Parenting a teen on Social Media: Where does the danger actually lie?

Ever wondered what your teen really wants you to know about social media and wants you to teach them? Well, here it is. A brilliant and insightful piece by one of our Youth Advisory members. – Gigi, 17yrs.

Schools, parents, and organisations predominantly focus on the preventative measures of educating teens on the dangers of social media. These systems use scare tactics to focus on why you shouldn’t sext, have your account set to public, or engage in online bullying and view pornography. And yes, while we must educate the youth on the safety and dangers of these ever-changing media platforms, it does not extensively address the undeniable contemporary issues teenagers face on social media. While we have taught the youth how to not engage in unsafe practices on social media, we have failed to actively teach them how to respond to these situations if they do.

A young girl has sent nudes to a boy on Snapchat, screenshot it, and has blackmailed her, “if you don’t send more, I will share these around” she feels she has no other option.

A boy is being bullied on social media and is embarrassed to tell his parents or the school for fear of ridicule by his parents and peers.

An older unknown man has commented with inappropriate messages on a girl’s Instagram post but does not want to tell her parents in fear of embarrassment and deleting her account.

Social media is not an issue because we are not educated judiciously enough on its dangers; instead, we have failed to teach our youth how to actively and appropriately respond to these dangerous situations. This is where the real danger lies. Read More

Autumn and the Michaelmas Festival

March 21 is the midpoint between the Southern Hemisphere’s summer and winter solstices, it is also known as the autumn equinox and for us, it is when the festival of Michaelmas is celebrated. Michaelmas is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel. The Archangel Michael is one of the principal angelic warriors, seen as a protector against the dark of night, and the administrator of cosmic intelligence.

The season of Michaelmas asks us to be thankful for the plentiful harvest of the preceding year and to face the approaching darkness of winter with courage in order to meet the darker days and places in ourselves symbolised by the dragon. The fire and fury of the dragon are strong in the world presently and increasingly so with each passing day it seems. We are called to face these challenging times with Michaelic courage to tame the dragon.

Rudolf Steiner said that the outer conflict of Michael and the Dragon was transferred to the inner human being because only in human nature can the Dragon now find its sphere of action. Thus, we are called to face our own darkness with courage and light. It is even time to question: when we find the “enemy” in the outer world, are we just avoiding facing him in ourselves? And also: how can one be a “peaceful warrior,” taking a stand with courage for a higher truth?

At this time stories of good versus evil or light versus dark are often told to illuminate the balance of light and dark that we all must strive towards mastering.

Here are some ideas for observing the festival and the season:

• Learn Michaelmas songs and verses.
• Create a Seasonal Nature Table depicting St. Michael and the Dragon. You could display autumn leaves, small pumpkins and gourds to represent the harvest.
• Tell stories about St. Michael or St. George and the Dragon.
• Do fun outdoor activities that require strength, courage and bravery.

As adults, we can use this time to focus on our own inner work and spiritual growth. Take time for meditation and journal writing, and think about the areas in which we would like to grow.

Some verses for children

Brave and True (this is a nice verse to recite while marching out the rhythm.)

Brave and true I will be
Each good deed sets me free.
Each kind word makes me strong.
I will fight for the right,
I will conquer the wrong.

St. Michael

Earth grows dark and fear is lurking,
O St. Michael, Heaven’s knight,
Go before us now and lead us,
Out of darkness, into light.

The Story of St Michael and the Dragon

A Michaelmas Story

St Michael’s Harvest Song

A Michaelmas Song

We wish everyone strength and courage this Michaelmas season, may all your dragons be tamed!

Post-Flood Worries: Help Your Child Manage Anxiety

After a flood, many families will take time to recover. This will depend partly on the level of trauma a family suffered during the actual event, and how quickly life can return to normal after the event.

For people who had to evacuate their homes, those whose homes were destroyed, or those who lost significant possessions or family pets, the process will be longer. This also depends on the amount of recovery support available, whether the family suffers ongoing financial hardship, and how long and arduous the process of returning to normal life is.

Children look to parents and carers in times of crisis to know how they should behave and feel. It’s important to stay calm and model a healthy stress response (easier said than done!) to help your child feel secure and comforted. Self-care is vital during this time because you are unable to give to those around you if your own cup is empty. If you need help during this time, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask.

Children and young people function better when they have an understanding of what has happened, so encourage your child to ask questions or talk about the flood. Provide openings to get the conversation started, such as sharing your own feelings.

Children and young people don’t always talk about what’s going on inside, so check the list below to help you figure out if your child is anxious after the floods.

How do I tell if my child is worried?
A child’s reaction after a disaster depends on their age, developmental level, and previous exposure to disasters. Different coping styles also mean that kids react in different ways; some might withdraw, while others will experience angry outbursts, agitation or irritability. The following reactions are common after a natural disaster:

  • Fear of being separated from family members
  • Worry that something bad will happen to a caregiver or loved one
  • Tantrums, outbursts, or meltdowns
  • Strange physical ailments such as stomach aches or aches and pains
  • Increased activity levels
  • Loss of concentration or inability to pay attention
  • Withdrawal from normal social interactions
  • Worry over their safety or the safety of a family member or pet
  • Falling school grades
  • A persistent focus on the flood in play or conversation
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Appetite changes
  • Regression to earlier behaviours such as baby talk or bedwetting
  • Increase in risky teen behaviours, such as drinking or substance abuse, self-harm, or undertaking dangerous activities

What can I do to help my child?
Parental involvement in a child’s world is crucial to post-disaster recovery. Staying involved tells your child that they can trust you and depend on you to be there for them. Although it can be difficult to find time, it will pay off as your child learns to manage their emotions and anxiety in the recovery phase of a disaster.

Leaving yourself open to conversations is important as children try to process their experiences. You might find yourself answering the same question more than once; try to be patient. Clarify the question so you understand what’s behind it. Children need to know what’s happening in the family, with their school, and in the community. Keep it age-appropriate and don’t overwhelm them with too much information, but enough that they know what’s happening and can feel secure. Ask for opinions or ideas where appropriate to help your child feel involved.

Check out the following list of ideas for ways to help your child manage their anxiety during the recovery phase.

Tips for managing anxiety after the floods:

  • Mealtimes and bedtime are good opportunities to talk. Prepare to turn off the TV or take a little extra time saying good night to give your child the chance to tell you what’s on their mind
  • Young children will benefit from extra stories and physical touch to reassure them
  • Try to model calm responses to stressful situations. Your child is watching you to know how they should behave under the same circumstances
  • Remember that your ability to cope influences your child’s recovery, so it’s important to care for yourself as well
  • Shield your child from excess exposure to the news or adult conversations that may trigger trauma memories or unnecessarily frighten a child
  • Monitor media use, especially for older children who may have their own social media accounts. Set limits and be prepared to stand your ground for the sake of your child’s mental health
  • Reassure your child that they are safe now, even if you have to do it repeatedly
  • Spend extra time together, reading, playing games, or spending time in nature. Time spells love to a child, and love means feeling secure. Remember to tell them you love them often.
  • If your family has lost a pet, pay attention to the grief process and mourn appropriately. Hold a memorial service or do something else to remember the life of your pet. Speak of the memories you have of your furry friend and let your child know that it’s OK to grieve and feel sad.
  • Do your best to establish a routine to help your child feel secure. An example is brushing your teeth before bed. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s a familiar activity that helps a child feel safe.
  • Reassure your child that friends or loved ones are being cared for even if there is no communication. Talk about the volunteers who are helping people.
  • Do your best to stay healthy with adequate water, activity, and a good diet along with plenty of rest.
  • Maintain regular mealtimes and bedtimes; knowing what to expect provides important structure that helps children to feel safe.
  • Encourage children to help and continue to allocate small chores as part of daily life. Children feel better when they are doing something positive to help others.
  • Think of ways to alleviate boredom if the disruption has put a stop to normal extracurricular activities such as sports or youth activities. Try board games, arts and crafts, or meeting up with other flood-affected friends instead.
  • Avoid negative reactions to annoying or irritating behaviours such as clinginess, repeated questions about the floods, acting out flood play, or seeking reassurance. Just understand that your child is doing their best to cope and be patient.
  • Maintain a positive mindset and speak of the future in hopeful terms. Encourage your child to see the good in the situations that you find yourselves in.
  • Communicate with teachers about what to expect from your child and be prepared to spend extra time helping with homework if your child is experiencing a lack of concentration
  • Get involved in community activities. While helping in the community is good for positive feelings, try to find some community activities unrelated to floods for a mental break. Storytime at the library, activities at the YMCA, or church or community youth groups are all good ways of connecting with others who might have been through similar experiences.

Read the full article at lifeskills4kids.com.au

Raising overcomers: How to teach your kids to do hard things

By Katie Westenberg from mother.ly

Ever wonder how to teach your kids to fight fear, to live brave and overcome hard things?

I haven’t taught any of my children to ride a bike. Not one of the four.

I’ve helped, for sure. I’ve held on to the seat and steadied them while they will their bodies to balance and their feet to push the pedals, but my husband has always been the one to let go of the seat and enable their independence.

This never even occurred to me until I was working with my youngest on riding sans training wheels last month. My husband had been gone for the weekend and sensing my little guy was ready, I took the training wheels off and started coaching him along. When my husband arrived home he put one steady hand on the back of my son’s bicycle seat, lingered for a mere second and sent him on his way. Just like that, he was riding a bike.

And I realized, it was the letting go that was hard for me.

If my husband hadn’t come home, I might still be scampering along behind that little boy’s bike—holding him back, rather than watching him soar.

Ever wonder how to teach your kids to do hard things? How to fight fear, to live brave and overcome hard things? Here are some great ideas to get you started.

Life is full of hard things. Full of them. Learning to walk is tough. Growing up is challenging. Learning to become a good spouse is no easy feat, settling into the role of mother is hard. Hard. Hard. Hard. So why wouldn’t we want to prepare our kids to handle hard things well—to not balk at the pressure? Why shouldn’t we seek to give them eyes that see beyond what’s right in front of them, intentionally training them and equipping them with the tools to handle hard things?

Here are 5 things I want to be intentional about in raising kids who can do hard things, kids who are overcomers.

1. Let them fail

Really. Our home is a training ground for life. And so is yours. It’s a place where our children are loved no matter what, a place where their worth is not based on performance, and the safest place for them trip and fall and learn about what it takes to get back up again.

As the supplier of band-aids and ice packs this can be hard for a mama to do. My natural tendency is to smooth out all the rough spots, champion my children to success and just continue holding on to their bicycle seats for a good long while. But this does not help them in the long run.

A cut-throat workplace or college class are not the best place for our kids to be learning these lessons for the first time. Be intentional about giving your children a safe place to mess it all up, to crash and burn, to learn consequences and forgiveness and exactly what it takes to get back up and try again.

2. Equip them

Watching our children deal with hard things give us the opportunity to teach them how to respond well. Recently my daughter took two weeks of group swimming lessons—something that was new to her. Although she was scared, she made it through the first week quite well. She conquered some fears and by the end of the week she was having all kinds of fun.

However, after a long weekend she began to fear swimming lessons again and didn’t want to return for the second week. Through tears she told me how much she hated swimming. And I quickly understood this wasn’t really about swimming anymore. She was being seized by fear. She loved swimming just a few days earlier and now she was believing a lie, believing her fears.

One thing I’m learning is that no matter how irrational, improbable, or ridiculous it may seem to someone else, fear is real. We all fear different things, but when you are in the midst of it, it becomes your reality. Minimizing someone else’s fear is not helpful.

I remember having a math teacher once who seemed to think all of math was easy. Which was great for him, but it did not change the fact that it was NOT easy for me. Ever. I fought for every good math grade I got. It never got easy, but I was able to learn the principals well enough to get through it and avoid it for the rest of my adult life. (I’m kidding…partly.)

The same strategy applied to my scared swimmer. Telling her swimming is fun and not scary would not be helpful, but teaching her how we handle fear, how we fight lies that can eat away at our hearts, is quite useful.

3. Talk truth

While we try to re-shape hearts and complaining attitudes around here we don’t shy away from calling things hard. Learning to swim is hard. Pulling weeds is hard. Keeping a tidy home is hard. Sure it is, but that doesn’t mean we don’t do it.

As my kids get older we talk more and more about the hard things of life, because they don’t ever magically go away. We talk about their dad’s job and the hard things he does there. We talk about paying bills and taxes, we talk about being treated unfairly or unkindly.

Opportunities abound—that grumpy grocery store clerk who seems to be having a hard day, discuss it with your kids. That construction worker who is sweating up a storm in his hard hat, talk about it with your kids. Talking truth with your children, rather than sugar-coating life lessons, conditions them to understanding that hard work is a part of life and not something we shy away from.

