Tagged change

Be The Change Check In #2

Last week, I shared about the Be The Change check-in’s that @charlotte holds coherence for and how I never get to attend any meetings! This initiative at school has motivated me to make lifestyle changing goals that I hope will make my carbon footprint in this world a little smaller. I have brought into my awareness this month that I want to also create shareable value from my goals. I have created a “Weekly Sprint” board in our Spawn Point room to make my goals visible to accomplish by the end of the week. (I’d like to state that I’m doing this because I’m motivated to, I have not pushed this on the kids. They can see what I’m up to and engage if they want, but this is not one of those coercive, “do what the adult is doing” kind of things).

Last week, my goal was to make a flier of all the farms that I try to buy meat from. It lists products that one could easily shop for in Charlotte, NC. I handed out the fliers at school for the kids who wanted them. This week my weekly sprint goal was to create a wiki page so others could add information about farms they know to my list. This way we can all be more aware of what labels to look for. It’s easy for me to go to Whole Foods or Healthy Home Market and see “Hickory Nut Gap” and know that this meat comes from a cow that has been pastured throughout its life.

If you live in Charlotte and have a farm you would like to add to this Wiki, please edit the page! I would like to know more about other farms in the area so I can continue educating myself as well.

Humane Meat Buying Guide for Charlotte, NC

If you feel connected to know where your meat comes from, please peruse the page and consider buying from one of these farms.

Be the Change Check-ins

This blog post will cover content about menstruation. If that’s uncomfortable for you to read about, click away.

Good with this? Awesome! Because I have some cool stuff to share in this post!

What is Be The Change Check-in?

This is a weekly small group offering with @charlotte where members think of ways they can make an impact on the world. They will come up with an idea for something that they can do in their own lives and talk about it at their check-ins, reflecting on if they were able to do it or not, or adding a new change of action. One student is trying to use less toilet paper. My first action was to only use my own mug or glass whenever I’m getting coffee at a store (so if I don’t have my own mug, I’m not getting coffee!). These are little doable actions that we can all make, and if we all do something, we may have an impact!

We recently hosted a really cool talk at school from a guest speaker, Linda Goodwin, about how to live a lower impact lifestyle by changing household habits. While Linda and her husband have modified their lifestyle to a point of only making 3 trash bags full of garbage a year, she encouraged us not to feel overwhelmed by that. She started slow by just thinking about little things she could do, and encouraged us to feel good about about the little things we can shift in our own lives. She left us with this quote from Maya Angelou:

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The focus of the Be the Change Check-in isn’t about feeling bad about what we aren’t doing, it’s  about thinking of what little things we want to try out doing. There are many small shifts we can make, and with a little intention and practice, these shifts become easy and simply a new normal for our lives.

I’ve actually never been able to go to a single Be the Change meeting at school. However, in a small school like this, it’s easy to know what’s going on around you through relationships. Even if you aren’t participating in a particular offering, it doesn’t mean that it’s not impacting your life. I know this is going on, it’s set at each Set-the-Week. I’m interested in going, but I have been scheduled to do something else at each check-in so I don’t get to go. However, I’m still making little shifts in my own life to live more harmoniously with the environment and checking in with some of the participants outside of the scheduled meeting times. I include this piece to help us all remember that it’s okay to not join some of the offerings. It’s impossible to be a part of every offering I want to be a part of at school. I’m still exposed to so many enriching activities by just being in the same space as them with others.

Now, Back to Menstruation

So, despite my lack of ability to attend a meeting, I did check in and reflect about my new change of action for this week: replacing my use of tampons with the Diva Cup.

Disposable tampons and pads add up to more items in landfills. According to this article, “the U.S. alone dumps 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons every year; because tampons are often flushed applicators frequently wash up on beaches (yuck).” Let’s also keep in mind that there are companies and equipment behind the making of more and more tampons and pads to keep us supplied endlessly. You can read this article for more information on that – the point is that the major environmental impact is more than just the tampons in landfills, it’s the fossil fuel use of making the plastic applicators.

