• Janice Oliver-Iraci, Executive Director

What Is "Holistic?"

Holistic - a term you are hearing more often these days. What, exactly, does it mean? Webster defines it like this:


1 : of or relating to holism. 2 : relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts holistic medicine attempts to treat both the mind and the body holistic ecology views humans and the environment as a single system.


It's always struck me as funny that, given this definition, it isn't spelled WHOLISTIC. It's a term that seems to bring comfort these days. Days when we are separated from loved ones, and often don't feel whole without our usual systems and people in place.


When we use it in the realm of education, it is usually expressed as a belief that children should be exposed to many areas of life and learning. It is vitally important that children learn to read, because as they grow, children then read to learn. It is also crucial that students understand basic math procedures because mathematics impact our lives in so many unseen ways.


However, because of so many systemic practices that have become embedded into our schools, these two aforementioned subjects take precedence over the unfortunate exclusion of other areas of learning and expression. Areas like visual and performing art, like music and dance and drama.


This is not the fault of teachers, or of administration, or parents. It has been a societal shift that accumulated over time. As a society, we have come to value some things more than others. Test scores are one of those things. Because schools were pressured to do well on normative tests, the focus changed. The good news is that...we are starting to shift again. There are those who have seen and felt the importance of a holistic education for many years, and now, we are joined by many others who have experienced the negative impact of a singularly focused education.


Perhaps it slipped away from us in the first place because people thought that subjects were isolated. Maybe it was thought that in order to "do art" you could not focus on writing, that those who calculated math were not proficient at music. Quite the opposite is often true! Also true is that in order to educate a child in a holistic fashion, their emotional needs and their social needs are on equal footing with their academic needs.


When you approach education like a tapestry, and realize that many different strands are woven together, you have achieved a holistic approach!


What does that look like for parents at home? Expose your child(ren) to may different things so you can allow their senses and curiosity to grow naturally. Find and experience art in your home, in nature, and in museums. Experience math while cooking, while building with toys and even in the buildings around you. Dance to music - regularly, and turn a recipe into poetry. Most of all - have fun with it!

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