Though the principles, perspectives, and frameworks of holistic education can be traced far back in recorded history to early philosophical and religious teachings, the contemporary use of the term is rather new. Definitions, methods, philosophies, and descriptions of holistic education have varied somewhat among educators and scholars as it has been viewed from different perspectives, but it is basically concerned with educating the whole person—body, mind, and soul—to develop his or her fullest potential. This entry looks at the field's historical background and the principles behind its practice.


The terms holism and holistic were coined by Jan Smuts from the Greek words holus, which means “whole,” and holon, which means “entity.” Smuts saw holism as a process of creative evolution in which the tendency of nature ...

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