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Child integration is the inclusion of children in a variety of mature daily activities of families and communities. This contrasts with, for example, age segregation; separating children into age-defined activities and institutions (e.g., some models of organized schooling). Integrating children in the range of mature family and community activities gives equal value and responsibility to children as contributors and collaborators, and can be a way to help them learn. Children’s integration provides a learning environment because children are able to observe and pitch in as they feel they can.
In the United States, child integration into “adult” life is not as common as it used to be. However, in other cultures social norms continue to incorporate children into the mature, productive activities of the family and community. In all cultures child integration is present in one way or another. For example, nearly all children’s first language learning seems to be supported through integration with a mature linguistic community. Children usually are not taught in a classroom how to speak, but instead learn by observing the language and pitching it when they can.
Children in Indigenous communities participate in mature activities with the guidance from someone who has practice in that activity. When engaged in shared endeavors the guider and the learner both notice and assess how much understanding the learner has in the task and the guider provides support if it is needed.
Indigenous cultures emphasize and instill values of being respectful, empathic and cooperative to their children. These values are practiced through tasks like co-sleeping and group play which helps bring about close connections within the family and community.
There are many different ways children can be integrated into society. One example, child care educators in certain Native communities, like the First Nations in Canada have taught children traditional language, where then the children have the responsibility to spread that language knowledge by teaching their parents and other family members, thus ingratiating them into society with responsibility to carry on the language legacy.
The Chippewa people have several different methods of teaching, such as lecturing and counseling, and integrating children into adult and community life. Overall, the children do the same tasks as their mothers and fathers just on a smaller scale. For example, a young girl might learn to make nets like her mother and uses the same knots her mother uses but makes smaller nets than her mother. Throughout the years she will slowly make bigger and bigger nets and perfect the skill that her mother and her mother’s mother before her had. These skills may be learned by observation and sometimes if a specific person in the community is very skillful at something, the adults might recommend the child go find that person and learn from them.
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