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Developing the Whole Child

Every child is wonderfully unique, filled with wants, needs, dreams, challenges, and talents. Daily life is overflowing with elements that can be detrimental to the developmental growth of a child. From shortening attention spans due to an overabundance of screen time, to social media and the potentially disastrous effects it can have on one’s self-image and mental health, today’s children face many hurdles. Children are growing up in a world that threatens to limit who they are and prevent them from achieving their full potential.

The Whole Child Approach: Three Core Values

A whole child is a child who has learned the necessary skills to succeed not only academically, but in all aspects of life. A whole child has strong social and emotional skills, a strong sense of self, and a healthy sense of independence. At Anneliese Schools, we nurture the growth and development of each whole child by leaning steadfastly into our three core values: freedom, self knowledge/discipline, and love.


The freedom to take risks, make mistakes, explore, and begin to form ideas creates a safe environment for children to understand the world around them. An article published by Penn State University stresses the importance of giving children the freedom to choose, saying that the ability to make choices is a vital step in growing up (Penn State, 2018). This freedom allows children the time and opportunity to feel in control of and responsible for their own life and decisions – all while being closely monitored in a supportive environment. This is a pivotal component of growing up to be a healthy adolescent and eventually a well-rounded adult.

Self-Knowledge And Discipline

Establishing and increasing self-knowledge and discipline in a child is a crucial step in gaining a high social-emotional competence, a fundamental aspect of the whole child approach. Children who show increased social-emotional competence in kindergarten are twice as likely to obtain a college degree, 54% more likely to graduate high school, and 46% more likely to have a full-time job by age 25 (Jones et al. 2015). Moreover, a study published by Contemporary Educational Psychology found that students with higher social-emotional competence in elementary school experienced fewer mental health difficulties, greater academic achievement, and increased connectedness with others later in life (Panayiotou et al. 2019). When children become aware of their strengths and weaknesses, they are given the opportunity to accept themselves for who they are – not what others tell them they are. This self-awareness and self-acceptance enables children to better manage themselves, both physically and emotionally.


There is immense power and weight on unconditional love with young children in their formative stages. Unconditional love, shown by parents and teachers, shows children and students how to be kind to one another and how to show love to others. Additionally, the whole child methodology champions the idea of equal access to love. Just because one student might act out more than another, or face more challenges, does not mean they are unworthy of the same unconditional love. Showing young children love is another important aspect of increasing their social-emotional competence, which has a monumental impact on a child and their evolution into adulthood. Children with a decreased social-emotional competence in kindergarten are 67% more likely to be arrested by early adulthood, 64% more likely to spend time in juvenile detention, and 52% more likely to binge drink (Jones et al. 2015).

Necessities For A Bright Future

Recent statistics and studies have proven that standard academic education accounts for the bare minimum of what a young child needs in their early developmental stages. The whole child approach presents new methods of learning centered around freedom, self-knowledge/discipline, and love. These core values offer parents and teachers new and unique ways to encourage independence, foster self-sufficiency, and establish a strong social and emotional core for the children in their care. This is a crucial step in ensuring that children stand the best chance of becoming successful, compassionate members of society.