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What is the Circle of Courage?

The model used at our schools is based on contemporary developmental research, the heritage of  Native American philosophies of childcare. The model encompasses four core values: Belonging, Mastery, Independence and Generosity. Anthropologists have long known that Indians reared courageous, respectful children without using aversive control based on these 4 core values.  

These values are validated by contemporary child research on the development and maintenance of self-esteem. The work identified four, very similar, key components essential for a positive self-esteem: significance, competence, power and virtue. 

  • BELONGING In Native American culture, significance is nurtured in a community that celebrates  the universal need for belonging. Belonging in Indian culture in these simple words: "Be related, somehow, to everyone you know." Treating others as kin forges powerful social bonds of community that draws all into relationships of respect. Throughout history, the tribe, not the nuclear family, always ensured the survival of the culture. Though individual parents might struggle, the tribe is always there to support the growth of the next generation. 

  • MASTERY Competence is ensured by guaranteed opportunities for mastery. The first lesson in traditional Native American culture is that one should always observe those with more life experience in order to learn from them. Children are taught to see someone with more skill as a model for learning, not as a rival or a threat. One must strive for mastery for personal reasons to build feelings of confidence and competence, not to be superior to someone else. Humans have an innate drive to master their environments. When success is achieved, the desire to achieve more is strengthened.

  • INDEPENDENCE Power is fostered by deep respect for each person's independence. In contrast to obedience based models of discipline, Native American teaching is designed to build respect and teach inner discipline. From early childhood, children are encouraged to make decisions, solve problems and show personal responsibility. Adults modeled, nurtured, taught values and gave feedback, but children are given abundant opportunities to make choices without coercion. 

  • GENEROSITY -Virtue is reflected in the important value of generosity. The central goal in Native American child rearing is to teach the importance of being generous and unselfish. "When you discover something good, the first thing to do is share it with whoever you can. That way, the good spreads out and there’s no telling where it will go.” In helping others, young people create their own proof of worthiness; they have the power to make a positive contribution to another human life.

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