Organisation of studies

The religious education of children is mainly brought about by example, and by the atmosphere of love and prayer in the home. The child's heart is touched; without explanations he acquires prayer as a natural activity, and without needing logical proofs he knows God's presence. /---/ Love, and prayer, and example, are more effective than words - indeed, it is these that give value to words - when leading children to God. Our work as parents or teachers of religion is often a hidden work, and it gives us experience of the "terrible" aspect of human freedom: that no one can impose love for God on another person. We would not wish it otherwise; we wish to love God freely and we wish this for all mankind. Yet at the same time our prayer for our beloved children gives us continual inner pain. It is easier to speak than to pray.

(Quoted from Children in the Orthodox Church Today, by Sister Magdalen, 1990, p. 24)

We are striving towards a balance between intellectual, physical, social, mental and spiritual development.

Every day starts with a gathering (all students or just one class with its teacher) that focuses on the feast or the saint or the reading from the Scriptures for that day.

The main subjects are taught in the regular setting of each individual class, some in a mixed group setting, some in groups organised according to the students' first language.

Students learn Estonian, Russian and English from Year 1. English is taught according to the Sister Mary's method used in Collegium Educationis Revaliae (Vanalinna Hariduskolleegium).

Later it will be possible to choose other languages: French, German, Greek or Latin.

Year 1-4 (age 7 - 10), as love for the Way, means:

learning how to function in school life,
adapting to the rules of school and communal life,
the sense of how to cope well,
perceiving direction and the aim of life,
joy and interest towards learning and other people.

The first years of school are like the newly created world, "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen 1:31). In learning, the emphasis is on experience: life is wonderful and interesting, the world is beautiful and exciting, it is good to be good, the teacher loves and supports me, etc. We learn from nature and look for authentic experiences.

Unless we start out with a feeling of awe and astonishment - with what is often called a sense of the numinous - we shall make little progress on the Way.
(Quoted from The Orthodox Way, by Bishop Kallistos Ware, 1998, p. 13)

The initial years are based on comprehensive learning, i.e. different subjects are taught in an integrated manner. Children have general classes with their teacher, in the course of which, the teacher incorporates different subjects into each other in order to come up with a integral approach.

Years 1-4 are like a secure ground for growth. At their end the students are ready to move towards the world of adults, and experience gains conceptual content, where one acquires a deeper knowledge of one's self and one's peers.

Years 5-9 (age 11-15), as love of Truth, means knowledge and personal answers about man and the world. Students are interested in others, in themselves, in what the world is made of, phenomena and their interrelations. Adolescence is as if an inevitable departure from paradise, the facing the the fallen world and a need to find a personal "saving idea". Adolescence does not necessarily have to be a period of conflict and destructive if the young person finds a healthy and sure perspective to his life by turning towards his "inner kingdom". "For, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you" (Lk 17:21).

Children need the meaning, a place and a purpose for their personal existence. They need an enlightening explanation about the events around them and within them. We have to be conscious about the teenager's need to find the path to his/her inner world.

The active learning method is used in Years 5-9 by learning through wider topics or projects, by discovering and making sense of the main concepts and their relations.

There are certain signs pointing to the possibility of experiencing the divine reality. Within us and in the world around us there are facts that require an explanation but remain inexplicable if we don't believe in the personal God. These pointers are to be found in the world around us, within us and in our relationship with other people.

Christian life is life in the image of God in three Persons - life together with others. (---)  As St Silouan put it: "My brother is my life." A married person can say - and it is the only theologically correct way to live - "My wife [or husband] and children are my life. They are the content of my life; it is living with them that I must learn Christ-like love". The criterion of my spiritual health is this: what is the state of the relations between me and those with whom I live? No other criterion is higher.
(Quoted from Children in the Orthodox Church Today, by Sister Magdalen, 1990, p. 7)

Years 10-12 (age 16-18), as love towards Life, one strives to perceive the deep and inner patterns and goals of being, to find answers to the questions. This is the turn-off to the "new heaven and new earth", to the personal mount Thabor, the mountain of Transfiguration. A greater emphasis lies on family education and finding one's vocation in life.

The generation that by a few clicks finds all necessary information needs the teacher as an interpreter, as a mediator of the truths and secrets of life.

The transition between school stages is smooth.

The general method of the school is inquiry based learning. This method:

·         creates and maintains a sense of inquiry

·         makes sure that the knowledge becomes the child's own

·         is practical

·         has to be connected to the real interests appropriate to the age group

·         is based on the context of the child's interests and helps to resolve possible problems

·         endeavours to balance individuality and collectivity

·         takes into account the talents of children

 

·         favours independence

 

·         approaches students individually

 

·         asks questions

 

·         inspires to create and discover

 

The use of computer is minimal in Years 1-4, moderate in Years 5-9 and reasonable/need-based in Years 10-12.