After trying out the Diva cup myself, I was able to report back to a couple members of the group about how much liked using it. The benefits I’ve experienced are:

  • It’s comfortable
  • It holds more liquid so it only needs a change every 12 hours
  • It doesn’t leak AT ALL once you learn how to use it properly
  • No strings, so I feel cleaner, and this will be great for summer time in a bathing suit
  • I feel really amazing about the fact that I didn’t have to fill up my trash can with applicators
  • It’s cheaper – a one time $30 expense will last me a decade if I take proper care of my cup

You may think it’s strange for me to blog about this, and admittedly, I pondered in my head if I should do it or not. I have opted to share about it because I think talking about our bodies openly and without shame is a beautiful thing. I’m really grateful that the girls in our school can talk to older females about menstruation and our choices if they want to. The female adults in our school don’t make a big deal of it or act like it’s taboo or weird.

In addition, I was never exposed to the fact that Diva Cups or any non-disposable option for menstruation even existed until Charlotte told me about it when I was 30. It seems like it’s common knowledge for certain circles, but it’s really not talked about in the mainstream world. I’m not trying to push an agenda that everyone should switch to a Diva Cup. I think each woman should evaluate and think about their own needs. However, I would like to see environmentally friendly options like the Diva Cup become a more mainstream option that is normalized. I’m really grateful that the girls in our school have exposure to adult females who they know choose this option. These girls have the exposure to different options available so they can evaluate what’s best for them when it’s time to do so. That is something I think is awesome!

If you are interested in getting a Diva Cup, you can buy them at Amazon for under $30. Wholefoods sells them for $40.

 

What Do You See Happening in Education in the next 10-15 Years?

It is the last day to apply for our ALF Summer Program. In the last 24 hours we’ve had a lot of applications come in! It’s exciting. It’s exhilarating. Reading each application brings so much energy to me. Our second summer program has attracted some incredible people who are all working to create they change they want to see in the world. And this summer we all get to play, learn, and grow together!

As I’m reading the applications, I’m drawn to the responses to one of the questions we ask, “What do you see happening in education in the next 10-15 years?” Without any paid marketing, we’ve had so many people find us because they too want to be a part of a big change in education. Below, I’m sharing what the parents & educators applying to our program have to say in response to this question. It’s really, really, really cool to read. I highly suggest reading each one!

What do you see possible in the next 10-15 years? Respond in the comments! Want to work on creating that with us? You’ve got a couple hours left to apply! Or get to know some of our current ALFs through our blogs and join our conversations!


“We are moving in the direction of having an interconnected web of physical and non-physical places for people of all ages to work and learn in a way that supports and honors each person’s unique path, process, learning style, etc., and that helps each person access their own inner wisdom.”


“I see education bleeding outside of the classroom and becoming more open source, intergenerational, multimedia, as well as applied.”


“My hope is that education will become much more collaborative and interdisciplinary. Life in not linear and education requires a more wholistic approach.”


“I see it shifting to a more universally personal focus on individuals and the things that make them human and not the things they need to do to fuel the machine of Molloch industrialization anymore.”


“I think more parents would want to find alternative ways to provide education to their children. People are realizing the traditional school system is failing, and as the world becomes smaller through technology, education boundaries would be minimized. The way education has been will not be able to translate into the real world. Guided self-initiated learning would be something more parents and youths will consider to learn in the new age.”


“Because of the impact of efforts like ours, the factory model has not been completely eliminated, but it is seen as outdated and is on its way out, with a much wider acknowledgement that learning is a dynamic, relational process that cannot occur outside of intrinsic interest and a supportive community. Places like Agile Learning Centers are widely seen as the leading edge in educational progress.”


“I see more schools following the lead of Finland with fewer school hours, less homework, and the integration of subjects around a real topic. I see education focusing on real problems facing the world and kids doing real work. I think the evidence will grow that self-directed learning models are more successful at helping kids know themselves and live the life they want to live, whether it be college or entrepreneur or artist or whatever, and that more support systems will pop up for self-directed learners.”


“Sadly I see very little change in the vast majority of education. Beauracracies like the public school system move at a snails pace and an overwhelming majority of the constituency don’t care or believe there is nothing they can do to impact change.

For people who share my worldview and believe that school is broken, I see a rapidly changing landscape with lots of opportunities and alternatives. I do not have a clear vision or imagination of how that will look, but I definitely believe that there is a bit of a tide change in the opinions of education and learning for young children.

