so much more.' It understands that intuitively--it has environmental education, it has all of the pieces that an education needs.

It just doesn't do a particularly good job when it comes to the reading piece, and that is changing. So I must say that upfront that I'm speaking for what I saw in the aughties in the early aughties when I first joined Waldorf Education. The system really needed an overhaul when it came to literacy instruction because it was providing instruction for German, not English. And now that that's changing, the whole Waldorf system is changing for the better. And I'm very profoundly grateful to see that, and I'm happy to be part of that change. 

I don't want anyone to think that I'm down on Waldorf. I'm not. I very much support it, which is why I've given my life to try to help reform it. My goal is to reform literacy for the 21st century and beyond, and it's my belief that Waldorf is the key to doing so,

Leafbox:

Jennifer, I actually learned about, yeah, I mean became familiar through work through the two, I guess tomes that you guys wrote and how it's being used at our Waldorf school as kind of the guide framework for the curriculum for literacy. Yes. So that gave me, I went to more of a traditional school system. My sister has a PhD in education and she actually runs a Montessori school. And our daughter originally went to Montessori school, but some of the aspects of Montessori didn't jive well with her learning style and personality, and she's just is more of a Waldorf child. Ironically, my sister's kids both go to a Waldorf school as well. They don't do well in a Montessori school. So my sister, she understands that Montessori's very good for certain more individualized children, and Waldorf is better for kind of community, more spiritually inclined, more emotionally inclined, maybe less ego driven children. So it can be very,

Jennifer:

It's more a holistic education.

Leafbox:

So I just find it interesting that there's so many different learning styles. And my partner, she's French Tahitian from Polynesia, and she went to a traditional French school. So it's very interesting. We're learning more and more about Waldorf and trying to supplement and find the weaknesses and the strengths. So it's a learning process for us as parents as well. So it's interesting to see, I'm appreciating your passion with your co-writers to try to fill some of the gaps that the Waldorf Pedalogical approach might have. So I'm just curious, maybe you can tell me about your co-writer. I actually was more interested, well, before I get into that, I was interested in interviewing you because when I was reading your bio, you didn't necessarily have the Waldorf, you seem more neutral in your approach to Waldorf, maybe somewhat like we are parents. Cause sometimes it can get kind of culty. Yes. And those are positive aspects as well and negative. But I liked that you had that corporate kind of statistically driven Kumon kind of

Point of Correction 2: One tome has two co-authors: The Roadmap to Literacy.. The second tome, Continuing the Journey to Literacy,  was written by Jennifer Militzer-Kopperl because the co-author of the first tome decided to quit.
Point of Correction 3:  There are only two co-authors for The Roadmap to Literacy. The book is by Jennifer Militzer-Kopperl and Janet Langley. It is a common misperception that there was a third co-author because 1) a third name was on the original edition of The Roadmap to Literacy as someone who contributed; and 2) after the book was published, Janet Langley decided not to write the sequel in order to do workshops with this third person. People thus associate the third name as a co-author of the book, but this is an error. The third person has made it clear that she does NOT want to be confused as a co-author. I concur. Her name has since been removed from the cover. I apologize for the confusion. 

Jennifer:

Yes.

Leafbox:

Model. So it's interesting to compare and see the pros of that and kind of the rigor of that versus some of the coldness that might probably has. So I'm curious, just my question I guess is yeah, tell me more about your co-writer and how you got approached to write this kind of literacy program.

Jennifer:

Okay. The background story, I was working at a different area Waldorf School, a third Waldorf school back in 2012.

Leafbox:

And this is in Colorado, or where is this?

Jennifer:

No, this is in Davis. This was in California.

Leafbox:

Got it.

Jennifer:

And I was at a different Waldorf school, and I was just a private remedial specialist who worked with students on an individual basis. The school contracted out with private tutors, private remedial specialists to help service the extremely large percentage of students who needed remedial reading instruction. I was there in that capacity. I had a background in Waldorf education. I had completed teacher training back in 2005, and I had my Lindamood Bell corporate view, as you call it, which is a decent description. I was trying to approach education as a very balanced person looking through both lenses, because that's how you come up with a reasonable view of something, is looking through it, looking at it in different ways. 

At the time, the school had started doing reading fluency testing with a program called†AIMSWeb. This is more of a corporate model of looking at how education is or is not servicing children. The school tested every student grades three through eight in reading fluency, which means how quickly and how accurately did the students read. It's a very simple, simple test. What the school found is one third to one half of every class tested qualified for remedial reading instruction under this particular model. One of the people who worked at the school at the time was†Janet Langley. She was my co-author for The Roadmap to Literacy.

She pulled me aside and asked me why so many students qualified for remedial reading instruction. She wanted to know if I had any ideas because I had this dual background. I smiled and I said, "Janet, I have been waiting for years for someone to ask me that question. It's really simple. English is not German." And I went on to explain to her that Rudolf Steiner, a founder of Waldorf Education, spoke German and gave all of his indications for the German language. [The letter] A's sound is /aw/, for example; however, in English, we have a different sound symbol relationship. A's sound is /a/, A's sound is /ay/, and very occasionally A's sound is /aw/.

Fun Fact: The third person who is not a co-author resides in Colorado.

Fluency testing is an excellent proxy for overall reading ability. For example, students who struggle to read fluently frequently struggle with comprehension.  

Janet then shared what I told her with the school and with a visiting dignitary named Christof Wiechert. He worked at the Goetheanum, which is a European institute that oversees Waldorf education. He asked for a meeting with me and Janet so I could share more about my thesis. So I met with Christof, with Janet present, and I showed Christof how English vowels work. It's very simple, long and short vowels. I shared the sound symbol correspondence. I shared a few phonics rules. After the meeting. Christoff told me and Janet that we needed to get the word out to more people so they could understand too. 

Janet then convened a group that was nicknamed the Literacy Project. She invited her mentor, Patti Connolly to join us, and for a year and a half, the three of us met about once a month to read a book, a compendium of Rudolf Steiner's indications on language arts, to discuss literacy, and to talk about what it should look like, what an ideal Waldorf literacy program in English should look like.

At the end of those, that was a year and a half. At the end of that year and a half, we three wrote some mockup chapter drafts, and forgive me, they were horrible. We three went in three different directions, and it sounded like articles in a book. They were unusable. Janet and I both realized that we were all three going in three different directions, and that the approach that we had talked about wasn't going to work, that there would need to be more of a collaboration of writing together in order to write something that could stand together as a book. 

At that point, Patti Connolly quit to return to teaching, and Janet and I soldiered on to write the book together. Over the next three years, we put in 14,000 to 15,000 hours and produced The Roadmap to Literacy. We then self-published it, and yes, I don't think I'll share what happened then. Keep it. Let's end it there.

Leafbox:

I'm curious. Well, that sounds like an interesting point because I have not read your whole book. It's 900 pages long, but it seems to be a, I'm going to describe it as a curriculum program from grade zero to grade eight, and it has lesson plans that seem quite open ended and just kind of provides a framework. So I'm curious if you could just maybe summarize how that fits into the educational stages of Waldorf and what the arc of the general arc of the literacy program is.

Christof Wiechert was the former Head of the Pedagogical Section of the Anthroposophical Society (2001-2010), which is a department of the Goetheranum.

Point of Correction: The original edition of Roadmap (Langley and Militzer-Kopperl) is 600 pages, and the sequel Continuing the Journey to Literacy (Militzer-Kopperl)  is 900 pages. 

Jennifer:

Sure, absolutely. But first, let's go back and look at a few things. You're looking at grades zero through eight. Are you looking at The Roadmap to Literacy or Continuing the Journey to Literacy or both?

Leafbox:

Both. So I guess I'm calling grade zero because I'm including kindergarten. I know you call it grade one.

Jennifer:

That's fine. Kindergarten is fine. Grade zero is fine. I just wanted to know, because we have two different books here, and I wanted to know where to go with the question.

Leafbox:

I mean, I think they're part of a collective whole, right? I mean, they're part where you are. They are, yeah. So I was looking through them and they seem to be, I'm sure, I mean there's the traditional stages of Waldorf, the first seven years, the next seven years, and the third seven years. I'm curious how you tie that into that and yes, and there's a lot to overview, so maybe you can give us examples of just what you guys are trying to provide teachers and maybe homeschool teachers and other people with this book.

Yes, the two books are part of a comprehensive whole. They are The Roadmap to Literacy Books, and they comprise Renewal of Literacy.

Jennifer:

Okay, so first of all, I have to be very clear that the book for grades one through three is by Janet Langley and Jennifer Militzer Kopperl. However, grades four through eight, that's just by me. Janet is not involved in that, and that's one of the reasons why I'm trying to be a stickler here because I don't want to misrepresent my work or Janet's work. Janet is not involved with four through eight.

