There are three ways in which a teacher can motivate children to learn: fear, ambition or love. In Waldorf education we dispense on the whole with the first two and attempt to awaken in pupils a feeling of love for the subject at hand. Only this in turn can awaken in pupils an interest for the subject itself and not merely the wish to gain good grades or personal advantages. The loving interest which pupils can have for what they are learning proves to be a much more effective motivation than any form of outer compulsion. The obligation pupils feel towards their work in the school must grow out of enthusiasm for that which they are learning. This is only possible if teachers themselves are as enthusiastic about what they are teaching as they feel the pupils should be.
During the first seven years of life, children are completely open to everything they experience. There is at first no inner reservation; they give themselves up entirely to what they experience; they are "religious" by a kind of instinct that appears to live deep within them, even if one does not at first sight realise that their attitude can indeed be called religious. When a child experiences joy, it is utterly permeated with joy. In despair, it seems to consist of nothing but this. Being identical with one´s experience, being at one with it, can be seen as "bodily" religiosity, as a religiosity of the senses.
In the following seven years, this kind of religious devotion gradually recedes, covered by a lighter and more playful atmosphere and by a certain amount of natural and healthy egoism. During these years, moral and religious attitudes, feelings and behaviour can only be nurtured in a deeper layer by means of art in all its forms. It is the behaviour itself that can now be regarded. Gratitude and reverence are developed as something that is taken as a matter of course. The joy of being active and at work is the essential element of this phase.
With puberty deeply religious questions emerge from the depths of the soul. They concern the existence of man and the sense of life; they probe into our human relationship to what is divine in the world. At this juncture, young people are in quest of their own position in this world. Again, genuine devotion can develop in an atmosphere of daily awareness of the religious sphere of life, but this can also be badly misdirected. All kinds of pathways to idolatry and "religious" excess are now open. The adolescent needs to find his or her individual way to religious and moral experiences that can give him or her the strength to take inward steps to a further development on the lifelong path of growing into a human being.Jörgen Smit