playing the education game

“An elementary school teacher was giving  a drawing class to a group of six-year old children. At the back of the class room sat a girl who normally didn’t pay much attention in school. In drawing class she did. For more than twenty minuets the girl sat with her arms curled around her paper, totally absorbed in what she was doing.The teacher found this fascinating. Eventually she asked the girl what she was drawing. Without looking up, the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” Surprised the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” The Girl said, “They will in a minute.” … I believe passionately that we are all born with tremendous capacities, and that we lose touch with many of them as we spend more time in the world. Ironically, one of the main reasons this happens is education.”

-Ken Robinson, The Element

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We have reached another final ending of secondary education. The girls are all taking a well-earned breath now. The previous year, has been one of the hardest contradictions i have ever had to give my entire support to and in doing so, it has become ever so clear that my desire to move away from supporting mainstream educating is now undeniable. These girls of ours have played the game and they have played it exceptionally well. I have witnessed them consistently refrain from voicing their truths, their opinions, their creativity and their individualities. They learned to not step on toes and to keep the peace even when it meant going against the truth because to challenge the system or the school or the teacher would have had a detrimental consequence on their personal results, regardless of the validity.  They learned not to make the inappropriate comments and  judgments made by teachers matter to them, and the noticeable partiality teachers held for certain co students bother them.  They worked incredibly hard, kept their focus and received more than admirable results for their efforts and are all now considered  to be a part of a small percentage of success stories of mainstream eduction. But are they? What exactly are we defining their success on? There is no doubt of how exceptionally proud i am of their accomplishments but it has nothing to do with a number or score that some system places such high value on. I wonder to what detriment are they having to acquire their success, and would they really choose it to be this way if given the choice?

My greatest fear is that the message that is being sent within this process of educating is that they simply don’t matter.  The very fact that they are unique individuals, who consist of a complexity of different abilities and talents is being lost in the process. Instead what they are learning is  that they must merely comply and be willing to shut themselves off from the very aspects of who they are, and do what they are directed to do, the way they are directed to do it. They must do this without opinion and ever raising the obvious question of, why? Why must we do this?  This is a very simple and valuable question that is asked often early on in the education process and rarely accurately answered. I fear that what is being really taught is, how to successfully navigate your way through a system and play the game.

These girls true abilities and intelligence cannot be measured in this way. This is not something their education has provided them with, and even with the highest notable recognition, it still fails to see the entirety of who they are and the their immense individual worth.  I hold more appreciation for their ability of withstanding spending so much time within a system that increasingly denied them the space and opportunity to really discover who they are and what they really want for themselves and still keep themselves perfectly grounded.   We have been blessed with wise children. We know that they are more than capable of being in complete control of their own futures. And it will be inspiring to stand back and witness the forthcoming unfolding. I only wonder, what if the same freedom and space and opportunity had been offered much earlier? What if this process is no longer really necessary at all anymore.  It is  my thought that they undeniably would still be powerfully driving themselves forward in their lives, unsubdued.

 

 

 

women standing for women

It is my daughters final year of senior education.  To say I’m incredibly proud of her would be an understatement, but it’s never been her position to prove anything to me. She is already all-encompassing of everything she has ever needed to be. Her final year has been a heavy weight to endure. It has left me as a parent, quite disillusioned and a somewhat perplexed as to why we are deeming it necessary to place such astronomical amounts of pressure upon these young adults shoulders.  Even the most well-balanced adult would have difficulty sustaining the weight of such pressures. Nevertheless she has held her own, in a system that holds very little room for flexibility and individual sentiments. She knows that she has given it her all, and most of all she knows she did it for herself. And that is all that is ever really necessary.  For her final media piece she produced a short film focusing on concerning issues still facing women today on a global scale. She chose to use her voice, she chose to be brave and innately powerful in her message. Whats important is she is willing. Willing to be seen, be heard, and is already comfortable in the knowing that what she has to say matters. We can spend our entire lives coming to this realisation,  the realisation of our own worth and how much of a role it plays in everything we choose to undertake. If this is the only message that our children take with them as they embark on their journeys, then as parents we will have done enough.

