Beginning in the 4th grade, students would begin transitioning into a more "classic" classroom environment, with different teachers for different subjects. They would also have more specialized classes, like current events/history, science, etc, structured in the standard format. However it would also be beneficial for the students to have longer "free study" classes that cross grade levels (perhaps even joining older students of HS age)
In these "open periods"it would be advantageous to bring in guest lecturers/teachers... from parents, HS and college students, local business owners/leaders,politicians,etc. The students themselves could(and should) be allowed and encouraged to give their OWN talks or lessons.
This freedom encourages the love of learning, decreases the feelings of being"trapped" and powerless in school, and gives the children a sense of control over their own education. Having them give talks has 3 benefits
1:reinforces the knowledge they have learned
2:exposes others to subjects they might not have otherwise learned about.
3:teaches the children public speaking skills and how to present information.
These "kid led lessons" shouldn't be graded in the standard format, critiqued /graded by both the students themselves and by a few teachers/guest instructors.
Also beginning at this age, students who need additional help with basic skills should spend some of their time helping out with the younger students(with loose oversight). Leading younger students with basic skills (math, spelling,geography,etc) activates a different part of the brain than studying them, and it avoids some of the stigma of being"held back" or taking"remedial classes.
The regular classes begin at this point, again taking pains to keep class size small and using "student teachers" from upper grades. The benefit of small classes, outside instructors and the free learning is that students can go more in-depth on subjects that interest them, both on the individual and group levels.
For the regular classes, students should have a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly presentation or debate period (or more often if necessary/desired)
It is important to note that I have said NOTHING about testing or homework up till now. Yes there will need to be testing (yes, including standardized tests) ,however it shouldn't be the "high stakes" style of testing that we have become so enamored with in the recent past...rather it should be more "informal" with most subjects, with weekly/bi-weekly quizzes so the teachers can keep on top of the students progress.
Stay tuned ,faithful readers, for part 3, to HS and Beyond!