From February 2015

What are you most excited to do today?

We start our days at ALC Mosaic with what’s called a “Stand Up Meeting.” It’s one of our borrowed Agile Practices (you can read about more other tools & practices here):

The daily stand-up meetings happen in the morning and are conducted, not surprisingly, while participants stand. Standing keeps the energy up at the beginning of the day and gets everyone in the mode to do. In this meeting, each group member states their intentions for the day and makes any requests for support they may need.  This simple process takes only about ten minutes, but serves an important purpose of starting each day with intention and accountability.  By continually engaging in this practice, students are cultivating highly useful skills in time-management, teamwork, self-awareness and self-assessment.

 

We do these stand up meetings in what we call “Spawn Points” with small groups of children and one facilitator. Since I have most of the younger children in my Spawn Point, I try to help them balance their natural and spontaneous play with the intentions they have. In a playful manner in the beginning of the year, I asked them, “What will you be bummed about forgetting to do if you don’t get to it today?” The intention behind this question was to help the younger kids remember what they want to do independent of all the things that could distract them from that intention during the day. So in my Spawn Point, the kids have gotten into the practice of saying, “Today I won’t forget to…”

However, I’m thinking I need to upgrade this practice. I’ve been inspired by a video I saw shared on Facebook today and it has me thinking about this practice we have going on every morning.

The video is of a ballet dancer dancing to the song “Take Me to Church” by Hozier. The video has been circulating a lot on social media, I just didn’t watch it until today when I saw it shared by one of the moms at our school.

The movements of the dancer, Sergei Polunin, are hauntingly beautiful and I was mesmerized watching it. It took me back to my years attending a performing arts school as child.

While I am not a skilled dancer, I understand how much practice it takes to dance like this because of my experience being around dancers & very skilled artists at the school I attended. I also am aware that most artists don’t have time for things like school or formal education – they need to dance, make music, create art all the time.

So I want to upgrade my mornings with the kids. I bet Polunin doesn’t say daily, “Today I won’t forget to dance.” He probably sees every other thing he has to do as something that takes away from the art he is dying to create each day. I want to ask them what they can’t stop thinking about doing that day. I want to know about what came into their head that morning that got them excited to get out of bed. I’d like to hear about what is the thing they are focused on doing, that makes all the other stuff just in the way to them. And if they don’t know what that is, what new skill/adventure/experience are they willing to try out so they can find what that is?

In some way, we are all artists. While I may not have this guy’s dance moves, or @Charlotte’s singing voice, or @Dean’s musical brilliance on the piano, I do have something that I’m so strongly passionate about doing each day, and something I don’t have to say, “I won’t forget to…” To me, the school and creating a educational movement is an art.

And I love that the kids are around artists every day at school. I hear Charlotte singing in the stairwell (we’ve got amazing acoustics) and then I listen to her last blog post where I’m blown away by a child’s voice joining her. I doubt she forgets to sing every day…

I’m curious if re-shaping how I start off our Spawn Point will create any shifts for the kids at school. Here’s to tomorrow!

 

Highlights, Upgrades & Intentions

We were only open three days this week due to the icy weather! I thought we’d get away with no ice or snow this year, but it didn’t happen. In this blog post, I’m going to share Highlights From This Week, Upgrades I’m Working On, and some Personal Intentions.

 

Highlights From This Week

  • Magnetic Field Art with @dthomasson …oh so cool! Next week we’ll make our own magnetic etch-a-sketch! Can you see the two different designs that were made in the picture below? There are two magnets under a glass photo frame, turned in two different ways. Then we shake iron fillings on top of white paper to make really unique designs! We explored with many different sizes and strengths of magnets. We also made metal magnetic pens to draw designs on top. I love mixing art and science!
  • Sarah came to school on Friday and stayed the whole day. At the end of the day, she blogged with @john one on one which was a huge help so I could help other younger students in my spawn point! I really loved the extra help since not all of the kids in my group can read and write independently.
  • @jamesisland led our reflection at the end of the day. After we shared our favorite activity from the day, we had a massage train!
  • I got a foot rub from @sassygirl26 which was amazing. I loved that we made it last week and used it this week!

