MAIN STREAM V STEINER
My little tree
Imagine your baby like this little seed, when you plant it into this world, if allowed it will grow. You have lots of choices to make in this process, choices all which will ultimately effect the growth of this little plant. At the end of the day, the result will still be "a beautiful tree". For the sake of argument lets say this seed will produce an orange tree, so the result, despite the choices, will always be ending in the growth of an orange tree; you will always only ever get oranges from this tree.
In this discussion I am only going to be comparing two scenarios, the one our “normal” choice of public main stream Ofsted education, the second the choice of Steiner education. The reason for my choices are because, I want to demonstrate what I believe is a visual way of explaining the growth and development that one undergoes in Steiner education, the reason for comparing to main stream is because that is the education “standard” that most of our generation, in this country (UK), understand and compare all other “forms” of education to.
Stage 1 “the pre-schooler” 0-7:
Main stream education is your standard “factory” style farming where you have a very big space of land but you also have hundreds upon hundreds of tree in this space resulting in each tree only getting a standard quota of space. This is how the general environment is for the individual child; they are in a classroom full to the brim and they get very little, yet equal attention from the teacher. The teaching style is geared towards spending a lot, if not most, of the time sitting down confined to one’s desk, which is like putting the young shoot into a plant pot or boxing in the space it has to grow its roots in. this results in very little, neat and precise growth of the roots. While this growth underneath needs to take place, it is not allowed the full time it needs to focus on this growth, instead it gets loaded on with fertilisers which encourage and focus the growth above the ground where it can be “seen” and measured with a ruler. This, therefore, results in not only confined growth of the roots, but also rushed growth of it. The energy that should have at this stage, only, mainly, be spent on the roots, now has to be shared with the growth above the ground as well; resulting in short weak roots. Although the farmer may argue that the root is enough to suffice its “job”, which in his mind is to collect nutrients and water, it is not enough to anchor the plant solidly to the ground if a big storm were to come it’s way.
Steiner education on the other hand is like your neighbourhood farmer who has enough land to have a little orchard. He plants only the amount of tree he knows the land can allow in a natural healthy way. He says the little shoot is very young and needs to concentrate on growing it roots. Let’s give it all the space it needs to grow, give it plenty of sun and water, maybe lets add a stick on the top to give it support on top while its growing underneath; he knows not worry that the plant does not seem to be “growing” much on top, he knows it is taking its time to grow in the right place that it needs to focus on right now. These roots take all the time they need to grow, they spread out as far and wide and deep as they need to anchoring the tree down solidly into the ground ready to face the weathers that have to come. Once it has rooted itself then the growth on top commences at a greater rate.
This time directly relates to the growth of the child between 0-7, where the child needs a lot of space to grow and should not be confined to a table and chair for most of the day. They are growing on the inside, their organs are coming into their full selves, they need to be allowed the time, space and energy to grow. If they are rushed into intellectual growth at this stage whilst their bodies need this time and energy, this will result in not enough energy for the healthy growth of the organs. Once this window is missed, it can not be revisited, this shop literally will be closed for further business later on in life, hence why it is so important to fully make use of this window, to allow this growth to happen to it’s proper capacity.
Stage 2 “lower and middle school” (7-14):
Your neighbourhood farmer takes his time looking at each of his trees and pruning back just what the individual tree needs; watering while singing to it, supporting it where it may need, looking after the soil by feeding the soil what it naturally needs. He allows the tree to grow out its branches in its beautiful natural way allowing it to embraces its twists and turns and weaving branches; stretching out sides ways just as much as it is stretching out up wards. He knows not to worry too much about it growing too tall too quickly, that it will come to its perfect height all in good time. Now is not the time to focus on its height, but rather let it grow into its natural form, one which gives shade to those who need it, one which allows the wild life to flourish within it. He understands the needs of the tree, understands the importance of every element that helps develop the tree to be healthy; for the fruit of a healthy tree imparts more than just nutrition, it imparts health. Health that goes far beyond the “five a day keeps the doctor away health”, health that keeps ones entire being truly healthy.
This equates to the Steiner ethos of age appropriate learning, teaching with singing and games, allowing them to have space for movement, bringing to them what they individually need and not what is a pre-prescribed standard measured dose of “educating”. The fluidity and flexibility of Steiner education is what sets apart the two different approaches to teaching. The trust one has to instil in the teacher’s better judgement of what and when comes from understanding that each child, each class is very different, no two classes can be the same and therefore need to be treated in accordance. The education needs to meet the child and class at a space where they and their: thinking; imagination; contemplation; analyses; and understanding, can be stretched, but not strained. It needs to be brought to them in and at a time when they can connect with the intellectual information presented to them on a deeper emotional, social and mental level. This connection helps them absorb the information in a way that resonates with them and their being; therefore, it stays with them on multiple levels as it satisfies not only the intellect, but rather also what was needed on a more human and personal soul level.
