Daniela Ginta, The Mindful Writer

Freelance Writer and Photographer, Author of the Mindfulness Blog

Tag: homeschooling Page 2 of 3

If Lakes Could Sing… Oh, But They Do

Day to beThe morning snuggle and read with little boy are obligatory. You gotta have the right book too. It has to keep little kids ask for one more chapter until, pushing their face into your neck, delighting you with their gentle warm breath as they whisper sweetly ‘One more, Mama, pleeeease?’ you yield, and when the chapter ends the game starts again. Oh no, not this time. No becomes yes and the sun coming through the window splatters on the page you’re about to read. Same irreverence as the child… Can you blame them though?

We’re reading E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (again, and pretending we have no clue about what’s coming) and little boy’s apprehension of spiders dissolves with every page Charlotte proves her love and devotion towards the pig called Wilbur who can truly make you question your meat-eating habits if you’re still at it.

True to form, last week’s end saw the boys learning about animals in our little school. Past the usual anatomy and physiology – miraculous on their own of course, we snuggled to listen to talks about whether animals feel or not, courtesy of Carl Safina, an amazing scholar with a penchant for saying it like it is and an ardent desire to save the world.

We listened, and then we got very silent as we paused to think how to place all that we heard in the context of human compassion and how it should (must) influence the way we take from here onward.

WonderingsMy wild boys’ eyes could not be rounder as they learn of these things and their questions more pertinent. Truly, children have it right. Their minds uncorrupted and their ears still able to perk up and hear the sounds of the world many adults tune out. The world that matters because it keeps us alive with it.

The same old question that makes grownups roll their eyes at times… ‘Can one person change the world?’ Idealistic and dream-like, but dreams have to start somewhere. Learning is dreaming is pursuing. Children have that flame alive and burning. They say ‘I can’ until we tell them enough time ‘It’s not possible’. Then the flame subsides.

Learning comes with listening to songs that can change the tune of your own if you allow the child within to keep alive, not just in playfulness but in how you write ‘Possible’ on dreams.

This world and that A bit of a rethinking of life as we know it, but as we’ve come to discover daily, the mandate of our school at home includes shaking off limiting beliefs and making room for thinking, debating and realizing that on a good day, we’re merely seeing a sliver of all that wonder of the world.

There cannot be gratefulness for opening your eyes to a new day unless you’re poised to learn why you can do that and that seeing all that you see as you go about your day is a string of happenings that your mind can choose to learn about and understand, and in doing so you’re ever more in awe of how much you don’t know.

Hence we learn about ignorance too in our school. The value of not knowing, which, as you admit to, takes you past the slimy reality of superficial knowledge, a dreadful disease of our world, and leads you into what becomes a path to never stray from. Knowledge of the world.

It comes with square roots, and fractions, with spelled and misspelled words, it comes with French greeting phrases and stories of early explorers, with science experiments that tie you to ‘Why?’ forever, with understanding that we may be but one thread in the life tapestry. Learning to hang onto, learning that other threads are equally important if we are to tell the real story. Resilience is as much a word as it is a concept. A goal. Just like compassion.

So we learn. Learning comes with waking up mindful of what your next steps, careful enough to not step on someone’s dreams and smiles, and if you do, to have the strength and humbleness to ask for forgiveness.

SilentWhat you can seeBy the time the week ends we’re spoiled by sunshine and venture to out searching for winter wonders. Boys and snow go well together. Most times anyway. We find it: magic. White and silent, it lives where your hot breath has an echo, among tall trees with beards of snow and forest paths sprinkled with myriad tracks of animals that tell stories… stories that tie into our learning, stories we can learn.

Boys follow the path that takes us to the lake. We are at Lac Le Jeune where last visit saw us braving minus 21 Celsius, freezing toes and fingers asking for mercy. That was then…

taste of magicToday is cloudy and quiet and we’re not hoping for sun as we’re too enraptured by the whiteness of thick snow. But sunshine pushes the clouds aside and we’re stuck in sparkling beauty. I have one thought as I stare at small blade-like crystals of hoarfrost… ‘If this ever ceases to exist as such, we are poorer for it. Lost.’

