Dreamlike kindergartens


Original article posted on Tia Sáng (by Nguyen Thu Huong): click here to read

Steiner kindergartens nourish children in a dreamlike atmosphere for children to maximize their imagination, to fully embrace the wisdom of cosmic knowledge, instead of looking at children as smaller versions of adults and trying to teach the knowledge of the chaotic world in the early years.

Since the world recognized Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, every educational psychologist has understood that the period from 0 to 6 (or 8) is the stage of creating the self, which does not change over time, or in other words the period when every personal experience will leave a mark in the subconscious, always there and hidden deep within the person, and can be revealed when consciousness “allows” in many different forms. Among the superego, the ego and id, the superego (which belongs to the subconscious domain and makes up the “conscience” of each individual) is hard to change or impact when it has been formed. But we can absolutely influence the process of its formation, which is the childhood stage. The id (which belongs to the unconscious) is instinctive and cannot be interfered with. The ego lies fully in the control of consciousness, formed by the environment, education and constantly changing throughout human life. Therefore, from the perspective of psychoanalysis agreed upon by many educational psychologists, the early childhood phase has an irreplaceable importance to human personality formation, or the child’s future self, as the educator Montessori put it. She earnestly asked teachers, especially preschool teachers, to be the ones that had prepared from within, denying dictatorship and arrogance, to create a natural educational environment in which children were allowed to experience and discover knowledge for themselves and to bloom into their future selves1. Perspectives on the teacher’s personality and importance and the influence of the early childhood period on the formation of future children of Montessori and Rudorf Steiner are identical although they put these into practice in very different – even opposite – ways.

Steiner cho rằng trẻ con có sự thông thái đặc biệt (nếu chưa bị làm cho hỏng hay mất đi); chúng sẽ tự phát triển theo cách tốt nhất nếu được yêu thương, được vui đùa trong thiên nhiên, được tôn trọng và tự do.

Born at the same time as Nietzsche, Steiner was not much influenced by Nietzsche2. but their views were surprisingly similar. Both men were interested in eternal recurrence (a concept that the universe is repeated and will infinitely continue in similar forms) and contended for the highest development of human beings – to reach freedom: freedom from God, religion, political institutions, freedom by mastering one’s own capacity and desires, and freedom towards the eternal return of the universe. Because of this concept, Steiner presented a view that kindergarten education (from 0-7 years old) is a period when children still retain a deep connection with the hidden knowledge of the universe, and the task of adults (parents, teachers and society) is raising children in an environment full of poetry, love and freedom so that children can maximize their imagination and fully embrace the wisdom of cosmic knowledge. He thought that children had special wisdom (if they had not been corrupted or lost it) and could receive hidden knowledge of the universe; they would develop in the best way if they were loved, respected and let play freely, especially in nature.

So without teaching, what do teachers do? If it is just free play in nature, what role do kindergarten classes play?

Nourishing imagination

Everyone knows and perhaps agrees with Albert Einstein’s famous saying “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want your children to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales ”and“ Imagination is more important than knowledge ”. But not everyone understands the tremendous importance of reading fairy tales to children and of creating a fairy-tale environment for children to maximize their imagination. Steiner kindergartens did this very well, reaching a higher rung, turning reading stories into telling stories. Reading still requires books; it is not living with stories. Telling stories means living with stories. The classroom space is cozy with soft light and candles next to the small “stage” of puppet characters arranged by teachers with silk, flowers, and leaves, who gently strum the lyre. The child immediately become silent, attentively waiting and imagining after each rhythmic act. Storytelling hours germinate and nurture children’s imagination every day so that at a certain moment children will recreate these experiences.

Theo Steiner, chỉ khi tiếp xúc với các vật liệu thực, trẻ mới phát triển các giác quan thực nhất, tinh tế nhất, mọi sự giả dù đạt trạng thái tinh xảo hơn thực, đều đem lại sự giả tạo đối với các giác quan, mà giai đoạn ấu thơ lại là giai đoạn quan trọng nhất để duy trì và phát triển sự tinh nhạy này.

Another difference compared to other educational models is that Steiner kindergartens have free play every day, in the sense that the child is the organizer of the game who solves problems that arise when playing with other children; the teacher only establishes the environment, ensures safety and minimizes interference. Free play, also called creative play, is an essential need for children who will later “re-experience”, “re-play” what has been deeply experienced, to imagine and create endless stories in each game. To ensure play quality, in the sense of maximizing imagination, toys are completely open without any particular functions attached to them, because the period from birth to seven years does not need to focus on thinking and logic.

Developing the senses through what is real

Despite building a fairy-tale environment, in Steiner kindergartens, reality is the first and foremost factor – classroom materials, from toys to curtains and clothes are completely natural. According to Steiner, only by playing with natural materials will children develop the most keen senses, and childhood is the critical period for such development.

Even more difficult is the sincerity in every teacher’s actions and emotions; the teacher working passionately must be truly passionate, instead of pretending to be; love must also be true love, not just external gestures; anger in teachers should not be present in any situation, but if a teacher has not reached this state, revealing anger would be better than to fake love. Because Steiner believed that children can see the inner human being of adults, emotional pretense will infiltrate into the child, and that is not the free man Steiner aimed for.

Building capacity and virtue with respect

Right from the kindergarten level, the child is respected as an individual with full capacity and virtue; the teacher is simply an observer observing intently and objectively to help children develop in the most harmonious manner without judgment. To become free, children must be free from all fears – from the authority of adults and even self-obsession. Punishment increases fear of authority. Rewarding increases self-obsession, dependence on the crowd and outside approval.

The lack of judgment, rewards and punishment naturally creates cooperation and love between individuals, children and children, children and adults. Having fun with each other under the observation and supervision of adults, children unconsciously discover their inner abilities, nurturing passion through each job and daily play because they like to and need to, instead of doing so because of rewards or punishment. Verbal orders do not even exist in Steiner schools.

So why do Steiner classrooms achieve such a high level of discipline? When it is time, children sit down neatly to eat and drink, then voluntaritily get their mattresses and blankets for naptime, attentively listen to the story told by their teacher, and then sleep soundly. It sounds unrealistic when we are so accustomed to nurturing children with a series of commands and countless rewarding techniques. The rhythm in the hours of activity, the rhythm of the day, the season, the year, festivities, the universe and the utmost patience and the solid love without pitying the children of teachers help achieve this feat.

Nourishing gratitude

It can be argued that “pampered” children will be easily “spoiled”. However, in Steiner classes, children are free but very polite and humble perhaps because they live in an atmosphere of gratitude right from early childhood. Songs, organized activities, teachers’ instructions, festivals, and classroom decorations are imbued with gratitude for nature and the universe – not religious affection or reverence as many extremist materialists who oppose Steiner education may think.

When we are grateful, we will be more altruistic, more loving, more peaceful. And the gratitude to be nurtured from early childhood will be solid roots that keep us standing before storms of life and keep our mind calm and strong, because deep down we are grateful for this life with both happiness and bitterness.

Next article: Steiner elementary education

1 The secret of childhood, Montessori.
2 Philosophy of Freedom, R. Steiner; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolf_Steiner.