Interview: Holistic Education with Whole Beings

Whole Beings is an education studio in Queensland, Australia that offers holistic education programmes for pre-schoolers to teenagers, encouraging active parent involvement and offering advice and support to create a better present and future for all.

What inspired you to create Whole Beings?

Whole Beings was founded on the belief that holistic education, which nurtures the child as a whole, is how each child should be taught. We are Elysia and Nat, two sisters with a combined 24 years of experience in early childhood, bachelor degrees and postgraduate studies, who want to be more than only focused on academic tuition.

We turned our to our beliefs that the mind, body and spirit of each child should be nurtured and that one doesn’t exist without the other.

At Whole Beings we are inspired to create a movement in holistic education where each child is organically nurtured toward finding their identity and purpose in life, make connections with our natural world and our community and practice spiritual values such as kindness, gratitude and peace.

The space itself maintains a balance of style, design and aesthetics which are yet to be incorporated into modern education. Our branding is based on peace, gratitude and the growth of a child, reflected through a sprout to lotus icon.

What types of programmes do you offer?

Whole Beings is a safe haven for wellness and learning where our ethos reflects gratitude, peace and compassion. All programmes are delivered by bachelor qualified child and family specialists and registered teachers.

At Whole Beings we love visualisation, meditation, yoga, positive affirmations and EFT when it comes to nurturing these little beings. Just by simply showing children these holistic practices, we are setting them up for becoming adults that are powerful and safe in their own skin.

Our vision is to ignite children with a powerful sense of who they are, whilst embracing their naturally creative minds and spirits.

We currently offer Holistic Beings programme for ages 3-5 which is an alternative approach to day care/ preschool, Holistic After School learning programmes targeting the whole child, Self-esteem Sessions for school aged children and teens, Emotional Resilience and Social Competence and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) for children, mummas and teens.

Do you follow any one approach to alternative education?

When people enter Whole Beings, they see a unique studio style space filled with creative learning stations, designed for prompt immersion by the entering child. Some will notice elements of Steiner philosophy, there will be natural wood materials and fantasy play. Montessori inspired learning can be seen as puzzles, patterning or real world experiences, such as involving the children in the nurturing of our plants. Let’s not forget Reggio Emilia where the environment allows for child-led learning through experiences of touching, listening and observing which can be seen throughout the entire space.

Each child is a unique being that learns and grows in a creative setting where they can embrace limitless ideas and reveal their unlimited potential.

We would have to say all of the above approaches are embedded in our programmes yet we aren’t regimented to one particular approach. The amazing theories that were developed in the early 20th century by these inspirational humans, is something that us as teachers have studied and taken distinct elements from when developing the beliefs, identity and curriculum for Whole Beings.

We feel our direction and purpose is to modernise these approaches and build our own holistic style of educating today’s children. In a way we have been inspired by these beliefs, simplified them and put them into practices that blend with the current style of our culture.

How do children benefit from holistic education?

We believe there is not a one size fits all in education, even if it is holistic and a single approach to learning restricts growth. We think that if we followed a single theorist, the individual learner would miss opportunities to thrive. Can we just say we have taken the best parts of each? Learning through living is a phrase that we use in our practices and we believe that the best learning takes place in a creative, unrestricted setting where we can embrace limitless ideas that target the whole child.

If we can empower each child to be confident, creative, intelligent and reveal their unlimited potential, they will change the world. We call them ‘Whole Beings’.

A blend of holistic elements which are used to educate a child don’t need to be labelled and scrutinised, they just need to be practiced. Massive changes in our society have taken place since these theories were developed. We have designed our programs to suit the flexible lifestyles that people live and made our education centre as accessible as a coffee shop in a local area.

What is your greatest aim in offering a new type of education?

We’ve all heard the saying ‘it’s easier to build strong children than repair broken adults’ and it’s safe to say that we all agree on that. But let’s talk about what we are actually doing to build children that are strong enough? How do holistic approaches help?

Mental health awareness is bigger than ever and it’s an issue that needs to be eradicated from our society. Mainstream medicine may have a time and place, but it isn’t dealing with the root cause. To really change what is happening, we have to work together and build a generation of peaceful, mindful and resilient little humans. We need to inspire the next generation not to come from a place of fear but rather a place filled with creative, loving and peaceful energy. If we can plant seeds by handing them special tools that will maintain their happy, kind and friendly natures we will change what is happening somewhere in between childhood and adulthood. It’s not something that is unattainable, these seeds can be anything that makes children calm, mindful, think creatively and feel happiness within.

Positive affirmations and guidance are used throughout all of our programmes as is yoga for kids. We also use eco-friendly and sustainable practices.

There isn’t one recipe to nurture a child’s mind and spirit. It’s about creating an awareness of the importance of holistic approaches and techniques. ‘Mindfulness’ is not just a trendy hashtag thrown around on Instragram. It’s an actual awareness that is key to mental and spiritual contentment. Our wish is to have every child practice some kind of mindfulness based exercise daily.

What is your advice to parents wanting to incorporate holistic education at home?

You can start at home by getting creative and finding you own holistic rhythm with your child. It’s also powerful when you are the role model for your child and practice these techniques personally. You may just take a few minutes of your time to try out these five mindfulness based strategies with your child:

1. Start the day with a positive affirmation or intention such as “I love being me”. You may even want to create your own affirmation card together or simply state it lovingly into the mirror.

2. Get in the kitchen and chop up some citrus fruit or fresh herbs and discuss with your child the smell, taste and feel of each. Give them enough time to be present and ponder their thoughts.

3. Create your own meditation story by simply getting them to close their eyes and take them on a journey to a magical or real life place you can both relate to.

4. ‘Salute the Sun’ together or practice some fun yoga poses with values such as warrior/ brave, tree/ peaceful, downward dog/ happy, mountain/ kind and bridge/ strong.

5. Go on a nature walk together; feel the earth on your soles, collect nature goodies, read the clouds, look at the stars. The possibilities are endless.

Through connections to the natural world, the community and values such as compassion, gratitude and peace, each child is inspired to be all they can be. Know that even the smallest seed you plant will bloom one day.