Being overwhelmed by magic that reduces you to that one thought gives reason to choose the one path that makes sense after that: simplicity. Aiming for what matters.

wonder...It matters to have boys run and scream with joy as they see ice crystals perched on low branches and on the side of the lake, it matters to be there with them.

It matters to stoop down to observe tracks, signs of life, big and small, to decipher the voices of the woods, the words they write for us to heed; it matters to realize that there’s no better place to see than where everything seems hidden. Everything we need to see to learn is always in front of us, wherever we are.

Boys and musicIt matters to have the boys throw handfuls of snow on the thin ice that hugs the lake surface in a tight embrace and see their faces light up with wonder ‘Did you hear that?’ Yes, the ice sings. More? It’s a game that keeps on going. It has to. For them to learn, for them to never be afraid of joy, never ashamed of playing to get there…

The lake sings, the sun is shining brightly, birds and boys do the pitter patter on snow and under the trees, each laughing in their own way, each quarreling just the same, maybe to remind of imperfections needed to keep humbleness in place.

It matters to have that moment stuck in your heart forever, to understand that it is not in what we strive for on the outside that we find shelter in but in what we carry with us, deep inside, in how we find ourselves hopeful enough to never give up searching for better days, and wiser by having experienced the hopelessness of lost days…

To be is to learn. To learn to be. And magic is all.

Peter Pan Lives Here. Times Two

boy and grass‘Can you see me?’

‘No Peter…’

But I do. I see a tuft of wild hair, I see the smile sparkling like a golden butterfly from behind stalks of bunchgrass. Little boy is at it again. Peter Pan indeed.

We’ve read the books, abridged and unabridged, yet again, and we will do it one more time, and two, and three times more until little boy will say ‘now let’s read about Ivanhoe.’

We take Peter Pan from books to the hills where boys get lost among dry grasses and hide behind scraggly ponderosa pines that are still standing… Playing. There is a mystery to it all. Grass speaks to boys in wild ways. ‘Do it!’ it says to them… Run to catch the sun! Can you balance on the see-saw stump? Do it!

To us it says the same but we’re grownups now and the sounds come out distorted. We say ‘Stop! Go slow, don’t run so fast…’. Boys snicker, throw silly looks over their shoulders as they do it anyway…

Be it so… Their feet and bodies listen to the tall grass only. As they should. The mystery itself.

yellowIt is midday Sunday and the sun is stingy with its warmth but we’re clad in wool sweaters and touques. We’re on the hiking trail we often take in the morning. It is no longer just a path snaking on the side of the hill. It is where we discover woodpeckers and blue jays and snow berries and yellow mushroom caps and talk about what makes smoke go up and how math is everywhere on any given morning before we head inside to learn more.

A trail that has become ‘the trail’ and then it has become ‘our trail’. We pin, as if with sticky notes, memories of us, of the mornings that see us hike here and talk about the things the boys learn in our school at home.

Soon we will know every turn and bush and stump.

Little boy pleas with his brother to be pirate Cecco. Say yes? He does. Taunting as the big brother words and gestures can be towards little boy at times, there’s a lot of love pouring out when he’s eagerly agreeing to play. He hops, runs, jumps and rolls as any pirate worth his salt would. Delight lives on both sides.

20151027_142332_001There’s barely any space around us that’s left unfilled with laughter – sounds so round you’d think it’s raining plump giggling droplets. I like it when that happens. Sun showers of sorts. Like silly weather, boys’ moods go from sunshine to snow to sun again in a merry-go-round grownups so inelegantly and harshly judge at times.

Boys can turn playful tumbles into war-like matches. The world of boys is a magic one. Sweet smiles and twinkling eyes one second, darts and fists flying wild the next. Like now. We stop and listen.

Peace again. ‘It’s OK, mom, we’re going to play some more.’

Max and I walk slowly behind them, gazing at shreds of clouds scattered over cinnamon hills. Quiet meets quiet, eyes meet, and the air feels warmer.

TumbleThere are giggles and rustling noises coming from behind Saskatoon berry bushes. Peter Pan’s wooden knife plunges next to Cecco’s feet and the next seconds become a tumble of two bodies down a sandy slope. Laughter so loud it makes dogs bark. Just like in the book with Nana the dog on the night of the great adventure.

Too much sand fills Pan’s boots so they come off. Little boy runs barefoot with big brother in hot pursuit. What? No, put them on, it’s cold.