thinking on tippy toes

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This is what i intrinsically believe learning to be for him.  Thinking requires immense bodily  movement. Walking, talking, bare feet and tippy toes.  Thought forms are  spoken out loud with tremendous enthusiasm and with repetition to anyone who is readily available to listen. He will do this until it makes picture perfect sense, to him. And sometimes it is absolutely necessary for him to move to higher spaces, where the air is somewhat clearer. Floor play is the preferred play way where chairs and tables are rarely sat in for extended periods of time and if they are he prefers not to sit down in the traditional sense. He moves to the freedom of how he is feeling and there are no forced days he is required to fit into. He is moving completely at will, and to the flow of himself.    Everything requires  a curious explanation with the discussion beginning first thing in the morning and continuing the entire day. There aren’t really any schedules or rules to follow, except eat when you are hungry, rest when you are tired, bathe when you’ve changed colour and if you can make it yourself, then you should.  This is what free learning for him means and as he embarks on his learning adventure, he won’t be constricted to rooms, spaces, furniture or shoes.  His body will remain as free to move with him as his mind is. He can think out loud, as loud as required without disturbing anyone. He can speak his thoughts as they arise without needing to pause and wait until appropriate discussion periods are allocated. This point is particularly important to note as often his thoughts and ideas that arise during conversation require additional verbalization for it to make sense to him and necessary if you are wanting him to retain the information for further learning at another stage. Often if waiting is required even for short moments, the ideas and the words chosen for the communication are unfortunately, usually lost.  His contribution to his learning is on going, and most importantly moves to his unique flow. He is learning to collaborate with people, not of just the same age and or development but from the many ages he is surrounded by. And like adults he choses who to engage with not by age but by the more natural laws that attract people to each other.    He is fortunate in not  being confined to only the experience of five year old minds. He partakes in the wild and expansive imaginations of his younger and older siblings, in a kind of play based learning that if acknowledged and rightly valued, should continue way past pre school years and will undoubtably continue to serve them all for the entirety of their lives. Materials that are usually phased out during the primary school years will most likely remain in our learning experience. We won’t be out growing our home corner, by the age of 6. Home Economics will grow and expand as he does. He will be able to learn math and operate the washing machine. We will learn about anything and everything that he arises interest in and we will learn it in a way that we have advanced to. There are few rules and no time limits allocated to any one subject. Everything can be interwoven and overlapped and expanded if there is freedom in learning.   I know, there are schools like this that exist. Learning environments that are willing to take the alternative way towards educating our children, one that nurtures individuality and inspires curiosity and most of all  values children’s innate ability to know what it is they are wanting to learn and know about at any given stage. And even though there are a few, it’s not many. And we are needing many. We are requiring this approach of educating to no longer be the alternative approach and  in retrospect only available to a handful of children but rather how unprecedented would it be to integrate this alternative way into the whole. And allow our children to truly lead the way in their learning abilities.

untainted learning

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We are learning about space. Imagining whats our there, trying to conceive how big the universe really is, how little we are and really know. The one thing i have noticed the most since coming here, is the stars. Rarely in life, did i look up. Now i can’t help but not. Here in this wide open space, the stillness of night  brings a peace i have never known before. The black skies are free from impeding suburban lights and are now dark and mysterious and filled with such a magnitude of stars. It reminds me how small this moment is, how we are just circling around and around again in life. Children love the mystery, they are more open to mystical theories and stories around life, worlds and gods innocently holding notions that anything is plausible.  Rationality has yet to taint their thinking. They are yet to be corrupted by the rules of the way things are said to be. I don’t want to play that role in their lives. I want their hearts, minds and souls to remain wide open to the extraordinary mystery of this world, of their lives. I want them to believe the believable truth that anything is possible. Because who has the right to say it’s not. Our children are more awake, than ever before. Old ways of parenting and teaching children will never work on these new generations, they know too much, they won’t be dictated to, just because we believe we are older and wiser, if that really means anything anyway. We need to come to children on the level of respect that we wish them to come to us with. My three-year old will allow nothing to be done for her. She will master everything with her determination even if it means kicking and screaming through the frustration of trying. We all listen, usually horrified at the rage that can erupt in her tiny body, but she is adamant on allowing no help. So we let her go, raging and all and eventually she always succeeds in her endeavours. I cannot imagine her learning way would be seen as socially acceptable in a school environment, yet she is very much learning, in a very loud and often obtrusive way. She has not learnt this from people around her, she hasn’t been role modelled this reactive behaviour, it is simply uniquely her, innately born way.  If i was to try to stop or halter her or give her the impression that it is unacceptable to voice her frustration in trying so hard, then i am hindering her voice, her determination, her powerful innate drive to succeed at what ever she sets her mind to. I won’t play that role for my children. I won’t  be the one to tell them that they can’t do something because it seems too hard or implausible. And it wont bother me if she kicks and screams her way through life, at least i know she won’t succumb to being silenced easily.