Leafbox:

Got it. So maybe you can just provide a not to give, well, how do you find the two books working together? Maybe . . 

Jennifer:

That's fine, I think. May I jump in and say what I think you're trying to ask me and then you can clarify and I can answer the question you want me to answer? 

Leafbox: 

Sure.

Jennifer:

What you want is ‘how do the books relate to child development as articulated by Rudolf Steiner?’

Leafbox:

Correct.

Jennifer:

Cool. All right, so let me answer that question. Rudolf Steiner came up with a very interesting theory of child development, and I'm going to step outside of the books for a second in order to explain where Rudolf Steiner is coming from. I'm not judging where he's coming from. I'm not saying he's right or wrong, I'm just saying this is what he thinks. Rudolf Steiner believes that humans live more than one life, and he believes that what happens between lives is just as important as what happens on the physical plane on Earth. He believes that when students incarnate, when they're born, they are continuing their development, something that was begun in the spiritual world, something that needs to continue on the physical plane in order for this individual person, this individual entity, to become a complete being.

He then describes how a human being develops from birth on in seven year cycles. Now, I don't want people to get really overly concerned with the ‘seven year’ [aspect] of this. It's an estimate. It's just an approximation. The first cycle is from birth to the change of teeth, roughly seven years, so basically from year zero to age six, because the first year is of course, zero to one, and the second year is one to two. This beginning, this very beginning stage, is a very important stage. I named these stages in my books in order to make it easier for people to talk about them, and I'm going to share those terms. These are not terms that Steiner uses. These are terms that I use in order to make it easier to talk about what's going on. I called this first stage the imitation stage, and I took everything that Steiner had to say about it and I compiled it in the book Continuing the Journey to Literacy, which is grades four through eight. Now, the imitation stage is when a young child is developing its physical body. The most important thing from these first seven years is the growth of the physical body from the very tiny little baby into a young child, which has dimensions that are similar to an adult human being.

Point: The stages are named in Continuing the Journey to Literacy (Militzer-Kopperl 2020) and in The Roadmap to Literacy: Renewal of Literacy Edition, which is a new edition of The Roadmap to Literacy which I hope to publish before the year 2022 ends. (Both books are written by me because Janet Langley declined to join me.) The new edition of Roadmap explains Steiner’s theory of child development and the Steiner-Waldorf curriculum so Waldorf teachers and parents can better understand both and see that Roadmap’s curriculum dovetails beautifully with what Steiner created.

I gave an overview of these stages of human development in a book on the Waldorf curriculum grades 4-8 because Steiner set the entire curriculum up around human development. Thus, it was necessary to provide an overview of Steiner’s views on human development to understand how the Steiner-Waldorf curriculum has to change in grades 4-8 as the children mature and develop.

During these first seven years, the child wants to imitate what it sees in its environment. It wants to imitate what adults are doing. The most important thing in this period is the growth of the physical body. In the second seven years from about the change of teeth until puberty, the child is in what I refer to as the authority stage. During this stage, the child wants to be taught by a beloved authority, by a beloved teacher. The child wants to give up its mindless imitation and start to engage in a different way. Steiner believes that this is so because at the change of teeth, certain forces in the child are freed from focusing exclusively on the development of the physical body to being freed for other uses. He refers to these forces as the†etheric body. Most people say, "What is an etheric body?" and that's a valid question.

Steiner would describe it as the part of the human being that brings life and warmth and healing to the physical body. It's what separates a dead corpse from an alive body. Now, the etheric body also has other functions. It's not just about keeping the body alive. It does other things as well. For example, the etheric body, according to Steiner, is the home of habits, is the home of memory, character, conscience, and temperament. Temperament merely refers to whether a child is social and outgoing like a sanguine, or very driven in its will like a choleric, or someone who's more mellow and laid back like a melancholic. I mean not like a melancholic, like a phlegmatic or someone who is really overly concerned with his or her emotions and with sometimes the wellbeing of others, but usually more directed towards the self and more melancholic. These different aspects are all part of the etheric body, and these things become freed once the child is no longer spending all of its forces, so to speak, developing its physical body and growing and changing. That's why Steiner believes it's so important that students begin school at the change of teeth because that's the sign that the physical body has reached a certain level of development, and now the etheric forces are freed so that the child can use those for education. Once the etheric forces are freed, the child can then have a different relationship to memory, which makes it easier for the students to learn.

Steiner believes that it's actually harmful for younger students to do too much work academically because the child has to then split its etheric forces between growing and developing the physical body and between the work of academic life. I'm not saying that I agree or disagree, I'm just representing what he believes. 

Now, once the students are in school, the second seven years from the change of teeth to puberty are all about the development of this etheric body, about the development of habits, memory, character, conscience, and temperament. Steiner believes that education is more than just imparting skills and imparting subject knowledge, that good education should also provide an environment for the child to work on these different aspects of its character.

If I don't do this on my own, I want you to ask about the three virtues later on. 

Leafbox: 

Okay, I will.

Jennifer:

Okay, so now, when the child is in grades one through eight, the teacher is not just teaching the children how to do math and how to read and how to spell and write. The teacher is not just teaching the child about environmental education, about animals, plants, minerals, about geography, about history, about science. The teacher is helping the child develop habits, memory, character, conscience, and temperament. 

At puberty, roughly the third seven years, but again, it's rough because puberty is at a different time for different students, from puberty until around age 21, the children then start focusing on their astral bodies, and people always ask, "What is an astral body?" It's a valid question. 

It's the emotional part of the human being, the desires, the likes, the dislikes. It's the sentient part. It's the part that carries reason. It's the part that can discern or judge. It's the part that works with critical intellect and with abstract ideas, and Steiner believes that at puberty, this part of the body, this part of the human being, the astral body moves more to the forefront, and education should then help students develop the astral body so that they can discern, so that they can reason, so that they can form their own critical intellectual judgements, and that steps forward at puberty and should be predominant through high school and the beginning of college.

Now, the fourth seven year cycle is about the ego. This is about developing the distinct individuality of each individual, and this is towards the end of college and out into life when the child goes forth and contributes to society in whichever way he or she wishes. You can see that this seven year cycle that Steiner has articulated can guide educators by showing teachers how to work with child development as they teach skills and subject matter. 

Circling back to the three virtues, Steiner believes that students come into this world seeking to further their development, seeking to further their growth as an individual, and that there is a certain developmental sequence to this that teachers can work with in order to help the spiritual aspect of each individual person develop appropriately. He believes that there are three virtues that people develop in these seven year cycles, the first, second, and third. Now, these three virtues are very interesting. I am not saying whether I agree or disagree, I'm just representing Steiner's view so people can understand where Waldorf education is coming from.

Okay, so the first virtue, Steiner calls it the will to gratitude. It develops on its own spontaneously if and only if the child's environment provides the necessary background from birth through the change of teeth. Children will develop the will to gratitude, according to Steiner, if the adults in their lives express and truly feel gratitude themselves.This is because the children are imitating what's in their environment, and if they see and actually feel real gratitude being expressed, then they themselves will start to develop that particular, that particular virtue. 

The second seven years, change of teeth through puberty, Steiner believes that this is the will to love. Now, here's where it gets interesting. Guess, I want you to guess, what the will to love depends on. Where do you think that comes from?

Leafbox:

The relationship with the teacher?

Jennifer:

Yes, precisely, but it's a very special relationship. It depends on the teacher's authority, that the teacher is a beloved authority. Not that the teacher is an authoritarian, but the teacher is someone the child can look up to as someone who is right, proper and good, someone who is bringing the world to the child in a way where the child feels that what the teacher is expressing is right, proper and good. 

Steiner believes that when there is this relationship between the teacher and the child, this helps the child develop the will to love. It starts with a love of nature as expressed in fairy tales where nature is seen as alive, and then it develops into more of a love for the physical realities of nature, and then it extends to a love for fellow human beings, an interest in a fellow human beings, and then at puberty extends out to the very beginning of the development of a sexual love. 

Steiner believes that all of this comes from these very important relationships that children have with a beloved authority, and it doesn't need to be just one beloved authority. It needs to be that the child can look up to his or her teacher or teachers. 

Now, the final virtue, she [it] is the will to duty. The will to duty comes in the third stage, the third seven year cycle, and roughly, we're speaking roughly seven years because puberty happens at different times for different people. From puberty till about the 21st year, students are developing the will to duty, which means how do I take my place in life?

Who am I going to be? What will my job be? How do I contribute to the world? Am I looking to contribute in the economic realm, the political realm, the cultural realm? How do I take my place as a citizen, as a person, as part of society? Steiner believes that the student will start to look at these practical questions on his or her own if they're met in a way that respects their human development. 

This very holistic model of education is one that resonates very strongly with me because you can see the truth of what Steiner is saying in the broad strokes, that children really are developing their physical bodies when they're young, and that there really is a difference between a child before and after the change of teeth, and that if you ask students who are too young to reason critically, they just don't do it. They're not interested. They want to hear stories, they don't want to have to think deeply about things. 

