Sarah: True being is what it’s all about. True education is about educating the human being, which is a spiritual being. That’s what our school was founded on. We’re going to practice a little bit of the being exercise now. It’s a very simple one, and for children there’s obviously a very light touch, nothing forced, but just giving them that chance to come back and be with their own presence, just being with their own company and stay comfortable with that. It doesn’t matter if children wriggled, we just gently encourage them to come back and they did definitely have a moment of peace.
They enjoyed things much more readily. They could let things go when things didn’t go so well. It has so many benefits. Let’s experience those benefits too. So, wherever you are, if you’re sitting or you can be standing or walking or lying down. Just take a moment now to connect with your true being this is the truth of ourselves. The fundamental powerhouse of who we really are. Just take a moment now to relax, take a deep breath in and out and let go. And just connect with the physical body. If you’re sitting or standing or walking, feel your feet on the ground. Feel the clothes touching the skin.
Feel the air playing on the skin, the face, the hands. If your eyes are open, just let the color and form of shapes and impressions come and go. There’s no need to label them. If the labels come, let them go. Just be present. And now let the listening be open and wide. Just let sounds come in and pass and let the listening keep expanding past all the thoughts in the mind. And if the thoughts come in, let them go to stay with the listening as it expands wider and wider and wider, and let the awareness expand and just rest with your own presence. Welcome to your true being!
That’s a little taste of what the children did at school.
So now tell us about the education itself. What did the children actually learn every day. You spoke about giving them the best. Feeding them on every level. If we’re talking about the physical body, children need the best food, if they eat junk food every day, they’re not going to be healthy. But in relation to food, exercise and rest for the other bodies – the mind, the heart and the spirit – can you talk about giving the children the best? What did that look like?
Gilbert: The best food for the mind is useful, intelligent, helpful information that builds on itself. In mathematics, you teach them to count and then to count backwards, and then you can introduce adding and subtracting, and then division and multiplication. So it’s systematic.
The main technique at first was to get the children to memorize things, memorizing the times tables, memorizing spelling rules, memorizing poetry, memorizing songs. Things that go into memory go into their hearts as well, these things become a sort of intellectual and emotional capital investment. Ten they learn to apply it.
The curriculum also included things like language, classical languages. We taught them Latin and Sanskrit and modern languages, Spanish, and after school we had Mandarin Chinese.
One of the unusual features of the school was that every child was in a Shakespeare play every year. From five years old to twelve years old every class put on a Shakespeare play. So in kindergarten, it was a scene or two from Midsummer Night’s Dream or the Tempest. Then it got more and more sophisticated as the students got older, until by sixth class, which is twelve-years-old, they were putting on an hour or so of King Lear or Hamlet or The Comedy of Errors.
It was hard work and sometimes a teacher would come to me and ask if can we could do something else. And I’d say, no, we can’t do something else. This is one of the beating hearts in the school. This was the highlight of the year and the highlight of their schooling.
At student reunions, occasionally we are invited along, which is very nice, they will talk about the Shakespeare plays and how much they loved them.
There was a girl in year six, she was twelve-years-old, which is the end of primary school. It was her last play, so she had had seven years of Shakespeare plays. And this final play was now over, everyone had taken their bows, and she was sitting backstage. She was sitting in her costume, and I said, “You’re Mum is waiting, you have to get changed out of your costume.” And she said, “I don’t want to take my costume off, because I know once I take it off, that’s it. It’s over forever.”
She was just savoring the moment. She loved it so much. They just loved the Shakespeare. She loved the performing, she just loved everything. This is real emotional education. Letting the master teachers of mankind like Shakespeare take the children by the hand, and lead them into a world of magic and mystery and magnificence.
By getting dressed up and doing these incredible plays they learned to understand the language. They learned the power of Shakespeare and Mozart and Da Vinci as children. I mean it was phenomenal. Really.