Home » Mosaic year 2

Tag: Mosaic year 2

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!

 

Agile Programming for the School

Bruce Feiler’s TED Talk “Agile Programming – For Your Family” gives suggestions, practical tips, and real life examples of how Agile tools and practices can help create a happy home life. Many of our ALFs are aware of this TED talk, and we use it to inspire how we can use Agile Programming to create a happy and healthy school culture.

I watched Feiler’s TED Talk with the Mosaic staff and one of our students before school opened this year, and was recently reminded of his talk when someone shared an article on Facebook that expanded on Feiler’s TED talk, “6 Things the Happiest Families Have in Common.

I couldn’t have been reminded of this article at any better time! I read it right before our holiday break, and was able to have his ideas and suggestions fresh in my mind upon returning to school in January. This week, I asked the kids to help me with Feiler’s first suggestion to families: “Create a family mission statement.” Below is an excerpt from the article mentioned above where the author asks Feiler to expand on how to do this:

1) Create a family mission statement

 

I asked Bruce what he would recommend if he could only give one piece of advice.

 

He said: “Set aside time to talk about what it means to be a part of your family.”

 

Ask: “What are your family values?” In business-speak: Develop a mission statement for your family.

 

Here’s Bruce:

 

Initiate a conversation about what it means to be a part of your family. Sit down with them and say “Okay, these are our ten central values.”

“This is the family we want to be. We want to be a family that doesn’t fight all the time.” or “We want to be a family that goes camping or sailing” or whatever it might be.

When my family did it, it was literally a transforming experience. We ended up printing it and it hangs now in our dining room.

 

Does “defining values” seem too big and intimidating? It’s really nothing more than setting goals.

 

Here’s Bruce:

 

Did we do every one of those things every day, every week, every month? No, that’s not that point. But the point is, when it goes wrong, you have that goal out there. “We want to be a family that has fun together. Have we made time to play recently? No, we don’t. So let’s make time to play. Let’s go bowling or hiking or roller skating.”

 

You have goals at work. You have personal goals. Why wouldn’t you have goals as a family?

(For more on the science of happy families, click here.)

 

This week at school, I asked the kids to help me come up with some declarations about what kind of school we want to be. Below you’ll see our list – the only statement I added to the list as an example I gave to the students was, “We are the kind of school that goes on fieldtrips.” The rest are all from the kids!

10915229_432785516875037_8317295272469461752_n

Each week, during our Change Up meetings – I’ll ask someone to read over our declarations and then we can do a quick check-in on how we are doing on as a community to be the kind of school we say we want to be.

If we feel like we are not reaching these goals, we can create a plan for the next week to do so. We can also add new statements to the list as well.

The beautiful part is that the kids are involved in the creation of what it is they want to be as a community. We support each other and remind each other of what we want to be like together.

FAQ Question 1: How Will My Child Learn To Read?

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be posting on this blog answers to frequently asked questions I receive from parents interested in having their child attend ALC Mosaic. I’m inviting feedback to help make the responses to these questions clear & concise, yet also thorough enough to feel adequately answered. If you have additional links or information that you think would be valuable to include in the response, I welcome your replies so I can make this FAQ page awesome!

The intent of the FAQ page is to send to parents before they attend a Parent Interest Night at our school so we spend less time discussing these answers in person and more time answering questions about Agile Learning Centers and ALC Mosaic specifically.

So here goes the first question I tackled:

How Will My Child Learn to Read?

For most children, they will learn to read just as they learned to walk and talk – through living around people who walk and talk. Most normally developing children are extremely motivated to walk because they see adults getting places faster than they are. They are also very motivated to learn language skills because it helps them get what they want and need more effectively.

In our school, a child who reads is much more independent than a child who does not read. The same goes for the world, and our school likes to model what is currently important in today’s world – literacy being one of those things.

What we observe with the children at Mosaic is that they all want to read because it increases their ability to do things on their own. If they can read the schedule board on their own, they are able to figure out what’s going on, and when and where the activity is taking place, without getting someone to help them. They will able to play many more complex games because they are able to read.

