Holistic approach to education
Many parents today are looking to alternative schools that offer different philosophies of education than mainstream schools. The diversity of alternative schools sets them apart from mainline education. Education for Meaning and Social Justice.
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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 spiritual 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. This is the definition given by Ron Miller, founder of the journal Holistic Education Review (now entitled Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice). The term holistic education is often used to refer to the more democratic and humanistic types of alternative education. Robin Ann Martin (2003) describes this further by stating, "At its most general level, what distinguishes holistic education from other forms of education are its goals, its attention to experiential learning, and the significance that it places on relationships and primary human values within the learning environment." (Paths of Learning)
The concept of holism refers to the idea that all the properties of a given system in any field of study cannot be determined or explained by the sum of its component parts. Instead, the system as a whole determines how its parts behave. A holistic way of thinking tries to encompass and integrate multiple layers of meaning and experience rather than defining human possibilities narrowly.
Key Historical Contributors
It is difficult to map the history of holistic education because many feel that the core ideas of holism are not new but "timeless and found in the sense of wholeness in humanity's religious impetus" (Forbes,1996). On the other hand, the roots of holistic education can be traced back to several major contributors. Originating theorists include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, Johann Pestalozzi, Friedrich Frцbel, and Francisco Ferrer. More recent theorists are Rudolf Steiner, Maria Montessori, Francis Parker, John Dewey, John Caldwell Holt, George Dennison Kieran Egan, Howard Gardner, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Paul Goodman, Ivan Illich, and Paulo Freire. With the ideas of these pioneers in mind, many feel that the core ideas of holistic education did not truly take form until the cultural paradigm shift that began in the 1960s. After this, the holism movement in psychology emerged in the 1970s where, during this time, "an emerging body of literature in science, philosophy and cultural history provided an overarching concept to describe this way of understanding education - a perspective known as holism."
Significant forward motion was accomplished by the first National Holistic Education Conference that was conducted with The University of California, San Diego in July 1979, that included 31 workshops. The Conference was presented by The Mandala Society and The National Center for the Exploration of Human Potential.
The title was Mind: Evolution or Revolution? The Emergence of Holistic Education
For six years after that the Holistic Education Conference was combined with the Mandala Holistic Health Conferences at the University of California, San Diego, with about three thousand professionals participating each year.
Out of this came the Journal of Holistic Education and the observation that educators think they are teaching the basic three R's: Reading Writing and Arithmetic. With Holistic Education the basic three R's are Education for: Relationships, Responsibility and Reverence for all life.
Any approach to education must ask itself, what is the goal of education? Holistic education aims at helping students be the most that they can be. Abraham Maslow referred to this as "self-actualization". Education with a holistic perspective is concerned with the development of every person's intellectual, emotional, social, physical, artistic, creative and spiritual potentials. It seeks to engage students in the teaching/learning process and encourages personal and collective responsibility.
In describing the general philosophy of holistic education, Robin Ann Martin and Scott Forbes (2004) divide their discussion into two categories: the idea of Ultimacy and Basil Bernstein's notion of Sagacious Competence. 
1. Religious; as in becoming "enlightened". Spirituality is an important component in holistic education as it emphasizes the connectedness of all living things and stresses the "harmony between the inner life and outer life" (Holistic Education Network).
2. Psychological; as in Maslow's "self-actualization". Holistic education believes that each person should strive to be all that they can be in life. There are no deficits in learners, just differences.
3. Undefined; as in a person developing to the ultimate extent a human could reach and, thus, moving towards the highest aspirations of the human spirit (Holistic Education Network).
In considering curriculum using a holistic approach, one must address the question of what children need to learn. Since holistic education seeks to educate the whole person, there are some key factors that are essential to this type of education. First, children need to learn about themselves. This involves learning self respect and self esteem. Second, children need to learn about relationships. In learning about their relationships with others, there is a focus on social "literacy" (learning to see social influence) and emotional "literacy" (one's own self in relation to others). Third, children need to learn about resilience. This entails overcoming difficulties, facing challenges and learning how to ensure long-term success. Fourth, children need to learn about aesthetics - This encourages the student to see the beauty of what is around them and learn to have awe in life.