4. Start training them

Have you ever considered intentionally training your children to do hard things, to push past their will and what they see right in front of them in order to learn the value of perseverance? You can be intentional about helping your children develop faithfulness and tenacity.

Try taking on a big challenge as a family. Help your kids engage in conversations outside of their comfort zone or offer an apology even when it feels awkward. Show them how to serve others or what it might look like to give sacrificially. These things don’t come naturally for most children, or adults for that matter. Walk them through it intentionally and give them opportunities and new environments in which to practice it. Make sure they see you doing the same.

You can practice hard things at home as well. If your home is like ours there are plenty of jobs and chores my husband and I do out of habit or because it’s quicker and cleaner if we do them ourselves, but allowing our children to do the work grows and shapes them.

Let them fold their clothes, let them weed the flower beds, teach them to clean up the kitchen, to sweep the steps and wash the windows. The tasks will grow with age, of course, and you can even make some of the bigger and more challenging chores paid jobs, but only pay for a job well done. It all takes effort and oversight on your part, but slowly they will begin to learn the value of hard work and doing hard things. And, hopefully, your house will be getting cleaner in the process!

5. Follow through

Similar to discipline, follow-through is key and is often the hardest part as a parent. Recently, my husband was working on training my son in the area of responsibility and before leaving for work one morning he said to me, “We had a talk last night about responsibility and I told Tyler that I expect his chores to be completed by the time I get home from work. Please don’t give him any reminders today.” No reminders. Can I tell you how that about killed me as mama?

9:00: Chores weren’t done.

11:00: Chores weren’t done. And I may have developed a nervous tick trying to keep my mouth shut. Thankfully, by the time my husband got home the chores were finally done and I can honestly say I did not give any reminders. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

This parenting gig, this training kids thing, is hard. It’s work.

You love those kids like crazy and if you’re anything like me, you tend to let them off the hook too easy at times. But that is not parenting brave. Parenting brave requires the very same thing of us that we are trying to train in our kids, making decisions not based solely on what is right in front of us, but with the end result in mind. In this case that would be responsible and capable adults.

A version of this article was originally published on I Choose Brave.

2021 HSC Results

Cape Byron Rudolf Steiner school would like to congratulate all students and teachers across NSW on achieving their best HSC results under the most challenging and disruptive of circumstances last year. 

The measure of the Class of 2021 was always going to be different, as the world around them changed too. How well did they persevere despite a constantly changing social and academic landscape? How well did they maintain cohesion as a class, good spirits, and faith in themselves, their abilities and their teachers? How well did they support one another and give back to the community and the school? These are the metrics that more accurately reveal the capacities of this year group and on all fronts the students at Cape Byron shone.

That said, our cohort of 28 also achieved outstanding results, in particular in Drama, Music, Visual Arts  and Design & Technology. Almost half of all Drama students were awarded a Band 6, with three nominations for OnStage. In Music 1, there were two Band 6s with one student invited to perform in Sydney for ENCORE. Top Band 6 results were also achieved in Maths Extension, Maths Standard, Design & Technology, Society & Culture, German Beginners and Visual Arts, also with a nomination for ArtExpress. 

Paddy Innes-Hill, Co-Head of School, said, “I am thrilled for all our students, and delighted with these results.  They demonstrate the breadth of excellence in our teaching.  And our exceptional creative arts result, where over 80% of students achieved Bands 5 and 6, truly reflects the heart of the best Steiner education.” 

He also pointed out that ”while we celebrate the highest results, we also recognise that we achieved fewer lower band results than in previous years.  Only 6 % of results were below Band 4, and none were below Band 3. “Lifting” the tail-end is as valid a measure of the success of student learning as achieving high marks.”

Students have accepted scholarships and offers in a diverse range of courses and colleges around Australia and internationally, pursuing interests in: Business Entrepreneurship, Science and Biomedicine, Coastal Science and Marine Studies, Fine Arts, Engineering and Architecture, to name a few.

Our Dux of 2021 is Inde Henderson who will commence a double degree in Law and Political Communications at Victoria University, Wellington, NZ. 

Congratulations one and all.

Photo By Kate Holmes.

Waldorf (Steiner) Education as Preparation for Successful Crisis Management

By Philipp Reubke

Educators in Waldorf kindergartens know the phenomenon that the free play of a group of 3 – 6 year old children is subject to atmospheric fluctuations: occasionally there is calm, sometimes even a lack of initiative and then suddenly there is a warm urge to create and the atmosphere hums like a beehive, and sometimes there is great nervousness and aggressiveness.

Often, as an educator, I could not clearly determine the reasons for such mood swings, and the search for culprits and the denunciation of bullies did not seem to make any more sense to me than being angry about a thunderstorm outbreak during a hike.

But it was important for me to perceive the mood well, to hear the tone and then to harmonize what had become one-sided through non-verbal means: music, light, intervention in the spatial design, movement, etc.

In the way the Covid-19 crisis was managed by the respective leaders in different countries and at different levels of society, in the way we have all behaved since the beginning of the pandemic, one could also perceive a certain large-scale weather situation in which enormous tensions were occasionally built up and then erupted in storms of relationships in the family, in schools and institutions, within certain professional groups, and so on.

Some atmospheric phenomena that kept appearing were, for example:

  • Encouraging sensible behavior by making people afraid of danger
  • Losing sight of the overall context in light of the individual aspects of a dangerous situation
  • Not listening to those who think differently and feel differently, or excluding them
  • Allowing only one theory, only one form of analysis, only one form of interpretation of the situation
  • Setting one ethical-moral value above all others
  • Having the opinion that the only way to get out of the crisis is through a tight hierarchical organization.

These phenomena can be observed not only during the current pandemic, but also in other crises affecting society or individual organizations.

Some think that certain groups or individuals should be held responsible for this. However, educators know from daily experience that when a one-sided mood repeatedly occurs in free play or when a socially tense situation occurs at school, there is usually no single, isolated person responsible.

Direct intervention and admonishment of individuals can only limit the damage.

It is rather as the Swiss philosopher Michael Esfeld characterizes corona measures: “It is a trend that has formed out of contingent circumstances and which then drags more and more social actors along with it.”(1)

In order to harmonize the situation permanently, patience and perseverance are needed, as well as a threefold rhythm, which Waldorf teachers practice again and again:

  • Firstly, they try to get as accurate a picture as possible of the phenomena and “perceive the trend”.
  • Even if they personally would have the tendency to fall into anger, fear, or domination about it, they avoid this in the kindergarten and in the school and try in a second step to empathize with the children involved, to understand them, and also to feel their own pedagogical ideals once again with enthusiasm and warmth.
  • In a third step, they then hope that after a meditative review of the situation from a certain distance, they will think, as educational artists, of a gesture, a look, a song, a story, a game, a movement, an activity in the following days that will have such an effect on the group of children that the mood and the social situation will be rebalanced.

There is thus a lot to be learned from educators about crisis management.

The even better news, however, is that if one reconsiders some of the essential features of Waldorf education in the light of the Coronavirus crisis, it turns out that they represent long-term, homeopathic, preventive measures against the psycho-social inflammatory side effects of crises in civilization.

Let us imagine that there is a crisis, but the great majority of those involved have grown up throughout their childhood and adolescence in an atmosphere that can be described by the following characteristics:

1. From kindergarten to high school, the driving forces for learning are interest and the relationship with educators, rather than fear of punishment or desire for reward.(2) This is practiced for hours in kindergarten through free, self-initiated play, deepened through listening to the descriptions of their beloved class teacher, and then strongly anchored during middle and high school though their interest in subjects related to their own existence and life.

If in all pedagogical institutions of the world “child development and school learning …. would develop in the trust-borne relationship of the child to the teachers, to the surrounding space, and in the perception of the world”, would we then still need coercive social measures (3), so that all fellow citizens would behave in a reasonable, meaningful way?

2. Already in kindergarten, cultural techniques are always practiced in connection with life, in connection with a larger context. For example, increasing vocabulary and grammatical syntax through stories, puppet theater, and the intensive use of language in communication during free play.

Even in the choice of toys, those that allow children to start from wholeness (plasticine, clay, dough, unspun wool) are preferable to those in which a wholeness is created by combining identical individual parts.

In school there is no chopped-up timetable, large subject connections can be deepened over a longer period of time, and even in arithmetic and in the understanding of the essence of number, a unity is assumed which is subsequently differentiated.(4)

If the majority of the population were accustomed from childhood to “going from the whole to the parts” (5), would we still lose sight of the complex social and ecological interrelationships beyond an acute, partial problem?

3. The importance of empathy and tolerance is not only preached, it is above all experienced and practiced daily. The young child constantly has the opportunity to have differentiated experiences with the body senses (“The sense of touch has the task of establishing a healthy mobile middle position between too strong and too weak impressibility, openness and limitation, sympathy and antipathy”. This is a preparation for “sympathetic interest arising from unthreatened self-confidence.” [6])

And in free play, the child practices cooperation and compromise every day, experiencing joy and increased possibilities of success, and also the pain of the consequences of one’s own bullying or shyness.

Because there are stable class communities in the school over the years, the teacher can work thoroughly with the children on social skills (7), placing a great emphasis on music and drama: here listening to one another, paying attention to one another, and including what is disruptive and surprising can be practiced especially well.

If our social skills and our willingness to listen were also physically and artistically rooted in us in this way, would we still want to hysterically exclude those who think differently?

4. For years, nature is intensively experienced as something that can be seen, smelled, tasted and touched, and to which everyone in kindergarten is allowed to express the most diverse theories: is it getting dark because the sun is now getting tired and going to sleep, or maybe because someone is sitting behind the mountain and pulling on the sun with a string?

If in school cognitive understanding is to be developed by systematic learning, this is prepared by detailed consideration of the phenomenon and never ends in a definition to be learned by heart, but in a characterization.

The teacher in the upper school is then also someone who sets the phenomenological intellectual framework in which the young people find terms and definitions themselves. If when we are confronted with new and unknown things, we always start from the phenomena in this way, wouldn’t that be a good contribution against dogmatism and the claim to one sole explanation of any scientific direction? (8)

5. In the course of the first fourteen years of life, the child has not been confronted with a moral-ethical value system, the principles of which have been learned intellectually, but has had the opportunity, through a multitude of stories and mythological-religious narratives, to sympathize with the good that is depicted there.

With the fairy tales, the descriptions from Hebrew, Germanic, Indian, Egyptian, Greek and other mythologies, with stories from Islam and Christianity, the child feels that devotion to and love of a divine world and the commitment to the good can have different forms, different weightings.

Children experience role models who help them to become morally and ethically independent.

If we had learned to mobilize our moral-ethical forces in this way ourselves, would we still be in danger of adhering to a value declared as absolute by scientific or political authorities?

6. From the cradle to high school graduation, through free play to artistic, athletic or scientific project work in the upper school, children and young people have experienced that cooperation and improvisation sometimes go through difficult phases, but that in the end everyone can increase their personal abilities through successful teamwork. In addition, the teachers were role models for successful cooperation in the organization of their own work; in the way the school is run, a team spirit prevails that gives room for individual initiative and at the same time allows all individuals to grow beyond themselves.

If we could manage to have “all [in a school] develop significant nonhierarchical forms of cooperation” and if we jointly practice “transparency and accountability (instead of personal and institutional power) (9) ,” wouldn’t that be the best preparation for a crisis situation? Wouldn’t we then instinctively feel that greater intelligence and dynamism is generated by forms of collaborative leadership than by solitary decision-making by a few whom we have made into big bosses?

We are all responsible, not only “the others”. We all have to learn, develop and change if we want to go more confidently through this crisis and those that will come. Waldorf education can provide important support in this process.

We could be motivated by the Coronavirus crisis to work to rediscover and implement this more creatively in our Waldorf schools and kindergartens, and to benefit an ever-increasing number of children in other institutions and contexts.

Philipp Reubke is a kindergarten teacher, Waldorf trainer, mentor and co-leader of the Pedagogical Section in Dornach. Until recently, Philipp was very active in IASWECE as coordinating group member and representative of the French Association.

This article originally appeared in the Goetheanum Newsletter.

(1) Michael Esfeld, ” Vaccination Passport – a Path to Freedom or to a Closed Society”. In: “Goetheanum N° 18/2021

(2) There are only three means of education: fear, ambition and love. We dispense with the first two … “cf. the Martin Carle, “Fear, Ambition and Love in the Classroom,” in: Erziehungskunst October 2019;
www.erziehungskunst.de/artikel/wer-erzieht-wen/furcht-ehrgeiz-und-liebe-im-klassenzimmer/

www.erziehungskunst.de/en/article/who-educates-whom/fear-ambition-and-love-in-the-classroom/

(3) cf : ” Essential Features of Waldorf Education “,
https://www.waldorf-international.org/wesentliche-merkmale-der-waldorfpaedagogik/

(4) Cf. Claus Peter Röh, Robert Thomas: “Unterricht gestalten”, Verlag am Goetheanum, 2015: “It is important that we start from the One as the divine primordial unity from which the following numbers are derived.” (S.71) „

(5) Op cit., p. 73

(6) Henning Köhler, “Von ängstlichen, traurigen und unruhigen Kindern”, Stuttgart 2019, Freies Geistesleben, p.93

(7) Valentin Wember develops this in detail in his introduction to a collection of Steiner quotes on “social capability,” Stratosverlag 2018.

