Anastasia of the Forrest School
Midlands KZN – South Africa
Contact Marcela – 0764901487
Vladimir ponders the Great Teachers..
Extract from Book 1
“We have set up a vast educational system. It is on the basis of this
system that we teach our children and each other — in kindergarten,
school, university and post-graduate programmes. It is this system
that enables us to invent things, to fly into Space. We structure our
lives in accordance with it. Through its help we strive to construct
some happiness for ourselves. We strive to fathom the Universe and
the atom, along with all sorts of anomalous phenomena. We love to
discuss and describe them at great length in sensational stories in
both the popular press and scholarly publications.
But there is one phenomenon which, for some reason, we try with
all our might to avoid. Desperately try to avoid! One gets the impression
that we are afraid to talk about it. We are afraid, I say, because
it could so easily knock the wind out of our commonly accepted systems
of education and scientific deductions and make a mockery of
the objects inherent in our lifestyle! And we try to pretend that such
a phenomenon does not exist. But it does! And it will continue to
exist, however much we try to turn away from it or avoid it.
Isn’t it time to take a closer look at this and, just maybe, through
the collective effort of all our human minds together, find an answer
to the following question?
If you take all our great thinkers, without
exception — people who have formulated religious teachings, all sorts
of teachings which the vast majority of humanity are following — or
at least endeavouring to follow — why is it that, before formulating
their teachings, they became recluses, went into solitude — in most
cases, to the forest? Not to some super academy, mind you, but to
Why did the Old Testament’s Moses go off into a mountain-top
forest before returning and presenting to the world the wisdom set
forth on his tablets of stone?
Why did Christ Jesus go off, away from his disciples, into the
desert, mountains and forest?
Why did a man named Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in India in
the sixth century A.D. spend seven years alone in the forest? After
which this recluse came out of the forest, back to people, complete
with a set of teachings! Teachings which even to this day, many centuries
later, arouse a multitude of human minds. And people build
huge temples and call these teachings Buddhism. And the man himself
eventually came to be known as Buddha…
Why? Who or what enabled these people to obtain their wisdom?
Who gave them knowledge, who brought them closer to understanding
the essence of life? How did they live, what did they do, what did
they think about during their forest solitude?
These questions confronted me some time after my conversations
with Anastasia — after I had started reading everything that I
could lay my hands on regarding recluses. But even today I haven’t
The Tekos School in Russia
TEKOS SCHOOL – EDUCATION FOR THE FUTURE
This is the school founded by Mikhail Shetinin which Anastasia presents in her books as a powerful example of how empowering education should be to bring out the most in our children.
Children are valued and respected for the wise beings they are and appreciated for the innate wisdom and creative abilities they all have. Education is seen as drawing this out, not putting information in. There are no adult teachers. Children are given responsibility for their own education, learning together and teaching each other in small groups of mixed ages (8 and 17 years) and covering the entire high school syllabus in a year or two, while also managing the school, its administration, meals, maintenance etc all by themselves. They focus on one academic subject at a time, mastering its core principles before adding the “fat” around this before moving on to another area. They are encouraged to delve as deep as they desire into a subject, moving into university level – there are no restrictions to their learning. All areas of learning are connected and understood as parts of one big jigsaw puzzle that all fit together beautifully.
This is a disciplined orderly environment yet children feel free and independent to grow to their full potential. The students themselves have built and decorated the school from scratch, brick by brick and written their own text books. The school develops the whole person with much time being devoted each day to the arts: music, dance, culture exploration, exercise, and all this in a healthy outdoor environment; learning from nature, in nature and with nature. This is a school for the future where the outdated model of our current school system is seriously challenged and an inspiring example of how things can and should be is presented.
Mikhail Shetinin together with Leonid Sharaskin, who brought the Ringing Cedars books to the English speaking world, are investigating ways to bring this positive example of education to the Western world. Shetinin’s book on his philosophy of education will hopefully be available in English in the near future. A international tour of Shetinin and his pupils is planned for late 2010.
Megré describes his first visit to Tekos…
“… A narrow gravel road led from the main highway into the forest, to a valley nestled amidst the mountain peaks. The road soon came to an end in front of a most unusual two-storey mansion. It was still under construction. From one of the still frameless window openings wafted the sounds of children’s voices singing a Russian folk song.
“This building was part of the vision Anastasia had showed me back in the taiga forest, but now it was an altogether real experience.
“Without a word to anyone I made my way through various construction materials to touch this mansion with my own hands.
