Imagine an elementary school child who is being bullied by peers and ignored by teachers. A child who comes home every day feeling defeated, sad and like he doesn’t have a chance. Perhaps you can relate more than you would like to admit. This was the story of my high-achieving son; bullied by peers for his intelligence and sometimes awkward social skills and ignored by teachers who had their plates full with children who struggled to meet the minimum requirements. All that was wanted of my son was to meet the state requirements, show up every day so the school received their funding and please, above all else, not challenge the norm.
Now, envision this child, scared, scarred and lacking self-esteem as he enters an alternative learning situation fostered by the Whole Child philosophy. In fourth grade he is happy, challenged and nurtured. The teachers help him deal with conflicts — in fact, circle time is his favorite part of the day. He feels empowered because his ideas are heard, even if not always chosen. He has a voice because the teachers do not feel threatened by his exuberance and ideas.
This was my “spark” as a parent. I always thought that the education system as it has evolved in American culture was something that I would have to cope with and had resigned myself to simply dong my best to help my children navigate it. I was overjoyed to realized that there was another foundation for parents like myself who couldn’t afford or find adequate Waldorf or Montessori programs. It’s called Whole Child Education, and it changed my son’s life and in turn the lives of all of my family members.
How do I know this wasn’t a fluke or his age? In 6th grade we moved, and with no whole child education options he had to go back to a traditional public school. He came home one day after a math test and told me, “Here is my answer, I’ve worked the problem over and over and get the same answer (his answer was correct for the record). I told my teacher and she just said, ‘Well, the computer can’t be wrong.’” My mission now is to foster that spark of hope and joy that overcame me as a parent in the whole child environment and make a social change where more children are heard and seen and challenged and nurtured to reach their full inner potential, as citizens, scholars, employees and most importantly as human beings.
October 15, 2011
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