“To be, to belong, to become”: how children are raised in Australia

Being yourself and becoming what you want, not others, is the main value of a country that occupies an entire continent

For this freedom, they fled to Australia in the 18th century, but they come here now for it. And children who were lucky enough to be born here are used to deciding everything for themselves.

Elena Stepanova*

Born in Moscow in 1983 year. In 2006 she graduated from the Russian State Trade and Economic University. She worked at Procter & Gamble in Moscow, where she met her future husband Dmitry.

In 2011, the Stepanov family moved to Sydney. While on maternity leave, Elena founded Gem Studio Photography, which specializes in photography for weddings and family events. Elena and Dmitry are raising three children: Anton (9 years old), Maya (8 years old) and Yana (3 years old).

* About her life in Australia and about the peculiarities of raising children in this country Elena told Around the World in 2017

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“A new family moved into the next house,” says Elena Stepanova. “Reconnaissance in the person of the youngest daughter reported that they had three boys. Then my son Anton went to play with them and said that there were actually five boys. And the other day, a neighbor's dog ran into our site, I took it to the owners, met them and was surprised to find out that there were eight boys. The oldest is 18 years old, the others are 15, 12, 8, 6, 4, 2 years old and the youngest is 8 months old.

In the area of ​​northern beaches in Sydney, where good schools are concentrated, almost all families have many children. Few have less than three. Australian women give birth to their first child after 30. And often they do not even wait two years to give their first child a brother or sister. The weather here is a common thing. Moms easily manage a whole gang.

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Barefoot childhood

When you are in the Forestville area where Elena's family lives, you get the feeling that you have arrived at a summer house: under the purple vaults of blooming jacaranda, children in their swimming trunks run squealing and pouring water on each other from watering cans .

– Anton, Maya and Yana are now playing at the neighbors. There are three kids around the same age. Children rush back and forth all day long: they jump on our trampoline, then they run to the neighbors on the trampoline. Swim in their pool and race to dive into ours. Children often run barefoot down the street, even in the city. Heat.

– And in general, here no one cares, as we do in Russia, about many things & nbsp; – for example, handrails in public transport that you have to hold on to, or puddles that you can’t run across. It is believed that if a child at a certain age crawls on the floor or lawn and puts everything in his mouth, then this is normal for his immunity, – says Elena.

– As soon as we moved to Sydney from Moscow, my husband and I immediately loved being relaxed Australian parents. The habit of wrapping up children and protecting them from dirt evaporated in the very first autumn. I calmly watch how mine sit right on the pavement – to have a bite or play. But how to forbid if everyone —both adults and children —are sitting on the ground?

“Now we have winter already – June, July and August are the coldest months in Australia. We sleep with heaters. The floor is ice cold. From the end of May until September, we adults wear ugg boots at home. Children no. Maya is ready to run barefoot all year round. I let. This is her choice. My daughter never missed school in a year. And at home she was constantly sick.

The only item of clothing that Australia cannot live without is a headdress. To protect children from the scorching sun in kindergartens and playgrounds, the No hat, no play rule applies (“No hat – no game”). A wide-brimmed cowboy hat is part of the school uniform.

Everything else is according to the saying take it easy(keep calm). Walking barefoot into a coffee shop on the way from the beach or running home in a bathing suit is nothing special. Australians give children complete freedom of choice both clothes and life path.

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Freedom for parrots

In May, at the start of the school year, at a meeting in elementary school, teachers tell parents about the generally accepted concept of education.

All Australian pedagogy comes down to the rule of three B: being, belonging, becoming, which means “to be, belong, become”. These three Bs also define the core values ​​of Australian life.

-Children learn the rules of behavior through encouragement – so Anton's teacher Mrs. Wilson told me. Here it is customary not to focus on the negative, but, on the contrary, to intensely praise the child if he did something well, – says Elena.

