Archive for January, 2010

Music and Life and Sudbury Schools

CARTOONARIFFIC!
















Check out this animated short with spoken word by Alan Watts. Animation by Chris Brion and Todd Benson, produced by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame - sure do love those guys!).

Here is the link to the video on YouTube

I came across this video when I was first learning about Sudbury model schools. My daughter, Tobin, was almost 5 years old and had not quite arrived at the kindergarten cut-off according to the city when she asked me, "Can I please go to school now, Mommy?"

I jumped (more like tentatively sqeaked) feet (no, big toes) first into searching for options for my not-quite-school-ager. I began to notice a protective feeling churning in my belly. As it began to bubble up, so did the petri dish of emotions and memories I had apparently repressed since I was in school. Fear, doubt, insecurity, pressure, boredom, judgments, comparisons, college, SAT's, No. 2 pencils, impossible standards, imposed morality, dress codes and permission slips.

Not for my little girl, I insisted.

Then I saw this video which was posted on Katuah Sudbury School's website at the time. I felt for the first time since beginning my search for Tobin's school that I could breathe a little easier. They get it, I thought. The "let down," the "hoax," exactly as Alan Watts had described, was exactly what I instinctively wanted to protect my daughter from (Watch the video to see what I'm talking about).

I was put to even greater ease on the day of our interview. Tobin, usually shy and quite clingy, waltzed right in as if she had been there a dozen times before, and began playing with some students her age.

To this day, Tobin continues to ask me, "Can I please go to school now, Mommy?" and you wouldn't believe it, but actually protests when I arrive to pick her up at the end of a school day at Katuah Sudbury.

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Music and Life and Sudbury Schools

CARTOONARIFFIC!
















Check out this animated short with spoken word by Alan Watts. Animation by Chris Brion and Todd Benson, produced by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame - sure do love those guys!).

Here is the link to the video on YouTube

I came across this video when I was first learning about Sudbury model schools. My daughter, Tobin, was almost 5 years old and had not quite arrived at the kindergarten cut-off according to the city when she asked me, "Can I please go to school now, Mommy?"

I jumped (more like tentatively sqeaked) feet (no, big toes) first into searching for options for my not-quite-school-ager. I began to notice a protective feeling churning in my belly. As it began to bubble up, so did the petri dish of emotions and memories I had apparently repressed since I was in school. Fear, doubt, insecurity, pressure, boredom, judgments, comparisons, college, SAT's, No. 2 pencils, impossible standards, imposed morality, dress codes and permission slips.

Not for my little girl, I insisted.

Then I saw this video which was posted on Katuah Sudbury School's website at the time. I felt for the first time since beginning my search for Tobin's school that I could breathe a little easier. They get it, I thought. The "let down," the "hoax," exactly as Alan Watts had described, was exactly what I instinctively wanted to protect my daughter from (Watch the video to see what I'm talking about).

I was put to even greater ease on the day of our interview. Tobin, usually shy and quite clingy, waltzed right in as if she had been there a dozen times before, and began playing with some students her age.

To this day, Tobin continues to ask me, "Can I please go to school now, Mommy?" and you wouldn't believe it, but actually protests when I arrive to pick her up at the end of a school day at Katuah Sudbury.

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Music and Life and Sudbury Schools

CARTOONARIFFIC!
















Check out this animated short with spoken word by Alan Watts. Animation by Chris Brion and Todd Benson, produced by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame - sure do love those guys!).

Here is the link to the video on YouTube

I came across this video when I was first learning about Sudbury model schools. My daughter, Tobin, was almost 5 years old and had not quite arrived at the kindergarten cut-off according to the city when she asked me, "Can I please go to school now, Mommy?"

I jumped (more like tentatively sqeaked) feet (no, big toes) first into searching for options for my not-quite-school-ager. I began to notice a protective feeling churning in my belly. As it began to bubble up, so did the petri dish of emotions and memories I had apparently repressed since I was in school. Fear, doubt, insecurity, pressure, boredom, judgments, comparisons, college, SAT's, No. 2 pencils, impossible standards, imposed morality, dress codes and permission slips.

Not for my little girl, I insisted.

