An Autobiography Merijam Volpe

The Holistic Child

Well-being is a broad term with many facets. When I think of the well being of a child my first almost impulsive responses would have to do with their basic physical needs. Food, Shelter, and clothing. Although these are important areas of need they do not express or embody complete well-being. A child's well-being represents the whole child and it intertwines with each of these aspects below.

• Physical: Does the child have a healthy diet and the access to nutritious foods. Is the child encouraged and participating in regular exercise. Has the child had regular check ups with a doctor. Is the child living in an environment that is safe and a space that will promote growth. Encouraging the development of fine and gross motor skills. These factors contribute to the physical well-being of a child.

• Behavioral: What activities does the child engage in regularly. Are they promoting healthy mental and physical stimulus like interactive games with an adult of peer? Or are they based around sedentary activities such as television or games on devices. Is the child picking up positive behaviors that would have been taught by example such as moderation in all things, kindness and sympathy.

• Social, Emotional: Does the child have positive, supportive relationships. Do they feel a sense of security within these relationships. Are they able to form healthy attachments to the adults and peers in their world. Does the child have ample opportunities to engage in play. Are the parents or guardians supporting the needs of he child emotionally and socially through their practices.

• Cognitive areas: Is the child being challenged and supported as they develop cognitively. Are they provided activities and situations to test and expand their skills. Are we scaffolding their learning at a pace and style suited to the individual child. Are we designing our learning environments to promote cognition and development for each child. Does the child feel safe enough to explore their interests and abilities.

We are blessed to live in a society that tries to make the well being of our children our highest priority. Not only does this mean we strive to provide them a healthy environment and a nutritious diet but we also search for ways to support all aspects of their development. We know each area overlaps and you cannot succeed in overall well-being through one area and not the other. Thus the Holistic Approach to Learning.

From My Perspective

I was born and raised in a small country in the southern part of Africa, Malawi. There I was exposed to a wide range of values and ideals that I find to be less prominent here in North America. It is a land that has to deal with monumental struggles and challenges that we in a first world culture have thankfully avoided. Families and children work diligently and daily to survive. Drought and famine are annual battles. Disease and poverty are a constant with barely enough aid or support to go around. Basic needs as we see them in North America such as food or shelter are not so basic to families in Malawi. For many if the child or family member has eaten something that day they have done their job in supporting their well being. This stems from a lack of alternatives and a very fragile lifestyle. Growing up in this environment made me not only grateful but much more aware of the importance of necessities. Without a nutritious diet or a safe place to rest the other important areas of development and well-being will cease to thrive or even exist. When you are focused on sustainability and keeping your family alive aspects of their well-being such as social/emotional development become less of a concern.

I was extremely blessed to have spent my childhood in Malawi as I have a much wider world view and a greater appreciation for my situation. It allows me to empathize and connect with a wide range of individuals and children. Although in Malawian culture there is little opportunity for children to engage in the cognitive, social and emotional aspects in the same way children do here, they do possess values i feel we see less of here in North America. Their sense of family and responsibility is rooted much deeper. Children from a very young age are required to care for their siblings, help around the home and community as well as support their elders. They learn behaviors and expectations from parents and community members. They must realize quickly and at a young age their place within their family and community. The importance of a close nit family and community is far greater. They relay on each other to get by. Throughout my years overseas I have seen struggle and pain that tears at my heart, but in all this I found the people had pure joy. The blissful ignorance of knowing only what is in your small community, being content with very little and truly loving and connecting with others are skills and values passed on through generations of Malawians. In this way I see children gain the support they need for social, emotional and behavioral well-being. It is difficulty to compare to what children here in Canada need or receive but in their context I believe it to be fulfilling. Cognitive well-being is an area i do believe is lacking for children in Malawi. With such high demands children often don't get the opportunity to attend school or educational programs. Sometimes due to distance but mostly because of familial responsibilities. The importance for an education is outweighed by the need to survive. They often cannot dream of the future when the fear of seeing tomorrow is a true reality.

Although I was witness to this throughout my upbringing I am thankful to say my parents were constant providers for all my areas of development. I feel now that I understand what well-being looks like that I was offered and provided support through my parents and environment which related to all areas of my development. My educational career however did not enhance as much. Malawi was a British colony and still holds the values of their curriculum and style to learning. Rules and regimented schedules were important not individuality or differentiated teaching. There was little room for flexibility or teaching that supported individual learners. Standardized tests were the be all and end all with little consideration into the needs of students. If you didn't conform or fit into their idea of what learning looked like you would ultimately fail. This was very difficult for me throughout my education and I struggled greatly. I remember distinctly a teacher telling me once that would never amount to anything because I wasn't smart enough. It was so very defeating. The areas of my education I flourished in were the arts but in an academically driven school they held little value. I do believe it inhibited my overall well-being as I began to realize people thought I was incapable. It directly effected my social, emotional and behavioral development.

I am happy to say I have overcome these insecurities and challenges. Once I found an area of learning I loved and was good at I have been very successful. It has made me very sensitive to children's needs in my care and allows me to think critically when creating my program. I try to identify the needs of all my learners and create an environment where they feel safe and can flourish. I continue to push forward to gain greater knowledge and understanding in my field.

How Does It All Relate

when I look at the theories we have discussed and the variety of learning models in place for students today I am extremely excited about the future. People are starting to realize the importance of the early years and shaping programs to benefit children with all needs and learning styles. Programs that consider play and inquiry based learning to be vital for a child's development. We can now see governments and educational systems aligning with these values and principles. People are beginning to understand the importance of family, culture and backgrounds and the role they play in a child's development. They are starting to recognize cultural responsiveness and the role it plays in our melting pot society. Thankfully we now have a greater knowledge of the concept of holistic learning and that a child's physical, social, emotional and cognitive abilities directly effect their overall well-being. I look forward to what i will continue to learn throughout this program and how it will support me in nurturing and engaging children. Utilizing these skills to provide an environment and program that supports the well-being of the whole child.


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Created with images by markusspiske - "globe africa europe" • Jon Grainger - "Children Jumping" • Pexels - "boy children cute" • Alexas_Fotos - "soap bubble colorful balls" • khym54 - "Matanda area on the outskirts of Lilongwe, Malawi" • Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) - "FMSC Distribution Partner - Reach Now International" • Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) - "FMSC Distribution Partner - Reach Now International" • Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) - "FMSC Distribution Partner - Joyce Meyer Ministries" • Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) - "FMSC Distribution Partner - Joyce Meyer Ministries" • Ronile - "gummibärchen fruit gums bear" • geralt - "children silhouette cheers"

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