Rudolf Steiner’s Views on Education

How do we educate a child?


First, ask the bigger question, “What is a human being?”

Steiner’s basic idea is that a human being can be viewed as both 3-fold and 4- fold.


THINKING, FEELING, and WILLING, or, if you prefer, head, heart, and hands, and  these have been outlined with corresponding and distinct stages of human physical and spiritual development.
See Threefold Human Diagram – Anthroposophical Medicine


The four-foldness of the human shows through these four bodies: physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego – each of these is also the focus of successive seven year cycles.

It makes sense because we don’t come into the world with all of our powers of thinking ready and available to us at birth.  A pony is able to stand moments after birth, but humans, the thinkers of the animal world, do not think right out of the womb.  It takes many long years for our thinking to develop and mature.  Humans develop these three realms of thinking, feeling and willing in distinct, SEVEN YEAR STAGES and this is important to the thought about how to EDUCATE a child AND it relates to the wisdom of the stars and it evolves in a sequence through the four bodies in order of (1) physical- (2) etheric- (3) astral- (4) ego.


From ages 0-7, we are developing our WILL, or the use of our hands, our limbs, and the ability to exercise our intent to “do,” “to act,” “to create,” out of our own volition.

From ages 7-14, we are developing our FEELING, or the ability to make meaning out of what lives in our mood life, our emotions.

From ages 14-21, we are developing our THINKING, our judgement, our abstract mind.

By age of 21, we have the ability then to focus on a fourth aspect of the human being, the entrance of the ego, or the “I,” the assertive, adult identity that can stand as one.  The ego is not fully matured until much, much later, taking perhaps 3 seven-year cycles to emerge as mature, thus the age of 42 being an excellent age for someone to begin to have the ability to take office as President!

During these stages, Rudolf Steiner offers a particular area to serve as a focus for that stage in terms of educating a developing human being.  The focus tells what to emphasize and provide at that stage. It tells what to surround a developing child with during that stage that will enable the child to grow towards freedom and wholeness. This ancient knowledge came from Hippocrates:

In human existence there are seven times that we call “age”: infant, child, adolescent, young, adult, mature man, old man. The changing period of the Moon, during early childhood, is replaced by that of Mercury, in which the first knowledge is acquired, then that of Venus, which reveals its strength in the passionate emotions of adolescence; then comes the zenith of life, the three seven years of full life force and desires for expansion. The kingdom of the evil Mars generates a sudden change and leads to the struggles, bitterness and disillusions of adulthood. Then, under the scepter of Jupiter, once again appears a peak of life, maturity proper, which, wise and serene, contemplates the joys and sufferings of existence, always contributing joyfully. Finally, under the star of Saturn, slow and far from the earth, comes the great age in which the vital forces cool and slowly stop

Seven Year Stages Explained

0-7 years WillGoodnessA very young child must be shown the goodness and safety of the world through the model of his or her caregivers. “My world is safe.”First 7 years = Moon Sphere
7-14 years FeelingBeautyAn older child must encounter beauty, harmony, and experience wonder and bliss through the realm of feeling. They must experience both beholding and creating beauty. “The world is wondrously rich and beautiful.”Age 7- 14
Mercury Sphere
14-21 years ThinkingTruthAn adolescent must encounter representatives of truth through materials, exposure to ideas or idealism, and/or models and mentors to fashion their lives after. “We can stand for truth in the world.”
Age 14-21
Venus Sphere

Age 21 = Birth of Ego (Sun Sphere follows and lasts 3 cycles of 7 years until age 42)
The following stages of life progress through 7 years cycles for Mars (age 42-49), Jupiter (age 49-56), and Saturn (age 56-63). See the following excellent aid to studying one’s biography.

Waldorf Education and the Cosmic View of the Human Being

With this broad picture of “What is man,” Steiner made some decisions about how to design an educational path for a growing child using the good, the beautiful, and the true as headings. This evolved as an educational program known today as Waldorf Education.

A child is not an adult in miniature. This is a mistake that many businessmen and scientists that don’t work with children make about children. A young child is vulnerable and susceptible to many influences of the adult world around them until they are fully mature. They rely on adult protection and love until they are able to protect themselves.

Not everyone will undertake an in-depth study of Steiner’s Anthroposophy or seek an expensive Waldorf teacher certification like I did, nor should they. But, I do encourage teachers and parents to simply consider these questions in regards to your own views on education:

The Big questions

What is your definition of a human being?
How does a child become a fully realized adult and how do we support that process through education? 

How do (or how should we) we promote healthy human development in the caring of the young?
How can we become a truly free society of fully-realized adults?
How can humanity reach its full potential and break out of its destructive patterns? 

By looking at these questions from the outset, we can direct our progress more thoughtfully toward our end goal.