New Facebook Page!

I’m finally stepping out of my comfort zone to do something new with this blog: I created a Facebook page! If you ‘like’ the page, then you’ll get frequent updates, as well as links and quotes that will only be posted on Facebook, and opportunities for discussions about education. I hope you find it interesting and helpful!

Click here to like Life is the Teacher on Facebook!

Posted in Exploring education | Tagged | 2 Comments

Sharing Some Link Love!

Here is a selection of articles that I’ve found about children and education on my excursions around the web lately. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comment section, whether you agree or disagree with what you read here. My hope is that we approach new concepts with an open mind, willing to consider possibilities, while remembering that ALL children are beautiful individuals who learn differently!

How to Grow a Home-School Group

Confessions of a Home-Schooling Parent

How to Respond When Someone Challenges Your Decision to Home-School

Reading at Five: Why?

Unschooling: Am I Ruining My Kid’s Life?

Banishing Bullying: Ten Disciplines of a Learning Leader

American Kids Need a Forest Kindergarten

Fifteen Ways Home-Schooling Is Like Living in a Frat House

How ‘Flipped Classrooms’ Are Turning the Traditional School Day Upside-down

Classroom Shock: What I am Learning as a Teacher in Finland

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posted in Exploring education | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Story of David, Who Knew He Wasn’t Luke

David was putting all his energy and heart into the piece he was playing. I sat on the edge of my chair, thrilled to see the great improvement he had made this week. This particular piece was quite difficult, one that had been a big step in technical and musical development for David, and I was glad to see that he had taken the challenge well.

As he finished the final chord, there was a slightly anxious look on his face. “Hey, you have it completely memorized! That’s great!” I cheered. I praised several other positive changes he had made that week in the music too. David grinned, but the worry in his eyes was still there, though I couldn’t figure out why.

When I said, “It’s so enjoyable to hear everyone play this piece, because I love the different interpretations each guitarist finds in these beautiful phrases,” suddenly David wilted. I was startled. What did I say wrong?

Seeing my confused look, David sighed and mumbled without making eye contact, “I know I’m not Sarah, and I know I’m not Luke [two students who are known to be top players in our studio, whom David personally knows]. I’m sure they can play this piece much better than I do.”

A light dawned. I had no idea he had been worrying about how he played compared with other students! With complete sincerity, I was able to say this: “I don’t want another Sarah, and I don’t want another Luke. I want a DAVID! You bring your own touch to the music, and nobody else will have the exact same way of playing it. That’s the beauty of being a musician! You should be proud of the work YOU are doing to bring this piece to life musically!”

David visibly straightened up taller in his chair. After that, we worked on relaxing tension in his right shoulder, fixed the fingering in a tricky passage, and talked about the phrasing. David was now attentive and eager. His music sounded even better at the end of the lesson.

Some students thrive on competition with each other, some are more internally motivated, and some cringe under the pressure of comparing their skill with another. It’s a delicate balance that requires sensitivity from the teacher and a knowledge of who the student is as a person. Thankfully, as David’s teacher, I learned a valuable lesson and was able to help him through this situation, but I’m sure this won’t be the last time I deal with the issue of crippling comparison in my students. For now, I am grateful that the anxiety over this piece of music is diminished and he is free to make the music his own without comparing himself to someone else. 

* Students’ names have been changed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posted in Stories | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Those Endless Steps

Just because you’re a good musician, does not mean that you will be a good music teacher.

Just because you’re a good music teacher, does not mean that you will be a good performer.

Just because you’re a good teacher, does not mean that you will be a good parent.

Sometimes you can be both. But not always.

Sometimes life feels like an unfair balance.

Learning these hard lessons is… well, hard.

The longer I am a teacher, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

The more I perform, the more I hear how flawed my performance is.

The longer I am a mother, the more I feel completely unqualified to parent.

The good part is….

…the longer I am a teacher, the more I am humbled and eager to learn from others.

…the more I perform, the more I fall in love with music.

…the longer I am a mother, the more I come to respect children, and to love my own child.

Interacting with others, especially in the role of mentor, teacher, or parent, is the best way to see your own weaknesses exposed. This week I’ve been taught how much I need to grow in patience, compassion, humility, self-control, and more patience. Did I mention patience? That’s a big one.

