Building A Sturdy Bridge

bridge

One can choose many paths to take in life. We have the unique ability to flex our power in making choices and decisions. As a young child, we grow and learn naturally. Our curiosity is a fantastic teacher. We may choose one toy over another or we may prefer to bang on the kitchen pots and pans over building mud houses in the sand box. Our power of choice is strong, and our parents allow us this freedom, until they don’t. Choice and freedom slowly start to erode somewhere in childhood, usually by the age of 5- when we enter compulsory education and the probationary life begins.

Our choices are now limited and narrow because now we are “expected” to participate in school. What we need now is to be taught. By an expert. Who knows more than we do. But didn’t we show our parents that we were and are capable of learning and growing on our own? What suddenly changed? Did we give any indication of short comings in our development? Why is school then the answer?

Life in school, is like being on probation. Probation is defined as “the process or period of testing the character or abilities of a person and subject to a period of good behavior under supervision.” We treat our children like criminals. We punish, guilt, shame and emotionally manipulate them when they don’t oblige us. We ask them to conform, follow directions, not ask questions, and perform to unreasonable standards and testing, year after year until they graduate. This way teaches children to doubt their own minds and their worth as a person when the grades don’t measure up and it creates adults who will then tolerate emotional manipulation and abusive relationships because that’s been their model.  If we are to raise free thinkers and confident individuals, we must create an environment that provides a healthy model that benefits the child’s well being, personal integrity and autonomy.

We have seen first hand what happens when a child is given freedom to learn on their own, follow their curiosity and study their interests at their own pace. They build the bridge of their choosing to cross. By doing this they take responsibility for themselves at a much younger age. Being personally invested in the process makes a huge difference!  Alfie Kohn, American author and lecturer in the areas of education, parenting, and human behavior said,

“The way a child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.”

Let’s choose to get out of the child’s way and allow them the space and time to develop their talents and inclinations and encourage them to express who they are as individuals, in an environment that will not stunt their passions and curiosities and spirit.

 

Advertisements

Fitted For Freedom

 

IMG_7335

“An education is truly “fitted for freedom” only if it is such as to
produce free citizens, citizens who are free not because of wealth or
birth, but because they can call their minds their own. Male and female,
slave-born and freeborn, rich and poor, they have looked into
themselves and developed the ability to separate mere habit and
convention from what they can defend by argument. They have ownership of their own thought and speech, and this imparts to them a dignity that is far beyond the outer dignity of class and rank.”
~Martha Nussbaum

 

Life Advice For Artists: The Wisdom Of Neil Gaiman

neil-gaiman
Image via Nerdist

Neil Gaiman gets talked about a lot in our household. Our kids love Neil for his story Coraline, a story about a brave girl who discovers an alternate world. Her curiosity leads her on many adventures, with many twists and turns. I believe it’s a story crafted by Neil to say to people, get out of your comfort zone, see things, do things, explore. Here are some of Neil’s ideas worthy of some serious thought…

-Approach your creative labor with joy, or else it becomes work.

-Say “no” to projects that take you further from rather than closer to your own creative goals, however flattering or lucrative.

Embrace your fear of failure. Make peace with the impostor syndrome that comes with success. Don’t be afraid of being wrong.

-Make your art, tell your story, find your voice—even if you begin by copying others.

-You can get work because of the story you tell about yourself, even if it means embellishing, but you keep working because you’re good.

-Enjoy your work and your small victories; don’t get swept up into the next thing before being fully present with the joys of this one.

-This is an era in which the creative landscape is in constant flux. The rules are being broken down, the gatekeepers are being replaced and displaced. Now is the time to make up your own rules.

-When things get tough, make good art

Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong- and in life, and in love, and in business, and in friendship, and in health, and in all the other ways in which life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Someone on the internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid, or evil, or it’s all been done before? Make good art.

Lastly….

Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.

Abundance In Learning

202

“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”

People would think me crazy for buying “The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to quit school and get a real life and education” for my then ninth grader in high school. In fact, I was totally sane when I purchased it. It was the best book I could have got her. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.

