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Which style of education is the best?

One of my earliest memories is standing in what seemed like a huge hall, as a three year old, with all these stations set up around the room. I could choose whatever activity I felt like - I felt free and empowered, a motivated doer in a world of opportunities. That was my Montessori preschool - we walked on stilts, did puzzles and explored sandpaper letter shapes. It was active, sensory and child-led.

My parents later moved me into a more strict and conservative kindergarten. I remember my teacher - intimidating and sharp. We were expected to be quiet a lot of the time. She used an extensive regime of carrots and sticks to control our behaviour. The feeling of shame when we didn't live up to her standards still pangs. I would cry to my parents, who thankfully heard me and moved schools.

Through my school years, I moved between private and public schools of varying styles, but for the most part experienced what we would call a classical education. All the hallmarks were there - highly structured, compartmentalised subjects, teacher-directed academic content, assessment and testing. And I was good at it. I completed my schooling at an elite private girls school that instilled in me a sense of discipline, rigour, organisation and personal responsibility that I carry with me to this day.

Later in life, exploring creative and spiritual paths, I found Steiner education. It was unlike anything I had come across before. A deep, encompassing philosophy that acknowledged the whole human being, and a rich curriculum that arose out of understanding the inner developmental life of the child. As a teacher, I found the crafts, storytelling, rhythm and interweaving subjects profoundly nourishing and resonant.

Launching my project of Project-based Tutoring awakened a different set of capacities again. I have found my own venture calls for bravery, initiative, vision, problem-solving skills, adaptability, confidence in myself and the ability to connect with others. It is the soft skills that conventional education often sidelines in favour of the hard academics that are now front and centre. Skills you don't just learn in the classroom but through family and community relationships and the adventure of life. Connecting with the homeschool world has opened my eyes to the possibilities for true natural learning that emerges out of the child's interests and motivations.

I feel it was part of my destiny to experience this diversity of approaches that have shaped me into who I am. Rather than being fixated on finding the "correct" way, I have reflected that different styles bring out different qualities. They each have their strengths and blindspots. My classical education was well-resourced with high academic standards, but did not bring out my individuality and lacked warmth. Working in Steiner education there was room for authentic relationships and a rich cultural fabric, but small communities can have their idiosyncrasies. My philosophy now as a teacher is to be alive to what comes forward in the context and go with that, drawing on a network of resources. It is refreshing to look beyond right and wrong and follow the journey that is made for you.


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