The Core Principles of EFL include The Tools of Maturity and their Stages, Progressive Development and Specific Gravity, the Curriculum Categories, and Flow Learning.
The Goal of Maturity
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 Tools of Maturity
The primary means of developing this ability are the Body, Feelings, Will, and Intellect, which are referred to as the Tools of Maturity. Each Tool and the particular 6-year period of childhood where it is best developed are described below
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 and saintly people.
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.
Progressive Development is concerned with the dimension of consciousness that permeates all of life. Education for Life defines this dimension in three segments.
Light: At the upper end of this spectrum we find a vibrant, expansive energy that expresses itself in qualities like kindness, truthfulness, forgiveness, generosity, self-respect, love, and joy.
Heavy: At the least developed level, consciousness flickers with a low level of energy in a constricted range of behavior that manifests as obstinacy, negligence, lack of self-confidence, superstition, procrastination, callousness, and deceitfulness.
Ego-Active: In the middle range we find a mixture of behaviors where the energy is generally high, but with a turbulent, egotistical expression as is found in such qualities as selfishness, impulsivity, pride, fastidiousness, revengefulness, worry, and arrogance.
Progress along this dimension of consciousness is essentially motivated by a person’s desire to avoid pain and sadness and to achieve an ever-more enduring and satisfying experience of happiness. At the heavy level where consciousness is contracted, motivation is almost always produced through the enforcement of rules and other outward forms of discipline, as when an insensitive child must be forced to stop bullying others.
At the light end of the spectrum, a deeper, more enduring form of motivation gradually becomes accessible. Within these higher qualities, there is an intrinsic core of experience that provides a natural motivation for growth. For example, there is a calmness that accompanies the expression of truth and a joy that can be felt in selfless service. As a person’s consciousness evolves, the need for external motivation is gradually replaced by these awakened inner sensitivities.
During the ego-active phase, happiness is usually associated with the acquisition of outward things like power, possessions, and money. As the person gradually learns that this type of happiness is ephemeral, there is an opening to explore higher realms of consciousness.
Specific Gravity identifies the general level of consciousness along the Progressive Development spectrum that a particular child tends to manifest.
- When we see the consciousness behind our children’s actions, it gives us clues as to how to motivate them.
- When children are unmotivated—unwilling, uncooperative, and negative—we call their energy heavy. They are motivated chiefly by the desire to avoid pain. Negative consequences (such as, you can do this or go to your room) are appropriate when children are stuck in this energy, at no other time.
- An even better way to get them unstuck is to get them moving, doing anything. Action is the answer!
- When children can be motivated by their desire to get something, we call them ego-active. They want something for themselves, whether it’s praise, another star on a star chart, success, or to go play at a friend’s house. The ego-active level is energetic, but often restless and uncentered.
- When children are not thinking of themselves, but are enjoying a process or activity in and for itself, they are light. At this level they are motivated to help others (this is a time you can say, “Your little sister is unhappy, will you play with her?” and get a positive response) and to seek truth (learn, grow, expand).
- We always want to offer children a motivation at least on the level of energy they are operating on, or at an even higher level to encourage them to reach upward. If you offer a lower motivation, for example the threat of punishment when a reward would work, or a reward when they’ll do it for the joy of it, you bring them down to a lower level. The goal is to have them be intrinsically motivated, not externally motivated.
- If we force a child to behave at the light level when their energy is heavy, we do them a disservice, as they will probably resent the behavior. For example, forcing a child to share his toy when he is feeling contractive and heavy may make him resent sharing.
- Of course, these levels represent a continuum, not three clear levels. We have to be calm and centered ourselves to feel where a child is and how we can appeal to him.
- Humor is almost as good as action to change the energy. Often you can get children to completely shift from uncooperativeness to cooperation by simply making the activity fun! Music is another great energy changer; it can energize or calm.
The Curriculum Categories
The EFL curriculum is child-centered, with the central tenet that every aspect of school should be focussed on supporting the all-around, balanced development of the students. This perspective produce our specialized approach to the standard curriculum categories of math, English, science, etc. In no area is the simple cataloging of facts or memorization of theories an acceptable alternative. Rather, facts and theories are suitable topics of education only to the extent that they help expand and refine a child’s understanding of how to live successfully in this world.
1) Our Earth—Our Universe
Science under the Education for Life model is approached from the perspective of gradually expanding the child’s awareness of the physical world.
Definition: To foster a vision of the orderliness of the universe, an appreciation for the ecological balance of all life, and a sense of awe before the universal mysteries. Students are invited to relate harmoniously to the world around them and to feel themselves as a part of everything. [Special resource: Sharing Nature with Children]
Progression: Begin with a study of immediately interesting topics like the body, pets, large animals (dinosaurs, whales) and gradually include subtler themes like gravity, light, time, and other topics from biology, chemistry, physics, geology, anatomy, astronomy, etc.
Special Topic: Training in the scientific method as a mode of exploration – “belief tested by experience” (what works as opposed to what you think should work).
Key Qualities: wonder, appreciation, respect for life, interrelationship of all life, correlation between physical laws and subtler ones
Sample Topics: wind generators, rockets, catapults….wildlife
2) Understanding People
The social sciences including specifically history, psychology, and sociology are approached from a perspective of “Understanding People”
Definition: To become aware of the variety of human lifestyles and their ability to satisfy universal human longings (friendship, contentment, happiness, etc.)
Progression: Begin simply, for example class visits to homes of various students, and expand to other neighborhoods, cultures, and eras (history, psychology, and anthropology).
