Our Winter Solstice Celebration


Education is what remains after one has forgotten

what one has learned in school.

                     Albert  Einstein                                                                                                             

I recently worked for five days as a relief teacher at our local area school—a school serving children ages 5 to 17. I was appalled at the lack of respect many of the high school-aged young people had for themselves, for each other, for learning and for the teachers. Clearly, many didn’t really want to be there. Language was shocking. Frankly, for me it was soul-shattering work. I wonder about the home life that creates young adults seeking love and attention in such inappropriate ways.

The weekend restored my faith in humanity. Between 80 and 90 people attended our local Ceili on Saturday night—including our 17-year-old daughter and a group of her high school friends. They had a great deal of fun and danced and mingled respectfully with the younger children and the adults.

Sunday night 25 of us – aged 6 to 90 – gathered in our home to celebrate winter solstice. One by one we lit candles, placing them in a spiral of cedar boughs and fragrant flowers, bringing the room to light. Young and old expressed their wishes: for peace, for the world’s homeless, for suffering children, for the environment and for Mother Earth. We sang together and afterwards shared food and meaningful conversation.

It is this which I long for: meaningful activity with meaningful sharing. Isn’t this what we’re here for? One attendee in his 70s is an inventor of some repute (he has invented the water blaster and various aeronautical devices and airplanes. He told me he’s had almost no formal schooling. In his words he’s therefore had ‘less un-learning to do.’ Is it not time to re-evaluate our educational systems and motives? What are we trying to create? Free individuals or simply those prepared to tow the line?

Interestingly, I’m immersed in the third of Vladimir Meġre’s Anastasia books, The Space of Love. Anastasia speaks of the methods required to create real people fulfilling their missions as true creators on this planet. Her ideas for upbringing and education are vastly different from the systems we’ve created in the world.

Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.

In Search of Simplicity is a unique and awe-inspiring way to re-visit and even answer some of the gnawing questions we all intrinsically have about the meaning of life and our true, individual purpose on the planet. I love this book.”

Barbara Cronin, Circles of Light. For the complete review visit: http://www.circlesoflight.com/blog/in-search-of-simplicity/


In Search of Simplicity is one of those rare literary jewels with the ability to completely and simultaneously ingratiate itself into the mind, heart and soul of the reader.”

Heather Slocumb, Apex Reviews


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We are educating children today for jobs that don’t even exist today. The English speaking world is growing exponentially. Change is happening at an unprecedented rate. What are our governments, school boards and educators doing about this? Watch this video and contemplate these questions. We are the change we are seeing in the world. It’s an awesome time to be alive.


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Subscribe to In Search of Simplicity by Email

John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.

My special guest on Voices from the North last night was Alison Collett. For 41 years Alison has been involved with education and she’s not finished yet. She’s been a teacher, a teacher of teachers, a principal (for 12 years) and is now retired working fulltime for the Ministry of Education helping schools, teachers and principals around the Far North. Obviously, Alison’s definition of retirement is different from its usual meaning!

Alison is one of those rare individuals who has known from very early on what she wanted to do and she’s done it. She’s one of those lucky people who does what she loves and is rewarded for it.

Her primary focus is and has been from her first year of teaching, student-centred-learning. Not all people learn in the same way. There are primarily visual, auditory and kinaesthetically oriented learners. The teacher needs to discover the leanings of each student and apply methods of teaching that meld with the individual’s skills. Teachers do this to varying degrees and, as Alison says, are not necessarily supported by a standards-based system.

I urge you to listen to this interview  to gain insight into the mind of a compassionate, committed educator. We can all learn from this.

Below are a few paraphrased quotes from Alison:

You are not a good teacher unless you are continuing to learn yourself.

 You cannot teach someone. You can only motivate them to learn.

 The top down authoritative approach, whether applied in the home, the workplace or the school only gets compliance. It doesn’t get internalised commitment.

 The teacher is the servant of the pupils.

 The goal of the teacher is to help students find and follow their passions and their dreams.

Our discussion covered the work of deep thinkers in the educational arena. People like Jim Collins and his “Hedgehog Concept” (as enunciated in his huge bestseller Good to Great) were recommended by Alison for those wishing to delve in more depth into the education of today and tomorrow.

In essence Collins says great companies tend to be hedgehogs; companies that know one thing and stick to it almost like a religion. Good companies, or worse, are characterized as foxes, companies that know many things yet lack consistency. This sounds like, “The jack of all trades and the master of none.”

The Hedgehog Concept is about asking three seemingly simple but really difficult interrelated questions – what are you deeply passionate about? What can you be the best in the world at? What drives your economic engine? The nexus is your Hedgehog Concept – the one big thing.