That starts to change around puberty just before students start to enter puberty, and then once they move into puberty, there is a level of truth on what Steiner is saying, and I find it interesting that he believes that education furthers human development. We're not just trying to impart skills and subjects. We're trying to work with the development of human beings, and this is where I think Steiner-Waldorf education has a lot to offer the world. 

It doesn't matter to me whether people believe in more than one life, whether they believe that there's a spiritual existence. I think we can all agree that students do change as they grow, and that education should try to work in alignment with child development because that's a more effective way to educate our young people than it is to just throw spaghetti against the wall and hope something sticks.

Leafbox:

Yeah. Jennifer, just to pause for a second, I mean, just comparing it to a traditional kind of Western education or even a kind of, it's just so interesting to see that there, there's an arc of development for the individual, whereas in a traditional school, it's just really skills based. It seems like, you know, have math class, you have science class, you have rhythmic class, you have reading class, so they're not that interested in the personal development of the child. So going back to your why you think this is important, maybe we can go back to how this is emphasized in the program you guys developed.

Jennifer:

Yes. Now let's talk about that. The program that Janet and I developed for grades one through three is about teaching reading. Steiner now set up an entire curriculum. I apologize, I'm going to have to go broad before I go narrow because you have to understand this to understand why Janet and I did it as we did. I'll try to be brief. If I go on too long, please say, "Speed it up."

Leafbox:

That's fine. Yeah.

Jennifer:

So Steiner set up an entire curriculum around human development. He is looking in grades one through eight at what I call the authority stage, when the child wishes to be taught by a beloved authority.

In this period, roughly seven years, Steiner identifies certain key changes. The first, of course, is the change of teeth, but around age nine students undergo what he calls the nine year change, not a great name, but in the nine year change, the students undergo a lack of faith in their teacher. Their faith is questioned: "Is my teacher really telling me true? Is this person really someone I can trust?" The students want to have a confirmation that the teacher knows her stuff and the teacher can teach the child what the child needs to know. Around age 12, the child undergoes another change, which Steiner not very helpfully named the 12 year change. This is where children start to become more interested in cause and effect thinking, where they want to understand why things happened, where science starts to become more important. Steiner set up his entire curriculum, grades one through eight, around setting an environment where children could develop the will to love under the relationship they have with their teachers and where, where students could learn skills and subjects in alignment with child development. 

Grades one through three are a time that Steiner has said children should really focus on learning skills. They should learn reading skills, math skills, excuse me, spelling skills. They should really focus in on learning these academic skills in grades one through three. In grades four through six, students should then expand beyond just skills into the subjects. In grade four, Steiner education then expands outwards to include history, geography, natural science.

This expansion then allows the students to use their skills in order to start to look out at the world around them because the students now have a more, how shall we say this? They're more interested in the physical world after the nine year change. They're not as interested in the fairy tales and the imaginative things that really speak more to a younger child. They want to know more about the world around them. 

Then in grade seven and eight, Steiner says that the thinking changes and children want to understand more cause and effect. At that point, the curriculum expands to include science, chemistry, physics, and more of a cause-and-effect thinking in history. Why did this nation go to war? Why did this change as a result? How did this happen? All these things start to matter more to the students in grade seven and eight as they're approaching puberty because they're undergoing a change in their thinking. Steiner set up the entire curriculum around this particular arc. 

Now go back way back in time to the literacy project that Janet convened in order to write The Roadmap to Literacy.

A compromise was made back in the day when Patti Connolly was part of the group. Before she quit, Patti Connolly insisted that we respect this particular arc. She insisted that the book be grades one through three and that we work on a sequel for later grades. Janet voted with Patti because she always does, and I got left in the lurch. Now, why was my position? What was my position, and why does that leave us in the lurch? 

There is in literacy in English, there is an additional five, how shall we put this? There are stages or phases of literacy. In English, there are five of them, and in English, unlike in German, where you can teach a child to read and write and spell in German in just a few years, in English it's a much longer process. Third grade in English is the middle of the fourth phase of reading and writing instruction in English, so we're sort of in media res. We're in the middle of the action here, and breaking off there was a little bit odd when it comes to writing a book that talks about five stages of literacy.

There was a wisdom in the way how the book was organized because in English-speaking schools, Waldorf and otherwise, there's a huge transition from third grade to fourth grade. Grades one through three or K through three in public schools, Montessori schools, other schools are about learning to read, and then most schools in grades four and upward focus on reading to learn. Steiner Waldorf has that same distinction, so it did make sense to divide a book on teaching reading at the end of third grade because students then needed to make a transition to reading to learn in fourth grade. 

However, as I said, when you have five stages of learning to read and spell in English or five phases, you're very much in the middle of the action in third grade because you still have to finish the fourth phase and go on to the fifth phase. You can see that compromises were made. 

Now I'm going to pause and let you ask another question because I'm not sure where you want me to go from here.

Leafbox:

How should I guess parents who are nervous about what their kids are doing in Waldorf get confident in how they can help their children learn to read in first stage in the one through three stage.

Jennifer:

Okay, so I hear a couple different ways to go with this question. How can parents be confident in Waldorf and how can parents support their child? 

Leafbox: 

Correct.

Jennifer: 

First of all, I would say to be confident in Waldorf, parents should ask questions. Parents are responsible for their children's education, and let's be honest, it's a risk to put a child in a Waldorf system just as it's a risk to put a child in a Montessori system or a Catholic system or a public school system. When parents make this decision, they're making a very important decision on behalf of their child. A concerned parent should be very involved in the child's education to make sure the child is getting what the child needs. So I would say that parents should ask questions.

One of the things that parents can do is to ask in a respectful way. They can talk to the school, they can talk to the teachers and ask for dialogue. They can ask to be educated in Waldorf education. “Can you explain to me what you're doing and why?” When parents have this level of dialogue where the school can explain what it's doing and why, parents can then understand, "Oh, now I see you are doing a certain thing, because it ties in with child development," and when something appears to be violating child development, they can then say, "Why are you doing it this way?"

When parents and schools can have this respectful dialogue, parents can understand why a school is educating a child the way it is. Now, what can parents do to support their children? The most important thing they can do is be engaged and note what is happening. It is my belief that parents should understand the five phases of learning to read and spell, and schools should understand the five phases of learning to read and spell just as much as they understand Steiner's stages of child development, because we have to square the circle. We have to bring literacy in English in a way that supports child development if we're to teach literacy in a Waldorf way.

Leafbox:

So what are these five stages, just to summarize? Sure.

Case in Point: Some parents are concerned that phonemic awareness is going to be taught in some Waldorf kindergartens. It can be disconcerting because phonemic awareness is simultaneously a natural part of child development AND a natural part of early literacy education. Does teaching phonemic awareness in kindergarten dovetail with Steiner’s indications or not? (Read on to find out.)

Jennifer:

Okay. The five stages or five phases of learning to read and spell are Emergent Phase Phonemic Awareness Phase, Pattern Phase, Syllable Phase, and Latin/Greek Phase. Let me define. The Emergent Phase is when students are just starting to experiment with letters and writing. This is when they start to doodle and say, "Mommy, I wrote my name," and it's just squiggles and loops. This is when they learn to spell their name, but they have no idea that the shapes that they wrote are letters that represent sounds. This particular phase ends when students realize, "Oh, a letter represents a sound." For example, J represents the sound /j/.

Then the student moves into the Phonemic Awareness Phase. Phonemic awareness is just a fancy word that means awareness of sounds or phonemes. A phoneme, for example, is a separate speech sound. It's the smallest sound. For example, [the word] cat, /k/, /a/, /t/, there are three sounds in cat. They are /k/, /a/, /t/, and students have to be taught that they're not going to develop that on their own. Until students realize that they're not going to get very far in learning to read and spell. Students have to be taught to take those three sounds /k/, /a/, /t/ and blend them together into a word. Once students fully develop phonemic awareness, they are in an excellent position to move into the Pattern Phase.

The Pattern Phase is where students have to realize that in English, sometimes we have more than one letter representing a sound. For example, in the word boat, the O and the A work together to represent a sound. They work together to represent the O sound. This is where students really need to be taught phonics, all of the different rules that explain how patterns of letters can combine to make sounds. 

However, it's not the end of the journey to literacy. The fourth phase is Syllable [Phase]. Students have to learn how to work with syllables, how they combine to make words.

The fifth phase is the Latin/Greek Phase. This is where students consider the underlying meaning behind pieces of English words. For example, the word philosopher. If we were to spell philosopher the way how it sounds, we would spell it with an F, but we don't because philosopher means 'lover of wisdom.' It's made up of Greek roots. Phil/philo is one of those roots. Sophia is another. Phil or philo refers to love. Sophia means wisdom, and then the English suffix er means one who, so the word philosopher literally means one who loves wisdom. These are things that students have to be taught. They have to be taught about all of these different elements that make up English, and that's part of what students have to learn in school when they go to an English speaking Waldorf school. We have to square the circle. We have to bring all of these different elements in a way that's respectful of child development.