To take a look at the power of working with things, allowing them to be able to resonate amidst you: imagine the fears the 9 year old child goes through and bottles up inside them, (yes that is a real thing the nine year old change!). The child has things bottled up inside them, if you could put a tuning fork to this bottle that resonated with the glass, causing it to shatter, allowing the child to free themselves of the fears that were held in, how glorious would that feel! That is how the Steiner curriculum in designed to resonate; the right things at the right time allowing maximum benefits to be cultivated. (But of course one needs to be patient and let it happen over time, it is not something which can happen over night, as it is not a physical bottle, but more a metaphorical and emotional one and therefore takes an emotional tune fork to remedy and its due course to “shatter”).
The “factory” farmer on the other hand is too focused on the upwardly growth of the trees, he wants them all to be tall, uniform, straight trees, does not allow room for the individual trees to grow and develop in their individual natural forms, He is more focused on getting the trees to fruition as quickly as possible loading them up with fertilisers and killing off wildlife with pesticides. Every year he prunes back exact measured chunks uniformly from each tree so that he may have an immaculate looking, picture perfect well manicured farm, which once ready will produce fruit that is likewise.
In the above mentioned metaphoric depiction: the pesticides refer to entities like media, which does in fact work like a slow poison upon the child; the fertilisers can be equated to knowledge that is unduly, unnaturally, artificially dumped upon the children in mainstream education without consideration of when and how it was needed; and the pre-prescribed measured cutting can be seen in a manner of speaking as exams. The focus is only on providing measured doses of the nutrients on timely intervals with the thought that if the nutrient is in the soil it will be taken up by the tree and therefore transferred into the fruit once it is fruiting, i.e. information that is required to pass the board exams etc., unnaturally, untimely given to them with the presumption that: if they are provided with all the information and “skills”, then it will be present for them to regurgitate in exams etc. thus allowing them to "succeed" in them. (This type of "success" means nothing really in the grand scheme of things, all you are doing is: measuring how good was the quality of the sponge at soaking up and the ringing out the water repeatedly over the years; is that really all that education should be?)
This knowledge, although now undoubtedly at their "disposal", was not imparted to them with individual thought and consideration. This results in a lot of information which most children do not connect with and therefore sometimes fail to understand what to do with. This means they need to work harder (then they would have needed to, had they have been given a chance to connect with it) to: remember it; comprehend it; and apply it. It does not make one less or more “smarter” either route, however, one gives you the avenue of a ride that “fits” you as an individual better: allowing it to not only give you comfort and nurture while "using it"; but also facilitating to bring out all the best shades and tones of your whole being in its full glory more naturally and with ease.
On that note: the result, one may argue, will be the same at the end of the growth cycle. Once the trees have matured into fully grown adult fruition trees, they will both be fruiting oranges. Yes, they may be both fruiting oranges, but there will still be a difference between the fruit. If one is looking at just the size and overall colour of the fruit, things which are "quantifiable" then maybe one may not “see” much difference; but if you look beyond the quantifiable, the naturally grown tree’s fruit will be full of much more depth and layers of flavour, something which can only be experienced in its indulgence and not measured. Along with it’s distinct flavour, there will be a notable difference in the smell of the fruit, all things which are equally important in the experience of eating the fruit, therefore the resulting positive outcomes of it. Yes they both will provide you with “vitamin c”; but there is a difference, if you so choose to see it, that goes beyond the quantifiable. The difference comes from and in the growth process; at every stage the actions taken have effects in the long run. If you wish to make your fruits of labour just a mer vessel for providing “nutrition”, then perhaps it does make no difference for you; but if you want something more from it, if you wish for it to impart happiness, satisfaction and the feeling of bliss upon their indulgence; then there is something more there that you may need to consider.
As I have quoted before: energy is neither created nor destroyed, only transferred. When you indulge in a fruit it is not just the nutrition you ear but the energy that it was grown with as well. Cold heartless factory foods impart cold heartless energy, warm caring love filled handmade food impart warmth, care and love.
The difference, of how the knowledge was brought to a child and what it does to and for the child, can be "seen" as clear as day if you so choose to see it when you sit in the company of these children. These are not: quantifiable; measurable; equatable things, these are things that leave a lasting joyful impression on your soul when you share space with these rich beings.
The intellect is one thing, but the mental, social and emotional well being of a child is not something that should be overlooked, but that maybe something to come back to for deeper reflection at another time…
This space features my reflections, opinions, ponderings and from time to time announcements of what I am up to. It literally is me in my corner on my soapbox.
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