How do we educate a child?
START WITH THE BIG QUESTIONS
First, ask the question, “What is a human being?”
In regards to what I about to say, I am referring to and summarizing the work of Rudolf Steiner. His basic idea was that a human being can be viewed as both 3-fold and 4- fold.
THINKING, FEELING, and WILLING, or, if you prefer, head, heart, and hands, and these have been outlined with corresponding and distinct stages of human physical and spiritual development.
See Threefold Human Diagram – Anthroposophical Medicine
The four-foldness of the human shows through these four bodies: physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego – each of these is also the focus of successive seven year cycles.
It makes sense because we don’t come into the world with all of our powers of thinking ready and available to us at birth. A pony is able to stand moments after birth, but humans, the thinkers of the animal world, do not think right out of the womb. It takes many long years for our thinking to develop and mature. Humans develop these three realms of thinking, feeling and willing in distinct, SEVEN YEAR STAGES and this is important to the thought about how to EDUCATE a child AND it relates to the wisdom of the stars and it evolves in a sequence through the four bodies in order of (1) physical- (2) etheric- (3) astral- (4) ego.
SEVEN YEAR STAGES
From ages 0-7, we are developing our WILL, or the use of our hands, our limbs, and the ability to exercise our intent to “do,” “to act,” “to create,” out of our own volition.
From ages 7-14, we are developing our FEELING, or the ability to make meaning out of what lives in our mood life, our emotions.
From ages 14-21, we are developing our THINKING, our judgement, our abstract mind.
By age of 21, we have the ability then to focus on a fourth aspect of the human being, the entrance of the ego, or the “I,” the assertive, adult identity that can stand as one. The ego is not fully matured until much, much later, taking perhaps 3 seven-year cycles to emerge as mature, thus the age of 42 being an excellent age for someone to begin to have the ability to take office as President!
During these stages, Rudolf Steiner offers a particular area to serve as a focus for that stage in terms of educating a developing human being. The focus tells what to emphasize and provide at that stage. It tells what to surround a developing child with during that stage that will enable the child to grow towards freedom and wholeness.
Age REALM FOCUS Explanation
0-7 WILL GOODNESS A young child must be shown goodness.
7-14 FEELING BEAUTY An older child must encounter beauty.
14-21 THINKING TRUTH An adolescent must encounter truth.
With this as a picture of “What is a man,” we can make some informed decisions about how to design an educational path for a growing child using the good, the beautiful and the true as headings.
A child is not an adult in miniature. This is a mistake that many make about children, and one I have made myself. A young child is vulnerable and susceptible to so many influences of the adult world around them, until they are fully mature, they do rely on us for protection until they are able to protect themselves. They are depending on adults to provide what they need for survival and love until they can provide it for themselves.
Out of this understanding of the 3-foldness and 4-foldness of a human being and the seven year stages of human development, Steiner set out to devise an educational program that has evolved as Waldorf Education. But short of taking on an in-depth study of Steiner’s Anthroposophy or seeking an expensive Waldorf teacher certification like I did, I encourage every teacher and every parent to simply consider the main questions that Rudolf Steiner considered in regards to education:
What is a man (a human)?
How does a child become a fully realized adult and how do we support that process?
How do we become a truly free society of fully realized adults?
How does humanity reach its potential and break out of its materialism and evolve?
By looking at these questions, we will continue to evolve ourselves thoughtfully.