I think Sal Khan, Khan Academy, and things like Khan Academy are rapidly making people understand you can learn anything, anywhere, at any time. That’s a major blow to “establishment” education. But again, how that shift plays out, I just can not wrap my head around. The beautiful thing is that in today’s culture innovation, risk, radical updates are welcomed and accepted. The parents of children who will be school age 10 years from now will have grown up with kickstarter and indiegogo. Adopting significantly different options will be comfortable and normal to them. So education will look different in 10 years. Very different and that is exciting.”


“More homeschool.”


“Classrooms, basic subjects, teacher-directed learning are eliminated. Schools become obsolete under the increasing emergence of makerspaces and learnerspaces. The local community becomes the scenario and playground for our children’s education and all community members become involved and deeply invested in any child’s learning experience. Immersion, direct experience, creative collaboration and self-direction become the norm in education.”


“I see public schools reaching toward individualized tech driven content delivery and privatization and a backlash from families and communities. Simultaneously, I (wishfully) see alternative education demonstrating how to balance individualized tech driven content exploration with old fashioned relationship building to address all of a student with content delivery as one piece rather than the center.”


“Hopefully reforms.

Ideally, new possibilities for child directed learning, in and out of a traditional/formal school infrastructure. Merging camp like interactions to incorporate socialization and learning.

Smaller class sizes and no testing, grading.”


“In the next ten to fifteen years, I see education becoming even more standardized, as states will flounder to get control of a failing system

By the same token, alternative education will be the dark horse of the education revolution in the next ten to fifteen years! And while we cannot predict the outcome of human development and learning, instead, groups like yours will continue to focus on creating the conditions under which learners have the opportunity to flourish, where education is personalized to whomever the learner is, instead of expecting diverse persons to mold themselves to fit our system. An educational model based more on personal development and autonomy, creativity, and the expression and exploration of feelings will have grown and might even replace our current model!”


“I think education will change to be more individualized and student centered. More and more I notice that the academics are becoming less the focus, and finding a student’s best abilities, ideas and creativity are becoming more prominent. I think there will be more project based learning centers so that students will be able to have more real-world, life skills and experiences. Entrepreneurialism will become the focus as students generate ideas about what they’re passionate about and what they find to be beneficial to the global population.”


“It is my hope that more parents will come to understand that their children’s education doesn’t need to be boxed in. I hope that more schools can operate on a model that is child led and doesn’t involve grades or tests. I think the momentum is building for alternatives to the traditional school model. I would love to see the public school system do away with grade levels.”


“Within the next 10 to 15 years I see education changing to involve more technology. I think it will move towards more information and knowledge being available online. I think people will realize that the way we teach now will not be capable of teaching students what they actually need to know. Society will be calling for a reimagined form of education and I think that there is a great deal of people working now to create this new form. I hope and believe that there will be a greater emphasis on life-long learning. We will understand that life is about learning and then relearning.”


“Education will become self learning whereby people will be able to get all the information they need by themselves since it will be on their finger tips, for example all the information anyone would need to know will be on the internet.”


“I don’t know what CAN happen, but what MUST happen is a revolution in the way we teach people to adapt to and learn from their environment and each other. Teaching must be about teaching people how to learn and to think because society demands that they be constantly learning if they are to be both happy and productive members of society. I see only frustration and failure in the system that has existed for decades. I studied alternative education back in the 70’s and very little has moved formal education in the direction that will create self-empowered, creative and motivated individuals. Without a change in the philosophy of what students need to be part of the next century I am afraid that our society will fail.”


“I don’t see that… I don’t see anything “happening” in education as it exists now.

If I HAD to put something out there, I would say that colleges and universities
go extinct, that the prison schools we have today shut down and are replaced by
small grass roots start ups in communities all over the planet.

My vision only includes transformation –
that is why I want to do this facilitator training!!
I am ready to be a part of the new paradigm of intuitive learning.”


“I see education becoming more and more decentralized. And I see the federal government fighting that decentralization.

I also see a lot more students opting for apprentice programs and alternative schooling. Some students will always need to have a lot of options in front of them before they choose a calling. Other students who have traditionally been stifled by the compulsory schooling system and want to pursue their passions more in-depth will be able to do that.”


