Chapter Three of Stephen Spitalny’s “Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will” is all about the senses as gateways to relating; how sensory impressions are a link between ourselves and the world around us. The sense impressions or information that we receive lead to a response in our thinking, feeling or willing. Young children have willing forces and imitative forces, but they do not think or feel about something in relation to a sense experience in the way that an adult does.
The author asserts that young children are in the process of forming their physical bodies and that the things young children experience leads to a “soul response pattern”. The young child before the age of seven is solely a sense organ, and the moods, thoughts and feelings of the adults around them and their experiences lead to formative qualities in the child himself or herself. Therefore, part of Waldorf Education is to have the adult understand the role we play in shaping the health of the young child.
There are at least twelve senses worked with in Waldorf Education; I have written many back posts on these senses. These senses are the Sense of Touch, the Sense of Life (general feeling of well-being), the Sense of Self Movement, the Sense of Balance as the Lower (and Foundational Senses). The Sense of Smell, the Sense of Taste, the Sense of Sight and the Sense of Warmth are the middle senses where the human being brings some of the world into his or herself and becomes aware of a relationship to the world. The Sense of Hearing, the Sense of the Word (Speech), the Idea or Concept of the Other, the Sense of the Ego of the Other are the upper senses. Empathy is seen as based on sensing the other.
The author writes on page 57, “ Attention to the development of the senses in young human beings is at the core of an education attempting to renew culture and create a fertile ground for human connecting. These twelve senses are the doorways to relating the self to the body, the self to the world around and the self to other human beings.”
Hope you are still reading along,
This is our third week in looking at Stephen Spitalny’s wonderful book, “Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will.” In Chapter One, the author writes:
For a parent or teacher or caregiver, the core principle is the meeting of the other, and to truly meet an other one must first know thyself. This is a core principle of Waldorf education.
In the spiritual world, and at birth, the child is experiencing an “interconnectedness” of everything. There is no experience of the self and the other, and the child slowly develops this over time in childhood development. Education is about more than academics; indeed if the fundamental task of being an adult is the ability to relate to another and connect to others, then education must start with this goal in mind.
The task is to help the child relate to and connect with all aspects of life in ways suitable for their development, so that later as an adult many realms of connection are available to him. This is a social path toward cultural renewal and a more peaceful word, one individual at a time. (page 17)
This is why Waldorf Education is structured around approaching a child with love, and I would add through loving boundaries. Because being human is not about “you”; being human ultimately is about being able to see and hear the other; being able to so love and serve the world. Our current educational system pushes children further and further into academic skills, and away from seeing the connection between all subjects, all of humanity, and from the goal of true education in living as a human being.
Love and warmth are the keys to this type of education. If we can truly connect with giving and receiving, speaking and listening, with true empathy for someone who is completely different in many ways than ourselves, then that is true education. We nurture ourselves and others through warmth – in warmth we show our attention, our enthusiasm, our understanding.
This chapter brings up the following questions for me:
- How can I truly know myself? If I know myself, how do I then bring this to others in an authentic way, my children included?
- How can I show my child how to connect to and relate to people, in seeds however so small, in ways that are appropriate for his or her developmental level?
- How can I renew my own balance, my own sense that all things within the world are interconnected?
- How can I be a true adult human being and serve others through love and through warmth? How can I start within my own family?
I would love to hear what Chapter One brought up for you!
We are back looking at the introduction to this wonderful book by Stephen Spitalny. This is a book about waking up our own will in choosing how we will relate to small children, and in understanding that small children are driven by their own will forces. I urge you to read along!
This book is based upon the way Rudolf Steiner perceived young children. Steiner felt that children came to Earth with an “essential core, the true individuality of the human being [being] spirit” and that this spirit is contained in a physical body. The gifts and destiny of this human being is our journey on Earth. The physical body has needs and instincts and sense experiences; the “I” (the essential spiritual core) has a destiny to unfold and the soul is the intermediary between these two things. The soul of a human being is the housing of our desires, the things we like and dislike, our passions. Lastly, besides the “I”, the physical body, and the soul , there is an “etheric body” which is the life forces of the body. Perhaps we know this better in our modern times from the Chinese medical system as chi. The etheric body, the chi, in Steiner’s view had the ability to help form the physical body and to maintain the physical body. The etheric body is the “realm of the immune system” and of movement.
This four-fold system is our basis for looking at all human beings, but in the small child of ages birth through seven, we are especially concerned with these life-forces (the etheric) and how small children develop and use their will forces in a healthy way.