A terrible, pit-in-my stomach feeling was the wake up call. School was changing her in a way that was of growing concern. Before attending school, she was very excited about her learning- my eldest daughter loves to read and stay up on current events. She enjoys thoughtful conversation, challenge, loves art and music and performing in theater. School took her away from these things. She had no time. The usually gregarious, happy-spirited kid with a positive outlook became sullen, uninterested, moody and anxious. The stress about the homework,

the grades and the pressure her teachers put on her was taking more than it was giving.

As I began to look at her “work” being done in school, I felt a huge let down. There was no real learning happening. It became cramming  for the test, then quickly forgetting the information. It didn’t spark any joy. It didn’t excite or engage her. The work was pointless, busy work designed to break the spirit into submission, and that sadly, is what it did.

She would dread having to get up and go every morning. There were many mornings when I would look at her tired eyes, her nearly in tears. She spent many, many nights up until 2:00 or 3:00 am, working to get homework done for the next day. So I had to ask myself, would it be that bad for her to quit school and start to have a life that had some purpose, where she could choose to learn the things she was curious about, where learning would “stick” because she would have the power in the decision making? She would take control back of her time and would be liberated from the institution of school. She would take charge of her own education. So…

What conditions are present when learning really “sticks”?

For starters, you need a safe and positive environment, a personal investment, real world application, fun, relevance to life, social interactions, the ability to question everything, a passion and drive, teachers and mentors available to help when needed, autonomy, and no time constraints. Look at that positive model…

Now, here’s what we do in classrooms…

We sit in rows, our time is constrained to block periods, a one-size fits all curriculum, same age grouped co-learners, no real world application, teacher controlled, someone else’s questions, not allowed to question anything, standardized assessments, emphasis on grades, no choices in what to study, lack of relevance.

Somewhere along the way we got disconnected from the true purpose of education. To learn. The disconnect happens between what we believe and what we actually do in our classrooms. Part is nostalgia. We went to school, we appear to have turned out fine, it’s like a rite of passage. But the truth is, we didn’t really learn anything too. The method’s haven’t changed. The sad thing is other people like policy makers are setting the standards and expectations for us. We’re just doing what were told. Time to change all that.

It’s time we align our practice to our beliefs.

Most of us weren’t productive in school because we weren’t engaged in the process. Most kids will forget what they learn in school. We know this because we have forgotten most of what we learned in school. We cannot ignore this any longer. We learn when the interest is something we are invested in. All of us carry the narrative that we have to go to school, take a set number of classes, learn the way its taught, get good grades, attend with same age kids. We own that narrative.

The narrative now is that traditional schooling in breaking down.

The disconnect in schools aren’t built for learning, learning on one’s own looks different from learning at school. We have to acknowledge this huge contrast. A recent Gallup pole asked students from elementary school to high school their level of engagement in school. In elementary it was 76%, by the time high school rolled around, it went down to 44%. So at this point,

56% of high school students are not engaged in school.

What does this mean to you, as a parent? Is this acceptable to you? Are you “OK” with this?

We live in a time of ABUNDANCE– sources for learning are everywhere, virtually at our fingertips. We need to talk honestly about education. We don’t discuss them because if we do, they put the entire experience of schooling into a conversation that many of us don’t want to have. This is going to be a hard conversation, and one I hope you are willing to have. Our kids’ future is at risk. Their world is changing everyday. Every child wants to be a part of this changing world. They want real experiences that have relevance to their life. They want passion and a personal investment beyond grades. They want autonomy. They want control.

If we can successfully give them that, they are only limited to their imagination!