Then I saw this video which was posted on Katuah Sudbury School's website at the time. I felt for the first time since beginning my search for Tobin's school that I could breathe a little easier. They get it, I thought. The "let down," the "hoax," exactly as Alan Watts had described, was exactly what I instinctively wanted to protect my daughter from (Watch the video to see what I'm talking about).

I was put to even greater ease on the day of our interview. Tobin, usually shy and quite clingy, waltzed right in as if she had been there a dozen times before, and began playing with some students her age.

To this day, Tobin continues to ask me, "Can I please go to school now, Mommy?" and you wouldn't believe it, but actually protests when I arrive to pick her up at the end of a school day at Katuah Sudbury.

Comments off

Music and Life and Sudbury Schools

CARTOONARIFFIC!
















Check out this animated short with spoken word by Alan Watts. Animation by Chris Brion and Todd Benson, produced by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame - sure do love those guys!).

Here is the link to the video on YouTube

I came across this video when I was first learning about Sudbury model schools. My daughter, Tobin, was almost 5 years old and had not quite arrived at the kindergarten cut-off according to the city when she asked me, "Can I please go to school now, Mommy?"

I jumped (more like tentatively sqeaked) feet (no, big toes) first into searching for options for my not-quite-school-ager. I began to notice a protective feeling churning in my belly. As it began to bubble up, so did the petri dish of emotions and memories I had apparently repressed since I was in school. Fear, doubt, insecurity, pressure, boredom, judgments, comparisons, college, SAT's, No. 2 pencils, impossible standards, imposed morality, dress codes and permission slips.

Not for my little girl, I insisted.

Then I saw this video which was posted on Katuah Sudbury School's website at the time. I felt for the first time since beginning my search for Tobin's school that I could breathe a little easier. They get it, I thought. The "let down," the "hoax," exactly as Alan Watts had described, was exactly what I instinctively wanted to protect my daughter from (Watch the video to see what I'm talking about).

I was put to even greater ease on the day of our interview. Tobin, usually shy and quite clingy, waltzed right in as if she had been there a dozen times before, and began playing with some students her age.

To this day, Tobin continues to ask me, "Can I please go to school now, Mommy?" and you wouldn't believe it, but actually protests when I arrive to pick her up at the end of a school day at Katuah Sudbury.

Comments off

Music and Life and Sudbury Schools

CARTOONARIFFIC!
















Check out this animated short with spoken word by Alan Watts. Animation by Chris Brion and Todd Benson, produced by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame - sure do love those guys!).

Here is the link to the video on YouTube

I came across this video when I was first learning about Sudbury model schools. My daughter, Tobin, was almost 5 years old and had not quite arrived at the kindergarten cut-off according to the city when she asked me, "Can I please go to school now, Mommy?"

I jumped (more like tentatively sqeaked) feet (no, big toes) first into searching for options for my not-quite-school-ager. I began to notice a protective feeling churning in my belly. As it began to bubble up, so did the petri dish of emotions and memories I had apparently repressed since I was in school. Fear, doubt, insecurity, pressure, boredom, judgments, comparisons, college, SAT's, No. 2 pencils, impossible standards, imposed morality, dress codes and permission slips.

Not for my little girl, I insisted.

Then I saw this video which was posted on Katuah Sudbury School's website at the time. I felt for the first time since beginning my search for Tobin's school that I could breathe a little easier. They get it, I thought. The "let down," the "hoax," exactly as Alan Watts had described, was exactly what I instinctively wanted to protect my daughter from (Watch the video to see what I'm talking about).

I was put to even greater ease on the day of our interview. Tobin, usually shy and quite clingy, waltzed right in as if she had been there a dozen times before, and began playing with some students her age.

To this day, Tobin continues to ask me, "Can I please go to school now, Mommy?" and you wouldn't believe it, but actually protests when I arrive to pick her up at the end of a school day at Katuah Sudbury.

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Bedtime drama

Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem to characterize our age.

— Albert Einstein

I read this quote recently, and I thought how appropriately it characterizes the state of education in America. But it’s also a great thing to consider in your parenting. Are you perfecting means but confusing ends in your parenting?