Part of this occurs through US as adults – how do we relate to and connect with the small child under the age of 7? Relating to others is a realm of give and take, it is a process of connecting to that which is within ourselves.
“For a parent or teacher or caregiver, the core principle is the meeting of the other, and to truly meet an other one must first know thyself. This is a core principle of Waldorf education.”
A spiritual path allows us to experience connection with the spirit within us, and to experience the spirit in the world around us so we can overcome the separation created by thinking and the intellect.
Lots of food for thought and more to come,
We are on the last chapter of this wonderful book. Chapter XIII is about teaching a foreign language, which is a topic I have seen asked and wondered about on many of the Waldorf homeschooling Facebook groups as of late.
Rudolf Steiner wanted first graders to be able to hold a little conversation in that foreign language by the end of that first grade year. Writing in a foreign language is not introduced until the fourth grade, so in grades one through three, through two or three fifty minute periods a week, foreign languages are introduced orally only. Poems, songs, and verses are used with NO English whatsoever.
At first, the children just hear sounds and not meaning. The key to helping the children is to provide variation and diversity in what is being brought. This is done through Continue reading
Chapter XI talks about how “image” is the heart of Waldorf Education in practice. For the seven to fourteen year old child IMAGE is the most powerful and important tool for education. We use images to help children grow towards a fruitful and responsible adulthood, and it all begins with images.
A good image brings forth the senses; doing this search for an image and a story to go with that image is great and important work for the teacher. We must learn to listen to our sense impressions. We must learn how to pick images and use them. We often do this through the idea of polarities. The author gives the example of choosing plants that are polar opposites – rose and lily, holly and ivy, and see what arises in doing exercises with those images.
In the seven to fourteen year old we are looking to develop Continue reading
We are up to Chapter 9, “Math”. This chapter gives great ideas for practice during the first number block of first grade. The author recommends counting a long a number line and seeing a number as an entity by itself as the beginning, fundamental capacity of math. Else Gottgens talks about the importance of speaking and moving, standing still and speaking and finally writing from memory, and then reading back aloud what has been written. She gives many ideas for counting and working with individual numbers and working from whole to parts and parts to whole. She also addresses estimation, and how to “structure” a number, the decimal system, and the times tables. Learning times tables in grade 2 is a major undertaking, and then being able to recite the time tables out of order, randomly, is a task for grade 3. There is also a wonderful table of math capacities that need to be developed from grade 1 onward, along with typical challenges for these capacities.
Chapter 10 discusses “Play-Acting”. Putting on a play with a group is important for developing clear speech, meaningful gesture, enhancing spatial orientation and hearing what the other actor is speaking and reacting to it. Drama also assists children in having more self-confidence, communicating better socially, gaining help in thinking more clearly, and helping children become better spellers. It is also an excellent way to strengthen the will as the children work with a play for an extended period of time. Continue reading
I last wrote a review regarding Christian books around Eastertide of this year. As always I am reading, reading, reading. I think I single handedly keep our church library busy! One book that is full of wonder and thought is the classic, “The Religious Potential of the Child” by Sofia Cavalletti, which I think should be a must-read for any parent interested in children and their relationship to God. This book was written after twenty-five years of work with children ages 3-11, and offer profound insight into spirituality and religion for the young child. To me personally, religion is first and foremost about love, joy, wonder and a personal relationship with Christ and this book captures this so well. I read this quite some time ago, and am glad I circled back around to it again as its words are so rich and profound for all of us as human beings.
What this book does to me, is to remind us that children can lead us to God and that we must not hinder them. Instead, we must envelop both the mystery of God and the mystery of the child. If we start with our own hunger to know and love this child before us, how much easier to find a path to the Divine!
The major themes of this book includes Christ as the Good Shepherd; the Eucharist and how this draws forth a response in us; Christ as a Light and how this transmits to a child through Baptism; and the mystery of Life itself. In this book is acknowledged the child’s ability to see the invisible, the child’s mysterious knowledge of God and the joy that can be found in God. The adult is not the “teacher” – both the adult and the child receive in wonder.
These wondering experiences are based in Christ – Christ as the mediator; Christ as seen from the Incarnation as a bond between man and God. There are wonderful indications in this book for working with small children using parables from the New Testament, particularly this image of Christ as the Good Shepherd, including modifications and presentation. Communal and personal meditation and art response are all part of wondering.
Interestingly, this book advocates waiting for Old Testament stories until the child is at least Continue reading