‘I’ll keep the socks on!’ Pitter patter, feet get away from being questioned. Play is what they want to do.

More tumbles, more screams. I don’t know why Max and I are laughing but how else can this become a memory? An imprint of this and now? Faces get dirty and hair turns wispy after the sand tumbles and wild lost boys they are, lost from anything but playing. Lost and found, up and down, a world of their own which we have the privilege to see.

Exhaustion comes in like a nagging aunt. They lean against us as we walk home. You walk on your own, pirate, let those legs carry you home. Peter can fly…

applesThey laugh and walk alongside grabbing crab apples off the trees and picking brown leaves off the ground.

‘Can I sew leaves onto my shirt like Peter Pan’s?’

Perhaps use fabric? He did. The dining table is now a sea of green with leaf-shaped bits of fabric peeking from just about everywhere. This is learning. They both learn by touching and doing and daring. They learn by living.

Little boy cuts and prepares, he will sew them on one by one. He’ll wear the shirt and pants for a day, or two or three, bury them under new ideas and dig them out on a sunny morning when the sunshine will remind him of Peter Pan.

grass songsLet’s read some Peter Pan he’ll say, and I will say yes, and we’ll read once, twice, three times… and time will stay still. Lost boys will resurface, pirates too, and the tall grass will call to them again. Whispers and songs they’ll still hear for many moons to come, for childhood will still be here, sewn to their smiles and mischief still stuck to their hair like glittering sand and dandelion seeds are today.

We’ll follow them boys as they’ll run and tumble, we’ll be quiet and hopeful that the whispers of the tall grass will be loud enough for us to hear too…

20151101_133901 20151021_072818We’ll follow them to the edge of reason and back, again and again, we’ll walk a few steps behind, and when all silliness is done for the day we’ll all breathe in the sunset and keep that breath in long enough to remember.

Everything. The steps to here. The leap from here…

 

Raising Boys In A Factual World. Notes From Our School

sunIt’s Friday and sunny. Little boy has his midday piano class and the tune of ‘Hot cross buns’ flows around the living room and trails all over the house, chasing big brother outside where he can read ‘The story of science’ without any hot buns crossing his mind.

The topics of today were bones and the wonder of movement. We ran barefoot and then with shoes, we noticed how our heads and their content shook uncomfortably as we landed on our heels and then we discovered how the body knows what to do when you let it do its thing. Barefoot? Worth trying (though in Kamloops some running trails require some separation between you and cacti; they truly are merciless.)

Boys and sun chasing each other around the back yard, learning about feet, bones and joints, backbones and postures and why breathing and walking and feeling light in the head and heart are so intrinsically and magically related.

Why does it take more effort to sit with your back straight? Why does it get easier as you do it more?

We’re indulging in bad posture until we don’t notice anymore. But our bodies know what’s right. Slouching, bad attitude, giving up before you start, they are related. Can you slouch when you walk? Not for long. When you choose to have a good posture, your body becomes more flexible and your movement fluid.

Little boy says with confidence ‘Mom, I do not find skeletons creepy anymore. They really cannot stand or walk in real life, they just can’t since there are no joints…’ A perfect conclusion! Right in time for Halloween. Knowledge is power, now the boys see why.

The week was rife with learning: math, geometry, plant physiology, reading short stories and learning words. I love hearing the sweet impressions upon reading, I love seeing my boys’ thoughts come out in words that describe what they read and see while reading.

‘The description of pines covered in that first snow, Mom, I love reading descriptions like that because I can see it right in front of me…’ The love of books and stories is the one the boys will hold close forever.

worldGiftsWe learn of the place we live in through morning hikes. How much can you see on a given morning? They write lists upon returning: downy woodpeckers, red squirrel, magpies, robin, Saskatoon bushes, dried up arrow-leaf balsam root, kinnickinnick, juniper, bunchgrass, snowberries, prickly-pear, clouded sulphur butterfly, big leaf maple. I get gifts of beautiful rusty maple leaves.

Tomorrow we will see more or less. No two days are the same.

No day of learning is the same either. We learn about being kind, considerate, remember that one person’s perspective is but that: one person’s perspective. Facts take it from subjective to objective.