“I would love to see a shift toward trade/vocation oriented education especially starting at a younger age than high school. Unfortunately I imagine that the current system of conventional education will still largely be in place in the next 10-15 years with a growing percentage shifting toward alternative education of various types as my generation move into becoming the parenting generation.”


“Increased dependence on technology and metrics to measure learning. Continued overuse of the word “entrepreneur.” Honestly, nothing pretty from the traditional education system.

As a potential repercussion — people getting frustrated and looking for alternatives. I think having a strong network of alternative schools / groups for people to find is invaluable in this context — a healthy ecosystem of alternatives, and easy ways for people to understand what’s going on and get engaged.”


“Lots of small groups “reinventing” education on their own, with a focus on SDL [self-directed learning]. Which is honestly one of the biggest things that draws me to the ALCN, the network is hugely important. And also part of what my vision was as teenager. These small groups being very *grouping in the dark* if you catch my meaning. I think societal-level change has got to come from something bigger.

I personally don’t have high hopes for public education reform. Though I highly value what public education sets out to do and the fact that it’s free childcare for so many.
I think an affordable (. . . probably state sponsored) alternative has to emerge and slowly grow alongside public education before devouring it and CREATING A BETTER WORLD. And that might just get done with AGILity. Eh?”


“I envision the world of education becoming more focused on supporting self-directed learning. I see more and more technological integration–using technology as a powerful tool in learning experiences. I see more and more alternatives becoming widely available and successful.”


“This is a really tough question because I’m not really a part of mainstream education. Where do I see the future of mainstream education? Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of hope for change within that short time period. We are on the verge of change, I believe that. But it will take decades for it to reach policy-level.

But that is not my world. In my world of education, possibility surrounds me. I am filled with hope and witness potential and progress at every turn. I see change when I become aware of organizations like ALF; when I attend a co-op based on outdoor play; when I see the number of homeschooling families increase; when I hear of Montessori public schools.”


“I’d love to see more schools with the ALC or similar model spring up all over the country. I’d love to see more self-direction implemented in the more traditional models. I’d love us to shift our cultural mindset toward lifelong learning. I think that all this is going to happen in the next 10-15; the only question is, to what extent? A big part of that depends on us!”


 

 

Uncovering Origins to Inform Our Decisions

On Thursday, Alona came to our small group room with a book from our library called The Book of Origins. She was feeling like having a lazy start to her day since she hurt her Achilles tendon at dance practice the day before. I leaned over to check out the book, and saw that it started with the origins of wedding traditions. My interest was piqued and I decided to join her for some reading that morning (yes, skipping all language practice!).

Alona wrote a pretty detailed blog post about what we read that day, both of us learning some pretty terrible origins about how the marriage traditions we practice today got their start. You can check out Alona’s post for those details, I won’t dive into that here.

What I will dive into is the conversation Alona and I were able to have because of our reading. As I read about the origins of the veil, best man, and other traditions I see happening at EVERY wedding I go to, I went to a whole other place in my mind about humans and why we do what we do. I found that as I learned the history behind the start of these traditions, I began releasing any connection to wanting to carry them forward. I became excited thinking about other things I could do for my wedding and how I could create a new type of celebration that would launch the start of a lifetime of partnership.

Alona and I discussed how many people do what others have done before them, thinking that if others are doing it that way, it must be the right thing to do. However, if we all took the time to research the history behind the actions, traditions, or social norms of the people living before us, perhaps we could better discern which practices we want to carry forward and which we do not. Alona was able to relate this to how her family has chosen to live. I’ll leave out the personal family details, but clearly, by virtue of choosing Mosaic for their children’s school, both of her parents have made a clear decision to avoid the traditional methods of education and have committed to unschooling their children. Alona and her younger sister have been unschooled for their whole lives.

This had me thinking a lot.

First of all, I simply remain in awe and gratitude for the parents we currently have supporting Mosaic and its existence. To realize the pressure they are under from the dominant paradigm to conform, yet they choose not to, I am deeply and utterly amazed at their courage and desire to try out something different.

