Elementary School Children

Elementary School Children

The five-year-old, who sets off to school with his satchel and his clean handkerchief, inordinately proud of himself and immensely scornful of his sissy brothers and sisters who are too young to come with him, has reached an important milestone on life's journey. He is now far less dependent on grown-ups ; he is more stable and less disturbed by emotional conflict ; and he is more reasonable and more impersonal in his approach to the world than in the pre-school years. If development has proceeded normally, his father assumes important proportions in his eyes, and it is now that the opinion of " his fellows " counts in his mind.

It is best to think of the elementary school children as divided into two stages-(1) 5 to 7 years and (2) 8 to 11 years. The first period roughly corresponds to the years spent in the infant department and the second to the years spent in the junior department of an ordinary elementary school. The first period really represents a bridge between the nursery years and the school years proper. Many educators think that it would be more appropriate to consider the period from 3 to 7 years educationally as a whole, to construct premises of the Nursery School type, and to adopt a curriculum which would put the emphasis on free play and free activities—handwork, rhythm work, and project work—as well as including the more conventional beginnings of the three Rs. From cases which are referred to Child Guidance Clinics it is clear that first experiences of school are important and that difficulty is frequently experienced by the five-year- old. By the means of such a reorganization difficulties might be avoided, and a happier attitude to learning be established early.

From 7 to 11 years it is legitimate to introduce more formal teaching methods and to concentrate on drill subjects as a preparation to the wider intellectual development which takes place in early adolescence, when there normally arises a great increase in interests and a desire to specialize.

Following the pattern of previous sections I want first to treat of the normal intellectual, social, and emotional growth which takes place during the middle years of childhood, and then to discuss the normal difficulties of the period. These difficulties may be conveniently classified as follows :—

(1) backwardness and intellectual difficulties ;

(2) social, behavior, and delinquent problems ;

(3) anxiety conditions and habit disorders.

The pages below will deal with these topics at some length:

Back to Teaching Parenting Skills