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Winter Festival Play Precis
The Secret King
Long ago there was a country, rich and happy where the people were at one but something happened that no one could understand.
A darkness fell upon the towns and cities and the people became disheartened.
The King called his advisors to find a solution. No-one knew what to do. Until a shepherd told the King to send his daughter to the Secret King who would have the solution.
The King’s daughter would do anything to help her people and so she ventured out into the land searching for an answer. She travelled far and after many trials and adventures met the Secret King who knew she was worthy.
The Secret King gave to her the sacred flame, she felt it within her breast and the coldness she had carried disappeared.
The King instructed her to share the flame with her people, from this one flame came many. All the people of the country received new life and in the light they stayed.
With our lanterns we remember the sacred flame and inner light that carries us through darker times.
Warmth by Vanessa Fountain
As a child I remember being knee deep in the creek, wet from the rain catching tadpoles and frogs. I liked the rain and didn’t mind being wet. I remember being out in the pool, teeth chattering, lips blue as my three brothers, sister and I tried to make the whirlpool strong enough to sink the armada of floating devices we had amassed. Barefoot up a tree, in a creek or in a fabulous stick cubby in the rain, were my favourite places to be. I guess for Australians these are not unusual memories. We love our Australian “seasons” and our ability to move through them with very little change of attire.
Mum was a bit of a wild one at heart who loved the elements as much as we did, so I’m not surprised at having few memories of her protesting to our ill clad adventures. Having raised us on a farm, in the hills and on a tropical island, she was good at adapting to the various malaises that can befall five adventurous children. We didn’t quite grasp the effect these seemingly normal episodes of elemental exposure had upon our developing bodies.
I can’t tell you that because I exposed myself to near hypothermia more times than I can remember that this is why I have this or that ailment. But what I can tell you is what I have learnt over the years through Anthroposophy on the importance of warmth for the developing child. And, like education, the effects of which will not be fully realised until the child has reached his/her forties. We liken health and education to a marathon (paced, enduring and steady) and not a sprint (flashy, fast and short lived.)
I can tell you that habits are hard to break and that the sooner/younger we begin to dress our children appropriately, the more readily they will come to see layered clothing as normal. No longer will we need to hand the mornings accoutrement to our teachers with an apologetic “here, you try”. I remember leaving my 5 year old’s teacher with an armful of clothing, a skimpily clad wriggler and wondering how she got the clothing on all those children when I couldn’t manage one.
We know that children are developing their bodies, especially in the first seven years. Anthroposophy tells us that these first seven years are of crucial importance to the healthy development of the organs that will sustain us through our adult life. Energy that is diverted to keeping the body warm is therefore not available for developing the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and brain for example. It is thought that we are laying the quality of the foundations of a healthy body and that by not dressing appropriately we are giving the body a substandard start in life.
We generally cannot rely upon or ask our children at this age if they are hot or cold. They have an accelerated metabolic rate and as such are generally unaware of what they are feeling in terms of body temperature. It is only on the verge of hyperthermia that a child will, blue lipped tell you he/she is cold. Similarly, a child will keep a jumper on throughout the day even though the temperature has risen since the jumper was put on in the chill of the morning. Sticky and cranky, the child will not realise the discomfort stems from overheating and think to remove the offending item. Children are in the moment and find it hard to be aware of bodily messages.
Joan Salter in The Incarnating Child puts it beautifully when she says, “If the ego is to be able to perfect the organs so that they endure in good health throughout life, there must be well-maintained deep body warmth. For…it is the warmth organization wherein the ego works…..[In the adult] the ego is fully incarnated and is able to control the body temperature, whereas [In the child] the ego is in a process of incarnation and is not yet fully in charge.”
It is not only the quality of the organ development but also the body’s ability to fight off infections that is compromised. It is no surprise to Kindergarten teachers when the tutu clad, sleeveless fairy of the class repeatedly goes down with colds as he or she bare footedly dances across puddles to kindy every day.
So how do we dress our children? Well, I hate to say it, but we could look to our Northern counterparts whom, by necessity, have not forgotten the importance of warmth and layering.
Let’s start with the head. A hat is essential. Be it a sun hat, a scarf or a beanie, depending on the weather. We lose body heat through those areas that are not covered. This is especially true for babies who even in summer should have a covering of some sort on their head. Fine cotton gauze, silk or wool coverings for babies are readily available.