Secondly, I was thinking compassionately about the parents who come in contact with unschooling, free-schooling, or homeschooling, knowing that their child is unhappy in traditional school, wanting something different, but unable to make that leap. There are times I just want to scream, “WELL TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT THEN. YOU CAN DO THAT IF YOU CHOSE, IT’S ONLY HAS HARD AS YOU DECIDE IT TO BE.” But that’s not a very compassionate approach. The origins reading and conversation with Alona had me considering what all parents are up against. For many, it’s just too damn scary to do something different. If you aren’t deep in your convictions for why you are choosing a different path, you will more readily buckle under the pressure of the rest of society asking you, “What if you mess up your children?” The easier thing to do is to do what everyone else is doing. That way, if your child is “messed up” you can say that it was the system’s fault, not yours. I’d like to note that I firmly believe in and see the resilience and strength of human beings and know that if you are live an empowered life, there is nothing that can possibly mess you up. But how do I thoughtfully and kindly express this to parents under the heavy pressures of society? How do I support parents wanting to make a leap into something different for their children but feeling like they just can’t do it?

 

There is No Magic Answer

While there is no magic answer, there are many people that are working hard to debunk the rationale behind traditional education, including educating parents about the origins of public schooling. Perhaps, like my experience learning about wedding traditions, more people learning about why public schools exist might realize that this is one tradition not worth following.

 

John Taylor Gatto*

John Taylor Gatto  has spent 30 years teaching in public schools and almost as much time trying to educate students and parents about why public schooling is actually a terrible place for children to learn. I admire him deeply for staying in the public school system for so long as he tried serve children within a system he believed was harmful. Gatto also dedicates himself to writing books and public speaking so he can educate the American public about the origin of public schools, in the hopes that educators and parents will open their eyes and realize that school, as it exists today, is not healthy or beneficial to our youth.

In this five hour interview, Gatto gives what is described as “The Ultimate History Lesson,” where he goes into a lot of detail behind the origins of public school. If you ever hear @Tomis passionately state that traditional schools are not serving our children, know that he’s not just speaking from opinion. He’s done a ton of research in addition to working in alternative schools for 6 years. He’s watched this interview in full at least 4 or 5 times. He’s very aware of the origins of public schools, which helps him remain deeply committed and convicted in his work.

If you don’t have five hours to spend watching this, you can also read Gatto’s speech to the Vermont Homeschooling Conference. A portion I will copy and past here:

“Let me start with the DESIGNING EDUCATION FOR THE FUTURE papers. They were the collusion with the federal education department and the presumably independent state agencies. They redefined education after the 19th century Germanic fashion as (quoting now from the document) “as a means to achieve important economic and social goals for the national character” — and I would hasten to add that none of those goals included the maximum development of your son or daughter. State agencies would henceforth “act as Federal enforcers insuring compliance of local schools with Federal directives”. The document proclaimed that (I’m quoting again), “each state education department must be an agent of change”, proclaimed further “change must be institutionalized“. I doubt if an account of this appeared in any newspaper in the state of Vermont or for that matter any newspaper in the country (U.S.). Education departments were (I am quoting a third time) “to lose their identity as well as their authority in order to form a partnership with the Federal Government“.

“The BEHAVIORAL TEACHER EDUCATIONAL PROJECT outlines specific teaching reforms to be forced on the country, unwillingly of course, after 1967. It also sets out, in clear language, the outlook and intent of its invisible creators. Nothing less than quoting again “the impersonal manipulation through schooling of a future America in which few will be able to maintain control over their own opinions“, an America in which (quoting again) “each individual receives at birth, a multipurpose identification number which enables employers and other controllers to keep track of their [underlings]“, (underlings is my interpretation, everything else came out of the document), “and to expose them to the directors subliminal influence of the state education department and the federal department acting through those whenever necessary“.

In Gatto’s acceptance speech for the New York City Teacher of the Year Award in 1990 he states:

“Schools were designed by Horace Mann and Barnard Sears and Harper of the University of Chicago and Thorndyke of Columbia Teachers College and some other men to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population. Schools are intended to produce through the application of formulae, formulaic human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.

To a very great extent, schools succeed in doing this. But our society is disintegrating, and in such a society, the only successful people are self-reliant, confident, and individualistic – because the community life which protects the dependent and the weak is dead. The products of schooling are, as I’ve said, irrelevant. Well-schooled people are irrelevant. They can sell film and razor blades, push paper and talk on the telephones, or sit mindlessly before a flickering computer terminal but as human beings they are useless. Useless to others and useless to themselves.”