(8) ” Absolute claims …tend to make one intolerant. With the claim to absolute truth a dogmatism effect arises.” Ulrich Kaiser, “The Narrator Rudolf Steiner”, Info 3 Verlag 2020, p. 60

(9) Essential Features of Waldorf Education, Section : The School Community. Living together. www.waldorfinternational.org/fileadmin/downloads/1605_Merkmale_IK_Arles.pdf

A Gift of Starlight – by Susan Perrow

With warm thanks to Susan Perrow for gifting the CBRSS community this story. 

Please visit Susan’s website for more therapeutic stories. SusanPerrow.com

From Gifts from the Sea by Susan Perrow.

The Prayerful Warrior

By Dennis Klocek January 22, 2021, from dennisklocek.com

The developmental signs of advancement in an alchemical soul practice usually involve some sort of healing crisis brought on by a discharge in the soul of accumulated assumptions and belief structures. Most often these assumptions are not perceived by the student in a conscious way. They arise like dream fragments in the daily life and invade the serenity of the soul with impulses that are definitely not in line with progressive development.

It is usually only after an event or situation has wreaked havoc in our lives that we can dimly divine the deeper meanings and assumptions behind our moments of suffering. We could even say that esoteric development is really the cultivation of the capacity to consciously experience the arising of dysfunctional patterns based on faulty assumptions before taking over our lives. At bottom the capacity to do this recognizing of patterns is really what is known as metanoia or changing the thinking.

Normally when we are under stress our own will comes forward and we use an instinctual force to fight against the intrusion. In this way we act aggressively as warriors towards the threats and stress. In each of the following situations the solution to the dilemma will be approached as a warrior who uses prayer instead of threats and aggression. The idea is that the will force in prayer is what is of importance just as will is the most important force to the conventional warrior. The difference is that in the prayerful warrior there has been some degree of metanoia that allows the will to be employed in a much more whole and creative way.

The alchemical approach to metanoia is known as turning the soul. Turning the soul is the initiating process for any attempt at developing the inner life. There are a few different stages of inner development that can be good signposts to determining how much capacity we have to turn our souls. These signposts are indicators of the direction and intensity of blaming which goes on in our inner dialogue when we are under stressful or threatening situations.

In the first stage, the roots of blaming lie in the firm belief that another person is the source of our misfortune or dissatisfaction. This is known technically in psychology as projection. We project our dissatisfaction on another and then that is the only way we can see the situation. In projection we leave ourselves with no options. The belief structures and the inner dialogues in the projection stage of blaming completely fill the soul with pictures of anger and resentment. While the thinking processes flow into thoughts of justification and retaliation. Some personalities spend whole lifetimes in the first stage of projection. The newspapers are full of stories based upon the belief that someone else is to blame. The whole culture is devoted to finding blame.

As a healing for this first level of soul work there can be attention given to address the Creator in a mood of thanks. Imagine that you have given someone something that has helped them to advance in their lives. Imagine that the person took what you gave and went away without expressing some form of thanks to you. How would you feel? Then imagine that you are the Creator of the World and the beings to whom you have given life and livelihood do not thank you for their gifts but instead spend their days moaning that they have not been met in their needs. Imagine how you would feel. Then give thanks and send prayers of sincere thanks that the Creator is not a vindictive God. This does not have to be long winded but the mood must be sincere. If the affection for the benevolence of the Creator is genuine this is a healing of the tendency to project blame on others. The returning prodigal has little time for resentment or casting blame on others.

Rudolf Steiner suggests that we imagine that the person whom we are blaming was denied an opportunity that was given to us instead. It was that denied opportunity that was the source of their downfall into the state for which we are blaming them. Imagine this and then give a prayer of thanks to the Creator for the blessings that have been given to you in your life. Then send a prayer of humility to the angel of the other person for judging them, in your ignorance, to be so bad.

Using prayers like this over time it may be that our soul comes to realize that the others are not really to blame for our misfortunes. We see that there are patterns in our lives that have to do with inabilities on our own part. This is a healing but it often leads to the second stage of blaming.

In the second level of blaming we have a sudden realization that we are to blame for most of our dysfunctional experiences. This is a tough one since when this level is realized we become doubly mortified; once for truly being to blame, and once for having, up to the present moment, blamed everyone else. This level of blaming is a burning process with very intense flames of shame and blame. Working in this stage for extended periods can be a dangerous and unbalancing activity for the soul. Sooner or later however the self blaming will become bothersome and boring even to ourselves. When any form of blaming is no longer a reasonable option then that is the sign that the capacity of Moral Imagination is unfolding in the soul. It is then that we are truly on the threshold of turning the soul towards Inspiration.

The life of prayer in this stage can be focused on the use of what could be called creative suffering. No one develops their soul forces without owning their own projections, this is a fierce suffering which is often self inflicted. In the alchemical language this stage is called cooking and eating the shadow. It can lead to deep characterological problems such as depression. In our suffering we can no longer blame others that is clear. But someone must be to blame. Around and around we go getting ever more tightly wound. In these dark hours it is useful to dedicate our suffering to another whom we deem is suffering a bit more than we are. It could be a sick person or a more severely depressed person. We picture that person and we ask our angel or the Christ Being to please take the will forces that we are learning to develop in our trials and apply them to the account of the other person who is more needy than ourselves.

By the incredible action of the spirit every force that is so designated for another has a healing force on the giver and the recipient. It is like a two-for-one deal with the Christ. Of course we cannot pray in this way with the idea that we will also be the recipient and do not be tempted into imagining that the other person will be made well by your prayers. That is called petitionary prayer. It is an inflation and will nullify any will force which you can contribute to the other. Simply imagine that your prayers are like a good home cooked meal that you place before the other by means of your angel. Simply paying attention to the other person in their suffering is a good prayer. Dedicating your own suffering as a help towards the other is a doubly effective prayer. While immersed in this type of prayer activity we do not sit and suffer and be tempted back into blaming. The other person benefits with help they get in the spirit through your purified will. In this type of prayer your imagination is made into a moral force. Your inner picturing can then be called Moral Imagination.

In Moral Imagination we work with the force of the realization that blaming itself is a useless waste of human life. No one wins in a blaming situation, neither the blamer nor the blamee. We see blame as the work of the adversarial spiritual beings who deceive humans into inflation and projection, activities that always result in blaming. The deceptions of the adversaries are the ways in which they cover up their own hidden roles in the ongoing fantasy lives of humans.

When a human fully realizes that there is actually no blame this is usually simultaneous with the counter realization that there really must be an accounting of our actions. This is the realization of the cosmic nature of karma. This is a deep puzzle to a soul that is habitually used to blaming others. The challenge of accounting with no blame brings to the fore the Moral Imaginative forces in the human soul. It is with these forces that the human develops the capacity and will to make atonement for being a willing yet unconscious accomplice to transgressions against the progressive Will of the Creator. With Moral Imaginative forces the human being hungers and thirsts after righteousness without a thought of revenge. At the level of Moral Imagination the soul comes into contact with the higher spiritual members of its own being. This is a foundation for metanoia. The actual willed deed that brings about metanoia is the turning of the soul. While turning the soul the student must encounter the laws of karma.

Click to read the full article

Compassion and Forgiveness

Brian is a wonderful, warm and articulate presenter with vast Anthroposophical knowledge, he has been an invaluable resource for the CBRSS study group “SoL Circle” since it began in 2015 and we would all recommend this video as a must-watch. This has been a favourite video of mine for a long time and every time I watch it I gain a deeper insight on how to work with compassion and forgiveness, may we all develop such capacities within ourselves to the fullest as the world has great need of it! Yvette 

(fromwisecosmos.org)Brian Gray is a Founding Member of Wise Cosmos Educational Initiative and is its current President of the Board of Directors.  Brian is a teacher, lecturer, and writer on many topics drawn from Anthroposophy – the work of Rudolf Steiner.  He loves to share research from the realms of star wisdom, biography, cosmology, Waldorf Education, sacred architecture, and esoteric Christianity. Brian was a core faculty member at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California for 38 years, and also served as RSC’s Director of the Foundation Program from 1991-1998, and again from 2006-2016.

Wisecosmos Educational Initiative has a wonderful website offering videos on a range of Anthroposophical topics, both paid and free options are available. Please visit their website for inspiration wisecosmos.org

From Youtube about this video: Brian Gray of Rudolf Steiner College traces how longing, suffering and self-involvement can gradually be re-directed toward interest in and understanding of others, compassion, forgiveness and love. Irène Francois introduces Brian Gray and Robert McDermott of CIIS. These talks were given at the San Francisco Waldorf Teacher Education Program of Rudolf Steiner College, on March 31, 2012.

Click the link to watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTGMbotgMY4

There was once a garden…

From the Goetheanum newsletter

The Goetheanum is affected by the current health regulations. In a series of articles, members of the Goetheanum Leadership give expression to their views of the present situation. Here, Philipp Reubke asks about the human soul in the midst of today’s crises.

“Il y avait un jardin, qu’on appelait la Terre …”[1] When Georges Moustaki performed this song in 1971, he touched the hearts of the youth of that time. For the children growing up surrounded by steel, concrete and asphalt, Moustaki sang about a virginal planet Earth that provided wonderful sense impressions throughout the seasons and that had all but disappeared:

There was once a garden called Earth,
Where is this garden wherein we could have been born,
Wherein we could have lived free from care,
Where is the house with doors all open
That I look for everywhere and cannot find?[2]

The study The Limits to Growth met with lively interest when it was published in 1972 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on behalf of the Club of Rome. To this day more than 30 million copies have been sold, in 30 languages.[3] A book published in 1975 by a German politician, entitled ‘A planet is being looted’, remained on the list of bestsellers for weeks.[4]

These songs, studies, books have been having an impact for fifty years. Nutrition, agriculture, architecture, energy, waste management, traffic – in most areas of life and technology, many people have adopted new habits which, in the early 1970s, were derided by others. What can we do to stop or to counteract this frantic exploitation? The situation has hardly changed. The IPCC report of August 2021 reads more worryingly than any previous ones: climate change is happening faster and is more momentous.”[5]

We’ve got used to it …
Amongst the chorus of answers and initiatives one also hears voices which claim that the climate can only really be protected by limiting the freedom of the individual. The situation was so dramatic, they say, that people needed to be forced to behave in ways that are less damaging to the environment.[6] In order to achieve what is good and reasonable for all, individual freedom needs to be curtailed. Ideas arising spontaneously from one’s head and heart can be dangerous. A social credit system – the attempt to control people by giving ‘points’ for desirable behaviour and withholding them for undesirable behaviour – is not only used in China but welcomed by most Americans.[7]

Currently, we see a similar approach in relation to health questions. The Green Pass (which proves that the holder has either had Covid, been vaccinated or tested negative) indirectly introduces compulsory vaccination, if people are forced to pay for their tests. Those who sacrifice their individual freedom in favour of what is seen as being in the best interest of all are seen as morally laudable. This did not start with Covid-19, however. Looking back on the first two decades of a century that began with 9/11, the French lawyer François Sureau wrote as early as September 2019, “We have got used to living without freedom. It is not new that freedom is a thorn in the flesh of the rulers. What is new is that the citizens accept this out of fear.”[8]

Some accept this authoritative approach because it promises to conquer evil, crime, illness and death. Why does it not sit well with others? Because they feel that, along with the freedom, any sense of responsibility, inner development and culture will also disappear.

Looking at education
Young children learn to stand up, walk, speak, think, discover the world – but not by being ordered or forbidden to do things, by targeted training and explanations. Children don’t learn out of obedience but because they want to learn. They will do all these things out of love for the people around them. Emmi Pikler was quite radical in pointing out what happens when we always assist children. “It is essential that children can discover as much of the world as possible by themselves. If we assist them with all these tasks, we deprive them precisely of what is most important for their intellectual development.”[9] The musician and educator Heinrich Jacoby was convinced that “Rules, unsuitable questions and hasty assistance hinder child development. Children lose the ability and courage to try out things for themselves, to improvise and express themselves spontaneously.”[10]

Rudolf Steiner thought that “Children instinctively react against conscious attempts at exerting influence on them, particularly in the first two and a half years.”[11] He even thought that educating with rules at this age was not only soul-destroying but even had a detrimental effect on the body. “If we start much too early with getting children to stand up or walk, we ruin their nervous processes for life.”[12]

It seems obvious with young children: if we constantly steer them like puppets, their strength of will, love for the world and joy in learning and developing will wither away. Waldorf Education has always aimed to develop strength and sensitivity in children by stimulating them to be active in their thinking, feeling and will. Activity and learning must not be motivated by either reward or punishment, but by joy and interest. [13] This continuous stimulation towards an active life of soul aims to help children and young people to find their own interests in life and to act responsibly in society of their own accord.

