A conference thousands of miles away in California has inspired an early childhood education public awareness campaign in Florence. That’s where district one teachers heard a woman from Denmark talk about serving children’s needs so they are better able to learn and grow. The speaker was author and early childhood education expert Helle Heckmann.
“I’m a global traveler protecting childhood,” Helle says. She’s been teaching kindergarten for nearly 33 years at the Waldorf School in Copenhagen, Denmark. She’s also written six books, including “Slow Parenting: Caring for Children with Intention- An Inspiring Approach” and “Children’s Garden: Shaping Everyday Life Around the Needs of Young Children”.
“It’s such a pity that parents don’t understand that little children are only little for a short time,” she says. “Take the time because it will never come back.”
Helle was invited to speak in September at the 2018 Early Childhood Campions Summit in Florence. District one schools have come up with a campaign based on what Helle calls the “Five Golden Keys” to early childhood; sleep, movement, nutrition, rhythm and love. They are a guide to give parents simple ways to improve their children’s lives.
She says parents and children who do not get enough sleep are not fit for life. She encourages kids under the age of six-years-old to get 12 hours of sleep a night. Parents, she says, need at least eight.
When it comes to movement, Helle says kids need activity and parents should encourage and embrace exercise. “They need to build muscle,” she says. “Otherwise they are not ready to listen because they are not well.”
Nutrition, like parenting, she says is a matter of slowing down. Fast food and frequent snacks are not healthy. She encourages families to bring cooking back to the kitchen as a way to bond and teach children where their food comes from.
Helle says kids need a rhythmical life, one based on routine and security. That, she says, frees them to play. “Play is where children learn,” she says. “It’s where the child plays out what it has experienced.”
Finally, Helle says love is about responsibility, putting the child’s needs first and taking the job of parenting seriously. “Children need us to guide them. They cannot guide themselves,” she says. “As they grow, they need more and more space.”
Florence district one schools are now turning those keys into a campaign called, “Count Five.” Every month from now until the beginning of next year, they will focus on each; sleep movement, nutrition, rhythm and love. They say it’s an extension of what they’re already trying to do, reach out to parents to become more involved.
“We started distributing books to parents, doing home visit to parents,” says Dr. Floyd Creech. He’s the administrator for School Readiness for Florence one schools. “You have to put forth the effort to reach parents. I mean, these people are very busy. They have very stressful lives.”
Dr. Tammy Palowski has been working with the school district and agrees. Parents are key. She’s the director of the Center for Excellence to Prepare Teachers of Children of Poverty at Francis Marion University.
“We got to get this word out to empower parents to make these decisions that don’t cost a lot of money but require us to reprioritize how we live our lives,” she says.
Dr. Richard O’Malley is the new Superintendent of Florence One Schools. He comes from New Jersey, a state that often ranks in the top tier for education. He’s eager to improve schools, not just in Florence, but across the state.
“We are really trying to show South Carolina and the nation Florence schools are sort of the lighthouse of education being progressive and setting an example.”
Helle Heckmann says more attentive parenting just makes good sense. But worldwide, she finds many parents need guidance.
“They are standing alone. They don’t have a role model. They don’t have somebody to ask,” she says. “Find somebody,” she advises. “Find somebody you can trust. Don’t carry it alone.”
To learn more about the Count Five Campaign go to: https://www.theschoolfoundation.org/count5