Home Is The First School, Parents Are The First Teachers

March 12, 2011

Home is the first school, and parents are the first teachers.

This mantra was at the core of my Norland training and remains a basic truth to this day. It is also one of the first principles of the Slow Parenting Movement. One important point to remember – a child learns more in the first 3 years of life, than at any other time.

Every moment of every day is a learning experience.

Home represents a place of gathering, with stability, love & comfort that remains constant in this world of uncertainty. It is not defined by what you have, the number of toys or amount of stuff, the size of rooms or location. Simplicity should be at its core.

Home is the setting for an individual’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth. Not unlike a garden, a home must be tended, appreciated, nurtured and respected in order to thrive. Children who are taught to respect home and all that it represents will fare better in the larger community that dwells outside their four walls. Whatever the makeup of the family might be, home is the essence of what you hold to be true.

Home is the first classroom- not only in an academic sense – but also, as microcosm of the larger world that your child will inhabit. How do we treat each other, is perhaps the most important life lesson we learn at home. Are we polite to one another? Do we respect and honour privacy? Emotions? Differences of opinion?

Do we share responsibilities? Take turns? Understand chores are essential? Can we each share our story honestly and without judgment?

Each family’s interpretation of what makes a nurturing home will be individual and there is not one blueprint that works for all, however if respect of space and honest engagement based on unconditional love are at its core, the home can be a strong anchor.

The beginning yearnings for a love of learning will be acquired in a stable, calm home environment.

How things work, cause and effect, simple problem solving, reading and math skills are all learned in the day to day tasks of living with family.

“You can never have too many books” is one of my favorite quotes. With this trend of all consuming lust for technology I fear that many children will not grow up with an understanding or respect of experiencing  written word on paper. The joy of holding a book, turning the pages with anticipation, finding a favorite bookmark to treasure, and reading aloud is one of the most important gifts you can give your child. Find time every day to read together, and encourage your children to spend time with books for at least an hour a day, on their own. Even when children outgrow their naps, quiet time in their rooms with a good stack of books is a perfect way to relax and rejuvenate, while  expanding their vocabulary and stimulating their imagination. This practice also teaches a child how to be silent and peaceful with themselves – another vital component for future happiness.

Mother Goose, Dr Seuss, nonsense poems and early silly rhymes will evolve into the chapter books that captivate as your children mature. It is all too easy to give children a visual entertainment to pass the time, but try to resist the temptation and make books an essential part of every day. The value of this can not be stressed enough and may be one of the greatest gifts you give your family.

If home if the first school than it makes sense that parents, or the adults in charge, are the first teachers. How you communicate with your child, and others, will illustrate to them how they should behave. Manners, respect for others and property, ethics, values, self respect, the responsibilities of living in community – all these are life lessons that your children will learn from YOU. Do not expect the outside world to pick up this baton. If you assume  school will  take charge of this, you have waited too long. The responsibility rests firmly in your hands from the first day of your child’s life.

If you have a curiosity for life’s experiences, your children will inherit this as well. Your relationships and how you communicate will directly influence your child’s interpretation of how to move forward in life. This is where being mindful comes in to play.

The  need for mindful and slow parenting is enormous and can not be taken lightly.  Parenting is not about manipulating outcome or creating the perfect child of your dreams. As much as we might like to think that with focus, determination and hard work one can orchestrate the perfect outcome for all situations, life with its menu of complexities, will most certainly deal you a hand you were not anticipating.

A mindful parent is one who can pause, study the landscape carefully, and makes choices based upon what is best for their child or family, staying true to their belief system and integrity, without worrying about what others might think. It is difficult in a world absorbed with outcome, but we all get to make choices, and being strong in confidence that you know, instinctively, what is best for your child is the best path to follow.

Slowly learning to trust your instincts and release the doubt that swirls about, is one of the first steps in becoming a mindful parent.

c   Jean Alice Rowcliffe    2012

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