Advent is only five days away, so today we finish our Martinmas posts and move into the Advent season …which also carries themes of light, warmth, and protection.
Protection is exemplified in the story of St. Martin as we see St. Martin cut the cloak to protect the beggar from the cold and the elements. How do we pull a cloak around our own children in this day and age? Steiner said to love the times in which we lived, but we also consider the age and the developmental stage of a child and we lean toward protection. This is why we look at no media lifestyles, holding a strong rhythm, keeping children in a land of innocence and gratitude and goodness. It gives the child time to develop and mature and come to life on Earth in a way that in time, they too will be able to love all of humanity and stand for truth for all peoples.
In Waldorf Education, especially in the Early Years, we often use “protection stories”. I believe this phrase may have first been coined by Suzanne Down of Juniper Tree Puppets. (If this is incorrect, my apologies, but it is where I first heard the actual term). A protection story is essentially one where a shelter of some sort is presented – a shell, a mitten, a little hollow of a tree that is tiny – and usually a family or little characters come along and live in this shelter in peace and harmony. The development of the story and the characters makes a small child feel safe and secure. You can probably think of many of these little stories from your own childhood. All shall be well, we all shall be well if we are together with love.
I think an extension of protection that often extends into the early grades are the idea of gnomes. There are quite a few jokes sometimes about gnomes in Waldorf Education ( in the vein of gnomies are my homies), but those aside, consider this verse from Autumn Wynstones by Jarman on page 26, entitled “Gnome King”:
Good friends, you have more work to do,
For yonder on the earth I know
Summer is fading and the winds do blow.
Your next task is with the seeds so small,
To see them safely in this hall,
Away from Jack Frost who would do them harm.
My Queen and I await them.
I think there are solid developmental reasons in looking at the Waldorf Curriculum and matching it to development to extend protection to our children. Remember, there is not only a developmental shift around six/seven years of age (frequently talked about), a nine year change (somewhat talked about), a twelve year change (mentioned), and a change around sixteen (hardly ever mentioned). If you would like some guidance on this, please do look at the back posts on development (use the header bar, click where it says development and then choose from the drop-down menu by age) . You can also see this series about “Pondering Portals”.
We also can protect ourselves as adults. We can choose how much of the mainstream world we want in our lives, how much energy we want to exert outside of our homes, how much energy we want to exert on family members and friends. We can choose to rest and to laugh and to have joy.
There is a song in the Winter Wynstones about Mary weaving a garment of silver and gold threads for the Christ Child, and I often think of this care and protection that begins in Martinmas and extends all the way through Advent and Christmastide. Let us care and protect our own sparks of light and that of our children’s.