Sometimes we look at the future and only see endless steps of a hard climb ahead.

 

100_1483

Thank goodness that often what we see in the present is only a tiny glimpse of the incredible experiences that await us as we persevere to our goal.

100_1489

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Two Institutions That Control Your Child’s Life

“Two institutions at present control our children’s lives: television and schooling, in that order. Both of these reduce the real world of wisdom, fortitude, temperance, and justice to a never-ending, nonstop abstraction. In centuries past, the time of childhood and adolescence would have been occupied in real work, real charity, real adventures, and the realistic search for mentors who might teach what you really wanted to learn. A great deal of time was spent in community pursuits, practicing affection, meeting and studying every level of the community, learning how to make a home, and dozens of other tasks necessary to becoming a whole man or woman. 

But here is the calculus of time the children I teach must deal with:

Out of the 168 hours in each week my children sleep 56. That leaves them 112 hours a week out of which to fashion a self. 

According to recent reports, children watch 55 hours of television a week. That then leaves them 57 hours a week in which to grow up.

My children attend school 30 hours a week, use about eight hours getting ready for and traveling to and from school, and spend an average of seven hours a week in homework- a total of 45 hours. During that time they are under constant surveillance. They have no private time or private space and are disciplined if they try to assert individuality in the use of time or space. That leaves them 12 hours a week out of which to create a unique consciousness. Of course my kids eat, too, and that takes some time- not much because they’ve lost the tradition of family dining- but if we allot three hours a week to evening meals, we arrive at a net amount of private time for each child of nine hours per week.

It’s not enough, is it? The richer the kid, of course, the less television he or she watches, but the rich kid’s time is just as narrowly prescribed by a somewhat broader catalogue of commercial entertainments and the inevitable assignment to a series of private lessons in areas seldom of his or her own choice.

But these activities are just a more cosmetic way to create dependent human beings, unable to fill their own hours, unable to initiate lines of meaning to give substance and pleasure to their existence. It’s a national disease, this dependency and aimlessness, and I think schooling and television and lessons have a lot to do with it.”

~ Excerpt from Dumbing Us Down, by John Taylor Gatto

~ A weekly post sharing a quote from a book I’m currently reading ~

~ Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section ~

~ You can read more quotes every Thursday on my other blog,

Playing the Music of Life ~

100_1495

Posted in Exploring education | Tagged | Leave a comment

His Performance Moved Me to Tears

By the end of his performance, I had tears in my eyes. My mom and I were clapping even though the performance was on television, not live. It was breathtaking.

And no, it wasn’t a musical performance. It was ice skating.

I never thought that an ice-skating routine could be done with such passion, energy, grace, and joy. The live audience was on their feet screaming and clapping before he even finished! This young man is clearly on his way to becoming a world-class competitor. But what gave him such a powerful edge? Previous skaters had added more difficult moves to their routines, skated more precisely, and looked more impressive. What was this guy’s secret?

~ Before he started, he was clearly nervous. His coach, a young woman (yay for young female teachers, woohoo!) who looked fully confident in his abilities, gave him a hug and whispered some kind of encouragement. He had the complete support of his coach, who knew that he was prepared. I found out later that his coach had been with him since he was five years old!

~ When he finally settled into his beginning position on the ice, you can see the nervousness in his eyes still, but another look comes across his face: focus. He breathes deeply and exhales, pushing away the anxious jitters. As the music started he swung smoothly into the first move; his face now looked calm, determined, and intent.

~ While I couldn’t see what was going on in his head, of course, his movements were completely controlled. Nothing looked haphazard or timid due to nerves shaking his resolve. He was absolutely ready to skate, and once the music started, he stayed in control of his muscles and body. He knew how to direct all the nervous energy into useful energy, blocking out the voices in his mind.

~ Each step was rehearsed so well that his body could fall into the familiar patterns without hesitating. Nothing was forgotten. Nothing was done too fast or too slow. Every footfall, twist, twirl, hand motion, head turn, arch, and spin was perfectly memorized. He probably could have performed the routine in his sleep! One of the judges said that last year “jumps gave him fits”. Obviously he spent months perfecting each second of the program with practice and spot-work.

