Although holistic education developed recently in the history of education, with its movement beginning in the 1980s, educating an individual based on their entire human experience is seen in ancient civilizations, most notably the Greeks. Also, during the 20th century, several other whole child educators gained momentum, such as Maria Montessori’s self-motivated growth philosophy and Emil Molt’s Waldorf experimental learning technique.
At its core, holistic education relies on four key features:
- Educating the student as a whole,
- Viewing students as part of the whole,
- Embracing a caring classroom culture,
- Engaging in experiential learning.
Put into practice, these key features mean focusing on emotional, cognitive, physical, and social development. In addition, it means having an emphasis on being stewards of our environment, an attainment of a sense of self, and a focus on “real-world” learning.
With the values of holistic education at the heart of the learning experience, individuals will thrive. At the root of holistic education’s benefits is that children’s brain capacity increases when they feel physically and emotionally safe. Security comes with benefits, including improved academic achievement, enhanced mental and emotional well-being, increased problem-solving, and reduced impact of inequity.
There isn’t just one way to implement holistic education principles because holistic education is more concerned with changing assumptions about how education is approached rather than following specific guidelines. The openness of the education principles encourages students to think about how they are impacting the world around them, which places a focus on the logic rather than memorization. Likewise, by framing education around real-world problems and scenarios in this way, students are forced to think critically from an early age, which benefits them through adulthood. Being able to reflect on the world around them and reflect on themselves increases their capacity.
Holistic education is not just about what happens inside the classroom but throughout the child’s life. For example, if a child isn’t eating enough or getting enough sleep, it is impossible for them to be performing at their highest capacity. Likewise, if a child is stressed outside of the classroom, it would make sense that they might be frustrated or unable to pay attention in class. Unfortunately, traditional education often falls short of this, neglecting what happens to the child outside the classroom. With holistic education, a child’s well-being is the top priority.