It doesn’t seem so serious when adults are being led like puppets to do the right thing – either subtly through manipulation, more obviously through punishment and reward, or tyrannically by being forbidden their own ideas or practical alternatives. It is, after all, in the interest of health and survival. The question that is controversial is whether these measures actually serve a good purpose. But would it not be more to the point to ask whether adults are not in a similar danger to children: will their soul and spirit not wither away if they are kept in leading-strings and forced to do what seems good and sensible? If they are no longer given the possibility to recognize for themselves and support what is good?

Individualized ethics
Are not free initiative, joy in experimenting and ‘learning through error’ conditions for a living culture and science? Is the possibility to choose the wrong option not prerequisite to moral progress? Rudolf Steiner was quite emphatic in saying that “it is moral progress when we no longer simply accept the commands of an outer or inner authority as the motive of our actions, but strive to understand the reason why some maxim or other should motivate our actions.”[14] The ethical individualism he advocated throughout his life entails that we learn not to be guided by either personal preferences or normative regulations. “Actions are therefore neither stereotyped, merely following some rule, nor are they performed automatically, in response to an outer impact. They are simply determined by their own ideal content.”[15]

Then social responsibility no longer needs to be the opposite of individual freedom. Choosing freely to be responsible for others enhances my development. Just as the young child’s self-motivation is destroyed by guided learning, the adult’s own will to develop is destroyed by generalized ethical precepts. Rudolf Steiner asks us to “Act so that the principles of your actions may be valid for all people. […] This principle means death to any individually motivated actions.”[16]

Is this not why the environmental crisis has continued to grow, even after 50 years of non-interference with individual freedom, why we don’t trust each other to resolve the health crisis with means other than massive restrictions of freedom? The “individual motives” have become all but ineffective: only few people continue to believe that they may be holding the seed for healing the earthly and social organisms.

What would Georges Moustaki, who died in 2013, sing today? Would he dedicate his song to people growing up in an environment governed by prohibition, punishment and supervision?

There once was a garden called human soul,
wherein wonderful feelings, thoughts and impulses grew freely.
Where is this garden wherein the free spirit could have been born,
where is the heart with doors wide open to all beings and all dimensions,
I am looking for it but cannot find it yet!

[1] There once was a garden called earth
[2] Où est-il ce jardin où nous aurions pu naître / Où nous aurions pu vivre insouciants et nus / Où est cette maison toutes portes ouvertes / Que je cherche encore et que je ne trouve plus?
[3] The Limits to Growth
[4] Herbert Gruhl: Ein Planet wird geplündert. Die Schreckensbilanz unserer Politik [A planet is being looted. The terrifying consequences of our policies], Frankfurt, S. Fischer 1975
[5] IPCC report: climate change is progressing faster and more seriously
[6] «Décarboner vraiment, c’est rompre avec les libertés individuelles, voire avec le pacte démocratique »
[7] «Nevertheless, many generally agree with the underlying idea of social ratings: 70% say it is fair and right to limit access to public resources (transport, education, housing, etc.) based on people’s behavior.”
[8] «Il n’est pas nouveau que les gouvernants s’impatientent de la liberté. Il est plus étonnant que le citoyen y consente, parce qu’il est inquiet bien sûr… »
[9] Quoted in Erzieherauge
[10] Quoted in Heinrich Jacoby
[11] Rudolf Steiner: Soul Economy and Waldorf Education, GA 303, Lecture 7.
[12] Ibid.
[13] There are only three means of education: fear, ambition and love. We will do without the first two…. Cf. Martin Carle, Furcht, Ehrgeiz und Liebe im Klassenzimmer, in: Erziehungskunst October 2019
[14] Rudolf Steiner: The Philosophy of Freedom, GA 4, Chapter 9 (The Idea of Freedom)
[15] ibid.
[16] ibid.

English by Margot M. Saar

Creativity and innovation – challenge your thinking!

By Theresa Sayn Wittgenstein Piraccini who has been class teacher, educational leader and CEO of Steiner Education Australia. She was a member of the International Forum for Steiner/Waldorf Education and is currently Principal at Michael Park School, a Steiner school in Auckland, New Zealand. (Article dated November 2017.)

From WaldorfResources.org

Becoming a Steiner teacher certainly helped me to further develop my creativity and imagination, however I never really thought about ‘innovation’ or what this might mean and generally used the words, creativity and innovation a bit interchangeably. My focus as a class teacher was to develop the children’s imagination through an artistic way of teaching and it is only recently that I have really been thinking about the true meaning of innovation and my ideas have been gradually forming themselves.

It began one day about seven years ago. I was visiting an established Steiner school and asked what innovative things they might have been doing. A teacher told me quite adamantly – ‘we don’t innovate, we follow Rudolf Steiner’s indications’. I was slightly shocked and this was the beginning of my reflective process. I believe this type of thinking which permeates our schools in different ways can be stifling, as Steiner said “never to grow stale or sour and know what is happening in the world.” (1) Therefore, to only follow Steiner’s pedagogical indications and limit yourself to other ideas, would mean being closed to exploring new opportunities, or to see what other things might be happening in education, or what the needs are of students today and into the future.

Of course, we can and should study Rudolf Steiner’s indications and relate them to our teaching and ways of working in the world and also our inner life. But we must also have an open mind, keeping our thoughts alive and constantly reflecting on what we do, why we do it, how can we create new ideas, create a better environment for the children, and most importantly, be eternally creative within ourselves.

To have the power of imagination, Steiner wanted us to have a relationship to the spiritual world. Steiner gave us key indications at the end of the fourteenth lecture of “The Foundations of Human Experience” (1):

“Imbue thyself with the power of imagination

Have courage for the truth

Sharpen thy feeling for responsibility of soul”

A couple of years ago I was invited to write a chapter in a book “Teaching with spirit: new perspectives on Steiner Education in Australia” (2). I decided on the topic “Innovations and challenges in Steiner Education”.

I truly had to think hard – are Steiner schools really innovative? What are the differences between artistic teaching, creativity and innovation and how do we work out of Steiner’s philosophy and pedagogy but be open to the ideas of others? These thoughts were initiated by the comment from the colleague who said that ‘in Steiner schools we do not innovate, we only follow Rudolf Steiner’s indications’.

Following the Waldorf World Teachers’ Conference in 2008, I also had the opportunity to discuss with many teachers about how Australia might be different to Europe and the rest of the world in its implementation of Steiner education. There were many countries represented and teachers discussed the strong European influence on the Waldorf curriculum and how they were all adapting to the needs of their country, location, religious influences and historical contexts. I then reflected on what Burrows, L and Stehlik, T. wrote in their introduction to their book:

“…it is indeed timely to begin generating our own grassroots approach to Steiner education in Australia arising out of our own unique context and land, inclusive of local and global knowing and practice.” (2)

They also wrote:

“…in the light of new technologies and social forms, globalisation, inclusion, mass communication and evolving trends in education – it [is] timely to review just how Steiner education in Australia has managed to maintain a commitment to the original indications and impulse of that first school and curriculum over the last fifty-five years, while also adapting to and acknowledging local and contemporary impulses and contexts, including the unique indigenous history and multicultural origins of our modern society.“

I was then inspired by reading a book a few years ago called “World Class Learners” by international educational leader, Yong Zhao (3) and finally heard him speak at a leadership conference last year in Sydney about the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit in the 21st century and his research about what types of jobs might be required for the future. Researchers believe that kindergarten students today may need to invent their own jobs when they go into the workforce, or that as adults they might change their career over 10 times! This means they will need to have certain qualities in order to be successful in the future global economy where automation and high scale production of Western goods in the East, will decrease job opportunities in currently prosperous economies.

Yong Zhao states:

“To prepare global, creative and entrepreneurial talents … The most desirable education, of course, is one that enhances human curiosity and creativity, encourages risk taking, and cultivates the entrepreneurial spirit in the context of globalization.” (3)

I ask myself, how can Steiner education do better in developing these qualities?

What will life even be like in 2028? The Centre Online has published a video which I recommend. (4)

How do we prepare kindergarten students for this ever-changing world? Change has never been so rapid as it has been in the past few decades, or in Steiner’s time. The Steiner education movement in each country continually discuss what curriculum changes might be required and how teaching practice and the way we work with students and parents in our communities can continually improve. Not change, for change sake, but really deeply examine with an open mind how our pedagogy meets the needs of the future, always with the foundation of the unfolding consciousness of the human being as its core.

To be truly honest, I believe we can sometimes be a little bit arrogant in Steiner schools, thinking that our way is the only way and we close our minds to opportunities that could well benefit our students, or we dogmatically stick to what we have always done. Christof Wiechert also spoke about this at the Steiner Education Australia conference in July 2017 in Sydney and encouraged us all to deeply reflect on what we do and why. To challenge the status quo.

I was asked to present at a non-Steiner contemporary education conference “K-12 Cultural Innovation” in 2016. Now this really made me think. Are we innovative? The presentation was to be on one of the following themes:

· What are some of the new and emerging concepts that distinguish traditional ideas of schooling from the schools of the future?

· Social purposes of a school

· With changing contexts has there been a change in how our schools are administered?

· How can we embed a culture of change, inquiry and innovation into our schools so that it percolates to every level?

I decided to present on the fourth point, culture of change, inquiry and innovation, hoping that others there would be impressed with what we do and think that was creative or possibly innovative. I outlined innovations in physical spaces, our beautiful learning environments, and teaching practices I hoped they would find innovative.

But to be honest, I was totally humbled by some of the presentations at this conference from other independent schools and state schools. I was greatly impressed, as they showed not only creativity, but a real will to implement radical ideas, test them, review them and prove how they had improved student learning, well-being or social inclusion. Some of their ideas we would never contemplate in a Steiner school, but it didn’t mean they weren’t successful innovations.

Terminology

Discussions about innovation are often made difficult because people are unclear about the exact meanings of some key terms. In particular there is confusion about the difference between creativity, innovation and invention.

There are many definitions but here are some:

Creativity is the capability or act of conceiving something original or unusual.”

Innovation is the implementation of something new.”

Invention is the creation of something that has never been made before and is recognized as the product of some unique insight.”

If you have a group brainstorm and dream up dozens of new ideas, then you have displayed creativity, but there is no innovation until something gets implemented. So is innovation about will development?

Somebody has to take a risk and deliver something new for a creative idea to be turned into an innovation. I believe Rudolf Steiner was an innovator! Most likely every aspect of school life can be targeted for innovation.

Innovations can be incremental or radical. Every improvement that you make in products or services can be seen as an incremental innovation. Most businesses and most managers are good at incremental innovation. They see problems in the current set-up and they fix them. However, radical innovations involve finding an entirely new way to do things therefore they might be risky or difficult to implement.

The reality of schooling today in many countries worldwide is that we have an increased compliance framework, so this is calling on us all to remain creative and implement innovative action to protect the integrity of Steiner education, whilst being accountable and responsible to external requirements. But we must also be open to questioning past practices and determine if it is routine, rhythm or just the way we have always done things around here.

Are you as a teacher creative? I am sure you would all say you were. So now think … are you innovative?

How many teachers borrow programs from each other? Of course, it is good not to reinvent the wheel and we are all very busy people, but think of a time when it was your best lesson, or best story, when the children were truly inspired and engaged or came up with a new way of doing something. Was it a time when you had borrowed something from another teacher or had you really worked at it yourself to create out of your own imagination and implement in the classroom? Or both?

Anthroposophical Principles

To return to Steiner’s quote, „Imbue thyself with the power of imagination“, Steiner is also asking us to call on the spiritual world to support our work, by developing a rich inner life.

Steiner gives us many ways to move forward (or in circles!) on this inner path of knowledge, of working with the spiritual hierarchies and through his lectures and writings he implores teachers as a collective group to work with each other’s strengths. Steiner provided teachers with the College Imagination to call on the support of the spiritual world. This Imagination gives us the inner picture we need for our work and helps us to understand that the Angelic realm unites us with our Strength, a chalice of Courage is formed by the weaving of the Archangels and in this chalice, is placed a drop of Light, of Wisdom, of Inspiration from the Archai.

This brings me to my deeper reflections of what innovation means in the light of anthroposophy.

We might be inspired to create something new (Light of Wisdom), but we must also have the courage to bring a new idea, even if seen as radical, and not be afraid of being criticised by dogmatic, close minded responses, or bogged down by tradition, sleepy with routine and rhythm. When we receive this light of inspiration, to create something new, to form a new idea, then we must also have the strength of WILL to implement it, others we are sleepy with creativity but never truly innovative.

