Why Enki? Voices from the Community

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What makes this approach to education unique? Why would parents invest their time and money, and most importantly commit their children to a new education? We thought you might like to hear first from parents and teachers of children who spent two to six years in Enki programs in Canada and New England.

I can tell you that it has been great having the Enki graduates. Their cooperation as a group, overall general attitude and positive outlook toward learning have been fantastic. What stands out most strongly is their openness to and love of learning – that is quite uncommon for children at this age. They also function as a positive and supportive peer group. They were a strong enough community to carry the five new children into this positive mood. As one of their teachers put it, “They all seem to be friends and there are no set patterns, even in their seating. On a daily basis they flow to sit with different friends who could be male or female. They do not seem to exclude anyone. I am thrilled by the opportunity to teach them. It is a special experience for a teacher.

I have spoken with all their teachers, and as far as the academics go, they seem to be very well prepared. Individual children excel or face challenges in particular areas, but as a group they have a solid foundation in mathematics, and are particularly strong in language arts and humanities. Their open curiosity and unjaded view toward science has been very good. Their love of the arts and music is palpable! Overall, they have been a delight.

Middle and High School Director

My son entered the Enki program after completing two difficult and frustrating years in the public school. Within weeks of attending the program, his anxiety disappeared. The slow, comforting approach was just what he needed to feel good about himself as a learner. He went from covering his head when reading time was announced to raising his hand to be the first to read aloud to the class. What an accomplishment.

What initially attracted me to the program was the Developmental Immersion-Mastery approach the school employed. The children are introduced to topics through genre such as storytelling and music which peaks their interest to want to learn more. This desire to learn thus helps the child master the skills and topics of that particular topic of study. My son went from a child who covered his head and chewed his sleeves with anxiety to one who is eager to go to school, quick to volunteer, and eager to learn.

Second Grade Parent

My child’s particular class, which began as a combined grade 1-3 class when the school began, was special in many ways. The teacher, the kids, and the pioneer spirit coalesced in a magical way, in spite of the fears and concerns of parents such as myself. Most of the original grade 1-2 group moved together to grade 7. Many teachers there have commented on their inquisitiveness, freshness of mind, creativity, and sincerity.”

My daughter certainly thrived in the program. Next door to her present homeroom is her former teacher’s grade 4-5 class, and she often stops by. She has said to me several times lately, ‘Mom, I didn’t appreciate elementary school enough when I was there. It was the best that any school could be. When I go into my old teacher’s class now, it feels so good just to be there. They are working on things together…’ She and some of her classmates have been disappointed by some of the things they’ve found in other schools–such as the cynicism in the school culture. I have been disappointed by what I would summarize to be a general lack of depth, cohesion, and sense of ‘meaning’ in the curriculum. There is also a more-is-better emphasis in other schools, rather than the focused learning found in the Enki program.

When the school began I had many concerns. In retrospect, some of these were more valid than others. Perhaps it was natural to be slightly paranoid when enrolling my child in a start-up, experimental school. But now, looking back, I am once again appreciating her elementary schooling. Over the last number of years I have looked into other schools and, with all this school’s struggles as a new school, I conclude that it is the only school in our vicinity that holds meaning, connection, and basic harmony as primary values. These values were successfully realized in my daughter’s class, and for that I am ever grateful.

Parent of a graduate and a second grader

My daughter came to the Enki program as a child afraid of reading, afraid of voicing her questions, in a nutshell, sadly, afraid of learning. The teacher nurtured the spirit within my daughter, celebrating her uniqueness, just as she has done with every child in the class. With the teacher’s tenderness, excellent teaching skills, and unending commitment to the well being of the whole child, my daughter is now a happy, smiling, eager little soul… Without her experience in the Enki program where she became eager to learn and appreciative of all, I doubt that my daughter would have emerged from the quiet, scared, broken-spirited little girl she was just a few months ago, after completing the public kindergarten.

Parent of a first grader

This program has had an inspirational influence on my son, and the improvement in his school performance has been wonderful! In addition to my son’s opinion that his teacher is ‘the best teacher I’ve ever had’, specifically, she improved my son’s writing skills dramatically and has improved his math skills, thoroughly grounding him in the fundamentals of math. She took a child who said, ‘I hate math’ and helped him become one who says to his parents, ‘Give me some math to do’. My son has especially enjoyed this artistic approach; it has opened many doors to learning that had previously been closed to him.

Fourth grade parent

My daughter had been strong academically, and was among the top students in her class in all subjects when she began. She was learning piano and violin and doing well in both. However, she had a stuttering problem, which was becoming increasingly worse, and she was refusing to participate in class because of her fear of stuttering. She was cynical about school and bored. She lacked confidence joy in learning. It was for all these reasons that I decided to move her into this program.

