Background and History

The Universal School of Life is based on Michael Deunov's theory of education. Michael, the energetic schoolmaster opened his first summer camp for families in Quebec in the 1980's. Up to this point Michael had dedicated his whole live to education and wanted to experiment with a new school based in nature and on universal values. His pedagogical theory comes from many years of observations and hard work with students and parents. To understand his theory foundation, we need to go back and explain how the founder built his unique vision of education.

Michael Deunov was born in Montreal (Canada) in 1953. During his first years in primary school, he behaved like a child that many people would call "a dreamer". It was during these formative years that Michael began to envision a school where it was possible to experiment. Each experiment would be fully explained and would correspond to the subjects of the day. He dreamt of a school where everything would relate with Nature. The field of education, engaging with people, especially with children, so fascinates Michael that he decides to become a physical education teacher.

At 19 years old, Michael elects to actively invest his time in building a summer camp for children ages 8 to 12, in St-Bruno near Montreal. Armed with his educational theories and a deep knowledge and strong intuition about children, the summer camp became a real success.

With the help and collaboration of an educational consultant, he brought the classroom outside in nature on many occasions. Although his classroom in nature was really successful, he was still concerned with one important question: "How to integrate and connect academic learning with nature". Michael firmly believed that when we succeed in awakening a child's motivation and enthusiasm, teaching the academic program is then easier to cover.

As the years pass Michael continued to reflect on many educational theories and methods, when the writing's of Ivan Illich caught his attention. Illich's work reflects on the difference between the pretended goals of the education system and the actual results. Illich also clearly demonstrates school systems profess to reduce social unfairness but they makes it worst. Michael is very touched by the author's opinion; deploring the fact that school has become an "inescapable destination" for everyone.

The experiment of the school of Summerhill, founded by A.S. Neill in Great Britain, also intrigued Michael. Neill denunciated the traditional pedagogy: with too much emphasis on "knowledge" instead of focusing on "education" (upbringing). This statement concerned Michael as he didn't completely agree with the philosophic basis of the author.

Next, Michael came across Rudolph Steiner's work. Steiner taught that a spiritual world exists and that man, in the innermost part of the self, is closely connected to the spiritual kingdom. Steiner's theory also states that teaching should take into account the way in which the child development unfolds in cycles of approximately seven years. In each stage of their development, children need specific but different methods of education, subjects and activities that promote a healthy and harmonious growth.

Michael Deunov felt a deep connection with educational methods advocated by Steiner. Steiner's methods were based on the knowledge of the human being as a whole, who belongs to a spiritual universe and whose nature consists of not only a physical body, but a soul and a spirit.

In 1979 at the age of 26, Michael meets French philosopher and pedagogue, Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov and his life would be forever changed. Omraam encourages Michael to follow his dream of building a school; a school that would look like the place he dreamt about as a boy. Omraam said that tomorrow's schools must even go further and that schools must involve parents and community like never before.

In 1983, inspired by the teaching and philosophies of the aforementioned Michael develops his first family summer camp in Ham-Nord, Quebec, Canada. One year later, he would realize his dream and start his first school: A "school in nature within an ecovillage", a school where parents are the first educators.

The Canadian public school is located within Cite Écologique of Ham-Nord, Canada's largest ecovillage. The school has been affiliated with the public regional School Board since 1989, and is also accredited by the Quebec Department of Education. Michael Deunov's school proved to be a success for years and became an asset for the regional economic development due to the increased entrepreneurial skills demonstrated by graduating students.