With the three realms of man, THINKING, FEELING, and WILLING, or, if you prefer, head, heart, and hands, Steiner outlined corresponding and distinct stages of human physical and spiritual development.
It makes sense because we don’t come into the world with all of our powers of thinking ready and available to us at birth. A pony is able to stand moments after birth, but humans, the thinkers of the animal world, do not think right out of the womb. It takes many long years for our thinking to develop and mature. So, again, humans develop these three realms of thinking, feeling and willing in distinct, seven year stages and this is important to the thought about how to EDUCATE a child.
From ages 0-7, we are developing our WILL, or the use of our hands, our limbs, and the ability to exercise our intent to “do,” “to act,” “to create,” out of our own volition.
From ages 7-14, we are developing our FEELING, or the ability to make meaning out of what lives in our mood life, our emotions.
From ages 14-21, we are developing our THINKING, our judgement, our abstract mind.
By age of 21, we have the ability then to focus on a fourth aspect of the human being, the entrance of the ego, or the “I,” the assertive, adult identity that can stand as one. The ego is not fully matured until much, much later, taking perhaps 3 seven-year cycles to emerge as mature, thus the age of 42 being an excellent age for someone to begin to have the ability to take office as President!
During these stages, Steiner offers a particular area to serve as a focus for that stage. The focus tells what to emphasize and provide at that stage. It tells what to surround a developing child with during that stage that will enable the child to grow towards freedom and wholeness.
Age REALM FOCUS Explanation
0-7 WILL GOODNESS A young child must be shown goodness.
7-14 FEELING BEAUTY An older child must encounter beauty.
14-21 THINKING TRUTH An adolescent must encounter truth.
With this as a picture of “What is a man,” we can make some informed decisions about how to design an educational path for a growing child using the good, the beautiful and the true as headings.
A child is not an adult in miniature. This is a mistake that many make about children. A child is vulnerable and susceptible to so many influences of the adults world around them, until they are fully mature. They are depending on adults to provide what they need until they can provide it for themselves.
Out of this framework, Steiner set out of devise what has become known as Waldorf Education.
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