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Holistic education as a field of inquiry began in the 1980s. Previously this field was referred to as humanistic education, confluent education, affective education, or transpersonal education. The work of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow inspired many educators working in these areas. In 1988 The Holistic Education Review under the editorship of Ron Miller was first published along with The Holistic Curriculum by John Miller. However, as a field of practice holistic education can first be found in Indigenous education. Historically, Socrates, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Bronson Alcott, and Tolstoy can be viewed as working from a holistic frame. What is that frame? It is educating the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. At every level, education tends to focus on skills and a narrow view of the intellect. The body receives little attention while the spiritual life of the student is ignored. One image of the student from this approach is as a brain on a stick. In contrast, the holistic curriculum attempts to reach the head, hands, and heart of the student. The other main principle of holistic education is connectedness. Connectedness is one of the fundamental realities of nature. In contrast, the curriculum at every level, except perhaps for kindergarten, is fragmented as knowledge is broken down into courses, units, lessons, and bits of information. Rarely are there attempts to show how knowledge is interconnected. Holistic education seeks to be in harmony with how things actually are by focusing on connections. Six connections are at the core of the holistic curriculum: connections to the earth, community, subject integration, intuition/logic, body/mind, and soul. There are many models of holistic education in practice. They range from more structured approaches, such as Waldorf education, to schools such as the Sudbury Valley School that give students a great deal of choice. Despite these differences these schools view the child as a whole human being.

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Martin Mills and Glenda McGregor

Alternative schooling has a long history. However, defining alternative schooling is difficult because it necessitates an answer to the question: “alternative to what?” It suggests that there is an accepted schooling archetype from which to differentiate. However, just what that model might be is likely to vary over time and place. In one perspective, alternative schools challenge what Tyack and Tobin, in 1994, referred to as the traditional grammar of schooling as it pertains to conventional forms of schooling developed in Western societies since the Industrial Revolution. Alternative schools challenge the taken-for-granted grammar of schooling variously through their organization, governance structures, curriculum, pedagogy, type of students, and/or particular philosophy. Certain types of alternative schools, including democratic schools, developmental and holistic alternative schools (e.g., Montessori and Waldorf/Steiner), and flexi schools, might offer lessons to the educational mainstream on how to be more inclusive and socially just. However, there are also ways in which they can work against such principles.