Special Topic: Evaluation of how varying cultures, beliefs, and mores compare to our own.
Key Qualities: empathy, compassion, and tolerance
Definition: To learn to work in harmony with other people and how this quality (or lack of it) is manifested in larger social patterns
Progression: Begin with classroom topics (behavior codes, clean-up jobs, simulated towns, etc.) and the importance of such qualities as mental flexibility, willingness to compromise, and respect. Move on to how these same qualities affect adult society (languages, political science, economics, business, etc.). Help children develop skills in such areas as cultivating friendships, finding a job, building a happy marriage, raising children, and providing leadership. [Special resource: The Art of Supportive Leadership]
Special Topics: Find ways for children to share meaningfully in the adult world (artwork displays, performances, guest speakers, field trips), and devise ways for serviceful involvement (litter removal, care of the sick, etc.); include opportunities for creative fund-raising and financial resourcefulness.
Key Qualities: harmony, sensitivity, and servicefulness
4) Self-Expression and Communication
Mathematics is an aspect of “Self-Expression and Communication” in the sense that it is a primary mode of developing the tools of mental clarity by learning precision. English grammar is another aspect of the same mode, but this time using verbal as opposed to mathematical ways of expression. Not imposition, but learning to work in relationship to others.
Definition: To develop a variety of skills in relation to the different types of self-expression including success vs. fame (fulfillment/adulation), communication vs. imposition (neat math papers, interesting style of oral reading), creative expression vs. rote learning, expression of truth.
Progression: Start with children’s simple, but valuable activities (finger painting, pretend games, fort building) and move on to progressively more advanced skills like handwriting, reading, composition, mathematics, carpentry, computers, salesmanship; match specific skill development with overall needs and interests of the individual child, follow real enthusiasm wherever it leads.
- development of voice (tone, feeling, projection)
- working constructively with standards or limitations (numbers, letters, tools, etc.)
Key Qualities: clarity, creativity, self-discipline, self-confidence
Examples: Mental Math, problem-solving, yearbook, teacher’s aide, apprenticeship
5) Personal Development
Definition: To gain a balanced development of the physical, mental, social, and spiritual tools.
Progression: Begin by developing basic habits and good manners (cleanliness, posture, minimal sugar, answering when spoken to, etc.). Take advantage of real life lessons as they appear (cooperation at recess, effects of staying up late on school nights…). Arrange for testing the efficacy of such qualities as exercise, cleanliness, concentration, will power, servicefulness, and truthfulness.
Special Topic: Training in right use of senses
Key Qualities: vitality, nobility, and magnetism
Literature, philosophy, religion, art and music appreciation are among the aspects of Man’s search for perfection/happiness/success/wisdom.
Definition: To experience the feelings that accompany growth toward the overall goals of maturity, expansion, and wisdom, especially in relation to studies in the other five categories. Explore how our attitudes toward the physical world, other kinds of people, interpersonal relationships, self-expression, and personal development all affect our basic experience of life in terms of relative happiness and pain.
Progression: Begin with simple charts of how moods affect math assignments, art, recess, etc. and go on to study how a person’s consciousness is reflected in their art, music, literature, philosophy, theology, etc., especially in reference to the works of saints.
Special Topic: a daily class circle time with activities appropriate to the children’s level of interest and sensitivity (healing prayers, visualizations, meditation, stories, sharing…)
Key Qualities: contentment, joy, and a practical appreciation for God
Flow Learning™ is a simple, yet subtle and powerful system of teaching based on universal principles of awareness and how people learn. Read an interview with Joseph Bharat Cornell, founder of Flow Learning and the Sharing Nature Worldwide organization. Flow Learning™ is easily adapted from its origins in nature education to a broad-based approach that lets teachers in any discipline help students gain an intuitive as well as an intellectual understanding of the subject matter. There are four phases to the process: Awaken Enthusiasm, Focus Attention, Direct Experience, and Share Inspiration.
1. Awaken Enthusiasm:
Children learn if the subject matter is meaningful, useful, fun, or in some way engages their emotions. Time spent in creating an atmosphere of curiosity, amusement, or personal interest is invaluable because once students’ enthusiasm is engaged, their energy can be focused on the upcoming lesson or experience.
2. Focus Attention:
Some students’ minds can be compared to a team of wild horses running out of control. Without concentration no true learning can take place. The activities in this stage challenge the players in fun and creative ways. To successfully meet these “challenges” the players have to concentrate on one of their physical senses. In doing so, they become more calm, observant and receptive to their surroundings.
3. Direct Experience:
Once students’ interest and energy is awakened and focused, the stage is set for deeply experiencing nature. These absorbing, experiential activities have a dramatic impact that involves people directly with nature. These games help us discover a deep, inner sense of belonging and understanding. If people are to develop a love and concern for the earth, they need these direct experiences; otherwise, their knowing remains remote and theoretical and never touches them deeply.
4. Share Inspiration:
This stage provides an interesting way for students to reflect together on what they have learned. In our fast-paced world, students and teachers alike often rush from one activity to another. Yet taking the time to reflect upon an experience can strengthen and deepen that experience. It need not take long. It can be as simple as responding to a few questions, writing a journal entry, or drawing a picture. Goethe said, “A joy shared is a joy doubled.” Giving students the opportunity to share their experience increases the learning for the entire class. Sharing also brings everyone together and creates an uplifting atmosphere, making it much easier for the teacher to share inspirational ideas and stories.