This is what I believe is the difference between creativity and innovation. Steiner gave us a rich tapestry of understanding of the human being and a philosophy by which we can be guided, we just need to recreate his words into what is meaningful for us. It is a fine line between artistic, creative sleepiness and strength of will –to dare to be different, to dare to try new things. To be a risk taker, not risk averse.

We must be role models for our students, so I feel it is important to be innovative, to find new ways of being the risk takers of the world, to model integrity and to be accountable.

Steiner teachers can become very indignant about compliance requirements and then bemoan that their creativity is being stifled. I challenge this type of thinking and I am tired of hearing the complaints as this is the world we live in therefore we need to work in it. Steiner gave us many tools to work our way through what we will face in our time. Think of the Michael Verse by Steiner:

“We must eradicate from the soul

All fear and terror of what comes to meet us from the future

We must look forward with absolute equanimity to whatever comes

For whatever comes is given us by a world direction full of wisdom

It is part of what we must learn in this age

Namely, to act out of pure trust, in the ever-present help of spiritual worlds

Truly, nothing else will do if our courage is not to fail us.

Let us discipline our will, and let us seek the awakening from within ourselves

Every morning and every evening.“ (5)

· Trust in the spiritual worlds – you will receive the drop of light you need, of inspiration to teach artistically, creatively and with a rich inner life.

· Have courage for the truth – be courageous in your ability to speak up and offer something different and be open-minded to others’ ideas.

· Finally discipline your will – turn creative ideas into innovative action – implement!

How many times have you sat in College meetings having brainstorm sessions and great ideas come up, are written down on the board, but nothing ever happens, or maybe a few small things and possibly another year later you are again brainstorming almost the exact same theme?

To truly know the world, look deeply within your own being; to truly know yourself, take a real interest in the world.“ (6)

Before we can have creative, innovative students, we must have creative, innovative teachers! We must prepare young people for the future, for life, not just a job. Many school reforms implemented by policy makers around the world are based on the premise that education is to get a job to keep the economy going. But in Steiner schools we see young people as spiritual beings, unfolding their consciousness in developmental phases and so we base our educational approach on the developmental stages Steiner outlines so well.

However, I challenge you to think …are we stuck? Are we too focused on year by year development? Young people are changing, as their world is changing. The child of 1919 is not the child of 2017. Steiner education is almost 100 years old, therefore we need to deeply observe our students and meet their needs in today’s contemporary society and all its challenges. Global consciousness is impacting on young people as the world is brought to them through tiny digital devices. There are no boundaries, no safety nets anymore. They can only rely on themselves therefore we must find innovative ways to build resilience in young people.

I believe the stages of development as outlined by Steiner are absolutely correct, you can see it unfold in the children’s behaviour, and way of being. But I know that my first class were totally different to my second class and that children today are different to them and so on. Parents are different. Their expectations are different, their fears are greater.

So if children are different and parents are different, why do we ‘mostly’ stick to what we always do without real discussion and the trialling of some innovative ideas? We stubbornly stick to our age grouped classes, yet the smaller new schools are having to manage classes with children spanning 4 years. They are coming up with innovations every day.

Some schools are actually trying new things. One school is conducting Main lesson in middle lesson time for the middle school students as brain research showed adolescent sleep patterns concluding they are too sleepy first thing in the morning to really learn. This same school has a high school maths class with blackboards all around the walls and the students stand up and work in groups to solve maths problems. Another high school has main lessons as the last lesson of the day and ‘will’ activities in the morning to wake up sleepy adolescents.

Schools around the world are becoming ‘movable classrooms’ and all desks and chairs for Class 1 and 2 removed and replaced with light, movable benches and cushions. These schools are implementing review processes to determine the benefits or otherwise of these innovations. I applaud them for trying something against the ‘Steiner norm’.

But I only have a few innovative stories. I am sure there are more but I don’t always hear them. Sometimes this is because people will think what they are doing is ‘not Steiner’ so they hide under the radar for fear of being branded by the dogmatic.

The exciting thing is that creativity is occurring everyday (our heart forces) so we have many opportunities to be innovative, we only have to harness our will and make it happen, then reflect (thinking) on whether it works! Teachers must make evaluative decisions daily, which then impact on their students and qualities they value and how they perceive themselves as learners. This is responsibility of soul, of the soul life of each child in your care.

So I return to Steiner’s last words at the end of Study of Man:

“Imbue thyself with the power of imagination

Have courage for the truth

Sharpen thy feeling for responsibility of soul” (1)

Finally, the OECD states that the over-arching goal of education now is adaptability. “The ability to apply meaningfully learned knowledge and skills flexibly and creatively to different situations” (7)

Are we too routine? Too rhythmical? Too focused on the beautiful blackboard drawings reproduced in beautiful main lesson books? Will we be seen as schools left behind in the industrial revolution model with wooden desks, blackboards and children in rows, or will we be seen as leaders in the educational field, contemporary and fostering qualities in young people they will need for the future?

We have the opportunity to be educational leaders as many educators today are talking about things we have been doing for years, such as moral, ethical, artistic education, focusing on the whole child, balancing the physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. To do this, we need to be on the front foot, be a bit daring, innovative and adaptive to a changing world. What will this look like and what will it mean for teachers in their daily task?

Bibliography

1) Steiner, R. The Study of Man. Lecture: S-3801: 21st August, 1919. GA 0293.

2) Burrows, L. and Stehlik, T. 2014. Teaching with Spirit: New Perspectives on Steiner Education in Australia. I B Publications Pty, Limited. NSW Australia.

3) Zhao, Yong. 2012. World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. SAGE Publications Ltd. London, United Kingdom.

4) The Centre online, 29.12.2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpEFjWbXog0

5) Steiner, Rudolf: Erkenntnis und Unsterblichkeit, Öffentlicher Vortrag, Bremen, 27.11.1910

6) Steiner, Rudolf: Steiner Verses and Meditations. Rudolf Steiner Press. 2004

7) Lucas. B., Claxton, G., Spencer, E. 2013. Expansive Education: Teaching learners for the real world. ACER press. Australia.

Facing Karma – A lecture by Rudolf Steiner.

Vienna, February 8, 1912. Bn 130, GA 130, CW 130

At the end of the two public lectures I have given in this city, I emphasized that anthroposophy should not be considered a theory or mere science, nor as knowledge in the ordinary sense. It is rather something that grows in our souls from mere knowledge and theory into immediate life, into an elixir of life. In this way, anthroposophy not only provides us with knowledge, but we receive forces that help us in our ordinary lives during physical existence as well as in the total life that we spend during physical existence and the non-physical existence between death and a new birth. The more we experience anthroposophy as bringing to us strength, support and life renewing energies, the more do we understand it.

Upon hearing this, some may ask, “If anthroposophy is to bring us a strengthening of life, why do we have to acquire so much of what appears to be theoretical knowledge? Why are we virtually pestered at our branch meetings with descriptions about the preceding planetary evolutions of our earth? Why do we have to learn about things that took place long ago? Why do we have to acquaint ourselves with the intimate and subtle laws of reincarnation, karma and so on?”

Some people may believe that they are being offered just another science. This problem, which forces itself upon us, demands that we eliminate all easy and simplistic approaches toward answering it. We must carefully ask ourselves whether, in raising this question, we are not introducing into it some of the easy-going ways of life that become manifest when we are reluctant to learn and to acquire something in a spiritual way. This is an uncomfortable experience for us and we are forced to wonder whether something of this attitude of discomfort does not find expression in the question that is being asked. As it is, we are led to believe that the highest goal that anthroposophy may offer us can be attained on easier roads than on that taken by us through our own literature.

It is often said, almost nonchalantly, that man has only to know himself, that all he has to do in order to be an anthroposophist is to be good. Yes, it is profound wisdom to know that to be a good person is one of the most difficult tasks, and that nothing in life demands more in the way of preparation than the realization of this ideal to be good. The problem of self-knowledge, however, cannot be solved with a quick answer, as many are inclined to believe. Therefore, today, we will shed light on some of these questions that have been raised. We then will come to see how anthroposophy meets us, even if only by appearance, as a teaching or as a science, but that it also offers in an eminent sense a path toward self- knowledge and what may be called the pilgrimage toward becoming a good person. To accomplish this we must consider from different points of view how anthroposophy can be fruitful in life.

Let us take a specific question that does not concern scientific research, but everyday life — a question known to all of us. How can we find comfort in life when we have to suffer in one way or another, when we fail to find satisfaction in life? In other words, let us ask ourselves how anthroposophy can offer comfort and consolation when it is really needed. Obviously, what can be said here only in general terms must always be applied to one’s own individual case. If one lectures to many people, one can only speak in generalities.

Why do we need comfort, consolation in life? Because we may be sad about a number of events, or because we suffer as a result of pains that afflict us. It is natural that, at first, man reacts to pain as though he is rebelling inwardly against it. He wonders why he has to stand pain. “Why am I afflicted by this pain? Why is life not arranged for me in such a way that I don’t suffer pain, that I am content?” These questions can only be answered satisfactorily on the basis of true knowledge concerning the nature of human karma, of human destiny. Why do we suffer in the world? We refer here to outer as well as to inner sufferings that arise in our psychic organization and leave us unfulfilled. Why are we met by such experiences that leave us unsatisfied?

Read the full lecture at the Rudolf Steiner Archive here

Listen to the lecture by Rudolf Steiner audio here

In thy thinking cosmic thoughts are living;
Lose thyself in cosmic thoughts.
In thy feeling cosmic forces are weaving;
Feel thyself through cosmic forces.
In thy willing cosmic beings are working;
Create thyself through beings of will.

A Healthy Emotional Diet

with thanks to Mary Heard of simplicityparenting.com

Long after our children are weaned they continue to feed off our emotions. That is why it is so important right now to stay out of our ‘fight or flight’ response as much as possible, to be a safe harbour for our children and to prevent anxiety from polluting their childhood. ‘Simplicity Parenting’ author Kim John Payne explains how children’s learning and development functions can be ‘hijacked’ by stress. As parents our task is to create filters to protect our children from the deluge of adult information, pressures and concerns and to allow them to grow up with a sense of confidence and trust in the world.

We protect our children by regulating our own internal world as well as by being conscious of the adult conversation our children are exposed to. Children do not have the mental faculties to process a lot of adult information. For a young child this information does not prepare them for the adult world, indeed it is the gentle experience of a protected childhood that provides them with the resilience and strength of character that allows them to deal with the harsh realities of life as they grow up. The words of the adult world can be experienced by children as emotional and verbal clutter, what they mainly hear is the emotion running through the words and if this emotion is fear, our children will feel afraid.

So we need to be very careful right now. Just as we would not expose our children to physical dangers, we need to use the same vigilance around emotional dangers. We need to create boundaries around the adult world, taking care of these concerns ourselves and meeting our responsibilities as adults while honouring the sanctity and freedom of childhood. Children need to relax knowing that we are capable of taking care of the adult world for them. We need to be careful that the adult information they receive is processed so as not to cause them any alarm and that they are not privy to any inappropriate adult conversation.

It is so easy in these turbulent times to forget about what is most important, like our children’s emotional wellbeing and development. We do not want worry and fear to pervade the atmosphere of our family lives. We need to be the strong foundation for our children and to move through the world in a way that sets a good example because when they are young it is our actions that really count.

So it is important as parents that we exercise discipline. Simplicity Parenting recommends that we limit our exposure to media that informs rather than alarms. This will help us to navigate this territory calmly and to stay grounded for our children. It is so tempting to get caught up in conversations and media that reinforce our views about what is going on right now but as parents of young children that is a luxury we can’t really afford. We need to put our children first in this situation, to be there for them as much as we can and to be a ‘lighthouse’ for them in turbulent seas.

Discipline And The Four Pillars Of Simplicity

An excerpt from The Soul of Discipline, by Kim John Payne, M. Ed

How to Dial Back the Outside Pressures

“Before simplifying our family life, whatever I said to my kids seemed to set them off and make them goofy or defiant. After calming down the pace of our days and giving more down time, everything became easier. What I especially noticed was that when I had to give a direction or make a transition, my kids would come along in a much better way.” With the growth of the Simplicity Parenting community and practices, like this mother who made this comment, countless parents have experienced a direct relationship between dialing back the pace and pressure of daily life with improvements in their kids’ behavior.

There are four key ways you can immediately reduce these pressures and prevent a child from becoming disoriented and pushing back against your directions. If you’ve read my book, Simplicity Parenting, some of these concepts will be familiar to you, but it’s important to revisit them in the context of discipline:

1. Balance and simplify the amount of stuff your child or teen has (i.e. books, toys, clothes)

2. Strengthen rhythm and predictability

3. Balance and simplify the amount of scheduled activities

4. Filter out the amount of adult conversation

In a follow-up article, we will take this one step further by looking at the huge behavioral benefits of filtering out the adult world by going low-screen or noscreen.

