Why I am studying Homoeopathy

One of the students I am studying with asked me what I would study if I could choose anything I wanted to. I found that question strange, but easy to answer. I would be studying Homoeopathy of course. They then went on to ask that if I had done conventional medicine, what would I be doing now, and I said that I would be studying Homoeopathy or probably have done it long ago.

I was not brought up with homoeopathy. Not at all! My mother was a nurse who fed us every form of conventional medicine. She loved hospitals and doctors. My sister was essentially drip fed on anti-histamines, that kept her sleepy for most of her young life. We had all the possible vaccinations, antibiotics with every case. We had dental checkups and horrendous fillings every six months. (Most of my natural teeth were eaten away by these).  I was fascinated by pathology and spent 2 years working in a pathology laboratory, which wakened my interest in biology and I went on to get a degree in zoology and microbiology.

I moved into the country in Cape Town, surrounded by the most magnificent plant life. What was special about these plants was that there were so many that were medicinal. As a hobby, I would collect plants and after identifying them, look up their medicinal properties. We also had a friend who was an ethnobotanist and also a medical doctor. he was a bit wacky and would experiment on himself..particularly hallucinogenic plants. He fostered an interest in the medicinal plants…and mushrooms around our rural home.  I was into hunting and gathering and we would have meals with local herbs and mushrooms. But I always had this question as to what makes a herb medicinal or edible or poisonous.20160918_115758.jpg

As a Biology teacher in a Waldorf school,I was expected to teach a main lesson on plants. My biology lessons at my own school (and in most government schools) have much to be desired .I could see NO connection to the plant kingdom then and we learned just lots of names and categories, and osmosis and capillarity and found the structure terribly boring..”you mean there are no organs inside?” As a Waldorf teacher, my challenge was to inspire my student to find a connection, and so I could only teach it the way I had found my own love of plants..through medicinal plants.DSC07556.JPG

As a Waldorf teacher, your challenge is to scaffold a lesson so that it leads the students into questioning things as opposed to delivering facts. I could have delivered a whole lot of facts around plants, but I then researched the path of herbal medicine, and found it completely fascinating. Bu it also opened up a ton of questions.. like how did people know what was medicinal? Why are plants medicinal? Why do we talk about plants as if all they do is grow? What exactly is their connection with us? And so the big journey began.

In my own life, besides using a few well known wild plants for tea, I still used Allopathic medicine.  The change came with my own child. After six doses of antibiotics with a recurring middle ear infection, I went to a homeopath and he prescribed one medication which cured him almost instantly and he never went on to get a middle ear infection again. This hyped up my interest and I never went to a conventional doctor again other than for a couple of broken limbs. I began to research Homoeopathy and why it was different to herbal medicine and structured my main lessons around these researches. I bought my own remedies and self medicated, discovered my own constitutional remedies. I investigated Anthroposophical medicine and did two fascinating courses with Michaela Glockler. As a Waldorf teacher I had a fairly solid background in Anthroposophy and had read many Steiner books and attended many conferences and courses..more with a focus on education. But my desire had been lit to go deeper into the healing arts.

When my son left home, I decided  that this was a prime opportunity to change my career once more (I have had 5 careers, whats one more?). There were lots of circle arguments in my head. I was teaching in a school I loved and had helped to build. I was still needed in my role. I would have to move to Durban. (I loved Cape Town). It was a five year course. (I was not young anymore). I would have to go back to first year (intellectually I needed a challenge..I was busy with a masters in Education. Do I finish this first? What for?). I could see that based on many older teachers I knew, that teaching had a sell by date..and I was reaching it. I found it very heart wrenching to see excellent teachers being sidelined for the younger ones and then not knowing what they should do next. I could see myself become crabby and forgetting names and repeating my life story to sweet teens too polite to tell you to shut up.

