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.

 

 

 

Next Truth

They did not feel they could choose what they wanted, independent of circumstances. … it always seems that circumstances are powerful- more powerful than you are. You feel that all you can do is react or respond to them. Even if you have developed great skill in outmaneuvering circumstances, like a lion tamer outmaneuvering the lions, it is still the circumstances- the lions- that hold the ultimate control in how you live you life. -Robert Fritz

 

This has been the way i have lived life, for most of my life.  My first considerable circumstance that defined how i would move was my first child.  In trying to choose the best life for her, I married her father and began creating the story. I wish i could say with Truth that it was out of a deep love, for him, but i can’t, it was out of a deep love for her. And i knew this at the time, even at twenty. I stayed quiet, silenced the voice within and did what needed to be done to ready myself for the making of a family. I pretended that it was all that mattered. Believing that there was enough love to make it look as though it was always going to be part of the plan. But it hadn’t been my plan, it caught me by surprise and i reacted. This story played out for seven years in all the usual ways, and for the most part i was content with all the distraction children brought. I was abundant in the circumstances surrounding the way i was moving through life and avoiding my truth. It simply was just too much to allow to rise to the surface in this story. We do that as mothers, leave ourselves behind or worse in the dark to keep the story going. And we usually think we do this well, but it’s never really far away, and life has this divine way of always bringing to you what truths you are needing to see at the time.  And when my husband decided to leave one day, i remember i felt terrified and relieved in the same breath. Terrified at the idea of caring for three young children on my own and relieved that he had found the courage to leave, something i would silently be eternally grateful to him for. I’m no longer living this way, allowing the circumstances of my life to define my life. I’m moving from a different part of myself now, the one where the answer isn’t always clear right away but you know it’s there and you know that it will be revealed as its meant to, so your content in the waiting. The strength i learned about myself during this time,  has carried me forward. It’s what brought me through the chapters that followed to where I’m standing now. It’s whats giving me the courage to stand strong in my truth, in the midst of this chapter. And with all resistance that comes up against it, I’m thankful to them for they are the continuum of reminders on how i need to be ever so mindful of my Truth.

child-led learning

IMG_6488 IMG_6489 IMG_6486It takes courage to follow your own innate wisdom’s, especially when it concerns more lives than just that of your own.  I have always followed the mantra, when you know better, you do better. I am watching carefully how my children are learning, even how other children i am around are learning also, by simply observing, allowing, and encouraging a child-led process to unfold. This area in my children’s development has become a necessary pursuit and now a passion. When developmental  learning for a child doesn’t play by the generalised rules, it becomes necessary to begin the journey of discovering new ways for the information to be grasped, finding a way for the learning to happen. Our way has come to us on an instinctual level, i simply allow my children to lead the way in their learning,  most of the time and almost every day. It may seem unlikely that we could possibly be covering all the developmental learning targets with children taking the lead however, if we are able to get out of our own way of old views on how things must be done in order to achieve results, we open up a new space of possibility for things to unfold. And children are born knowing what they want and need already.  We know this to be true from babies who cry to have their instinctual needs met.  Nobody teaches a new born how to be hungry every few hours or how to be tired, or how to feel uncomfortable.  We trust babies to tell us what they need, to eventually get their needs met, even without the use of spoken language.  So why is it that we stop trusting them, stop trusting that they instinctively know what it is they are wanting to learn, wanting to know more about?  Maybe it started around the time the first three-year olds began contradicting their parents?  A mass collaborative decision to get things under control before an ensue of outspoken three-year olds possibly unraveled?  What would happen if we continued to trust them, kept them safe and allowed them to lead the direction of what it is they want to know more about. All children are curious we know this to be true. Usually about absolutely everything. This innate curiosity starts to take a certain shape and head in certain directions as they grow. I watched a small boy yesterday, load his 4-year-old arms up with off cuts of wood and lug them down to another part of the play area where he was building.  He continued this process of going back and forth, carrying the wood to his construction site with immense importance and determination. He lay the wood pieces in parquetry style, perfectly creating  a flat image of a house plan from his imagination. What was remarkable to me was that he was constructing this project in amongst a highly distracting group of twenty or so four-year olds. I wondered what would have happened if he was left to remain focused on his project for sometime, and given the opportunity to further explore this creative venture, with access to tools and supplies. Who knows what would have become of his fabrication. This is child-led learning. This is the perfect example of a child who clearly has an interest in construction. All sorts of learning can be applied to his choice of project, maths and geometry, comparing and measuring all of which can be explored. Creative thinking, conceptualisation, problem solving and independence all play a large role in a project such as this. Most importantly you will have the desire, willingness and enthusiasm of the child. Isn’t this ideal? Children learning in a way, that allows them to set their own course, a direction of learning where we are simply not filling them with masses of information that they cannot relate to, or have little interest in learning about and possibly will never again use in their lives. Of course, when we leave the education system as young adults we usually once again return to learning more naturally.  When we want to know more about a topic or subject, we begin the process ourselves. Technology allows us to research and explore information on just about anything we want to know about.  We pursue our interests, and intern continue the process of learning by our own innate wisdom once again.