We have not encountered one child yet that simply does not want to read here. We do encounter children who simply teach themselves to read in a way that works for them. This can look like a child suddenly showing up and just reading one day all at once, or like a child really interested in reading and sounding out words for months, dropping it for few months, and then coming back to intensely until they are fluent. You can think back to how your child learned to speak – first sounds, playing with sounds, repeating sounds, saying the few words they know over and over again. It looks like that, but with the words they can read and write. They write the words they know repeatedly and acquire more and more.

If they want extra support to speed up the reading process, we provide it. Otherwise, we see them teach themselves. Humans are incredibly intelligent – especially when they are motivated they pay very close attention to what it is that they want to learn. A child learning to read will be carefully studying letters as someone read to them aloud.

Through his research, Peter Gray, Ph.D., Professor of Research Science at Boston College created these principles of how children learn to read without schooling:

Seven Principles of Learning to Read Without Schooling

1) For non-schooled children there is no critical period or best age for learning to read.
2) Motivated children can go from apparent non-reading to fluent reading very quickly.
3) Attempts to push reading can backfire.
4) Children learn to read when reading becomes, to them, a means to some valued end or ends.
5) Reading, like many other skills, is learned socially through shared participation.
6) Some children become interested in writing before reading, and they learn to read as they learn to write.
7) There is no predictable “course” through which children learn to read.

In this article, Gray expands on these principles in much detail and also describes how they came from a study of Sudbury students – students who were never told to learn to read or forced to go to any class or course. From this study he also writes, “What they found defied every attempt at generalization. Students began their first real reading at a remarkably wide range of ages–from as young as age 4 to as old as age 14. Some students learned very quickly, going from apparently complete non-reading to fluent reading in a matter of weeks; others learned much more slowly. A few learned in a conscious manner, systematically working on phonics and asking for help along the way. Others just “picked it up.” They realized, one day, that they could read, but they had no idea how they had learned to do so. There was no systematic relationship between the age at which students had first learned to read and their involvement with reading at the time of the interview. Some of the most voracious readers had learned early and others had learned late.”

 

Extra Reading on Reading

 

Rudolf Steiner, who created the Waldorf educational model, felt it was an injustice to a child’s imagination to teach them to read before the age of 7.  Schools in Finland (these schools have gotten US press for their excellent school systems, read about that here and here) do not have children start school until 7. In addition, one can really begin to learn to read at any age. There is also a need for ones eye muscles to build during normal play as a child before they are ready to read, and this development can widely vary.

The point is that a child’s time to be ready to read will occur at many different ages, and it’s ridiculous to try to make all children be on a particular level at one age. Still, all traditional schools are expecting every child to begin some type of literacy instruction by Kindergarten or 1st grade. Many children are not ready at this time and then develop anxieties over why they are not good enough, smart enough, etc. This becomes a labored pattern that, for many, keeps them in the low reading group or self-identifying as a non-reader. We don’t believe in doing that to children here.

John Taylor Gatto has done extensive research on the effectiveness of public schools throughout his 30 year career as a teacher. He is also a public speaker and author on the topic. In this interview (as well as in many of his other essays and books) he debunks the myth that children need school to learn to read:

“By 1940, literacy as a national number stood at 96 percent for whites and 80 percent for blacks. Four of five blacks were literate in spite of all disadvantages. Yet, six decades later, the Adult Literacy Survey and National Assessment of Educational Progress reported a 40 percent illiteracy rate for blacks – doubling the earlier deficiency – and a 17 percent rate for whites, more than quadrupling it. Yet, the money spent on schooling in real terms had grown 350 percent.”

 

If you would like to read more on this topic, Lisa Nielson compiles a very comprehensive list of links here to help you learn more about how children learn to read without teachers.

What do Students Want From Educators?

Lisa Nielson, the blogger behind The Innovative Educator,  recently published her blog’s top posts of all time (well since Google Analytics, came around in 2010). I had to check the list out, and found this gem from 2011.

The post covers a student panel hosted by Ann Curry and Education Nation where students were asked to share what they felt was important for everyone to receive a world-class education. You can see that full list here.

