Foundation needed in "whole-child" education
After a two-decade run of standards-based instruction and high-stakes testing in education, the pendulum has been swinging back the other direction: many argue we should swap the three R's of reading, writing and arithmetic for relationships, social-emotional stability and physical health.
Certainly, many schools -- both private and public -- have made "whole-child education" a part of their mission for many years. However, even mainstream schools that have emphasized test scores and achievement are now jumping on the whole-child bandwagon. You see some evidence of this with the increased literature and societal pressure to hire additional therapists and school counselors.
So, what's a Christian school to do?
First, any form of whole-child education needs to begin on the basis of knowledge. We cannot provide a whole-child education without the appropriate teaching of who God is, how He functions and interacts through Christ and His Spirit, and the role of human beings in His global restoration project. Without this grounding in reality and truth, there is no basis, purpose or expected outcome for supporting the whole child! Otherwise, it is merely personal preference. You may think of this knowledge as the essential preventive care we need to live and see the world through Christ.
This knowledge informs us that we are made in His image and our brains do not program us. We have a will. We can make choices to act or refrain. Our minds are where our thoughts and feelings originate. We must daily train the mind to think well about God, self and others. What we think about will impact our emotions and relationships. Finally, our bodies are made not just for pleasure, but we need to develop good habits and carry them out through our actions.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Second, after knowledge is established and lived out, we address the 'symptoms' of students and families. These are the trials and daily issues we all face. Ideally, this is done in a loving community between school and home. Schools should be continuing to build their staffing and referral resources to support the growing needs of families. These resources would range from social-emotional and physical health to the academic needs in the classroom.
I recall a parent conversation from last school year: "Why should a school have a counselor if not every student will use the service?"
The assumption is that counselors only respond to the personal and social issues of a broken world.
Why such a narrow view? Let both home and school build strong foundational knowledge about how we were created to live, and work collaboratively through the trials and needs of every child.