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Interest growing in alternative education



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Kirkegaard points to knitting as a learning activity, which combines this teaching philosophy.

When children knit they are doing something with their hands at the same time as stimulating their minds mathematically by counting stitches and rows.

The other defining aspect of a Waldorf school is the connection to the arts, imagination and fantasy.

"It’s very magical," said Kirkegaard.

"It’s keeping children in their child-like state as long as possible through arts and music and dance."

This differs from the Montessori method, which encourages imagination but bases it on reality first.

"Whatever we tell them is what they believe," said Lima, who does not adhere to fantasy-based education.

Maria Montessori was the first woman in Italy to qualify as a physician, where she developed an interest in the diseases of children.

She began testing out her theories in early childhood education in Rome with the establishment of a children’s house in 1907 that had been built as part of a slum redevelopment.

Her system is routed in the idea that children can have "freedom within limits" and they can explore that freedom through the senses and tactile materials.

At a young age Lima said children learn best by simply soaking in their environment.

"They are in an absorbent period for learning, rather than being taught," she said, describing how each child works at his or her own pace independently, separately of their guides and peers at Montessori.

"Anything they do we refer to as work rather than play."

This helps to foster an independent child, she said.

The other major difference from the Waldorf program is the connection to the Christian faith.

The lessons progress in accordance with the liturgical year and are based on the parables of love and protection and the Kingdom of God.

Lima also runs Montessori schools in Squamish and Pemberton although the numbers aren’t as big as in Whistler.

The Waldorf School is also burgeoning in those communities and in Pemberton there may be up to a dozen kids starting in a home-based school this coming fall.

"I think it’s pretty earth-based," said Sarinda Hoilett, one of the potential founders.

"Many people living in Pemberton are trying to get away from the urban scene."