A Homeopathic Education
Do you remember your first case after homeopathy school? Did you feel prepared?
When I stepped out into the community and began to treat some of my own clients I came face to face with the huge gap between my skills as a new homeopath, and those I had witnessed in my teacher, a senior practitioner.
I wondered what it was that helped somebody become a confident homeopath- was it a certain type of training, was it a certain level of experience, was it a way of thinking?
In the six years that followed I engaged in further homeopathic education at the Dynamis School with Jeremy Sherr, but it was an experience in my own home that lit a fuse in my mind, illuminating a new field of inquiry
What would a homeopathic education look like?
For about 2 years after graduating I realized that what I was doing- working with my clients individually, treating them and their uniqueness and their totality- began to feel hypocritical to sending my kids to school everyday where the goal was the complete opposite. It was the allopathic system- everyone achieving a range, pre-determined by someone else to be normal and acceptable, and given the same experience as every other student day after day.
Although I wasn’t thinking – “I want to give my kids a homeopathic education” – that was what was percolating underneath, unformed.
I observed my friend who homeschools her three boys. Her home was chaotic and busy, the boys engaged daily with their own ideas and projects. Meanwhile, my kids were trooping off to school everyday, our yard looking less and less like a kid’s experimentation lab and more and more like a suburban ghost yard.
And so, my husband and I decided to take our kids out of school and offer homeschooling and eventually (after an unsuccessful year of directed homeschooling)- unschooling. I have come to see it as a homeopathic education.
Many people around the world call it ‘natural learning.’ Others subscribe to the term- ‘unschooling.’ Children learn at their own pace, in their own time, with the active support of their parents. The children live their lives, exploring interests and passions to the depth that suits them- be it just a couple quick questions and conversations, to full-on, multi-year, immersive experiences.
Why do I consider this a homeopathic education?
I have watched my children navigate a variety of interests, to the depths appropriate to their interest (INDIVIDUALITY). I can think of perhaps only a handful of times my two kids have chosen to investigate the same thing. They have chosen interests wildly outside the narrow curriculum that school generally provides, and pursued it through the avenues that uniquely work for them. I have talked international currency exchange rates with my 9 year old, and gender politics with my 13 year old.
Learning has become part of our whole lives, not restricted to the 6 hours within a specific building (TOTALITY). We discuss history and politics over dinner, google questions on our phones that come up when out in the world, explore money, time, and priorities together. Curiosity and questions are woven into the fabric of everyday; there’s no sense that the learning for the day is done, or there is a vacation from learning.
My son has not had any instructional math since leaving school in 2nd grade, and yet- for just one example- he fully grasps fractions, percentages, and the relationship between them. He can manipulate numbers in his head faster than I can, all as a ‘side effect’ of playing various video games that require monitoring of multiple values, expenditures, and who knows what else (MINIMUM DOSE). He did not require direct instruction to learn these things, simply the opportunity to practice required skills to reach a desired goal. My daughter, by age 12, had completed nearly the equivalent of a high school music theory class through various private lessons and personal study. We didn’t consult a curriculum or checklist of necessary skills- just following her passion. There was no suffering, suppression, and perhaps only mild aggravation, in the acquisition of these new skills.
I like to think that Hahnemann was an unschooled. Though he excelled in formal education and was by all accounts brilliant, he could see the falsehoods around him. And when he began to experiment and develop homeopathy, it was all experiment, deep thinking, and intuition leading to more experimentation with the kind of persistence and dedication that only comes from an insatiable personal desire and drive—- no school, teacher, or educational philosophy can hold a candle to that. And sadly, by the time many children finish their formal education, the drive, curiosity, and desire to experiment has been tested and graded out of them.
But what about adults? Could this work for homeopaths? Could it work for learning homeopathy? What would that look like?
Most homeopathic education programs follow the traditional model- lectures, memorization, testing, and practical clinical experience after a few years of foundational study. This is not unlike studying physics or biology in University; or even softer sciences like sociology and anthropology. The difference is that when you exit those programs, you step into a work world that is oriented much the same way- assigned tasks, pre-determined outcomes, quantifiable results, standardized approaches.
When a homeopath steps out of school, we do not step into the same world as school.
Our patients come at us in a variety of states. Their responses do not always follow Hering’s Law. Translating patient language to repertory language is often an agonizing experience that brings one into the wee hours of the night. The successes brings rushes of satisfaction in the same day that a case returns still unimproved, when you used the same approach for both, adjusting treating for individuality. How are we prepared for this?
