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Spinning Plates: Whole Child, Whole Life
Volume 2, Issue 8
There’s an old parable about a group of sightless people who encounter an elephant. Each person in the group touches a different part of the animal in an effort to identify its character, and as a result, each conjures a radically different understanding of the creature they’re describing. When folks try to reduce something sprawling into sound bites, shorthand, or component parts, they are, allegorically, “touching only one part of the elephant.”
A great deal of childcare literature suffers from the elephant problem, but Stephanie Malia Krauss’s new book Whole Child, Whole Life - available for pre-order now - is a powerful antidote to this genre challenge. I got a sneak peek of the book, which comes out later this month; every parent and educator I know should stop what they’re doing and order it now.
Krauss is an author, educator, social worker, and parent, and as such, she imbues Whole Child, Whole Life with a uniquely panoramic view of childrearing. The book starts with a set of tools to help parents, educators, clinicians, and childcare providers build comprehensive portraits of the children in their lives, each of whom - as parents know - is a completely different human. Then, true to the subtitle’s promise, Krauss offers a series of practices that enrich the social, emotional, and cultural well-being of our kids, bringing to bear a multidisciplinary approach that treats each child as a unique specimen, and not as a control group in a social science experiment.
This child-centric approach is one of a handful of things that makes this book subtly transgressive, as most childrearing literature ends up being about parents, teachers, or clinicians, and not the kids themselves. In centering the kids, actually, Krauss liberates herself from hewing to the calcified norms of any particular social science discipline, while instead responding to the real-time needs of our young people, whose lives are neither simple nor static. Her guidance is especially powerful when offering suggestions for navigating crises of mental health, like those caused by gun violence. Creating a petri dish for kids in our society is unrealistic, so Whole Child, Whole Life responds to the actual world we’re in, where trauma, sadly, is a quotidian certainty in all communities.
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That’s the other clever trick Krauss plays with this book, namely tackling tough topics while ensuring that the book remains accessible to anyone, even at a time when touching taboos can quickly lead to landing on a list of banned books. Krauss doesn’t pull punches about the importance of cultural relevance and social emotional health, but she does so in a way that sidesteps protean political narratives.
Her secret weapon for accomplishing this? Talking about kids and their experiences, and letting their needs - and not political abstractions - drive the narrative.
More childrearing literature should follow Krauss’s lead in this respect. Until that happens, parents, teachers, and childcare providers are lucky to have Whole Child, Whole Life as a playbook for the ephemeral, complex needs of our beautiful children.
Speaking of the parental response to gun violence, Sheila shared some tough words on LinkedIn earlier this week:
This analysis is spot-on, and a similar reflection led me to launch the Politicize My Death campaign almost six years ago. Unfortunately, here we are in 2023, and the gun-violence-prevention industrial complex continues to suck up all of the resources on the table, while accomplishing almost nothing to combat actual gun violence.
It’s a problem.
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