We took a peek at the seven-year old through a model of traditional childhood development with our friends at the Gesell Institute in their wonderful book, “Your Seven-Year-Old”. Today we are going to look at the seven-year-old through an anthroposophical lens of Waldorf parenting and education. Please take what resonates with you; if you are not familiar with Waldorf education some of these ideas may seem startling. Some of these ideas may not mesh with your own religious beliefs or your viewpoint, so you must decide if these ideas even work for you. I tend to view the child from more of a body/soul/spirit Judeo-Christian perspective, but I put this here so you can decide how you feel.
The seven-year-old is beginning the second seven year cycle of their life. The child is seen as still incarnating into the physical body, but now the etheric body is forming and developing. If you have forgotten all about the notion of Steiner’s four-fold human being, here is the quick review of the four components from the book “The Physiology of Childhood” by Schoorel:
- The physical body – the physical body takes and requires space. The physical body is born into the inner world during the first month of pregnancy, and is born into the outer world with the birth of the physical body of the infant.
- The ether body – maintains all life in the human being, animal, or plant. It encompasses such diverse things as breathing, biochemical processes. When the ether body is gone from the physical body, the physical body is dead. The ether body is not visible to the human eye (this makes sense, doesn’t it, if the ether body is all chemical reactions and such) but some of the ACTIONS of the ether body we CAN see, such as biorhythms, heartbeats, brainwaves, the menstrual cycle of the female. The ether body is born into the inner world of the child when the child starts to take care of their own life processes outside of the mother – breathing, digestion, warmth, metabolism. The ether body is seen being born into the outside world around the age of 7, as signaled by the appearance of the permanent teeth.
- The astral body – the bearer of abilities: behavior, the ability to think, to feel, to will; sympathy, antipathy, the ability to have wishes, desires, passions. In anthroposophy, the astral body cannot be seen, but some of the ACTIONS of the astral body can be seen within the inner organs and the nervous system. Schoorel goes on to write on page 26 that:
“The astral body is, among others, the carrier of desires, emotions, and egoism. During the first years, the astral body does not work in the body of the child under the child’s direction. During the first three years, children are not egoistic but innocent, neutral, and objective in their behavior and actions. The first three years lay the physical foundation of the three main functions of the soul – willing, feeling, and thinking. This foundation is laid through the fact that children learn to walk in their first year, learn to speak in their second year, and learn to think in their third year.”
At about the age of three, the astral body is born into the inner world of the child; it is born into the outer world at the age of 14.
- The I-organization- is a system of intentions, directions, goals. The I-organization is the bodily foundation of the human I. The human-I is a spiritual being where one learns how it can do good out of free choices. Steiner believed that when the physical body died, the I would go toward further incarnation and leave the I-organization behind. The I-organization activity is internalized around the age of 10 and is then born into the outer world around the age of 21.
So, the child is growing and changing and needing different things to support the etheric body as it forms and also to consolidate the incarnation into the physical body. In Kindergarten, the emphasis is on WILLING. Now the emphasis is on FEELING. In Kindergarten, the main goal included creating a sense of GRATITUDE. Now the goals center around the child’s response to AUTHORITY (remember, not mean nasty authority, but a natural love for teacher, people they can trust). This is the time to foster a sense of community, of LOVE, of beauty.
I have written many posts on the six/seven year transformation, and you can access those in the tags box. That will provide needed background so you can understand what the seven year needs for peaceful living.