Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Importance of Homeschooling Community

I asked myself recently why mainstream culture is so bent on handing responsibility over to others. We give our power to doctors, pharmaceutical companies, teachers and schools, banks and so many more entities and institutions. We have learned as a culture to not trust our intuition, healing ability, bodies, or ability to learn and be curious. Those who do trust themselves are accused of not trusting anyone else, as in the case of homeschooling, for instance. Why is there such a fear of taking responsibility? I think this is because in our current society, we see either/or: either the responsibility is ALL on my shoulders, or others will be my parents and take care of me. We want to be taken care of. The world is overwhelming and scary. I want someone to hold my hand. Who doesn't?

The greater culture has become so attached to giving responsibility to others that we can't even see that a middle ground is possible: I can check with my doctor, then take herbs. I can homeschool and hire tutors. I can grow a garden and shop at the grocery store. I can earn a living and ask for help when I need it. Doing both is not shameful nor disrespectful.

The problem is, our society is set up in such a way that we can only see one or the other: homemade herbal remedy or antibiotics and other drugs. School or homeschool. Order or anarchy.

Truth is, there is a middle ground, and it neither means giving away power nor taking all the responsibility on my own shoulders. This "middle ground" is called community. The doctor becomes a member of your tribe, with knowledge and access we can tap into. The child learns from the parents, a tutor, gymnastics instructor, other parents, her friends... and so on.

As homeschoolers we can help shift the paradigm of either/or to the circle. The dance. The flow.

So let me ask you: What would the ideal homeschool community look like? Where do you need help? What do you have to offer others that supports your soul work while supporting others?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Art on the Patio

I've always wanted to get a big roll of paper, unroll a big huge section, and let the kids go to town with paint. So I did. I got the paper and paints through Rainbow Resource.

The drawing was so long I didn't have a wall to hang it on. We had to tear off one end to make room! Somehow I didn't get a picture of that. But you can imagine the color.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Soul Centered Homeschooling

My husband just finished a power-filled retreat with Bill Plotkin, and one of the insights he brought home with him is this chart of soulcentric development. It perfectly captures why and how I homeschool (or at least towards what ends I aspire). I see my toddler as an Innocent in the Nest, and my school age child as an Explorer in the Garden. Homeschool as a way for them to explore the garden in the context of family, community, and nature. It sets up ideal conditions for them to do necessary work as teens, when they need to create a secure and authentic social self, something that is very hard to do in most of today's high schools. With this ground work they will grow up to be authentic, strong adults able to do their work in the world in a meaningful way. And by work I don't mean being successful economic units, although that can be a part of it, too. I mean soul work. Inner work that translates into a calling that makes the world a better place.

Plotkin bases his wheel on the four directions of Native American tradition:

Which of course relates to the Wheel of the Year in Pagan and Celtic spirituality (this lovely one includes some other spiritual holidays as well):

For original, see

And evokes Susun Weed's Medicine Wheel of the Wise Woman Tradition (on page 81 of HealingWise - can't find an image of it online). Weed's wheel also draws on the four directions, but in a context of becoming a power-filled wise woman. If we apply it to child development, early childhood (SE)  is about Surrender: trust, flexibility and chaos. Middle childhood (what is often call "school age") is about Abundance: ecstasy, optimum, nourishment, and self-love. Teens focus on Commonness: simplicity, persistence, and protection.

Another frame that mirrors Plotkin's wheel comes from a totally different tradition, Leadership Education. The phases of learning (and development) that DeMille describes fit right into the soulcentric wheel. The phases according to age are:
  • 0-12 Play/Family Work
  • 12-16 Scholar Phase
  • 16-20 Superb Education
  • 20-24 Depth Phase (Liberal Arts College)
  • 24-50 Build Two Towers (a Family and an Organization)
  • 50+ Impact the World (Statesmanship)
These frameworks as guides for human growth and development, and therefore schooling, bring the focus off of economic and political power (as our current school system is focused) and onto soul development. We are here on earth to grow as souls. Plotkin writes, "When a sufficient number of contemporary people have reentered nature's soulstream and become conscious contributors to the unfolding story of the world, industrialized nations might mature into sustainable, ecocentric, and soulcentric communities, inhabited by people who are wildly creative, imaginative, adventurous, tolerant, generous, joyous, and cooperative members of the more-than-human world." (Soulcraft, 332) Amen brother.

So what does this "look" like? It looks like balance. Lots of time outdoors, but also (for our family) time watching tv or playing (non-violent) computer games. Time together. Time alone. Writing, reading, dancing, playing, arguing, making up, napping, dreaming, going to gymnastics, playing the piano, making smoothies, crafting herbal remedies, playing board games, and so much more. For some it will include a curriculum, like the lovely Oak Meadows on Enki guides. Others might be a part of a school community, but one that fosters and supports soul growth. Like a flexible Waldorf school or an alternative school. Some families will have found a faith community that supports soul growth. Whatever it looks like, the ideas named by Plotkin underlie all the family does. Having language for our intentions, such as Plotkin's wheel, can help us identify what sits right for our family and what we choose to move beyond.

Kid Directed Learning: Earwigs!

Yesterday we discovered earwig colonies under a bunch of rocks in our backyard. There seemed to be a large earwig, a whole bunch of teeny earwigs, and some little white eggs. I was curious about why all of these would be clustered together, so looked up earwigs online. Apparently they are one of the few insects that show some maternal behaviors, as the mother earwig stays with the nymphs at least to their first molt. They molt five times before becoming adults. The mothers also watch over their eggs.

I've never really liked earwigs, but I knew they just eat decaying matter like dead leaves, and they in doing so are an important part of an ecosystem. But those pincers do look nasty, so I also looked up whether or not earwigs bite. They can pinch but can't really break the skin and aren't aggressive.

As I was perusing the wikipedia page on earwigs, my son said, "I want that coloring page!" So I printed out the two images of prehistoric earwigs that lived at the time of dinosaurs. He colored them orange, his favorite color, and I helped him cut them out.

I never would have set out to do a lesson on earwigs, of all things. But just by following our curiosity in the backyard, we included science, art, and fine motor skills in our day. I love it when homeschooling evolves this way. The kids are invested, we're all more interested, and we learn something about the creatures that share our home (preferably outside!).