The 9 Year Old Child
The year the children turn nine years old is a year of dramatic change in their development and lives.
Until this time, they have seen themselves as immersed in a great whole – the world is one great ocean in which they are only a merged drop – an integral part of the whole.
At nine, they awake to an awareness of a different reality; they see themselves as a separate entity. They experience aloneness, separateness from the world. This can manifest in awkwardness. The world can appear overpowering – becoming aware of oneself as only a single grain of sand upon a whole beach. There is the sense of loss – a death-like experience – the old known of merging with the whole, gradually dying and fading – the new individual self – the unknown – can be a somewhat frightening void.
Experiences with death – asking questions, the wish and desire to create ritualistic funeral ceremonies for dead pets, lizards, birds. These can be seen as symbolic rituals which are expressing the children’s unconscious transition from the old, and its death, to the new individual self.
Rudolf Steiner, through his deep wisdom, offers a curriculum for the nine year old which is so perfect for this awakening phase of development, this awkward transition.
In Class 3, the children engage in a range of powerful practical activities – farming, building, gardening, and caring for animals. The farming involves digging in the earth, removing grass and weeds to prepare a plot of land for grains. The children were harnessed like horses, and dragged a large square of reinforcing mesh across the ground to harrow it.
They made aprons with large front pockets in which to carry their grain – different groups carried different grains: rye, wheat, oats, and barley. They broadcast these by hand as an old sower would do.
Farming also entails caring for animals. Feeding and watering the hens, collecting their eggs to sell.
Building is about getting one’s hands and feet into the earth – puddling clay, and then shaping and moulding it into mud bricks. This shaping and moulding is the essential goal here.
The children are waking to a big, wide potentially overpowering world. It could be easy to feel oneself as inadequate; a victim at the mercy of this mighty world and its forces. The practical pursuits allow the children to gain an alternative perspective; it is possible if one engages and utilises one’s will – one’s hands, feet, body effectively to actually take hold of this world in the palms of one’s hands and mould and shape it to one’s will. There are of course, practical laws of the material world to be considered, but there are implements such as plumb bobs, spirit levels, hammers and saws to assist the human being.
The children are able to experience, not in an intellectual, abstract way, but in a practical, real way the world about them.
So the experience allows awareness that as an awakening individual, one does not have to become a victim imposed upon, but a creative and powerful human being who has come onto this earth to shape and mould it to the benefit of oneself and others. The class creates as a group as well as an individual.
The learning of a stringed instrument is another important and beautiful implement with which to draw out one’s feeling, from the inner realm, out, and into the world – a practical shaping and moulding of the world of sound into musical beauty.
The creative human being is again active with will and feeling shaping a new reality. Class 3 is a truly challenging year, but a year of great practical and spiritual development.