I believe stories can be the next powerful tool to help normalize self-directed education. I realize that the students at ALC still read books and watch movies where school learning look very different than what we do. They want to play school at ALC, and sometimes, they worry that they aren’t doing what other kids are doing. I imagine that being a student in a small self-directed school is more challenging when you see kids in just about every other media outlet doing something different than you.
Where are the examples of children powerfully navigating their lives in a self-directed education model? Where are examples of children sharing their intentions for their day or week, choosing to learn about whatever they are interested in? If the only examples they get from movies and books are of kids sitting through classes to learn, then the kids are getting the message reinforced that this is what learning looks like. Imagine the confusion of reading and seeing this example, and then going to a school where the adults are telling you that this is not the case, that learning can be different.
So, for 2017, I want to embark on a story writing journey. I want to focus my writing on stories, on sharing some actual stories from Mosaic, but also writing fiction pieces that are just written for entertainment – but all the kids will be in a self-directed education model.
I may not be an incredible writer, and that’s ok. I want to write anyway. Maybe someone reading will be an incredible writer and they will write better stories involving children who self-directing their education.
I have built a page here where I will compile my stories in one place, so readers don’t need to hunt through my blogs for them. Enjoy if you wish!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Today I had the opportunity to attend a local event, In-ergize Charlotte, with Kristen and Gaby (two parents of children at ALC Mosaic). The theme of this event was to “Be Awake, Be Authentic, Be Audacious.”
As we were driving to the event, we were of course talking about school! Gaby mentioned how @Sassygirl26 has recently gotten into a practice of blogging about her school day when she gets home so the events are fresh in her mind. Following that example, I am sitting down an hour after returning from the event so I can record the lessons I took away from each presenter.
The structure of this event (conference? workshop? experience? I’m not sure how to classify this one!) was creative and engaging. There were 9 total presenters who spoke in segments of 3, allowing for two 20 minute breaks throughout the afternoon. Each group had a teacher who delivered a lesson of sorts, a story-teller who told a story about their life related to the theme, and then an experiential leader that had the audience engage in an experience. The first 3 presenters were delivering content on the theme “Be Awake,” the second group of 3 on “Be Authentic,” and the third on “Be Audacious.”
I found this structure to be quite engaging. Each presentation was 20 minutes long and distinctly different. Having the nature of the presentations switch from teaching/story telling/interacting was a very clever way to keep an audience’s attention!
Vreeland opened with a vivid memory from childhood to explain the concept of being fully awake in life. He described the feeling of hiding during the game of hide-and-seek, where you would stay still listening for every sound. He reminded all of us that as adults we need to remind ourselves to remember to STOP and PAUSE, so we can actually be a part of the experience around us, rather than always listening to the narrative in our head of what our experience is. So many of us live in a state where “the experience of life is what we tell ourselves about life instead of having the actual experience.” Vreeland also reminded us that we are human BEINGS not human DOINGS. My take-away: to remember to BE.
Watson gave a powerful reminder, one that I strive to practice but still need to work on. He reminded us to make decisions from a place of possibility rather than self-doubt. I have a similar mantra I tell myself: To come from love and abundance rather than fear and lack. This is a practice that takes a lot of mindfulness to master.
Watson also gave a visual that sticks with me – to live vertically rather than horizontally. Living horizontally is where you are just mindlessly moving along a path and going through each day. One after another. They keep coming. You are not fully awake, you are existing.
Living vertically, from what I perceived him to be saying, is where you are growing and rising into possibilities with each day. I imagined this to mean a life where each experience in life is reflected upon to inform decision making for a new day. This means you are awakened to how you can continually rise above old patterns and stories you tell yourself.
Neff told us, “when we are more awake, we can choose from our center” and that “every moment is a choice.” She also stressed the importance of consistent reflection in order to be able to create.
Her comments completely resonated with me and what I believe 21st Century Education must provide to children. It reminded me of what we do for the students at ALC Mosaic. There is so much information available to us now – we can know what’s going on all over the world just by looking at our phones. It seems like the opportunities for what we can become are endless.
Therefore, rather than learning facts, the most important skill children need to practice is to remember and know who they are so they can make choices about how they want to engage with this world of possibility from their center. In order to learn to make choices, they must have practice making choices. Then they must practice reflecting on their choices – did that serve me or not? After Neff’s presentation, I felt overwhelmingly excited to see that our students get this practice every day at school.