Tools/Teaching Strategies of Holistic Education
With the goal of educating the whole child, holistic education promotes several strategies to address the question of how to teach and how people learn. First, the idea of holism advocates a transformative approach to learning. Rather than seeing education as a process of transmission and transaction, transformative learning involves a change in the frames of reference that a person may have. This change may include points of view, habits of mind, and worldviews. Holism understands knowledge as something that is constructed by the context in which a person lives. Therefore, teaching students to reflect critically on how we come to know or understand information is essential. As a result, if "we ask students to develop critical and reflective thinking skills and encourage them to care about the world around them they may decide that some degree of personal or social transformation in required." 
Second, the idea of connections is emphasized as opposed to the fragmentation that is often seen in mainstream education. This fragmentation may include the dividing of individual subjects, dividing students into grades, etc. Holism sees the various aspects of life and living as integrated and connected, therefore, education should not isolate learning into several different components. Martin (2002) illustrates this point further by stating that, "Many alternative educators argue instead that who the learners are, what they know, how they know it, and how they act in the world are not separate elements, but reflect the interdependencies between our world and ourselves" (). Included in this idea of connections is the way that the classroom is structured. Holistic school classrooms are often small and consist of mixed-ability and mixed-age students. They are flexible in terms of how they are structured so that if it becomes appropriate for a student to change classes, (s)he is moved regardless of what time of year it is on the school calendar. Flexible pacing is key in allowing students to feel that they are not rushed in learning concepts studied, nor are they held back if they learn concepts quickly.
Third, along the same thread as the idea of connections in holistic education, is the concept of transdisciplinary inquiry. Transdisciplinary inquiry is based on the premise that division between disciplines is eliminated. One must understand the world in wholes as much as possible and not in fragmented parts. "Transdisciplinary approaches involve multiple disciplines and the space between the disciplines with the possibility of new perspectives `beyond' those disciplines. Where multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary inquiry may focus on the contribution of disciplines to an inquiry transdisciplinary inquiry tends to focus on the inquiry issue itself."
Fourth, holistic education feels that meaningfulness is also an important factor in the learning process. People learn better when what is being learned is important to them. Holistic schools seek to respect and work with the meaning structures of each person. Therefore, the start of a topic would begin with what a student may know or understand from their worldview, what has meaning to them rather than what others feel should be meaningful to them. Meta-learning is another concept that connects to meaningfulness. In finding inherent meaning in the process of learning and coming to understand how they learn, students are expected to self-regulate their own learning. However, they are not completely expected to do this on their own. Because of the nature of community in holistic education, students learn to monitor their own learning through interdependence on others inside and outside of the classroom.
Finally, as mentioned above, community is an integral aspect in holistic education. As relationships and learning about relationships are keys to understanding ourselves, so the aspect of community is vital in this learning process. Forbes (1996) states, "In holistic education the classroom is often seen as a community, which is within the larger community of the school, which is within the larger community of the village, town, or city, and which is, by extension, within the larger community of humanity."
In holistic education, the teacher is seen less as person of authority who leads and controls but rather is seen as "a friend, a mentor, a facilitator, or an experienced traveling companion" (Forbes, 1996). Schools should be seen as places where students and adults work toward a mutual goal. Open and honest communication is expected and differences between people are respected and appreciated. Cooperation is the norm, rather than competition. Thus, many schools incorporating holistic beliefs do not give grades or rewards. The reward of helping one another and growing together is emphasized rather than being placed above one another. alternative school education mainline
For various reasons, many parents today are looking to alternative schools that offer different philosophies of education than mainstream schools. The diversity of alternative schools sets them apart from mainline education. Each school has its own methods and approaches to teaching. Therefore, each alternative school may have different beliefs about what education should include. Consequently, there are several types of alternative schools that have holistic values in their philosophies of education. While these schools have elements of holism incorporated in their values it would be fair to say that these schools could be placed on a continuum on how "holistic" they actually are (that is to say, some would have more holistic elements than others). Also, public and other types of private schools do not appear in the following list but that does not mean that there are no holistic values in their individual philosophies of education. In addition, many individual teachers in different venues of education try to incorporate ideas of holism into their own classrooms.