One: Simplifying the Amount of Stuff

A great starting point for dialing it down is to clear out the clutter. Reduce the number of books, toys, clothes, gadgets and other extraneous items in a kid’s room and around the house in general. Countless parents have reported that, when they reduce physical clutter, their child’s or teen’s behavior improves. This makes sense if you consider what happens in the mental and emotional life of a child when she has less. When you have fewer things, what you do have becomes precious. And if you are playing with other kids, you learn how to share what little you have. The more a child’s imagination becomes fired up by one little object—that blanket they’re putting over a frame, those two cars they drive along the living room rug, that plank of wood that becomes a roof—whatever it is, it’s very likely they will find multiple uses for it, since there aren’t that many other options. When this happens, the limbic system and the frontal lobe of your child’s brain, which stimulate collaboration and cooperation, are encouraged to develop. The limbic system is critical for emotional processing and behavior and has also been connected to the development of emotional health, social cooperation and empathy.

Parents who have adopted the Simplicity approach say things like, “When I’ve got less stuff around, my three kids actually fight less. Isn’t that strange?” It may seem counterintuitive. But, in fact, when there are fewer things to play with, kids have to collaborate more. They can’t dart about from one toy or digital device to another, a behavior pattern that stimulates the amygdala, which in turn triggers our primal flight-or-fight response. A child with too many toys and gadgets is likely to develop unhealthy play, rather than good, creative interaction. The area of brain that develops as a child learns to find multiple uses for a single toy is also related to the building up of social cooperation. The positive changes in behavior and cooperation you see when you simplify your child’s or teen’s home environment may appear magical, but they are grounded in developmental fact.

Having your children play in a cooperative way means a parent needs to arbitrate much less to sort out conflicts. Why wait until there is fighting over toys to be forced to intervene remove them? Do it proactively and enjoy the giggles and long moments of quiet play with the few simple toys you thoughtfully provide.

Read the full article at simplicityparenting.com

This link will take you to The Simplicity Parenting Podcast with Kim John Payne 

Inner Gardening – Food Garden Consciousness Raising Tips

with thanks to Peter Kearney myfoodgarden.com.au

Inner gardening is a pathway to improving your well being and one of the best places to start this journey is in your food garden.

Successful food growing in urban environments is a juggling act. There are so many factors to manage and its easy to think that growing food is purely about the materials you use and grow. How you are in the garden, not just what you do, has a profound affect on its success.

Why not devote some of your valuable time to cultivate a more beneficial state of mind when your are in the food garden, some inner gardening. In my experience, mastery of this inner gardening will not only reveal a green thumb, but also create a flow in the rest of your life.

The garden will then present you with a twofold opportunity: to grow healthy food and to raise your consciousness (inner gardening). There is a very subtle interplay between using the garden for inner gardening and what you receive back from the garden in healthy soil and plants and a beautiful energy that makes you want to give your time in exchange for its gifts.

Here are some tips on doing inner gardening and achieving a better outer garden at the same time:

  • Observation –  Develop the discipline to check in on the garden each day and walk slowly around it, as if you were greeting friends. Look at what is changing, what needs help and attempt to appreciate the state of the whole garden environment before jumping to conclusions on specific issues. Move what you have observed in the garden around in your thinking without getting too emotional and then decide to act.
  • Attitude – Be very careful with your attitude when you are working in the garden. A deep concentration on the beauty of the garden and the purpose of your physical work, rather than what you weren’t happy with at the office that day, will help you see things in the garden that you would not normally notice and act in more appropriate way
  • Quiet time – Select a time in the day when you sit in the garden and either concentrate on its beauty or meditate. Try to maintain a very concentrated and quiet state of mind. You will be surprised at how energised you feel after this.
  • Focus on purpose – Be clear on your purpose when entering the garden and concentrate your intentions on that purpose.

I am sure you will see from each of these tips that they could apply to virtually anything you do in life that is complex.

Its interesting in working with biodynamic food growing methods in the context of inner gardening. The impact of biodynamic (BD) soil and plant preparations (preps) is enhanced with a strong intention on their positive purpose when you are preparing and applying the preparations. This intention flows energetically into the BD preps. This series of articles from the 2018 International biodynamics conference has some very interesting research on the impact of the gardener or farmer intention when using BD preps.

Happy inner gardening: Peter Kearney www.myfoodgarden.com.au

It’s Time to Talk About Angels: A Matter of the Heart

By DEBORAH CRAYDON – Certified Flower Essence Practitioner

Angels are real and many children experience them. We’re moving into a time when closer contact with Angels is happening so it’s good to talk about them.

Rudolf Steiner said that by the end of the 20th century, a new stream of children coming to Earth would have what he called ‘the fifth chamber of the heart’ in seed form. This new heart chamber is etheric in nature, not physical. It’s been present since the 1980s in children and before that in many adults. It’s that place in the heart where you know everything. And more and more children know everything. In particular, they know what you’re thinking and if what you say is true or not. Unless they become damaged, this faculty is there because they are using the heart, not the head, as their organ of cognition. This new etheric chamber in the heart contains an opening into the spiritual world. When this gateway opens, the Angels are there on the other side.

The color of this opening is Indigo and leads to the inner spiritual world of Violet. In Violet you connect with the inner altar of the Earth; the Earth becomes a living being for you. This is the threshold that humanity is passing through at this time. Indigo-dyed blue jeans are the most popular clothing and children are sometimes called Indigo. This is why.

This doorway that’s opening between here and there is transparent for many children. Young people into their late twenties and thirties are also keeping this doorway open, although it’s taking an effort due to media interference. There’s resistance as well. Little children happily speak about their experiences with their Angels and invisible companions. Later, young people often recoil from this type of talk. Why is this? What’s wrong with talking about Angels?

The one piece of information that comes easily to the question of why we’re here is that we have free will. We learn right away that we get to decide. If your heart tells you what’s right, and your head or will aren’t interested, you might create what you want, because you have the right to do so. There’s a right and wrong thing to do at any given moment. When listening with your heart, the Angels will tell you what’s right for you at the moment. Fear that this may impede your own personal will or thoughts is part of the resistance to Angels, especially from young people.

It’s very important that this door to the heart stays open. There’s something happening, and with special intensity since 1999, that comes from the Angels. They are seeding humanity with thoughts of universal brotherhood. And they are whispering secrets about who we truly are. This is having the effect for each one of us to begin having real interest in the other person, no matter who they are. Sensing that who we are is beyond what we imagined, this interest in the other is a seed that can take root and grow, when the heart door remains open.

It’s hard not to talk about Angels without mentioning Rudolf Steiner, since he said so much about them. The main thing he said is that we now have to ask for help from the Angelic hierarchies. They can’t help us anymore until we ask. We’re required to become co-creators with the spiritual world. Geoffrey Hodson wrote about this development in his classic book The Brotherhood of Angels and Men.

Lorna Byrne, who has seen Angels since she was a baby, has written two books about them recently: Angels in My Hair, and Stairways to Heaven. She says that she has never seen a single human being who wasn’t accompanied by their guardian Angel. Here’s how you can see them too: Gaze softly about two feet behind a person and you’ll have the impression of what looks like a sword of light about a yard tall, standing from about the mid-back up over the head. This is the guardian Angel in closed form.

One of the greatest tools a parent has is to pray for help to the guardian Angel of their children. When your child gets older, rather than communicating directly; silently asking that your combined Angels bring harmony between you works well, even in seemingly impossible situations. Parents have the right and the obligation to envision the highest good for their children. Unless you have an intuition that something is wrong, striving to envision a perfect outcome for them is more helpful than worry.

Flower essences are natural remedies that are over-lighted by Angels, or Devas of the plant world. They are wonderful tools to help children and young people keep this new door open in the heart. When young people doubt and experience pain, they may become open to this modality. While they may not understand that it will be connecting them to the Angels of flowers, they are grateful when they receive heart-based answers to difficult questions, through their influence.

Read the full article at waldorftoday.com

How to show kindness even to people you don’t like or don’t agree with …and why it’s so important, especially this year.

From bodyandsoul.com.au. Click to listen to the podcast with Hugh

Social psychologist Hugh Mackay has literally written the book on kindness. Here, he shows us simple steps to extend the olive branch to all.

The phrase it’s a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world exists for a reason. We’ve slowly become a society built on climbing ladders, winning and having an ‘all costs’ approach to pretty much everything we do.

So when the bushfires hit at the start of 2020, followed by an unprecedented global pandemic that brought our dog-eat-dog culture to its knees, a dynamic shifted.

We started noticing the old man down the street who couldn’t get his groceries, dropping extra toilet roll over to the next door neighbor during #tpgate, and ultimately attacking a pandemic with the one thing we could – a collective kindness and respect that was as unparalleled as the situation itself.

Speaking on Body+Soul’s daily podcast Healthy-ish, social psychologist Hugh Mackay says, “Notice how people are talking about the ‘new normal’, which is implying that given all that’s happened, we don’t just want to slip back into being stressed, anxious, individualistic, overwhelmed, too much travel, too much stuff – filling up, too much time with too much activity.”

“As we always learn, whether it’s fires, floods, illness or even a personal catastrophe like a bereavement or a relationship breakdown or retrenchment – we learn what it means to be human,” he tells host Felicity Harley on the Healthy-ish episode Hugh Mackay’s simple ways to be kinder every day.

“What it means to be human is that we belong to a social species, that we actually need each other, and that we are hopeless in isolation…The big lesson we learnt in the pandemic was to be kind and respectful to each other.”

Mackay encountered thousands of random acts of kindness during the research for his new book The Kindness Revolution.

The pandemic was in a way, a great equalizer. Not in the sense that everyone has had the same experience of it (that has certainly not been equal), but it’s equal because it does not discriminate. Everyone and anyone can be struck down.

It reminds us that there’s something above religion, ethnicity, background, beliefs, values – we’re all human. Mackay believes that we have the capacity to be kind to everyone, even those we don’t like or don’t agree with.

“We’re capable of being kind to people we don’t agree with. Kindness alone amongst the human expressions or the expressions of human love, kindness is the one that doesn’t require any emotion at all.”

If you’re about to say that you find it really hard to be kind to people you dislike, that’s true. Mackay isn’t saying it’s easy.

It’s about separating love and affection and kindness. You don’t have to agree, or be friends with, or work with someone if they aren’t one of your ‘people’ but it doesn’t mean you can’t still show them kindness and respect.

“`If you talk politics and your blood is going to boil, don’t talk politics. Or if you have to talk politics, you can say, ‘Look, respectfully, I need you to know I don’t actually buy any of that. I get that you do and there are a lot of people who think like you, but I’m not one of them’. That’s okay.”

“That can be done with a smile. You can terminate a relationship kindly. You can terminate someone’s employment kindly. You can ask the neighbour to train their dog to stop barking at 2am kindly. You can do all these things kindly or not. It’s a choice we make. And yes, sometimes it is, it is hard. But let’s remember the dream.”

As a child kindness is something that’s drummed into us. Say sorry, say thank you, have manners, be generous, be respectful – how does that get lost in a world of adulthood?

The truth is, we’re all so wrapped up in everything that it can be hard to separate ourself and our actions from how it makes others feel. A dose of kindness might be all we need.

And that ‘dream’ Mackay is talking about?

“What kind of society do we dream of? I’m sure we dream of a society in which there’s no war, no violence…our dream is of a place where we’re kind to each other regardless of prejudices and differences, religious, ethnic, political or whatever,” he says.

“So if that’s the dream, there is only one way to make it come true, and that is to be committed to living as if this is that kind of society.”

The best bit is there are steps you can take today. Mackay recommends following his C-A-R-E model (connect, accept, respect, engage).

Connect
“Connect means whenever you encounter someone, it’s very simple. The act of kindness is simply to smile or say G’Day or wave across the street to someone, just something that indicates to that person that you acknowledge their existence on the planet. And given that the deepest of all human social needs is the need to be taken seriously, to be acknowledged, to be recognised, etc., even a smile, even G’Day, can lift someone’s spirits.”

Accept
“The ‘A’ is accept. We need to accept people as they are. We don’t have to like them, as I’ve been saying, we can be kind to anyone regardless of their situation. We don’t disqualify them from our kindness because we happen to disagree with them or not.”

Respect
“The R is respect. We need to respect each other simply because we are all part of this thing. In the pandemic, we were fond of saying ‘we’re all in this together’. We’re in life together. We humans exist in this shimmering, vibrating web of interconnectedness. We can’t afford to be selective in the respect we show towards our fellow humans.”

Engaged
“Get to know your neighbours, be part of your neighbourhood, join a choir, join a discussion group or book club, a community garden or anything – so that you’re in touch with the life of the local community to the extent that you become aware of needs, that that’s why we need to engage so we know when people need us.”

