John David Garcia’s Contribution to Advanced Early Childhood Curricula

John David Garcia (died 2001) was an independent thinker, inventor, author, and philosopher who wrote, taught, and worked from his home in Oregon. Of all of his books, Creative Transformation has had the deepest impact on most readers. Some of Garcia’s ideas on early childhood curricula are presented in that book, and in this essay.

The Garcia curriculum was designed to provide a well rounded environment of education for children beginning around age 3, progressing through age 16 to 18, depending upon the child. At the end of that time, the student will have been better educated than all but a few of the top students trained in the best and most exclusive institutions of learning.

The Garcia approach — unlike the Robinson self-teaching homeschool curriculum — involves teachers, classrooms, and a body of students. And yet if the curriculum is removed from the classroom, and modified just the slightest bit, it could be adapted for the larger classroom of the planet and the universe — which is where Dangerous Children learn to become competent and dangerous.

Here is an excerpt from the Garcia curriculum for the early years:

Physical Biological
Avg.
Level
Avg.
Age
Physical Theory Physical Practice Biological Theory Biological Practice
1.00 3.00 Cause and effect The lever The human body Body care
1.25 3.25 Clubs and poles Modifying trees and
branches
Animal bodies; small
domestic animals
How to care for a pet
1.50 3.50 Different stones and their
properties
Using stones Edible plants and their
properties
Gathering edible plants
and mushrooms
1.75 3.75 Shaping stone Building simple stone tools Edible animals and fish Hunting and fishing
2.00 4.00 Shaping wood with stone Using stone tools to
modifu poles and clubs
Food preparation and
preservation
Cleaning and preparing
small game and fish using
bone, wood, and stone
2.25 4.25 Handling fire Use of stone and wood to
control fire, use of fire to
harden spear points
Advanced food preparation Cooking vegetables, fish,
and meat on open fires
2.50 4.50 Advanced fire handling
and control combining
wood and stone tools,
theory and design
Hafted axes and choppers
are made; stone fire
carriers, simple weaving
and knotting of vines and
leather
Elementary tanning and
use of bone, vines, and
vegetable fiber
Skinning animals and fish,
preserving leather,
advanced cooking.
preparing vines and
vegetable fiber
2.75 4.75 The bow and fire-making Making bows and starting
fires
Advanced food
preparation; advanced
tanning and bone work
Advanced cooking; clothes
from animal hides; use of
sinew and thongs; hunting
with dogs
3.00 5.00 The use of clay and the
bow and arrow; design of
simple rafts
Making and baking clay
pots on an open fire;
making and using simple
bows and arrows
Advanced food preparation
including drying, smoking,
& curing; health care
Cooking, drying, and
smoking with clay pots;
preparing and using
medicinal herbs and
poultices
3.25 5.25 Advanced paleolithic stone
work of knives and axes;
advanced bow making;
advanced clay work
without wheel; large rafts
Making stone tools to
make other stone tools;
making advanced bows
and arrows; bellows and
advanced pottery; building
a large raft as a group
project
Gathering seeds and
planting edible plants;
basic first aid
Gardening; preparing soil
and cultivation; practice of
first aid
3.50 5.50 Neolithic tools;
construction of shelters;
advanced counting; how to
make a small dugout canoe
and paddle
Construction of simple
neolithic tools; the use of
tally marks and stored
pebbles; building a small
dugout canoe and paddle
The biological need for
shelter; building of lean-tos and simple teepees;
clothes for extreme cold;
simple agriculture
Construction of lean-tos
and teepees; more
advanced gardening;
making bone needles and a
parka
3.75 5.75 How to construct advanced
neolithic tools and work
stone and wood; more
advanced counting and
Arabic numbers to 10; how
to build a large dugout
canoe
Building advanced
neolithic tools; working
wood, simple carpentry,
building semi-permanent
structures; advanced
tallying systems; building a
large dugout canoe
How to make boots and
moccasins from leather and
plant fiber; how to know
when to plant and when to
harvest; taking care of
goats and sheep
Construction of complete
wardrobes of leather, plant,
and animal fiber; more
advanced gardening and
animal husbandry

