Steiner’s Thoughts on the Education of the Child Aged 7-14
From Education of the Child, 1996 print edition:
“Then, from the change of teeth on, the etheric body that is now developing must bring to the physical body the forces whereby it can make its forms firm and inwardly complete. Whatever makes the strongest impression on the etheric body also works powerfully toward consolidating the physical body. The strongest of all the impulses that can work on the etheric body come from the feelings and thoughts through which the human beings consciously divine and experience their relationship to the Eternal Powers- That is, they come from religious experience. Never will a person’s will – nor as a result a person’s character – develop in a healthy way, if one cannot during this period of childhood receive religious impulses deep into the soul. How people feel their place and part in the universal whole will be expressed in the unity of their life of will. If they do not feel linked with strong bonds to a divine-spiritual, their will and character must remain uncertain, divided, and unsound.”
Again, on page 60 in my edition: ”Most important of all is religious instruction. Images of things supersensible are deeply imprinted in the ether body. The pupil’s ability to have an opinion about religious faith is not important, but receiving descriptions of the supersensible, of what extends beyond the temporal. All religious subjects must be presented pictorially.”
Steiner goes on to talk about the development of FEELING during this period (as opposed to the WILLING of the Kindergarten/Early Years) –
-developed through pictures and parables
-through the pictures and stories of great men and women, taken from history and other sources
-a correspondingly deep study of the secrets and beauties of nature is also important for the proper formation of the world of feeling
-the cultivation of the sense of beauty and the awakening of the artistic feeling
-the musical element “must bring to the etheric body the rhythm that will then enable it to sense in everything the rhythm otherwise concealed. Children who are denied the blessing of having their musical sense cultivated during these years will be the poorer because of it for rest of their lives.”
– the moral sense of children is being formed by the pictures of life placed before them, through the authorities they naturally look up to
-“Thought in its proper form, as an inner life lived in abstract concepts, must still remain in the background during this period of childhood. It must develop itself, as it were, without external influences, while life and the secrets of nature are being unfolded in parable and picture.” Steiner attributes the ability to form independent opinions after puberty to how abstract concepts are handled during the period of ages 7-14. He felt by awakening independent judgment too early, we will damage the problem-solving ability, the ability of independent thought in the adolescent. This is why the years of the second seven-year period are focused more on examples, analogies, rather than just conclusions. Conclusions in Waldorf teaching do not come in until after age 14 for various reasons.
“If we force children into critical thinking before the age of fourteen, it is particularly disadvantageous for them and forces them to create their own conclusions or lose the well-intended power of the surrounding persons of authority. It is very bad if the child cannot look up to anyone.”
-the two things connected with the development of the etheric body are habit and memory. “For this reason you should try to give children a firm foundation for life anchored in good habits. People who act differently every day, who lack a stable basis for their deeds, will later lack character……Children need to learn upright habits and to have a rich store of memorized knowledge.”
-We form a strong memory during this second seven year year period by instructing children and NOT by teaching through example as in the Kindergarten years. “We form a strong memory, not by explaining all the “whys” and “wherefores”, but through authority.” Steiner said.
-We must surround children with people they can trust – people who can awaken in children a belief in the authority they hold.
-“Great care must be taken that teaching is brought to life. Much is spoiled in the child if it is burdened with too much that is dull and lifeless. Whatever is taught in a lively interesting manner benefits the child’s ether body. There should be much activity and doing, which has a quickening effect on the spirit.”
-The main emphasis of this second seven year period is on authority and community. It is also the time to foster the sense for beauty.
-We must harmonize interests with talents.
Most of all, remember that “Suppose we raise a child by emphasizing only the capacity for abstract thinking, as is so often done in school. Those pure concepts and abstract ideas cannot affect the child’s feeling life. The feeling life remains undeveloped and unformed, and this shows itself later in all kinds of ordinary experiences.” (page 109) In my opinion, this is much of the problem with the educational system of the United States today.
Steiner’s words, written in “The Foundation of Human Experience”:
Stand for truth,
Keep imagination alive in your teaching,