Find out more about Hugh’s book The Kindness Revolution (Allen & Unwin, $32.99), here.

Teens, smartphones and how to get it right

Presenter: Maggie Dent

Teenagers love their phones. All day. Every day. Even at night. And while there are lots of really great things about smartphones, there are so many pitfalls — strangers, bullying, porn, sexting. How do you guide your teenager’s digital life? Find out when Maggie Dent talks with Dr Ginni Mansberg, GP and co-author of The New Teen Age, a book which looks at what teenagers are up against on their devices.

To listen please click here

To hear Maggie’s top tips on teens, smartphones and how to get it right, scroll to 19:30.

John Marsden’s tips for parents

1. Give children space. Back off. Let them roam. Let them be bored. Don’t over-plan their lives. Cut way back on the after-school activities programs.

2. Keep away from all those ghastly, soulless, sterile playgrounds. Keep away from shopping malls. Look for real places. Wild places.

3. Be an adult. Say no to your children at least once a day. If the role of Adult in your family is vacant, then one of your children will fill it. And it won’t be pretty.

4. Don’t take up all the space. If you are dominating, loud, forceful, your children are highly likely to become passive, lacking spirit and personality … and/or sullen.

5. Believe about 40 per cent of the dramatic stories your children tell you of the injustices, corruption and satanic practices happening at school.

6. Teach them empathy. For example, after their jubilant victory celebrations when they win a sporting match, remind them that their jubilation was only possible because someone else – the losers – have been made to feel awful.

7. Help them develop language skills. Don’t finish their sentences for them. Don’t correct them when they mispronounce a word – they’ll work it out sooner or later. Ask them open-ended questions, that need a detailed answer, not Yes/No questions.

8. Make sure they have regular jobs/duties at home and that those jobs are done to a consistently high standard.

9. Don’t whinge endlessly about the miseries of your adult life. A lot of children now are fearful about growing up because their parents paint such a grim picture of the awfulness ahead.

10. Teach them to be very wary of people who Absolutely Know the Absolute Truth about Absolutely Everything! The colour of truth is always grey. Extreme positions are for the ignorant. Every creature, every person and every situation is complex. The universe is a wonderful mystery.

In Difficult Times: How Do I Find and Create Goodness for My Children?

by Susan Weber

In difficult times such as these it is not easy to feel the goodness in life. In an external crisis, our urge is often to listen and see the news and to share our feelings with other adults. As a consequence, it is easy for the children around us to be exposed to things that they cannot understand, to become fearful about situations they will never see and cannot change even if we think that the media or adult conversations are not attended to by the children. Even pre-verbal children can sense profoundly the distress in our inner being.

But nothing brings stamina for life and daily wellbeing to our children more directly and strongly than surrounding them and immersing them into an atmosphere of goodness and joy. For us as adults, the message they seek from us is this:
“I am happy to be alive; I am interested in the world around me and I want to find a place for myself within it.”

Children are born with an openness to meet what their lives will bring. Despite their individual destinies and challenges, this openness is present and as the adults in the child’s world, we have tremendous potential to cultivate this openness.

For the child just beginning life, there is one single mantra that needs to guide those early steps and years: the world is good. No other belief will carry him forward through the tumbles and stumbles, through the mysteries of his encounters with confidence and eagerness. Without this overarching rainbow of trust in life around and above them, children shrink back into themselves, lose the shine in their eyes, forgo the impulse to experiment, to see things as the adults around them never have, to imagine new solutions to the simplest experiments – piling blocks, washing a dish, dressing themselves upside down.

The world is good – and therefore I enter into it, explore it, wonder, stop and look, touch, encounter, meet what comes to me with interest and growing confidence.

Fear paralyzes children – it reverses children’s natural gesture of trust, openness, and interest in the world. To develop in any way – cognitively, emotionally, physically – children need to be able to enter easily into life around them. They need to feel welcome, and above all, safe. For who of us is able to take risks, try new things, when we have a question about the safety of our surroundings?

There are times when circumstances beyond our control create uncertainty or worse for our families. In addition, we could also say that our times are, in fact, uncertain times. At the same time, however, our children are just beginning their lives. We owe to them their birthright: the world is good, and I am grateful and happy to be in it. It is a safe place for me to grow in. And later, much later, I will be able to take on its pain and burdens. But give me time, peace, and space in which to discover the goodness in life for myself, in which to grow strong, capable, brave, and enthusiastic for life. Protect me from the challenges of adulthood until I am ready.

How can we do this for them?

  • We can protect them from information that they cannot comprehend or digest – saving our adult conversations for later, turning off televisions and radios in their presence.
  • Give them the strength building elements of rhythm, form in daily life, predictability, that reassure them of the goodness and security of each day.

I was once told that young children are very good observers, but poor interpreters. I, and many parents as well, have found this to be true. Whether it be the large world and its sphere of difficulties, political situations near and far, our professional work and its daily challenges, our own personal frustrations, angers and fears – young children are not able to interpret any of these. None of these are a suitable menu for young children who cannot digest it. It all then goes inside of them to then be expressed in ways that we ourselves may not correlate with what they might have heard, for information about these realms of life will often bring anxiety, nervousness, fear, withdrawal, sleepless nights, or aggressive behavior.

As the adults in their lives, we have the possibility to stand there beside the children with confidence for life offering them a model for imitation. We lead them out into our world: we walk alongside them. We have seen much, experienced much. It is an amalgam of joy, of pain, suffering, discovery, celebration, disappointment – and at times of fear, questioning. All these experiences and feelings will have come to us by the time we reach parenthood. As adults, we have tremendous freedom to explore these feelings, to reflect upon our own experiences. If we as adults listen to the outer world as it often presents itself, how do we then find our own paths to believing confidently in the goodness of the world? It is of utmost significance that we strive toward this belief, for our children look to us for signals, for images of where to begin seeking their places in the world. They imitate our deepest inmost feelings and beliefs, and these carry them far as pillars of strength when they require it.

Take a walk, find your way into nature, hold deep in memory the most recent good thing we have encountered. Begin and end your day with gratitude for the good in our lives – however challenging this may feel at moments. Pick a tiny bouquet of wildflowers or seasonal things from the nature just outside our doors – the wonder of one snowdrop or crocus in spring bloom emerging through the receding snow, a single acorn, one brightly polished apple – each of these can remind us of the wonder and miracles of the universe. Look up at the stars in the heavens and ponder the miracle that all over the earth human beings are united by experiencing the same starry heavens above them. Find a poem, even if you have never thought of poetry as your interest – just a few lines – copy it onto a piece of paper and put it on your refrigerator. Recall a human relationship that has helped you along your way. And see if, step by tiny step, you can rediscover, in difficult times, that the world truly is good.

Rudolf Steiner offers us a verse that can bring us strength in difficult times:

Steadfast I stand in the world
With certainty I tread the path of life
Love I cherish in the core of my being
Hope I carry into every deed
Confidence I imprint upon my thinking.
These five lead me to my goal
These five give me my existence.

From waldorfearlychildhood.org

Young people, Sexting, and the laws you need to know

When we were teenagers, sharing a nude or semi-nude image of ourselves wasn’t even a thing, so it’s no wonder it is incredibly worrying and stressful for many parents.

Research conducted by the Australian Government in 2018 found that 33% of teens aged 12-19 were engaging in some form of sexting activity either with a boyfriend/girlfriend, friend, or other. We are confident in saying that this figure has risen substantially in the last four years since this research was released, and a more recent study is quoting that up to 70% of tweens and 87% of teens have been exposed to nude images online.

The peer pressure on teens today to fit in and share nudes is unprecedented and is also a double-edged sword in most cases. If they share an intimate image, they are often critiqued for their bodies and judged for sharing, and if they don’t share, they are also evaluated for being boring and considered not ‘worth it’ by their peers or crush.

For a lot of young people, sexting is often fun and consensual. Teens often see sexting as part of building relationships and self-confidence and exploring sexuality, bodies, and their sexual identities.

To most adults, sexting is risky, dangerous, and illegal. Yes, this is the case. There are risks, and teenagers can be pressured into sexting, but it isn’t always simple.

Young people DO worry about their images being shared with other people including friends and family members.

Many try to reduce this risk by making images without their face and send only for people they trust, and with whom they have or hope to have a romantic or intimate relationship. But some teenagers do send sexual images to people they’ve never met.

So what can parents of tweens and teens do?

Discuss this topic with any tween or teen child in your house with a device or phone. We experience that kids discuss these topics and share their experiences around this in the schoolyard way before we think they are old enough to discuss it. Early discussions and open conversations ensure that kids feel safe to discuss it at home with you, and a lot of potential problems are cut-off and dealt with quickly. We always suggest a good place to have these conversations is one on one in the car. They are beside you or behind you and it is less intimidating to a teen rather than sitting across a table face to face.

Young people want to be able to talk openly and honestly with their parents about sexting. But often this is not possible.  If you are a parent, talking with your child is the best way to help them learn about the risks and what to do if something goes wrong.

As parents, we need to talk about what sexting is and what to do if they see or receive a nude or a sexy selfie and the laws around this. What the risks of sexting are. Whether sexting can be part of a respectful relationship. The younger you start talking about this the better.

Here are some questions that can get a conversation going:

Do you know people at school who’ve sent or received nude?

Do they do it for fun or to flirt?

Was it their idea to send the photo, or did someone persuade them to?

What do you know about people sharing sexual images of someone to get revenge?

Do you have any questions about things you’ve heard?

Do you understand the law?

If your child has questions about sexting, try to answer them as honestly and openly as you can. If you have concerns about the risks of sexting, you could explain your concerns and why you’d prefer your child didn’t send sexts.

Once you’ve started talking about sexting with your child, you might find talking gets easier the more you do it.

Get familiar with the law

Make sure your child knows the legalities and laws around sharing intimate images. Please get to know your own state’s legislation and discuss it with your child. For example, even sharing personal photos between two similarly aged children is illegal in all states in Australia until sixteen years old. (or older in some states). We have added all the state laws at the end of this email.

Discuss and explain

Even private messages or messages that seemingly disappear are not private. Screenshots, screen recordings, and forwarding images can happen with a couple of taps on a smartphone. Once an intimate image is shared with someone, there is no way to control what happens to the image once it’s sent. Discuss with them how it might make them feel if a photo of theirs was shared? Empower them to understand that there are laws to protect them from image-based abuse and sextortion should this happen to them. Encourage teens to think about what could happen if they broke up or fell out with someone who had sexual images of them. For example, that person might share sexual images to get revenge. You could also explain that once images are on the internet they can be very difficult to remove. It’s also important to help your child understand the legal consequences of sexting and image-based abuse.

Come up with a plan together

Talk about what they can do or say if they are asked for a nude or have a nude sent to them. By helping them plan for the eventuality of being asked, they can make an informed choice and decision instead of acting under the pressure of the situation.

Explain that sexting is sexual activity. All sexual acts – including sexting – need consent from a partner. (they cannot legally consent under 16yrs). Breaching consent by sharing a sext isn’t respectful or OK. It’s also not OK to share other people’s sexts or to send a nude to someone who hasn’t asked for one. It’s important for teens to know that they have a right to say ‘no’. For example, ‘It’s never OK for someone to pressure you into doing anything sexual, including sending sexual photos of yourself’. It’s also a good idea for teens to practise saying no by just saying, ‘No, I don’t send nudes’.

If young people have seen sexting photos of another teen they might feel guilty, ashamed, and uncomfortable about doing ordinary things like going to school or socialising. The situation can be very humiliating, and their reputation may have been damaged.

It can also harm friendships and social network.

Sexting can expose them to bullying or cyberbullying. For example, when people share images, they might also post nasty comments, attack their reputation, call them names, ask for more images or make other inappropriate demands. Often girls get more of this kind of bullying and criticism than boys. This is because some people apply different standards to girls and boys. This situation can lead to mental health issues like depression and self-harm in extreme cases. We also regularly hear of ASD kids, others with learning disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ kids purposefully targeted.

As scary as the nude and sexting culture is, the reality is that our young people are dealing with it regularly. But as with any issue, education and empowerment is the key to resilience!

To read the “Laws you need to know about” please read the full article here

For more tips and hints, check out the Safe on Social Toolkit. www.safeonsocialtoolkit.com

Access CBRSS Safe on Social resources here

Art Gallery of NSW exhibition of work by Swedish artist, spiritualist and medium Hilma af Klint a ‘wake up call’

Spending time with the paintings of Hilma af Klint feels a little like having the furniture in your psyche gently rearranged.

Her visual language – marked by botanical illustrations, refractions of light and colour, spiralling snail shells and swans, coded letters and colours – tilts at the complexities of the human experience and our place within the cosmos but defies the brain’s attempts to pin down meaning.