Psychosocial

Integration
Avg.
Level
Avg.
Age
Psychosocial Theory Pyschosocial Practice Integrative Theory Integrative Practice
1.00 3.00 How to communicate Exchange of information Ethics of personal
obligation
Free-form drawing and
painting, simple songs
1.25 3.25 Clubs and poles Repeat same message from
different source
Truth and lying, paleolithic
stories
Free-form drawing and
painting, paleolithic
stories, drums
1.50 3.50 Games of information Teams for sending and
receiving messages
Advantages of cooperating
vs competing; paleolithic
stories
Songs, dancing, drawing,
painting, telling stories
1.75 3.75 Making pictures for
information
communication
Drawing picture stories Obligations of making
oneself understood
Free-form art, stick-figure
drawing for stories
2.00 4.00 Advanced picture stories Making up stories with
pictures
Ethics of separating fact
from fiction; paleolithic
stories
Wood carving and free-form painting; paleolithic
stories created and drawn
2.25 4.25 Picture symbols which
stand for complex events
Team communications
games and “charades”
using picture symbols
The difference between a
symbol and the thing it
symbolizes; paleolithic
stories
Charcoal drawing on bark
and stone; universal
religious symbols; creating
stories
2.50 4.50 Advanced picture symbols
and counting
Making up stories by
stringing together picture
symbols which everyone
can understand
Creation myths of
paleolithic people
Making up creation myths
and testing them
2.75 4.75 Rebus writing combined
with picture writing
Making up stories with
rebus and picture writing
Advanced creation myths
of Native Americans and
some religious beliefs,
symbols
Native American art and
what it expresses; free-form art for what students
value
3.00 5.00 The notion of an alphabet
and sound symbols
Stringing sound symbols
together to make a word
The religions of native
Americans and the
evolutionary ethic
Percussion instruments,
music, carving, dance, and
art to express religious
feelings
3.25 5.25 Reading advanced
paleolithic stories with
evolutionary ethical theme
Writing simple stories and
accounts using alphabet,
rebus writing, or pictures
as desired
The importance of
separating truth from
fiction in our writing to
avoid misleading others
Late paleolithic art and
religion; student’s
expression of his own
feelings about them
3.50 5.50 Reading stories and history
of early neolithic life with
evolutionary ethics theme
More writing of stories and
accounts using alphabet,
rebus writing, and pictures
as desired
Simple analysis of
neolithic culture and
religions in light of the
evolutionary ethic
Neolithic art and stone
carving; clay figurines;
self-expression of students
3.75 5.75 Reading more complex
stories of neolithic life
about religion and
creativity in ancient Jericho
and Mesopotamia
More writing of stories and
accounts using alphabet
and rebus writing, but no
pictures, show difficulty of
communicating numerical
concepts over 10
Analysis of why neolithic
culture advanced so slowly
before the beginning of
Sumer; the energy that
went into religious ritual &
the corrupt priestly
bureaucracy
The flute and harp and the
neolithic music possible
for them; advanced
neolithic art and religion;
self-expression in all art
media

The most difficult part of adapting Garcia’s curriculum to self-teaching, is the need to design graphic materials, working models of equipment and machines, and providing expert instruction and supervision for some of the more dangerous and specialised lessons and experiments. Each student is different in terms of intellect, emotions, and overall maturity. That is one of the advantages of self-paced self-teaching.

The Garcia curriculum is dense and intense, but it must be combined with play. This is something that should never be forgotten. Young children love most to play, but if learning can be part of that play, they will love the combination all the more.

This intensive approach is quite different from the more radical forms of “unschooling,” where children are allowed to define their own curricula, but intuition must have something solid to work with. Mozart had to learn his scales, techniques, and simpler pieces before he wrote his more complex and elevating works.

The decision to step away from an established curriculum into the unknown of “unschooling,” is one that would have to be made by those who know and love the child the best.

As for Garcia’s curriculum, it should be seen as a valuable suggestion and adjunct to The Dangerous Child Method. Garcia was serious about virtually all aspects of his life, and quite intense. He distrusted humour and frivolity for reasons of his own, and was a child of a more serious upbringing than most moderns experience. But many of his ideas are valuable and applicable to a dangerous childhood.

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2 Responses to John David Garcia’s Contribution to Advanced Early Childhood Curricula

  1. Sam says:

    Wow what a course of study. Think how competent you would be.

  2. alfin2101 says:

    Yes, it is an interesting progression of topics, from more primitive to more sophisticated as the student ages. That makes the approach more amenable to a playful pedagogy, in the beginning. Allowances have to be made for individual talents, interests, and rates of maturation. Garcia’s ideas on curriculum are likely to prove very useful.

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