THE TEACHERS, whether in the classroom or homeschool. are the cornerstones of the child’s education. Each teacher stands before the children as an example of human potential, human decency, and human striving. In the Enki approach, teachers are committed to their own development and to deepening their insight into themselves, their students, and the world.
In the elementary classroom, there are two core teachers who stay with the class for several grades. These two teachers work as a team, sometimes teaching together, sometimes separately. In this way they provide the students with a model for working together through the challenges and triumphs life presents. Both teachers oversee the learning and development of all the students in their class. They meet together frequently to share and discuss insights, ideas, feedback, and concerns. This provides stability and security for the child to open and develop naturally, in the context of a deep and growing relationship.
In the homeschool, where the stable relationship between parent and child is a given, it is the “teaching-parent” who needs a place to share and discuss questions and insights, ideas, and feedback, and find much-needed adult support and community. To this end, we offer a discussion group, group and individual phone consultations, and Homeschooling Conferences. These, in turn, help the homeschooled child experience the community of adults working together.
In the middle school classroom, each class has a new team of teachers who are joined by specialists, adding new skills and variety to the stable and trustworthy environment established by the class teachers. This combination of security and variety offers students both safe ground and new challenge as they face the roller coaster of pre-adolescence. In the high school, students learn from the larger pool of teachers and mentors available in their community. This happens both in the classroom setting and out “in the field” during in-depth apprenticeships in the local community.
We recognize that the content of the curriculum cannot be separated from the way in which it is taught, and that the children’s learning is inseparable from the teacher’s learning. Deep learning happens only when the many aspects of each of us are working in harmony. Therefore, the faculty in Enki schools is trained in the Enki Education Teacher Training Program. Homeschooling parents are encouraged to join in this training or to participate in one of our Homeschooling Conferences. In this way, all teachers are trained in the process of bringing about that harmony in themselves, in the children, and in the classroom or home.
The Developmental Thread
The child develops through a series of distinct stages, like the metamorphosis of caterpillar to chrysalis and then into butterfly. While each child is clearly a unique individual, growing at his own pace, we find that there are certain developmental principles and themes common to a given age group. The feisty autonomy of the “terrible twos” is one, commonly recognized, expression of a developmental principle. At each stage the child experiences the world in a unique way. Throughout the school years, the curriculum content and teaching methods are chosen to mirror themes common to each stage. We find that by addressing these themes in our curriculum, each child has the opportunity to take from the material those parts which best nurture her.
In this way, whether she is studying math, science, humanities, arts or foreign language, her own questions and processes can enliven all her work. For example, the third grader is awakening to a new interest in the world. She longs to experience the unchangeable, unconditional realities of life. She is annoyed by the lack of dependability she sees in the human world – particularly the foibles of her parents and teachers. She turns her attention to the natural world, to the wetness of water, the solidity of earth, the heat of fire, etc. To meet this keen interest, in the context of studies of ancient cultures, third graders begin the study of children’s archery. Study of this discipline begins with a trip to the woods where the students cut their own bows, precisely measured to fit each child. Over a number of days, they take this hand-cut bough through soaking, bending, sanding and stringing until it is ready for their personal “fire marking.” At each step the children work directly with the natural elements; their ability to do so determines how their bows turn out. After a similar process to make arrows, the children learn to shoot. Drawing the bow and loosing the arrow provides immediate and direct feedback from the world. If you push the arrow it doesn’t fly; if you pull too far, the bow cracks; if you’re not steady, firmly planted on the earth, you cannot aim. There are no opinions here, it just is.
Just as the third grader longs to touch the natural world directly, each stage of childhood has its particular characteristic longings. When these are recognized and honored within the curriculum, the child comes to see her own experience as part of the larger world, part of the human journey. This strengthens and validates her experience, making it possible for her to meet the challenges she encounters and master learning to the fullest. When she is ready to move on she can do so completely; her innate wisdom and confidence can shine.
Teaching Academics through the Arts
The arts invite the students to make an active and personal relationship with their learning. Therefore, ALL academics are introduced and explored first through the arts. Many traditional peoples have seen art as inseparable from life, saying, “We have no art, we just do everything as well as we can.” The original Native American languages had no separate words for art and music; these were just expressions of a culture of reverence. So too, Enki is an arts integrated education in which the arts are a part of all learning, as well as a study in their own right.