Upgrades I’m Working On

  • Trip Planning. I’m trying to simplify the organization/communication of the many trips and events we go organize and plan for school! I made a new tab on our Weekly Offerings Doc for field trips. My hope is that by having all of our trips accessible for any parent/staff member to view in one handy spreadsheet, people can easily see what trip is coming up and which one they want to join in on – whether it’s just reserving a spot for their child to go or coming along with and driving.
  • Weekly Intention Support. I’d like to support the kids in my spawn point to really set a plan for their week on Mondays after Set the Week the meeting. At our staff meeting after school today we discussed having shorter and leaner Tuesday-Friday morning meetings. We’ve basically be setting our day every day, but really, on Mondays, offerings for the week should be clear and then each day the kids can come in prepared for what they have planned out for themselves on Monday. So on Monday, we’re going to ask the kids to set up their trello boards to reflect which offerings they are going to attend that week. Then, they can keep referring to their trello all week, even at home if they are wanting to remember and come in mentally prepared to go to the offering they decided to go to the next day.
  • Natural Rhythms and Flow. I’ve been thinking a lot about what natural rhythms emerge throughout the day from the kids. I’d like to create a more explicit awareness of what rhythms currently exist and see if the kids want to create other rhythms to the day that feel good to them. For example, I am seeing that the kids have all bought into having group time in the morning, and they like to share with each other. I’m curious if we make the meetings shorter, if that would open up time to sing as a whole school together each day, or do some type of clapping/movement/music game. I’m also trying to observe if there’s a time of day where kids are most excited to go outside in groups. Perhaps a regularly scheduled group outdoor game would be something many kids are interested in on routine basis.
  • Project Management Awareness/Communication Between Facilitators. I’d like for there to be a visible kanban placed up somewhere in the school that Dan, Charlotte, volunteers, parents, and I are checking in on. I’d like us to be in communication more about what projects the kids are currently or thinking of working on. For example, I know that Isabella wants to make a cooking show. There might be a parent that sees that and thinks, “Oh! I have some ingredients to make ____ and I’ll ask Isabella if she wants to help me!” We have our Seeds to Possibilities board that is somewhat what this is, but it hasn’t gotten a lot of attention recently, so perhaps now is the time to upgrade it’s use and make it exciting and meaningful again.

 

Personal Intentions

I went to a Shamanic Healing event led by Marcela McBride with @Lacy, @Charlotte and a couple of the moms from our school this week. It wasn’t the first event I’ve gone to led by Marcela, and certainly not the last! She led us through a sound journey using instruments from all over the world. The best way I can describe it is to say it’s like meditating with the most amazing musical accompaniment you could imagine. With the instruments being played live in the room, you feel the sounds through your whole body and mind.

This was my second time doing this sound journey in a group with Marcela. After the first experience, Charlotte and I led a mini experience like this for the kids at school. They laid down in a circle, closed their eyes, and listened to a gong we had being played all around the room. The kids really liked it and said it was relaxing to experience. One said they liked seeing the pictures in their mind as they listened and felt the ringing of the gong.

I am trying now to coordinate with Marcela so she can come to school and show her instruments to the kids and take them on a Shamanic meditation journey! We just finished a 6 week yoga series, so perhaps this could be our next guest teacher experience.

There were a couple of intentions that bubbled to my mind after the event this week, and I wrote them down in my journal afterwards so I wouldn’t forget them:

  • Start each day joyfully. Sometimes I wake up too late to do this. I used to be an early riser, but somehow that’s shifted in the past few months and I don’t like waking up and just going straight to coffee –> email –> smoothie –> oh my goodness throw clothes on take care of pets and run out the door! I want to read or write something motivating and joyful each morning, and when it’s nice out, I want to go outside. This would help me to start each day joyfully, and only I can make this change happen for myself!
  • End each day in gratitude. Whether it’s just me writing somethings I’m grateful down in my journal, saying it aloud, or meditating on a gratitude, I want to remember to end each day marinating in gratitude.
  • Talk Less. ‘nough said.

