Review: the Kingdom of Childhood

Continuing my series of reviews of basic Waldorf books for parents, I’d like to turn to one of my favorite books, The Kingdom of Childhood by Rudolf Steiner. It actually wasn’t written as a book. Rather it is a series of lectures which Steiner gave to the teachers who were going to form the first Waldorf school in Britain. So what we have is translated and put together from hand-written notes taken while he spoke – in German!
Thus this isn’t the smoothest of books to read – and apparently Steiner was quite lively when he spoke so we of course miss the nuances of his gestures. He also used a blackboard to explain some of the things he was talking about. In this book are included a few sketches but…. well, I am telling you all this so your expectations are suitable adjusted!!
But I love this book. I think it is a terrifically warm and friendly introduction to Waldorf education that, though thoroughly steeped in anthroposophy, is both approachable and understandable. AC Harwood in the preface to the 1982 Rudolf Steiner Press edition says of these lectures:
He shows … how essential it is for a teacher to work upon himself, not merely to use his natural gifts but to transform them, to seek for the unsuspected powers in himself, never to become a pedant, but to make ample use of humour and to keep his teaching and himself lively and imaginative. But above all he insists on the grave importance of doing everything in the light of a knowledge of the child as a citizen of the spiritual as well as of the earthly world.
Topics addressed by Steiner in these lectures include: understanding the three stages of childhood; the little child as a sense organ; teaching about nature; Man as synthesis of the whole animal kingdom; the "Main Lesson"; telling stories;the importance of singing; science teaching; handwork; and a lively question and answer session.
In 2006 before I closed my old yahoo group, Waldorf At Home, I led a study of this book. Though the list itself is closed to posts, anyone can visit its archives and access and enormous amount of information. If you go there, you can do a search on "Kingdom of Childhood" and find a wonderful discussion which I am sure will help add to the joy of reading this very fine and important book on Waldorf education. Click here for this yahoo group.

Posted on June 28, 2007 in Waldorf Curriculum

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