In our Developmental Immersion-Mastery method, all academic content is introduced and first worked with through immersion in movement, story, music and visual arts. For example, in this arts integrated education, first grades might hear a story of the great king who gave “an equal share to every hand,” to bring them a lively understanding of division. The second grader might begin the study of the changing seasons by reciting the Pima poem, “The Black Snake Wind,” followed by a walk to see the spring winds cut a path through ice and snow, then painting what they have seen. A third grader understands measurement more fully as she hears stories of ancient kings, each making a ruler according to his own foot. The fourth grader learns the history and culture of her own country as she sings Black spirituals, joins in square dancing and learns Native American songs and dances. The fifth grader might begin botany class by recreating the harmony of nature in a Japanese flower arrangement. Whether studying math or history or science or anything else, Enki is a fully arts integrated education.
In the Middle School years students develop the themes studied in history, science and math into artistic, community-oriented projects. They may create a science fair, a renaissance fair or displays for a children’s museum. They may write a book of short stories or together create a “novel” or an art show describing and illustrating other times and places.
In the High School, our arts integrated education continues. However, now the arts are an expression of the student’s experience and understanding, rather than part of introduction and immersion. Having researched and studied academic areas, students write and illustrate journals. This work is expanded into artistic projects when appropriate. As well, separate art classes, which explore a variety of media and may or may not relate to the subjects studied, are part of the High School.
The Enki Global Cultures Curriculum
Excerpt of a Writing Project
from a 6th Grade Study of Africa
Sunu Rao*: the homeland
Like their fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers for generations beyond counting, the people of Africa lived free, mom-sa-bop*, under hot sun and thick shade trees:
Moan, groan, I paced by the nigunach•, my home. Inside my wife was giving birth. A son was born. I saw my son, Samba, grow and grow. Finally, my son was taken by the men of our tribe. My wife wailed. My heart beat faster and faster. Fump, thump, fump, thump. He was going to the leul•, the initiation. All around quieted.
*From the Wolof language of West Africa
At the heart of Enki is a commitment to multicultural education. For us, multicultural education grows from the understanding that fundamental human decency and dignity, courage, and compassion are inherent in all people. We believe that it is important for each family to support the child’s connection to and pride in her own heritage in the course of family life, but that it is the role of education, whether in a homeschool or classroom program, to help her develop meaningful connections to the larger world. In this context, we believe that students are best nurtured when they see their own strengths and struggles reflected in all mankind and can experience human greatness in any nationality, race, or religion. Therefore, in both the Enki classroom and homeschooling curriculum, all students are immersed in literature, drama, music, arts, and ideas from around the world.
Our multicultural education curriculum emphasizes the cultural composition of the particular local area, while reflecting the global community. At all grade levels, in keeping with the particular developmental issues of that age, children work with all academic content in the context of several cultures each year. Working with one culture at a time, using stories, songs, drama, games, and the events and ideas of daily life, the children have a chance to absorb that culture directly.
This ongoing experience of other cultures creates a ground of deep respect and reverence for human traditions. As the children experience the “everyman” in us all, their natural and open interest, enthusiasm, and compassion are fostered.
I have been working with my son with the music and art of Italy as part of the St. Francis unit. It is fun and he is loving it, but I didn’t think all that much about the impact. Then I was watching a movie and at one point it was set in Italy and they played a tarantella. I got all excited and could feel my body wanting to join in, but I couldn’t figure out why for a minute. When I realized it was the tarantella I had such a visceral confirmation of why you teach cultures through the arts. I’ve always agreed with it and understood it conceptually, and seen how my child takes it up, but this time I felt it so clearly and personally – somehow the tarantella had become something of MINE, and so “being with” the Italians was like being with something in my own identity. Cool.
Parent in Rhode Island
In Enki Education, learning is seen as the highest goal. Becoming a life long learner requires a strong and supple ability to learn from the unknown – this is the core of real intelligence. Therefore, in all we do in the Enki approach, we strive to ignite and nurture the ACTIVITY of learning in each child – experiential education becomes critical.
In our approach to experiential education we begin all studies with a deep and rich immersion in the particular subject matter. Then the children are given ample time to engage with the new material through the arts and open-ended exploration of manipulatives. Finally, prior to any formal introduction of formulae or mechanics, children are given tasks, questions, or problems to tackle. These carefully structured tasks, coupled with ample time for personal discovery, are designed to help the children uncover underlying principles and formulae on their own. From here, concepts and skills bloom with real understanding.
For example, in this holistic approach, first graders might hear a story about children who are always giving their things away, and then do some drawings of the generous Mini-Minus and the all fair Dominick Divide. With the introductory story and arts aspects complete, when they are ready to work with simple division, the first graders might find something new in their counting bags – where each bag previously contained twelve stones, now suddenly each bag has a different number of candies. The desire to even the shares arises in the children naturally. After a few random tries at evening out the shares, some among them will realize that they can methodically give one to each classmate or family member, then a second, and so on, all the while chanting about King Dominick’s “equal share for every hand.” In the process they discover the underlying principles and mechanics of division.
