Inspired by Gerlach’s (2008) paper: “Circle of Caring”: A First Nations Worldview of Child Rearing, we shared our personal experiences of raising children as mothers, teachers, and nurses alongside children and their families. We asked questions of who a healthy child might be. We wondered about physical activity, confidence, dreams, and happiness in a child’s life in relation to wellbeing. Reflecting on our lives within circles of caring, expressions of spirituality in a healthy child’s life became a focus of our interest.
Ina helped us think about healthy children before they are born. In Germany, it is common to say, “no matter if it’ll be a boy or a girl, the most important thing is, that the child will be healthy”. We asked questions about children born with physical differences and chronic disease. We wondered about shifting the dominant story of physical health to one of recognition that the most important aspect of health is that the child is a loved child. A child in relationship to those who love them was important in our understanding of raising healthy children.
Mara took us to the setting of palliative care where every patient has a different social network and their own understanding of what family means. Identifying and understanding the needs, wishes and expectations of children in their last days, weeks, or months include asking them what their needs and wishes are. There are many gaps and silences around death and childhood and we wondered about wellbeing at the end of a young life. We talked about being alongside children as they find their own way to say goodbye.
Gerlach (2008) discussed the presence of spiritual objects in the home, such as feathers, rocks, plants, and herbs. We remembered children’s literature that drew upon objects and spirituality, such as, Everybody Needs a Rock, by Byrd Baylor. We talked about how rocks can be important in many children’s lives. Together, we listened to Jacqueline read aloud, If You Find a Rock, by Peggy Christian, and were reminded of memories with rocks from our own childhoods.
Reading Ball’s (2003) paper Identity and Knowledge in Indigenous Young Children’s Experiences in Canada helped us think about children as world travellers. Switching from home into schools where non-indigenous educators guide early educational experiences raised questions of who decides which knowledge is passed on between generations in places of learning. We talked about dominant stories of assessment in schools and how they differ from our experiences of watching for the right time in the lives of children we love. Lorna spoke about two kinds of happiness – relative and absolute -fulfilling dreams of travel and inner happiness – and related those ideas to the article with Soka Kindergarten and Monash University. We were also reminded of Noddings (2003) writing about an “ethic of care” and Schlink’s (1995) book about the reader and his relationship to a woman who learned from listening to stories read out loud to her. Thinking with stories that were told to us at different times in our lives helped us understand Ball who said, “when the time is right for particular kinds of stories to be told or for children to in included in a traditional activity, then it happens” (p. 289). For some of us, this notion contrasts with the mandated curriculum in school where stories of learning are pre-determined as far as timeline and content are concerned. Watching for the right time to share a story resonated with each of us as we continue to be present within circles of caring alongside the lives of children and their families whom we care for.
Until next time,
Sonia, Jacqueline, Lorna, Eliza, Sarah, Ina, Mara, Theresa, and Lynne
Ball, J. (2012). Identity and Knowledge in Indigenous Young Children’s Experiences in Canada. Childhood Education, 88(5), 286-291. doi: 10.1080/00094056.2012.717866
Baylor, B., & Parnall, P. (1985). Everybody needs a rock. New York: Aladding Paperbacks.
Christian, P. (2008). If You Find a Rock: Harcourt Childrens Books.
Gerlach, A. (2008). “Circle of caring”: A First Nations worldview of child rearing. Canadian Journal Of Occupational Therapy, 75(1), 18-25.
Noddings, N. (1984). Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education. Berkely, California: University of California Press.
Schlink, B. (1995). The Reader: Vintage Books.