Several of the statements made by the students made my heart ache:

3. I can’t learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me.

12. Tell me something good that I’m doing so that I can keep growing in that.

15. Our teachers have too many students to enable them to connect with us in they way we need them to.

19. You need to love a student before you can teach a student.

I wish that, since then, policy makers listened to what students had to say. What has happened since 2011? Common Core, big time. It was under development since 2009, and by 2014, 45 states had adopted Common Core standards. Unfortunately for these students, in the three years since they shared their thoughts on education they have been subjected to more testing and achievement goals rather than nuture, love, and connection with the adults around them.

Our young people need to feel loved, heard, and cared about. This will help them more developmentally than testing them, punishing them, and constantly evaluating them for what we wish they were doing. You can’t teach anyone something if they don’t feel respected by you.

Our schools aren’t set up to allow teachers the ability to meaningfully connect with students, this I know from trying to do so when I was a public school teacher. So how do we expect meaningful learning to take place there?

Gratitude in Drawings

Something I have shifted to realizing now in my 30’s is that expressing gratitude regularly can have a profound effect on your life. What I am finding is that when I take the time to be grateful for all that I have in life, I stop playing the “I’ll be happy when” game. I realize that I have everything already – I just need to take the time to remember and pay attention to what I have.

The past two weeks I’ve spent a great amount of time thinking about gratitude as I drew pictures for the parents of the children at ALC Mosaic. When I think about the parents here that are choosing to take such a courageous leap into pioneering a new model of education, I simply lack the words to tell them how much they mean to me. Being slightly socially awkward myself in person, I wanted to think of a way I could express my gratitude for them joining this ALC journey.

I decided to stretch my artistic skills to draw each one a picture of their favorite animal and write the animal’s Native American totem meaning on each. I was challenged to draw animals I never had attempted before and it was fun and hard! I did most of them at school and explained to the kids what I was doing and why. They were asked to tell me what animals to draw for their parents. Some they knew, some guessed, some went home and asked.

As I drew each animal I simply thought about the parent and sent love and gratitude through my heart and hands. My goal was to have energetic frequencies of love flow through the drawings. I’m really proud of how they turned out and for how I felt when complete with my project! This overdose of gratitude for others made my life increasingly happier each day. As I gave, I received. It’s beautiful.

 

The Most Challenging

To me, horses are the second most difficult animal to draw after humans. Their snouts and faces and body proportions have always been challenging for me. I decided to opt out of drawing their bodies so I could focus my practice on getting the eyes & nose placed well.

250552_10103243619936498_6435387166622943753_n 10392498_10103243618768838_1800603864330002202_n 10384357_10103243619851668_459663696177067890_n

This one blew me away…Elisha was browsing animal drawings with me to copy for the lion. She chose this one for me to copy (I am not at the point in my artistic career to draw without an image to copy from). I told her I thought it was too hard, but then ended up really loving how it turned out! The kids seemed pretty amazed by this one.

10675587_10103243619352668_7357496040344079895_n

The cheetah was another animal I was worried about getting right. My attempts look very different from one another, the first being a little more cartoon-like and the second more realistic.

 10449499_10103243619497378_8595847403225715974_n 1798680_10103243620260848_8198581101505133270_n

The Surprising

I had never drawn realistic sheep or many realistic dogs before (but plenty of cartoon versions) and it surprised me how much I loved them!

 10857795_10103243620021328_2353127505668776483_n 10847931_10103243618040298_7569930360599130211_n 10850103_10103243618649078_4598043370060942956_n 

The Power of Lines

I am amazed at how just many little lines together can show changes in fur texture, feathers, and create the shape of an animal. These animals show off this power really well:

15921_10103243620131108_8613515033281853109_n 10389561_10103243618988398_436116318289970216_n 1920193_10103243618204968_6018233167913401714_n 10371965_10103243618359658_2175054739863030862_n 10269461_10103243619597178_8435466561461040704_n 16818_10103243619657058_2962448827653496391_n

As I drew each hawk I was thinking about the specific person I was drawing them for, as I did with each animal. Interestingly, before I labeled them, the children of these parents came up and saw them and identified the hawks correctly as being for their parent, saying that that the first one looked more like Kristen and the second like Jim.

