Tagged videogames

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!

 

The Opportunity in Conflict

When I taught conflict resolution to kids in the past, I always started with the question, “What is Conflict?” to create a dynamic list of all the ways conflict shows up in our lives.

Conflict happens. The point that I always stress to students is that how we respond to conflict is always our choice. We can take every conflict and turn it into an opportunity for growth or view it as a disaster.

One practice we have at school that I see becoming more and more powerfully used to turn conflict into opportunity is our Community Mastery Board (CMB). The CMB allows us to make explicit community agreements and norms we want to have in our school. We notice that we want something to change, we bring it to the awareness of the community, and then check in weekly to see how we are doing on that agreement.

Here are a couple short examples of our use of the CMB at Mosaic:

  • At the beginning of the year, slamming doors was a big problem. Our doors are big and heavy and the hinges slam them shut. Without intending to, it is really easy to create a very loud slam with very little force. This is not pleasant to hear all day! We added this to our awareness column “Slamming Doors.” Then each week, we check in, “Have you guys been hearing the doors slam a lot or is this getting better?” The act of just asking and then celebrating with the students each week on this has made this occurrence happen less and less. What I am celebrating currently is that every time the door does get accidentally slammed now, the person who did it almost ALWAYS pops their head back in the room with a meek, “I’m sorry.” That means a lot as a community – we will all slip-up, but acknowledging that our intent was not to disrupt others and apologizing goes a long way.
  • We also have made explicit the practice of “Ask before taking something that is not yours.” It’s important to not assume that everyone would automatically do this. If we work off that assumption, we open the door to a lot of negative feelings towards others – “What is wrong with them? How can they not know this?” Thoughts like this do not help to add to a culture of compassion and care. We make this explicit and then when it happens, we remind each other (which is also a sticky we have!) that this is something we are working on as a community – rather than telling the other person that they are a bad person for doing something we assume they know not to do. This is how I feel a community like ours can support kids with all types of needs and social differences – we never assume what another knows, we just actively looks for ways to support and create cultural practices we want to see happen.

 

This week, we used our CMB to help establish some more boundaries and practices at our school that I’m really excited about! These two topics are ways I saw us creating opportunity out of conflict.

Our Community Mastery Board at ALC Mosaic
Our Community Mastery Board at ALC Mosaic

Loud Hour: We have some boys at school that are high energy! They feel that their loud play in our big room is important to them, and they want to be able to wrestle on the carpet and hit each other with pillows. A few weeks ago, we established a community agreement with them that they schedule a loud hour at our morning meeting if they want to engage in this play. This allows us to pick a time where quiet activities aren’t going on and lets everyone in the school know when to expect loud play to happen in the big room.

This has been going really well. The boys are remembering more and more to schedule these times proactively. I also appreciate that when they start the loud wrestling play outside of loud hour, I can remind them of our agreement and ask them to go outside if they want to be that loud. In the beginning of the year I would be met with lots of resistance and complaining, but now they just go outside. They know that our community needs space for quiet and focused work and they were a part of the process of making this agreement.

This week we had a conflict occur during loud hour with two boys. One could have seen this conflict through the lens of disaster, but with the CMB in place and the amount of work we have done as a community to create a positive environment, I felt confident that this could easily be turned into an opportunity for clear expectations of what loud hour was and what it wasn’t.

Here are opportunities I observed happen through this conflict:

  • Several of our older boys obtained practice in speaking calmly about a tense situation and practiced taking turns to hear others speak.
  • One child just naturally stepped into a role of mediator – he started re-stating the words of a younger child to help make clearer his meaning for others, a practice I’ve seen used in non-violent communication practices. I had the opportunity to say, “I see you are really hearing what ________ has to say and you are wanting all of us to hear clearly what they are trying to say.”
  • Two of our oldest boys made it clear what they felt was acceptable to do during loud hour and what was not for the younger boys to understand. Certain practices were abolished that felt unsafe, for example, certain pillows used in the room were banished. These boys were able to step powerfully into their role as leaders in the school and take ownership of what that means.
  • A clear request was made by the students: A facilitator should remind the boys of agreements made at the beginning of every loud hour.

