The perfect school
Now I understand the headache and time involved in finding the “perfect school”, which my friends who are parents have already been through. At the time, I remember them telling me… “I’m thinking of moving house to be closer to the school I like”… “Will my child be more comfortable in a smaller and more familiar school?”…
We have been up to our eyes over the past few weeks in the run-up to the looming pre-enrolment period for our older daughter Manuela’s pre-school. Researching online, in books, talking to other parents, visiting schools…we are looking at and comparing different options. There are so many aspects to consider when choosing the school where we want our daughters to be educated… not only regarding the learning methodology applied or the academic level, but also the human aspect. Learning how to relate to others, fostering empathy, dealing with competiveness, working as part of a team, learning public speaking… We are very lucky to live in a district of Barcelona where there is an enormous number of very diverse schools, and that is very positive, but it is also making our decision even more difficult.
There is a phrase by Sir Ken Robinson, educationalist, writer, and lecturer, which fascinates me and inspires me in this quest: “Imagination is the source of every form of human achievement”.
My partner and I want to give our daughters the sufficient tools and criteria to face life without losing their curiosity, growing to be autonomous and empathetic individuals who seek to surround themselves with healthy choices that bring added value to their lives. We want them to grow up motivated by knowledge, to enjoy reading and discovering the world around them. We don’t want learning to be a chore, but a motivation and a challenge to work towards. I have never felt at ease with the idea of learning things off by heart to then “vomit them out” in an exam. I firmly believe in the power of understanding and assimilating contents in such a way that this knowledge will stay with you forever. At the end of the day, that’s what knowledge is about, isn’t it?
There are many different ways of assimilating concepts. It is very difficult to understand the complexity of the functioning of the brain and to determine the best learning methodology based on this. It is a decision that is more related to a way of understanding life and to intuition.
I have read up on different learning methodologies, but I would like to share two of them with you. Although they are poles apart, they both interest me. They are the Doman and Waldorf methodologies. We could say that these two trends give protagonism to play and respect the rhythm of each child. Knowledge is worked on through projects, a centre of interest that emerges from the child or is proposed by the teacher, in such a way that the child is brought closer to each subject (environment, maths, languages, values) organically, since it is understood that everything is related, and not in a manner dictated or guided by a book. Below I will explain some of the information I have collected since becoming a mother:
THE GLENN DOMAN METHOD
The method created by Dr Glenn Doman was originally developed to treat children with brain injuries, using very efficient methods both in motor skills and in areas that are more intellectual. Doman, observing the progress that these children made, decided to transfer his knowledge and shape it into a learning methodology for healthy children, thereby boosting their learning capacity. A fundamental part of this methodology is the young age at which it begins to be applied, since the aim is to stimulate the brain to help it to create neuronal connections.
This methodology seeks to develop the visual and auditory memory, to promote curiosity and interest in all fields of knowledge and to build a solid foundation with which to understand and retain the new knowledge that the child will encounter during their life. Unlike more academic methodologies, a striking aspect of this method is that it does not seek to obtain results per se; rather, the aim is the learning process itself, preparing the brain to absorb knowledge. Interestingly, the school in Barcelona that works with this methodology is one of the schools that achieves the best academic results in Spain.
I have read that the method works with a tool called “bits of intelligence”. It is a way of grouping knowledge, units of information that are presented to the child in the form of flash cards that combine visual stimuli (shapes, colours) with auditory stimuli (oral information that the teacher contributes). It is constant stimulation but the child does not have the opportunity to get bored, as the learning sessions end before the child’s attention is lost.
Something fascinating is the continuous attention a child can dedicate to the task. In this table that I came across, I show the progression of time that a child can dedicate to the task according to their age.
– 0 to 1 year: 2 to 3 minutes
– 1 to 2 years: 7 to 8 minutes
– 2 to 3 years: Up to 10 minutes
– 3 to 4 years: Up to 15 minutes
– 4 to 5 years: Up to 20 minutes
– 5 to 6 years: Up to 25 minutes
And the “golden rule” according to Dr Doman, when applying the method is: “If you or your child are not having fun, stop”.
THE WALDORF METHOD
On the other hand there is the Waldorf method, which coincides in many respects with the Montessori methodology.
Rudolf Steiner, the founder of this methodology, assures us that “children are beings who float somewhere between the spiritual and material world” and believes that, for example, children should not be distracted with teachings such as reading for the first 7 years of their life. He proposes a free and creative setting, prioritising the individual needs of each child. “The main goal is that each child develops their own individuality with the help of their talents, and is supported in their difficulties”. That is why he encourages the family to participate actively in the learning process of their children. There is a constant connection with nature, working with materials such as wool, thread, mud, wood, stone… with a particular emphasis on the creative and artistic part.
… After all this, I ask myself: is it counterproductive to over-stimulate a child? Will an overly alternative methodology prepare my daughters to continue with any type of traditional higher education? Will it really provide them with an opportunity to become trilingual (Spanish, Catalan and English)? Does the food offered coincide with our philosophy of healthy living? And, of course, what importance do they give to physical exercise, an essential part of a child’s development?
It is very hard to assess the strong points of each school and identify with it in a global manner; to convince yourself that your choice is the best for your child, a child who is yet to be exposed to academic performance as we know it, and whose personality is still forming. We hope to find a school that will provide them with a good intellectual and personal development, and with which we can work alongside, on the same values, so that they are happy.
C and V.