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Does it take a village to raise a child? Not according to some home schooling mothers. For a sampling of blogs and sites dedicated to this topic, a quick search result will present a wide range of opinions.

I used to favour this saying in the 1990s, but now it has become a bit over used. In the context of a country like Canada or the United States, what exactly is a “village”? What do you mean when you speak of a village raising a child? Hillary Clinton speaks about government services. I focus on social and familial connections within a community.

The idea of seeking a village in an urban setting reminds me of Tokyo. Tokyo, in many ways, is a collection of many villages. This is why I like Tokyo so much. I have travelled all over Tokyo on a bicycle and have enjoyed the atmosphere of the different neighbourhoods – villages.

However, life is changing even in these neighbourhoods. It can be a shock to move to newer neighbourhoods in Tokyo, or newer portions in some of the older neighbourhoods, and find that the traditional relationships amongst neighbours are not as you might expect.

Back in North America, where would you find this village to help you raise your child? I read an article in Orion magazine focussed on the aboriginal people of Australia. Evidently it is the responsibility of the whole community to raise the child. This informal social contract frees up the mother to make contributions to society in ways beyond being the mother of that child.

I sometimes say that “back in the day” when my people lived in villages in western and eastern Europe, aunts, uncles and grandparents lived close to the youth in the family. My own grandmother and great-aunt used to run up the hill to their baba’s house in Ukraine when it looked like their mother might be cross with them. They lived in a Chekov-like setting as land owners who – no kidding – owned a cherry orchard and a brick factory. There’s something charming about the image of these young girls running up the hill to take refuge at baba’s. I can imagine that they ran up a steep hill, past old fences and birch trees on the way to seek solace at baba and gido’s house.

Apparently, only about 20 percent of a graduating grade 12 class will actually move away from the area where they were schooled. This means that most people are living and raising their families in regions relatively close to their extended family. The degree to which aunts, uncles and grandparents are involved in the lives of the child in that family vary. While it might be hard to recreate the vilage atmosphere of old Edo (Tokyo) or eastern Europe, the extended family can be at the heart of modern family life.

I hope that the modern equivalent of an urban “village” exists and does have a hand in helping to support the child. Children are moving towards independence from the day they are born. Different perspectives and types of support from varied members of their community can only help to enrich this life path.

Image source(cherry orchard)

Image source (Tokyo)

Subject: How to build a community Posted by PicasaTurn off your TV ~ Leave your house
Know your neighbours
Look up when you are walking
Greet people ~ Sit on your stoop
Plant flowers
Use your library ~ Play together
Buy from local merchants
Share what you have
Help a lost dog
Take children to the park
Garden together
Support neighbourhood schools
Fix it even if you didn’t break it
Have pot lucks ~ Honour elders
Pick up litter ~ Read stories aloud
Dance in the street
Talk to the mail carrier
Listen to the birds ~ put up a swing
Help carry something heavy
Barter for your goods
Start a tradition ~ Ask a question
Hire young people for odd jobs
Organize a block party
Bake extra and share
Ask for help when you need it
Open your shades ~ Sing together
Share your skills
Take back the night
Turn up the music
Turn down the music
Listen before you react to anger
Mediate a conflict
Seek to understand
Learn from new and uncomfortable angles
Know that no one is silent
though many are not heard
Work to change this

Author: Syracuse Cultural Workers community
Image: Mural on ´╗┐Tremont Street in the South End of Boston