Leafbox:

And then Jennifer, just to interrupt these five stages, are these modeled from your time at the Lindamood Bell company, or is that just in traditional English, phonetic learning and reading and skill development?

Jennifer:

This comes from various researchers who have been studying English. One of them is Bear et al in the book Words Their Way. That's a very accessible resource that parents can read. Researchers have been talking about these five stages or five phases for years. It's an established part of English, of teaching English. It wasn't worked with that extensively at Lindamood Bell because we were working so heavily in the Phonemic Awareness Phase, Pattern Phase, and Syllable Phase.

Leafbox:

The first stages before they get to the Got it, and then second, third, fourth stages. So if I visit a traditional school and they're talking about their first through third grade program, they're emphasizing these skills as well, and usually these kind of, could you tell me a little bit about Handwriting and Waldorf and what you think about that? And when we visit other schools, for instance, they're obsessed with iPads, <laugh>, and maybe doing games to learn these developments and how you find maybe the kids are not being met by those, or they are, and how you find the curriculum and the two part series to maybe help Waldorf kids.

Jennifer:

Okay, so to answer that question, handwriting is very important. It's one of the ways students learn letters. The research is clear. The best way for students to learn to recognize the letter is to form the letter, either by writing it, painting it, making it with their hands. Just looking at a letter and then pointing to one that matches it, it's not as good. It's not as useful for teaching children to recognize letters. Handwriting literally helps train students to recognize symbols because they're forming the symbols, and that helps the brain to recognize a symbol.

Leafbox:

It just seems like traditional public schools now are just even phasing out all of that, which

Jennifer:

They are.

Leafbox:

It's crazy to me, but

Jennifer:

It's crazy to all of us. They found that students it's, it's insane because the research is also clear that students who learn to write and take notes take better notes than students who try to type their notes on a computer, a laptop. The research is very clear here. Learning to hand write, learning to actually form words on paper is better in ways than working on a computer. 

Now, once students have learned to hand write, a computer is a wonderful tool for helping them revise. I cannot imagine trying to write my books without a computer. I would not have even attempted it. But at the beginning, handwriting is so important because it helps the students form the letters and recognize the letters. It helps the students learn to spell. It helps the students learn to write, and dare I say, it helps the students learn to think because when they hand write their notes, they have to think about what the teacher is saying and think about what to write down. They can't just try to take dictation and type as fast as the teacher is speaking the teacher. The students learn better when they have to engage with the material and think about what the teacher is saying, paraphrase it and write it down. The research is clear.

Leafbox:

So yes. Jennifer, I just, that kind of brings me onto your point. Maybe on a side tangent, there's pressure, it seems like in schools to keep pushing kids younger and younger to introduce reading and shift them from the pre-literacy stage. I'm curious on your thoughts on that and how that affects Waldorf. I mean, Waldorf just seems to be kind of a, they really start pushing the reading at first grade, whereas the other schools, it's almost pre-kinder and kinder, and I'm just curious what you think about that and if that's just general thoughts.

Jennifer:

This is a very tricky question because there are so many different aspects to pre-literacy.

One of them is . . .  okay, so let's go back a step. 

Why does Steiner want teachers to wait in order to introduce literacy skills and what is a pre-literacy skill and what is not? 

For Steiner, it's really about knowing that a letter represents a sound. For Steiner, that's really what you should introduce in first grade. 

Now, pre-literacy skills. There is an interesting literacy/pre-literacy capacity and beginning literacy capacity called phonemic awareness. 

Phonemic awareness begins to develop in early childhood around age two and three, when the child first starts to become interested in rhymes and rhyming words and language play. As the child develops, [ages] four, five, six, that phonemic awareness continues to develop too, and it's all pre-literacy. Normal children should be developing this beginning phonemic awareness. 

Research shows that students who have been taught the alphabet undergo a sea change in their ability to process and work with individual sounds. For example, people who are illiterate can hear that BA and PA are different, but they can't tell you exactly how. They can't say BA starts with a /b/ [sound], a [letter] B, and PA starts with a /p/ [sound], or a [letter] P. What they have found, however, is that students can be taught to recognize sounds before they learn that letters represent sounds. Research is now showing that students who have language play that includes playing with sounds like PA, “PA, how many sounds can we hear?” Young students in kindergarten, Waldorf kindergarten, for example, can do this work and can be taught about phonemes before they learn the letters. 

And here's the kicker. Students who have this literacy play are then in a wonderful position to understand how the code works in first grade when they are taught the letters.

Leafbox:

Do you see any downsides? Is there resistance to introducing that or, I mean, my daughter's school, it seems like to the term, literacy to me is so broad in the sense that they have story time storytelling. The reading and decoding aspect is just kind of a later stage to me. And then when I look at kids who go to public school, I find them less engaged in the actual matter. Maybe they have higher knowledge of the individual letters and kind of that fixed framework, but they don't seem to be engaged in imaginative, creative story literacy, reading or telling of stories,

Regarding Downsides: IF the school is working with the developmental sequence of phonemic awareness and keeps the exercises in the realm of spoken language (not written language), then I think it is a good idea. Doing phonemic awareness exercises with written letters would violate the teaching of Rudolf Steiner. For downsides to NOT providing direct instruction in phonemic awareness, watch my videos “Little Jenny’s Journey through the Phases of Learning to Read and Spell.” I talk about what happened to me and how I struggled to learn to read until my teacher provided direct instruction in phonemic awareness.

Jennifer:

Not in the same way. No, Waldorf does an excellent job with telling the stories and with imaginative, imaginative presentations. Steiner's very clear that students should hear stories when they're young and when they're in first grade, kindergarten, first grade, they should be listening to stories. And that storytelling curriculum should continue all the way through eighth grade, that the teachers are still telling stories in addition to the students reading stories. That's one of the main problems with the initial edition of Roadmap to Literacy. Janet and I didn't really draw that point out clearly enough. I'm making a new edition of Roadmap that draws that point out much more clearly. Storytelling is the 16th aspect of language arts, but that's an aside. Let's go back to your question. Please follow up. I'd like to know more about what your concerns are.

Leafbox:

I have no concerns specifically. I'm just curious, is there an aspect to not introduce those or do you want to introduce them? I'm just curious. I'm not a kindergarten teacher. So

Jennifer:

You see those are, do you mean phonemic awareness? Do you mean stories or do you mean literacy skills? [The word} ‘those:’ what's the antecedent?

Leafbox:

In? I'm more interested in how other schools, maybe non Waldorf keep pushing the kids earlier and earlier to learn to read and what are the pros and cons of that?

Jennifer:

Okay, so let me tell you the pros and cons of that. You watched my video, "Little Jenny's Journey through the Phases" where I shared what happened to me when I was in kindergarten. I went to public school, kindergarten, and I had the perfect Waldorf pre-kindergarten experience. My parents were educators. They believed that I should not have any exposure to letters other than just playing with them. I shouldn't know that letters represent sounds. So I had an imaginative childhood. I played, I was active, I did everything. I just went to kindergarten not knowing that letters represent sounds. Now, all of my public school kindergarten peers knew that letters represented sounds. So the very first day of kindergarten,

Leafbox:

And why do they know that? Is that because their parents were doing that or the preschools were kinda preschool. Got it.

Jennifer:

They went to preschool, an academic preschool where they were taught A is apple, /a/. (I'm sorry, I'm getting a drink– just a second.) 

So the very first day of public school, kindergarten, my teacher sat us down on the rug and she said, "All right, everyone, I'd like you to introduce yourselves by saying one thing you like that starts with the same sound as your name." So the little kids went around saying, "Hi, I'm Mikey. I like monkeys." "Hi, I'm Tina. I like tigers." "Hi, I'm Sammy. I like swimming." And when it got to me, I said, "Hi, I'm Jenny. I like cats." My teacher immediately corrected me. She said, "No, no, no. You have to say something that begins with the sound of your name. For example, you could say, 'Hi, I'm Jenny. I like jumping.' 'Hi, I'm Jenny. I like jelly beans.'"

I had not been exposed to letters and I had not had any phonemic awareness training, so I didn't know what she was talking about. I didn't know anything about sounds. I didn't know that my name began with the letter J. I just knew how to write some squiggles. That was my name. So I couldn't figure out how to answer my teacher's question. And I couldn't tell my friends that I liked jumping or jelly beans because jelly beans suck. I mean, let's be honest, they're the worst of all the Easter candy and jumping . . . well, I didn't really care for it. I preferred to play on the monkey bars. I preferred to play on the swings and the slide. Why would I tell people a lie, that I liked these things when I really didn't? I didn't really like jumping and I really didn't like jelly beans, but my teacher made me say that, and I felt like I was lying to my friends. And I went home just devastated that my teacher didn't care about me at all, and she didn't want to hear about the things that I loved most in the world, which were cats and rabbits.