 

The Sea

 

When I got the sea animal request in, I wasn’t sure how to make them look smooth. I was feeling pretty good about the fur and feathers, and had to use the power of the line differently for these creatures.

10858062_10103243619098178_7740899114041245480_n 10847907_10103243619207958_5367439541514701467_n 10384466_10103243619766838_7005033671800546108_n

 

 

 *There are a couple of animals I didn’t get pictures of before sealing them up in their cards, and two more I need to draw for a family that is out of town! I just want to note this for parents noticing a few missing 🙂 

Love is Something If You Give It Away

There is song I sang a lot with kids at the Friends School where I previously taught that continuously ran through my head during week two of my gratitude drawings:

Love is something if you give it away, 

     give it away, give it away

Love is something if you give it away,

You end up having more. 

I ended this project with having even more gratitude for the families choosing Mosaic than I did in the beginning. Thinking about each individual parent through the drawings led me to hold sacred and honor each of them uniquely for the commitment they have made for their child(ren). Without them, I wouldn’t be blessed with this school and the life I am currently living.

What I’ve Discovered This Week

Well, I’ve been really enjoying school lately. With the working groups and @Tomis keeping their eyes on admin tasks, I’ve been purely focusing on connection with the kids. It’s been amazing.

Here’s what I’ve discovered about our community this week: 

 

1) Kids take charge!

10846331_416960498457539_4253743532447545167_n

Our school is becoming less run by adults and more run by the kids. They are ready for, and excited to, lead our meetings. We have had a volunteer lead meetings almost every day. I can feel the shift from our “getting settled” phase from early fall to getting in our groove now. The adults can back off and let the kids lead, and as they lead, they will more powerfully co-create a space with us that works for our community.

 

2) Small schools can still have big school events.

14598_416960428457546_1923101861857869446_n

You don’t need a big school to have an amazing SCHOOL DANCE! The kids took this dance very seriously and we had an amazing time. Three of the girls made all the decorations and asked for the support they needed from different facilitators to make the dance happen. First they asked 3 different adults from the church to use the big cafeteria space. They needed Dan to bring his equipment and help set up, they secured a DJ, and and even got snacks. I wasn’t thrilled about the way snacks were obtained (way to expensive and with a facilitator footing the bill at the promise of the children to pay it back), but even that is a learning experience for everyone involved. There are kids in our space who love to plan events, and we have kids in our space who really enjoy being a part of the events they plan. That’s community!

10429321_416959208457668_8824167198866333675_n   10615445_416959078457681_1416017209788999804_n

Kids asked each other to dance, and many had their first slow dance ever with their friends, as you can see above. We also had karaoke! I danced until I was dripping with sweat. It was awesome.

10845980_416959291790993_411359045250137923_n

The boys are incredible DJ’s! Liberty asked the boys to DJ the school dance, I think they felt honored to be asked, and took the responsibility seriously, including a sign up sheet for song requests.

 

3) The kids value the people in our community over the material resources we have. 

photo 1 (1) photo 4 (1)

 

Here are pictures of a hydroponics garden and worm casting set ups at the Davidson Green School, which we visited this week.

The school is beautiful – a picturesque house purchased by the founder and her partner, then remodeled to fit the school’s needs. They have woods, an incredible playground – with a zipline, and the house is just really outfitted well. Walking in, I thought, “Oh man, the kids will never want to leave!”

We were so welcomed and felt at ease with the flow – starting with a circle and check-in, and then free to do whatever we wanted to do in the house.

photo 1 (4) photo 2 (1) photo 2 (3) photo 3 (2) photo 3 (3) photo 4 (3)

 

The school was mostly for younger elementary students, but we still had fun. We chose from Montessori styled options like metal insets and playing in the practical life room. We played with the marble run, on the slack line, and one the zip-line after lunch during the recess time. We helped wrap trees to make sure they were protected from cankerworms. We also got to see a school play!

