The Willing Stage
First let’s talk a bit about how we can best describe the willing, feeling and thinking stages. Reg Down said it best when he said, “On our path to maturity, while always retaining our essential humanity, we pass through conditions that can be related to the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms before we reach our own, specifically human, kingdom. These stages have a direct bearing on our manner of teaching.” In the first seven years of life, children relate most to the mineral kingdom. A piece of clay or rock are influenced solely by the world around them. Everything that touches it, leaves its imprint. The mineral kingdom is best described by its passiveness. So are children in the first seven years of life. They are very much influenced by the world around them. They aren’t concerned so much with “who they are” but how the world around them works. They are imitators. They are most affected by who we are as their teacher and the environment we create for them. So now let’s talk a little about the Willing Stage and what that might look like. The Willing stage consists of 3 groups, Ages 0-3, Ages 3-5, Ages 6-7. The stories and activities that you chose for your lessons are going to change about every 3 months with the seasons.
Let’s break down the 0-3 age group first. This age is fully immersed in the Willing Stage. Like we have mentioned before, they are trying to will their bodies to move! They are working mostly on gross motor skills. This age group doesn’t need any formal Eurythmy instruction unless therapy is needed because of prematurity or disabilities. But there are things you can do that will prepare them for formal Eurythmy later. And these things are activities we probably already do with our little ones. You’ll want to spend at least 15-20 minutes with them. Movement games and finger plays are what we want to focus on for this age group. For example, movement games like “London Bridges,” “Ring Around the Roses,” and “The Wheels on the Bus” are great for this group. Some examples of finger plays that you can do are “Where is Thumbkin,” “This Little Piggy,” and “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider.” As you can see, these are probably things you are doing with your children that are this age anyway. But now you can do it with the knowledge that it will prepare them for Eurythmy ahead!
Now let’s talk about the 3-5 Age group. This group is still very simple, but we can add a little Eurythmy twist now! This group is working very hard to build fine motor skills. They long to jump, skip and clap. These children live in their imagination. Their imaginations ARE their reality, so we must take care in choosing stories that will help build them up. Their lessons will be about 20 minutes. Children vary differently at this age, so you must learn to read them to know how long to make your lesson. At this age, we are telling stories and doing eurythmy gestures and motions. And while the children don’t know they are doing actual Eurythmy gestures, it is of no consequence. What is important is that they are moving and getting full range of motion with their movements! We can tell stories that help them live in their imaginations and help them “put on” these parts. I encourage you to use seasonal stories. The children thrive on these!
EXAMPLE: I tell a story I call, “Little Brown Brother” (from a book called Eurythmy for the Elementary Grades by Francine Adams.) The story starts with the children standing in a circle. I am the farmer. I come around and “plant” each child into the ground (they kneel on the floor, their heads down). I start reciting the poem and while doing so, touch the children on by one on the head (when I do, they sit up and start to “grow”). Then they come to a standing position. We come to a point in the story where everyone gets to describe what kind of flower they have turned in to. They say what kind of flower they are and act like that flower the best they can. Then at the end of the story, we sing a song about flowers or spring while clapping to the beat and bring the lesson to an end. Fun and simple!
Now for our last group, Ages 6-7. You will see me saying Age 6 sometimes and sometimes I will say age 7. This is because it all depends on when the child reaches the six-year change. So this group is kindy to the first grade year. Sometimes children don’t go through the six-year change until they are close to 7! So this will depend on your child, whether they move on to the next group, or hang out here for a little while longer! The Eurythmy lesson will reflect this. Watch for signs of maturity. Have they lost teeth? Can they reach their arm over their head and touch their ear without bending their necks to reach? Can they make a sun gesture (arms over the head in an “O”) without their arms touching any part of their heads? As long as the answer is no to these questions, they fit in this group. The lessons will be about 30-40 minutes long. Again, read your children to know how long they need. We will tell stories like from the group above. Or we can tell another type of story called continual stories. Reg Down has written books that are perfect for this. Remember Tip Toes Lightly and similar books? They are written perfectly for Eurythmy! You might do a chapter for each lesson. Every lesson will start off the same and end the same. For example, Tip Toes Lightly awakens with the morning sun and goes and wakes up Jeremy Mouse who combs his fur and brushes his teeth. This happens every morning, and every evening they return home in the same manner. But the story in between will be different and offer some wonder and excitement for the children. Do big motions, jump over rivers, climb hills, weave through the trees of the forest (you can designate some children as trees)!
I recommend the book Eurythmy for the Elementary Grades by Francine Adams. You can get it at waldorflibrary.org for free! It will help you understand these age groups (and up to Grade 8) much better. She even gives some examples of stories or activities you can use with your children as it relates to the curriculum. As you move forward, remember to relax and have fun! Eurythmy is not meant to be so serious. It is meant to be light and fun and even humorous at times! Good luck and HAVE FUN!
(Up next, Part 1 of the Feeling Stage: The second half of Grade 1 and Grade 2. I am going to start breaking down grade by grade what these children are going through and what kinds of fun eurythmy activities we can do with them!)