Leafbox:

And that's where I was springing up the rigidity of the answers.

Jennifer:

Yes.

Leafbox:

And it's almost like a circus act like getting a bear to balance a ball.

Jennifer:

Well, it's not at all. Let's look at what the teacher was doing. Let's understand what the teacher was doing. It always helps to look at [things] through other people's eyes. The teacher was giving us an informal assessment of our phonemic awareness skills. Could I come up with something that I liked that began with the first sound of my name? "Hi, I'm Jenny. I like jaguars." That would be true. Could I come up with that on my own? No, I could not because I didn't have any phonemic awareness [for individual sounds]. And the teacher learned [that] about me the first day of school. Every student was given the flexibility to say something that he liked or that she liked that began with the sound of her name. Most of them could do it because they had some literacy training before they started school, and I could not because I hadn't had any. 

As I went through kindergarten, I learned the letters of the alphabet. Now, keep in mind, this is public-school kindergarten, so this would be Waldorf first grade. And as I learned the letters of the alphabet, I started to recognize that letters represent sound. And then I had this epiphany that speech is made up of sounds.

Leafbox:

Because, and that's when you hit the first stage of the five reading stages, correct?

Jennifer:

No, that's when I transitioned from stage, from the first stage to the second stage.

Leafbox:

Got it. Sorry. Yeah, the second stage.

Jennifer:

But my teacher had assumed that I had already made that transition because all the other students had preschool. She learned through that game that I hadn't made that transition. And she learned that a few other students who came from economically deprived backgrounds also hadn't made that transition. I was solidly middle class. It's just my parents wanted me to have a healthy childhood that didn't include any exposure to academics. God bless them. But it really threw me for a loop because I was not prepared. 

Now, why do I bring this up? It's because of a phenomenon and I'm, I'm going to caution people here. Trigger warning. I'm rolling my eyes a little bit, but I made a joke a long time ago. I made a joke about Pure Waldorf Students and my joke was just this: that students whose parents follow the indications of Rudolf Steiner give them a wonderful, healthy childhood, but they're very ill prepared for first grade. And that's what I saw in my Waldorf students as well. The students who were the worst off as far as reading failure were the ones whose parents had tried their darnedest to give their students a pure childhood that didn't include any exposure to letters.

Now, here's where we get into something interesting. Steiner's objection to letters is telling students that this symbol represents a sound, but working with phonemic awareness, becoming aware of sounds, independent of letters, is a natural part of child development. It begins to happen at age two and three and it matures as students go through their early childhood Irrregard-, (no, not irregardless, that's not a word.) Regardless of whether they have preschool or not, students will naturally start to develop a sensitivity for sounds and they will recognize that PA and BA are different, although they cannot say why.

Research has shown that you can work with young students and help them become even more aware of sounds without working with letters, that teachers who wish to help their students develop this particular capacity called phonemic awareness, can bring their students games and speech activities in preschool and kindergarten (Waldorf or otherwise) that help train the students' sensitivity to sounds, which then makes them more receptive to success when their teachers introduce letters regardless of whether that's public school, kindergarten, or Waldorf school first grade. This early training in phonemic awareness is something that research is now showing is critical for all students to have success in language,

Leafbox:

In English language,

Jennifer:

In all language, it's, it's more critical in English than it is in Spanish, German, or Italian because English is a less phonetically regular [written] language. But even in Spanish, German, Italian students learn more quickly if they have this training in phonemic awareness. Is it as necessary? No, because students can learn to read and spell in these languages in a few short years. 

In English, is it very critical? My, yes. Oh my, yes. Because [written] English is so much more complicated than these other languages. What I  . .

Leafbox:

Jennifer, just on a side note, my daughter takes Japanese. And it's just amazing. I speak Japanese as well and it's just an easier language system. People are always impressed. Oh, the fourth graders in Japan all know a hundred alphabet characters, but the MA is always my, there's no variation. It's just, it's a much easier phonetic sound system than English. And I reading your book, I really start thinking about how difficult English is. Actually . . . 

Jennifer:

This is true. It's so true. Students who speak Japanese who learn to read in Japanese have such an easier journey to literacy because their phonetic representation in Japan is so much more simple than ours for English. That's why.

Leafbox:

On a side note, you studied the Russian language. Were you a native speaker of Russian or you learned it as a second language or . . .

Jennifer:

I learned it as a second language. I always loved learning foreign languages. I found it to be so fascinating to see how grammars of different languages compare, and when I learned Russian, I had to learn a different alphabet. I found it so fascinating learning the [new alphabet] as an adult and then having to start over in reading and spelling skills as an adult because I didn't know the Cyrillic alphabet and I had to figure it all out when I started Russian 101 freshman year. 

Leafbox:

Did that affect how or introduce any thoughts in how you guys wrote the book or . . .

Jennifer:

Tons. Absolutely. I learned through Russian how ridiculously easy it is to learn the alphabet when you have extensive handwriting practice. I'll tell you a story. 

When I was in, when I was in school, my teacher was old-school, oh, Catholic. Her background was old-school Catholic education, and for the first week in Russian 101 in college, our only homework was to write the letters a billion times. I'm exaggerating only slightly. She gave us full pages, cursive and printing, and we had to form the letters over and over and over again and just hand that in. So for the very first week of Russian 101, we were exposed to the language in class, no reading, no writing, just handwriting practice. And by the end of week one, every single one of us knew those letters, including me, which is kind of amazing because I have a weakness in something called symbol imagery.

Symbol imagery is the ability to close your eyes and imagine the spelling of words. It's the ability to close your eyes and see a letter in your imagination. I have a weakness here. I can't see anything when I close my eyes, I can't see a word, I can't see a letter. It's just dark. But despite that problem with phonemic awareness , I learned the Cyrillic alphabet in one week without any difficulty whatsoever because I had written the letters a billion times. So week two, when we learned how to form words and how to sound out words, I had no difficulty and neither did any of my classmates because we had had all this handwriting practice. 

When I went on to grad school, I met students who had come from different programs, naturally, and I had a friend who confided in me that despite the fact that she was now in grad school studying Russian, she almost dropped out her freshman year in college because after one month she still couldn't recognize all the letters.

When she said that, it floored me. I asked her, "How is that possible that after a month you didn't know the alphabet?" So she and I started comparing how we were taught, and it was identical. We had grammar books, we did writing exercises. We had to read, we had to memorize vocabulary. It was identical except in one way: she did not have any handwriting practice, none whatsoever. She did not have a full week of having to form the letters over and over again. Her teacher just showed her how to write the letters, and then the kids had to use them when they were doing their exercises for grammar and vocabulary. 

From that experience, I took the recognition that students who have handwriting practice can learn the alphabet so much faster than students who don't. Science . .  

Leafbox:

So that's that. That's what's just so frustrating to me that when the iPads in the kindergartens in the first grade that I see and it's just they're killing off calligraphy and handwriting.

Jennifer:

Yes, they are.

Leafbox:

So I'm trying to understand why are they doing that? Is that just because they think people need Google jobs or where is that energy coming from? Is that because handwriting's hard to teach or what is the problem with that?

Jennifer:

Where it's coming from is a corporate model of education. Let's be honest, Apple and Microsoft and other companies are making a fortune selling these products to schools, and they're advertising to teachers and educational settings that the future is technology and that every student should become proficient as soon as possible. The schools need to use these products, they believe, for the students to be prepared for life in the modern world. There's one kicker: Guess where Steve Jobs sent his own kids.

Leafbox:

I'm sure, to the Waldorf School of Silicon Valley.

Jennifer:

Precisely. Silicon Valley has a thriving Waldorf school made up of the students, the children of the executives of Silicon Valley, because those executives are not, they're hypocrites. They're not practicing what they preach. They're not giving their students access to technology. They're depriving their students of access to technology because they know what everyone else knows in the Waldorf world: technology is great when the students are older, but not when they're young. When they're young, they need imagination. They need storytelling; they need handwriting. They need all of the experiences in art, in music, in poetry, in movement, in dance and song. Technology can wait. Technology is fairly easy to learn. Students can learn it when they are old enough to handle it responsibly and they'll learn it better and more easily when they're adults because they will actually be using it as they need to use it on the job. Instead of using the technology to make pictures and color, they will then actually learn what they need to learn in order to write a decent proposal or edit something.

Leafbox:

Jennifer.. Going back to the school, so how are curriculum, how is the curriculum being implemented now in schools? Are you getting a lot of feedback or positive feedback or questions? How are people using your guys' books to improve literacy in Waldorf schools?