“As I approached, I saw a little girl, about ten years old, climbing deftly down a ladder. She went over to a pile of river pebbles and began selecting and dropping stones into an old herring tin. When she started back up the ladder, I climbed up after her, in the direction of the alluring music pouring forth from above.
“There on the second floor I watched as a group of kids like her, some a little older, were taking smooth pebbles out of a box and attaching them with a cement mixture to the wall, making an amazingly beautiful pattern. Two little girls at once carefully washed off each newly attached stone with damp rags. They set about their tasks in earnest, singing as they worked. No adults were present.
“Later I found out that the whole foundation, indeed, each brick of this structure, had been laid by a child’s hand. The children had come up with the whole design by themselves, including every corner of their building.
“And this is not the only such building on the little campus. In this amazing setting children are constructing not only their buildings, their campus, but their whole future in the process.
“And they sing! Here a ten-year-old girl is capable of building a house, doing splendid drawings and cooking meals, not to mention knowing ballroom dance steps and mastering the fundamentals of Russian martial arts.3
“The children of this forest school are acquainted with Anastasia. They themselves told me about her. Three hundred pupils from different Russian cities study here.
“At this school children take but a year to master the whole ten-year public-school maths syllabus, along with studying three foreign languages. They neither recruit nor produce child prodigies. They simply give the kids a chance to discover what already lies within.
“Academician Mikhail Petrovich Shchetinin’s school comes under the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Education. It charges no tuition fees. Even though the school does not advertise itself, it has no vacancies. Indeed, there is already a waiting list of 2,500 hopefuls for an unexpected opening.
“It is hard to find words to describe the joy on these children’s beaming faces… (cont’d)
Megré talks to one of the students:
“One gets the impression that each brick of your building here is filled with the bright energy of a great power.”
“Yes, that’s true,” answered an older, red-haired girl. “So much depends on the people who touch them. We have done all this with love, we are trying with our mental attitude to bring only what is good and happy to our future.”
“Who designed this building, the columns and paintings?”
“This was the result of our united, collective thinking.”
“Does that mean that while each one is outwardly working on their own individual task, in actual fact it represents a collective thought?”
“That’s right. Every evening we get together and plan out, or visualise, the day ahead. We come up with the images we want to see expressed in the design of our mansion. Some of the pupils here take on the role of architect — they give specific form to our common work, tie it all together.”
“What image is expressed in the room we’re standing in now?”
“The image of Svarog2 — the primordial element of heavenly fire. You can see him here in the symbols, in the pebble amulets.”
“Does your group recognise one of its own as a principal or superior?”
“We do have a leader, but by and large it is the collective thought that is at work here — lava, we call it.”
“Say that again — thought is lava?”
“That’s right — a state of mind, an image, a desire.”
“Do you all work with such great delight, everybody smiling, everybody with such sparkling eyes — everybody so cheerful?”
“Yes, our life is like that, since we are doing what we want, doing what we can, doing what we love to do.”
“You said each stone has its own pulse and rhythm?”
“Yes, and this pulse beats once a day — just once.”
“Is it like that with all stones, or do some beat twice a day?”
“Every stone’s pulse beats once a day.”
“Doesn’t it seem to you that your mansion is something like a temple?”
“A temple is not a form, but a state of mind. For example, the cupolas — they simply help you access a particular state of mind. The form is moulded by feeling. And it is not by chance that the form of a cupola or hipped roof came to us — they represent our aspirations for heaven and the descent of Heavenly Grace.”
“This building, where every stone is laid with a good thought, is it able to heal?”
“And does it heal?”
“Yes, it does… (cont’d)”
* * *
In the Ringing Cedars Series, Anastasia completely redefines the concept of “education”. She insists that universal knowledge is accessible to each of us — and she steers us toward an entirely new model of education whereby children are taught to look within to find their own innate questions and answers. She reveals to the author the existence of this “forest school” where children, by using the methods she describes, are accomplishing results beyond our wildest dreams.
You can read much more about this school in these books and then watch a 30 minute DVD, available here. The words and images of these children will move you to tears — and touch the very core of your being — as you are reminded of the extraordinary beauty within every human being.
* * *
1. Mikhail Petrovich Shchetinin (1944 — ) Director (principal) of the Tekos School near Gelendzhik. Originally a music teacher by profession, Mikhail Petrovich has had a long and distinguished career in experimental education. The recipient of several awards, in 1991 he was honoured with the title Akademik (Academician) by the Russian Academy of Education.