Your Super Seven-Year-Old: Traditional and Anthroposophical Views of Development, Part Two

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.



8 thoughts on “Your Super Seven-Year-Old: Traditional and Anthroposophical Views of Development, Part Two

  1. Carrie,
    I truly appreciate all your posts; my second child is now seven, and it is great to be reminded of where he is, especially as we are also now adjusting to the moods of his nine-year-old brother! Their four-year-old sister is living her own adventures, and it strikes me that this is the last time we will see this stage as well.
    Always a pleasure to visit the site and find my way in through these stages with your sage words.

  2. Trisia,
    Thank you for those very kind words indeed. You are certainly in an interesting spot from a childhood development standpoint with a 4, 7 and 9 year old! Do keep us posted how it goes!

  3. Dear Carrie,
    Thank you for posting this information. I am a new teacher in a Waldorf-inspired school, and I am dealing with many children coming upon the 7 year phenomenon. As the first child in the family, many parents are distraught at this sudden onset of sadness and dissatisfaction with school.

    I was hoping you could point me in the right direction of some anthroposophical resources specifically naming this (is it the First Adolescence?), so that I can in turn bring this to my next parent evening.

    Thank you kindly,

    • Heather – I emailed you privately, but also don’t forget Steiner himself wrote clearly about this change!

  4. Pingback: Other Questions Parents Have About The Six/Seven Year Change « The Parenting Passageway

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  6. Dear Carrie
    My second son turned 7 in November 2011. For preschool and kindergarten he went to Waldorf school. When we moved he went for Grade 1 to public school. Unfortunatley his teacher works with fear and intimmidation to get the kids under controll and engaged.
    He was very affected during school hours and I noticed that in his drwaings of “people” he was leaving out the feet.
    I am homeschooling since the x-mas break, but my son still is not including feet in his people drawings. I love the studies of Rudolph Steiner and as I look at my sons drawings and the missing feet, I can tell imbalance. Reading your article, may it has something also to do with what you were discribing above?
    Love to read your thoughts.

    • Katja,
      I am so sorry your son is having that sort of an environment at school. I don’t feel I have enough experience with children’s drawings to really comment on what your son is doing; I have read that consistently drawing people without feet or drawings without any ground is significant, but other than that I am unsure what to say. I know this book is supposed to be very helpful, and I have many books sitting on my shelves regarding Waldorf Education, but not this one:

      I wonder what a consultation with someone such as Connie Helms, extra lesson teacher, would bring?
      Congratulations for making the leap to homeschooling! I think with much time out in nature, warming foods and warmth in general, working with his hands during the afternoons, early bedtimes and rest, I would think that this would resolve…but I would love, love, love to know what an Extra lesson teacher would say about this…

      I will be pondering this for you, and will write you if I think of other things.
      many blessings,

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