kindergarten is not perfect, of course.
In our discussions we found areas where the teachers would like
to make small changes, or areas they want to explore further,
and, as we all know, it takes a lot of hard running just to
stay in place. There is no reason for complacency; a balance
implies that there may always be imbalance tomorrow, or at any
minute. Balance takes concentration on the goal, continuous
self-reflection, and subtle adjustments of tension simply to
remain as one is.
I have seen a videotape
of some of the work of
Joan and Aloka with the children. In these scenes the children
move with amazing concentration and balance up a ladder and
down a ladder, balancing a tin plate on the point of a pencil.
They move gracefully and with total concentration. They move
together. Sometimes one child transfers the balancing plate
to another without dropping it or losing the posture, sometimes
As I watched the videotape
I thought of the kindergarten balance. It is true that not all
children are well-centred all the time. It is true that sometimes
the parts do not weave perfectly into each other. Nonetheless
the coming together excites our admiration. I have had that
feeling about the kindergarten.
The kindergarten is not perfect, but it is a very special place.
Without detracting from the specialness of the kindergarten
I should also say that kindergartens in general are easier to
manage for several reasons. Children at this age are extremely
open and plastic, hungry for learning; they have not yet had
aversive school experiences to “turn them off”; parents and
the larger society have fewer external expectations. We do not
expect kindergarten children to pass examinations, and although
the pressure to prepare for some higher form of schooling exists
it is not strident. There is more unanimity among parents and
the community about what a kindergarten should provide than
at any other level of education.
However, these observations
are not intended to minimize what is happening with these young
children. They may be learning faster than they will ever learn
again. Daily their vocabulary expands, and not just in one language
but in two or three. Every day they are learning and practicing
social skills, and, like the mind, the young bodies are developing
There is a much quoted book in the U.S. entitled, Everything
I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,
in which the author describes how in kindergarten he learned
to listen, to speak, to clean up, to share, to express himself,
to ask good questions, to trust and be trusted. Auroville children
would know what he means.
Dewey, John. (1938)
Experience and Education. Macmillan. NY
Finser, Torin. (1994) School as a journey. Anthroposophic
Fulgrum, Robert. Everything I Ever Really Needed to Know
I Learned in kindergarten.
Knight, George. (1989) Issues and Alternatives in Educational
Philosophy. Andrews University Press. Michigan
Montessori, Maria. (1967) The Discovery of the Child.
Ballantine Books. NY
Pratt, Caroline. (1948) 1 Learn from Children. Simon and
Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. On Education.
Wood, Chip.(1994) Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom
Ages 2-12. Northeast Foundation for Children. Pittsfield,