I really appreciate how welcoming DGS was to us, and I felt very at home and comfortable there. Once we got in the car, though, the girls kept expressing how much they loved Mosaic. In the car they played a game about “what is the one thing they would keep if they had to get rid of everything” and our community was always picked. It’s clear that the kids feel like we are a family and that’s what matters.

Despite the additional resources DGS has, the kids were so thankful and grateful to come back to our school, and I’m thrilled to help them brainstorm ways to continue to make our space better and better for all of us. I am thankful that DGS gave us an opportunity to see what is possible for us to create in a space we hopefully own one day!

 

4) Stick/Weapon Play is everywhere. 

Yeah, they had that there too! I am perplexed how every single stick-like object in our school becomes a sword.

 

5) I need to do more art projects in the school!

I draw, they draw. I paint, they paint. Sometimes just offering something isn’t enough at set the week. The kids don’t always know if they want to sign up. If I want to draw or paint one day a week, I can just do it. They watch, and most of the time, they want to do it too. They just need a little inspiration, or to simply see a person passionate about what they are doing to model after 🙂

 

Well, that’s pretty much this week in review through my discoveries! I’m excited to start next week – our last week of school before the holiday break!

 

 

 

“Help! My Child is Obsessed With ___________”

On Thursday evening I found myself sitting across my dining room table watching a friend of mine crying over how I’ve vanished from the life of her family.

Now, to rewind, she reached out to me the weekend before asking if we could connect and catch up. Looking through our calendars, Thursday night was the day. She’d bring the pizza, I’d grab some wine. She lives about 30 minutes away and made the drive up to Charlotte to make this night happen!

We spent some time reconnecting, and it was halfway through the evening that she brought up that she was upset that I haven’t seen her family in a long time. I am her son’s godmother. I’ve known her since we were 5 years old. When we both first moved down here, we hung out all the time, but since this whole school thing has transpired, I’ve basically disappeared from her life. Her oldest daughter asks about me. She simply stressed that she just wants them to know me and me to know them. That’s important to her. Tears were streaming down her face, and she kept apologizing for crying, feeling a bit embarrassed for how emotional she was.

I promised to do better. I told her I could do better, and that I would.


A Beautiful Reminder

I was gifted a beautiful reminder by the universe: Love and connection are what human beings need most. This is what we all crave and want from one another, and this is how we can reach one another.

We can stress over everything else, wanting others to behave how we want them to, or care about what we want them to care about, but none of our efforts matter if we aren’t starting from a place of love and connection.

I was reminded also of the dynamic differences between human beings, and that I, like some of the children I work with, tend to become single-mindedly obsessed in whatever it is I’m working on. I’ve always been like this.

I was the child sucked into books (and that still happens with fiction books, so I have to be careful when I decide to read one). When the internet came to my house as a middle-schooler, I spent every afternoon after school on it, either building websites for the boy bands I liked or browsing chat rooms where I could make a smiley face talk to other smiley faces (back then adults weren’t aware of the dangers of chat rooms). I would tinker with projects in my room or in the basement where my dad’s workbench was. Being the baby of 4 children in a very busy household, I had a lot of free time and was either overlooked or trusted to occupy myself. Or everyone realized that I either did two things: got into something and stayed involved with that myself or walked around the house bothering people for attention. I guess when I got into something, it was best to just let me be so I wouldn’t annoy anyone else!

To this day, this tendency remains the same. My friends and family have joked with me my whole life about my “one-track” mind. Just this past October, I had a sick historical fiction Netflix problem – watching the Showtime dramas The Borgias & The Tudors. I would spent 5 hours straight watching episodes on a Friday night, just to turn it back on Saturday morning. I would even put it on my phone with my headphones and watch when I was blowdrying my hair. After about 5 or 6 weeks of this I felt like I needed a change so I’ve stopped watching them. I just got sick of it.

I love the privacy I have in my life. I love that I am able to come home each day and have a place where I do whatever I want without anyone watching me, judging me, or wishing I would do something different. I am stubborn and hard-headed and like doing what I want to do. I like to fully immerse myself into what I doing, and I will ignore the world around me when that happens.