In an older grade, this approach to experiential education follows the same process: fifth graders may be given string and asked to go out and measure the circumference and diameter of any circular items they can find. Upon charting their findings, they can see the basic relationship between circumference and diameter, and will have discovered Pi for themselves. Then, using graph paper, they can discover how Pi figures in computing the area of a circle. Sixth graders may take pots and pans out to a large field to explore light and sound. With some at one end of the field and some at the other, one child clashes the pots and waits to see when others hear it. Immediately the children experience that light travels faster than sound. Very quickly they want to measure the time it takes for the sound to arrive. Soon, with nothing but household items, a long tape measure, and their own curiosity, they have calculated the approximate speed of sound.
Whether exploring mathematical and scientific relationships, making phonetic connections, or writing letters to George Washington arguing for the freeing of the slaves, the children are encouraged to exercise this “organ of discovery.” Their thinking process is empowered through this approach to experiential education – it is the process we are cultivating at every juncture and in every area, as it is the base of real thinking. In this way, at every step of the journey children are not only learning the content in a real way, they are also becoming effective learners and discovering the empowerment and enthusiasm born of this.
Rhythms and Cycles
RHYTHMS AND CYCLES are the foundation of nature and of human life. We all depend on the rising and setting of the sun, the ebb and flow of the tides, the movement of winter into spring and spring into summer, and so forth. To join with the beauty and wonder of this constant transition, in both the classroom and the homeschool. we work in harmony with our human rhythms, as well as daily, monthly, and seasonal rhythms.
Our program is founded on the belief that all aspects of education must work with the natural rhythms of learning. Just as our physical breathing requires an inhale-exhale-rest cycle, so too children need to experience a rhythmic pattern in their learning. In the classroom, this includes rhythmic alternation of a time for large group learning, time for individual pursuits and one-on-one instruction, and time for peer directed projects and discoveries. Although in the homeschool the elements are different, still the rhythmic alternation of activities and routines is critical. This flow, which covers the entire day at home, includes times of self-directed exploration, times of structured learning, and times of family routines.
Just how the weaving together of different types of learning occurs is different at different ages, and in different situations. Whether in a homeschool or classroom program, the very youngest children will have very little instruction, but a lot of emphasis on establishing a healthy, rhythmic flow to their day. The grade school children will need more direct instruction and coaching as they develop the academic skills and the self-management skills to do more independent learning. Junior high school students will have much of the base needed to steer their own education more fully. In the classroom, they will be guided primarily in peer based, theme-project learning. In the homeschool, junior high school students will take up most of the researching and project development on their own, and will be responsible to do more independent skills work as well. High school students, in both classroom and homeschool, will focus on individual pursuits through apprenticeships as the core of their studies. At all ages, all three types of learning are vital in the Enki approach and are woven together in a rhythmic manner, within the day, the week, and the year.
The rhythmic flow of these different learning formats echoes the child’s energy. In the elementary and middle schools, the two-hour Morning Lesson, which takes place when the children’s energy and attention are most fresh, lays foundations in the core academic subjects – language arts, social studies, math, and science. During this time the learning is done as a whole group, led by the teacher. After snack and a morning recess the children return to the classroom for the ninety-minute Mid-Day Lesson. On the ground of their full-group morning studies, they are ready for more individual pursuits, one-on-one instruction, skills practice, and remedial work, which happen at this time. This is followed by recess, lunch, and reading time. The day ends with a ninety-minute Afternoon Lesson. During this last lesson period, the children are ready for more social and active undertakings. Working with movement (including games and sports), crafts, and group projects, the content learning begun in the morning is brought into a broader context.
In the homeschool, far less structured time is needed but it remains important to have a dependable rhythm to the day and the week. There will be times when a more focused learning is in harmony with the child’s energy and the overall flow of the day, times when self-directed exploration best mirrors the child, and times when personal quiet or family rituals are needed. Exactly how this unfolds will be different in different families, but the need to embrace the different rhythms of learning is the same for us all.
Along with honoring the natural learning rhythms in the kinds of work we do, we also feel it is imperative to work in harmony with the learning process itself. Just as the seasons flow from a time of seeding into a time of fullness, and finally into rest, so must children be given ample time to absorb and digest new material and experiences, before they are asked to understand or act on the new learning. Whether in a classroom or Homeschool program, in the Enki curriculum each subject is taught in three to four week blocks, allowing time for in-depth study and a full range of related artistic experiences. The children are then given time to let the material rest, making their own connections in their own time. As subject blocks cycle back around three or four times each year, students have the opportunity to build on their studies in many ways, from many angles. In addition, once a particular skill or concept has been introduced, digested, and worked with, it is then brought to mastery through ongoing practice and application on a regular basis. This supports long-term retention and in-depth learning.