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What is Whole Child Learning (and Why Is It Important)?

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I’ve been talking a lot about Whole Child Learning these days and made the mistake of assuming everyone knew about this model. While I’ve used this method since the early years of our homeschool, I didn’t realize that I haven’t truly dedicated a blog post to this holistic education model.  So here we are.

Our Journey to Whole Child Learning

Before I delve into what Whole Child Learning is, I want to tell you a little backstory about how this model came to be in our homeschool.  

You see, I used to homeschool in a way as to “make” learning happen. I placed a heavy emphasis on academics because I believed that my children must be smarter than their peers for homeschool to work. In short, my children’s academic success became my report card. But there was one huge problem; it turned out my children were more than their intellect.  

The more time I spent homeschooling my children, the more I recognized they had other developmental needs that required intentional nurturing. I discovered that academics were just a fraction of what my children needed to grow into well-adjusted adults who will impact their generation. They needed the world to be their classroom and experience to be their teacher. They needed enriching social opportunities. They needed emotional intelligence. They needed healthy physical challenges. They needed spiritual nourishment and creative freedom. They needed someone to teach them how to learn, not what to know.  

They needed a whole-child learning experience.  

What is Whole Child Learning?

So, what is Whole Child Learning, anyway? Whole Child Learning prioritizes the full scope of a child’s developmental needs to ensure that every child reaches their full potential. The education model is based on the premise that children have six selves that comprise who they are:

1. Cognitive

2. Physical

3. Emotional

4. Social

5. Creative

6. Spiritual (a personal addition I made to this model)

These six selves must be nourished and developed with equal importance and care.  

The History of Whole Child Learning

What is the history of Whole Child Learning? The concept of educating the whole child isn’t new. In fact, over a century ago, education philosophers like Charlotte Mason and Maria Montessori implemented education models that sought to offer children a more holistic approach to education by incorporating more ways to nurture their developmental needs into the curriculum. Both the Charlotte Mason and Montessori methods have become popular models amongst homeschoolers and educators today.  

In 2007, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) launched the Whole Child Initiative. The launch was an effort to change the conversation about education from a focus on narrowly defined academic achievement to one that promotes children’s long-term development and success. The goal is to establish learning environments that foster strong communities and encourage autonomy, physical and cognitive development, social and emotional intelligence, creative freedom, and spiritual nourishment (a personal addition I made to this model). 

Incorporating Whole Child Learning Into Your Homeschool

While the ASCD launched the Whole Child Learning model to help traditional classrooms provide a more holistic education for children, parents looking for a simplistic method for home education can also adopt this philosophy into their homeschools. To get started, Whole Child Learning offers five essential tenets that set the stage for prioritizing the full development of children: 

  1. Health: Empowering children to learn about and practice a healthy lifestyle that supports optimal cognitive, physical, and emotional development.  
  2. Safety: Providing a learning environment for children where they feel socially, emotionally, spiritually, and physically safe for creativity, curiosity, and learning to take over.  
  3. Engagement: Incorporating learning experiences that children want to engage in and connect with.  
  4. Support: Ensuring children have the necessary support, resources, and care to facilitate their learning experience.  
  5. Challenge: Encouraging healthy challenges that help children develop cognitively, physically, socially, emotionally, creatively, and spiritually.  

In essence, Whole Child Learning at home may look different from the traditional classroom. Still, the goal is the same: to connect a child’s education with deeper learning opportunities as they navigate the world around them.  

Find out what resources I use as a whole child educator here. 

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1 Comment

  1. Whole Child Learning Books for Kids that Promote Social-Emotional Intelligence | The Homeschool Genius

    […] been part of our vision for homeschool since the very early years of our journey. It is part of our Whole Child Learning model that we put into practice. As we enter our seventh homeschooling year, I can say with […]

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