Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates

Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.

How Can I Make my Observations Holistic?


Holistic. A current buzzword. Add it to anything to make that thing more important, more well-rounded.

Holistic learning. Holistic education. Holistic teaching. The holistic child. The holistic teacher. The holistic curriculum. Holistic living. Holistic approach.

Sound good? Sound impossible?

This is a pirate roar at the concept of something being able to be ‘holistic’. Before I talk about children and your teaching work let me ask you…

Who knows you ‘holistically’?

Who knows you in a “physical, social, emotional, personal, spiritual, creative, cognitive and linguistic” (DEEWR, 2009, p.9) way?

Who can understand not just one, but all, of those things about you?

I would hazard a guess at no-one. Maybe not even yourself.

However, the EYLF (DEEWR, 2009) explains holistic approaches to teaching and learning as understanding that “physical, social, emotional, personal, spiritual, creative, cognitive and linguistic aspects of learning are all intricately interwoven and interrelated” (p.9) and that “when early childhood educators take a holistic approach they pay attention to children’s physical, personal, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing as well as cognitive aspects of learning” (p.14).

Don’t ask yourself which observation template or technique or style can do this.

Don’t think that many observation techniques will allow you to know someone in this deeply, intensely personal way.

Don’t think that if you do learning stories, anecdotes, jottings, projects, webbing, mind maps, surveys, morning minutes, reflective circles or whatever name you use that you will be able to know and record the ‘holistic’ child.

You. Can’t. Do. It.

So instead, question the premise on which this lays.

Don’t ask how.

Question why.

Don’t ask how.

Question whether we can “translate the properties, capacities, energies of the human soul into material form- pictures, charts, diagrams, measurements” (Rose, 1990, p.134).

Don’t ask how.

Refuse it.

Resist it.

Rebuild it.

(Note: I’m not saying early childhood education should be strictly academic, I’m just saying that these aspirations are incredibly impossible things if you are trying to know children in this way. Maybe they might decide to show you a little glimpse. Or maybe they won’t. You might think you understand the child a little in these ways and maybe you do or maybe you just see what the child wants to show you… perhaps they might decide when and for whom they feel like being so personal with? Think about it in this context… my writings for Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates are creative and linguistic projects for me. BUT. I wouldn’t (or feel like I can’t) write these as reflections for my workplace. My centre might think that I really am not very creatively or linguistically holistic in my reflections- but, it’s not that I’m not, it’s that I choose to not to be in that setting. We have to consider that children might make similar choices when they are with us in their early childhood settings.)

DEEWR. (2009). Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Retrieved from

Rose, N. (1990). Governing the soul: The shaping of the private self. New Fetter Lane, London: Routledge.

(c) Awilda Longstocking, 2014

Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates. Refuse, Resist, Rebuild.


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