Videogame hour/Technology agreements: Oh boy, this can be a hot topic with parents and educators, and it doesn’t surprise me that this then leaks down to the kids. Our prior agreement to this week was that videogames/video watching could happen from 2-3pm (an agreement made with the kids at a Culture Club meeting, the kids felt time at school provided opportunities to do more than play videogames/watch videos all day, but they had a hard time taking those opportunities if they got started playing a videogame/watching a video early in the day). However, our internet bandwidth cannot support the streaming of videos while kids are also playing on the same Minecraft server. Students were getting angry at other students choosing to watch videos at this time because they would continually get kicked off the server.

What I was also observing was an unhealthy obsession and relationship to technology that did not resonate with me. The culture was becoming one where other kids would tell on me that another child was using technology outside of this hour and want me to make them stop. A culture that supports seeking out how others are doing something wrong rather than focusing on supporting everyone on their own learning journey is NOT what I am signed up for! I also felt like the focus was on “How technology is bad” instead of “How can I make choices mindfully?”

The bandwidth problem led to some small conversations happening with the kids during the videogame hour. Then on Thursday, we had a beautiful conversation that got the input of all the kids about what videogame hour was and how they felt about technology agreements.

Opportunities we had out of this conflict:

  • We had the opportunity to re-establish the fact that the kids do play videogames collaboratively with one another, and this is a practice they still want to have space for at school. They play together at school and work together on the same server for Mindcraft. This is something they couldn’t do at home by themselves (well technically they could, but they couldn’t hear and talk to each other while doing so). We banned the practice of streaming any video during this time to allow for the bandwidth to support multiple players on one server.
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Collaborative gaming at school
  • We had the opportunity to re-visit how technology can be used outside of this hour in a mindful way. Rather than telling on someone when they see them on a device, they can talk to the person using the device and the expectation is for each individual to be able to explain the purpose of what they are doing. If there is still question, than 4 students volunteered to check-in on the device use. Those 4 students identified themselves to the community as people capable of making mindful choices using technology. If 2 of those students support the use, it’s okay. This stops the practice of “telling on” a child to an adult and instead shifts the focus to, “Do you support how I’m using this device to _____________.”

 

Rather than assume that all use of technology will take over our brains and turn us into zombies, we can encourage everyone in our space to think about how we are using it and what our purpose is. Rather than having students believe that every time they see another child on a computer or device they are doing something mindless, they can ask, “What are you using this for and how is it supporting you?” If someone can’t answer that question, it is brought to their own awareness that they are not making a mindful choice. It’s also okay to just zone out sometimes! We all do it. I simply believe that we can make that intentional as well. I had a student tell me once this year, “I’ve done so much today (and listed activities), I just need 15 minutes to do nothing.” That demonstrates to me a powerful sense of self-awareness.

Our new agreements also support the kids in our space being held accountable to what they chose to do on devices, with the realization that others in the school will probably ask them what they’re up to online. Sugata Mitra‘s research has shown that children who have unlimited access to technology in a way that allows all others in the space to see what they are searching and doing online almost always eliminates all use of technology in a way that would be considered “inappropriate” to adults (i.e., looking up adult content, like porn, purposely). This is a question I asked Sugata Mitra about directly when I met him and participated in a small group discussion around technology and self-directed education at last year’s International Democratic Education Conference. You can read more about that experience here.

 

I am now taking the opportunity for myself to reflect and celebrate that we have been able to create opportunities for growth towards a healthy culture at school at every turn. Part of that celebration is taking the time for myself to write this post!

With adults in our space modeling this mindset, our children in the space can learn how the practice of creating opportunity out of conflict not only makes ourselves happier, but can powerfully lead to a community around us that supports positive thinking, reflection, and trying again when we fail.

I’ve been a part of the opposite in other school environments and watched many kids and adults beat themselves up so badly after a conflict that they cannot see how to turn it around into positive change and growth. I sadly find this the norm in many schools. It takes self-confidence and love for ourselves to spread a positive growth mindset to others. This is the learning I want to see happen in schools.

I am feeling grateful for every experience I’ve had with this community, the joyful ones, the sad ones, the exciting ones, the uncomfortable ones. I can feel grateful because I know I have the power to turn every one of these experiences into an opportunity to examine, what do I want more of in my life? Less of? What decisions serve me? What does not? I have the power to create how I experience this world, and that feels AWESOME!