What is Holistic Education?

What is Holistic Education?

Self-reflective, creative, intrinsically motivated beings with a balanced world view is the ultimate goal of holistic education.

Holistic education models celebrate the child for who they are, here and now. Acknowledging and supporting their life experiences and barriers and adopting a solution focused mentality that works with the child to explore what works and what went well, instead of placing an emphasis on what isn’t working.

Holistic education does not prescribe itself to a specific methodology. Although philosophies such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf incorporate holistic education concepts through their emphasis on social and emotional learning.

Holistic education acknowledges that each child has their own learning style. ‘Success’ is measured independently, valuing a child’s own abilities; their passions, curiosities and personal goals, not against standardised testing and rigid curriculums.

Holistic education supports intellectual, emotional, physical, psychological, creative and spiritual growth. It is varied, flexible and its’ multiple layers mirror the complex nature of our very being.

“Holistic education is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning"  -Ron Miller

When growing a tree you would not attempt to fix a damaged or broken branch by taping in back together. Instead you would likely consider the ground in which is grows and nutrients in needs to flourish. Holistic education provides children with a space in which they can thrive while providing them with a freedom to be who they are meant to be in this world.

Some of the many benefits of this approach to learning includes:

Emotional Wellbeing and Resilience

How do we define success? The answer to this is often based on external factors such as wealth, material possession and career progression. However, someone could obtain all of these things and still lead an unhappy life. Our emotional wellbeing and ability to be resilient not only impact a child’s ability to learn in their schooling years, but their mental health more generally including the likelihood they will or will not develop depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns.

Our emotional wellbeing provides the tinted lense we wear in which we see our world.

Creativity to Drive Innovation

Creative thinking and the ability to be innovative is a skill widely rewarded and needed in adulthood. Some education systems discourage such thinking through rigid curriculums that place emphasis on defining what a child ‘needs’ to learn and how.

Allowing children to remain curious problem solvers supports the development of critical thinking while the very sense of curiosity drives learning as an intrinsic motivator. Learning occurs within the context of exploring and reflecting over the memorisation of facts.

Social Relationships and Community Connectedness

Alfie Kohn speaks of the importance of collaboration over competition. Contests, competitions, awards ceremonies, honour rolls and prizes for being the “best” all place an emphasis on excellence as winning. This sends a confusing message to children that, in order to do something well is to outdo others. The measure of our worth should not be held against the amount of people we have beaten. We are born worthy.

Connection and a sense of purpose can drive us. They ignite a light within that motivates us intrinsically, supports our emotional wellbeing and allows us to lead a life we love.

As human beings we thrive through connection. Seeing peers as collaborators and not obstacles serves to support human connection and actually increases the likelihood we are able to reach our own goals and attain new skills through the support and encouragement of community.

Social responsibility

It is now more widely accepted that our Earth is in need of help. We need to live more sustainably. Raising a generation of children who can support these changes cannot happen without first adopting a true appreciation and connection to our natural environments.

Holistic education supports environmental and humanitarian values such as compassion. We share this land with so many others and in some way we are all interconnected.

For example, gratitude can be fostered from deep understanding of what is involved in growing food when children are provided with a hands on learning experience to garden.

A child who feels connected to their environment is consequently more likely to treat it with the respect it deserves.

In providing and educational space that serves to meet the needs of the whole child, we are establishing foundations for them to lead a meaningful life. A life that gifts them with a freedom to be who they are meant to be, to follow their passions, to take awe in the natural world but also foster compassion to care for it and others.

Holistic education can be incorporated into mainstream schooling - but it something that needs to be advocated for in current systems. Change from the roots up is possible!
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