The little phrase in our LearnForward Manifesto “climbing to the peaks of selfhood and belonging….”  What does that mean?  What does it have to do with my child?  Education? Me?  

In our time together over the next 4 weeks, “Coffee with Karine” will unpack this developmental journey of selfhood and belonging in a ‘heartful’ way.  It’s perfect timing because our children are exploring who they are within a classroom of peers: selfhood and belonging!

In the beginning phases of developing LearnForward, as a school team, we discussed what was most important for children and captured it in our Manifesto.  

Willowstone Academy Manifesto

Willowstone Academy Manifesto

We talked and talked about the climb to selfhood.  As educators, we discussed personalization and individualization and differentiation.  We want each child’s needs to be met.  We know each child is unique and we want to celebrate uniqueness.  I suspect we all learned it from Dr. Seuss!  

Each child deserves to thrive as an individual, discovering who they are and their strengths along the way.  Schools need to be a place where each child discovers personal selfhood.

Along with Dr. Seuss, the research also supports the notion of the child developing individuality.  

Dr. Gordon Neufeld, author of Hold On To Your Kids, discusses the developmental stage as emergence.  We can see it begin at age two and then again powerfully in the teen years, when the drive for independence is strongest.

I had two teens and a two-year old all at the same time.  Yes, you can laugh now!

It was a lesson in how little control I have.  My kind husband, The Builder, had to keep whispering in my ear (even though I didn’t always welcome it) phrases like, “let her decide,” and “he’ll figure it out.”  Talk about requiring courage!

Everything, with all three children had to really be a conversation that dignified the individual nature and journey of the child.

Emergence as described by Dr. Neufeld looks like:

  • a vitality (not easily bored)
  • sense of agency and initiative
  • viability as a separate being
  • full of interests and curiosities
  • a relationship with self
  • a strong quest for independence

How did your sense of self emerge?  I know for me, some emerging came as a teenager and some came as blatant rebellion and quest for individuality in my early 30s.  It didn’t look pretty later on.  I encourage families with teenagers that the wreckage of emerging in the teen years is typically much less than waiting until later in life.  

For children, emerging comes within the context of secure and safe relationships.  The vital connections of parent-child, teacher-child, or caregiver-child provide the nest from which children can grow and then launch with their own emergence.  

In the video, Dr. Neufeld introduces his core course Power to Parent I.  If you have the time, he is always worth watching!

What I know for sure about the climb to selfhood…

…I haven’t met a life yet that’s a clear and straight line
to truth, to self, or to God.

— Richard Rohr


The climb towards the peaks of selfhood and belonging is a worthy journey.

Next week, we’ll discuss how a LearnForward learning community supports the emergence of selfhood.  

Celebrating each one’s uniqueness,