Lower School: The Elementary Years
The seventh year of a child’s life is one of great transition. Children begin to have a stronger spirit of independence in their relationship with parents and they enter the social sphere more readily. Additionally, children at this age have a longer attention span and a new capacity for memory and directed learning. The child can now form mental pictures and begins to see relationships and patterns in his/her world.
The child is ready now to embark on a journey through grade school, guided by the loving authority of the class teacher, who typically teaches the same group of children from grades 1-8. Not only does this consistency offer the child a sense of security, but it also allows the teacher to know each child more deeply and to help develop his/her capacities.
The Rhythm in the Classroom
In the early grades the children begin each day in a circle time that is carefully planned to build social skills, integrate the senses, develop coordination, memory, speech, and practice arithmetic skills kinesthetically. The class teacher is responsible for teaching the main lesson, which takes place in the first two hours of each school day. The main lesson is a thematic study that extends over a four-week period, allowing the class to focus on a topic and attain a deep understanding. Textbooks are avoided, but rather the lessons are taught through story and direct experience. Arts and academics are interwoven as the children create their own books that reflect their learning. Often each class works together on a play related to a topic they have been studying that year, which is presented to the school community.
The main lesson is followed by 40-minute subject lessons that include music, handwork, Spanish, Chinese, games, eurythmy, painting, clay modeling, and form drawing. These classes promote the child’s well-rounded development and give them the opportunity to learn from other experienced teachers. The class teacher also works with the class on spelling, reading, arithmetic, and handwriting in additional 40-minute periods throughout the week.
These periods of academic learning are balanced by a snack, lunch, and a recess in nearby Crispus Attucks Park. In first grade there is also a rest time each afternoon.