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Waldorf Homeschool: The Nine Year Change - Part Three

I am assuming that you are already familiar with the phenomenon of what Waldorf Educators refer to as the "nine year change". If not, it may be helpful to first read part one and part two of this series of articles. If nothing else, it will certainly help this third part make more sense.

As I said before, this series of articles is aimed at seeing some key characteristics of three phases of this change: the crisis, the struggle, and the resolution.

What is the nine year change in Waldorf education?

Nine Year Change: A quick review:

The crisis is, first and foremost, the child's reaction to a sense that their consciousness is shifting. Rather than having that innate sense of "one-ness", they become aware of a sense of "alone-ness" and "imperfection" in the world. Again, it is important to remember that they are not experiencing these things for the first time, they are becoming consciously aware of these things for the first time.

The struggle is seen in new kinds of questions from the child as well as new behaviors. The behaviors, such as experimenting with lying and/or acting in ways that we know are not really true to their character, are all ways of exploring. They are exploring the outer world, which now they can sense is much bigger and potentially more dangerous than they were previously aware. They are also exploring their own inner world, that space of consciousness within themselves that no one else can truly know--not even their parent figures and/or teachers. Within all of these things, there is not quite a sense of peace or contentedness. Rather, there is a sense of agitation, an undercurrent of turmoil. Yet, we know, when we understand the phases of human development, that this is a stage through which we all must pass.

Lastly, we looked at ways we can help the struggling child in this phase of maturation. No one can ever take away all of our pain, or answer all of our questions, or give us complete inner peace. Lots of friends and family might help me, but ultimately I am responsible for a great deal of finding my inner peace. So, we must recognize that the phases of crisis, struggle, and even resolution are never fully "completed" for the human being, at least short of reaching "enlightenment", or however else one might refer to the stage of finding true inner peace--a phenomenon I cannot write about from experience--at least not yet!

The "alone-ness", the sense of worldly "imperfections", the sense of difficult questions--these are things that begin with this nine year change, things that begin with this emerging level of consciousness. Yet we see that working with some basic activities such as those of living on the earth, related to food, shelter, and clothing, can have a beneficial effect on the young person. Gaining experience and skills in these ways gives the child a new sense of confidence in this great big world. It helps them realize that the world might be difficult, but we can learn to do difficult things and find a home here.

Nine Year Change: The Resolution

So, then, we are left with the last question: what signifies the "resolution" phase? If the human being, short of transcendence, retains a sense of "alone-ness", "difficulty", and "imperfection" throughout life, how can we sense that the child has reached a place where living with such sensations has become more comfortable?

This is not a question that is easy to answer, even though I believe the answer is quite simple. It is not easy because every child is so unique. The simple answer is that you will sense it in a way that is tantamount to however well you know your child. In other words, I must add that you will only sense it if you spend time with your child, true quality time every day. Otherwise, such changes will slip by you. Moreover, the commitment of quality time will serve to further support the child's achievement of the "resolution".

I realize that it is a busy world and sometimes our responsibilities and jobs pull us away from spending quality time with our children on a daily basis. So, I am not sharing this in order to make anyone feel guilty or ashamed. I am not sharing it to suggest that some parents are good because they spend time with their kids each day and other parents are bad because they do not. I am sharing it because it is true that parents must spend time with their children in order to know them. I am sharing it because it is true that children are happier and healthier when they receive enough quality time and attention from their parents. (I will not reference any here, but there are myriad studies, accessible online, that support positive parent-child relationships and quality-time-spent translating to healthier and more stable emotional and psychological development in adolescence and beyond.)

So, our job is basically to "lead the horse to water" and to do so over and over. In this case, the water is our attention to their struggles and our attempts to help them gain experience and confidence with basic life skills. By being there for them, answering questions, having conversations, etc--we show them in the most meaningful way that, even though they have a sense of "alone-ness" they are not totally alone. We are here for them. By bringing them experiences with life skills, we help them find a new sense of ability, of being able to overcome adversity and challenges.

When will they gain this sense of confidence? When will they feel supported by our consistent presence and love? How will we know?

As I said, it is different for every child. However, I can say this with absolute conviction: If you have been there with them, without fear or panic, then you will know when their struggle phase has passed. If you have worked through it with them, helping them gain new skills and confidence, spending days, weeks, and months wondering what else can we do, what else can we experience, what else can we learn? If you have asked these questions and striven to find the answers, then you will know. If you have learned to do some new things yourself in order to help your child have new experiences, in order to give your child a sense of confidence, then you will know when your child makes that shift. It is not something that occurs overnight, of course. But one day, if you really give your child attention, true attention, the kind of attention that means they are, for a small portion of each day, the most important thing in the entire universe, then you will know when the shift has occurred. You will just realize it one day.

Of course we all agree that our children are the most important things in the entire universe. This is an idea that we would never dare dispute. But in this realm, it lives only as an idea. We must make it a reality that our children actually experience from our daily behavior, from the time that we actually devote to them. They need to know that we will take half an hour each day to do something with them, something that will not be interrupted by anything else. There is no device present, no TV, no computer, no phone. There is nothing that will divert our attention from them and what we are doing together. Maybe it is reading at bedtime. Maybe it is playing a game after dinner. Maybe it is doing chores together. It could be many different things, but the important factor is that we are totally committed to keeping our attention on the interactions we have with the child. When we do this, we learn about our child, and they learn that we are there for them. We sense them on deeper levels than we can even articulate. We know them as no one else in the world can ever know them. And they know this is all true on a very deep level.

Naturally, when we know our children in this way, then we can sense the stage of "resolution". We "lead the horse to water" and then we know, because we know our child, "when the horse actually drinks."

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