Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Catching Up

Tonight, I was trying to make some blog rounds. And Winston gets up in my space right as I'm viewing Treasure's blog about her five year old and patriotism.

Winston wants to talk back, so, I transcribe Winston's comments:

"We like Dragon Son. That's his name, yeah. I don't wan't to fight evil. I just want to make the right choice. All I do is make the right choice. So, I don't have to fight. I just think about my right choices. People make wrong choices. But, I have to worry about me. My right choices show everyone how to be. Nobody wants to make naughty choices when they see right choices."

Yeah, I've been reading and practising some good ideas. Feeling really centered.

It Is Officially Official

My interactions with The Antioch School have shaped my life for over 20 years now. Yes, I’m still reading Children Of A Child Centred School. It isn’t a very long book. I should have finished it by now. But, it is like reading poetry. I have to keep stopping and pondering. Stopping and working on myself. Stopping and working on my interactions with others.

For almost a year now, I’ve known that I was chosen out of over 2,000 applicants for an artist residency at The Tower Of London. During my project I will mentor youth in Pupil Referral Units to create spoken word/poems and performance texts in the persona of the walls at The Tower Of London. We will take these texts and transform them into word-videos. (Like music videos but text based.) In essence, during the project, each youth will become a word star - as opposed to a rap star or rock star.

I’m being given an enormous gift. I am being asked to spend time with youth who have been “excluded” from school for one reason or another. During this time, I am being given the privilege of listening to them while also sharing a moment of fun and fantasy. Next week, I have my first workshop. These young people and I will spend six weeks together. So - why lead with The Antioch School?

I have been reflecting on my attitudes towards dealing with youth. More recently, as Imani has arrived and settles into Leeds, I’ve examined and re-examined every success and failure. She’s a superb person. She is so capable. She is so wise. She is everything I hoped she would be, and in spite of my parental shortcomings. (She hasn’t updated her blog lately, I’m sure she’ll get around to it. ) But, those early years at The Antioch School set the foundation for all of these tremendous outcomes.

I used to think, I have sooooo much to teach them! And this book, this exquisite time with my son, this exceptional young woman I am proud to call my daughter and this quiet void which is London has shown me that they have so much to teach me! I’m looking forward to learning next week. I’m really excited! And for once in my life, I feel centred and prepared. Because I am simply open to receive the excellence these children want to give me. I trust our process. Because I trust me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Remembering Great Kings & Queens Of Africa

Politics of marketing liquor to the Black community aside.....

I always wondered what happened to this Budweiser advertising campaign! I'm so happy to see them online! Great African Kings & Queens

Does anyone else remember postering their "gathering space" or "rec room" with these posters? I remember: blue lights, Parlimant Funkadelic, Earth Wind & Fire, The Ohio Players, "getting down just for the funk of it," and wondering if the Mothership had had landed in Africa and George Clinton was a modern day prophet.

All I know, is my folks had to serve a lot of Budweiser at their parties so we could have them.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

That Knot Without End

“Eu sou braço de maré- Paraná
mas eu sou o mar sem fim”

- lyric from Parana E

Winston sits on the family room floor. “Sing Paraná é,” he says, “my fairy is doing capoeira.” He has been requesting this song with greater and greater frequency lately. I have read the song’s translation, I can understand.

I sing the song’s chorus over and over. It is the only part I know.

“Nice try, Mama,” he says.

“Thanks, buddy.” I return to my book. I am still reading “Children of a Child-Centered School.” Norman read over my shoulder for a bit this morning. He is curious to see what is inside of a book which so frequently brings tears to my eyes. It has been a very moving read.

Norman pulls the song up on his laptop. Winston begins to bend and twist his fairy again. “Daddy can play capoeira.”

Norman joins him. He does a “cat walk” over Winston.

“Not like that, Daddy!” Norman stands up and thinks for a moment. He saunters across the room. I think he is going to plunk himself back down in front of his computer. This time, he gets Baby Ella.

Baby Ella joins the fairy’s jota. She and Fairy play capoeira.

My son and his father sit on the family room floor. Paraná é plays in the background. The fairy doll and baby doll play capoeira.

Do nó escondo a ponta- Paraná
ninguém sabe desatar- Paraná

- lyric from Paraná é

Ancestors fill his heart-spirit with chatter. They’ll be with us for quite awhile. I am recalling.
I saw this once upon a time, a long time ago.
I dreamt a heavy huge belly dream and my son kicked me for the first time.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Questionning The "Accepted Truth"

I think Winston and I are reading the same book. I can only imagine that he creeps out late at night, skims a few chapters and then behaves accordingly. After all, he can see how much I’ve been enjoying this book. In fact, it has set the tone of our days recently.

Just last week, my greatest joy was checking in with the source of all my theories about education. From time to time, I pop by The Antioch School’s web site. This tiny school in Yellow Springs, Ohio began my life long journey regarding best methods for helping children tap into their inner brilliance. In other words - what began as a search for the key which would magically train the beasts to become human - changed, overnight- to how do we tap the resources every blessed child innately possesses? Thank God/dess this transformation began before I had children.

When I lived in The States, I got their newsletter. It often reduced me to tears. It was always like reading a sacred text. It was like reading parables. It was so real and so out of sync with what I knew to be “real,” that I wept. Tears of grateful joy that in some small corner of the world, children were living a dream I held deep within myself. But - I digress. I cruise through The Antioch School web site to discover that a book has been published. I promptly order “Children Of A Child-Centered School” by Don Wallis.