 

This week in review

I’m enjoying the efforts @Lacy and I have been making to collaborate more. (Lacy started this beautiful school with me and several other families throughout 2013, and now runs the ALC Mosaic early childhood program). She’s someone I admire a lot and miss seeing on a daily basis. One day I hope the school can be housed in one big plot of land, with trees, water, several buildings, and the homes of those who want to live on the property. Then the kids of all ages can have more opportunities to mingle, as well as the staff.

Lacy invited us to join the Roots crew this week at Reedy Creek Park, and I jumped at the opportunity to make this work! I offered this at Set the Week, and every kid at the meeting wanted to go.

At the park, I found out that they have homeschool classes for only $3 a person, a nature center, hiking trails, and an awesome outdoor play area! I couldn’t believe it was my first time ever visiting the park, and I know it won’t be my last. I also got to see some of the kids I was with daily last year that I don’t get to see any more. I loved seeing how much they have grown and changed!

Some other highlights from the park:

Dean and I took 16 kids on a hike through the woods! We were looking for some abandoned structure, but ended up making a giant loop instead. Despite not finding what we set out for, it was so wonderful to get to be in the woods!
Dan and the kids found geocaches – they were all over the park!
We officially have left our mark on the geocache!
It was so fun to see interactions between the younger and older kids. These two has a blast together!

Lacy and I also emailed a bit about Valentine’s day – both of us hadn’t really planned anything big for the kids, nor did we really seem jazzed to do so. Valentine’s has never been a big deal to me, and I also don’t like fostering the culture of, “How many Valentine’s did I get?” or building their own sense of self-worth around who gives them a little card with hearts on it. The other way I’ve seen it done at schools is to force everyone to give everyone else a card, and I guess that’s better, but…I guess I didn’t really care to do much about Valentines at school unless the kids really pushed for something, which they weren’t doing.

Lacy said that, while she didn’t feel an authentic connection to Valetine’s day, she’d think about doing a heart-self-love ritual. I thought that was the perfect thing to do! I printed out pictures of all the kids and glued those on heart cut-outs and set out on Thursday to share with the kids.

Valentine’s self-love hearts

It was so much fun! Most of them were able to do it Thursday, and hopefully I’ll catch the others on Monday. I hung up the hearts on the doors to the library and office so everyone can see them as they walk in! As we worked on them, kids would ask each other, “What do you love about me?” We all had fun thinking of qualities that we loved about each other, and that helped get us started because when someone asks you to say what you love about yourself, you might feel like you aren’t supposed to say an answer (because then you are bragging). What I was hoping to convey here is that appreciating who we are, identifying what we are great at and the wonderful qualities we have isn’t bragging or being conceited. We can allow ourselves to love who we are, and when we feel really good about who we are, we tend to look for the good in others. Doing these with the kids was my favorite offering of the week! Hearing the kids really look at others thoughtfully to help them think of what to write was so sweet. Some snippets of conversations that happened: 

  • Student 1: “I love your humor” Student 2: “Thank you! I wanted to say that, but I didn’t know if anyone else would think that too!”
  • Me (to a student): “What do you love about yourself?” Student: “Well, I love ME!” as they write the word “ME” in big letters on their heart.
  • When I was getting started and needed some help to do so, one student said that they appreciated my ability to plan trips or things to do for school, which warmed my heart – I don’t think “planning ability” would’ve been something I would have thought to write on my heart, but it is something that I do a lot for school and love that others notice and appreciate! I happily wrote this down 🙂
  • Student A: “What do you love about me?” Student B: “Well, I don’t know how to say this in a short sentence, but man you are so good at finding a new game and then mastering really quickly!” I could that student A in this situation felt just as I did in bullet point 3, having been noticed for skill they enjoy being good at doing.

