Developmental Picture of the Child
In Grade Three the children go through a natural process of profound neurological and psychological shifts, coming to experience a new sense of self. In Waldorf education we recognize this stage of self-discovery as the “nine-year change.” New capacities for thinking and judgment are emerging. The young child’s experience of the unity of all things matures into an awareness of a distinctly separate inner life. They are excited about the wonderful world they see with new eyes, but an accompanying uncertainty about their abilities and wistfulness for the security of the past creates inner turmoil. Strong opinions can lead them to being critical of everything and trying out their new independence through defiance.
How the Curriculum Meets the Grade Three Student
The primary lesson material, ancient Hebrew stories, serves as an appropriate metaphor for the child’s inner experience. The children understand on an imaginative level what it is to leave paradise, step into the real world, and begin to stand on their own feet. The stories of Noah, Moses, David, and others speak of great individual trials, and provide students with strong role models who show courage and perseverance.
Practical experiences like building, farming, and gardening ground the children in their home surroundings and are often accompanied by stories of the First Nations and stories about the life of the pioneers. Through this story material, students engage with foundational language arts work including writing, grammar skills, and independent reading.