The third grade is often called the turning point of childhood. The eight-year-old is going through a change that is particularly profound. Rudolf Steiner describes how the nine-year-old experiences, at a spiritual level, what the three-year-old experienced when first using the word “I”.
Before the age of nine, the major part of the child’s being is not yet incarnated, and instead, it lives within everything and everyone they perceive. They feel inwardly related to everything, and can identify fully with almost anything.
Now, however, an experience arises of self as something independent of everything else.
Now the child may suddenly feel very insecure; their relationship with nature, with eternity, with others, and with themselves, has to be re-established.
Life certainly takes on quite a different quality. Just as fairy tales in the first grade, and fables and legends in the second grade, nourished children, so stories of the Old Testament form the treasury of sustenance for this year. With these stories comes an introduction to history. These powerful stories closely parallel the child’s own experiences. He/she has left behind the “paradise” of early childhood and is becoming more aware of good and evil. Through the story of the casting out of Adam and Eve from Paradise, comes the grappling with the earth — farming, gardening, housing and clothing. Through an understanding of the role of the farmer, the children are led to the interrelationships of the Four Kingdoms of Nature as they work together in harmony. Shelters of animals and humans, emphasising different times and climates, give the children an understanding of man’s creativity and his use of tools and materials. The practical arts of the home are given attention.
Third graders work on their reading, both silently and aloud, and writing, taking great joy in the stories they write themselves in their main lesson books. Grammar study takes place with active involvement as the children act out doing words, naming words, and describing words. This grammar study is carried into other lessons. Math becomes quite practical, too; telling time, making change with money, measurement in cooking or in building all have their place. Math is very much a tool dealing with life.