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Fostering The Whole Baby: Celebrating The Strength Of Each Child

Spirituality Defined
The meaning of spirit or spiritual growth, as advocated, differs from the religious definitions. It also differs from principles and ethical development. It does, however, relate to thoughtful thinking, particularly as such thinking focuses on ultimate questions about life.

Spirituality in Education
Spirituality, when used in the perspective of education, is sometimes presented in two mutually compatible ways: 1) as a worldview that includes a belief in the reality of the holy or transcendent and 2) as a part of human development that endeavor for self-realization, including the realization of the sacred as our essential nature.

Spiritual Development Suppressed
Unluckily, our society, including the culture of our schools, does little to promote the spiritual dimension of our humanness. Some, in fact, have concluded, Our society is systematically depriving the human soul. The result is that many children remain constantly undernourished in their spiritual development.

1. Adults tend to think about human development in terms of phases or stages. This view suggests that developmental growth involves the movement up from earlier stages of childhood and babyhood. With this model, kids are not viewed as having strength or capability on their own, other than as forerunner to more grown-up forms. Their skill to knowledge the spiritual dimensions of the world and themselves is measured to be something that they will possibly grow into versus already having in place. This view of growth is deeply well-established, and has nearly conquered modern educational and psychological research. As teacher training notes, to date, no current educational or developmental psychology textbook even mentions childhood spirituality

2. Spirituality is often associated with the higher mental functions such as language and abstract thought. Because young kids tend to have poorly developed higher-order linguistic and cognitive skills, it is understood that they cannot experience a spiritual life until these higher functions develop, generally in later childhood and adolescence. This view by Montessori training strongly suggests that spirituality is primarily about thinking.

3. Spirituality is often equated with religion. Most young children have limited abilities to think and talk about such concepts as God, soul, spirituality, etc.; they are very often seen to live in a pre-spiritual wasteland. The individual may take days, months, and years, even an entire lifetime to build up suitable language and concepts that will facilitate him to begin to approach and understand the experience. The pairing of spirituality with the skill to talk about religious concepts, then, fails to identify the true nature of spirituality. This is true whether were talking about kids or adults.

4. Many adults have repressed their own childhood spirituality, and thus find it difficult to recognize it in young children. If we agree that there is a spiritual dimension to our humanness, then educational programs which fail to speak to this aspect of human development cannot serve the holistic needs of the young child. The idea of bringing a spiritual dimension to early childhood education, however, can be unapproachable. We find that, even as adults, we are on a continuous search for the meaning of spirituality in our own lives and are frightened that we will be inadequate in nurturing such development in kids. Bringing a spiritual dimension to the classroom, however, doesnt require an absolute truth in hand.

While spirituality and education are rarely linked in discussions about the role of schools in our society, the failure to include the spiritual development of children as an educational goal does a great harm to our children.

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