Dealing with children
"...in which the most important thing is that we try to feel what it
is like in the world of a child"
A child's perception of life can be radically different to ours.
The challenge for any parent is to try to understand the world as they see it
and to provide for them the best of our experience, care and knowledge that
will help them in their own development as lives. This is the view of Thea Kreeft
(40) and Jeroen Brons (37), both parents with a shared passionate interest in
child care and education. During the last few years they have dedicated almost
all of their free time to working with other parents and teachers in the study
of the natural growth patterns of children and developing educational programmes
that support the growth and uniqueness of young lives.
Over the last two years they have established the Matrijs Foundation ("matrijs"
is Dutch for "matrix"), which is organising events for children, mainly
focusing on the ages 0 - 5 yrs, and they intend to start their first day-care
centre later this year. During a recent interview, Thea and Jeroen spoke about
their work with Matrijs and their vision of the future for the children.
Knowledge and Qualities
Thea: "We have found that the natural process of learning invites
an accompanying development of inner qualities. This development will help children
to feel motivated about their own lives and their participation in society.
It is easy to gather knowledge in our modern times of the internet and global
communication. It is, however, more challenging to acquire and develop personal
qualities. Knowledge without qualities is like the difference between a house
and a home. The enormous emphasis on acquiring knowledge today makes a lot of
young people feel insecure as it focuses the child on results, rather than on
how the results were achieved.
Did the child make an effort in the journey?
Did they try something new?
Do the results help the child discover more about its possibilities?
Did they have fun and enjoyment in the process?
Learning is not something you do with your head only, but with all your resources.
I asked Thea and Jeroen to tell me more about their experience in helping a
child grow inner qualities.
Thea: "We stimulate essential qualities such as self confidence
and self respect by treating the children with respect and by encouraging them
in what they try to do. It is important to confirm specific and unique aspects
of what a child does. If a child shows you a drawing you might say, "oh
that is beautiful", but the child would be more encouraged if you actually
took the time to study the drawing and say something about the quality of the
colours or the precise forms. In this way the child will be more motivated to
explore drawing further.
Development of values needs to begin at an early age with value for the body
and all that it can do. We encourage the children to express value by how they
look after themselves, how they brush their teeth, take a nap when tired and
the importance of eating healthily to give the body the right nourishment. A
child will be more inclined to learn later about something if they have developed
a value for what they are learning about. We may, as an example, ask the children
to communicate for fifteen minutes using only gestures and body language. After
the exercise the children feel a value for the fact of being able to speak and
to use language!"
Jeroen: "Qualities become important at different ages of a child's
development. A child of two years old can hardly appreciate the concept of "patience",
whilst a child of five clearly needs to discover it. One day my five-year-old
daughter was waiting for a friend to visit her and as she was so much looking
forward to the visit she kept asking me every five minutes when her friend would
arrive. This is a good moment to introduce patience, by giving examples from
nature. If you plant a tulip bulb in October the flower will only appear in
spring, so in between time look after the young plant and wait."
Golden Education Template
An important source of inspiration for Matrijs is the Golden Education Template
in Israel, where a group of parents and teachers have begun to actualise their
vision of child care and education with the establishment of a day care centre
and primary school. This new model for education has been running for five years
and the results are remarkable. The children are enthusiastic to explore, they
feel motivated about their lives and find school a valuable and good place to
be. The participants of Matrijs go regularly to Israel for exchange, training
and seminars. At a later stage they plan to establish a primary school in Netherlands
based on the principles of the Golden Education Template.
A fundamental pillar in Matrijs' philosophy is to encourage each child to stay
open towards various fields of opportunities and discovery in life. Another
is to stimulate the specific talents and the unique inclination of each child.
The teachers and parents to undergo a special training to be able to put these
concepts into practice.
Jeroen: "To encourage openness we try to be as versatile as possible.
You can keep "channels" open in a child by introducing them early
on to subjects that they will later learn more about. For example you can tell
a child of four about the concept of Pi, not because they will understand it,
but to help them build a bridge towards the time when they will be introduced
to mathematics. Or you can speak simple sentences in foreign languages. Children
of three to four have an outstanding absorption rate and they will store the
subject for later usage. We often invite different people to come to meet the
children, to introduce them to their specific fields of interest and experience.
One day it might be music, another day gardening and recently we organised an
afternoon around storytelling. There is no quicker way to appreciate and learn
about something than by being with people inspired and passionate about what
Thea: "Encouraging the child is crucial. In simple terms we believe
that each child must feel that what he or she wants to do can be achieved. Real
and effective encouragement requires the ability to observe and understand the
uniqueness within each child"
Parents as leaders
Out from their years of research and experience, Matrijs provides workshops
for parents, in which they seek to stimulate awareness and to encourage open
discussion around all areas of upbringing and education. The workshops have
an informal character, with time for forums and exchange. The various workshops
take place under the heading "Parents as Leaders".
Jeroen: "Guiding children begins by understanding and learning
about yourself. "How free am I and how do I encourage myself?" "Do
I lose interest if somebody starts talking mathematics and was this because
I did not understand the subject at school?" I stopped singing after I
left primary school because I got the idea I was not very good at it. When I
later realised how much I enjoyed singing I started to take it up again and
worked through the resistance I had because of my self-view. You do not have
to be Frank Sinatra to love and take pleasure in singing."
Thea: "We need, as adults, to be prepared to look at ourselves.
Much of what grows in our children is a reflection of what we, as parents, encourage
and plant in them in the first place. To raise a child effectively often demands
that we need to have a mind to our own personal development.
We can easily tend to forget that what is "normal" and reasonable
for us is not necessarily so for the child. It is not enough to simply demand
that the child behaves or acts a certain way, without providing understanding,
education and reasoning. It is far more effective to show a child why you do
not want them to come into the house with muddy boots on, by helping them to
understand the value of having a clean home. It is very important that children
learn reasons, not simply receive dictums. Reasons lead to values and to the
child finding their own reasons inside what they do. It is extremely important
to provide the children with the basic facts and values that will help them
to think for themselves, form their own views and become responsible people."
Jeroen: "I believe that each human is born with unlimited possibilities
and a range of unique talents. The question is how to recognise these talents
and release them into actuality. With the work of Matrijs we want to contribute
to a positive change in the world of tomorrow."
Thea: "Naturally, each parent is in the end "the expert"
on his or her child. There is no need to be perfect. Bringing up and guiding
children is an enormous job and some things we do intuitively well and in other
aspects we can grow. Most important is that we try to feel what it is like for
the children in this increasingly complex world. Upbringing and learning can
be much better, more exiting, human, enjoyable and I believe that we have found
something with Matrijs that can be very helpful to both small and big people
in the future."
The founders of Matrijs are all members of the Template Stichting, Holland.
If you want to contact Matrijs, please visit the web site www.stichtingmatrijs.nl.
Interview by Lotten Kärre