Practical work is emphasized in Waldorf/Steiner schools starting at an early age. Its importance is amplified in third grade when the nine year change comes about. The child is no longer in the dreamy state, s/he is here in this physical body, and s/he wants to do.
"In the ninth year the child really experiences a complete transformation of its being, which indicates an important transformation of its soul-life and its bodily-physical experiences." - Rudolf Steiner
I have been putting a lot of emphasis on practical projects for K this year. Even during those times when our homeschooling goes on the back burner, (like right now so we can be fully absorbed in the Advent season) I am trying to make sure K has a lot of hands-on, practical work to do. I can see the effects of these projects in K when she works with her hands and doing things she thought only grown-ups could do. You can see the pride and excitement all over her - she beams!
Before she actually builds a structure by herself (something that is part of the Waldorf third grade curriculum and will happen in the spring - we are thinking maybe a dog house, or something for the garden) we want her to learn how to safely and properly use tools, especially if she is to use power tools in the future. We happened to be in need of a compost bin so we thought it was the perfect time to have her try her hand at using a power drill, since the plastic bin would be easy for her to drill through.
We bought a large trash can at our local store and asked them if they had any pallets we could have. They had quite a few, including some smaller ones that were just the right size to work as a platform for our compost bin when it was finished. We brought them home and set them outside for when we could get to them. When it comes to power tools, I feel better having both Kevin and I right there to supervise, at least for now, so we had to wait a few days for a time when Kevin was home and able to help. When the day came we first taught her some basic precautions and explained the need for safety glasses or goggles. She wasn't too keen on the idea of wearing the goggles and we were met with some resistance over it all but we got through it (I think it was really nervous excitement she just couldn't express). Then Kevin sat down with her and taught her how to use the power drill. He had her start with the lid of the soon-to-be compost bin as it was a bit less fidgety and more easily manageable. Her first couple of holes were done slowly and cautiously. She was afraid to put too much pressure on the drill, but then after a few holes she got the hang of it. She ended up drilling 30 holes in all. With each hole successfully drilled her smile grew, as did her confidence. It was so great watching her accomplish this task. I could see the work was feeding her soul.
When she was finished, she put the lid on and did a test run of rolling the bin around to see if it would work (you roll the bin to mix the compost every few days). Of course the rascal dogs tried to help resulting in Daddy needing to come to the rescue, only to be a rascal himself. K was laughing hysterically at her Daddy and his dog helpers. Once all of the shenanigans came to an end, K brought her newly finished compost bin over to its spot and placed it on top of the pallet platform (the platform's purpose is to circulate air underneath the bin). We threw in some leaves we raked, and also our Halloween pumpkin, to start the composting process, and called it a day.
What a great project for K to help her see she can do all things.