Happy New Year’s to you all! Many best and bright wishes to my readers in this lovely New Year!
Many of you know that given my background as a physical therapist and homeschooling parent, work revolving around the twelve senses as set forth by Rudolf Steiner has been fascinating to me. Some of the therapists and neuroscientists I have spoken to feel there are anywhere from 75 to over a hundred senses, but I feel these twelve are a fine place to start. They are well-organized and clear, and I think it is a piece that is accessible for all educators, not just Waldorf/Steiner educators and should be of particular importance to us as homeschool educators and as parents.
Lisa Boisvert-Mackensie was kind enough to continue a virtual tea with me regarding some of the fundamental pillars of Waldorf Education. You can see those posts here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/12/20/the-three-artistic-pillars-of-waldorf-homeschooling/ and here: http://www.celebratetherhythmoflife.com/2011/12/as-person-who-has-straddled-worlds-of.html and here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/12/21/more-about-the-artistic-pillars-of-waldorf-education-a-virtual-tea/
Lisa’s last virtual tea post on the twelve senses ( here is the link: http://www.celebratetherhythmoflife.com/2011/12/lemniscate-and-senses.html) inspired me to draw the image above. It was originally presented in horizontal form in a lecture I heard in the fall by Douglas Gerwin, but after I really sat with this information, slept on it, let it lie fallow for a bit, I drew this vertical figure. This vertical figure reminds me of the upright human being; it reminds me that we all have these twelve senses, and that having all of these senses fully developed leads to the freedom to give and receive love. One can have all the knowledge and training and facts in a field, and if one cannot rule over oneself, if one cannot see another’s view, if one can relate to another person, if one cannot use their knowledge and training for the love of humanity, what good does it really do?
This figure also reminds me that the basis, the foundation of the human being are the lower four bodily senses. If we cannot get comfortable in our own bodies, then how can we get to those higher senses where we interact with our world, create new things, go forth in ability to give and receive love? If education as a whole is to be healing, and if we are to especially help children with challenges, we must always start here.
I also remind myself by looking at the position of the words on the curves how the lower and upper senses relate – how touch relates to the sense of “I and Thou”, how the Sense of Balance relates to Hearing, how the Sense of Movement relates to the Sense of the Word, and how the Sense of Movement relates to the Sense of Thought.
The middle senses, between the lower and higher senses, are ones to be especially worked with in a grades-aged student. A student of the age 7-14 notice everything; this is the time for beauty and to stimulate the senses to help in learning. This is not to say that the lower senses are neglected or no longer worked with, but that the student needs other tools to help stimulate how they learn and these senses of sight, taste, smell become important. Memories are tied up with smell; the visuals created in a student’s head are all so very important. That should be a constant thought as we work with students in these grades: how can we use beauty through the senses?
Donna Simmons of Christopherus Homeschool Resources often refers to warmth as a “gateway” to the upper senses. How do we bring warmth to the children we teach and love? I think this sense is also interesting, because warmth comes to a child on a physical level and also an emotional level, and warmth, to me, is also a first inkling of those higher senses in how we respond and relate to another human being, that transition point between the lower senses where something is happened inside us bodily to how we go forth into the world.
The higher senses are not truly developed until the high school years, the years of truth, the years of truly hearing another human being and understanding. How do we hear another human being? How do we hear the words of another human being? How do we take in the thoughts of another human being for the ultimate culmination in “this is you, this is me, this is how we relate” and this is what I give to the world: my love, myself and how this makes us together in humanity and in our own human-ness.
That, to me is the point of a healing education that will enable children to become healthy adults, adults who can actually contribute to society.