Olin reminded us that “authenticity is a muscle,” and gave us a list of actions that we could practice daily to strengthen that muscle. One of my favorite action steps was where he told us to spend more time with children – they are masters at authenticity! They also can model for us how to fully feel a feeling and then let it go. Children can be in tears one moment and then happily playing the next. This had me thinking: What if adults allowed themselves to fully feel without judgement so that they can then move forward without baggage?
Avid roller-skater and breast cancer survivor, Norman’s story was one of passion. She described how rollerskating is all she wants to do – she was even rollerskating as she presented! Norman reminded us to “love what you do and do what you love.” She’s opening a rollerskating rink here in Charlotte, and we are all invited!
Norman also shared a moving story about how authenticity supported her relationship with her son and husband during her breast cancer journey. Most moving was how she communicated with her young son about losing her hair, that she would be changing her appearance, but she is still herself.
Winn used breathing as an analogy to what it means to be authentic. When we are not paying attention, we are always breathing. We can also control our breathing and do different things with it – breathe rapidly, take short breathes, breathe deeply, etc. Authenticity is the same way. We are always ourselves, but many times we are presenting something different.
Winn led us through some breathing activities to remind us all that we can use our breathing as a tool to feel better. He actually owns a practice in Charlotte where he teaches this tool to others!
I loved the Disney quote Spann said during her presentation:
Spann told us about her experience quitting her corporate job to pursue entreprenuership, that it was like jumping off of a cliff. She told us that when we want something to change in our lives, we must ask ourselves, “Are you ready? Are you willing? Are you able?” She added a caveat to the last question, stating that she believes everyone is capable of pursuing their dreams.
I was reminded of my own cliff jumping experience in December of 2012. I put in my notice at my full time job to pursue my dream of opening an alternative school in Charlotte. The cliff analogy is one I often use myself to describe what this felt like. I felt like I was either crazy or finally free of all restraints I formally put on myself for what is possible. I now know that it’s definitely both!
Warren told a story of herself growing up with an open heart and willingness to listen to her inner voice that would tell her, “Go!” She was the kid adventuring off into the woods alone on her horse, the 18 year old taking off to Italy, and an adult determined to only work for herself. She recalls so many people telling her, “How are you not afraid of anything?” She related to us that she was afraid of typical concerns, like how she could have enough money, but that just didn’t stop her.
Warren reminds me of me! I tend to also dive in fully to life and experiences, and maybe it looks like it’s without fear. But for me, I am more afraid of living a life that isn’t rich with chance, excitement, and possibility than to not. Therefore, I have no other choice but to fully pursue my passions, and I’m guessing that Warren doesn’t either.
Warren also described a moment she had while hiking in Africa with two woman healers. She was behind them, and one was standing on a rock where she was heading, calling her forward with a stick that had an ox tail attached to it. At that moment, Warren said it hit her that, “This is my life,” in the most profound and beautiful way. She savored that moment and realized that she had created a life where this moment was possible.
Again, I found a similarity to my character and Warren’s. I had that moment very recently in October. I was in Chatham, NY walking in the woods with @Tomis and I realized where I was. I was at an Agile Learning Facilitator retreat that I was a part in making possible. I was with a group of adults that all cared to change the way education is delivered to children, and dedicating their lives to making this possible. When I opened this school, I remember thinking, “One day I will have a group of people with me all passionate about creating alternative schools.” That was two years ago, and already I am achieving my dreams. I can remember the smell fall air in that moment and the colors of the beautiful fall leaves. I remember thinking the exact same phrase Warren spoke, “This is my life,” and thinking that with joy.
Luther ended our afternoon at In-Ergize by leading us through an EFT experience. I had never used this tapping method before and found it quite energizing. It definitely seemed to increase my blood flow and wake me up. She demonstrated how the EFT tapping can be used to help us release mental baggage we carry with us through voicing what we are feeling and what we want to feel while we tap various points of our hands, head, face, and body.
This was new to me, and something I will have to look into more!
I’m very grateful for Kristen Oliver telling us about this event and bringing us. As a business owner of a pretty alternative practice here in Charlotte, I want to know about others here that are open to exploring new ways of thinking about health and education.