The child entering grade school crosses an important threshold in his education and development. But this change is not a leap from childhood to adulthood; the child is not suddenly ready for abstract reasoning or absorbing factual knowledge. Consciousness changes slowly and capacities develop over time. There is no switch to flick; rather, the child unfolds new understanding and abilities as a plant unfolds shoot, stem, leaf, flower, and fruit. It is the educator’s task to discover and support development, and draw forth latent capacities in a complete and healthy way. The path to an active will, a rich and sensitive feeling life, and an enlivened and flexible thinking, lies through the arts. Art engages the child’s whole being in learning; in it, truth is revealed through beauty.
The child in the early grades enters a world rich in image, language, art, and movement. The telling and recalling of legends and fables develop imagination, mental picturing, and memory. Letters and numbers are discovered through drawing and story. A rich language environment promotes language usage and comprehension, in Spanish as well as English. Spatial orientation and motor skills are developed through rhythmic work, games, and handwork. All learning is deepened by artistic practice in drawing, painting, modeling, singing, recorders, poetry, and drama.
Each year, the child becomes more capable. The world’s physicality begins to beckon and the children in the middle grades first stamp and then gracefully leap through lessons. The ratio of their heartbeat to their breathing takes on its adult rhythm, and they start to turn their thinking in a new direction. From the whole to the parts, their thinking matures with fractions, grammar, and increasing analysis. Suddenly, the roundness of childhood begins to form into long limbs and new height as the children enter puberty. The meaning of cause and effect comes clear, opening new doors of understanding in the sciences, and also the way they begin to understand themselves as social beings.
The school day begins with a long, uninterrupted lesson. This main lesson—which may well run for two hours—allows the teacher to develop a wide variety of activities around the subject at hand. In the younger grades, lively rhythmic activities get the circulation going and bring children together as a group; they recite poems connected with the main lesson, practice tongue twisters to limber up speech, and work with concentration exercises using body movements.