I finally took a year off to think without distractions and to slowly extricate myself from my obligations at the school. I spent the year in England volunteer working essentially as a gardener in a college for autistic teenagers amongst the most amazing plants, which I could watch daily unfolding, while also learning a lot about radical education amongst damaged teens. It was run on Biodynamic lines and I learnt a lot about that side of Anthroposophy too. (See my previous posts). I spent my time observing and photographing and drawing medicinal and poisonous plants at various stages of development. At the same time I researched their healing properties from a homoeopathic and herbal point of view. I have not posted any of this up yet, but I think it is time to do so.

And so, here I am. In Durban studying Homoeopathy amongst a group of first years just out of school. (They only accept one mature student per year).20170525_084600.jpg Thus far it has more than met my expectations. At the moment it is like any other medical course, with extensive gross  anatomy with dissection and physiology, chemistry and physics (my nightmare come true). I have a little cottage at the back of someones garden and can just see the sea. There is a library FULL of homoeopathic and herbal books including on anthroposophical medicine. I have got credit for 2 subjects from my BSc and so I use this time to peruse these books and am trying to find the key that links these two great studies. I will have to do a thesis in my 5th year, and I feel this will be the direction I would like to take. So happy me!




It is always odd for me that the year in England ends in July. So there were many celebrations to say farewell to students (and us volunteers and apprentices) that were leaving Ruskin Mill.

First was the end of year student party, where the graduates walked the land for the last time, and came down the Hill to an awaiting clapping crowd of tutors, support workers and staff with a staff of fire, to light a special fire that symbolizes their going forward into the future. It was very emotional. One student had to wear sun glasses as he was supposed to be cool.

We had spent the morning setting up archways of flowers through which they walked.

Then some of the students played music for us..some of which they composed themselves. We were in tears at that point.

The tension was broken by games of tug of war and slippery pole pillow fights.20160630_144631

We then had a delicious lunch of roast lamb on the spit (one of our own dear sheep) and a vegetarian patty option roasted on a barbecue.

At the end of the week we had a ceremony where the students received their certificates , displayed their creations and gave speeches to their parents and care givers.

Again an emotional time. It made me realize how special is this opportunity to be at Ruskin Mill and see how much they have learnt along the way. Many of the students do not live with their families, who often live far away. Those who are leaving are also given gifts. These are quite substantial and well thought out to further their careers in some way. These are a few photos of the many crafts they had created.

This was a wobbly photo of a whole lot of dinosaurs made during pottery lessons by Will, who had a fascination for them as well as knowing every kind of aeroplane that flies.20160708_134011

This is a chair started by a student who was from a traveler family (previously called gypsies) who committed suicide a few months previously and was finished by other students and her tutors, to remain at the college in memory of her.20160708_134649


There was no official staff party because of low funds, so the staff decided to do their own. We all brought drinks and eats, had a roaring fire 20160708_211448and persuaded our one staff member who has a band to play for us. Well it was reggae all the way, and despite he generation differences, we all had a good time..some more than others. the poor band was not allowed to stop even for a break.


Then it was time for our own farewell lunch. Most people had gone away for the holidays, but we invited anyone who was still around. Aaron from the fish farm brought some ready harvested trout and we braaied it over coals from the woodlands. This is Jess, our dear co-ordinator and Aaron at the braai (barbecue), scuse the finger.20160721_132650 Our glasses were honey jars,

and we made fresh salads picked from the garden.

I was sad to leave Ruskin mill, as I have met such good people and learnt so much, but I was also happy to be going back to Africa and home. Although I did not go immediately, but had a few more events to post up..one was a very strange fashion show, and the other was another 4 days in London (see first post)



I had the opportunity to teach a class 9 maths main lesson at a UK Steiner school. This was a chance for me to see if teaching was still for (or against me). This school was very similar to Imhoff Waldorf school, the school I was teaching at in Cape town in that it was partially housed in wooden buildings. In this case the High school was in the temporary/permanent classrooms as opposed to the primary school in Cape Town.20150924_130228

Of course there were things to envy, like the green wood workshop, the light filled art room, the outdoor kitchen and the emphasis on farming, not to mention the new building, which I believe will be housing some upper school activities.


