A few days ago I received a beautiful photograph.
Our daughter Beth sent us a picture of our granddaughter’s first pair of shoes.
The smallness of her feet is put into context by her father’s shoes.
Our granddaughter’s shoes were fitted by a very careful shoe shop assistant.
This picture encapsulates symbolically much of my thinking at present. I am becoming more and more interested in personalisation and learning. To develop my own practice I have been reflecting on ideas shared by Satish Kumar and the Hartland Small School:
The Small School is within walking distance of children’s homes, so that there is no need to take children away from their family and village life.
Almost all of the teachers in the Small School live within the community of Hartland itself. They teach French, rural sciences, biology, chemistry, creative writing, history, pottery, drama, folk songs, cookery, gardening, and more. Few have undergone teacher training, but all are experienced in the school of life and are very happy to share their skills and experiences with the children of the community. And in doing so, they show the children how many different ways it is possible to earn one’s livelihood.
The Small School is not compulsory and there are no fees for attendance. We did not want it to become like an elite school, which only the rich can afford, nor did we want to suffer from government intrusion. Therefore, the Small School operates with contributions and donations from the parents and with grants from foundations, which ensures that it remains at a human scale.
Hartland Small School aims “to achieve a balance between the academic, the practical, the artistic, and the spiritual. We are small enough for all children to know each other, for all teachers to know all the students, and for parents to know all the teachers. We aim to work across age groups rather than having a secondary experience which only allows for work within one age group. We want to be firmly based in the community of Hartland, and be able to respond to this special place, but we also offer opportunities for students to travel beyond the village for cultural experiences.”
I am very confident that small scale organisation of learning is made even more possible by the connections we can make between learning communities. In making this case I am reminded of Ernst Friedrich Shumacher‘s suggestion that “Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful.”
It is a wonderful synergy that our grandaughter’s first pair of shoes appeared 100 years after Shumacher’s birth. That they appeared in a town committed to sustainability and transition is very special.
Hartland, North Devon