Finally, my week of school ended with Valentine’s Foot Scrub! @Sassygirl26 wants to make her own cooking show videos, and we happened to have a parent donation of foot scrub ingredients to test out how to make a step by step video. We thought this would be great practice for when she got started with her cooking shows! We used my iphone and then I got a simple iPhone video editor. I needed to see if I could take short segments of video and then use an editor to merge the videos together – this way we could stop and start shooting for each step of a process. If I can’t shoot film in short segments, we would have a long messy video with us trying to not mess up any part.

Fortunately, my $1.99 app called Videoshop did the trick and we have our first How-To film up and ready for your viewing pleasure!

 

On Friday, school was closed so I flew up to NYC and visited Agile Learning Centers, our NYC home base. I loved walking into school Friday afternoon during blog time! The school was quiet and the energy was calm. The ALFs and kids were spread out around the school blogging. They have more teens than we do, so they can write their own blogs independently. There was a volunteer helping a younger student complete their blog.

This made me think – what if I let parents know that we would welcome them into the school from 12-1pm to partner with a child who isn’t reading/writing fluently and help them complete a reflective blog post? Even just having 1-2 extra adults around to sit with a child one on one would be amazing. I am excited to talk to @Charlotte and @Dthomasson about this idea next week!

Now I’m still in NYC after taking a silversmithing workshop at Liloveve where @Tomis and I made our wedding bands! They look wonderful, and I’m so glad we tried this out. At one point I thought I ruined his band (we each made the other’s band). I held the torch gun on the band for too long when soldering it together and melted a portion of it. Fortunately this was fixable and his band ended up looking great! Not only do we have rings with a story, I’ve learned a new skill that I hope to try out again. One of our former teachers, Lindsey, is a silversmith with her own studio. I hope to try out jewelry making with her soon, and possibly, with older kids who are interested.

Our bands!

Tomorrow @Tomis and I fly back to Charlotte to begin his two week stay at the school. I’m looking forward to having him back at school and to looking through an email from @Lacy where we’ll coordinate more whole school trips between our campuses for the rest of the spring 🙂

Mosaic Magic

Sometimes when we describe ALC days to parents, we will share about our morning and afternoon meetings sandwiching the bulk of our day: 10-3pm a time that we call “THE MAGIC.”

I haven’t been blogging lately, and this has been weighing on my mind! Now that I am spending most of my time directly engaging with kids, I see so much more magic and sometimes I feel like I could blog every day about the amazing things I am witness to, or a part of, each day. I’m thankful for how the school has grown beyond me: we are now a collaboratively run school, with a board & working groups comprised of staff and parents. I feel free from so many administrative tasks and decisions, and now I’m free to play with kids all day!  I am grateful for this each moment.

To this community, I want you to know that it’s because of each and every one of you together that has allowed me to release myself from prior burdens that used to weigh me down. Now I’m less anxious and more able to happily and serenely connect with myself and others, thus, I get to live and experience more of the *MAGIC* everyday. I’ll try to blog more about what we are up to at school and share the magic with all of you regularly. I’ll start right now!

The Magic Moments I’ve experienced the past week:

Math:

Oh boy! I’ve been seeing a lot of math lately, everywhere I go! I’ve been noticing the math in the most natural ways as well. Those who know me, know that I am against formal math instruction for children under the age of about 10 (if you want to know why, you may request that I write a separate blog post on that!). However, I’ve been seeing math a lot – it’s always been there, but I’m noticing it more (again, I have more time now to notice!). Where do I see it?

