In the younger years of primary school, the child still lives in an ensouled world and does not strongly differentiate between himself and his surroundings. The child is deeply satisfied to have the lessons of the world brought to him through stories and imaginations, as well as in rich artistic and practical experiences.
In the words of Rudolf Steiner, “love is the best way for what teachers have to give to flow into their students”. In the early primary years, the children feel themselves deeply nourished and supported. It is natural for them to seek out what we teachers intend for them to know, feel and do. This is conveyed by the very being and presence of the teacher, not in dogma or by over reliance on direct instruction, and it is why the children are generally so happy and content to be in school.
I am often asked by new parents about discipline in our school. The structures and forms that are typical of compulsion and coercion are nowhere to be seen. What is visible is love, cooperation, a joy in working together, respectful and respected boundaries, imaginations in story and song that speak to the part of every child that wants to be treated fairly and well, and knows this is what is right and good for all.
Around 9 years, the child begins to separate her sense of self from the outer world. She is ready to begin the journey of observing the world more independently and to develop thoughts and feelings of her own. And it is at this time, that it is very important for the teacher to guide the children to open their horizons, to educate the thought and feeling lives through introducing the children to the cultures of the world, the sciences and humanities. The children want meaningful learning and this is the optimum time for developing in children the heart of gold that will guide them for their lives. The children are nourished as they discover the wisdom and morality that lies behind the stories of the natural world and of humanity. They are pained when they discover all that is suffering and are stirred in their own moral beings to make choices that create and sustain a fairer and kinder world for all.
The teacher engages the children from imaginations that depict wisdom and deeper, universal truths. Every subject is brought through the arts of storytelling, songs, poetry, sculpting, painting, movement and drama. Every child is an artist developing a sense of beauty in its relationship to truth and goodness. Practical skills of gardening, cooking and handcraft develop in the child a sense that she has a place and things to do in her world. Games as well as bush-walking and camps support social skills of initiative, cooperation, and resilience and perseverance in meeting challenges and enduring difficulties.
In the older primary classes, the students prepare to meet the enormous changes that accompany adolescence. The teacher appeals to the healthy instincts of the children, to make choices that are good for the self and others. Biographies which highlight the finer human qualities and the achievements that come from striving and persevering are very educative. Students seek greater independence, avenues to express their growing strength and individual natures. Intellectual stimulus, artistic accomplishment, physical challenge, opportunities to make and do, support the growing sense of I am a powerful being with things to do the world.
There is a strengthening interest in the outside world, questions and exploration are encouraged. Perspectives are considered, observation and characterization is cultivated which keeps to an open mind, rather than judgements and fixed conclusions which tend to the opposite. Interest and curiosity for life is carefully nourished as a capacity for lifelong learning. Excursions are an important way of taking classroom learning into relevant and meaningful connections to the world around them.
Social life can be full of ups and downs and provides fertile growth for social and personal growth, through it all the children become good friends and a culture of friendship supports each to develop his or her potential. Camps, concerts, plays, presentations and class projects connected to the wider community, provide opportunities for a sense of class cohesion and the felt triumph of working together to achieve common goals.
Major Projects are a substantial element in the Year 6-7 Transition Year – between primary and secondary school – the students are ripe for pursuing a personal passion, with the support of the school, parents and a chosen mentor. As well as learning specific technical skills, the students develop planning and organizational skills, and get to ride the roller coaster of dead-ends, deadlines, and finally, glorious success and accolades for their accomplishments.