The growth of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education in the school curriculum is a worldwide phenomenon. Schools everywhere are being asked to inspire good citizenship and pre-empt antisocial behaviour in matters such as drugs, alcohol, bullying, eating habits and especially in teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. However, everybody knows that you have only to tell children not to do something for them to want to do the opposite. Many PSHE strategies consist of quick fix courses with a negative tone which can exacerbate the problems they seek to solve.
Christine Vollmer, creator of the Alive to the World programme, began working in 1985 on a new approach to PSHE. Her intensive study of child development in all its aspects, physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual, and her experience as the mother of seven children convinced her that a completely different approach was needed. A key feature would be to show that everything about the human person is connected with everything else: the growth of the body, the impact of the feelings, the depth of the intellect and the longings of the spirit. It would also illustrate how some established patterns of behaviour lead to happiness and fulfillment while others are destructive of both. These have always been basically the same for people everywhere, regardless of the country or age in which they happen to live.
It may be clear to adults what is good for young people but how does one impart it to them without sounding preachy? How does one encourage them to put into practice behaviour which demands discipline and is often counter-cultural?
Christine Vollmer says “It finally dawned on me that maybe I could just tell them stories, stories which would unfold over twelve school years. And so Alive to the World was born. It tells the tale of some friends who grow up as all children do, with their normal points, good and bad. Little by little they open their eyes to the world about them, to what they can achieve if they try, and to the values of life which bring true peace and happiness. Central to the books would be the precept "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". This simple rule applies in all relationships, whether among friends, in the family or in the community, and it leads seamlessly to all the universal values, such as respect, generosity, perseverance, integrity and responsibility.”
Creating the books
The UK is the first country in Europe to have launched an Alive to the World programme. Books for Years 4-8 have been piloted in an English school and have been extensively edited for the English market with advice from teachers. Student Books and Teacher Guides for all 5 years are now available.
All the UK Alive to the World books are published by Gracewing.
Christine de Marcellus Vollmer is by birth half English and half French. She was brought up in California and her husband, Alberto J. Vollmer, is Venezuelan. Based in Caracas, she continues to travel widely and is a frequent visitor to Rome, where she sits on the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Academy for Life (the Pope’s advisory committees on family and respect for life). Her work brings her into contact with many of the world’s leading authorities on what makes for a successful society.
In addition to creating Alive to the World and chairing the Alliance for the Family, Christine Vollmer has organised seven international family congresses, undertaken many initiatives in Venezuela and more widely in Latin America, writes a weekly newspaper column and appears often on Venezuelan television.
Dear Mrs. Vollmer,
Henry (aged 10)
I like the Alive to the World programe as it rises to the challenge of imparting civic and personal virtues and responding to contemporary issues sensitively and intelligently.
Dominic, Teacher and Head of PSHE