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Holistic Education: The Theory Behind the Practice

As we begin to hear the term ‘holistic education’ more and more frequently, you may be forgiven for thinking that it is a recent concept within education. Far from it. In fact, the principles of holistic education have been cited for hundreds of years. Here we provide a brief guide to the theory behind the practice.

Where Did it Start?

As with any educational philosophy, the principles of holistic education can be attributed to not just one, but a number of individuals, all with similar or complementary views going back thousands of years. Over the last 200 years, educational theorists From Pestalozzi to ThoreauEmerson and Alcott, the founders of “progressive” education; from Francis Parker to John Dewey and from pioneer Maria Montessori to Rudolf Steiner, amongst many others, have all insisted that education should be understood as the art of cultivating the moral, emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of the developing child. Then, during the 1970s, an emerging body of literature in science, philosophy and cultural history provided an overarching concept to describe this way of understanding education — a perspective known as holism. A holistic way of thinking seeks to view education through the lens of the whole child with every child seen as more than a future employee; every person’s intelligence and abilities as far more complex than his or her scores on standardized tests.

However, holistic education, with its emphasis on nurturing the whole child, has deep roots in the educational philosophies of one person in particular: Friedrich Froebel. Often hailed as the father of the kindergarten, Froebel’s pioneering ideas continue to influence modern early educational practices today. Let’s delve into how these principles shape holistic education and our practices.

Who Was Friedrich Froebel?

Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) was a German educator who created the concept of the kindergarten. Froebel considered the whole child’s health, physical development,  emotional wellbeing, cognitive ability, social relationships, spiritual aspects of development and environment as important. He believed that early childhood education was crucial for development and that learning should be a joyous, engaging, and holistic experience, stating that “play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child’s soul.” Froebel’s methods emphasized play, creativity, and the natural curiosity of children.


Key Froebelian Principles & How They Translate into our Practice

Holistic Development

Froebel’s approach to education was inherently holistic, focusing on the development of the whole child—intellectually, emotionally, socially, and physically. Our holistic education framework aligns with this philosophy, integrating academic learning with activities that promote emotional wellbeing, social skills, and physical health.

Building Strong Relationships

According to Froebel, strong relationships between educators, children, and parents are essential for a supportive learning environment. We prioritise connection above all else and strive to create a collaborative community where open and honest communication and trust are paramount, ensuring that each child feels valued and supported. We believe in the power of community and encourage active involvement from parents and caregivers. Regular communication and family engagement are integral to the service we provide, fostering a strong support network for our students.

Learning Through Play

Froebel viewed play as the highest form of child development. He believed that through play, children express their inner thoughts and feelings, develop social skills, and make sense of the world around them. In our holistic education approach, we integrate play-based learning activities that stimulate creativity and problem-solving abilities, making learning a fun and engaging experience. Within our learning environment, you’ll find a variety of play-based learning stations that encourage exploration and creativity. From building blocks to imaginative role-play, investigations and sensory play, these setups inspire children to learn through hands-on experiences and social interactions.

Respecting Individuality

Froebel emphasized the uniqueness of each child and the importance of nurturing their individual talents and interests. Our sessions are designed to cater to the diverse needs and strengths of each child, offering personalized learning experiences that promote self-confidence and a love for learning. Understanding that each child is unique, we develop personalized learning plans that align with their interests and developmental needs. This individualized approach helps all children build on their strengths and work on areas that require more attention.

The Importance of the World Around us

Nature plays a crucial role in Froebelian education. Froebel believed that nature provides endless opportunities for exploration and learning. At our education centre, we incorporate nature-based projects and engagement with natural phenomenon to help children connect with their environment, fostering a sense of wonder and respect for the natural world. We regularly bring the outside into our setting, providing activities that not only enrich the learning experience but also instil a deep appreciation for the world around them.

Embracing Froebelian principles of holistic education allows us to create a nurturing and dynamic learning environment where children can thrive. By honouring each child's individuality, promoting learning through play, and fostering a connection with the world around them, we help children develop into well-rounded, confident, and resilient individuals.

At Rainbow Learning and Wellbeing, we are committed to these timeless principles, ensuring that every child’s educational journey is both enriching and enjoyable. Join us and discover the profound impact of holistic education on your child's development.


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