Jennifer:

Well, isn't that the million dollar question.

Leafbox:

Or even in homeschool, I mean, I think homeschool people are open to your philosophy or even are any public school people using your,

Jennifer:

Okay, this is a hard question to answer. I have no idea because right after the book was published, my co-author gave me the slip. She quit everything that we had agreed to do, ran off with Patti Connolly and started doing the work without me and threw a thousand cinder blocks in my way to prevent me from having anything further to do with the work that I had done. She's largely succeeded. I have no idea. I can't answer that question. I can tell you this. I have heard, I have started to hear now from more schools on what they are doing, and what I am discovering is schools are starting to take up what was recommended in Roadmap, but in incomplete ways.

The thing that most schools are missing is the corporate piece that I brought, which is the importance of assessment. This is something that Waldorf schools do not like to hear, do not like to consider, but it's the key to getting up to 95% of kids reading and spelling at grade level. 

Science has done the work. We now know what are the keys to literacy success, what are the skills and capacities that students need to develop? Science has answered these questions, and some very wonderful researchers have made tests that help teachers determine whether or not students have passed these key milestones. These milestones are things that are reflected in the phases of learning to read and spell. Schools that do these spot checks to make sure that all the students are developing the skills and capacities that they need can, if teachers know what to do, can get up to 95% of students reading and spelling by the end of third grade.

Leafbox:

Just to play devil's advocate or two questions, I mean, I remember President Bush was obsessed with, I forget his name and his program. No, No Child Left Behind.

Jennifer:

No Child Left Behind.

Leafbox:

Yes, and they're all about assessment in public schools and constantly testing them, and I have some homeschool teacher parents that I know, and the state gets very involved in making sure they're testing them and yes, and they all seem to be, when you say 50% of some of those Waldorf different schools were not appropriate to their age. I wonder if the public schools are at the same or at worse, even literacy

Jennifer:

Level. No, no. Better. Better. A thousand percent better. No one school would let that . . . No public school would let one third to one half . . . No, they're much, much better. This is what I saw at the Waldorf schools is comparable to what you would see in the worst school settings possible. No, the public school is doing better. The goal is to find a way to bring balance.

Clarifying Note: My remarks refer to pre-pandemic. Post-pandemic, many schools have ⅓ to ½ of the class (or more) in need of remedial reading instruction (and also math instruction). Students missed a lot of school.

Leafbox:

So what are some of the things parents can do then to supplement? Because the strengths of Waldorf are so broad, and then what can they do to, I mean, should they do assessments or send them to summer camp or what are some of As a parent, I'm not really, I'm kind of agnostic, so what can we do as parents to make sure our children succeed without having to do iPad games and things like that?

Jennifer:

Yeah, a brilliant question. What you would want to do is you would want to be familiar with these stages, these phases of learning to read and spell, and you would want to be in constant communication with your child's teacher to make sure your child's teacher knows this as well. If the child's teacher knows this and is working with it and can say, "Here are the milestones your child is hitting," no further action on the parents' part is needed. The parents can then provide the students with great appropriate books to read, for example, and can make sure that the students go to the library and have every access to reading and sharing and discussing quality literature (and then some not so quality literature because, let's be honest, kids' tastes grow and develop and they need the freedom to choose some books that we might roll our eyes at).

The parents need to know when the child is struggling and they need to be able to talk to the teacher to be able to share their concerns to say, "I notice my child isn't progressing. Is it going as it should?" If the parents hear from the school, "Oh, it's fine. He'll learn later, she'll pick it up later. I'm sure we don't have to worry," that's a red flag. Science has shown that students who do not meet these milestones are in danger of not reaching these milestones later. They tend to get stuck. 90% of the time, a child who is stuck is going to remain stuck without [appropriate instruction/intervention], and that's where parents need to know when to step in. This really helps if parents can understand The Roadmap to Literacy (the book Janet and I wrote), if they can understand these phases and can see whether their students are progressing. If their students are progressing and it looks like they're going to be on track to meet everything at a third grade level and be ready to make the transition, no further action is needed, but if the students are not, the parents need to intervene because science has shown that early intervention is key.

The sooner the parents intervene, the less work it takes to help the students get unstuck, which only stands to reason. Parents really need to understand this roadmap to literacy in these different phases so they can make sure that their students are progressing as they should be. 

An easy way for parents to do this spot check is to have the kids write for them in grades one, two, and three. They encourage the students to do a process called kid writing. This is something in Roadmap to Literacy. It goes by many different names included, invented spelling, and it's something that Rudolf Steiner told teachers to do in first grade.

As soon as the children start to learn the alphabet, encourage them to use it, encourage students to figure out how they might write down a word or a sentence and let the students use what they know of the alphabet and phonics rules and sight words to write down their own little stories, their own little cards and notes. Parents can then look at that and see whether or not the students are progressing. Speaking about those phases, the stages of learning to read and spell that I was telling you about, parents can easily see when students make the transition from Emergent stage to Phonemic Awareness Phase, because in the Phonemic Awareness Phase, some of the words contain letter matches, and in the Emergent Phase, none of them do. The students just write random squiggles or random letters and nothing matches at all. But if the students want to write [the words]'my cat,' by the Phonemic Awareness Phase, they might write [the letters] M K. [The word] ‘my’ starts with the /m/ sound, [or the letter] M; [the word] ‘cat’ starts with the /k/ sound, which could be [the letter] K or C. As the students progress with their ability to hear sounds and words and their ability to match letters to those, they might start spelling [the words] ‘my cat’ MI KT, my cat. And as they learn further, they will start to put a vowel in for the word cat. Initially it might be the wrong vowel, but as they progress, they'll get the right vowel.

When students continue into the Pattern Phase, they will start to experiment with using two letters to represent a sound. For example, they'll start to use final E first wrong, and then they'll start to know when to do it right, assuming that their teacher is teaching phonics rules. Students will start to work with different patterns of letters to represent a sound first. They'll do it wrong and then they'll start to do it right. Parents can easily spot check how their students are doing by looking at how their students write when they are writing on their own without copying. How many words are there spelling [spelled] rightly? Is there logic to how they're spelling? Parents can also start to give their students little books to read. Can the students read these little books? How well can they read them? Do they stumble with words?

Leafbox:

Can they, Jennifer, how should parents and teachers and educators deal with the variety of learning styles in children? What are some of the things that your curriculum addresses or maybe needs to work on or how do you deal with that?

Jennifer:

Okay, let's first of all, define learning styles. What does that mean to you?

Leafbox:

Just some. I mean, it's obvious just dealing with children that some learn more, they're better a hearing, better at being patient. Girls tend to, in my opinion, be better suited to the educational classroom setting towards boys, the gender differences, the development differences. I'm just curious how you see that in developing a curriculum. Some kids have attention issues, some don't.

NB: The Waldorf curriculum tends to do a good job addressing different learning styles (audio, visual, kinesthetic) in that it encourages multiple modes of learning. The tricks are making sure that the activities brought match the phase (or phases) of learning to read and spell that the students are in and that teachers also provide the colder, less lively aspects of education that bring structure, such as appropriate assessments that allow teachers to determine which students need more instruction/practice and in which areas. Achieving balance in all these areas is critical.

Jennifer:

If there are deficits, they need to be addressed. And boy/girl differences, that's just a normal part of child development. But looking at the ear/eye, this is where we get into things that are very important. Some students prefer an ear approach and some students prefer an eye approach to reading. You'll notice that some students can look at a word and automatically know it forever and prefer not to sound out words, whereas some students cannot recognize a word to save their life. They have to sound it out over and over and over again. These are real differences and Steiner and I have the same answer to that. Both are human capacities. All humans should be taught both.

A teacher's job is to bring literacy capacities to the students and make the students into both ear students and eye students so that they have skills [in] both capacities available to them as human beings. Yes, they will always have a preference towards one or the other, but ideally all students should develop both sides because all students have the same literacy capacity, capabilities, and education is designed to help stimulate children's capacities. This is something that Steiner believes and it's a belief I share, so I would say that if I see a child who is strongly ear, I'm going to bring a lot of eye as well in order to try to bring balance to that child. Just as I would the opposite, because I want students to have both sides developed because in English you really need both sides. If you're strongly ear, you're in trouble. When it comes to learning to spell, there are silent letters in English, it really helps to have some capacity to visualize if you're going to become a proficient speller in English, 

I had a deficit in my ability to work with symbols as far as visualizing them in my imagination.

My teachers never taught me to do that, and it's an open question that I sit with every day of my life. Had I had direct instruction in this capacity, what have would have I developed it? 

I ask that because not having this capacity ruined my childhood. I couldn't visualize words and I didn't know. I wasn't taught how to break a word into its syllables and spell the word by syllable, so I approached every spelling word that I had to learn through chanting. M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I spells Mississippi, S-U-D-D-E-N-L-Y spells suddenly.

