There are just certain written works or lectures that Waldorf teachers and Waldorf homeschooling parents re-read each summer before school starts. For me, I usually choose between “Discussions With Teachers”, “Practical Advice to Teachers” or “Human Values in Education” (all by Rudolf Steiner). This year, I have decided to go through the lectures found in Rudolf Steiner’s “Discussion With Teachers” and to just share my notes as I go along with all of you.
So, Discussion Three begins with questions about storytelling according to temperament. Steiner remarked, for example, that sanguines need to hear pauses in a story because their attention wander, and melancholics need emphatic details. He then goes on to answer discussions about form drawing according to temperament; forms moving outward for the choleric, contrasting colors for the sanguine, starting from a circle and drawing inward for a phelgmatic child. Steiner also talks about how to describe things so they are of interest to phlegmatic children, using the example of a horse, and in taking the description of the horse again, telling it to involve the choleric children. He also says something interesting at the end of the discussion about the importance of developing the social will of the class, and how it is important to develop “social instincts.” Much of what is done in Waldorf classrooms is to connect the class together in a social way of community, and I often wonder what Steiner’s indications would have been for homeschooling in the day and age that we and our children are facing!
Discussion Four is primarily about math, so for those of you feeling lost in teaching math, I think this is a terrific lecture to read! It begins with talking about introducing fractions, and moves on to whether or not a child who slouches has more difficulty understanding spatial and geometric forms, but then quickly gets into the heart of teaching the four processes according to temperament.
For example, Steiner talks about how to introduce adding. He assumes that the children can count (so those of you with six year old kindergarteners, work on jumping rope rhymes with counting in them!) and talks about proceeding from the sum. If a child counts a number of objects, the total amount is the sum. Then one can divide the objects into little piles, and all together those piles equal 27. One immediately begins working with flexibility with numbers as a teacher in math. Phlegmatics do best with this sort of working from the sum, whereas choleric children enjoy adding all the piles together to get the sum. The melancholic children work well with subtraction, and then the sanguine can reverse this (ie, if I take 5 away from 8, I have 3 left). He allows that the reverse temperaments should be doing the mathematical procedures in reverse. Adding is related to the phlegmatic temperament, subtraction to the melancholic, multiplying to the sanguine, and dividing to the choleric. He talks about going from plane geometry to solid geometry. Form drawing with examples is further discussed, and storytelling for phlegmatic children, and how to use an element of surprise for the sanguine children.
One of the last things Steiner talks about in this discussion is the imbalances of the temperaments and how “if the melancholic temperament becomes abnormal and does not remain within the boundaries of the soul, but rather encroaches on the body, then insanity arises.” He goes on to discuss the same with all the different temperaments, and also how to deal with exclusionary behavior, and how punishing children is never the answer. “The aftereffect is not good,” said Steiner.
Discussion Five talks even more about the temperaments, so please come back for that discussion. As teachers and homeschooling parents, it is so good that we re-read these lectures every year and bring them to life within us for the health of our children.