intentionally moving off the path

Asperger would often just sit with the children, reading poetry and stories to them from his favourite books. “I don’t want to simply ‘push from the outside’ and give instructions, observing cooly and with detachment,” he said ” Rather, I want to play and talk with the child , all the while looking with open eyes both into the child and into myself, observing the emotions that arise in reaction to everything that occurs in the conversation between the two of us.”

-NeuroTribes, Steve Silberman

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This is how i want my children to learn, i want to be the observer not the dictator to their curious and instinctual  minds. I want to watch what they are drawn to, and where they take themselves naturally when provided the space, opportunity and environment to do so. I don’t want them ever to become accustomed to what is perceived as normal or abnormal about themselves in a class room, by the  opinions that are deciding where they sit on some grand scale of intellectual competence.  Children are loosing their natural flow. They are being denied the access to learn by  instinctively following from their own interests, a naturally occurring process that is inherent to everyone.  There is no room for individual self-directed learning anymore.  Instead they are being shaped and moulded, and filled with information about things that are meant to support them in their lives, but really have nothing to do with their life at all.  By the time they are reaching high school it’s all but gone. Thats when it really becomes prevalent to what is happening. It is then that they too  begin to realise the sad truth of how little they matter in the system, how small their voices are, unless of course they have an exceptional skill that can offer some personal gain to the school.  It becomes entirely about working hard, retaining the masses of information, memorizing as opposed to learning, endless testing and our children tirelessly keeping pace, trying to  prove themselves over and over again.  It is about them illogically having to have their whole life plan set out before them, at the tender age of sixteen.   This is not the learning we are striving for. The learning we strive for is one that doesn’t require forcing information upon them with the expectation that they retain it and then perform it back in some way, as proof of a job well done. My children are learning to count, I know this.  I hear them practicing all the time, for their own pleasure.  I have also watched them refuse to count on demand or worse feel so under pressure, to prove themselves that they simply can’t.  Testing children is much the same. It fills them with dread, panic and insecurity, and really is no way to conclude where a child’s level of understanding is really at. Testing children in this country in the educational systems is out of control.  We test everything, even how fast they can run, in ‘beep tests’. This has nothing to do with nurturing the physical health of our children, or guiding them towards naturally being aware of how to take care of their own bodies, and everything to do with competition and adequacy verses inadequacy.  Never before in our history has  the pressure to perform been so rampant, you have to wonder how much learning is actually taking place.   We are living in a time where we are now recognising the expansive neurological diversity amongst ourselves, more than ever before, and the educational options to cater for the diversity in our children’s differences is few. Parents are wanting a new approach, they are wanting individual learning styles for their children as they are uniquely learning individuals. They are recognising that many children cannot learn effectively in a traditional school environment anymore.  With the number of children being diagnosed with learning differences it is inevitable that something will have to change. There is simply no one size fits all model that can be followed effectively anymore.

 

takings from T.S. Eliot’s, Little Gidding

chère douce Paris, je reviendrai un jour

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We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

 

What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make and end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.

For last words belong to last years language

And next years words await another voice.

 

But the passage now presents no hindrance

To the spirit unappeased and peregrine.

Between two worlds become much like each other.

So i find words i never thought to speak.

Miller Williams, compassion

Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit, bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.

-Miller Williams, Compassion

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a prayer -RUMI

I have come to drag you out of yourself  and take you into my heart.

 

I have come to bring out the beauty you never knew you had and lift you like a prayer to the sky.

If no one recognises you, i do because you are my life and soul.

Don’t run away, accept your wounds and let bravery be your shield.

It takes a thousand stages for the perfect being to evolve.

Every step of the way i will walk with you and never leave you stranded.

-RUMI