Leafbox:

So Jennifer, isn't it ironic though that I would consider your literacy skills above average now though?

Jennifer:

Do you know what my IQ is?

Leafbox:

I have no idea.

Jennifer:

I'm not going to share it. Suffice it to say that I came up with ways around my inability. I would never wish what I have on a single student, which is why I wrote the book.

Leafbox:

Meaning that you,

Jennifer:

My skills are above average, but in order to get here, do you have any idea how much work it took? I am an excellent speller. It ruined my childhood having to memorize all of the words because I had to chant every single one. There is a shortcut. There are two shortcuts, phonemic awareness and symbol imagery. I wrote the book in order to teach teachers how to teach these two capacities because students who have that will not have to suffer as I had to suffer,

Leafbox:

And then they waste their computing power on doing that instead of engaging in content or learning, as you said, learning to read and then reading to learn.

Jennifer:

Exactly. I had to spend hours every night practicing in order to memorize 20 spelling words from fourth grade to sixth grade. Do you know how much better my childhood would've been if I did anything else with those hours that I spent drilling and killing all of those spelling words into my consciousness through chanting?

Leafbox:

The funny thing is I would argue that, well, if you learn Japanese, they have to learn hundreds of, well, thousands of kanji characters, right, and that's just rote learning, but there is a systematic approach to, there's radicals and ways to learn those as well by breaking them down into subunits, just like in English.

Jennifer:

Exactly, and that's why I wrote the book is I wanted to have teachers know how to break things down into these subunit so they could teach the students and students would not have to. Okay, I'll give you an example. 

Fourth grade, develop and envelope. Do you know how I memorized those two words? 

[By chanting.] "Develop: D-E-V-E-L-O-P . . . Oh God. Does it have an E or not? Develop, develop. I don't know. [Look at the spelling book.] Okay. Okay, sure. [It does not have a silent E at the end.] Okay, I'm going to chant it again, however," and over and over. 

"Envelope. How do you spell envelope? E-N-V-E-L-O-P. . .  Does it have any [silent E], I don't know. [Look at the spelling book again.] It does. Envelope: E-V-N-L-E . . .E-N-V-E-L-O. Wait, E-N-V-E-L . . ." 

Can you imagine going through that over and over and over again for 20 different words? 

It's death. It was horrible. 

There's an easier way [encoding by syllables]. "Envelope: en-ve-lope. Three syllables: E-N . . .  V-E . . . L-O-P-E.” The word plays fair. It's phonetically regular. It's easy to learn. If you can work with phonics, you don't have to be able to visualize or chant in order to spell the word. It's easy, it's obvious. Develop: de-ve-lop. D-E . . . V-E . . .  L-O-P. 

Leafbox:

Jennifer, in your book you have a, I think an analogy of drawing a rainbow. Maybe you can, this fits in with that.

Jennifer:

Wait, I have an analogy of drawing a rainbow?

Leafbox:

No, you said that some schools, kids love to develop English is a rainbow, but kids are not provided the full spectrum of colors. I forget the exact analogy.

Jennifer:

That's not in my book. That's from someone else's.

Leafbox:

I think maybe it's in the first in FAQ there was a section about you felt maybe I misread it. Then there was something about, oh, it was a question I wrote down, so maybe I misread it somewhere. Question.

Jennifer:

I had a follow up question. Where did you get the FAQ?

Leafbox:

It's on the website.

Jennifer:

Which website?

Leafbox:

The one when I searched your name. There's Renewal of Literacy. I believe

Jennifer:

It's . .  my website is Renewal of Literacy, but to my knowledge, I don't have anything about rainbows.

Leafbox:

I mean, I must have been, I mean I spent maybe two, three hours with your content, so maybe I just nos. There's a frequently asked questions, there's a section there all off a page called Frequently Asked Questions. Maybe I miswrote it or maybe I made up the analogy. Who knows? I have two or three pages of notes, so Jennifer, I apologize.

Jennifer:

It's so possible that you got this from my co-author, Janet Langley's, website.

Leafbox:

Potentially, yes, and maybe sometimes the content for me started blending, so I apologize about that.

Jennifer:

It possible because I have no [access], I'm not part of her website. She said that she would put me on; she did not. Suffice it to say what she has on that website. I do not know.

Leafbox:

Got it. Anyway, moving forward, I guess into just summarizing kind of what maybe we can do some takeaways for what do you wish, what's the most important thing then for I guess educators and parents, regardless of institutional type to take away from your work?

Jennifer:

The most important thing is that there are five phases of learning to read and spell and that students are going to go through these phases in a developmental order, but it's not a natural part of child development. It's something that requires education. Parents need to be aware of this and educators need to be aware of this because students who do not complete these different phases are at risk for very predictable reading problems. Teachers who know what to look for and parents who know what to look for can provide the students the education they need at the right time in this developmental sequence regardless of when they start the education, regardless of whether they started in a certain year or whatever. It's important that parents and teachers do this so that we can get our students reading and spelling at grade level because learning to read and spell is no longer optional, and [in] our society students need this in order to access education grades four through eight. We no longer have an agrarian society where people who are not inclined to literacy as my grandfather was not, can drop out in eighth grade and then start a farm and have a thriving business for the rest of his life. Literacy is no longer optional. We need to do a better job teaching it. 

And the other thing that I'd like to bring is literacy is so much more than learning to read and spell. We want to help our students develop their capacities and skills so they can learn to read and spell and then focus on other things, focus on content, focus on learning, reading, doing focus on developing literacy in math, in numeracy, focus in on historical literacy, knowing about the world's history, focus on developing literacy in natural science, knowing about trees, knowing about the water cycle, knowing about animals, knowing about plants, knowing about rocks.

We want our students to have geographical literacy. We want them to understand the world. We want them to know where Iraq is. We want them to know where South America is. We want them to understand that there are different parts of the globe and that where countries are located influence resources, economic development, history, everything. We want our students to have all of it–a healthy childhood and in addition, the ability to read, write, and spell, and in addition, a knowledge of the world, humanity, nature. We want them to be able to go out and have literacy and art to know about different styles in art, to have literacy and music. We want our students to have it all, and it all starts with helping them to develop this beginning literacy so they can read and write because that's the key to opening up the world in our society today.

Reading and writing are no longer optional, and the more we can support our students in this, the better we're going to be able to educate them, especially if we understand child development and bring all of this in a way that aligns with healthy child development so students can really truly have it all--the healthy childhood and academically rich education--and they can go forth in the world and participate freely in whichever way they feel so called in the academic realms, in the economic realms, political realms, cultural realms, spiritual realms in whatever way they feel called. We want them to have these skills and capacities. All people need to develop this. We now know in science ways to bring education in alignment with the phases of learning to read and spell, and we know from Rudolf Steiner one particular theory of human development and one way to work in alignment with human development. If we can bring all this together, it's my belief and my passion that we can truly transform education and we can truly renew literacy for the 21st century and beyond because our world is calling for us to be able to respond to problems across the globe. 

Leafbox: 

Jennifer . . .

Jennifer:

Our students need this and I believe we can give it to them.

Leafbox:

That's a very beautiful kind of holistic view of education, one, extending that to people who maybe didn't have that resource set. What can adults take away from your work? The same kind of, I'm just curious what you think of as you know, I mean there's a crisis supposedly of mean making right now, of misinformation, information, understanding, just literacy in terms of the speed of the information processing. Now that one requires, do you think your work fits into that at all, or how can adults improve their literacy?

Jennifer:

It depends what you mean by literacy. Can you define what you mean by literacy? Because I could take this in a couple different directions.

Leafbox:

I mean, to me, I think going back to Steiner, I like the name of his Philosophy of Freedom and The Philosophy of Freedom requiring an open endedness, literary, advanced literary skills. I mean, you can go almost like a postmodern analysis. You can, I mean, I'm not necessarily necessarily, but once you develop more and more literacy, it becomes more and more open-ended in what the potentials of information are and how any potential concept or anything you want to do, it actually opens up possibilities as we go on our route and path in learning, we become more and more open-minded in terms of what potentials are, but that also requires a caveat that you know what the downsides of that potential openness are. So sometimes people have either they're fixed in their skills and what reading is and what literacy is, so I'm just curious if you find the fourth stage of the Steiner model post-college, how can we continue on that journey of just improving our literacy skills, if that makes any sense.

Jennifer:

<laugh> It does, but there are some errors in it and some profound philosophical questions in it, and I'm trying to decide which direction I want to go in.

Leafbox:

Oh, you can do the, I'm going to go.

Jennifer:

I'm going to go into the profound philosophical because that's the area forward. Okay, so if you want to take literacy in the most expanded definition (and God bless, go for it), it's human development. I'm philosophizing here, so bear in mind with me that this is just philosophizing. 