Facts of life. No judging, no assuming, no making someone self-conscious but allowing them to keep their dignity, as we keep ours, by stating facts and allowing space for people to find solutions.

For three days in a row, the boys snuggle together to read about the gold rush. They giggle, wonder at how it all happened and ask each other ‘would you have done it?’… Eyes rolling side to side, looking for the right answer, reading some more and … time to play outside. There’s so much of the day left still. Learning of a different kind, though playing and figuring things out, through seeing things that we learn about in our little school.

‘Mom, I can never look at leaves the same way. They are so much more than just leaves…’ Reverence.

‘Are we eating cells when we eat fruit and veggies just like that?’

togetherReverence makes room for humbleness. There’s so much to learn, yet it’s through the small steps that our minds dare take the greatest leaps towards places unknown. Curiosity. More learning… to open eyes, to reach hearts – our own in the first place, to understand that life is precious in all aspects of it.

To make moments, days, time with each other, with ourselves, with life itself, worth it.

Glowing and Growing. Time To Understand

If I say that time seems to slow down just so that we can realize how fast it goes would make your head spin. I’ll say it anyway. It is when I stop for a few moments that truth dawns on me: time stops and runs fast at the same time. What side do we choose to see? Why?

I took shelter this morning from the running seconds in the glow of a hill peeking from behind layers of red-leafed trees. Crisp fall air and morning golden glow married for a few blinks. I did not get my camera because I would’ve missed it all. The irony…

I need to remember to stop myself from taking photos because then I succumb to the muteness of just staring at it, forgetting that words can paint the wonder if I want to keep it with me forever. This morning I will look and remember.

I want to remember today and the short-lived glow on the hill because of how rushed and rumbling yesterday was. I want to remember how dark blue the clouds were this morning, every bit of their darkness making the glow stronger… Darkness allows for the glow to exist. That is what I want to remember today by.

Clouds behind the glowing hill. The darkness that we run away from, not realizing that it is the contrast that make the colours dance with our eyes.

The boys will wake up soon, they’ll ask for breakfast and a walk, we will step outside like we did two days ago and the trees will snow leaves yellow and red as we walk to the hobbit paths where there are still dry berries on naked branches.

‘Who wants to try one?’ The boys conjure the same faces they do when I eat seaweed out of the ocean. An amused, cutely and only seemingly appalled ‘Mom!’ pinches the morning air. One boy declines with a scrunched up nose, the other with a head shake. The loving scold of children who love silliness and love seeing us paint our faces with it. Be silly. Glow with it…

I want to remember this time with them. The slow mornings, the hurried ones, the ones too loud and the ones so quiet even whispers are forgotten…

I want to remember that it is in the togetherness that limitations are revealed, that we are to learn about ruffled feelings and how we can write words on them like they are pieces of paper that hold our very soul bits. I see growing boys crumple them up every now and then and throw them to the other side of life. I see them pout in sorrow shortly after and say ever so gently ‘I wish that didn’t happen…’

But life does happen, and we happen with it, growing and glowing and we do so. We can choose to see it or skip over. It’s only when we choose the first that we learn how our hearts grow roots in each other’s through forgiveness.

bothIt is in togetherness that vulnerability shows up not to shame us but to remind us of being human. Of minding too much, of not minding enough, of trying hard and not succeeding but not giving up regardless.

We cannot wish for anything to not have happened.

The glowing golden hill, the dark clouds behind it…

I want to remember and tell myself on days that seem to lose their glow that it is all worth it. When the eyes cannot see it, then I’ll remember to close them for a bit, find the light inside and use that to see the path ahead.

On days when clouds abound, I will remember that brightness exists regardless; our eyes are limited in seeing it, while our souls aren’t. Which one are we to trust fully?

I want the boys to know the answer. I want them to know that time can be made into brightness we take with us from one day to the next. That we are often tempted to forgo the glow of today and trade it for the darkness of tomorrow. Ungrateful it may seem, it is but human. Learning takes time. Repeat enough times until you learn…

It’s what we make of it… I remind the boys when the going gets tough. They trust and try and sometimes trying asks too much of them. I know that feeling too. I come to learn of it when my own feet get tired and my will frustrated… All purposeful, all necessary.

