The Tools of Maturity
“An astronomer scanning the heavens needs a mirror for his telescope that is clean and ground accurately. A carpenter building a house needs tools that are well made and well maintained. A jeweller dealing in precious stones needs a scale sensitive enough to weigh small fractions of a carat. In every department of life, the right tools are needed. In this age of sophisticated technology, especially, great care must be devoted to their development and maintenance.
It is a matter for surprise, then, how little attention gets paid to the ultimate “tool,” the one on which every human being relies: his own self, his body and his brain.”
J.Donald Walters, Education for Life
Education for Life provides an education for children that integrates body, mind, feeling and spirit.
The basic goal of EFL is to cultivate each student’s experience of maturity, which is defined as “the ability to relate appropriately to other realities than one’s own”.
The primary means of developing this ability are the Body, Feelings, Will, and Intellect, which are referred to as the Tools of Maturity. Each one has a particular period of childhood where it is best developed.
The Stages of Maturity
The Foundation Years
The stage from birth to 6 encompasses the Foundation or preschool years. During this period the child is primarily occupied with learning to relate to physical realities, especially exploring how the body works. An EFL preschool will promote physical vitality through a healthy diet and generous amounts of exercise, sunlight, and fresh air. Frequent nature outings will be interspersed with activities specifically designed to promote physical agility and coordination. The Foundation Years are also a time for cultivating the physical senses through creating a beautiful classroom environment and involving the children in painting, crafts, music, dance, and other activities that refine the children’s capacities for hearing, seeing, feeling, etc. Storytelling and role-playing are popular venues with this age for sharing initial insights into human behavior. The preschool years also provide an opportune time for cultivating uplifting habits of cleanliness, cooperation, and truthfulness.
The Feeling Years
The next cycle of growth covers the period from 6-12, the Feeling or elementary years. During this stage, the emphasis shifts from the body to working with and through the child’s feelings. Children are helped to notice the different kinds of feelings and their varying effects on people. Special consideration is given to cultivating the uplifting influences of qualities such as kindness, cheerfulness, and even-mindedness. Conversely, children can learn to redirect the disturbing energies that produce anger, greed, and jealousy. Of crucial importance during these years is the cultivation of the calm, centered state that leads to clear intuition. Techniques for working with these energies include breathing exercises, affirmations, yoga, and meditation. Students also learn to discriminate between the positive and negative effects of different kinds of activities and environments. During this period, teachers can utilize feelings as a powerful stimulus for other kinds of learning through emphasizing the awe of nature and scientific exploration, the sense of order and symmetry in mathematics, and especially, the encouragement to be gained from the study of inspiring people from history and culture.
The Will Years
Properly understood, the Will Years from ages 12-18 present some of the greatest opportunities for the child’s development. Adults can help students avoid the self-involved negativity and rebelliousness that can plague the junior and senior high school years by encouraging positive applications of the will. Realistic, yet challenging goals must be set for these young people; goals that are in accordance with their own higher sensitivities as well as their individual talents and interests. Through faith in their positive potential and consistent adherence to appropriate disciplinary procedures, adults can support the students’ efforts to gradually learn such lessons as perseverance, self-sacrifice, responsibility, and self-control. Classroom applications of this approach will emphasize a “hands-on” style of learning where students can apply their energies to life-like situations. Science projects, debates, service projects and challenges of physical endurance are especially appropriate for this age group. A primary goal of the EFL teacher is to help each student identify and realize individual areas of expertise, thus providing a basis for the healthy development of the will as well as an enduring sense of self-worth. In an EFL school students of this age are asked to share in the responsibility for financing field trips and other special activities, even to the point of earning part of their tuition.
The Thoughtful Years
The final EFL cycle covers the Thoughtful or college years from 18-24. During this period the intellect is trained to work in conjunction with the three complementary tools of the body, feelings, and will. Intellectual insights are coordinated with the energy and enthusiasm produced by physical vitality, the intuitive feel for the rightness of an idea that comes from clear, calm feeling, and the dynamic application of the will that makes it possible to manifest ideas on the physical plane. In this way the intellect becomes an effective tool for leading a productive and fulfilling life.
“First, we have to recognize that since we live in physical bodies, we can see our bodies as tools for helping us to grow. If we don’t properly take care of our bodies we may find them becoming our foes instead of our friends.
Second, we find that we respond to the world with our emotions. If our emotions are always agitated because of intense likes and dislikes, we will respond emotionally to what others say and not really hear them. We may hear our own idea of what they are saying, but if we have an emotional prejudice, we won’t hear the objectively.
Third, if we don’t know how to use our will power to overcome faults in ourselves, or to set goals and accomplish them, then we will never know fulfillment in life.
Finally, if we don’t develop our intellect , then we cannot understand things clearly, and our life’s experiences will come through our minds in a dull way.”
J. Donald Walters
The Education for Life system tries to point the way to maturity. It doesn’t presume to give maturity, but creates a mind-set that will endure for the whole of life. It provides a direction of growth that people can take all the way into old age and still keep growing so that they find things to marvel at in the world around them.
Some of the highest expression of Body, Feeling, Will, and Intellect follow.
Physical Energy and Control: development and care for the body for the long-term; relating to life by moving, acting, and expression through the body.
Emotional Calmness and Expansiveness: the ability to harness and channel turbulent emotions and to be in touch with one’s own calm, sensitive feeling as an invaluable tool of understanding; relating to life by feeling harmony, enjoying friendship, and through the arts and music.
Dynamic and Persistent Will Power: the ability to focus one’s energies towards overcoming obstacles and achieving success; relating to life by changing the outcome of events, mastering challenges, and accomplishing goals.
Clear, Practical Intellect: clarity of thought; relating to life through thinking, learning, and understanding.