Gatto also has also written a book that I consider very easy-to-read called “Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.” Through Gatto’s time in public schools and through his extensive research and study of how the traditions in schools came to be, it is clear to him why schools don’t work. While I have only taught in public school for 3 years, I have still spent 17 years myself in traditional schools and have come to the same conclusion based on my experience and research. I find that when I feel pressure to conform to social norms, diving back into the research that Gatto speaks and writes about help me to stay deeply convicted to my work.

 

 

Jeremy Stewart and Dustin Woodard: Class Dismissed

I also had the pleasure to watch the Charlotte screening of Class Dismissed, produced by Jeremy Stewart & Dustin Woodard. Both Stewart and Woodard are homeschooling dads who grew tired of answering the same questions again and again from those not understanding the paradigm they live in. “How do your kids become socialized? How do they get into college?” are two questions asked repeatedly by those who have not realized that there can be a successful life outside of traditional schools.

Tomis, Nancy, Jeremy, Charlotte, & Dustin at the Charlotte premiere of Class Dismissed

It gets tiring. As Stewart described in the Q&A after the screening, the idea to make this movie came from him just wanting to hand a film over to every person asking those questions. I cannot wait for the movie to come out on DVD so I can do the same!

This film powerfully demonstrates that classrooms and desks are not needed to learn, in fact, for many, they hinder a person’s ability to learn about who they are and what they want out of life. The film covers the origins of compulsory education and debunks the common fears about venturing into homeschooling. It depicts unschooling in a way that reminds us all that life is living, and living is learning.

I valued watching this film so much because I could identify deeply with the thoughts of the mom they followed for two years on her journey to explore homeschooling. The movie depicted her struggle as she heard the doubts of others. I have struggled in the same way.

Like this mom, sometimes doubts have affected me so much I start veering back towards traditional methods. But when I stop and look at the children in front of me, I remember the fact that all humans want to learn and all humans want to have lives that they enjoy living. I remember then that I must always strive to connect with each individual and honor them as an individual in order to serve them best. I don’t have to make them want to learn, they come to me that way. I only need to connect with them and build a meaningful relationship with them so they will see me as a person who can help them learn all the things they want to. I am so thankful for Stewart and Woodard’s work over the past four years to create this film as a service to educators like myself. They helped me connect even more deeply to the work that I do, and also have provided me with a tool I can use to serve more children in my community. I cannot wait to share this film with more parents and educators in Charlotte!

I was not the only one immersed in gratitude after watching the film – one of our 9-year-old students spent her time in Writer’s Workshop the following day writing this blog post in appreciation of our school. She attended the film with her family. It’s powerful to know that the students in the school appreciate the opportunity they have here!

 

Ken Danford & NorthStar for Teens

One of my early inspirations for creating ALC Mosaic came from the work of Ken Danford with North Star: Self Directed Learning for Teens. This group is also powerfully changing the lives of teens and helping them to realize that they can leave school and start living now.

I came across the following video today of a teen that I saw speak at the AERO Conference in 2013, and am so thankful for how North Star is doing all that they can to share with the world the success stories of teens leaving school and making their own lives. They have been doing this for over 17 years. The more I can support them by sharing these stories, the more I can support parents who know the public school system isn’t serving their children to make the leap into a lifestyle that does.

In this clip, Jonah sums it up well. He is thankful that he hasn’t spent the last 6 years of his life fighting with teachers in schools and with his parents. Instead, he’s had the time to explore and learn everything he’s wanted to.

Instead of only thinking about “what he wants to be when he grows up,” he is able to be something right now and consciously choose what that is.

Imagine what a world would look like where everyone was considering what they were doing in each present moment…

 

So…What Next?

I continue writing. I continue sharing. I enjoy following the footsteps of these great people before me who want to get the message out there that schools were not created to serve individuals. I continue sharing how we can serve our children today differently.

 

*John Taylor Gatto suffered from a stroke on July 29, 2011 that has left him paralyzed on his left side and bedridden ever since. There is a fund in place to provide him with support for transportation, communication, and food. Please consider any contribution you can make & share the link to support: www.thejohntaylorgattomedicalfund.com