  • Geometry Dash. Wow, all the kids who play this game have a firm grasp of the fact that 100% means they are done the WHOLE game. First of all, this game is incredibly hard and takes many attempts to pass each level. Each session of attempts that you make and fail, you see that you have only completed “35%” of the course, or however much you have completed. I was playing with a student this week and she looked at the level I was playing and said, “Oh, I’ve only completed about half of that level, I’ve made it to 58%.” This is a child that struggled with math in school, and one that, since she’s left school, has been gaining more and more of a solid sense of numeracy through natural interactions with her environment. If she had been given a percentage question on a test, there is a big possibility that she would have frozen up and not been able to remember that percentages just tell you a part of a whole. But she knows this now, and through an experience that made complete sense to her. After that moment, I began listening to all the kids as they play and realized that they were all receiving the basic foundation of percentage that will help them learn more about percentage, fractions, and decimals at a faster rate if they want to dive into that when they are older. My hope here? That they won’t have the “freeze up” effect or the “I’m just not a math person” attitude.
  • Finance Club: Giving the kids a budget of money to spend has been incredible, and I’m sorry I didn’t think to do this sooner! Budgeting money is a very practical and important skill that I don’t see taught in a real and relevant way to students in school. Giving fake budgets about “John mowed lawns for 5 weeks and made $10/week. He has to buy…blah, blah blah” on a worksheet does not motivate kids to actually figure out how to spend, save, and account for money. The kids are excited to have real money to spend on items that they can then use at school, and they are doing so very responsibly. Check out our finance meeting club minutes here!
  • Shopping! The boys have been into playing “store” with me, and I love it! We dish out coins and their favorite thing to “shop” for is wands. Ayan has been really into Harry Potter, so he loves to browse the wands and ask me for their powers. Their favorite was when I sold one wand to James that could turn adults into children, and another to Ayan that turned children into adults. They enjoyed “turning” me into a baby and then back up into being old! They get their coins to shop with by doing “jobs” in the store. I might have them wash imaginary windows, pick up and put away real items in the room, or restock the store shelves in order to earn shopping money. It’s really fun how we mix in the imaginative play with a practical buying/selling and monetary activity.
  • Career Planning: I’ve been working on this project with Alona, and it’s quite interesting. We’ve picked careers, looked up their average salaries in NC, used online tax calculators to see our Gross vs. Net pay, and then budgeted out where we will live, the cars we will drive, and all our monthly living expenses. We’ve made Google Spreadsheets and have shared them with each other. Each week we get to make a change to the other person’s sheet to mimic the unexpectedness of life so we can see how this changes our finances monthly in this role play (RP) activity. Each real life week simulates a month in the RP. So, last week, I made Alona’s dog get diarrhea on her carpets in her house and she had to spend $250 on hiring a professional carpet cleaner – blowing her typical $40 budget a week to buy pet food & supplies. I am having so much fun doing this! Perhaps if I had practiced this type of planning as a kid, I would’ve been able to do much better with the school finances last year…

Saying goodbye to Daniela:

Last Thursday was Daniela’s last day with us, and it was a tear filled afternoon as we gave her a parting gift and said goodbye. Daniela came to visit us from Bogata, Columbia to experience our school and practice her English. We did a whole group spawn point in the afternoon and shared about our experiences with her. We all felt her calming and loving energy here and know that this is the beginning of a long friendship, not a forever goodbye. Isabella and I will definitely be in touch with Daniela through Skype and one day I hope to go visit her and her family one day.

 

Inspiring Videos That Were Shared With Me This Week:

I shared this one on Facebook with the following message: “I can understand this feeling. While I am so proud of my work and love what has been created, there are many days where I am overwhelmed by what I can be doing better.

And yes, there were times – especially in year one of opening the school – that I thought maybe I just wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or capable enough to do it. Those thoughts happen. But then, like this video says, I just worked more. I worked more because the reason I wanted to create the school was so valid, so awesome, so “killer.” I know I’m in the beginning years of making something incredible.

Just like the space I’ve worked on creating room for children, I need space to fail. There’s no better way to develop a healthy relationship with failure than to go out and try to something you’ve never done before. Even if it scares you.”

After posting, I had some really encouraging messages posted to me, which went straight to my heart! Most were from parents, but then one was from my old co-worker from the Friends School of Charlotte. It’s amazing how Facebook can re-connect you with others based on a certain message. I was so touched and felt all warm and fuzzy from this sharing and the feedback!

