School means a time free from work, dedicated to asking questions and seeking answers, to personal development. Did you know?
Children love to learn – we utilise this simple truth, encouraging them, instead of discouraging by hurried classes, homework or grades. Both the lengthy experience of the existing freedom schools around the world and the latest studies in the fields of neurodidactics i neuropsychology show that a child, given a choice between learning and doing nothing, will choose learning. Provided they can participate in the process, instead of being a passive listener. That is exactly our aim. The children are allowed to be bored in our school, they can also spend a lot of time playing – if that’s what they need at the time.
Allowing them to learn in a mixed age environment gives them a fantastic opportunity for development. Children learn from each other – a five-year-old may take part in the same class as a ten-year-old if both of them are interested in the same subject. No child has to wait for a particular subject to “be discussed in fourth grade”.
Any person of any age is a partner for discussion for us here. We know how to listen, teach the children to notice and develop values, which every child already has, even if they don’t know it yet. Time with us is the time to ponder on ourselves, on our own needs and passions; the time to try things, make mistakes and draw conclusions. In short – the time for development for everyone – the children, the parents and our team.
The adults and the children are equal partners, with each of the groups having particular roles in the school. The adults are responsible for everyone’s safety, for creating a friendly atmosphere in the school and for offering interesting classes. The children’s responsibility is to co-create the school community, with everything the community stands for, and to take as many opportunities as the school has to offer.
We believe in a few fundamental rules and values, such as mutual respect, equality, authenticity and staying connected with the other person. Together we form a community whose very basis are the children: they have real influence on how Galileo operates, they are treated with respect and attention. No decisions about them are made without them. We do not lecture on democracy – we practise it. Everyone has the right to express their opinions or to alert us to problems. During meetings, the children along with the adults make rules in relation to the everyday life of the school community, discuss events and incidents (including conflicts), talk about their dreams and goals and discuss ways to achieve them. Thrugh this exercise, they learn teamwork, empathy, non-violent conflict resolution, noticing and respecting each other’s boundaries, taking responsibility for their own choices and behaviours. As needed, the school community creates the internal regulations, from basic rules to strategies for dealing with specific situations. This is how every person may influence the life in Galileo, including the rules governing the school.
We view children as competent and autonomous individuals. We focus on personal and individual approach and on customised learning process. No two individuals are the same; what works for you may not necessarily appeal to me. Filip may learn really well while jumping on a trampoline or hanging from a tree, while Bartek may need peace & quiet to be able to concentrate. Our teachers and tutors do their best to notice and respond to such needs. Schools like Galileo are never big schools, as that tends to make it harder to build relationships – and without those we cannot work or live.
We like, respect and accept each other, just the way we are.
Being independent and free does not equal an absolutely unmanageable chaos, which adults/parents fear the most. Freedom is not anarchy – freedom ends where other person’s freedom becomes affected. Not everyone is equipped to enjoy the great gift of freedom. As adults, we often fear that our children will not want to learn useful things if we don’t push them to do so. The question is – how do we know what is going to be useful in their lives? And have we ever tried to give them freedom to make their own choices as far as their education is concerned? The experience of democratic schools of the world shows that children deal with the challenge of freedom much better than we do – adults conditioned by having attended systemic schools.
The vast majority of us have had the (dis)pleasure of attending schools with strict and athoritative teachers, where we were rarely – if ever! – asked for our opinion. It was a lesson of survival skills, of learning how to scheme and compete against each other. Assertiveness, confidence, social competencies, kompetencji społecznych, and inner directedness are all learnt in later stages of life – through participation in workshops and training course, and often through therapy. Unfortunately, only when adults do we notice that these soft skills are the basis for our healthy participation in society. And somewhere in our past, without much consideration – we were all focused on getting good grades and or getting a mathematical equation solved in the one and only acceptable way.
Children raised in the spirit of freedom and respect for their choices and decisions learn the soft skills from a very early age. It isn’t true that a child left to their own devices will just lie on the floor, staring at the ceiling. Well, maybe for a little while 😉 , but let’s give them a chance – learning is a wonderful thing, let’s allow the children to constantly WANT TO learn. Curiosity and willingness to learn are never as strong as they are in children. When a child is interested in a subject – they will do a lot to know the ins and outs of the subject, understandably to the extent needed at that stage. This is yet another difference between Galileo and a traditional school – in the former, the decisions on which level of knowledge is age appropriate is made by some officials, while in Galileo the decision is made by us. Very often it transpires that a child’s educational needs are far higher than what’s in the basic curriculum. In a traditional school, the teacher is saved by the bell. In Galileo – a six-year-old may participate in a quantum physics workshop with much older children. Children’s suggestions of interesting classes and their needs reported to us, are taken very seriously. But, what if a child does not want to learn?, you ask.
We can say with confidence that there are no such children. A child may not feel like learning at the time when we want to teach them. They may not be in the mood to learn the subject, which they are required to learn. But there are no children, who do not want to learn at all. Learning is everywhere, even when it seems like all they are doing is playing with building blocks. In fact, they are creating, counting, constructing, planning, organisning space, designing, working in a team, interacting, communicating their needs and receiving feedback.
Let us remember that knowing the facts is not wisdom, but merely knowing the facts. Let’s rememberPamiętajmy też, że znajomość faktów to nie mądrość, to tylko znajomość faktów. We are getting bombarded by facts every moment of every days and as it happens, the ability to think critically and selects meaningful information is much rarer than the ability to find facts. In Galileo, we are interested in the entire spectrum of personal and social competencies. We value the joy of learning, the ability to find and develop passions, believing in our own capabilities, and the ability to create and maintain good relationships in the community.
When it comes to conflict, we do not label, we do not force the children into the roles of victims and perpetrators. We do not punish the guilty – instead, we try to help them understand what happened. We often discuss such incidents in our Gatherings (our internal meetings of the entire school community), and what is important – our aim is not to brand or punish the guilty ones, but to discuss the situation at hand. As a community, we do occasionally decide on a token compensation as a way for the causer to make it up to the “victim” or the school itself. Our focus is always the same – the wellbeing of the children, regardless of whether they are the causer or “victim” of the incident. Our discussions are always about the behaviour and not about the person in question.
We are a school unlike all the others. It is not easy to be Galileo’s student’s parents but we do encourage you to try! It’s definitely worth it 🙂