– Twice a year at a meeting with a teacher, I listen for half an hour to what wonderful children I have: assiduous, creative, talented, kind, artistic. In elementary school, children, of course, are taught to read and write, to do homework. But they still give them the opportunity to grow and develop at their own pace.

– The tasks are simple: ride a bike for 30 minutes, ask dad how you are, help mom cook dinner, read a little book, write and colorful fill out the recipe.

The first of the three B  – being  – means to live here and now. That is, children should explore the world and enjoy childhood, and not pore over the lessons.

– It is better for a child to spend several hours on the street chasing bright parrots than to sit over textbooks. We have nine months of heat a year, children grow up outside. They didn’t hear about the early development of the mother here at all. There is no panic if the child starts talking after two years. Or at five he can't put two and two together.

– Nobody bothers children with educational cards, cubes and pyramids. My neighbors say that teaching children is the job of teachers. I really like the motto on the poster hanging at our school: Childhood is a journey not a race (“Childhood is a journey, not a race”).

The race starts a little later, after leaving school in the sixth grade, when the child must choose where he will study further. From 7th to 12th grade, children attend secondary school.

There are several options -a prestigious and expensive private, paid Catholic or selective school, where you need to take an entrance exam, or a public free district school.< /p>

– Recently, at dinner, our boy announced to us that, they say, you parents can discuss the best schools and tutors in the city as much as you like, and I will go to our district school with friends.

– Anton wants to be simple worker and drive a ute (pickup truck) with a toolbox. We dreamed that he entered a selective French school. Maybe he'll change his mind? The decision is his.

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All for one

The place where a child learns is the second most popular topic after the weather in local small talk culture. Australians are known for their affability and friendliness. They are not averse to chatting.

Starting up a conversation with a stranger on the street is as easy as at the office cooler. It is enough to ask: “Where will yours go to study?”

For Australians, success in life is measured by the school their children go to. And it's not about the quality of education. It is believed that the social circle that the child acquires is much more important,” says Elena.

Second B —belonging  – means belonging to a particular society. Parents are ready to do a lot to provide their child with a good start in the form of an elite school: for example, to sell a house and move to another area.

And if a district school is taken on a geographical basis, then you can get into a private school only by enrolling on the waiting list almost immediately after the birth of the child.

— Anton's best friend Will Ferguson will go to the prestigious St Josephs in Hunters Hillfor boys, which once graduated from his dad Scott. At a neighbor's barbecue, Scott said with a laugh that his son's expensive education would hardly be any different from ours in a free school.

—But the line indicating the elite educational institution in the child's personal file, according to the father, will open up more opportunities for him.

In order to be happy and self-confident, the child must feel belonging to the family, the street , community, circle of friends and, in the end, to their country. Neighbors live very close together.

Australians love to do everything together, in large groups. Here, from early childhood, they are taught to make friends, take care of others, spend time with family.

– I often feel like a mother of many children: I take for a walk not only my own, but also the neighbor's children. After school on Mondays we have swimming practice. The day before, a neighbor calls and asks to look after her boys, whom she does not have time to pick up from school. Five kids fit easily in my car, I take everyone to the pool.

– And in the evening, Maya's girlfriend comes to us for sleep over  – children often spend the night with friends. Good-neighborly mutual assistance is a common thing.

– Once I got stuck at work. Our nanny calls me and says that her car has a flat tire, there are three children in the car, it is raining outside, and the rescue service will not be here until an hour later.

“In desperation, I describe the situation on a social network, and after five minutes three of our neighbors express their readiness to go pick up the children in their cars … They also cooked dinner at my house while I was getting there,” Elena recalls.

< p> Australia is known for a powerful system of social support for children, families and working mothers, but it often seems that children are taken care of not so much by the state as by the society itself. The fact that the country does not even have the concept of “orphanage” speaks volumes.

– The youngest daughter Yana has a friend Levi. The kid is two and a half years old, he has been raised by trustees for more than a year. This family raised several kids who got into a difficult life situation. All the children lived with them for 8–10 months a year, and Livay was adopted,” says Elena.

