An inclusive education: parenting courses offered at St James to help educate the whole child

| September 9, 2019 | 0 Comments

BY VENILLA KOHLER

There is no course, curriculum or advanced study group that teaches us how to do the important work of raising children.

We often parent our own children according to how we were parented. Thus, the importance of parenting cannot be emphasised enough. Some of the factors that led to the development of the parenting courses at St James Preparatory School, located in Johannesburg, are:

• the stresses of providing for a family on a daily basis

• the outside pressures and worldly influences faced by families

• the family unit – which, under mounting pressure, is breaking down.

All these influences and more are impacting on family life. So the purpose of the parenting courses is to help parents navigate the potential pitfalls of the events of life that impact on the parents’ ability to perform their proper duties as parents, and to offer support in the development of their children. St James saw the opportunity and need to harness the wisdom of the ages in terms of parenting. One such source of wisdom on the subject is that of Maharaja Shri Shantananda Saraswati, who said these words about parenting: ‘Education and company are met in the home, school and society. If all have the same point of view, you produce a unified man; otherwise a mixed-up, confused and vigour-less being.’1 He went on further to say: ‘Character building concerns parents and teachers a lot more than it concerns children. So the elders must behave in exactly the same way as they expect their children to behave.’2

Developing relationships

With this in mind, St James follows a principle-based approach to the parenting courses offered. These principles guide parents towards shaping the child’s character so that they can reach their full potential, while simultaneously creating a beautiful and nurturing relationship between the parent and the child. The parenting courses were developed to help parents cope with changing family dynamics and to develop positive relationships between parents and children by understanding the principles that govern the relationships. The question posed at the start of the course series is: ‘What is the ideal or vision that each of us would wish for our child at the age of 16?’ This question highlights the enormous responsibility parents have to respond in a way that will guide and assist in the raising of a child. This is a 20-year vision or ideal that deserves careful consideration, for the fruits of our labours will become the trees for future generations. To consider an ideal or vision for their child, parents should have a clear concept of a good, civilised and cultured being into which they wish the child to evolve. The St James parenting course offers parents key principles that guide them in developing a child with character. Our understanding of the simple guiding principles for the child’s development is: • birth to five years of age: love and play • five to 10 years: love and discipline • 10 to 16 years: love and more discipline, but with the emphasis on developing the child’s reason, rather than merely demanding obedience from the child • from 16 years onwards: the relationship changes to that of being a friend.

Course content

With these principles in place, the courses, which run for some eight weeks each school term, explore other parent-related topics and use texts that support the ideals of parenting.3 Some other topics offered for discussion in the course are:

• character building

• love and discipline and how these are applied

• the capacity to acquire, receive and hold knowledge

• to teach a child, you need to become a child

• the three levels of human being

• the six types of character to be avoided.

The most important aspects of this course are the practical exercises offered to the parents, which need to be tried, tested and then discussed. Subsequent courses that have been offered to parents include ‘Crucial conversations you should be having with your child’. Over this eight-week course, sessions include:

• how to parent a daughter

• how to parent a son

• the sex talk (very popular with parents)

• teenage suicide and bullying.

The current course session is based on ‘Crucial questions you should be asking yourself as a parent’. In this course, focus is given to the questions, ‘What type of child are we parenting?’ ‘Are we as parents meeting the needs of children of this generation?’4 A comment from a parent who has attended the parenting course: The parenting course has helped us to realise that parenting is not about having the perfect child that most of society conforms to [sic], instead it has highlighted for us that parenting is about accepting your child for who they are and rising to the various challenges that they pose. It is not drastic changes that we have had to make, instead simple changes like adjusting the tone of our voice, respecting everyone’s opinions, listening to each other and engaging – which have made a dramatic impact in our family’s lives. In conclusion, these conversations and discussions have revealed that there are more questions than answers when it comes to parenting. The most important message garnered from these conversations has been that children are astute observers and accurate imitators.

Venilla Kohler is deputy headmistress at St James Preparatory School. Parenting courses are held on a Saturday during the school term from 09:00 until 11:00 at St James Preparatory School. For further details, please contact Page Jones at: (+27) 011 618 4101/4124. Independent Education apologises for citing the incorrect author’s name in the 2019 winter edition article, titled ‘Why philosophy for children?’. The article was written by John Curle.

References:

  1. See: http://schoolofphilosophykzn.org/the-organisation/history/
  2. Ibid.
  3. Tsabary, S. (2010) The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves,
    Empowering our Children. Vancouver: Namaste Publishing; and James, O. (2016) Not in Your Genes: The Real Reasons Children are Like their Parents. London: Vermilion Books.
  4. See, for example: https://library.albright.edu/c.php?g=220915&p=1462276
    and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_UPUmlyY5M; and Admiral
    William H. McRaven’s famous commencement speech, entitled ‘If You
    Want to Change the World’ (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=
    pxBQLFLei70)

Additional sources:

  1. School of Practical Philosophy (n.d.) Gauteng P100 Parenting Course.
    See: https://philosophyschool.com/
  2. See: https://www.biblio.com/book/conversations-shri-shantananda-saraswatishankaracharya/d/690327230 and https://practicalphilosophywa.org.au/courses/99-conversations-sri-shantananda-saraswati/

Category: Spring 2019

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