“And to the extent to which he feels separate from the world he seeks knowledge of it. …Past and future states of being are seen wrestling with each other, perhaps more clearly than at any other period of childhood.” (M. Spock)
Parents at Waldorf schools hear much about the Nine Year Change, a distinct developmental change characterized by the child’s more realistic or critical outlook as he begins to move away from the dreamy world of early childhood. The growing consciousness of being an individual, present in the world yet separate from it can be unsettling. Parents and teachers may find themselves the objects of exacting, even hyper-critical assessment. Once familiar situations are now reviewed and carefully weighed in light of emerging realities the child is awakening to as the world comes into sharper focus. Some people see this as a brief glimpse of adolescence.
No clear lines mark the borders of developmental stages of course. Regression is often a first sign of progression and each step forward is accompanied by at least a backward glance. At a recent parent meeting, Colleen O’Connors shared an observation from the 3rd grade year in her class. For several months the children had neglected the play yard swings in favor of other recess pursuits but she began to notice a quiet return. The unspoken common purpose Colleen observed was to pump the swing as high as it could go, to reach that point where the chains slacken and the seat seems to hang in midair. Then the rider could fly, freed by her own momentum for just an instant, for the tiniest of inches. Before the fall would begin, the rider landing safely back in the seat to be carried again down to earth.
This quest to see how far he can go, to discern his capacities for freedom is the work of the emerging nine year old. In her wonderful article, Parenting the Nine Year Old Rahima Baldwin Dancy talks more about the Nine Year Change.