I was quite surprised that UK Steiner schools were not well represented, as they had been going for a lot longer in the UK than in SA. After closer inquiry, I found that one reasons is that State schools are free for British citizens, paid by taxes, and so British parents wanted to use as much as could be provided by their high tax load, and so rarely considered  a Steiner school, as they were mostly private and therefore cost a wack. Although, Steiner schools, as is usual, are non-profit and  try to accommodate this by varying fees to income, it left many Steiner schools struggling financially and without resources. Also, even although many parents criticized the state education, they did not feel it warranted the financial burden of a Steiner education. They would far rather spend money on other things, like extra music, extra dancing extra… you get the picture.


With recent moves by the government to make schools more independent in their administration, it became possible to establish Steiner academies that were free. However, with this came a whole load of compromises that had to be made, and so this is still in the process of being set up. There are a few Steiner academies, but they seem to be struggling, not only in being set up, as a recent attempt in Leeds gave up trying after a couple of years. This because of all the requirements required by the authorities. One of the requirements are that they have more than one year per grade, the other is that they do not have an exclusion clause. Some academies have taken on the challenge, I am pleased to see. Steiner education, as we know from South Africa, was never meant to be exclusive.


The other thing I found is that Steiner schools rarely completed the Waldorf curriculum, as many left after class 9 to go to colleges to get their GCSE’s and A levels, which is the UK matric equivalent for going to University. However, what is new in some UK and European Steiner schools is the International Steiner Senior Certificate (ISSC) which is offered by New Zealand. This follows the Steiner curriculum with a points based system based on outcomes based education. As the UK has signed education accords with the New Zealand government, who has approved the qualification, the universities in Britain are obligated to accept New Zealand qualifications. This means that UK (and European) Steiner schools would not need to do GCSEs and A levels but can offer the ISSC instead. This makes them more able to go up to class 13 using the ISSC. The school I taught at is attempting to offer this, but thus far have not managed to get to class 11 yet, so students still leave in class 10 to go to college elsewhere. Parents are also not confident enough that the ISSC will allow them unlimited access to Universities. With help from the pressure from Europe, where there are many more Steiner schools, it may become more accepted. Britain has a strongly conservative and authoritarian Education system, under the guise of “protecting the child”, and dissenters usually give up often because they are too polite to rock the boat. Oh for a good revolution! Britain is stuck in class 8 in so many ways.


So what was it like to teach conic sections at this school?

Well, the class was a bit like a Constantia Waldorf class. Mostly white and privileged. There was one slightly shaded child in a class of 25, and a couple of exchange students from Europe. There was one student who had coincidentally been at Imhoff Waldorf school up to class 3, and I must say, she was the nicest to teach. Engaged, good quality of work, interested and just plain sweet. (her teacher had been Annie). Other than that, It was really a typical class 9 class…hormonal and fluctuating from day to day..a smouldering revolution in process.

I think they did the best they could under the circumstances, and so did I. This was where there was a huge compromise made.Their main lessons were only 2 weeks long ..actually only 9 days as one was a bank holiday. and occurred from 11am to 12.45! A bad time to expect focus after a long maths and English running lesson (one hour each and a short 15 minute break). Especially on the theoretical aspects. So I compromised by keeping it practical and had to leave out a lot to get any semblance of coherence. This was my squashed up main lesson: Maths Main Lesson 9


I also realized how stressful teaching actually is. This year I have not had to take any responsibility at Ruskin Mill and just follow other peoples instructions, and I have become relaxed and peaceful. After the first day..of only 2 hours, I was exhausted and slept the afternoon away. I have been observing how I react, and realizing all my bad habits surfacing..like worrying incessantly about the outcome. Something I seem unable to stop. Also constantly hating myself for not being perfect as we always do.

Now I sit with work to mark, feeling lazy. The weathers good…finally. Procrastination rears its ugly head. Once the tests and books are marked and reports written, that took an entire weekend, I sent them off and could relax again. Its interesting how you forget the stress, and hanker for it again.