I want to state again that I am not a professional Eurythmist yet. But I feel this is a valuable experience as a good example of watching for signs of maturity in the 6 year olds in First Grade. Whether you are attempting Eurythmy at home, or are doing Waldorf homeschooling, there is a lesson to be learned here. This age is probably the hardest for me. It is when the children move from the Willing Stage to the Feeling Stage. They learn that they are separate from nature. They are their own human entity! Children who experience this change start to experience feelings and emotions that they never had before. During this year, the 6 year olds will be experiencing an adjustment in their temperaments. That sanguine little child is no longer as light-stepping and always jolly. All children under 7 have very sanguine-like qualities. But once they reach that 6 year change, their temperaments really start coming forth.
So last year, I was working with a First Grade class at our co-op. We started Eurythmy very late in the year (during the winter) so I started the year by telling a winter story. I made up gestures to a story called Frosty the Snowflake (from the book One, Two, Three! by David Adams). The children gave themselves over completely to the story! It was amazing! Even their teacher thought it was so wonderful and had never seen the kids so attentive! I thought, “Man, I am the best first time, non-eurythmy teacher ever!” Little did I know, I was in for a big surprise!
So we had Christmas break and 3 weeks later, I was refreshed and ready to bring a brand new story to the children. I was very excited! I had planned and prepared a story about a caterpillar who was eating and getting fat, spun a cocoon, and emerged a white butterfly! He then went on an adventure to become a colored butterfly. It was a very cute story and I had some pretty awesome gestures to go with it! So the first day back at co-op, we did our warm-ups and then I started the story. The kids copied my gestures, but only half-heartedly. I became very animated, hoping to reel them in! It did not. Over half the class lifelessly stared at me, only doing what they had to do. There were only 3 or 4 kids who really interested in what I was doing. I brushed this off as Christmas hangover and knew that the next time we met, they would know the story and really get into it. No. Still the same. I was so frustrated. I went home and started pouring through all my books trying to figure out what was going on. I talked with the teacher and she too said it just didn’t feel right, but had no suggestions for me. I pondered and meditated over what I should do for days! I was so stumped! In the meantime I had to continue with the story I had prepared because I had nothing else to present to them. It was so frustrating!
Then one night, as I was just about to fall asleep, and it came to me, “Those children have reached the 6 year old change. They are no longer interested in what you are trying to present them.” I immediately had to get up and find another type story to do with them.. a fairytale! I rewrote the rest of the year! I was up until 3 AM! My mind was on fire! So the next morning, my son, who was in that class, got to be the guinea pig. He is the hardest kid in the world to please, so I knew if I could get him interested then others would be too. I checked for signs of maturity. Had he lost a tooth? Check. Can he do a sun gesture without his arms touching his head? Check. Can he reach across his head, and touch his ear without bending his neck? YEP! So I did the story with him. He told me he really liked stories like we just did (he didn’t know he was the guinea pig. He thought we were doing school stories and just offered up that info). So next time we met at co-op, I went through the maturity checklist with all the children and sure enough, most of them were able to do all those things! Some of them had their first loose tooth. They were all changing on me! I went through our brand new lesson and it was awesome! Even the 6 year olds who hadn’t experienced the change were able to keep up fine. All their eyes lit up and they had fun! I felt so relieved after that!
This was a hard lesson for me. For awhile I thought I had failed and should give up! But this is why it is so important to watch for that change. It makes a world of difference to them. There is a huge jump in a 6 year old before the change and a 6 year old after. It is the hardest to figure out because they don’t really know how to express what they are going through. They have never in their lives experienced anything like this! So, if you have a child that just does not seem to be responding to anything you are doing, try to find out why. If it isn’t the 6 year old change, then are there big changes in their lives like a new baby or moving to a new city? Or is it smaller like birthday placement? Are you trying to push the next grade on them too soon? Once you can figure out why they don’t seem to be responding then you can really work with it. All children should love Eurythmy! They should look forward to it every week and be sad when its over. Watch for that 6 year old change! It will sneak up on you in a second!
art by Marie Hall