by Louise Oberholzer
The Golden Years
The Story of The King’s Children
Once there was a king who had two children and he sent them on a journey to find the end of the world. To the one he gave a purple robe and wine and bread for the journey. To the other he gave only sour bread and water and a staff for the road.
They came at length to a bridge over a fast flowing river. The bridge had wooden slats, which were quite loose. For a while they wondered whether to cross. “Come,” said the one with the staff, “This will help us to find our balance.” So they crossed.
On the banks of the river they saw a great ship moored. The captain in a fine blue coat with silver buttons welcomed them. “We will sail,” he said, “On this river, which flows through the whole country. Then when we reach the sea we will travel the wide world. Come with me.”
He introduced them to the crew. There was Sam the cabin boy, who was nimble and quick. He fetched and carried for the captain, from deep in the hold to the top of the mast. There was the captain’s mate, with the big red beard, who stood with his arms folded, eyes on the water. You could see he was just waiting to get going. There was the navigator, who was busy with the compass and the maps. He was a quiet sailor with anxious eyes. Then there was the cook, a fat, friendly fellow who always sang as he banged the pots in the galley….
This beginning of a story gives us a picture of the primary school years and the tasks that lie before the child. We have a picture of the human being as one who has fully developed the thinking and the feeling and the will. In the first seven years the primary developmental tasks are centred on the will. The story of the enormous turnip is a story about the will. We would say of the kindergarten children, “We have the will to work” Then it is all about doing. The primary school child will experience a gradual opening out of the feelings. We have only to think about the feelings of the primary school child to realise that feelings for them are more pure and less complicated than our adult feelings. Children are deeply inspired by stories that reflect the higher qualities of mankind, such as courage, hope, perseverance, and faithfulness
But first there is the dramatic change that signifies the beginning of the next cycle when the child turns seven. She drops her teeth. Her whole face changes and we see the true child face emerge. It is as if something of the angelic quality of a child leaves them at this moment. The physical body, up to that moment has been developing at quite a rate and now, at the age of seven, the physical development is more or less complete. The life energies of the child are now more available for learning, particularly memory. This is the moment in the story when the king sends out his children on a journey to find the ends of the earth. It is no wonder that this has traditionally been the moment for the child to start formal schooling. To begin this earlier is to misunderstand the needs of the growing child.
In the first second and third grade the children work still very strongly out of their will and will need to approach learning through movement and speech. They will need plenty of practice in learning through using the ear and the eye and the memory. If these young children have not been interfered with by too much exposure to audiovisual media, they have a powerful imagination and the most fruitful and enjoyable way for them to learn is through pictures. So when we want to introduce them to the concept of division, we would give them a kingly character who has wise judgement and knows how to be fair. We could call him King Divide. Pictures also have a very strong remedial effect on children. When the harmony of the group is affected or perhaps the family, they may find a quick resolution of the trouble through a story. One way of showing a child how to find courage to overcome an obstacle may be to tell a story about a littl