Here is a summary of each of the seven-year cycles, and then in future posts we will be delving into each cycle more deeply:
Ages Birth – 21 is seen as a PHYSICAL time.
Birth – Age 7
- The birth of the physical body is paramount
- Children of this age are one big sense organ, an eye, that deeply perceives all the sensory impression received. Betty Staley writes, “These impressions influence the physical body: if they are quiet and soft, the child can breathe more rhythmically and relax; but when children’s immature nervous system try to process startling noises, flickering lights, and quick visual impressions, it is too much for them. They can become exhausted, tense and afraid.” (page 61)
- Children of this age learn through imitation
- Children in this cycle learn to be upright, to walk, to understand and speak ‘their mother tongue”.
- This cycle is divided into thirds; around the third year children experience their own being and start referring to themselves as “I”
- Children in this cycle are still rather “asleep”; sensory impressions experienced now are more inward and form the basis for conscious ideas later on
- Children enter the world through their will and the movement of the physical body. This movement forms the basis for what they will FEEL in the next stage
- The organs and the physical body is being completed, which culminates in the loss of the primary dentition.
Age 7- Age 14
- The physical body continues to develop, with the adult teeth starting to come through
- Consciousness further awakens from a state of sleep to a more dream-like condition
- The inner soul-life intensifes
- In the earlier period, the organs and physical body were being completed , but now attention is turned to “the soul as powers of imagination and thought, as image-forming activity.”
- Children’s thinking at this age is influenced by strong personal feelings, personal experiences and expressed through IMAGINATION.
If we divide this stage into thirds:
- We have the 7 year old where children have many of the same tendencies as the earlier stage where they learn by imitation and see nature as alive and connected to themselves.
- At around 8 and 1/3, imitation becomes less strong and the child’s need for almost constant movement can begin to be reigned in. There is a beginning of separation here, the nine-year old change, that shows itself through new feelings – uncertainty, fear, anger that things are unfair, feeling they are ugly or disliked or unwanted. The child does not feel connected with the world so much as distanced, separated, unhappy and restless. The period of 8 and 1/3 to 10 and 2/3 years of age is really the heart of childhood in many ways though, and the children of this stage have a strong sense of nature, love of wild places, a love of myths and legends, they play well, are well-coordinated, their imaginations are vivid and alive.
- Around 11 and 2/3 the body begins to change with signs of puberty appearing. The girls are about two years ahead of the boys. Children’s feelings at this stage become more connected with their individuality. Special friends are very important. A new capacity for understanding cause and effect develops and they are more objective about the world. They are better able to understand why and how things happen. Their strong physical resemblance to their parents starts to wane, and their individuality becomes more pronounced. The changes of puberty echo the change of teeth which occurred at the end of the first seven-year cycle.
- The forces released in puberty are now available for the next phase
Age 14- Age 21
- The physical body goes through great hormonal change as the adult body takes form.
- Feeling life is erratic, chaotic, with highs and lows
- The creative power which worked on the physical body from birth until age 7 and then worked on the feeling life of the soul from age 7 to 14 is now at work on THINKING. This is when young people become critical of everything, questioning everything, rejecting things
- The adolescent is learning how to use their thinking to control their feelings and will-impulses.
- Thinking becomes more inward, more conceptual and abstract
- Around the seventeenth year, there is a glimpse of the “higher self”, a sense of purpose and meaning in life
- Character is forming
If one understands the view of the seven-year life cycles, one can see how everything in Waldorf education is designed to match or meet where the child is developmentally. Waldorf education is also designed to preserve the health of the child for later seven-year cycles.
Next post we will talk about the age of 21-42, which is the development of the psychological or SOUL maturity.