Just because I get like that, it doesn’t mean I’m mean, selfish, or that I don’t care about others. It means that I need support and love from my friends and family to remind me that they love me and want to see me sometimes.

Right now, my big obsession in life is this school, and I love it. My friends and family that are not a part of this community, though, sometimes think I’m nuts or just do not know how to relate to me anymore. I go on long rants about education, an article I just read, something I learned from a child that week, etc. Does this remind you of your child who won’t stop talking about Minecraft, perhaps? How can a friend or family member outside of the school community reach such an obsessed individual?

Well, let’s think about what my friend, who has known me for 26 years did: connect with me and love me. My friend came over to hang out and just re-connect. She didn’t demand that I see her more, and she didn’t berate me or accuse me of being too obsessed with my work. She hung out with me, asked me about my school and life, told me about hers, and eventually she brought up that she missed me.

 

So, Your Child is Obsessed With ____________________

Minecraft, Pokemon. Familiar obsessions in any of your children’s life?

Let’s think about the life of the typical child: Almost every action and word they make is judged by adults as a good or bad response. The teachers at school need the children to do well on tests so their lives are easier, and parents want their children to be the incredible people they know they are – and become embarrassed by them when they don’t say or do what it is that they know, or hope, they are capable of. Many kids have zero free time between a long day at school, after school sports, dinner, homework, and bedtime. They are being reminded constantly of what they need to/should be doing.

Now, many of the kids in our setting do not have this lifestyle, thankfully. They do have free time at school – lots of it. And I know many of them also have this at home. But they are still around adults constantly. We have all of our own ideas about what makes a high quality life and we want to pass on all of those lessons to the children. They feel our judgments about their choices even if we don’t voice them. Body language, tone, and just overall energy we put out signals this to them.

As a person who obsesses with a project (this school) to the point that I have let friendships fade (more than the one I opened with, I have to admit), I empathize with the kids who are like me in nature. Because I am an adult who has reflected on this, and was given a beautiful reminder last week of what works, I want to speak up in support of these kids.

 

So, What Works?

  • Love
  • Connection

Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Like parents, I have no magic powers to “make” a child want to do things that they don’t want to be doing. I can’t “make” them stop wanting to play Minecraft and Pokemon.

I can make them stop doing those things, sure. I could reward or punish them to change their actions. I could manipulate them by judging what they do and making it clear what I want them to be doing. I’ve done these things in the past, and have to check myself daily to make sure I’m not reverting to this very common way of “making” people do what you want them to do. I do struggle when I talk to parents who want their kids to make different choices at school and then get disappointed by lack of results – I have to carefully check myself to not make children do what I think their parents want them to be doing as a way to make myself look better in their eyes as an educator. I try not to do this because the results typically come back like this:

Girls: become people pleasers, obsessed with trying to make others like them by doing what they think others want them to do.

Boys: become disgruntled, angry, moody, defensive

So, back to connection and love. When people feel loved by you, they can hear you better. It’s not about whether you love them or not – I love all the kids at school – but do they feel loved by me? That’s the key to connection. I can say I love them over and over again, but if they cannot receive it, it’s not helping.

When the kids get into their phases, joining them without judging them, seems to be the key. Asking them to share what they love about what they do always helps them open up.

Then I’ll notice little things start to happen. For example, they’ll notice me more. They’ll start talking to me and telling me what they are doing/thinking without me initiating the conversation. And it’s a true connection, not one that is forced through behaviorism or manipulation of any kind.

From that place, perhaps we will discover that what the person is obsessed with is actually amazing. Perhaps we will hear them better, just as they can hear us better. I believe that my time spent working on this school is all extremely worthwhile. I don’t want to hear anyone tell me differently! So telling me to stop just doesn’t work. I only end up resentful and end up feeling like the other person doesn’t understand me.

Or, perhaps, from that connected place, the obsessed individual will see an area where they can work harder, like what I realized when I saw my friend asking me to just try harder to connect with her and her kids.

I believe when we let go of wanting to change others, we open ourselves to much deeper levels of connection. And this is where the awesomeness can start!