One day last week I had three different people share this video with me on Facebook! I really appreciate the lyrics. It’s a message that I hope many hear – and I’m grateful that the kids leaving our school will not leave with this same problem of not having time and space to learn practice skills they need in their life.

Our students also practice how to listen to each other, how to create their own schedules, how to take an idea and turn it into a reality. They learn how to solve their own problems and how to make requests of others when needed.

After spending several years teaching in public schools, I watched how much the kids forgot from what was “taught” to them year after year. It’s wasted time in my opinion. They could be living their life and having a childhood instead – filled with learning practical skills relevant to leading a happy and successful life.

I shared this video and the Hackschooling Makes Me Happy video in my presentation for the Camp Luck Conference!

Camp Luck’s 5th Annual Conference:

Melissa Mulligan, Evan’s mom, is the coordinator for the annual Camp Luck Conference for parents of children with Congenital Heart Defects. She asked me to present at the conference because she strongly felt that parents of children with CHD needed to have their minds opened to how their child could live life outside of school. Melissa and I discussed how we especially felt that kids who spend lots of time in hospitals should then spend their time living their life and savoring each day rather than doing homework or studying for tests that clearly neither of us feel is a good use of time for humans.

Melissa helped me prepare the description of my talk, “A Childhood They Deserve: Parents want their children to live happy lives filled with purpose and independence, but aren’t most schools preparing children to be compliant and obedient, always being told to chase the next carrot? What type of schools do children really need to lead fulfilling and empowered lives in the 21st century world? In this presentation, you will learn about self-directed learning communities that work together and share best practices, and strive to give children a childhood they deserve.

In preparation for speaking at this conference, I spent a lot of time re-visiting the first time I met Rachel and her story for how she came to enter into the “unschool” paradigm of education. I spoke to her on the phone, and then I went and re-read every single blog post she wrote on the Keep Nate Great blog she made during his cancer treatments. During this reflective period of conference prep, I learned more about Rachel’s story:

  1. After reading all the blogs, I chose an excerpt from her last blog post to share during my presentation about her wanting Nate to live a life where he could just be and enjoy each present moment (as opposed to worrying about what was ahead in the future). This blog post written in January of 2013, the same month I opened The Mosaic School, LLC. Several months later, I met Rachel and she joined our community with Nate and Gabe. Last week, Evan, Melissa’s son told me, “I believed everything is connected.” Yeah. I believe that too.
  2. Rachel not only wanted this community because she wants him to love life and every moment in it, she also noticed that as a child who needed heart surgeries and needed cancer treatment, Nate was being treated by others as “that poor kid.” People would dote on him and give him gifts, trying to be nice, but Rachel wanted Nate to know that he is a person outside of heart surgery and cancer. She wanted to see people connected with him by asking him, “Hey, what do you like to do? What interests you?” rather than just being sorry for him all the time. She wanted him to just be a kid, and she feels so grateful that at Mosaic, Nate can be Nate, not the poor kid who needs sympathy.

I shared Rachel’s story as the opener for my presentation, and shared that our school has primarily grown through word of mouth – with each family coming to the realization that they wanted a community like this for their children in their own way. This was Rachel’s path, which was a very emotional one. I see Nate and Gabe here at school every day, and through this re-connection with her story, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that they are here. I see Gabe write in his trello almost every day “had an AWESOME DAY :D” and I smile and love that they have a happy and loving childhood experience.

I then shared some of the outcomes of the research I have done on the history of public schools and why they started, and then moved on to sharing from the work of Peter Gray, Alfie Kohn, John Gatto, Daniel Pink, & Carol Dweck. Finally I shared how we as a community have take our ideas and use Agile tools & practices to turn them into a reality, describing each of our T&Ps with pictures and anecdotes from school. I really like the slides I put together to share this and hope to write another blog soon that shares about this more in detail!

 


 

 

So, last week was FILLED with MAGIC and I can’t wait to start another week at school tomorrow!