This concept can apply to so much more than companies. Look at Alison Collett. She has continued to focus almost entirely on finding ways to help students learn. This moves her from a good to a great educator. Again, we can all think about this one. Everyone knows how uncomfortable it feels to be spread too thin and to wear too many hats.

Alison mentioned the wonderful work of Terry Crooks at Otago University and Charles Handy (‘The world by and large has to be reinvented’) and Stephen Covey (The Eighth Habit).

The complete interview can be found here:


Related post: Shift Happens

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John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.


I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

                                                            ― Mark Twain


      Education annals tell of an elementary school teacher who arrived at her classroom on the first day of the term and studied her class roster.  To her delight, she saw high I.Q. marks next to each name – 121. . . 128 . . . 138.   “Thank goodness!”  she told herself.  “Finally a class I can do something with!”   

      The teacher gave the students challenging lessons and freedom to create.   As expected, they all excelled and at the end of the marking period most received A’s.   The next day the principal called the teacher to his office.   “How did you turn these low-functioning students into geniuses?”  he asked.   “What do you mean?”  the teacher replied, pointing out their I.Q.’s in her register.  The principal studied the register and shook his head.  “Those are their locker numbers,” he explained. 

      Excellence in any educational arena is based on (1) the passion of the student; (2) the passion of the teacher; (3) the self-image of the student; and (4) the image the teacher holds of the student. The role of a true teacher is not to cram facts into an empty brain, but to see the student as capable and powerful, and ignite the fire of purpose. If you are not enthusiastic about what you are teaching, you are robbing your students as well as yourself. If you are enthusiastic, you are giving your students the gift of aliveness. Education is not just about facts. It is about vision.

      In the movie E.T., young Elliott has met his extraterrestrial friend and hidden him in his bedroom closet. Elliott’s older brother Michael discovers E.T. and befriends him too.  On their way to school the next morning, Michael asks Elliott, “Did you explain school to him?” Elliott answers, “How do you explain school to higher intelligence?”

      Many schools have become little more than holding tanks and babysitting institutions.  Yet there are some teachers and administrators who remember that the goal of education is expansion of the spirit.  Students, they realize, do not come to school to be contained, but to be inspired.

 How can you draw forth the greatness in your children, students, employees or friends?

 I regard people as intelligent and capable, and ignite their potential by acknowledging it. 

Subscribe to In Search of Simplicity by Email

John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.

If you are interested in alternative education this video will interest you. It’s about six minutes long.


Subscribe to In Search of Simplicity by Email

John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.


Here’s some additional information I just received by email from a friend:

Green School, Bali: An international school rooted in holistic education & environmental stewardship

Green School opens on 1 September 2008 for children in Preschool and Kindergarten through Year 8 with students and faculty from Bali and 16 countries around the world. Here in Bali, Indonesia, we are building a new school where Western and Indonesian students can learn together to become more curious and more passionate about their education and our planet.
Green School’s beautiful eight-hectare, environmentally sustainable campus in Sibang Kaja is bisected by the Ayung River, on whose western bank are the School’s classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and kitchens. Aquaculture ponds, organic vegetable gardens, edible mazes, and permacultural gardens are interspersed throughout the vast campus, which is built entirely of low-impact and environmentally conscious materials such as bamboo, alang-alang grass, and traditional Balinese mud walls.
For energy supplies, we are experimenting with micro-hydro power generation as well as producing methane from cow manure to fuel stoves and developing a gasification unit that will use rice husks and other organic materials to produce electricity.
Green School’s curriculum combines demanding academic content taught through a holistic approach that aims to inspire and enhance all of a child’s capacities. The School’s Learning Village, for example, gives students a chance to apply lessons to specific disciplines and real business situations, making abstract ideas come to practical life. Students are involved in everything from manufacturing their own chocolate to helping manage the organic fields, bamboo plantations, and rice paddies that are integral to the campus.
We are inviting you to get involved. Write a story about Green School, help sponsor a local child, or let others know about this vision for education that can make a real difference in the world. We appreciate each and every member of our extended community who share these beliefs and want to help leave the world a better place.
Visit our website www.greenschool.org for more information on who we are and what we have to offer.
Contact: Meliana Salim Marketing & Public Relations Manager meliana@greenschool.org

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLjQVrhMf3Y&NR=1 School design


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6YjpTNR9ko&feature=related Green School


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWaIUx3L3ZU&NR=1 Green School – Planting bamboo


http://www.slideshare.net/johnbali/green-school-bali-78-class-what-we-know-building-a-bamboo-clubhouse Kids building a clubhouse


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlSJ7URvnLk&NR=1 Press release from people who started the school


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZWbv21Vfrk&feature=related Bamboo and sustainable advertising


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvGFEmyo8pY&NR=1 John & Cynthia Hardy – their very unusual eco-home in Bali




All crimes, all hatreds, all wars can be reduced to unhappiness.


