A few nights ago, I was chatting with my Mom about work environments and learning new skills organically as job components change. It led to a conversation about everything we remember learning about in school. I have very fond memories of one particular teacher, Mrs. Zickuhr, my 4th grade teacher. It wasn’t just her personality or character it was what happened in her classroom. Picture it: You open the door to your classroom and there are paper vines strung from one side of the room to the next. Giant green paper leaves hang from the ceiling and there are tropical birds and animals hanging from the vines. The sound of rain plays in the background. You see, in Mrs. Zickuhr’s classroom we learned by doing. Sure, we read about the Rainforest but I cannot remember a single book we read. But what I do vividly remember are the parents coming in and helping us get everything we had spent weeks preparing set up. I also remember making a polar bear habitat complete with a foil ice pond and shimmering glitter for snow. But there is something else that mattered most of all: she knew us. She knew what we loved and what our passions were, and she found ways for us to use them within the classroom. I have been playing the piano since I was 5 and she would find ways for me to be able to do that within the day.
I never wanted to leave that classroom because it felt like home.
The conversation of that classroom led me to recall other things that I had done as projects in my school years. One year I sewed a small wall hanging that had the Colorado State flower, the Columbine, and a mountain and star on it. In High School I sewed a quilt containing all of the flags throughout the history of the United States and typed up a report on when the states had been added. I remember all of the things I created as “homework” because they involved things that I was passionate about. Those teachers had allowed us to use what we were passionate about to demonstrate our knowledge and it didn’t even feel like a test. It felt personal.
Schooling in America today has fallen far short of anything individualized. In fact, it seems the only way that a child receives anything individualized is in the form of an IEP, Individualized Education Plan, which occurs when a student needs more support in one or more areas. As I was re-reading the book The Call of the Wild and Free a few weeks ago, I came across a quote that really hit me. It’s by Sandra K. Cook, author of Homeschooling with Inside Information. She writes, “Notice the difference: a child’s disability is the focus in traditional classroom settings, but his abilities are the focus in the homeschool environment”. And there it is, the elephant in the room in the Standard American Education System.
If you have not read The Call of the Wild and Free, I really encourage you to do so. We also happen to have 5 copies on hand for people to borrow. (Yes, it’s that good).
So, what are we to do then? If the Standard American Education is not something we want for our children, what do we do? And more so, where do we even start?
Many of you reading this are here because you’re considering other options for your child’s education. I’m here to share a little bit about one of those options. My goal is not to convince anyone that this is the best way. Rather, my purpose is to share the possibilities of what could be and let you follow your instincts about what is best for your family.
Because when it comes to your family, you are the expert – not that elephant sitting there in the room.
Before I share the vision, I want you to keep in mind that this is just the foundation. Education is not meant to be something planned out in a rigid timeline; it is meant to be fluid and follow the lead of each child; so while the foundation and our philosophy will always remain the same, what is happening at Here We Grow will change as days and weeks and years go on, because the children are ever changing. So instead of the daily schedule, which is rigid, we refer to it as “the flow”. Let me introduce you to it.
Exploration Indoors and Out
Exploration Indoors and Out
That’s it. That’s the flow. It seems very simple, but that is very purposeful. Children do need something predictable. They like to know what is coming next so they can map out what they’re going to do or play with, but they do not need to have their every moment dictated and planned. Both indoors and outdoors are various things to explore. For example, one might find pipettes, baking soda, vinegar, cups and bowls at one table (let them discover what happens when you mix certain things together). There may be playdough and tools and letter mats at another. But those are just 2 elements of things to explore), because the real magic of our space is what happens organically.
Here We Grow is a place to observe and connect with your child as they explore and create. Maybe they’re really into building with giant magnet tiles or Super Space Magnet pieces. Perhaps they will head into the open-ended art area and decide to paint. Or maybe they just walk around for awhile taking it all in and deciding what to do. This is meant to be the “launch pad” of sorts where you can discover what your child is interested in and build upon that. For example, if they’re taking interest in painting you could ask if they wanted to go the library and look for different books that may have painted illustrations to check out and take home. (We have quite a collection of books). Our if they’re playing store and interested in the cash register it might be a natural segway into Math and counting coins. We do not follow a curriculum in the traditional sense; rather as Lisa Murphy says, “The children are the curriculum”. The best way to describe our environment is a giant Play Lab. While children engage in play we as parents and playworkers get to observe and interact with them in a way that is organic and not stressful. Our space is the Launch Pad and we then add in elements as they show or express interest. If we have someone who wants to learn to sew you can bet I’ll find a small sewing machine and some cloth for them to explore.
Maybe your family is just starting out homeschooling. Or perhaps you’re a family who has children who are not school age yet, you’re simply looking for a space for children to have the freedom to explore.
If you’ve been looking for a community who values learning through experiences; a place where parents can connect with each other and with their children, then I have two words for you: Welcome Home.
Our year is purposefully split into four, 13-week sessions; one for each season. This allows you to plan according to the needs of your family.
While we do not follow a strict curriculum, that does not mean that your family isn’t welcome to do so at home. Many families follow mixed-models of education. Our space is more of what many would define as “unschooling”.
Ainsley Arment says it best in her book The Call of the Wild and Free.
“No matter what we call this thing we do, let’s remember that learning is not a system, a methodology, or a checklist to get things done. It is an organic process that occurs when the conditions are right. Our role is part guide and part architect, creating an environment in which our children can not only grow, but thrive.”
Welcome to Here We Grow, a Nature Playschool created for children to explore and discover who they are and nurture their unique abilities.