Form Drawing with Older Children

Form drawing is a therapeutic art unique to Waldorf education. Often misunderstood to be solely to do with improving or preparing for handwriting, its use goes much deeper. It is a way for the child to orientate himself in space, on a piece of paper, and calls for perseverance, nimbleness in thought and fingers, ability to concentrate and acute observation. It works with a child’s innate sense of harmony and balance and by working consistently and patiently with form drawing over a number of years, imbalances and weaknesses can be addressed   and corrected in a relatively painless way. All children can benefit from this art – but those with any sort of mid-line, visual or dexterity issues will especially benefit.
Form drawing is introduced in the very beginning of first grade in a Waldorf school – this is why it is so often associated with learning to write. And, of course, it is true that by carefully working with form drawing a child will have less difficulties when learning to form her letters. However, it is not merely the cosmetic results that are sought – the reasons why a child’s writing slopes, is cramped or misformed, or is reversed can tell us a lot about what’s going on inside of her. And form drawing is a gentle and enjoyable way to bring balance to the child so that her handwriting becomes a reflection of her own inner harmony.
I am often asked if parents should start form drawing with their kindergarten age children. My answer is emphatically “no!” One of the things characteristic about form drawing is how it helps “wake up” a child and helps him become aware in a new way to who he is, something that the first grader  naturally experiencing.  Kindergarten is a time of dreamy oneness – one shouldn’t rush a child out of this very important developmental stage by “waking him up” prematurely. So do wait until you start first grade as close to your child’s seventh birthday as possible to introduce form drawing.
One thing that I’m rarely asked is whether parents should do form drawing with older children. This is a pity and I assume either that parents of older ones already know how great form drawing is (!!) or else they haven’t thought of it. So let’s get the word out – form drawing is wonderful for older children! In Waldorf schools its practice usually ends in about 4th grade – after that, freehand geometric drawing usually takes its place. But many older children would benefit from continuing form drawing for a few more years. And if you are new to Waldorf and have never done any form drawing with your child, I certainly recommend you start! My younger son, who is almost 13, is a sixth grader and we did some form drawing this year. He struggles mightily with making forms – we didn’t even get to the Celtic knots! But no matter – I can see so quickly how a few sessions of form drawing so obviously calms and centers him. Though he complains strenuously about doing it, once he’s gotten over his angst and is immersed in what he’s doing, he really enjoys it. He’s also old enough now to recognize that it is beneficial to him though usually he expresses this in terms of improving his handwriting!
I have found that doing form drawing 3 or 4 times a week for two or three weeks works best for us. With an older child, one might also just like to slip it in here and there – especially with some of the more beautiful forms which can be used to decorate greeting cards or main lessons books after being carefully practiced several times.
Adults can also get an awful lot from practicing form drawing. A major part of really penetrating Waldorf education has to do with one’s own inner work – and form drawing is an enormously helpful tool for this! A major part of a Waldorf teacher’s training is in art and in working with their own inner “stuff” – by working with different arts like form drawing, watercolor painting and modeling, one has a wonderful opportunity to tap into areas of one’s being which might otherwise slip past conscious thought.
Please go to our bookshop to view our form drawing book. You can look at sample pages and see what form drawing is if this is completely new to you. My next blog entry is a reworked post from my yahoo discussion group which is also about form drawing.

Posted on April 25, 2006 in Active and Therapeutic Education, Waldorf Curriculum

  • Heather D says:

    Do you have any tips for using form drawing with an older child who has never done it? In terms of… Start right from the first grade forms? How quickly to move through the forms?
    We are neither Waldorf homeschoolers nor anthroposophists, but I do admire many aspects of the approach. My son is 11, has ADHD/sensory issues and terrible handwriting, but he does love to draw. I’m hopeful that form drawing will be enjoyable, as well as calming and beneficial to his handwriting.
    We’re trying to decide which books might be best for us. I have no experience with form drawing and only the barest glimpse of what it is via the internet… I understand what it is and how it works, but next to nothing about how to implement it, or what exactly the forms are and how to progress through them (I’ve seen only a dozen or so samples online).
    I’m also thinking it would be a great thing to do with my daughter when she’s older (she’s only 3 now).
    Thanks for any comments. 🙂

  • donna says:

    Yes – start with the first forms but move along much more quickly than with a little one.
    I strongly suggest that you consider purchasing our form drawing as it is written specifically for homeschoolers and provides both step-by-step instructions as well as an easy to follow sequence of forms.

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