Integral Education: Holistic and Individual Curriculum
Integral Education uses dynamic strategies, stays flexible to current best practices, and requires thinking in the context of “both/and” rather than “either/or.” We teach to the whole child: we teach mental skills and emotional intelligence; we teach through collaboration and independence; we encourage exploration of spirituality, aesthetics, physicality; we teach self-awareness and how to use compassionate communication with others.
Our philosophy asks teachers to guide students to consider themselves and their inner world, just as they introduce them to concepts and content about the outer world in which they live. We teach strong academic skills, and we are always looking for balance between reflecting inwards and outwards, critically and compassionately.
Students are at the center of what we do. We create time for students to follow their individual curiosity and passion. Just as with reflection, we are looking to balance this with ensuring they receive a culturally competent curriculum and meet (and exceed) national skill standards. In other words, each student and his/her relationship to the learning environment are foundational to what is being taught.
Historically public, and to a great extent private education in our country has completely ignored self -knowledge and has emphasized an ‘objective,’ hence objectifying approach to the learning experience and to the student’s relationship to life in general. As modern education was fashioned by the industrial-scientific revolutions of the West, it is natural that it would be driven by standardized approaches to content heavy disciplines (such as math, science, history, statistics) that seek to gain ever more predictable control over a material world. Odyssey continues to celebrate all that is gained from a scientifically explored world, and we also add in the importance of creating a sacred relationship to all of life: to our ecology, each other, and ourselves.
As inclusive and expansive as all of this theory is, we use many different tools and strategies to achieve these goals. Teachers incorporate multiple intelligences, six strands of learning, essential learning skills, Compassionate Communication, Positive Discipline, Responsive Classroom, Orton Gillingham; and our school days include time for centering, councils, class meetings, independent research projects, diversity of life studies, physical education, art education, internships, peer mediation, mentorship, goal setting, reflection and student led assessment.
Classes in math, science, social studies, and language arts are essential cornerstones of our curriculum. These classes are largely taught within thematic, interdisciplinary units by our homeroom elementary teachers and as more in-depth studies taught by specialists in 5th-12th grade. Even as students specialize, our homeroom teachers plan together on a weekly basis as we aim to find inspiring moments of integrated connection.
When we recognize that students are more than their mental acuity, more than their test scores, we begin to see and hear students as their whole selves: as thinkers, feelers, creators, sensors, movers, game changers; as individuals and as a powerful collective. Students earn a sense of personal authority and are given the skills to be successful in our ever-changing world.
This can all feel very abstract, and in practice it lends itself to beautiful “aha!” moments and lots of joy.