Well-rounded: educating the whole child

Well-rounded: educating the whole child

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One family, perhaps speaking for many independent school parents, said they had chosen their child's school because: "This school educates the whole child, including social responsibility, arts and culture, tolerance, and personal and spiritual growth."

The response is reported in Ontario's Private Schools: Who Chooses Them and Why, published in the Fraser Institute's Studies in Education Policy.

Educating the whole child is a phrase that comes up repeatedly in parents' responses as well as school prospectuses. Ultimately what it means is producing mature and well-rounded young adults versed in community service, the arts, sports, social skills and that hardest to define ingredient, character.

"I say our school has two essential purposes," says Bob Snowden, headmaster of St. Michaels University School, in Victoria, "academic success and educating the whole student."

"Whole child" education starts at the youngest level. "It's the whole issue," says Nancy Coyle, director of the Toronto Montessori Institute, responsible for training teachers. Maria Montessori, founder of the movement, saw that children learned socially and spiritually, she says. "And being a better citizen of the world was the aim of education."

And sometimes, with some of Canada's independent schools located in some of our country's great landscapes, students only have to go outside to experience that wider world.

Juniors at Glenlyon Norfolk School in Victoria, for instance, spend their breaks on the foreshore collecting what junior principal Robert Kiddell calls jokingly "horrific creatures" and asking him what they are. "The ocean is our playground," he says proudly of his ocean-side school. And the best sort of environmental education is right on the doorstep. "When students come back," says Robert, as part of that rounded education, "they will always talk about their time on the beach."

—Frank Jones
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