Ideally, the child will have their seventh birthday during the Class One year.
The developmental aspect may be referred to as ‘Dreaming and Earthing’. Not yet fully aware of themselves as separate individualities, or that others are separate and unique individuals, the child relates to the world as it affects them. Their immediate response will come from their own sense of comfort or discomfort – ease or unease. The seven‑year‑old wishes to know that the word is beautiful, that the adults know what is right and good and will look after their needs. Children of this age can love easily and will wish to please those they love.
The children will be turning eight years old during this year. Their development is moving towards self identity and encompasses a growing awareness of others as different identities with their own needs and abilities.
The world as it affects them is still the basis of the children’s primary social response. The eight year olds are now in the final stages of imitation; they will still be influenced by others actions however and adults must continue to be worthy role‑models and to set the standards for all social interactions.
The will is still predominant and the healthy eight‑year‑old will wish to act out all experiences. The children wish to please those they love and to know the world as a good and beautiful place and they implicitly trust that adults know what is right and good for them.
The children will turn nine in this year, and the developmental stage known as the ‘nine‑year‑old crisis’ occurs around this time.
The children find they are now ‘on the earth’, there is a perception of individuality and ‘aloneness’, and they no longer experience themselves as one with the world. The children will question those things that previously went unquestioned: “Who are you to tell me?”, “What is my real name?”, “Am I adopted?” They will push boundaries, venture forth fearlessly when you wish they wouldn’t and shrivel up fearfully where once they were confident.
With the ninth year there comes an important stage in the development of the growing child, and this should be carefully watched and considered in teaching and education. It is the age when the child first really feels separate from the surroundings, which formerly were taken so much for granted.
Self-consciousness becomes noticeably stronger and the soul‑life more inward and independent. All the child’s powers of consciousness stir to life, and a wish to learn to know both teacher and world from a new angle.
The nine‑year‑old wants to revere consciously what was formerly loved in a childlike way, but needs to feel that reverence is justified. This age makes great claims on the wisdom and tact of the teacher. The children need to be protected from a feeling of disappointment with themselves or the world, which they can so easily fall into at this age, especially in the presence of world‑weary or cynical adults.
The children turning ten experience a veiling of the connection with the spiritual world; they stand truly on the earth and are learning to walk in its ways. Experiencing themselves as separate from their surroundings, self‑consciousness becomes stronger and the soul life becomes more inward. There grows a soul‑wish to know and love the world consciously, yet this will be tested: is it justified that I revere this occurrence; that person; this phenomena?
The children must be protected from becoming disappointed, or cynical about the world, as now the faint beginnings of consequential behaviour stir to consciousness: “If I do this, then that might happen.”
Children turning eleven years old can feel more at ease within themselves; the heart and lung ratio of 4:1 is attained and the keen observer can see that, for the normally developing child, the point of balance, the ‘crown of childhood’ is achieved.
The students need to be led to a deeper picture of the world they live, in and an experience of the ‘balance’ of the world.
The children turning twelve have arrived at the age of ‘consequences’. For the first time we can reason with them: “If you do this, then that will happen.” At this stage they can begin practising self‑control and begin to imagine into the outcomes of any deeds or behaviour.
The students’ bodies are changing and, as these changes occur, they must work, albeit unconsciously, with them. They must learn how to live in their bodies in a new way. The movements of these twelve-year‑olds begin to lose the natural rhythm and grace of the younger child; the point of balance, attained over the preceding year, appears to be lost They become ‘unskilled’; their growing bodies seem to be no longer in their control and can become awkward and clumsy.
Just as they must learn to move in a new way, adjusting to the body’s new relationship to gravity, so the soul must also adjust to its changing abode. More than ever at this point in their development the young people must be given imaginative pictures and stories that speak to the higher aspects of their beings, they must be inspired and they must be protected from feelings of hopelessness or inadequacy.
It is at this stage, when the soul connects itself more closely with the mechanism of the bony system, that we introduce the children to new scientific subjects. In the Physics Main Lesson, through observation and experiment, the students will investigate the mechanical laws that govern life and in the Geology Main Lesson, they will investigate the ‘bones’ of the earth.
Puberty arrives and ‘the balance’ is temporarily misplaced. With puberty, changes can occur quickly; the ‘child’ is less in evidence physically and though the adults may differ in opinion, the students turning thirteen no longer experience themselves as children.
They may resent school and parental rules, would like to be independent, but do not yet have the ability to strike out on their own. Often the Class Seven child will wish to experience a new and larger world. Dissatisfaction with their peer group can at times arise and they may demand to change schools at this time, expressing a wish to escape the safety of the known world, and to step into something that is ‘bigger and better’.
With this in mind the Class Seven lessons aim to encourage the student to look beyond their own immediate horizon. Through the Great Explorers Main Lesson, we lead students on a voyage of exploration that mirrors their own development.
