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Waldorf View: What is the Nine Year Change?

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The Ninth Year is a critical turning point in the development of the child. Wonderful and great changes begin to occur at around the age of nine. A child begins to withdraw within to an extent, and I do admit - it's not an easy time - but what is happening is the blossoming of a very curious and inquisitive phase. "At this age an intelligent child can gaze long and silently at an adult with the unspoken question as to what kind of person the adult really is. The unconscious felling can arise in the child that the adult has been weighed up and found wanting. In such a situation the child's behavior alters from one moment to the next. All respect has vanished" (From Education Towards Freedom)

The child begins to recognize that s/he may be feeling different about something than a sibling or parent. The child becomes aware of "outsiders" in a more intimate and emotional way. The child comes to see that where Mommy likes the taste of fish, s/he doesn't. S/he may also begin to watch the parents behavior, decision making and attitudes much more closely and with a bit of judgment.

This phase has been described as a second ego experience. The child's individual feeling life begins to awaken. Gudrun Burkhard, in her book "Taking Charge: Your Life Patterns and Their Meaning" says: "It is important that the child's feeling life should find fertile ground on which to grow. Such fertile soil can be provided by art or religion, but above all by loving authority which comes from parents and teachers."

Rudolf Steiner describes what is happening at this time as "a process of emancipation with consequences of greater import than we often realize." It is this change in their relationship to the environment that causes so many children of this age to go through a period of alienation.

The bottom line is that they are watching! They are testing us not because they want to test our authority - but because they want to make sure it really exists! This is the year when children begin to describe things as they are... and the child is looking for knowledge. This is the reason the waldorf curriculum offers geography, botany and history in fourth grade - so the children can satisfy this and see what does exist beyond... I HIGHLY recommend the following book to assist you with the nine year change:

There is a wonderful book for the NINE YEAR CHANGE entitled Encountering the Self: Transformation & Destiny in the Ninth Year by Herman Koepke. It is about "transformation and destiny in the ninth year". The back of the book reads: "Between the ages of nine and ten, as their I incarnates more deeply, children often experience themselves for the first time as separate individuals, different from their parents and peers, and essentially alone. Koepke provides a lucid and highly readable explanation of the outer signs and symptoms of this essential turning point in the life of a child."
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