Non-verbal education of the young child
Sunday, November 4, 2012
As many of you know, I have been teaching a class called “Language in Early Childhood” in the Arcturus Early Childhood Teacher Training Program. Because of this, I have been thinking a lot about how we speak with our young children and I wanted to share a few thoughts with you. (We will get back to “Heaven on Earth” next week.) In this class, we have been talking about storytelling and finger games and transitions, among other things. But we have also been talking a lot about what we don’t say to young children. Young children learn through imitation, not direct instruction. Rudolf Steiner said, “It is not moral preaching and not reasoned instructions that work on children in the right way; that which works is what the adults in their surroundings do visibly before their eyes.” They need to hear sounds and language from parents and other adults who love them, but they do not need to have things explained to them. “The speech in the environment of the young child is one of the most prominent and formative sense impressions, says Helen Lubin in “The Importance of Speech in the Life of the Young Child.” She writes about the importance of being fully present with the child when we speak with him. She also tells us to be careful not to be overly wordy or to give a lot of instruction or explanation.
Another article that we looked at is entitled, “Non-Verbal Education: A Necessity in the Developmental Stages” by Michaela Glockler, MD, an anthroposophical physician. She explains non-verbal education: “Learning through imitation means teaching yourself according to a perceived role model. Without any explanations or pedagogical instruction being given, children absorb all the events happening around them, practicing out of their own inner drive until they have attained the corresponding skills. Children do not learn to speak through explanation, nor do they learn to walk through instructions on how to move. They learn these complicated and far reaching human capacities solely through their own inner drive, modeled on the pattern provided by adults.” In other words, she is describing teaching by example. Verbally correcting a child in their pre-school years is not age appropriate. Jean Piaget identifies this phase as sensory motor intelligence; intelligence and meaning are not independent from bodily experience. Glockler states that educating a child verbally at this age actually damages the child’s ability to imitate. By doing our tasks with joy and enthusiasm, she says, we encourage the child’s interest which leads them to learn through doing. She encourages adults to learn to express themselves through body language, without words. The main things the child needs are to trust in adults and the opportunity to move freely.
Here is an interesting article on this topic, “Speaking with the Young Child through the Kindergarten Years” by Stephen Spitalny, a long time Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher.
This is such an important topic. Please let me know if you have any questions.