Natural Learning Relationships: An Overview

whole-child development


Natural Learning Relationships (NLR) is a practical and applicable whole-child developmental science. NLR details the psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual components of optimal well-being. Furthermore, it describes the dynamics by which these capacities emerge within each stage of childhood. Relationship based, NLR includes the context of the child’s life, inclusive of family, school, and background. It is founded on both fieldwork and the literature in child development, family systems, and contiguous psychological disciplines.

Each stage of childhood has a unique purpose and unique needs. When the needs are satisfied, the purpose is fulfilled. When a child experiences that fulfillment, their well-being reaches optimal levels. The child then has the best environment for social, emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual growth.

Please note that when we use the term spiritual development or spiritual growth, we mean it in a non-religious sense, as an awareness of the processes of identity development, involving a greater connectedness to self, others, and nature; deriving meaning, purpose, and direction in one’s life.

In order to encourage full capacity and potential in children, it is necessary for parents, caregivers, and teachers to value and understand the developmental stages of childhood. To fully comprehend the child, we must consider the whole child, inclusive of intellect , emotional, social, and physical development, as well as their spiritual nature. This is development of the whole person (or whole being of the child).

Natural Learning Relationships offers detailed examination of transitions throughout childhood and suggestions as to how to nurture and support children through these often misunderstood yet critical times for growth, learning, and stability.

Life stages contain capacities, but development occurs in relationship. Based on our extensive research and work in the field of holistic education and family empowerment, we believe Natural Learning Relationships is the only approach to development that acknowledges that the relationships between all parties (child and adult) determine the quality of development for all. Successful fulfillment in each life stage means that everyone grows together.

Natural Learning Relationships specifically delineates the psychological and emotional nourishments for each life stage as well as optimal environments that support children’s innate capacities. At the same time, Natural Learning Relationships helps educators find ways to provide these nourishments that are in accord with their school culture, lifestyle, environment, economic conditions. unique family values, and individual needs. In this way, Natural Learning Relationships supports diversity and universal access while providing a map to well-being for all children and their caregivers.

Natural Learning Relationships offers great detail about the breadth and scope of each developmental stage:

  • Environments that support optimal well-being in the child
  • Clear descriptions of the qualities, nature, and characteristics of each stage
  • Appreciation of how a child transitions between stages
  • The key to effective communication—and the “language” of each stage
  • The development of meaning within each stage of growth
  • Perceptual changes in the child of time and space, with the implications for learning
  • Restoration of well-being in child and family
  • Mutual development of adult and child together—the hidden benefits of meeting the developmental needs of children