Natural Childhood, John Thomson, editor
A Fireside Book, 1994.
A concise and informed approach offering a ‘practical and holistic guide for parents of the developing child through to age 7.’
The book compiles chapters written by various professionals, including a parenting educator, a teacher, a professor of education and Dr Michaela Glöckler who is Head of the Medical Section at the Goetheanum. The chapters are as follows: The Developing Child, Communicating, Play and Creativity, The Unfolding World, Health and Healing, Education and Schooling.
I love this book as I find it so sumptuous to consume! There are big beautiful photographs, snippets of anecdotes, tables, diagrams, poems, quotes, activity ideas and checklists scattered across the pages. This book is the type you can flick through and find something interesting as soon as your eyes land on the page. It gives the impression that the business of raising children is unequivocally the most wonderful time of life, a time when our children rely on our guidance but also us on theirs, to navigate their formative years and upbringing. This book stands out as a positive tool in supporting the parent and initiates a sort of ‘excitement’ in the prospect of guiding the developing child.
A range of scholars and philosophers to do with the education of children are detailed in this book also, which is refreshing in a Steiner text. Here you can read up on John Holt who established ‘child-centred’ education in the US, Jean Piaget the eminent Swiss psychologist our modern educational theory is based around and Jerome S. Bruner who developed the spiral curriculum seen in the Australian National Curriculum today!
The history of educational development is explored, and important figures who established differing styles of schooling are discussed. Questions of how rigid or how flexible educational systems should or could be are discussed and the problems of how to discipline, how to allocate resources, how to assess, how to organise, how to view authorities or how to remain autonomous are all posed to the reader. For the conscious parent interested in such philosophical implications, these chapters will enlighten the progress of education over the last century and a half to you. This discussion opens a space to consider the vast progress made since formal schooling began in recent history, post Industrialisation. The overarching ideals and principles of educational systems from all over the world are laid out and shown, warts and all.
This summary helps to sharpen the parents’ own feeling for the type of education they would like to see for their child and others in their community. There is even a set of questions at the end of the book to help you decide which delivery of education would be best for your child where features of a range of types of schools is outlined – alternative schools, homeschooling, mini-schools, independent study programmes, flexi-schools, charter schools, etc.
I find something new every time I flick through, just now I have come from reading educational theory, to how to deal with a fever, to treating the constitution of the child, how to plan for festivals, using and choosing toys, storytelling, clay and dough, the challenge of television, sibling rivalry, toys and gender, the gun debate, social development and fair play, the awakening of self-awareness, and it goes on!
By weaving together the work of leading psychologists, educators, counsellors and doctors, Natural Childhood explores a wealth of new ideas as well as the more traditional aspects of relationships, education, health, creativity and play.