This has been an exciting and challenging past couple months for Sophia. She began going through the 6 year change! The 6 year change is a developmental stage which every child goes through sometime between the ages of 5 and a half and 7 years old. I have mainly seen these changes addressed (outside of Waldorf circles) in scientific and neurological literature. The 6 year change often coincides with the loss of the baby teeth and the appearance of the six year molars. Many other changes can be observed as well; this time is often referred to as “the first adolescence” because it can be marked by alternating bursts of temper and anger and longing for more independence, alternated by regressive babiness and sweetness.
I’ve been reading, You’re Not the Boss of Me! Understanding the Six/Seven Year Old Transformation by Ruth Kerr, as well as First Grade Readiness: Resources, Insights, and Tools for Waldorf Educators by Nancy Blanning. I have also been relying heavily on the feedback from other Waldorf educators on both Marsha Johnson and Melisa Nielson’s (separate) yahoo groups. In Waldorf education, children do not begin academics until the completion of the six-year-change. This is because Waldorf philosophy follows the 7-year-human-cycle and believes that the first seven years (roughly) are to be devoted to play-based learning, unfettered imagination, lots of outdoors time in nature to explore and observe, and consistent routine and rhythms in daily life. After the child undergoes the six year change, it begin a new seven year cycle ~ marked most obviously by true 1st Grade readiness.
So this is how I am dealing with this developmental milestone in Sophia’s life: I’ve kept her closer to me, because she is experiencing trouble dealing with frustration right now. I’ve been trying to keep her physically very active: swimming, riding her bike, playing a lot of toss/catch with the bean bag. She is less interested in art and artisitic activities right now, and more interested in action, which is characteristic of this phase. Because children going through this change are looking for a little more independence, she has been given certain “big person” responsibilities around the house: she can toast and butter her own waffle each morning now, run the vacuum through the playroom and dining room, and help wipe down the bathroom. Because these are presented as older persons activities that she is now old enough to engage in, she is eager to participate and help.
I also decided to upgrade our Mom/Sophia reading material to chapter books, and she has responded well to this because, again, it feels like a big kid activity/treat! I had trouble finding chapter books I wanted her exposed to, but we are loving Betsy Tacy right now, and I’m going to get/peruse/try out The Milly Molly Mandy Storybook . I tried the Winnie the Pooh Collection, but honestly it wasn’t holding her and I was relieved myself that we could put it aside!
It’s certainly a challenge for both of us that she is going through this developmental milestone at the same time I am going through my pregnancy. I am already exhausted from the one, and holding the space throughout the day the way Sophia needs me to right now has proven to be tough. I’m working on getting as solid a nights sleep as possible, and not staying up reading at night, or basking in the sound of silence after the kids are in bed, so that I can meet her each day as full of energy as possible. Honestly, I’m failing a lot, but only three more months and I’ll be back on my energy ball!
One last note about this six year change: one concept I keep coming back to again and again in my research is the analogy of the straight line verses the curved line. When we deal with our very young children, we more often then not want to be the curved line; the open and hugging arms that surround them in acceptance and love. But once we reach this developmental change, more and more it becomes necessary to be the straight line as well : to be the security and firmness externally while they go through inner change and what amounts to a tumultuous transformation. I think this is a beautiful concept to meditate on!