To growIf I remember the glow of today and how short-lived it was, not by looking at a photo but by reading the words it summoned, I will shape time and its finicky nature into hope that will help me find the way. Tomorrow, the day after and every day after that. Repeat until learned.

 

 

The Week’s Worth Of Learning

togetherWatching children learn is like watching magic happen. Eyes light up and turn round, smiles peak from behind temporary worried pouts and the lightness in the air is as perceivable as the smell of muffins we bake at night every now and then.

Math is not a challenge but a balancing and observation exercise, a tool you use to measure the world and decipher the wonder of it. In truth, it can be abstract too, but that comes after you’re so enticed with having learned the first steps that you want to keep on going to see more and connect more dots. You have to render your mind elastic, you have to trust that it will.

Brains are poised to learn if only we’d stop saying ‘I can’t.’ It is like building a barrier of sort. Our words become beliefs and with that we build walls that keep us from opening our eyes inward to the magic of learning. A chain is all, with links we keep adding as we go.

Different subjects are like exercises for the mind, they enable nimbleness. Older boy learns of knights and how they carved their place in history, little boy learn of fur trades and we trace paths on the map with our fingers to match the tracks of those who came to the wild country a long time ago.

SunriseWe learn of values that have kept people alive for thousands of years, we learn of what can compromise values and how no one is immune to temptation lest they make a shield out of understanding that the price in money for values trashed or forgotten is never an accurate equivalent.

Geometry is learning to use your eyes to peel off shapes drawn on paper and see their contour as plump as life would have it. And just like that, you open the door to algebra so that shapes become even more tangible and finding answers becomes a game. Everything is connected. A dance your mind seems to learn just like that. Fluid and purposeful, it’s the dance we’re all meant to learn at our own pace as long as we keep curious.

A few days ago we huddled in the back yard, the four of us, eyes stuck to a disappearing moon. An eclipse is a dance too, is it not? Bright and growing, the moon had us all under a spell. Then again, it was not just then, but on so many other nights when, during a pre-bedtime walk we were startled by the glow peeking from behind a hill.

Magic? Yes. Barely starting to comprehend the vastness of the world we’re part of should become the catalyst for wanting to know more. Children may not be able to say it as such but they know it and show it with every ‘why’ they ask. Not being handed answers for each every time they ask will have them venture on paths unknown.

FlyingLearning is building a raft in the back yard, and sewing sails and small pouches for journals that will come to be, and making a swing out of a piece of rope and some scrap wood, and flying high enough to have the butterflies in your tummy clump together not in worry but in discovering the surprise of the impromptu flight. Learning that you can laugh so hard you make the world laugh too.

Learning is why. Why are some black bears white and why does bacteria live everywhere? What does it take for people to understand why animals do what they do, how they see us humans and why are boundaries vital for both humans and animals? What happens when you cross them without knowing enough to be able to do so without leaving marks of destruction?

Midweek caught us chasing the sun in the countryside outside Kamloops for a few hours. We were given fresh rhubarb. Tart and red, straight from the embrace of territorial hornet wasps. ‘Mom, there are at least four and they circle all over, we are not going there!’ Boys declined rhubarb harvesting under such treacherous conditions.

sweetStalks came home anyway and a few hours later muffins with streaks of red and sour happened in our kitchen. One boy sliced and diced the rhubarb and the other spread coconut oil all over the pan. Sweet smells and mouthfuls of goodness followed. That is part of learning too.

To grow, to harvest, to peel and cook. To eat, to share to eat. Whose piece is bigger? What is greed? Do we all fall prey to it unless we remember there’s bigger rewards in gifting?

Who’s turn to do the dishes? That is learning to. To serve others just like they serve you, to show gratefulness, to know that togetherness is never reason for entitlement, but for humbleness in the face of so much being given to us through the presence of others. To learn to care.

Notes From Our School. Friday

20150824_153605 To say that we’re redefining the school concept, or rather searching to acquire knowledge the way we see fit, might sound conceited. It’s not with that purpose that we do this, but rather so that the boys can open their eyes. Hearts too, as you have to have both open and willing if you are to learn. And learn we have to, learn to live with grace and gratefulness. Learn to tie the stories of the world together so we can see the world in all that it is.