To present threshold pictures of bravery and sacrifice in daring to go beyond the known, and to reflect upon the consequence of this, is a theme which runs throughout the Class 7 year.
The English lesson ‘Wish, Wonder, Surprise’ also encourages the students to look beyond their own desires and view the greater needs of the world as well as their own aspirations.
In Class Eight (14-15 year old) the learners are prepared for their future as students in the Upper School.
The fourteenth year is a milestone year in the inner life of a young person. There is an increasing realisation – and assertion – of the individual sense of self, of the uniqueness of one’s own identity.
After the breadth of exploration of the world, covered in Class 7, the Class 8 year is one of turning towards inwardness, even, at times, self-absorption.
However, in this year, there is still a strong connection to, and care for, the outside world, and the curriculum exploits this in lessons such as environmental studies, the impact of the industrial revolution on humanity, and in responding to the biographies of others who cared.
At this age, the concreteness of refining skills, meeting boundaries, and being able to articulate emotions are all important ways in which the young person can be supported to feel safe and interested in his or her own place in the world.
With adolescence, the inner soul forces of the young human being become extremely active, and with this there is a corresponding (and often disconcerting) bodily change.
It is a bewildering world when the adolescent is often at the mercy of strong, uncontrolled feelings and emotions, which swing, like a pendulum, from one extreme to the other. This manifests differently in boys and girls; yet both mask their vulnerability in different ways. Boys may be uncouth and gawky, yet inwardly shy; girls may express their emotions more easily in volatile, temperamental behaviour. Both need careful and sensitive handling and since that emotional world is both extremely sensitive and volatile, one needs to channel this energy into a healthy relationship with the outer world.
One approaches the adolescent of this age as much through the intellect as through the senses, presenting one’s material in as tactile a way as possible, yet always seeking to refine the senses through artistic activity, and challenging the student to think accurately, and observe meticulously. The student of this age needs many physical challenges to counteract the emotional roller-coaster.
There is little scope for the finer nuances of feeling; everything is black or white, wonderful or abysmal, joyful or full of sorrow. It is truly a year of polarities and opposites, and all the Main Lessons in this year play on that this, whether it is “Tragedy and Comedy” in English, “The French Revolution” in history, “stability and instability” in geology.
Although the emotions are still powerful in the student of this age, there is a marked development towards greater control and balance. Students are much more social at this age, and far better able to work in groups.
There is a marked difference in their perception of the world and their ability to comprehend and understand basic underlying laws and structures, both in themselves and in the world in general.
They may still be argumentative (each, potentially, an Odysseus!), but their greater reasoning power can more readily take hold and master the emotions. The love of a certain dramatic sensationalism of the previous year begins to recede; they wish to understand the phenomena they meet, both on an inner and outer level. The richness of the inner life is more easily able to express itself, allowing for greater subtlety in their response to language and to the world in general.
They are more able to form deep and lasting relationships and friendships at this age, since the relationship of the self to others and to the outer world is more harmonious.
There is now a striving towards the balance between polarities, whether in chemistry (Acids, Bases, and Salts; with salt as the mediator between acids and bases), the English lessons (Homer’s “Odyssey” and “The Art of Language” where words are seen as a balanced dynamic between the creative and the functional) or in history (the study of Ancient Cultures leading to the birth of the intellectual, reasoning power).
At this age, students are now able to harness and use the analytical, reasoning ability to full advantage.
The intellect is no longer at the mercy of the inner feelings; students are able to employ a far greater objectivity with regard to themselves and the world. They are able to comprehend the laws of the outer world in minute detail – it is not for nothing that one of the key lessons of this year is Atomic Physics.
In language studies, the analytical and manipulative power now matches the creative power, and they are able to argue the finer points of any point of view with scholastic delight! It is precisely at this point that students may experience inner loneliness and questions as regards their worth as human beings within the general scheme of things; it is at this point that they have questions concerning their own destinies.
For this reason, the “Parzival” lesson in Philosophical studies is of great importance, for here students can explore those life questions which cannot simply be answered by the intellect.
This year is the culmination of an education which seeks to produce individuals who will work with a sound understanding of both themselves and the world.
It is in this last year that one hears all the “tones” of the preceding years sounding in harmony, where the young adults of this age are themselves as members of a greater world where the moral and the scientific, the inner and the outer, form a single whole.
The lessons in this year form the grand synthesis of the whole education, with material which gives a broad overview and understanding of the whole curriculum in such things as “The History of Architecture”, and “The History of Philosophy”. The content of the subjects directs itself to the current world view in relation to that field of endeavour.
The students stand firmly in the contemporary age, taking the best of the past into a future which is yet to unfold. It is here that one sees the fruits of a Waldorf education in young adults who stand courageously and with integrity as free individuals, secure within values which give meaning to life.