It’s not surprising that so many describe viewing the Swedish artist’s paintings as a spiritual or wonder-filled experience.

Writing about her “flabbergasting” work in The New Yorker, art critic Peter Schjeldahl described af Klint’s work as having a “transcendent intensity”.

So why are we only really learning about her now? And why is she having such a profound effect on so many of us?

When af Klint died in 1944, she left behind more than 1,300 paintings and over 26,000 pages of typed and handwritten notebooks – a fraction of which is currently on display in the major exhibition Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW).

Her work and research was initially withheld from the world at her own behest, but then disregarded by an art establishment not much interested in re-writing the history of early-20th century modernism, particularly to make room for a woman considered more mystic than artist.

This is despite the astonishing fact that af Klint’s earliest abstract works precede the likes of art historical greats (and men) Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian and Kasimir Malevich – the so-called ‘fathers of Abstract art’.

But it’s not just af Klint’s art-historical significance, or even her formative experiences as a female artist and spiritualist, that make her so compelling — though these are important facts. It’s that her work and messages continue to feel so utterly contemporary.

Perhaps because she knew she was painting them for us? But we’ll get to that.

Af Klint was born into an aristocratic naval family in Sweden in 1862 and went on to study at Stockholm’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts (one of the first colleges in Europe to accept women, however modest their ambitions for their female students may have been).

Af Klint’s family was supportive of her education, and outside the Academy she was also educated in science, botany, map-making, mathematics and astronomy.

For Sue Cramer, who co-curated the AGNSW exhibition, this evidence of af Klint’s intelligence, curiosity and deep research into the scientific and spiritual discoveries of the time should put paid to any lingering romantic ideas of af Klint as a recluse or quack.

Much has been made of af Klint’s spirituality and work as a medium, but her interests in spiritualism and theosophy were not unusual for the time. It was, historically speaking, a period of genuine wonder, with discoveries such as radioactivity and quantum theory demonstrating the existence of things beyond the visible, while psychoanalysts including Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were also beginning their enquiries into the unconscious mind.

At the same time, “the tenets of civilisation were being greatly questioned in the aftermath of the wars, and she was part of all of that”, says Cramer.

Cramer reflects: “It was a period of intense questioning. And although she [af Klint] was a Christian, she believed in the idea of flexible thinking, and in open-ended truths and inquiry. She didn’t believe in black and white … but in the blending and harmonies of things.”

In 1879, at the age of just 17, af Klint participated in her first spiritualist séance, and two years later claimed to have received her first messages from spiritual beings. In 1896 she founded De Fem (The Five), a spiritual group with four other female artist friends.

De Fem conducted seances, painted, and undertook automatic drawings, claiming to receive messages and predictions from other realms through guides they called “High Masters”.

While af Klint would continue to paint and occasionally exhibit her more traditional portraits and landscapes during this time, Cramer suggests that it was (somewhat ironically) her gender that gave her the space to make her more spiritual works.

“Because she was marginalised, she was forced to work outside the strictures. She found a space through spiritualism where she could realise this extraordinary artistic ability that she had, this vision.

In 1906 af Klint reported receiving a commission from one of the High Masters, called Amaliel, to create a series of works that would become known as The Paintings for the Temple.

By 1915, af Klint had completed a staggering 193 paintings, many of which are included in the AGNSW exhibition.

The exhibition opens with works from the very first series for the Temple, Primordial Chaos, and closes with the three Altarpieces from 1915, which marked the conclusion of the so-called ‘commission’.

Af Klint’s series The Ten Largest, given its own room in the exhibition, is absolutely jaw-dropping. Created in 1907 and painted in bursts of four days at a time, these 10 dazzling and staggeringly large paintings (3 metres high each) meld geometric forms, spiritual diagrams, strange scientific languages, and coded symbols, in arrestingly bright colours.

Af Klint spoke of them as documenting the human life cycle, and they do seem to thrum with a strange life force.

Frustratingly for curious fans and art historians alike, af Klint didn’t write much about the experience of receiving her visions.

Elsewhere, however, af Klint wrote of the spirits standing beside her, and of her disobeying them.

“It has emerged that there was a dialogue between them and that she was very active in her decision to take on this commission that Amaliel offered her,” says Cramer.

“So more has emerged about the complexity of that, which goes hand in hand with her as a really informed person who’s bringing ideas of science and botany, and the religious ideas of her time [to these conversations]. And so, we start to get a much deeper idea of where these works are coming from.”

So much for the origins and intentions of af Klint’s work; but what about where it went?

In 1908, with The Paintings for The Temple already underway, af Klint met Rudolph Steiner, one of the leaders of the Theosophical movement, and showed him some of her work. It’s not known what he said, but many have noted the four-year break af Klint took from Amaliel’s commission shortly after.

Nevertheless, af Klint continued to follow Steiner’s teachings and to paint her more conventional landscapes and portraits, which don’t feature in the exhibition here.

Read the full article by the ABC here

Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings is at the Art Gallery of NSW until September 19.

Read about Hilma af Klint and her connection to Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy at reverseritual.com here

Listen to an ABC podcast about Hilma af Klint here

Marlon and the octopus – Marlon is in Class 8 at CBRSS

From The Echo 

Lennox Head’s 13 year old Marlon Denning had an exciting and educational experience during the home-schooling lock-down period in 2020.

Before the Netflix hit My Octopus Teacher came out, Marlon made friends with not one but two octopuses (these were the common species, not the poisonous blue-ringed octopus).

His mother Sharyn Denning told Echonetdaily, ‘He’s got a very unusual affinity with most animals, or really weird animals anyway! Frogs and lizards and snakes.’

Normally Marlon goes to Cape Byron Steiner School, but during lock-down he spent time every day at the ocean rock pools with his mum, who’s an environmental scientist.

Marlon remembers, ‘I just stuck my face in the water with the goggles on, and I looked around and I saw a tentacle and thought, there’s an octopus over there, so I went over to where I saw it, and sure enough there he was.

‘I wriggled my fingers around the water, then he started chasing them around. He chased me back to a shallower part, then he found a little cavern thing, and he hid there.

‘Then he came out and he was swimming around me, and trying to catch my toes and fingers,’ said Marlon.

‘He was there for a week and then one day he wasn’t there. He wasn’t in the same spot for a few days.

‘Then we went back there, and my dad was wading through a slightly deeper part of the pool and then he latched on to his ankle. He grabbed his foot and he screamed!’

Mr Big
When the smaller octopus disappeared for a few days, Marlon made friends with a larger one.

‘That’s when I found the big one you see in the photos that’s touching my hand,’ he said.’That’s Mr Big.’

Marlon’s mum Sharyn says it didn’t take long for her son to build up trust with the normally shy sea creatures.

‘He’s really gentle, so most animals just stay with him for hours, even lizards and things he finds in the garden, he’s a bit unusual like that.

‘He knew that octopus were quite smart, ’cause he reads a lot of nature books. And I’m saying, “Oh it’s not dangerous is it?” He said “no Mum”.

‘They’d just play with him. It was quite incredible really. Then he taught them how to high five, and he knew all their little spots, where they’d be, ’cause this went on for three months.’

‘I had a great time,’ remembers Marlon.

Sadly, he lost contact with his octopus friends after the lockdown period ended.

Sharyn Denning remembers, ‘Then he was back to school, so he could only go on the weekends if the tide was right, so we weren’t there as often.

‘And he hasn’t been able to find them again, so they’ve either moved on or – specially the real big one – that might have just been his life. They only live a year or two. But the little one, he might have just moved on, especially if the tide’s real big, they might use it as an opportunity to move on.

‘But it was really quite incredible, and the really big one, it had an injured tentacle, so over the months we saw it regrowing. That was pretty cool too.’

Octopus art


Marlon still hasn’t seen My Octopus Teacher, but says he’s looking forward to it.

Recently he’s been busy helping artist Austin NITSUA complete a spectacular new mural at the Lennox Skate Park, which has just been finished, and includes an octopus.

‘Yes he said he would put an octopus into the mural after I told him my story,’ said Marlon. ‘There’s tentacles coming out of the waves and kind of touching the hand, which is surfing on the waves.’

Marlon told Echonetdaily he’d like to do something with animals when he’s older. ‘Yeah definitely, I’d love to own a zoo, or work at a zoo.’

Marlon has already been in touch with BBC nature journalist Steve Backshall, and made it to the top ten of Australia Zoo’s nature photo competition for his photo of a frog, out of 6,500 entries.

David Attenborough watch out!

Below is a link to a video shot by Marlon’s mum, Sharyn, showing Marlon with one of the octopuses:

https://youtu.be/cWPDCo8NDdE

Safe on Social

Kirra Pendergast from Safe on social visited the school Monday the 31st of May to talk to HS students and also parents of classes 4-12 in the evening.

Safe on Social Toolkit link

Social Media is viewed by most people as a fun way to share information about themselves, friendships, family and things that happen in their day-to-day lives.

But things can go wrong…

It is important to understand that what you post on social media sites can affect your life both in good ways and bad. The guides available on our website contain detailed information to help parents and students make informed decisions when using various platforms.

Cape Byron Rudolf Steiner School E-Safety Information 

Instigating downtime with no screens

Story by Caitlin Read from Kidspot.com.au

Caitlin Reid is an accredited practising dietitian, yoga teacher and accredited exercise physiologist from Health & the City.

Kids today are busier than ever with jam-packed schedules containing everything from school and homework to play dates, birthday parties and multiple sporting ventures. Then there are the ever-present lure of screens, which can seem like the perfect option when parents need some peaceful minutes to complete everything from household chores to work calls.

While time lazing on the couch watching Netflix or playing video games might seem like downtime, these activities still require children to be fully engaged. Too much screen-time overstimulates kids instead of giving them the break they need to chill out. So if true downtime does not involve screens, what actually is downtime you ask?

What is downtime?
Downtime is a time to relax and to not do too much. You can think of downtime as simply playtime without any structured activities that involve rules and directions. When play is unstructured, children are free to do what interests them without any guidelines set in place.

Psychologist and teacher at Kid Psychology, Kate Plumb, says downtime is an opportunity for kids to be kids.

“Activities for downtime can be anything that interests your child, gives them the freedom to choose what they want to do and uses the brain and body in different ways. Whatever it is your child chooses to do, the point of downtime is to enhance creativity, imagination, executive functioning and social skills,” explains Plumb.

Things like playing outside, daydreaming, creative play, taking a bath, arts and craft, walking in nature, reading a book and playing a card game are all examples of downtime.

Why do kids need downtime?
While parents have been guilted into thinking that good parenting comes with exposing our children to endless opportunities, this overscheduling can lead to stress and anxiety. Children need time to rest, relax and recharge. Downtime allows your child’s brain the break it needs to consolidate memories, revive focus and renew the drive to learn. Downtime is also vital for all aspects of your child’s development.

“Downtime is vital for your child’s cognitive, academic, social and emotional development. Giving your child the time and space to have downtime enables them to develop self-determination where they express their own wants and needs. Kids develop best if they are free to create, use their imagination and explore the world around them,” says Plumb.

Free time or that feeling of “being bored” also helps children to learn how to manage their feelings. This time teaches children the ability to occupy themselves without relying on others to amuse them, while also giving them the ability to cope with uncomfortable feelings like impatience. Children who are constantly occupied with structured activities don’t have the time to engage in problem-solving like children who experience downtime.

How much downtime do kids need?
A little bit of downtime each day is recommended for all kids. However, exactly how much they need depends on a few things.

“In terms of how much downtime is needed on a daily basis, depends on the age of the child, the amount of structure they already have in their lives and the competing demands of sticking to a routine,” explains Plumb.

“Generally though, the younger the child, the less they need an itinerary of structured activities.”

How to schedule in downtime
Downtime isn’t something that just happens – we need to schedule it in. Creating regular and frequent time for children to unwind is essential for keeping them in balance. Each day set a limit on screen time and encourage your children to spend some time outside each day. You could also set up a special place like a reading corner to encourage relaxation.

Establish a household rule of quiet time before bed where your children can either read a book or draw quietly. This is a great way for the whole family to reduce stimulation and get ready for bed.

As parents, we should lead by example and make downtime a priority. Children tend to mimic the adults around them, so if we want our children to participate in regular downtime, we need to take the time to relax.

“This can be done by organising a relaxing outing as a family, chatting to your child about how much better you feel when you get your own downtime, or even making appointments for downtime if your current schedule is that jam-packed,” explains Plumb.

When you make downtime a priority, you show your little people the importance of having unstructured time each day where they get to take the time to follow their own interests and just be.

It isn’t always easy to protect this downtime so parents need to remain vigilant in making sure their children have space to take a breath and relax. Give yourself and your children permission to enjoy free play each day.

“Play together. Play alone. But make sure you play. Your mental health depends on it,” finishes Plumb.

Visit here kidspot.com.au for references and citations.