Today we talk about food. Why choose this over that, what is taste and why it is used by those who handle chemicals and colours to mislead us… ‘We have to eat with our brains’ I tell the boys and they tilt their heads. True, if we are to eat to live, I press on.

They like the challenge and the learning of unconventional matters that help choose our way as we go, saying no thank you to mainstream invites to indulge and siding with simplicity while at the same time learning that a ‘simple’ piece of food that nature creates is never simple, but the result of such mind-boggling biochemical processes it is but necessary to be grateful for each bite. And learn.

20150815_182852 It’s in the choices we make, with everything. With food, we can only make choices once we learn the taste of food and the value of each bite. Unaltered and ‘as is’, imperfect and yet complete, simple food as nature offers it is where eating starts. Science is there too and it is never repugnant but enticing.

We play the game of ‘What about…’ and the boys ask about processed foods that we all know are a silly compromise at times but without any nutritional value. ‘What about?…’ they keep on asking. I keep on answering nope every so often and they laugh. ‘But it says so on the package!’ they protest knowing the truth but enjoying the game.

To eat healthily is a mind-opening adventure. We eat with our minds, we eat with our hearts (would you ever eat the results of suffering or some chemical warfare that happened in the field where your food happened to be? ‘No Mom!’). We eat knowing that we’re never to bow to trends or marketing ploys, but stay true to needs and leave wants die of attention emaciation… They smile. Lesson ends with the eye glimmer that tells me they’re flying high, having learned things that make sense.

Next, I tell them, there’s something else to watch. A TED talk about taking care of those parts of ourselves that do not show. Today we talk about emotions, namely the ones that overwhelm us when we fail.

The lid of the white porcelain tea pot broke today because hurried little hands put it too close to the edge. Disaster! Little boy’s hand covered his mouth. Then came a sad pout. ‘You liked this pot, Mama. What now?’

Now is just the same with or without a porcelain lid. I am not tied to a while porcelain pot more than I am to some dandelion fluff. It’s not self-blame that helps us clean the white bits off the kitchen floor but the realization that mistakes happen. Blame is not the same with learning from our mistakes.

20150824_153714When you start learning, you fail at times. The boys nod; they know the feeling of emptiness and frustration that goes with it, as we all do. When you want to stomp your feet and be mean to yourself. Why would you, I ask? They think. Pause…’Because…’

Here is a place where we can say it as we see it. To admit to vulnerability is to find the place to grow from. And to understand others. Self-compassion for trying times. Whether you break a porcelain lid, or fail a test or or make mistakes of any other kind.

We pursue things that do not work out sometimes and that makes us feel inadequate, a flurry of sharp edges pushing against our soul… The boys’ eyes grow large. Smiles. You cannot turn back in time and erase mistakes, but you can try again with what you know. Because of a mistake, you know more.

I hope I can help them see that nobody’s expectation of greatness should ever make them think less of themselves. They are enough as they are, and if they believe that, they will keep on growing and following their heart’s call.

When you live, you make mistakes and you fail at times. What then? Where do look next? You draw a blanket of compassion from the shelf and wrap yourself in it. So you must put it somewhere on a shelf where you can reach it at any time. You or someone else will need it, we all do at times. Few of us have it handy. Few of us are willing to use it, or know how to…

It is a big subject indeed and we will go back to it. We are to get to know ourselves in learning. Reciting manuals and facts, achieving milestones so others can say ‘good job’ does little in the end if you’re not present to celebrate your feeling of having learned and the joy that comes with it. Learning with a purpose.

20150918_134456Next, little boy chooses piano class over science today (but can we do science on Monday, Mama?) and the sound of music, braided sounds from keyboard and from the boy experiencing the wonder of making it, start dancing around the living room. So it is, we love our school.

Big brother reads his own and then we talk it. It is about paradigms that help us move further or keep on being stuck. He already knows so much, but it is often hard to remember. His big smile and hug at the end will remind me of joy down the road when, our together adventure becomes overwhelming at times and we forget of paradigms and better ways to do it and get caught in spikes. Learning together becomes yet another facet of our bond.

Everything that’s worth doing and living becomes overwhelming at times. That’s how we learn. We admit to limitations, to being human, to being afraid and inspired, to follow calls only we can hear… To learn to say ‘I can.’

