The concept of innateness is central to SOTE’s philosophy of education. It is at the core of various approaches taken in the School to the children’s development. These include having a long term view and allowing the children time to grow and mature rather than looking for brilliant performances from them. This requires putting time and understanding into caring for the emotional needs of the children, and being patient with the various stages and individual rates of growth they display. It means having a non-competitive approach that allows each child to give of his or her best, and to gradually define his or her values and approach to living based on a positive, constructive outlook on life. All this fosters the inner development of the child which can in time find expression in art, music, academic studies, social activities and a myriad of other ways that express the unique personality and gifts the child possesses.

Most parents missed out on this in their own childhood and in their education. However, it can be found at a later age if a person keeps an open mind and is interested in their own personal growth. In Term Two the Parents Program offered a series of workshops through which parents could find an interest or expression of their talents, or an opportunity to spend some time doing something they may have wished to do but have been unable to find time for. The parents took different approaches, with some opting to do something they were comfortable with, whilst others wanted to extend themselves and do something they had never done before.

The tutors were mostly other parents and their efforts in organizing and teaching during the workshops were greatly appreciated. The School was abuzz with activity on the Friday evenings when those learning the ins and outs of bread making from Colin Roberts could look over the shoulders of the water colour painters being tutored by Kathy Westfold, and have a cup of tea with the singers, actors or sculptors from other groups. On Sunday morning, whilst some were taking a fine line in the drawing workshop with Lori Ortmann, others spent time getting to grips with the Internet, with a putter on the golf course or with their broken chairs under Steve Neville’s guidance in the handyman group!

The tutors commented on how supportive the parents were to each other, and for some the communication and sense of companionship and fun were what they will remember. One parent commented how doing one of the activities gave her an insight into how her own child feels from time to time. Having left her own school days behind, it was refreshing to be in the situation of a complete beginner at something, and to observe her own reactions. The final Friday evening was devoted to a Parents Exhibition and Performance. It was a low key night where parents were able to share their talents and experiences, and the tasty morsels Colin’s group provided for supper.

The Issues Groups at the beginning of this term allowed parents to reflect on their expereiences and to discuss some of the wider implications of the concept of innateness. There have already been many requests to repeat and extend the workshops next year.

About the Author

Jan Gudkovs is a psychologist at the Centre for Healthy Living. She was also a parent at the School of Total Education and coordinated the School Parents Program for a number of years.

This article was originally published in the August 1999 edition of the SOTE Newsletter. (Published on web site: September 2001).