The Growing Child 

   “Our highest endeavour must be to develop free individuals who are able, out of their own initiative, to impart purpose and direction in their lives.” Rudolf Steiner. To begin to strive for that goal, our education must be based on an understanding of child development, both general and individual.

   It is important that children live as fully as possible into their childhood in their advance towards adulthood. So much is now impeding this experience which ultimately is reflected in limitations in adult life.

   “Learning is the key to human development, but it is not a simple, homogenous process.

 

   What to learn, when to learn and how to learn are arrived at through a conscious and careful study of children as well as a comprehensive understanding of the human being through all stages of human development. Teachers strive to help each child eventually to become a clear-thinking, sensitive and well-centred adult.” Rudolf Steiner

   Our vision is to prepare children for life, not just for a job or career, but to be able to go out into the world with the ability to think logically and creatively, to feel humble yet strong and safe and to develop courage in relation to the obstacles of the outer world; to feel part of the whole of humanity and to be able to act with purpose and direction in life.

                                  To Meet The Challenge

   Children learn in many different ways: some are visual, some are more responsive to the spoken word, others need time to ponder; there are those for whom repetition is key. The list goes on. All of these can be addressed through the child’s natural world: imagination. There is an evolution in a child’s learning: from play through beauty to work.

KINDERGARTEN, Garden of Play

   The kindergarten occurs in the last part of the first stage of childhood. The change of teeth, the culmination of that which came from the parents, signifies the end of this stage..

 

   Up to around 7, children learn predominantly through imitation. From birth to the change of teeth they are beings of unconscious imitation who feel at one with their surroundings, not separate entities as develops during primary school. They and whatever and whoever is around them are one. Every action, no matter how small, elicits an inner response. Even our thoughts, which manifest subtly with a facial gesture are picked up and influence the child's development.

   The kindergarten teacher is aware of this and needs to be a person worthy of imitation. Every thought, every gesture is important. The spoken word is not a highly effective educative tool at this age, except in the child's speech development. The gestures with the words are more effective than what is actually said.

   One of life's seeming contradictions is revealed here. The more a child freely learns through imitation, the greater will be the sense of social freedom when she/he grows up. A beautiful flower develops from a seed in the earth. In the same way, social freedom comes from the little children's instinct to imitate.

The Kindergarten Day

   The children draw, paint, sing, model with beeswax, finger knit, garden, and dance. They draw and run forms, which will evolve into the essential basis of letter forms. Learning to write is one of the hardest things that will be learned at school. Fostering the joy in and a sense of value of reading is more important than learning to read early. At Aetaomah hand-eye co-ordination activities such as handwork and development of a sense of form through movement, drawing and painting and modelling are seen as essential preparation for learning to write. The forms arising from these activities will evolve into the basic letter forms. 

How to work at a table using safe posture is necessary.  

   During kindergarten the thinking is now developing, not yet the abstract thought of adults, but thinking both concrete and imaginative. The tender shoots of elementary thought are here nurtured through the protective hand of the teacher, in preparation for the next stage.

   Two vital activities naturally exercise and fertilise the unfolding thought life: play and the daily story, which are often linked. Through play the children are developing their relationship with the world. Through constructive play the thought life is expressed as the little ones evolve their activities. The content of their play may come from a nature-based story told to the class or another activity they have done. One of the great hindrances to harmonious, creative play is the screen. Television and computers tend to stifle playful creativity. Many children now struggle to play harmoniously and actually have to be taught how to do so. This problem has been gradually increasing over the last twenty years.

 

Year One to Year Eight

   Until about the ninth year the imitative faculty is active but fading. It is rapidly being replaced by the need for an authority. The child from about 7 to 14 needs, craves, must have a loving authority to look up to. Freedom is not what the child needs. Freedom at this age creates insecurity and even nervousness. 

Another seeming contradiction: a child guided by loved, respected, unquestioned adults not only feels happy, safe and secure but is given the rich soil for the flowering in adult life of a sense of justice, for the rights of all people, not a selfish outlook.

   The limbs are freeing up. Why walk when you can run, seems to be an ingredient of the age!

The keys to learning are the security of the loving authority of the teacher and the spark of imagination. At Aetaomah the children are taught subject matter through the arts: through story, song, music, poetry, painting, movement and dance, speech and drama, modelling, handwork and crafts. Nimble, skillful, constructive fingers assist the development of a nimble, skillful, constructive mind. The imaginative world is the child’s natural home. Imagination opens doors to enthusiastic learning and exploration of lesson content.

   Each of the letters is learned as a character in a story. They become friends. A Curled Up Cat is much more fun and learnable than "C". A House With Two Chimneys is much friendlier than a "H". When it sits beside a house with one chimney, lower case comes into being in story. The characters quickly become the letters. They are drawn in rainbow colours with crayons, or are painted, adding artistry and beauty. The letter forms can be run in games, leading the forms into the will. The letters live in the whole body, not just the head and hands.

   Pulleys and levers can be understood as the children design toys and games using them. The elements of a fraction become characters. The numerator could be an expansive character and the denominator a contractive one who wants to shrink everything. Drama is an enlivening teacher of history.

   The change of teeth to puberty is also the time when social skills and moral values are being learned, whether we like it or not! Again, the warmth of imagination and story helps guide the children through the increasingly complex social maze without moralizing and lecturing at them. Through story many different situations and ways of dealing with them can be explored. One of the important aspects of teaching is to help children resolve any social disharmonies.

   Generally, children at this age perceive the outside world pictorially and through their feelings, not through the adult abstract thought process. They respond strongly to images of the world presented verbally. The teachers at Aetaomah all work at speech development so that they can create moods in stories and poetry and use their voices to appeal to the children's sense of hearing, not irritate it.

   The first couple of years of primary school are strongly imaginative and still highly based on imitation. Third Class opens up a time of practical activities: mixing cement, gardening skills, making a pond, woodwork, bicycle maintenance etc. There is a need at this age to know how to do things. 

   At some point around the age of nine the imitative phase dissolves and the children become suddenly self-aware. This can be a sensitive time when the children are inwardly re-evaluating the world around them. A brief period of uncharacteristic behavioural problems may occur. This is the precursor to the next phase. The child, feeling his/her separateness from the environment is open to taking in the sciences: animal studies, botany, climate, acoustics, geology, electricity; a gradual understanding of the world.

   All this time the arts are flowering to unfold the lesson content. Language and literature, mathematics, history and geography are artistically widening the children's awareness. 

   Through Class 7 into 8 a further major development takes place. As puberty evolves, so does the faculty of judgement. The ability to think more broadly, to take in the whole picture of a situation enables the development of the capacity to judge. The young person is at the threshold of freedom. The teacher is no longer simply the all-wise authority. The teacher must be a leader, leading the students into the world's possibilities. This is a time for questions and questioning.

   At present Aetaomah only goes to Year 8. Years 7 and 8 are important; a time of physical changes and often emotional upheaval. It is also an exciting time for unfolding of the individual faculties.

   Whilst school should be an overall enjoyable experience, it is important that the children spend some time doing tasks that they may not enjoy or find very difficult. This is another important learning experience: to be able to push through life's difficulties.

 

   We are a school, registered with the BOSTES and as such address all of the expected N.S.W. Curriculum Learning Outcomes