~ He was always looking ahead to the next step. Over his shoulder, ahead to the landing spot on the ice, ahead to the far end of the rink: he would think one step ahead of himself, prepare for the difficult moves, and execute them with focus. Then he was immediately looking ahead for the next move. He did not dwell on what had just happened. Everything was about the future and about continuing to move on to the next step.

~ Once the music’s tempo got faster, he really threw himself into the playful aspect of the performance. All his energy was put into putting on a true performance for the audience. The judges were still watching, but it was the audience who was cheering and clapping in rhythm for him that he was skating for now. You can see it on his face as he flies past the crowds! “He has something very unique that we’ve seen: the ability to connect with the audience, and by extension, the judges.”

~ While still keeping control over his body, he put all his passion into what he was doing. You can see his excitement while he was skating. “He truly knows the power of the performance.”

~ He had all three elements of being a great ice-skater, as the judges pointed out: entertainment, artistry, and athleticism. You need everything in balance to captivate both an audience and a judge.

~ At the end, you can tell by his expression that he was not prideful about what he had just accomplished. He was happy, surprised at how well he did, and excited to hear the roar of the crowd! A great performer should be humble about their successes. The shocked look on his face when his scores were announced proves that he used the energy of the moment to surpass his personal best and bring a spectacular show to the rink.

In the end, I realized that much of what I saw in Jason Brown’s performance could be applied to being a performer of music as well. Being a classical musician means that usually the audience isn’t cheering loudly or stamping in their seats, but you can still feed off the energy of the crowd! You might not be leaping into a triple spin, but you can hold the audience in the palm of your hand with an electrifying melody. You might not glide across the ice with grace, but you can bring a room to tears with the tender notes of a story told without words.

As performers of the arts, we would all do well to learn lessons from each other, so that each of us can grow and benefit for the beauty that we love to show the world.

Posted in Stories | Tagged | 1 Comment

A Home-school Manifesto (and How to Build a Home-school Group from Scratch)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Well, here begins another step of the journey.

A new friend and I are building a home-school group together from scratch. It’s not that there aren’t large and small home-schooling groups and co-ops and resources in our (very large) city already, but we just haven’t found one that fits what we’re looking for. Yes, there are Christian home-school groups. Yes, there are smaller, more relational groups. Yes, there are co-ops for toddlers and young children. But I haven’t found any that are specifically for families who follow attachment/gentle parenting standards. Or that are also geared towards pre-preschoolers without being more of a structured class setting.

As Christian, gentle parenting families with toddlers, what we really want is a group of like-minded folks who are in it for a place where people can build relationships, get to know each other and build community, celebrate holidays, offer support to each other, and let our kids play together like kids should at this young age. Simply, our desire is for a group that is more relationally-based instead of academically-based. As our children mature, we will begin considering various academic curricula and supplementary resources for them, yet still want to have the community of the home-school group, for many reasons.

With all that in mind, we formulated a charter for the home-school group. Three of the biggest things that helped me articulate all the points here are 1) my own experience as a home-schooler, 2) my and my friend’s goals for our families, and 3) a lot of advice from other home-schooling and former home-schooling parents whom I personally know. Stay tuned for another post soon where I’ll share some of the amazing words written by them, because their wisdom is too awesomely helpful to keep to myself!

Besides having a brief statement of faith that encompasses general denominations of Christianity (we didn’t want to be exclusively one denomination or theology), we also have this guide below for our beliefs as a group of families involved in a home-schooling group, and then a more specific outline of what we hope to be as home-schooling parents as our children grow.

Over the years, maybe some of the wording will change. Maybe our goals will take a different direction academically, or we’ll find that something needs to be altered in the guidelines. That’s the beauty of building your own education: you aren’t constrained forever by an outside standard! You can work through difficulties and repair and restore and reform your goals according to the needs of your own child, while the community of your home-school group, with friends who are walking the same walk, ensures that you don’t have to do it alone.

Let’s see where this journey leads!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We believe that our role as parents is a beautiful, sacred gift from God, who has allowed us time with our children to bring them up with love. As Christians, we seek to raise our children with the teachings of Jesus Christ as found in the Bible.

