Happy Children Learn

A parent’s understanding of Pine’s philosophy

by Julie, a past parent at Pine

Pine’s motto is “Happy Children Learn”, and everything in our philosophy and approach stems from that. It starts with the well researched idea that children learn best when they are happy and relaxed and engaged – when they are actually interested in what they are doing.

So how do we make this happen? What does it mean to be happy? How do we help our children be happy, and thus learn well? For a start, Pine allows children to “have a childhood” – allowing lots of time for play, allowing them to take risks and understand consequences, not enforcing needless structure and control. We allow children to have “down time”, when they’re not interested in learning, and we maximise the “up time” when they’re keen and excited and engaged.

Pine teachers are amazingly good at capitalizing on children’s ever-changing interests. One of the many examples of this was in late 2007, when a few of the students became very interested in writing their own comic books. This was allowed and encouraged, and the interest spread, and a number of students set up their own “comic book shop” in the school’s library room, spending most of each day there for a number of weeks. They defined roles for themselves (the boss, bodyguard(!), artists, writers etc), and produced comics for all the other kids to read. In this process, kids who normally hated writing were writing like crazy; kids who weren’t good readers were loving reading the comics, and all the kids involved learned a lot about negotiation and teamwork.


As people grow up, there are 3 main areas in which they grow – physically, socially and academically. Mainstream schooling can focus very much on the academic growth. At Pine, we feel that people only succeed in life if they have the appropriate social and personal skills. Thus, much of our time is spent around these areas – assisting the students in conflict resolution, learning to play well together …

That said, we believe that once their basic needs are met, for being heard, having good self-esteem and good relationships with all kinds of people (peers, younger and older children, adults, etc), that children naturally learn the things they need to learn. For example, a child can learn to read in a very short time if they are motivated and excited about doing so. The same applies to maths, SOSE, all areas of learning.


Do you remember being a child? Do you remember being excited about something you were learning, only to have that excitement squashed in any number of ways: being taught the material badly, not liking the teacher, getting a bad grade on an assignment, being made to move on and focus on a different thing before you’d finished with your area of interest, not being allowed to pursue the learning to your satisfaction, or being forced to pursue the subject in a way that didn’t make sense to you? All these things stop children learning. We believe (and research supports the idea) that learning happens as a natural result of children’s creativity and curiosity. At Pine, we’re very aware of this process, and do everything we can to encourage current interests and maximise the learning that happens in that process (see the Comic Book Shop story, above).


We need to teach kids to think for themselves in a world where we can’t even imagine what kind of jobs there will be 10 years from now.

“Traditional learning” is becoming less and less relevant in a world where almost all information is at your fingertips – it’s no longer about having the information in your head, it’s about knowing how to find it when you need it. The kinds of skills that will get our children through in this “brave new world” are more creativity, self-confidence, flexibility and a love of learning.