Layering is the most flexible method of dressing our children for the changeable weather that we experience here in Perth. A singlet of cotton, silk or wool is ideal. Many of our children come to school with a singlet, a t-shirt, a long sleeved skivvy and then a woollen layer (be it a vest or a jacket). As the morning progresses we remove layers and then after lunch if the weather has cooled we start redressing the child. Particularly at rest time when the children lie down and frequently sleep, it is important that they have dry socks and are generally warm. Speaking of socks, there are many outlets for good quality socks made of cotton, wool and wool/silk combinations. They are an investment in your child’s future body. How often we see little babies, bare feet poking out of carriers. Again, this sense, the sense of warmth needs to be protected. The baby has been cocooned in the womb and now needs us to cocoon them as they adapt to life in the elements.
Wilhelm zur Linden, author of When a Child is Born says, “As adults we know how uncomfortable it is to feel cold and how it prevents us from working properly, either physically or mentally. A baby feels even more uncomfortable and yet he cannot complain… The soul and spirit need sufficient warmth for their work of moulding and remoulding the body.”
But, your child is now 6, hates wearing clothes and to be honest, you are just not up to the fight on top of everything else first thing in the morning. What do you do? Just like everything else in life – take baby steps. We are not trying to achieve the Waldorf Mum or Dad of the year award here with hand knitted Tibetan Yak undergarments, thrice blessed under a full moon. We want harmony in our homes and children who are warm. Quality underclothes made of silk or fine wool are an investment. If paying the school fees is enough of an investment for your family at the moment then a good old fashioned Bonds style singlet will also do the job. The trick is to layer and layer in natural fibres.
I love children in old fashioned leather shoes that can be buckled, laced and polished. No longer can we waterproof our shoes in kindy, giving them a good polish when the majority of our shoes are synthetic and velcro fastened. We learn in our stories of Laura and Mary about looking after our shoes, polishing them, caring for them and then when we outgrow them, passing them onto a new owner. How lovely it would be if this again became our reality.
Teaching our children how to choose their clothing is a gift for life. We strive to assist this by always providing the appropriate clothing in the school bag, be it a raincoat, gumboots, sun hat, sun over-shirt, leather boots or leather sandals.
Where possible, our night attire and bedding should be natural and again layered to take into account the changing temperature.
I have to mention here, one of the biggest challenges we face in teaching our children to dress themselves. It is us, the adults. For many of us, like me, we grew up bare foot and wet whenever possible. We haven’t awoken to our own bodily need to protect, layer and nurture ourselves. We are drawn to teach our children to reconnect with the Earth, to reground, something that is essential to our future as a planet. But there is a place for both. We need to be conscious, in-touch and responsive to the needs of our bodies and actively teach our little ones to protect and nurture these precious vessels we have stewardship over. I do struggle with this, but revisiting the topic has renewed by resolve to provide a model worth imitating. Join me if you’d like and we can support each other in giving the best start to our children by caring for ourselves on a deeper level.
I have touched briefly here upon the sense of warmth as it pertains to the physical body. Steiner, when speaking of warmth, refers to physical warmth, emotional warmth and spiritual warmth. He linked warmth to the activity of the human ego, also known as the “I”. Here we are referring to the immortal spirit of the individual and not the ego as espoused by Freud.
Steiner wrote in The Education of the Child that, “Children who live in an atmosphere of love and warmth, and who have around them truly good examples to imitate, are living in their proper element.” And on joy, humour and happiness in The Kingdom of Childhood, “If you make a surly face so that a child gets the impression you are a grumpy person; this harms the child for the rest of his life. What kind of school plan you make is neither here nor there; what matters is what sort of person you are.”
Thermoregulation also has a spiritual aspect. Warmth is used to describe attributes of the soul and spirt. We can feel warm inside when experiencing or remembering something or someone positive and conversely we can feel cold when we are stressed, distressed, or experiencing/remembering negative experiences. The wisdom of our language expresses it well. “A chill ran down my spine”, “my blood ran cold”, “I could feel his coldness”, or “her warmth radiated like the sun”.
As we move into the cooler months we focus on the sense of physical warmth and how we can nurture and protect the dear souls in our care. Do your best, one garment at a time and know that we are happy to receive clothing and wrigglers at the door. We, as parents know all too well that feeling of relief as you hand the two seemingly disparate bundles over and pray for a miracle. Know that miracles abound, you just have to believe in what you are doing, do the work and stay the journey.
May your hearts and home be blessed with warmth.