“The change in the children’s self-awareness grows stronger at the age of nine, and you find that they understand much better what you say about the difference between the human being and the world. Before they reach the age of nine, children merge far more thoroughly with the environment than is the case later, when they begin to distinguish themselves from their surroundings. Then you will find that you can begin to talk a little about matters of the soul and that they will not listen with such a lack of understanding as they would have listened earlier. In short, the children’s self-awareness grows deeper and stronger when they reach this age.”
-Steiner, Lecture 7 of “Practical Advice to Teachers”
The nine-year-change is a momentous occasion in the life of a child according to an anthroposophic perspective. Roberto Trostli writes in “Rhythms of Learning: Selected Lectures by Rudolf Steiner”: “Like Adam and Eve in Paradise, young children live in peace and harmony with their environment, intimately connected to their surroundings, full of trust and confidence in the world. When children turn nine, this trusting, secure, relationship to the world begins to change.”
Children at this age often have a quiet, not verbalized, “inner crisis” where they begin to have questions about themselves and their purpose in the world, about whether or not rules are really justified, whether or not adults really do know everything, and whether or not adults believe in something higher than themselves and how is this expressed. Steiner believed that it was of utmost importance that an adult guide the child toward a renewed sense of confidence in the world and in their place in it. In the Waldorf school curriculum, this is done in several areas during the ninth and tenth year: through the Old Testament stories of Third Grade, through zoology in Fourth Grade (Man and Animal blocks) and botany and through the study of geography (Trostli discusses the zoology, botany and geography at length in his book and you can read Steiner himself regarding the nine-year change and the teaching of natural history and such in Lecture 7 of “Practical Advice to Teachers”.)
Regarding the Old Testament Stories, I like what Donna Simmons says here in her book, “The Christopherus Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers” (because this is where so much of our own baggage can come up!). She writes, “”Stories from the Old Testament speak to the child’s growing independence and the first stirrings of true logical thought. The ability to understand right and wrong is reflected in Moses giving his people the Law-and, as this is no straightforward process, the nine-year-old can inwardly relate to the way the Israelites accepted that Law! The struggle to overcome jealousy and revenge, questions of what is right and wrong, and when to have faith in authority are all right three in the Old Testament as they are in most nine-year-olds. By absorbing these stories the child will also gain an inner understanding of both Judaism and Christianity, something really important to an appreciation of our Western culture, even if you and your family are neither Jewish nor Christian.” To look further at this book, please see this link: http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/bookstore-for-waldorf-homeschooling/essential-christopherus-publications/waldorf-overview-for-homeschoolers.html and here is a blog post regarding the greater anthroposophic detail of these Old Testament stories: http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2007/11/old-testament-s.html ) Melisa Nielsen also has a blog post here addressing the Old Testament stories, fears of families and how this all fits with the nine-year-old change: http://waldorfjourney.typepad.com/a_journey_through_waldorf/2009/01/the-stories-of-grade-three-and-beyond.html
For a further discussion of the depth of the Old Testament stories and their worth and fit to the nine-year-old, I direct you to Lois Cusick’s excellent book, “The Waldorf Parenting Handbook.” In it she writes of the nine-year-old: “A more intense sense of self shakes the child’s unquestioned feeling of belonging, of unity with all around him. Suddenly the others look farther away, alien. The thought comes, “Perhaps I do not belong.” The increasingly aware child looks more keenly at the real world of adults around him. Now it is up to the teachers and parents to show the child that they see and understand what is happening to him, that he does belong, and in a new, more socially conscious way.” House-building, agriculture, gardening – all fit in well with a child during this nine-year-old change who is starting to realize the interconnectedness and interdependence of humans.
Other posts in the past I have written regarding the nine-year-old change may also be of assistance: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/11/a-few-resources-for-the-nine-year-change/ and there are a few more if you search in the search engine.
Our next post will look at the best ways to support a nine-year-old and how to deal with issues of discipline in the nine-year-old.