Everyone knows that kids learn what they live. Most parents try to instil good manners into their children by modelling. But with the influence of the playground, media and the anonymity of the internet, it can be an uphill battle in many homes. This is where Judi Vankevich comes in.
A former Paris fashion model, Vankevich holds a business and political science degree from Trinity Western University and a Masters degree in government from Regent University in Virginia. She believes it’s her mission to help build the character of tomorrow’s citizens, by instilling biblical principles of obedience to authority and respect for others.
“Self-government, self-control,” says Vankevich, is the basis of what she teaches children. “Hopefully it’s what parents are already teaching at home.”
Recently relocated to Langley from Boston, Massachusetts, Vankevich is now sharing her classes with Canadian families.
From small groups taught in her living room, her classes have grown to presentations at private schools, churches, 4-H clubs and community groups.
This year in the Fraser Valley, the Manners Club is launching — for the first time — into the public school system. Her curriculum is somewhat changed for the secular audience — no scripture memory verses, for instance — but children still learn that courtesy is based on The Golden Rule.
“What a thrill to be able to invest in these children’s life skills, during these four weeks,” says Vankevich.
What’s it all about?
The Manners Club is a four-week program, with one 90-minute class per week, and a graduation party at the end. Fees are $125 per child; siblings are an additional $39, and each child receives a manual written by Vankevich. Using original songs, games and role-playing activities, Vankevich employs practical, real-life situations to demonstrate her lessons. Classes are often held after school, and Vankevich encourages parents to attend with their children. She feels that homework and between-class practice is easier when parents understand what the children have learned.
“Many parents tell me they think they learned more than their children,” says Vankevich.
The classes focus on social skills that used to be built into daily living. Skills such as knowing how to introduce themselves and others, proper table manners and telephone etiquette are built on showing honour and respect for others, says Vankevich.
“I tell kids to think of honour as awe-nour,” she says, stressing the importance of respecting authority figures and elders.
Parental response has been one of delight, says Vankevich.
“They see the growth in their child, the fresh confidence when they’ve learned good social skills,” she says. “Life is so competitive, every parent wants to give their child that extra edge to make them shine.”
Sensitive parents required
There are concerns that focusing on good manners can produce overly compliant children hesitant to express their true emotions. Angela Hall is an Abbotsford educator and mother. Her teaching experience shows her the need for better manners in young people, but she’s concerned that children still have a time and place to express the not-so-polite feelings.
“Children need to know,” she says, “that it’s safe to tell their parents anything.”
Developmentally, some primary-school children simply aren’t ready to demonstrate socially appropriate behavior, and parents need to balance their expectations with knowledge of what their child is capable of. For many preschoolers, for instance, temper-tantrums are a normal — if unpleasant — way of expressing frustration at situations beyond their control.
The Manners Club’s distinctly traditional flavour will not be to everyone’s taste. But, for parents looking to counteract the graceless culture today’s children are immersed in, it’s a welcome option.
Call Judi Vankevich at: 604-530-2899 or see www.mannersarefun.com
The Manners Lady, Judi Johnston Vankevich, coaches her nieces and nephews in table manners. Rear: cousins Tori Nikkel, 5; Chloe Fulton, 4; Lincoln Nikkel, 4. In front: Alexi Vankevich, 8; Yuri Vankevich, 4.
Coming Soon! ‘Manners in a Box’
From Vankevichs’ popular seminars on manners and etiquette, comes a package for parents and teachers wanting to present the material themselves. It contains everything she uses to teach classes: the children’s manual, the teaching manual, visual aids and a CD of original songs such as: ‘The Good Manners Song,’ ‘The Friendship Song,’ ‘Obey Your Mom and Dad,’ ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ and ‘The Golden Rule Rap.’