The Twelve Year Old

Here is the picture of the true physical being of a twelve year old:

The forces of growth now become active in the bony system of the body.  The muscles, which were previously bound up with the rhythmic system, become part of the mechanical working of the skeleton….Limb activity appears clumsy when this process begins, and this is made more complicated by the further accelerated growth of the physical body.  The girls have already shown growth in their height and weight, but now it is the boys who take a turn and begin to make visible changes.  If you watch closely, you will notice that the girls start to develop hips and the indentation of the waist, also the breasts begin to form.  Other changes that are not as easy to see are fuller lips and the cheekbones, which begin to emerge from the skull. – Eurythmy for the Elementary Grade by Francine Adams

Rudolf Steiner talked about how this time, the sixth grade year, is a time where the bones are first perceptible.  The child is moving into a heavier, more muscular, time of development.  In this way, things like copper rod exercises as done in eurythmy in the Waldorf Schools show that the rod is indeed the extension of this perceptible bone and provide the challenge and precision a twelve year body needs.  This year of sixth grade and being twelve is a time of challenge, precision, looking forward.

Many twelve- year-olds seem to detest movement outside of a favored sport or two, but they also seem to love a challenge. Something specific such as hiking,  or learning a skill such as how to paddleboard or kayak, can really fill the child’s need for challenge.  They really need you as a model to get out and be physical, and to be outside and be physical as a family.  They need you to help initiate it all.  In Waldorf Schools, gymnastics becomes an adjunct for geometry (Bothmer Gymnastics).  We cannot bring that at home, but we can do our best to bring in movement and also a social experience, so important for twelve year olds.

So, there is this heaviness of the child on the earth that I just described, but there is also the new and exciting development of the child’s real transition to the world of abstract ideas.  Subjects still need to be enlivened through art, through imagination, because images and pictures along with concepts speak to this beginning sense of true cause and effect reasoning. I like how Lois Cusick in the book, “The Waldorf Parenting Handbook”, writes: “This is not the same as the critical, independent thinking and judging that will come after the age of fourteen:  it is instead a feeling approach to thinking.”

Authority, in the proper way, is so important at this time.  This is not the time to shift into being a friend, but it is time to encourage and guide and offer leadership in a loving way.   Francine Adams echoes what Lois Cusick writes:

The child becomes eager to express his/her own opinions and to form his/her own judgments.  However, if we encourage him/her to make judgments before the twelfth year, we are undermining his/her physique and the healthy development of his/her soul-forces.  We also prevent full human participation in judgments made in later life.  – Eurythmy for the Elementary Grades by Francine Adams

At this time, we study mineralogy in sixth grade because the child consciously (see the note about this word in one of my comments in the comment section below.  I argue that Steiner’s use of the word perceptible implies a certain consciousness on the part of the child)  feels the mineralized bones in his or her own body; we work with physics and geometric drawing as more science in the non-living world.  To provide balance and counterpoint to the heaviness of the child’s body, we look at the Roman Empire – a strong society!  Lois Cuisick again makes a point:  “To balance these blocs {mineralogy/geology, physics, geometry} where contracting forces are studied, the polar experience of expansion is brought to the children in other main lessons.  In history, they experience the expansion of the Roman Empire over the Mediterranean world, the medieval expansion of Christendom from Byzantium to Russia and from Ireland to Northern Europe, the Crusade and the linking of East and West.”

A quick snapshot of the twelve-year-old, many blessings and peace,


9 thoughts on “The Twelve Year Old

  1. Hi Carrie. Thank you for this as I am preparing to take on a 7th grade class here in sydney this coming year. I know that mistakes will be made in these postings, and I usually disregard them, but please- the child UNconsciously feels the mineralized bones in his body. NOT consciously. That would really be tricky!

    • Katherine,
      Yes and no. Steiner said the bones were perceptible, and I do think children of this age, especially the sensitive ones, are actually conscious and feel as if for the first time they have bones, they feel weighed down, they feel grounded for the first time in their young lives. That is what makes twelve a different age than any other. So, I am reluctant to change that word. It may not be conscious in terms of ‘Here is my femur bone and it is this long and located this many millimeters away from the skin”, but I do think there is a consciousness there for the first time in terms of feeling as if suddenly the bones are there, the arms and legs are long levers…. Steiner’s use of the word perceptible implies a certain consciousness I think.


  2. Hey Carrie!
    There are many reasons I am glad we have children who are the same age, but these posts have to be one of my favorite. I always print them out and put them in the front of my current grade binder. Whenever I start going off the ledge about one thing or another, I can usually center myself by referring back to these posts and realizing, “Oh, this is normal.” So, thank you.

    I have a practical question about copper rods, as I have a set en-route to me as I type. Do you have any favorite resources for movement exercises/sequences that use the rods and/or the copper balls? We did a few eurythmy sequences at Taproot, but I wanted to get your input.

    Thinking of you. Missing you. Sending you love.

  3. Great post! I have watched that “feeling” approach to thinking over the last 9 months with Ellie. It is really funny to compare her reactions to things like movies to Harry’s who is 16. While temperament plays a big role, their age plays an even bigger one. While Ellie is a very mature 12yo, lol… those 12yo emotions are SO different than those of an older child.

    Their spacial awareness is interesting to me at this age. Sheila, I would bet if you aren’t already, the three fold walking and lemniscate work would be good for this age. They are heavy, but this would help them through that transition. I am going to be with Cynthia Hoven (RS College Eurythmist) at the end of the month, I will ask her.

    I also agree Carrie about feeling their bones for the first time…. really taking note of them. While my daughter has complained of growing pains at other ages, it was almost as if a new awareness of the actual process was taking place. An awakening to her new body.

    Blessings dear friend!

  4. This info was very helpful because I have a 12yr old. But I also have an 8yr old girl can you tell me what toys she should have? I really want to clear out her toy room and Im not sure what to keep and what to put away. I want it to be really simple. Can you help me with this? Thanks Kate

  5. This is such an informative post and I read your posts often. I have an 11 year old, soon to be 12 in November who is definitely feeling things now within her skeleton – everything from “growing pains” to how much she has physically grown this year (6 inches!) to challenging herself with different physical activities such as surfing, skateboarding, and soccer. I definitely need to get her doing some 6th grade eurythmy with the copper rods and balls. Definitely an awakening happening!

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