It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

It takes all of the people involved in the life of a child to give their best in doing their part in the raising of a child. This is the key to the concept of Total Education. This is why when prospective parents ask would we like to see their child’s report card we say “no, we enrol families not children”.

We recognise that the School can only build on the foundations of a strong family life and that it can’t really compensate for a deficient family life. This is why the School seeks to support parents through the weekly parents program. The program highlights areas of need, provides mutual support through the sharing of experience, encourages parents to reflect on their parenting and facilitates communication between members of the School community — thus building a consensus on the philosophy of parenting.

To extend the village concept, it’s important that we see all the children as our children. Most children spend time with other families and it is our responsibility to care for and train visiting children as well as our own children. Many families at the School are separated by long distance from parents or grandparents and in this situation, the school community can act as an extended family — with all that implies in terms of mutual support, reinforcement of values and others to talk to about worries and difficulties.

The most important thing we have to teach our children is how to care. After all, the journey from immaturity to maturity is largely one from self-centredness (which is natural for the baby) to be able to see and meet the needs of others. Care leads to growth, self-confidence, self-esteem and unselfishness. This involves love and a benevolent discipline. The model is to fill children up with care so that they will feel rich enough with care that they can afford to care for others.

For children to learn to care we need to model that care. This will cost us time, energy, mind and attention. If we are generous with this when children are young, they will not be demanding of it so much when they are older. As teachers, we are observing that parents are finding it harder to give time to their children. Often this is because of the need for both parents to work. Consequently children are expected to do more for themselves at a younger age. For example, many children are expected to make their lunch, but being children they don’t leave enough time in the morning to do so. Consequently, they come to school hungry, they can’t concentrate and so snap at others, etc.

Communication with teachers is important because this facilitates a further sharing of the upbringing of the children. Part of this involves raising issues with teachers sooner rather than later and checking with the teachers regularly about how your children are progressing at school (academically and socially). You can help a lot by supporting the teachers with your child. It’s important to the learning process that they respect the teacher and parents play an important role in reinforcing this respect.

Other ways you can support the School are by helping in the provision of school meals and attending working bees to keep the school environment looking good. Parents can encourage their children to wear the school uniform correctly and proudly. Send them to school with clean shoes and brushed hair. It all helps.

Parents can help children function better in their learning by maintaining the child’s health and energy. This means ensuring there are not too many late nights and too many extra-curricular activities. Some children arrive at School on Monday morning looking for a bit of a rest rather than being “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” and ready for the week.

The Parent’s Handbook, issued each year to every family, contains the Parents Code of Conduct which is a well thought out statement produced by School parents outlining how to get the best out of the School. I would encourage you to read and re-read this and try to implement it because it clearly illustrates the idea that parents will get the best out of Total Education by putting work into it.

About the Author

Richard Waters

Richard Waters has been principal of the School of Total Education since 1978. He has taught at both primary and secondary levels and has a particular interest in parent education and the training of teachers. He is also a teacher of senior Study of Society and History.

This article was originally published in the March 2000 edition of the SOTE Newsletter. (Published on web site: September 2001).