The Eight-Year-Old: A View From Waldorf Education

(In Waldorf homeschooling, a child should be eight for most of second grade, so hence the references below to a second grader is also reference to an eight-year-old – Carrie)

Donna Simmons writes in her “Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers” that:   “The difference between First Graders and Second Graders can be quite startling:  the way they play together, run around the house, behave in group situations…one really gets a sense that Second Graders have arrived!”

Torin M. Finser writes in the  book “School As A Journey:  The Eight-Year-Odyssey of a Waldorf Teacher and His Class”:  “After the first day of second grade I found myself scratching my head and asking:  Where are the real Doug, Marc, Kirsten, Michael, Eben, Susan, Jacob?  Did they forget to show up?  After the second day my inner questioning was more intense:  what had happened to the open-hearted, naive, reverent, respectful children I had enjoyed last year?  Was this some kind of cruel joke?”

He notices that the children had changed, that they were more lively, that they were in constant movement, that they lived in extremes over the smallest thing, and every child now had an opinion about everything!

In “Second Grade”, an article by Manette Teitelbaum in the book, “Waldorf Education:  A Family Guide”, the author writes how “Energies freed from the process of forming the body now awaken the subjective world of feeling – wonder, pity, joy, tenderness and sorrow.  These are the currents of air upon which these new little butterflies will rise, on which they will find their relationship to the world about them.”

A HUGE part, the MAIN part of Waldorf Second Grade is to work on the balance and harmonizing of the child.  For example, the juxtaposition of the Legends of Saints and the Trickster Tales speak strongly to the child searching for a balance between the duality of emotions and actions here on earth.

Donna Simmons notes in her “Waldorf Curriculum Overview” this important note:  “Unless they have been prematurely woken up and have already slid into acting like the jaded child caricatures seen of TV, eight-year-olds are still very open and trusting about the world.  If one takes to heart the Waldorf pedagogical maxim that beauty, truth and goodness should surround the child to thereby aid his full development as a human being, then one will take care to shelter him from societal influences that encourage premature sexuality, intellectualism and cynicism.”

Steiner lectured about this age in the compilation “Soul Economy” in a lecture entitled, “Children From the Seventh to the Tenth Year” given on December 31, 1921.  He discusses the changes with the coming of the second teeth and how the spiritual forces are now affecting the rhythmic movement of the heart and the lungs. “During the first phase (and by this he means the change of teeth until about the end of the ninth year), children want to experience everything that comes toward them in relation to their own inner rhythms- everything associated with beat and measure.”  He discusses how the images formed by seeing everything in the world now acts mainly on the rhythmic system of movement.

He goes on to comment, “With the change of teeth new soul forces  of feeling, linked to breathing and blood circulation, come into their own, with the result that children begin to distance themselves from others, whom they now experience as individuals.  This creates in them a longing to follow the adult in every way, looking up to adults with shy reverence.”

All of these passages highlight important clues as how to best live with and help guide an eight-year-old.  In our next and last post regarding the eight-year-old, we will look at how to peacefully live with an  eight-year-old.

Many blessings,


8 thoughts on “The Eight-Year-Old: A View From Waldorf Education

  1. Carrie-these posts on the eight year old are so timely for me. I have an eight year old girl who is so loving and giving and delightful one moment and then incredibly upset, frustrated and snappy (rude) the next. These post really give me perspective, I knew she was going through transitions and your posts validate and strengthen my thoughts on how to support her gently. Thankyou again!! Warmly Skye.

  2. wonderful post. how do i access this nextu posting you mention about how to live peacefully woth an eight year old? thank you.

  3. thank you for this wonderful helpful article, my beautiful 8yo aspi girl has slid into such a struggle this year and i didnt know what was happening for her, back into retreating to her bunk cave with blankets up all around her, food sensitivities that had eased, not wanting to go to her beautiful steiner school… and this has shed so so much light thank you…

    Richard Australia

  4. oh and you mentioned a final article on the 8yo girl would it be possible to post links to all your posts on the 8yo girl and also the 10–11yo girl too (both are in steiner education thank you

    • Hi Journeys in Time,
      If you click the developmental header, the drop down menu has the eight year old and ten and eleven year old under it so all those posts should come up!
      I hope that helps, and I am glad you are here reading.

    • Sorry i had become so sick and didn’t get back to here to see this comment … Thank you but can you explain what the development header is and where I find it on my phone version of your site

    • Hi Journeys in Time,
      I am not sure what it looks like on a mobile device – probably a menu bar? On a regular computer it stretches across the top and says things like “Development”, “Homeschooling,” etc. Hope that helps and glad you are feeling better,

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