Finally - someone has taken the time to put into print the philosophy and practical information about what I consider to be America’s leading school! (Or at least if more people knew about it, it would be America's leading school.) As a lone(ly) home educator in London, I am benefiting from the wisdom packed onto every page. What I have come to understand from the book, that there is no Antioch School philosophy. There is no formula. There is no magic method. So, what do they have?

They have adults who:
believe in the goodness of children;
have freed themselves from the concept of “guru,” “parent,” “sage,” “teacher,” “know-it-all,” and even “guide;”
are so secure in themselves that they cam embrace the role of facilitator;
refuse to accept that children don’t want to learn; and
trust a child’s process.

In this process, conflict occurs. Children make wild hypothesis. They invent, imagine and dream. This is okay. It is part of the process of discovery. Eventually, they will find their way to the “accepted truth.” We have to let them make their own way there. It is in these moments that information becomes knowledge. It is also in this moment that some small human makes unprecedented discoveries or advances. (Like computers or cell phones.) When you have the freedom to think beyond the “accepted truth,” anything can happen.

Suddenly, I realise why this book has never happened before now. It was waiting for a person who exemplified the above ideals and was willing to document the wisdom of seasoned teachers who have been so busy doing their jobs for 20 years that they don’t have time to write about it.

Tonight, Winston performed an elaborate dance alongside a song in a video. Believing myself to be supportive, I said, “I really like the way you were thinking about your body to make that dance so special.”

He looked at me funny, then said “I wasn’t thinking. I was finding it.”

I nodded and said, “Yes, you were.”

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Yin-ngna

Winston made this picture the other day while I was hoovering and mopping. I had laid out: water colour pencils, water colours, a tub of water, brushes. He insisted that a No. 2 lead pencil be amongst the materials at hand. Later, I asked him about the picture. Below, please find his story.


The Yin-ngna
(by Winston Nunley, Age 3)

This is a Yin-ngna. It has long, long legs and long, long feet. It has sharp teeth and breathes fire out of it’s mouth. It has hair that stings. Don't touch its hair, it will sting you! He has a bear in his hand.

(I interrupt, “A bear?”)

Yes, a bear in his hand.

(“It must be very big,”) I interrupt again.

Yes, it is very big. You have to be careful not to touch him. It lives in a dark, dark forest where there are wolves. The wolves go “Owoooo. Owoooo.” They scare the Yin-ngna. So the Yin-ngna breathes fire out of his mouth. The wolves go, “Ow! Ow! Ouch!)

This is his nose. This is his mouth. This is his hair. And that’s his feet.

Time Lapse between the story....

So proud - Daddy hauls the work of art off to his place of employment for scanning purposes. (A very major melt down occured when Winston discovered his Daddy took the picture to work. Daddy brought it right home after work.)

Once Daddy produced the work from his backpack, Winston animatedly says,

“Look Daddy! It’s the Yin-ngna! and it has long hair and fire in its mouth! It can scare wolves! I don’t like Yin-ngnas!...They say “Ahhh gugg gugg ggugg guugg gugg Ahhhh.

(He puts his fingers at the corners of his mouth; pokes his tongue out; and makes the sound. Very fast. He says it. Very fast. ) "I don’t like it. I have it it my hands, now." He becomes calm and content now.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Sudden Realisation

thanks Deena

Interestingly enough most unschoolers always write about how natural, easy, seamless and flowing it all is. Just breezing through the day cooking, crafting, making trips, playing in nature. Pretty idyllic picture, huh? But, somehow, I'm always feeling like I'm scrambling to keep up.

Autonomous Ed is a lot more work than traditional home education. It is hard to stick to a lesson plan when Winston has suddenly learned as much about Buckeyes (conkers) as he cares to know and is now moving quickly towards dragons and dinosaurs. And of course, the dear one has chosen an interest in the one topic about which there are very few home resources at hand.

I believe in both directed and child-centered learning. I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. I believe a child can be directed without too much unnecessary coercion. Sometimes, I think - he hasn’t learned a damn thing other than how to say please, thank you and your welcome consistently. It is not as if I don’t try to introduce other concepts. It’s just that he has ideas. He is used to expressing his ideas and having someone do something about them.

Yesterday, he had an idea about a blue hat. He was very surprised to learn that my idea was about new shoes. I was not to be budged. It was my day for an idea. We compromised when we discovered silver sequin high top sneakers. (They look awesome with his wizard’s cape and hat. For those of you who have been following along, sometime in the summer, Winston ceased needing to be a butterfly. He is now a wizard. The kind that carries a sword. Every day. On the bus. At the musuem. In the park. I often feel like Xena The Warrior Princess. Half the time, the sword lives in my back pack. Pommel sticking out. Ready to draw at a moment's notice.)

Maybe I'm just different. Well to honest, there is no maybe about it.
Child logic is very hard to keep up with. I suspect the rosy picture painting unschoolers are just a bit more relaxed than I am. Perhaps, they are still in deep conversation with their own inner child and as a result, they trust their child to do it on their own. More likely, they are simply wiser than I am.

I say this because, I am eternally 3 months behind on all of the connections Winston has made organically. Today, I found myself bashing myself in the head - not for the first time saying, Doh! I get it now!

Buckeye, seeds,
trees, seasons, growth,
time, patterns, caterpillars,
butterflies, emergence from infancy,
transformation, power, strength
dinosaurs, dragons, fairy
tales, morality is a human quality, making
choices, consequences, preparation
to imitate adult behaviour, wizards,
knights, kindness, chivalry,
wisdom, counting, assigning values to
numbers, patterns, time.
Seasons grow patterns...oh!

We've been learning something here.