Throughout the 200-year history of public schooling, a widely scattered group of critics have pointed out that the education of young human beings should involve much more than simply molding them into future workers or citizens. The Swiss humanitarian Johann Pestalozzi, the American Transcendentalists, Thoreau, Emerson and Alcott, the founders of "progressive" education - Francis Parker and John Dewey -- and pioneers such as Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner, among others, all insisted that education should be understood as the art of cultivating the moral, emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of the developing child. During the 1970s, an emerging body of literature in science, philosophy and cultural history provided an overarching concept to describe this way of understanding education -- a perspective known as holism. A holistic way of thinking seeks to encompass and integrate multiple layers of meaning and experience rather than defining human possibilities narrowly. Every child is more than a future employee; every person's intelligence and abilities are far more complex than his or her scores on standardized tests.
Holistic education is 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 spiritual 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. This is done, not through an academic "curriculum" that condenses the world into instructional packages, but through direct engagement with the environment. Holistic education nurtures a sense of wonder. Montessori, for example, spoke of "cosmic" education: Help the person feel part of the wholeness of the universe, and learning will naturally be enchanted and inviting. There is no one best way to accomplish this goal, there are many paths of learning and the holistic educator values them all; what is appropriate for some children and adults, in some situations, in some historical and social contexts, may not be best for others. The art of holistic education lies in its responsiveness to the diverse learning styles and needs of evolving human beings.
This attitude toward teaching and learning inspires many home-schooling families as well as educators in public and alternative schools. While few public schools are entirely committed to holistic principles, many teachers try hard to put many of these ideas into practice. By fostering collaboration rather than competition in classrooms, teachers help young people feel connected. By using real-life experiences, current events, the dramatic arts and other lively sources of knowledge in place of textbook information, teachers can kindle the love of learning. By encouraging reflection and questioning rather than passive memorization of "facts," teachers keep alive the "flame of intelligence" that is so much more than abstract problem-solving skill. By accommodating differences and refusing to label children, for example, as "learning disabled" or "hyperactive," teachers bring out the unique gifts contained within each child's spirit.
in learning more about holistic education can read the books and journals in this emerging field that have appeared since the 1980s, as well as classic writings by Montessori, Steiner, and Krishnamurti. It is also useful to become somewhat familiar with the more general holistic literature (for example work by Theodore Roszak, Fritjof Capra, Charlene Spretnak, Ken Wilber). The primary publication on holistic education is the journal Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice, published by Holistic Education Press (P.O. Box 328, Brandon, VT 05733; ph. (800) 639-4122) which also lists several books on the subject. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Press, in Toronto, has published work by John P. Miller that provides a good introduction to holistic education; OISE also hosts courses and conferences. There are separate bodies of literature on spirituality in education, eco-literacy, multiple intelligences, whole language, and cooperative learning that address more specific aspects of holistic education.
"suffocate" the mind and heart by forcing young people to conform to adults' stale and incomplete understanding of the true meaning of life.
Marshak, David (1997). The Common Vision: Parenting and Educating for Wholeness. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing. This highly original study compares three philosopher/mystics of the early twentieth century, from different cultures and religious traditions, who described remarkably similar visions of child development. Marshak looks closely at the work of Rudolf Steiner (founder of Waldorf education), Sufi teacher Inayat Khan, and Sri Aurobindo, "one of the greatest thinkers of modern India," showing how each emphasized the emergence of spiritual energies during successive stages of growth. In contrast to the dominant empiricist thinking of the modern age, each of these sages insisted that human development is essentially "an unfoldment of inherent potentials"; the individual is seen as "an organismic whole who contains within herself her own innate wisdom and motive force," though this spiritual voice requires careful guidance and cultivation by loving, alert adults.
Martin, Jane Roland (1992). The Schoolhome Rethinking Schools for Changing Families. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. As Martin surveys the decline of traditional family patterns, the exodus of both men and women from home to the world of work, the abandonment of children to the influence of television and the streets, and the epidemic of violence that touches the lives of millions of young people today, she reflects that it is time to recreate within schools the caring, nurturing, socializing functions historically performed at home. Martin emphasizes the crucial importance of domestic life in the social and moral development of human personality; she argues that what is learned at home in early life is far more "basic" than any academic learning, and charges that American culture has consistently repressed the domestic sphere in favor of the public world of politics and economic prod uction. For a variety of cultural and societal reasons, most homes today cannot provide the care that healthy development requires, and Martin believes that one essential antidote to rising violence and social disintegration is to provide the "moral equivalent of home" in schools.
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