We believe that Jesus was the perfect example for us of a gentle, firm, and compassionate teacher. We trust in Him to help us through our weaknesses, strengthen us in our gifts, guide us through our mistakes, comfort us in our troubles, and grow in our understanding, just as we hope to do for our own children.

We believe in attachment parenting, gentle parenting, and supportive parenting. Our methods of discipline may vary, but we all lean towards these parenting styles.

We know that all families are different. The role of technology in your home, food and diet rules, bedtime schedules, curriculum choices, extracurricular classes, etc. are up to the discretion of your own family. We are all doing the best we can with what we have! While we don’t have to validate another’s choices, it’s better to respectfully, kindly disagree than tear each other down because of little things that don’t involve your own family. We value honesty, but we also value compassion and courtesy! Be kind with your words!

We want to build a network of good relationships. Our children need friendships, and so do we as their parents! We want our children to enjoy interactions with others regardless of age or intended grade. We hope to build deeper relationships with each other so that we can learn together, learn from each other, celebrate the good times, support each other through the hard times, and raise our children together as they grow over the years.

Our toddler and preschoolers’ learning will be child-led with parental guidance. As our children are very young, we are focused not on workbooks, sitting at a desk, standing in a line, or rote memorization, but on helping them develop as persons, with the appropriate skills and abilities of a toddler or preschooler. At this age, learning should be fun, interactive, and play-based with plenty of crafts, outdoor time, books that they enjoy, unstructured play, creativity, hands-on activities, and introductions to new concepts. 

As our children get older, our goals will naturally change! Here is a more detailed guide to what we hope to be as home-schooling parents. Our goal is to:

~ Instruct our child(ren) so that they will have the ability and desire to embark on their life-long journey of seeking God, understanding themselves, loving others, and hungering for truth.

~ Trust our children to be active in their own education. They are the ones who will ultimately decide what to do with their lives, and their innate curiosity, energy, abilities, and talents will be key factors in their personal educational path.

~ Help our child(ren) discover their gifts and strengths in whatever area they choose to explore. We want to impart that learning can be done for the love of learning, not just because it is a chore or necessity. More importantly, though, we want our child(ren) to know that we love them for who they are, not for what they can do.

~ Develop individual academic paths based on the abilities, interests, and personality of each child so that they can best learn how to love beauty, how to think outside the box, how to think logically, how to gain understanding for themselves, how to express themselves, how to learn from the past so that they can become aware of the future, why things work the way they do, how to do practical mathematics, and how to succeed with practical life skills. Click here for more thoughts about these subjects.

~ Provide a supportive environment for our child(ren) to study, explore, investigate, research, learn, and experiment. We will encourage age/maturity-appropriate learning (regardless of assigned “grade levels”), letting our children take risks, be curious, and develop their skills and judgement. While the eventual desire is for the child to be an independent, capable learner, we will always give them safety and instruction in their studies, in whatever form we deem necessary for the child(ren)’s personal well-being. We will provide resources, encourage mentorship, and give access to supplementary educational options as the child matures.

~ Focus on the development of the child as a whole person who is creative, expressive, passionate about what they love, resourceful, hard working, and wise, keeping in mind the end goal of a person who is healthy in mind, body, and soul. Education happens not only at a desk, but also in the kitchen, in the garden, at the store, out in nature, with friends, with a parent, by ourselves. The world is at our doorstep just waiting to be explored!

~ Remember that they are children, and seek to provide plenty of opportunities for play, rest, spontaneity, relationship, flexibility, conversation, and joy!

~ Guide our children with wisdom, appropriate discipline, and gentle parenting to help them establish positive character traits, including empathy, humility, loyalty, compassion, love, honesty, kindness, self-confidence, patience, generosity, self-discipline, gentleness, determination, self-control, and integrity.

~ Enjoy having our child(ren) with us every day! These moments and years pass quickly by. We hope to always keep in mind that impromptu dance parties, baking cookies, singing in the rain, dropping everything to play outside on a spring day, having late night talks over hot chocolate, snow days, taking the morning off to help a friend, weekend camping trips, and other sudden surprises give us time together to play and love and be, and those are the memories that will mean the most when we look back on our family’s life.

Posted in Exploring education, Home-schooling 101, Homeschooling | Tagged , , | Leave a comment