- Life is to be lived now, not in the past, and lived in the future only as a present challenge. All children come with a history, but it is essential that it doesn’t haunt them in their present school setting. Every day, every hour, is an opportunity to start fresh.
2. Trust between child and adult is essential. In order for learning to happen, adults must be seen as reliable and trustworthy allies with predictable and consistent behaviors. A culture of trust and consistency must exist among the adults before the children ever begin at the school, and a commonality of philosophy is critical.
3. Competence makes a difference, and children and adolescents should be helped to be good at something, and especially at schoolwork. Some children require direct teaching and multi-sensory learning in order to become competent at reading and math. Other opportunities for competence are regularly offered.
4. Time is an ally, working on the side of growth in a period of development when life has a tremendous forward thrust. The brain is maturing in children and many just need a safe place to develop skills and competencies that might develop with time on their own.
5. Self-control can be taught and children and adolescents helped to manage their behavior without the development of psychodynamic insight. We are not psychotherapists or a day treatment program, but all humans have behaviors that must be unlearned and replaced with more productive behavior, no matter the reason they occur.
6. Intelligence can be taught. Intelligence is a dynamic, evolving, and malleable capacity for making good choices in living. Problem solving, both with academics and relationships, can and should be taught. Practice in making good choices is constant and planned. Learning to learn can make future educational experiences more productive.
7. Feelings should be nurtured, shared spontaneously, controlled when necessary, expressed when too long repressed, and explored with trusted others. An atmosphere of honesty allows children to share through writing, drama, art and conversation. Constant coaching helps children learn to control the actions their feelings may cause.
8. The group is very important to young people, and it can become a major source of instruction in growing up. A healthy group can be a source of support and reinforcement to a struggling child. Older children can assist younger ones, thus gaining self-confidence in the process. Peers who cooperate rather than compete can be a source of strength and learning.
9. Ceremony and ritual give order, stability, and confidence to troubled children and adolescents, whose lives are often in considerable disarray. All people find comfort in predictability and ritual. Throughout time, cultures have created rituals to help them through times of disequilibrium and transition, and we do so as well.
10. The body is the armature of the self, the physical self around which the psychological self is constructed. Children need to move, both in play, work, and physical challenge, and all these are built into HCA’s program. It may be recess, gardening, sports coaching, working, or hiking, but movement is central to our program.
11. Communities are important for children and youth, but the uses and benefits of community must be experienced to be learned. Communities come with responsibilities as well as benefits, and so each child contributes each day by doing chores. Occasional service days expand the community. Students help plan celebrations and support each other in many ways.
12. A child should know some joy in each day and look forward to some joyous event for the morrow. Every child should experience some joy in school every day, whether it’s a game at recess, mastering a difficult concept, reading with a dog, or celebrating one of our many holidays such as Squirrel Appreciation Day, King Tut Day, Jackie Robinson’s birthday, Cherry Pie Day, or World Penguin Day.