A.S. Neill 1883 – 1973, founder of Summerhill School.


Our two daughters have been raised in America, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands. We have touched on Montessori, Steiner, democratic schools and a variety of state-run public schools. Based on experiences of bullying and teachers who didn’t really acknowledge the individual needs of our children, we have been home schooling more often than not. kinesthetic learner. Lucia and I have read with the girls from birth. Authors like Louisa May Alcott and Charles Dickens were introduced early because I believe that without a sense of history, without knowledge of what has come before, we cannot make informed choices today.

Amira is now 18 and Asha 16. They have been home schooled continuously for more than four years. We choose to unschool them. We teach no lessons and never have. Each of the girls taught themselves to read—Amira by reading quietly to herself while home schooling at age 6. Asha at 7 by listening to Dutch language tapes of nursery rhymes, and following along with illustrated books that came with the cassettes. Dutch is her first language and she’s an auditory and

Both girls are superb readers. We had no television until recently and even today all that gets watched is movies; although I must say Asha is grabbed by Disney Channel. We got our first computer two years ago. That was a conscious choice. While attending school in Holland a few years ago our children were the only ones in their school who didn’t have a computer at home. Amira was recently acknowledged by our district’s mayor for having read more library books over a three year period than any other young adult in the area—several thousand books. She writes and has recently become the youngest person to complete the Proofreading and Editing course at the New Zealand Institute of Business Studies. She has recently finished editing my first book, In Search of Simplicity: A True Story That Changes Lives.
Neill believed that the happiness of the child was of paramount consideration and that this happiness grew from a sense of personal freedom in the child during childhood. He went on to say that most psychological disturbances in adults could be attributed to the suppression of the natural tendencies of the child.

Our main educational inspiration these last years has come from the examples of two schools. The first is Summerhill, founded in England by A.S. Neill in 1921. summerhill-coverIn his inspiring book, Summerhill, the founder writes of his experiences.


Neill’s groundbreaking work greatly inspired the founders of Sudbury Valley School (SVS) in Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1968. The school, an old refurbished estate with extensive grounds and a lake surrounded by national forest, is a place where people choose for themselves what they want to study or teach. SVS has pioneered the “one person, one vote” model of democracy in education. Children from three to eighteen attend. None are taught to read, yet every child learns to, some very well. You can do no better than to read Daniel Greenberg’s book, Free At Lastfree-at-last to gain a valuable appreciation for the pioneering work SVS has done. Its example is being emulated all over the world, with schools mushrooming in countries as diverse as Israel, the Netherlands and Australia.


I believe that when we are told what we should learn, rather than choosing for ourselves, our ability to make informed, discerning choices atrophies. We become sheep and vote for leaders with charisma, rather than substance and choose for jobs that pay us well rather then nurture our deepest longings. I have spent my lifetime unschooling the conditioning of my youth. Travel and life in many countries has helped my eyes to see truth clearly rather than through the filter of conditioning. My wife and I want our children to grow into caring, compassionate adults who choose directions that recognize their heartfelt wishes and the unity of humanity and all of life. We have raised them to question everything including us. This can prove to be uncomfortable for a parent at times.


Our girls show no interest in university, contrary to some of their friends and their many adult role models. Like A.S. Neill, they see the value of practical knowledge and skills rather than the purely intellectual. Unlike so many young people today, they are prepared to follow their hearts, rather than the sometimes stilted suggestions of educators, parents and society.


Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed,

 and in such desperate enterprises?

 If a man does not keep pace with his companions,

 perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.


Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862



With the current trends in education to increased testing and assessment the danger is growing that new adults entering the working world will know only competition.walden-book-cover-gif Cooperation is the answer to most of the world’s problems; cooperation and education with heart. One day humanity will look back upon these times and wonder at all the competition in the worlds of schools, business, politics and sports. Our descendants will see clearly why we have so often chosen the path of war and oppression. And they will be glad for our sometimes stilted example, and happy they have chosen for cooperation and peace.


Today, all over the world, education is moving towards more and more testing, more examinations and more qualifications. It seems to be a modern trend that assessment and qualification define education.


If society were to treat any other group of people the way it treats its children, it would be considered a violation of human rights. But for most of the world’s children this is the normal expectation from parents, school and the society in which we live.



John Taylor Gatto from http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/pages/