Why I chose Tamariki School
Written by Linda - April 2016
Tamariki School grabbed me by the throat, boxed me around the ears, and knocked out any scruples I had about saying no to the state school system for my two boys. Every day, for all those years of their primary schooling, they would be out of the car at the school gate like a shot, eager and ready to start their day, running in through the gate to greet their friends and their teachers. “Bye-e-e-e-e. Love you!” I’d say to their backs as they dashed off. Why the eagerness? Could it be the fantastic, caring, engaged teachers who have the utmost respect for the unique attributes and contribution of each child? Or the beautiful big playground with trees to climb, huts to build, friendships to revel in? The warm family atmosphere? The time to just develop at their own pace with no pressure? All those things and more I see embodied every day in my two lovely young men. They are the fine result of their Tamariki schooling, quite different in personality, but both humorous and kind, sure of themselves and who they are in the world. You may happen to be wondering, as I once did, about academic learning and how and when do they EVER learn the formal stuff? Well, they just do. My oldest has just started a Biochemistry degree at Canterbury University, the younger is a year ahead in getting his NCEA qualifications. So, would we do the same all over again? Arohanui Tamariki. You bet!
What I'm Doing Now
Written By Elia Gibbons 24/04/16
I left Tamariki School in 2013 and at the time I thought it would be an incredibly hard transaction moving from such a small alternative school like Tamariki School to a much bigger more mainstream one. As it turned out I had nothing to worry about. Within the first year of high school I had made an amazing close group of friends and found it easy to fit in. I also succeeded academically, getting positive reports from all my teachers. I was told that I was a very focused and self-motivated student and I think that this due to the teaching nature of Tamariki School. While at Tamariki School I was taught to explore my own ideas, ask for more challenging work and seek help when needed; I have used this mind-set to help me succeed in school. Having the opportunity to freely play and interact with others of all ages helped me to recognise and develop my strengths and build confidence in myself and my abilities. I was given the chance to figure out how I learnt best instead of being taught using the prevalent leaning approaches.
I am currently in year 11 and in the middle of my first year of NCEA. When I finish high school I hope to study law at Victoria University. After getting a Bachelor of Law (LLB), I plan to study environmental science and use this to get a job as an environmental lawyer. I think that Tamariki School’s democratic nature (The Meeting System) helped me realise what I wanted to do as a career and this helped me pick subjects in high school that will help me achieve my career goals.
Tamariki School not only prepared me for high school, but also for the rest of my life. I hope that Tamariki School is still around when I have children so that they can experience the amazing community that makes up Tamariki School. Tamariki School gave me the knowledge and skills to succeed in a way that I don't think can be replicated anywhere else and I wouldn't change it for the world.
Why I Chose Tamariki
By Karyn May 2016
Before our daughter Brianna started school she was interested in words and numbers – the patterns they made and the stories they told, she loved art, dancing, and music. She was a little sponge – eager to soak up whatever the world could offer her. When she first started school this love of learning blossomed quickly and before we knew it she was reading books and writing little stories. Her artistic endeavours became more and more sophisticated. But then – around the age of 6 years – the joy of learning started to dry up for her . She started resisting her teacher’s gentle promptings to think up a topic to write about at writing time. She started becoming anxious about being wrong. Everything she did had to be perfect and if it wasn’t she would rip it up and then refuse to even try again. At home she no longer wanted to play the piano and she even started complaining about going to her ballet lessons.
Ironically the school Brianna attended before Tamariki was also an ‘alternative’ school but during the time she attended this school it became – due to various pressures - more and more mainstream. The trajectory of Brianna’s loss of the joy of learning followed her first school’s descent into the mainstream so closely that we were under no illusions about what was going on. We started looking around for alternatives – and to our amazement we found a school that was far more dedicated to placing the child and their needs at the centre of their educational philosophy than Brianna’s first school ever was – Tamariki.
At Tamariki children are not forced to attend compulsory classes – so there is no coercive pressure on children to ‘learn’. They are not seen as empty vessels to be filled with certain prescribed pieces of knowledge, instead they are viewed as young human beings – curious, eager to learn, full of energy and excitement. At Tamariki the main way children learn is through play. And through play they come to know themselves and – hard as this may be for people not familiar with the place to realize – they eventually voluntarily begin to attend formal lessons. For some children – especially those who start at Tamariki as five year olds this happens very quickly, for others – particularly those who come after a taste of compulsory coerced learning – it comes more slowly. But it does come.
After Brianna started at Tamariki her joy of learning slowly began to return. She started picking up maths books voluntarily and working on her sums. She began learning her times tables – and enjoying the process. She started writing again and was motivated to improve her spelling so that writing became easier. She rapidly improved her reading – to the point where she now reads at a level far above her age and can tell me (again without me needing to ask) what is going on in the books, what the motivation of the characters is, what she thinks is going to happen in the story and etc. She has also started asking me to create ‘Homework Sheets’ for her – encompassing reading comprehension questions, science worksheets, maths and social studies. At the same time as her friends who go to mainstream schools are beginning to fight back against the relentless barrage of homework they receive Brianna is asking for it. That is the beauty of a non-coercive system – kids are naturally curious and interested in the world and if they don’t feel like they are being made to do something they will often come to it naturally, of their own accord.
Another thing that happened when Brianna started at Tamariki was a re-kindling of her joy in her ballet classes. She always used to be tired and unmotivated before ballet but suddenly she seemed so much more motivated. She never used to dance outside of ballet class (whereas she was always dancing when she was a pre-schooler) - now she dances around the house a lot.. She voluntarily watches her ballet DVD to learn the steps. She practices – in a playful way – all over the place at all sorts of times. Because she is not being forced to conform to a rigid classwork structure at school all day she is so much more open to the discipline and the rigor of ballet instruction after school. She is so keen on dance now that she attends four dance classes a week – two of them on a Saturday. And this is all without any coercion from me.
Tamariki has given Brianna the chance to be a child. Tamariki has given her the chance to play her way towards formal learning. Tamariki has given her the freedom to explore, the freedom to take risks, the freedom to do nothing when she needs some time out. And out of all this freedom has come a blossoming – a blossoming that is so very welcome to her father and I after watching her wilting under the constant scrutiny she was exposed to at her previous school – the constant exhortations to perform. She hated to have to come up with ideas for writing when she didn’t feel like writing. She hated having to do maths when she was tired or when she was full of the kind of energy that needed a physical outlet. And she particularly hated being tested all the time.
As Sir Ken Robinson says in a very good piece he wrote about creativity “when students are motivated to learn, they naturally acquire the skills they need to get the work done. Their mastery of them grows as their creative ambitions expand”. This is exactly what has happened with Brianna. Because she has been given freedom and space she is rediscovering her own motivation. And that motivation is leading her in all sorts of different directions – some of them entirely unexpected. And it is her motivation – rather than the exhortations, bribes, threats or promises of her teachers or her parents – that is driving her learning.
Even more important than all of this is the social and emotional support that Brianna and the rest of the children receive from the incredible teachers at Tamariki. The pastoral care there is second to none. The teachers know that children cannot learn if they are unhappy so attending to the children’s emotional health comes before anything else. I am in awe of the incredible sensitivity, care and love that these teachers show to each and every child at the school. I am in awe of the way they will drop everything to deal with a child who is upset or just in need of some care and attention.
Kevin and I couldn’t be happier with Tamariki. It is giving Brianna everything we wanted out of a school. We sent her here because we wanted exactly the kind of freedom, exactly the kind of care, exactly the kind of respect that Tamariki delivers to each and every child that passes through it. We feel very blessed that we live in a place where we have the option to choose a school like Tamariki for our child.