One of Rudolf Steiner School’s Early Childhood teachers, Anke Scheinfeld, participated in the World Early Childhood Conference in Dornach in April. We had arranged for her to meet with Dr. Michaela Glöckler, former Chair of the Medical unit in Dornach, globally published author and leading voice in the Anthroposophical movement worldwide. What follows is the English translation of the conversation conducted in German.

 AS: Today it is really important to parents to raise healthy children, but also for the children to have good and joyful parents. What do you think are challenges for parents today, and what are your ideas for parents to creatively looking at the “work” of raising children in a new way?

MG: Parents and children are as old as human kind itself, that means every mother and every father reflect, certainly within their historic context and epoch: how they meet their children. With every child and set of parents, the New begins. What I feel is really important, that parents, before they have children, actually understand the development of the human being.

That they really understand what it means to create conditions and offer a framework to welcome a new human into this world, which then one day, entirely independently is able to lead its own life. Each development needs its own framework, and if parents are not able to understand what this entails in the best possible way, then I believe it is especially important to have day cares, that are so good and work so closely with parents, that children actually are truly and complexly cared for, so parents can live their life and do their other work. What I want to say is that the decision today to have a child today needs to be really conscious decisions and thoughtful of all dimensions. If there is the situation, that neither parents can take time off to raise this new life, we have to make a real effort to offer and create day care spaces and institutions that truly care.

  1. Every development needs a framework of prerequisites, and if parents are not able to provide this in its best form possible, then I would really suggest to do everything possible – especially given the times we live in – to create Daycares that are individualized and work closely with the parents, in order for parents to continue partially with their lives, even though they now have a child/children. What I want to say with this is, that the decision to have a child today, needs to be made especially conscious in order for parents to be happy/fulfilled.
  2. For happy and balanced parents, who decide to have a child, but cannot decide to change and give up half of their life for this, or where it is simply not possible for father or mother to take maternity or paternity leave, parents have to make a much bigger effort beforehand to really find the ideal daycare space for the child. It’s challenging, but can happen, if one starts looking into options already during pregnancy. And it is not easy to find the ideal place, close to home, but one has to make a real effort.
  3. Thirdly I am deeply convinced, that you can only be a happy/fulfilled mother today, if you are open to a sort of “Education on Parenthood“. Today, every parent basically needs to have the know-how of an educator/teacher. She has an immense responsibility in our current time. Why? Well because the present is so extremely child-unfriendly – if I just think about the whole digitalization, which is certainly strictly only for grown-ups … If a young mother isn’t aware of the dangers bombarding children today through our consumeristic society, one truly enables developmental difficulties in children. I therefore strongly would emphasize a sort of “School for Parenting“, this can be part time, or done in evening classes or weekend workshops, but that needs to be organized.

AS: But then we have parents who already have children, and they want to be good and happy parents, and they want to raise healthy children. If I understand you correctly, it is crucial for parents to understand a child’s developmental stages. What is right at what point in time for the child? Could you share a few leading thoughts on this?

MG: If you look at children and how they develop … they do and learn most everything by and entirely through themselves. Every young child knows, I want to pull myself up in the first year, I want to learn how to speak in the second year, and I learn to think and to say “I“, in the third year. This is not being taught by grown-ups, they do this intuitively, all by themselves.

And I entirely trust this competence in self-development during the entire development of children and young people. And if one is aware of this, as an educator and parent, then one – even having maybe made many mistakes prior – can still start to see and understand at any moment, what specifically is needed to support a child/teenager in their respective age and stage of life. It would take too much time now to get into this in detail for each developmental year.

However, one of the most important topics today is to understand the natural law of development/evolution, and to be aware that this knowledge does not come from science and research, it comes from the child itself. And we need to study children, we need to take them seriously and really look at them.

To summarize it, the secret of development is self-directed learning and autonomy, self-initiative.

You know, the younger the kids are, the more they are excited and fully enjoy to learn and expand their own initiative, and self-direction. But since society is constantly intervening, we have nowadays many young people who get lazy and fall into total being unmotivated and into boredom. This shows me that education and the way children are being raised has failed. The fundament of respecting and honoring self-initiative has been disturbed, „lamed“, and banned into uninspired stagnation.

AS: Your famous book “Child Health”, was edited and updated and just released last week in the US under the title “A Waldorf Guide to Children’s Health“, what is renewed and expanded about it?

MG: Reworked, renewed and updated is the entire medical part. But the pedagogical part was taken out unfortunately on behalf of the publisher. The argument was, that there are enough books for the English speaking markets on pedagogical aspects of childhood. I was actually really sad, because the original intention was and still is for this book to show the correlation between medicine and pedagogy. I can only hope that the book in this new form will bring the publisher the success they hoped to get with this.

AS: Hopefully the last edition is still available for parents who would like to read and learn about the pedagogy.

MG: Yes. But I would also recommend, that if you miss this part, that you will write to the publisher and be vocal about this, as I am not so sure that this elimination of an essential part was such a great idea.

AS: Michaela, you are also active and leading ELIANT (European Alliance of Initiatives for Applied Anthroposophy) as the President. Can you share briefly what this is about, as we do not have something like this in the US.

MG: Absolutely. I really think it is the obligation of every citizen to get organized on the basis of rights of a civil society. We anthroposophical workers in various fields like farming, pedagogy, medicine, social work and so on, always and more and more are being limited by political restrictions. Probably less so in the US then in Europe. In Europe we are dealing with more and more regulations and administrative laws, dictating schools what to teach to children in which age etc. Also parents do not even have the ability to freely select to which doctor they go with their children, they cannot freely choose which medication to give their children or not, this is more and more regulated and they need to pay out of their own pocket for certain medication of which some by now even have been banned.

We are actually fighting a big fight here, to ensure that good quality and anthroposophical initiatives in general not only remain part of the cultural life but can further grow and develop. ELIANT actually started when the EU came out with a new regulation on artificially enriching baby food with vitamins. Which actually comes from you guys, as in the US this has been a standard for a long time. In Germany we never had this. Our brand DEMETER fought to keep their baby food untouched, as they proved that our wheat contains enough Vitamin B, but then the legislation argued, that we cannot make such a high-quality as a standard for the European Union. And to make an exception for DEMETER, they’re simply missing the meaningful masses and numbers. However, Demeter has its own regulations as a company and brand for purity and organic products and therefore cannot compromise, so their baby products sadly are not on the market anymore. And that just clarified to us that fundamental discussions to evolve in society are fought over through regulations and laws. However, since we are living in a democracy, we are hoping, that if we are able to professionally organize and mobilize critical masses, the political side will eventually pay attention and take those movements seriously. This is the thinking and motivation behind ELIANT, we have a Charter, we have a website (ELIANT.eu) and our mission is to keep the option of choice, so people have the freedom of and variety of choices and are not being over regulated.

Now for example we have the 5G net. This happened outside of any democratic process that digitalization is spreading like this. Citizens seem to not to be able to choose anymore. The freedom of choice still exists but not the option. That’s a tricky issue.

That is why we communicate these subject matters and aim to raise attention. Right now, we collect signatures to raise awareness for “Human Education”, of course all Americans are invited to participate and sign our petition. Support from the US is helpful for us in Europe, and my dream would be to expand our activities and collaborate with similar organizations in the US.

AS: Thank you Michaela for your time and this interview.