Monday, March 21, 2011

Eugene Schwartz Lecture

Dear Families,

The Kathrine Dickerson Memorial Library has a number of cds of lectures by both Kim John Payne (of whom I make frequent reference) and by the very experienced Waldorf Class Teacher Eugene Schwartz. Schwartz does an excellent job of relating the ideas of Rudolf Steiner to the practice of Waldorf Education--and in some instances, parenting.

I recently listened to his lecture 116--"Freedom of Choice, or Freedom from Choice" and want to recommend it to you (I am returning it to the library tomorrow). When I listened, it seems Schwartz's topic helped a great deal to help us as parents find the middle ground between form and freedom--what we talked about and I wrote about in relationship to manners from our parent discussion several Tuesdays ago. He describes child development in light of Anthroposophy and world history--and exhorts us as parents to realize our children benefit from different forms of discipline in different developmental periods (though as a father of 4 himself, he knows it is not easy, and that sometimes we borrow from another phase of parenting). As much as possible, we work out of imitation in the first seven years. Even as we are working to establish healthy habits in the first seven years, Schwartz encourages us to try to do this by looking at ourselves as role models and in the environments we place our children in; ideally, according to Schwartz, we need not say "no" to our children in the first 7 years because we have structured ourselves and the environment to guide children naturally toward right behavior (Schwartz acknowledges that this is easier said than done).

For children in the grades, the teacher of parent guides the children not through imitation, but through authority. The adult is like a monarch (not a dictator or authoritarian). Like I speak of elsewhere, children want to know that the captain of the ship is confident and has a sense of where the ship is going, that the Queen will feels competent to govern her home.

In both developmental phases, children receive a great gift from us if we can limit the amount of choices we give them. Too many choices too soon can paralyze a child--and eventually wake up faculties (the astral body) that are better suited to serve adolescence (and ideally to be awakened at age 35). Children want to know that we adults understand what is right; they feel cheated if we hand over decision making powers to them too soon.

Schwartz is a compelling speaker, and I recommend you listen to his lecture yourself. Of particular note, again, is his ability to introduce us to concepts from Steiner that might seem obscure in other contexts.

With warmth and light,

William Geoffrey Dolde

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