Peter was 11 years old when he first came to our school, Aventurijn. His mother explained that he became very depressed at his former school. The psychologist even told her he needed heavy medication.
Only after a few days at Aventurijn, Peter’s mother told me she was very happy as this same kid was now singing in the car the whole journey home!
What is it we do with these children, you might ask.
The answer is simple. We just respect the personality of each child. We give them the opportunity to follow their own ideas. The child itself knows best what he or she needs. We don’t force children into anything we think they should do. We believe in the child’s own capacity of knowing what is best to do: perhaps it is mathematics today, playing with other children, making a paper aeroplane, or making a fire…
After a few months Peter told us that his head is like a funnel. When there is too much sand in it, it congests and stops functioning. At Aventurijn however the sand flows just fast enough.
Each newborn soul comes with a plan for this life. The child knows a lot and we as teachers need to help them remember it at the right time and in the right way. Therefore we have to look and listen very carefully. Every child wants to learn and develop itself. Children learn best when they are not forced to learn what we think is important. Forcing education upon a child would result in him or her hating school, and detesting learning. At Aventurijn we provide a rich environment with lots of room to play, explore, create, build relationships with adults and other children, take care of animals, be in nature or simply rest.
At Aventurijn life itself is the best teacher. There are no such things as learning a language at nine o’clock and doing mathematics at ten. Every learning experience is part of life itself. For example, when we are cooking, we need to read the recipe, we have to count how many people would like to eat with us, and weigh the ingredients. When children know, see and feel why they are learning, they are motivated and learn very fast. This ‘learning by doing’ makes their learning a complete experience involving their body, their head and their feelings. They acquire new knowledge not only with their minds, but also with hands, feet, head and heart, body and soul.
A lot of problems we see children are coping with, are in fact the problems of the school system.
When for example a new boy came to Aventurijn at the age of nine, we had been told that his reading skills were very poor. At some point we offered to play a game and he asked us: “Do I have to read with this game? I cannot read, you know…” We told him that yes, this game requires reading but not to worry. We felt positive a solution for his problem would arise and indeed: one of the other children offered to read the cards for him.
After a few weeks of experiencing that we couldn’t care less whether he was able to read or not, he felt secure enough to ask us if we could help him learning how to read. And so we did and read together every day.
Another boy of the same age had been learning this way for 4 years already. Since he still switched the letters, we suspected he might be dyslectic, but we never told him about this. One day he said: “I constantly switch the letters, and I find it irritating.” So I offered to help him with special games and exercises. He never took me up on my offer though. Yet now, a year later, he reads and writes all the letters properly; without therapy, games or excersizes; just because he wanted to and was aware of his problem.
When I see the children here developing in there own way, I sometimes want to cry out to people: “Take your hands off of the children!” The best we can do for every child is to offer a rich environment and respect their nature. They really know what is the best for them, so trust them. Don’t be afraid that they won’t learn enough. Know as much as possible about education and psychology, but use it only when asked for.
Don’t limit yourself to one method, every child needs its own method. So be creative. Work on being a beautiful person yourself, because the way you live is the most important example to the children. How can you expect a child to be eager to learn, when you don’t want to learn? Do the things you enjoy and the children will love to be with you and learn from you, because of the joyful atmosphere surrounding you.
A lot of people ask us how spirituality fits into our way of living and educating. Our answer is: put your two feet on the ground and don’t talk too much about spirituality, just live it! By developing your own awareness and your own creativity, you can cope with the children and the situation in a different way. That is what spirituality is about. Spirituality is not a separate thing; it is a part of life, and life is magic!
Hannah de Vos - Beckers