The value of a holistic education is recognized worldwide, with UNESCO developing the Holistic Early Childhood Development Index (HECDI) with the goal that all children meet their full development potential. The HECDI states, “Extending from conception to the age of 8, early childhood experiences carve out pathways towards health and well-being that persist throughout life. Science clearly demonstrates that such holistic approaches greatly increase the chances that children will complete school, experience good physical and mental health and contribute positively to their societies.” A holistic education can be accomplished in many ways, but it is characterized by providing an education which teaches to all aspects of a child’s growth without overemphasizing one particular aspect of that growth.
The Preschool years are a time of tremendous growth. The childhood brain blossoms, undergoing a once in a lifetime change that allows the child to develop language and skills in a remarkably short period of time. Behind the seemingly normal tasks your child engages in each day, the brain is in a race to develop connections it will need for the rest of its life. Preschool children do not learn the same way adults, or even older children learn. Yet, many schools and preschools have tried to force young children into an inappropriate mode of learning, despite years of failure. At Camelback Holistic Preschool, our holistic, “teach the whole child”, discovery environment is designed for the way your child learns and avoids over focusing on rote learning technique more appropriate for older children and adults.
Beginning at conception, children move through a series of developmental steps in early childhood, each providing the groundwork for the steps that follow. For example, a focus on language development in infancy – through activities such as storytelling, reading and singing – paves the way for reading in early primary school by introducing children to new vocabulary and helping them understand letter sounds. Development is holistic and includes physical, cognitive, social–emotional, and language development.
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.