It’s been a good day. It’s past lunch. I make miso soup with thick kelp and soba noodles; we eat and talk. Taste and laughs and wonder. Learning is all, but it is never a paddock where we lock our thoughts at any time, but rather an endless array of fields and mountains where they can keep on running and dancing forever. Because, in truth, learning never stops…

Our School At Home And Beyond. A Glimpse

‘Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.’  Socrates

GrasslandsIt is not every day that I get to see a red-tail hawk swoop down for a midday meal in the grasslands. I had to stop for that one. And for the clouds that towered over the golden hills. It’s one of the most soothing landscapes I’ve even seen.

That is little boy’s classroom on the one day a week when he goes to Forest School. We sat in a circle in the middle of undulating dry grasses this morning, talked about snakes and owls and bugs, reviewed the things to do such as ‘wander far enough but not too far, know the number of whistles for this and that’, before the small feet peppered the dusty trail, following behind the teacher.

There is joy infusing our hug as I get ready to go on my way and little boy on his with the group.

20150915_105512Giggles, whispers, the trepidation of another day that brings learning through open eyes tasting the blue sky and the golden tall grasses that speak of dried-up lakes and hidden animal burrows. The land has stories to tell, it’s only fitting that we’d take ourselves and our children out here to listen.

It’s not in the books, not in the sitting upright and reminding your eyes to stay put on the word of the day. Not unless the word connects with the world you see with your eyes, the world you walk on and see transform from one day to the next, the smells that tell you learn to tell apart as you spend more time in places that you crawl through if need be to look at a bug, places you let crawl through you as reminders of life in its primal, must-see-or-else form.

worldsCome noon, I find my way back to the hills to pick up little boy. I stop a few times, it’s that beautiful. I breathe the place in: colours, smells, sun splashed lazily over velvety hills in the distance making them look like they are underwater. As if I am staring at algae-covered rocks in a stream. Two worlds in two. A world of many faces; ours.

This is what I want the boys to learn of in our school at home and in classrooms of hills and clouds.

That the world has mysteries we cannot see unless we bring ourselves close enough to it.

That everything has a key somewhere and as we get closer to understanding, we get closer to reverence, never away from it.

That we do not own the world, but are part of it. Conquering never works, gently prying the door open to knowledge, not vying for high marks and loud approval but the feeling of having understood a tinge more, that is what I dream for the boys.

Shelter to growThat they will learn reverence.

That they will be humbled by the richness of a handful of dirt and the secrets a leaf reveals as you hold it up against the sun.

That math and science are never the hated subjects, but keys to answering the whys we find as we go along.

That it is all a big picture with boundaries that keep on growing as our understanding of it grows.

Soft wallsThat the balance is fragile and our running to engage in rat races has nothing to do with balance but often leads to frantic days and connections lost, with ourselves first of all.

That school is never to be a place where we get farther away from ourselves so that we fit in, but a place where we get closer to knowing who we are, to affirming our thoughts and dreams, knowing as we go that the world has a place for each and every one of us, as we are. A place to be safe but bold, to wonder and let curiosity seep through. To help more thoughts grow.

Another hawk dances with the grasses. Another glimpse of life, death too, implied and not seen, and if seen, accepted as part of it all. Gracious, both side of it. The boys will learn this. They will learn that a glimpse is all. That we must take fully and give ourselves to it fully, that the glimpse is a gift repeating itself every day thousands of times.

skyThe side of the road is decorated in chicory flowers, as if the sky kissed the ground every now and then leaving marks of blue. Same fascinating colour, the reflection of the blue endless sky in small countless ones growing towards it, each holding the story of storms to come like delicate mysterious oracles. It is true.

The boys and I learned about it yesterday, and the amazement matched the mystery. Drawing blue petals on stalks on green, listening, asking questions, tilting their heads and blooming in almost incredulous smiles…

‘How do they do that, Mom? How do they know?’

DanceThat is what we will learn, and beyond. We will find ourselves privy to the conversation the earth has with the sky, we will have to be quiet enough to hear, keen-eyed to see, but mostly humbled enough to know that we are but another piece in the big puzzle called life, that we do not make sense without the other pieces.

That we are being given the opportunity to see it all, wonder and learn about it together is a gift as precious as life itself.

That is our dream school. We will only go as far as our gratefulness will take us.

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