“Everyone in this country is ready to help someone else’s child. Caring is shown even in small things. Example: on our street there is a family of pensioners who are already over 70. They do not have their own children. Pam, the neighbor, goes to my children's school for grandparents, looks at crafts, talks to the teachers. We have no relatives in Australia. Pam helps us out so that children do not feel left out at school.

However, in an Australian school it is difficult to feel left out or superfluous.

Adults and children

31 years  is the average age of a mother at birth in Australia. This is one of the highest rates in the world.

Infant mortality rate* — 3.01
(Japan —1.90 ; USA — 5.17; Russia — 6.42; India —30.31).

22% of Australian children are in the care of grandparents, 14% go to kindergarten, 7.8% stay in after-school after-school groups, 2.5% attend family-type kindergartens.

One day Kindergarten costs AUD 150-170, half of these costs are reimbursed by the state.

Nanny services cost AUD 20-30 per hour.

64% of girls and 61% of boys aged 15 to 24 study.

80% of people with higher education are employed.

* The number of deaths of children under the age of one year per 1000 live births (according to the CIA) students, no one will. Bullying – bullying of any kind – is immediately stopped at school. The classes are mixed every year. Tolerant Australian children, when talking about a newcomer to their parents, will not describe his skin color or physical features.

– Once a new student was transferred to Anton's class. The son described him as “a strong boy in blue jeans”. Seeing this child for the first time, I was very surprised – it would be more accurate to describe him as fat.

Whatever you are and whoever you become, society will not condemn you. Explaining the meaning of the third B from the list — becoming, — teachers say that many circumstances and events influence the formation of each personality.

In the school library, a whole section is reserved for books for the little ones from the seriesMy first look at There are picture books here with frightening titles, My Mom Has Cancer, My Pet Died. The essence of difficult situations is explained to children in an accessible language. One of the books, for example, talks about why some children have two dads or two moms.

Families with children must go out into nature on weekends – on a hike in the bush, on the ocean, on a picnic, cycling, skiing in winter. One of the leisure activities is to live on a farm.

— There are farms where several families coexist in one large religious community. We somehow went there for the weekend to show the children that people can live differently, but no one will look askance at them,” says Elena.

Children talk about past weekends and holidays in kindergarten and school. Kids easily get up in front of the whole group and perform. In elementary school, where they start going from the age of three, oratory is taught.

Already in the second grade, competitions in public speech are organized. First, the best speaker from the class is chosen, then among parallel classes, as a result, the winner must make a speech in front of the whole school.

– Children in front of a large audience make presentations on a specific topic, like real speakers. At these competitions, every time I am amazed at their abilities and once again I understand why the Australians are so relaxed and free: they are sure from childhood that everyone in this country will be carefully listened to and not judged. Therefore, people here are not afraid to express their opinion and do what they really like.

By the way, Australia is one of the most prosperous countries in the world. According to a comprehensive study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it ranks second in the world (after Norway) in terms of a better life index.

Without family

May 26 is National Repentance Day in Australia. Commemorative ceremonies are held across the country to honor Aboriginal children forcibly separated from their families.

From 1910 to 1970, the state separated tens of thousands of children from their parents in order to raise them in the spirit of Australian society. In 2008, the country's prime minister, Kevin Rudd, apologized to the indigenous population, acknowledging that “profound grief, suffering and loss” had been inflicted on an entire generation.

Some natives managed to achieve moral and financial compensation. Today, Indigenous Australians make up about 3% of the population. In terms of the prevalence of alcoholism, unemployment, the number of suicides and cases of domestic violence, they are far ahead of the rest of the inhabitants of Australia, and in terms of life expectancy they are 10 years behind them.

Photo: Elena Stepanova, Alamy/Legion- Media, Getty Images, iStock, HEMIS/Legion-media

Published in Vokrug Sveta #6, June 2017, partially updated August 2022< /p>Daria Karelina

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