By the time she graduated, she had gained confidence and an appetite for learning. When she began Junior High, if anyone showed impatience with her slowness to answer a question, she was able to simply state, ‘I stutter’. Despite her stutter she gained enough confidence that she joined the drama club and received widespread praise for her performance as the lion in a play called ‘The Love of Oz’. She is now fearless in expressing her opinions in class and in personal conversations. She has a confident and positive approach towards science and math and is working above grade level. Her grades in Middle School are high in all subjects.

Her ability to organize her thoughts in writing, while it is adequate for someone her age, is one of her weaker areas. My daughter commented at the end of Grade 6 that the children who were in the program longer were ‘better able to think’. She feels as though these children experience less struggle than she does in organizing their thoughts. I believe that if my daughter had been in the program for longer, she too would be better developed in this area because of the way listening and writing skills are developed starting in Kindergarten.”

Parent of a graduate

This approach awakened a joy of learning in our child. This extended through every discipline from math to drama. It is not clear whether this was exclusively the methodology or was in part due to the teacher. What is clear is that this approach integrated academics in a way we have never known. Music became mathematics. Mathematics became art. Spelling became literature. Science became creative writing. All disciplines became one. All incorporated fun with learning.

Beyond academics, the teacher gave our daughter the setting to gain confidence in herself. Her growth in this area was tremendous. The teacher helped her to recognize her strengths and weaknesses and turn both into opportunities.

Fifth grade parent

No one could have been happier than I was with my son’s years of growing and learning in this program. I asked my son why he thought his teacher was so great. “She can do it all. She can teach art and music; she can teach math and science; she can teach English and humanities she can teach everything and she really teaches!”

My son went on to explain that everything that his teacher taught was connected. One of the images that comes to mind for me when thinking about this method of teaching is stir-frying. The teacher takes all of the ingredients, carefully stirs them together, and in the end creates a culinary masterpiece. This year my son has several teachers for different subjects. He explained that “everything sits by itself now.” In other words, the richness of the material and the learning is not being made whole by kneading it together.

My son’s teacher’s ability to animate her students and her classroom was a skill that I have never seen before. For months now, my son has said, “No one will ever teach like that again.” It amazes me to think that an eleven-year-old boy was so impressed with his teacher that over halfway through a new school year, he is still comparing his teachers to her.

Less than ten days ago, as we were pulling into the parking lot at my son’s current school, he said to me that he had not experienced any “ah ha’s” this year. “The class used to be full of “ah ha’s,” he said. “You’re going along, when suddenly everything you have been working on comes together and makes sense.” Because in the Enki approach, the material was never taught at the surface, but each subject was penetrated to its core, students came to understand, and trust, that in the end, it would all make sense. They knew they would be required to think more deeply, to explorer further, and to allow their thought process to be flexible and resilient. The teacher expected as much from her students as she expected from herself. This was a great deal. She was able to stretch her student’s abilities far beyond where any of them thought they could go, and when the year ended, the confidence that her students had in themselves was evident.

A final comment that my son made was that his teacher had worked with the class in a way that turned it into a cohesive unit. As a chaperone that spent the weekend with this group hiking in the New Hampshire White Mountains, I knew exactly what he meant. The students learned to respect each other and to respect the views and opinions of others. There was no room in the class for rudeness. They were taught a level of respect that went beyond classroom teaching.

Fifth grade parent

80% of 6th grade students who recently spent two years in an Enki program, scored in the top two levels on State-wide Proficiency exams, as compared with 23% scoring at these same levels state-wide.

So, why Enki? At this time in history the news reports are filled with stories of violence and despair among our youth; we have seen children murdering children in our schools; teen suicide is on the rise; our planet is showing signs of environmental destruction, it is no longer enough for schools to train in skills, or simply educate the mind. We have to look for sources of real meaning and care in our lives and our schools. Strong academic skills are one aspect of educational excellence; they are an important aspect, but must not be mistaken for the whole.

Whatever approach education takes, we are giving our children a view of humanity, and a view of life, that will be their base for life. We are always teaching the children, instilling in them or awakening in them a particular view of humanity.

In the Enki approach we believe that there is an unconditional brilliance at the heart of life, which is indestructible and is inherent in everyone. Like the sun, it may be obscured by clouds and storms, but it is always there for the finding. This commitment to our natural wisdom shows itself in the approach to history, geography, science, math, music and art. It shows itself in the integrated way we approach all learning, and in the way both strengths and weaknesses are seen as opportunities.

When children are able to find meaning and recognize value in everything they meet they will automatically have the respect and caring needed to relate properly. This will render violent destructiveness unimaginable. It is our experience that only through an integrated approach can we foster the connectedness and confidence that are the real antidotes to the isolation, despair and aggression facing our children today. With our first set of graduates entering the “real world”, we can see that it seems to be working very well.