Philosophy of Freedom, for those who don't know, it's a very dense tome that Steiner wrote, and it looks at certain developments, developmental capacities in humans. He has an interesting, for me at least, the most interesting thing in that book was his idea that there were four different ways that people could respond. They can act out of ego, which is the lowest level. They can act out of authority, someone tells them what to do, and we're not talking about the good authority that we're talking about for students in grades one through eight where they're looking up to a beloved academic teacher, we're talking about someone who is age 21 and onward looking for someone to tell him or her what to do, wanting to knuckle under. "My leader told me to go to war.I'm going to war." "My boss told me to annihilate the rainforest. I'm annihilating the rainforest," that kind of authority. The third way has to do more with acting for the good of the world, looking around, seeing what you believe is needed for the greater good and acting out of that, and the fourth way is something Steiner talked about--acting out of freedom. He believed that people who worked on these particular levels could progress from acting out of ego to acting out of authority, which means instead of doing what I believe is what's going to serve me and mine and no thought for anyone else, people could then start to work out if someone tells you what the right thing is to do. [For example] Christ told me to forgive; therefore I forgive my enemies. That's definitely a step up out of "Grog killed me. I kill Grog."

Not that you can kill Grog, he's whatever. You get the general idea, however, acting out of authority isn't the end-all-be-all. At some point you have to ask, "Why should I forgive my enemies? What makes this a good thing to do?" 

Okay. Then you can start to look at for the good of the world, how acting in certain ways can and cannot advance or help human society or work in ways that are beneficial to the world. However, even that Steiner said was not the end-all. 

He said that the final one was acting out of freedom, and this is something that I do not pretend to understand, and God bless if you do. He talked about how people could sometimes respond by doing the right action before they thought it. Through that once people had developed to a certain level, they could literally do the right thing, pre-thought, pre anything. I don't fully understand this. 

I do find this to be one of the ways that people as adults can use their literacy skills: They can ask the big questions as Steiner did in Philosophy of Freedom. "What is human freedom?" They can then use their literacy skills to contrast Steiner with other thinkers. What do other philosophers think of Steiner's views? How do they approach human freedom? How do they approach the big questions? They can also approach the big questions in other ways, which are equally fun. [For example] How does Dostoevsky view human freedom?

Let's look at what he wrote in The Brothers Karamazov and how he approached the questions of human freedom through these different characters, and what do we think of his portrayals. All of these things become open to the adult. When the adult has developed literacy skills and capacities and has an interest in applying them to the bigger questions, that is one of the ways that people can then expand literacy. They can then take it out in whatever ways interest them to ask the big questions or not, or to ask questions [like] "How do I expand the supply chain?" "How do I make a better supply chain?" "Is there a way that I can reduce waste?" "Is there a better way to get these goods to market?" These are all things people can ask themselves once they've developed literacy and once they've developed their human capacities to the point that they can think critically.

They can then start to ask, "How can I develop myself?" "Is there more to life than coming up with a better supply chain?" These are all open questions to people who actually develop their literacy skills and capacities and are educated fully.

Now, let's look at your information /disinformation question. 

All of us who have lived through the last few years are aware that we have a problem with misinformation and disinformation. Our new communication devices and technologies allow misinformation and disinformation to spread around the world, and research shows that the sayings are true: a lie spreads around the world while the truth is still busy tying its shoelaces. We don't as of yet as a society have a way of dealing with this misinformation, with disinformation. It's one of the questions that we need to take up. 

However, a prerequisite to taking up these questions is being able to read and a prerequisite to being able to contribute to these great questions is being able to write and being able to do so in a way where you are coherent.

It all begins with literacy in preschool, kindergarten, grades one through eight, and the more that our schools and the more that our parent bodies can start to engage with these questions "What is the appropriate way to teach our children?" the better we can do for the future generations. We're going to need these future generations [well educated] because we have questions now. We have problems now that need, desperately need, answers, and we're stuck in trying to deal with being able to tell the truth, being able to treat people right. We're at the very beginning of this journey. 

I'm hopeful that parents can take the work that I've done and teachers can take the work that I've done and do a better job educating the next generation so that they can do a better job educating the generation that comes after them because it's my opinion that this is the way that human society is going to advance, and that if we fail in this, we're not going to be able to answer the big questions.

Leafbox:

Jennifer, I want to start. It's almost two hours and there's many more questions I could ask, but how can people connect with you if they have more questions and where can they find you?

Jennifer:

They can go to my website, renewal of literacy.com. They can then send, there's a Contact Me section of that website. They can then contact me there and I welcome questions from parents and schools because I was kept out of the loop when the book was published, and I won't go into that because it's not important, but there is a lot to add. There is a lot to say in how schools take up literacy and how schools are going to do this, and it's a question that parents and teachers need to negotiate together, so I very much applaud parents who are asking the questions and schools that are taking up the work in Roadmap to Literacy because this is how we're going to make sure that we get the next generation educated properly so that we can get our Waldorf students reading and spelling at grade level by the end of third grade so they can take advantage of the wonderful things Waldorf has to offer.

I really welcome parents contacting me and teachers contacting me, schools and administrators contacting me at Renewal of Literacy. Keep in mind that Waldorf inspirations, despite having my biography, does not forward anything to me. And what they say on that website . . . well, parts of it will remain true to my work are or should be limited solely to Roadmap to Literacy, of the work Janet and I co-authored. Waldorf Inspirations is not a way to contact me, and it has no right to use Continuing the Journey to Literacy, which is the book I co-authored on my own after my co-author quit.

Note from Jennifer: I am largely incoherent here because internet searches for my name and the name of the book I authored when Janet Langley quit (i.e, Continuing the Journey to Literacy) sometimes direct people to Janet Langley’s website. Just googling my name or the name of my work is no guarantee that someone will reach me.

Leafbox:

Great, and then just to end, Jennifer, is there any new projects you're working on that you'd like to share or anything else?

Jennifer:

Absolutely. I am in the process of creating two things. 

The first is a new addition of The Roadmap to Literacy. The book wasn't completed when Janet and I published it. I won't explain why. There were things that were left undone. Over the last year and a half, I've completed it to the best of my ability and shown ways to help teachers support the development of certain key things like symbol imagery, the ability to visualize letters, and I've included research in Rudolf Steiner. 

When Roadmap was published. Janet and I had really focused on one resource to get our Steiner information. Since then, I've studied Steiner extensively and I've compiled his indications. I have really boosted the anthroposophy background in Roadmap to Literacy exponentially to show what Steiner had in mind and what he didn't have in mind, so teachers who are concerned about the anthroposophy-side of Roadmap and Waldorf education can use this material with confidence. 

My second project has been making online courses. I am in the process of finishing off some online courses for three literacy capacities, phonemic awareness, symbol imagery and concept imagery. We've talked about two of them. Concept imagery is just mental picturing. It's the ability to listen to a story or read a story and make mental pictures.

Leafbox:

And Jennifer, these courses are for educators or parents or students or who . . .?

Jennifer:

They're for educators and parents. These courses are going to introduce the concepts, introduce what's Steiner said, introduce what's in Roadmap, and give parents and teachers some exercises they can do at home in order to help their students or help their children. That way everybody has the information they need to support the children in the development of these three key literacy capacities that every child should get to develop as part of her or his birthright as a human being. 

I'm hopeful that I'll be able to get these out within the next month or two, but I've been saying that for more months than I care to share, so they will be done when they're done. People are welcome to come and ask me for updates on Renewal of Literacy because as soon as I get them available, I will make them available. I believe passionately that people need this information to help support the children of today. Those are the two projects I'm currently working on.

Leafbox:

Great. Jennifer, I'll send people over to your website and I'm looking forward to seeing your in exhibitions and the coursework. Sorry for all my questions as a parent, and I think it's fascinating and I'm very appreciative of your passion for improving kids education so

Jennifer:

Well, I thank you for asking these questions and if you're interested in doing a follow up, you're more than welcome to. We've only been able to scratch the broadest views of Waldorf education, the biggest pictures, and I'm sure that you and your [fellow] parents have questions in addition to these. If you wanted at some point in the future to do more questions or a Q and A, I would be open to it, especially if you were to give me the questions ahead of time. I could then very quickly give answers and help allay parents' fears about what is and is not appropriate.

Leafbox:

Great. I'll share that, and you seem like a treasure of resources and information, so I appreciate it, Jennifer, and thanks for generosity, and I'm sure you need to use the restroom, drink some water, so I really appreciate your time.

Learn more @

https://renewalofliteracy.com

Jennifer Post Interview Note: 

The final week of November 2022, I am preparing the initial courses for beta testing on Renewal of Literacy. 

https://renewalofliteracy.teachable.com/

In the next few months, I’ll be looking for beta testers to help me identify the bugs and make recommendations for what should be changed and/or improved in future iterations of the courses. Interested parties should contact me at https://renewalofliteracy.com/contact/.