Summer Road Trip Part 2: Truckee, CA

IMG_3640
Donner Lake Summit
IMG_3628
We rented a house on Donner lake. So relaxing!
IMG_3577
Donner Monument
IMG_3588
Nature needs our protecting
IMG_3601
Philip and I made this on one of our hikes around Donner lake
IMG_3606
Beautiful morning on the lake

IMG_3703

IMG_3731
Fun place! Jax has a lot of history
IMG_3624
Truckee river
IMG_3625
kayaker braving the strong river
IMG_3615
We did a 10 mile bike ride down the Truckee. It is the heart of this beautiful land
IMG_3710
Glenshire community
IMG_3720
A sweet little pup we met
IMG_3721
Legacy Trail
IMG_3591
Just a dude and his dog paddle boarding Donner lake

 

After our Yosemite visit we made the journey to beautiful Truckee. I found us a house on Donner Lake from Air bnb where we would spend the next four days enjoying all the Truckee has to offer.

Arriving in the early afternoon we were excited to unpack the car and get back out into nature. Donner Lake is a gem. It was our first time staying in Truckee (We’ve always stayed at Lake Tahoe in the past) so exploring someplace new was exciting. We found a little market where we stocked up on groceries for the trip. We really just wanted to hunker down and not go out to eat a lot. We BBQ’d most evenings, packed sandwiches for our day trips and always had plenty of snacks.

We visited the Donner Memorial Monument and museum, watched a short movie about the Donner Party and the many challenges they had along the way. What a life they were seeking. Sadly, many of the group died trying to reach their destination.

We did a few hikes, rented bikes one day and biked 10 miles along the Truckee river. We had really wanted to do the rafting trip we did years ago but with all the snow and ice melt, the current was too strong and was not an option for us at the time so we’ll just have to go back and do it another time.
Our time in Truckee was wonderful! I love our family vacations 🙂

 

Summer Road Trip Part 1: Yosemite

IMG_6317

We packed up the car with everything we would need for our adventures to come in Yosemite. This was our first time here- Philip had gone as a child with his family. We were all so excited to get there. When you enter the park you feel like you’re being transported to a different planet. We were just blown away with the sheer size of Yosemite. We pulled over to take some pictures of the valley view, waterfalls, sheer granite cliffs. It was so beautiful! With over 1100 square miles of pristine, undeveloped land for our adventures, we were anxious to get settled in and get exploring.

IMG_3357

IMG_3413

IMG_3367

We rented a cabin at Half Dome Village. Half Dome Village had everything we could possibly need- a market, restaurants, coffee place and more. We explored the area around Half Dome Village, found a group of deer grazing in a meadow, got pizza and beers and settled in to the cabin, played a game of Scrabble, and went to bed. It had been a long travel day and we were pretty tired. The tent cabin was set up with a double size bed and three twin size beds. We brought our sleeping bags and pillows, they supplied towels and extra wool blankets. The night we camped it snowed! We knew it was going to be a cold night.

IMG_3380IMG_3382

We must take adventures in order to know where we truly belong.”

IMG_3394

IMG_3415

The next morning we were up at sunrise to start the day. After a terrible nights sleep I just wanted to get moving. The girls and I were the first up so we let Philip sleep while we got some caffeine and something to eat and had a chance to charge our phones. The cabins don’t have electricity and there is a lights out at 10 policy. I have to say, it was nice not having to be connected, in fact, they encourage you to just unplug and enjoy the quiet.

IMG_3429

After breakfast we boarded our first shuttle around the park. Yosemite has shuttles all over the park and encourages you to use them as you can imagine there aren’t many parking lots. Our first stop was to the Yosemite Fall trails. We hiked around, took pictures and had a great time. We had plans to do Bridalveil falls and Glacier point hikes too, but we were so tired! We decided to head back to the village to collect our things and get on the road to go to Truckee, near Lake Tahoe.

IMG_3432

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.” John Muir

IMG_3447IMG_3462IMG_3478

Wild beasts and birds are by right not the property merely of the people who are alive today, but the property of unknown generations, whose belongings we have no right to squander.” Theodore Roosevelt

IMG_3490

We ended up getting lost on our way out due to construction that was happening and many roads were closed. We ended up in Tuolumne Meadows. Because it snowed the night before, there was fresh snow in the trees. We felt so transported to a winter wonderland. We were playing John Denver, just really enjoying the beauty when we see two deer playing in the snow in the meadow. It was picture perfect!

IMG_3497