Does learning homeopathy in a traditional mode prepare us in the best possible manner for being the best possible homeopaths that we can be?
How can the concepts of individuality, minimum dose, and totality be incorporated into the homeopathic classroom and learning experience?
In her book Homeopathic Education, the Unfolding of Experience , Catherine Coulter wrote:
“No course of study- no matter how long lasting and full of information, no lecturer or instructor, (regardless how prestigious or ostensibly knowledgeable), can make a student a skilled prescriber, any more than courses or charismatic lecturers can make a person proficient at the piano, at tennis, or in carpentry, i.e., any applied… art or science…
Practice, and practice alone, develops the skills that go into the making of a homeopath. In an …anecdote about Johann Sebastian Bach, when asked how he learned to play the organ with consummate skill, he replied, ‘You practice until you learn how to hit the right note at the right time- with the proper dynamic.’ So it is with homeopathy. One works at the discipline until one learns to select the right remedy, at the right time, and in its proper potency”
In her book, Coulter emphasizes the superiority of apprenticeship training for homeopaths as the best way to create a successful homeopath. And to be sure- this is a homeopathic approach- learning on the job. Unfortunately, this is not an option open to most aspiring homeopaths. My own inquires with homeopaths in my area were denied. The clinical opportunities of most educational programs approximates the experience of apprenticeship, with varying degrees of efficacy depending on how involved the students are vs. observing.
Experiential opportunities like a clinic are learner-centered, in that each person will have a unique learning experience according to their skill set, way of thinking, prior experiences, etc. This I think we understand, and agree to be critical to preparing practitioners.
Can we take it one step further, by modifying the typical lecture-driven classroom model into one that is equally learner centered, as the clinic is?
This revolution in education is happening in various contexts. Some universities and traditional classrooms are becoming more learner centered and project based than content based, especially in progressive Finland where subject areas are abandoned in favor of multi-disciplinary projects. In the corporations where my husband coaches and leads trainings for effective leadership, companies are recognizing that employees are happier, more engaged, and higher performing when they set their own goals and agenda, organize, manage, and communicate.
So, back to the question- How can the concepts of individuality, minimum dose, and totality be incorporated into the homeopathic classroom and learning experience?
– brand-new homeopathic students developing their own plan of study based on the questions that arise when they observe a clinic. (INDIVIDUALITY, MINIMUM DOSE- they will ask questions at the potency to which they are ready for the answers. The more experienced they become, the deeper and more complex the questions.)
– students work in groups to find themes and affinities of remedy groups through provings and primary Materia Medica, and only THEN are exposed to the work of Scholten, Sankaran, and others who have established templates. How would that deepen their understanding not only of the remedies, but create a chain of a-ha! Moments connecting the dots of their own experience to the work of others. (TOTALITY- their totality begins where they are at, and then expands as their learning and understanding grows.)
– student ‘book groups’ based on classic texts like The Organon, Kent’s Lectures, Lesser Writings, Farrington, etc. (INDIVIDUALITY… what authors do they gravitate to?)
– advanced students teaching the basic first aid and polycrests to new incoming students SIMILARS! Students teaching students. When you teach what you know, you learn what you need to know.)
– mentorship and coaching of students with practicing homeopaths, coupled with clinical observation. Coaching seeks to empower the individual to find the answers to their own questions, gaps, and problems. When we do the reverse- present the answers and conclusions first- it gives students less room to be innovative, question, take risks, and trust their own process. (INDIVIDUALITY, MINIMUM DOSE- you solve your own problem with guidance, SIMILARS- you are coached by a homeopath)
– ’flip the classroom’ techniques where necessary lectures and straight content delivery is done via video to be watched at the student’s own time/pace, leaving vital in-person classroom experience to be discussion or activity based, taking the content a level higher. (INDIVIDUALITY, DOSE, TOTALITY)
In the Western world, one’s homeopathic career can become an endless string of seminars and conferences, chasing the ghost of that one technique, that perfect system, that body of materia medica knowledge that will finally draw together the purse strings of this calling we call homeopathy, and help us to indeed achieve Hahnemann’s decree- our mission to restore the sick to health.
There’s no doubt that we will always have- and need- masters that take aspects of our profession further and deeper. Absorbing their wisdom is powerful. Let us support the next generation and wave of masters with the vision of preparing every homeopath to their fullest potential.
Good homeopathic treatment and management follows in response to the patient- their signs of healing, growth, expansion… so should good homeopathic education respond to the students.