This is as good a context as any to share one of my struggles/failures as a father (as I recently promised to do). I have been known to get in some really nasty moods, especially late at night, especially if I’ve been eating anything sugary. And I’ve recently seen a pattern in myself of dreading bedtime, i.e. putting our kids to bed. Morgan, my daughter, tends to be the easiest. She’s ready for bed the soonest, and she falls asleep quickly. And Sammy, my oldest son, although he takes his own sweet time (he gets that from me), is pretty cooperative too. But Lucas, who shares a room with Sammy, is my 3-year-old, and he doesn’t like going to bed, at least not lately. And I don’t like putting him to bed. In fact, I recently told my wife Lisa, “I hate bedtime.”

On more than one occasion, Lisa has had to come to relieve me, when she hears Lucas crying. In those cases, I’m tired and cranky and impatient. All I want is for him to stay in his bed and let me go to bed. I don’t want to hear any more. I don’t want to snuggle him, I don’t want to rock him, or make up any more stories. I just want to go to bed.

Fortunately, we’ve recognized the pattern and are starting to do something about it. Lisa and I will be taking turns, so neither of us gets burned out and each of us gets a break. This is a good start. Also, I’ve been attending better to my own sleep and eating habits, which helps prevent those nasty moods. As for getting Lucas to bed, we’ve even started talking about using rewards or punishments to get him to start cooperating. (Yes, I’ve read Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards, and, yes, I know this is not ideal.)

This is a sad state of affairs, because bedtime can be a great time for connecting with your kids. One of the things Lisa and I both want to do is start intentionally enjoying bedtime. In other words, don’t just perfect the means of getting the ostensible end: getting the kid to sleep. But ask: what other ends, or outcomes, do we want from bedtime? If getting him to sleep were the only aim, then we may as well just drug him. (I’m kidding, sheesh!) What if bedtime was not only a time to get Lucas to sleep but also a time of connecting with him? Of hearing him and understanding him and deepening our relationship? What if a change of perspective is all that’s needed?

I don’t know what we’re going to do. We’re still figuring it out. But I’ve started to step back and ask myself, what’s really possible here? What do I really want from bedtime?

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Prospect and Refuge, Hunters and Prey

Infected Pictures 009

In the patch of woods just outside the school office, three boys sneak by. Two more lurk deeper in the trees. Suddenly, they’re sprinting across the school grounds. Two outdoor games have been big on campus  lately: “Hunters and Prey” and “Infected.” Both are hide-and-seek variants and can  involve anywhere from ten to thirty students at a time. Hallmarks include people flashing past, hiding as long as possible, and shouting from deep in the forest. Games can last for hours.

Crossing from one building to the other yesterday, taking a few minutes to deeply notice the players,  I again asked the question we ask so many times : what’s going on here? Obviously, the players are breathing fresh air, exercising, and developing relationships, all hallmarks of outdoor play. Furthermore, the open-ended quality of the games fosters critical and strategic thinking in the players. But what about these particular games makes them so compelling?

Intense games of hiding and seeking seem to reinforce biological drives and instincts. Quoting from landscape theorist Jay Appleton’s Prospect-Refuge theory,

“at both human and sub-human level the ability to see and the ability to hide are both important in calculating a creature’s survival prospects . . . . Where he has an unimpeded opportunity to see we can call it a prospect. Where he has an opportunity to hide, a refuge. . . . To this . . . aesthetic hypothesis we can apply the name prospect-refuge theory.”Infected Pictures 026

We are hard-wired, then, both to take refuge and to seek higher ground. For millions of years on the savanna, or in the woodlands, humans needed both prospect and refuge to literally survive. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, wolves are long gone, as are saber-toothed tigers.  Most students get their food from supermarkets. Still, they  satisfy basic drives when they play their games. Although whether or not they will survive may not be at stake, whether or not they will thrive surely is. Brains and bodies anticipate the need to find prospect and refuge, to seek and to hide. At Fairhaven, the students fulfill this need.

Our working thesis is that free range young people develop best. Playing Hunters and Prey, from a point of prospect, they are learning how to take stock of a situation and they then experience the good (or bad) things that this assessment brings. They are also learning how to hide, or more broadly put, to take refuge. Refining these individual traits in the social matrix of a game only intensifies their value. Given the stakes and the outcomes, the oft-repeated phrase it’s just a game falls short of the complexity.

Later in the day, two students relax from the prospect of the wrought iron rockers on the porch, the highest ground at Fairhaven. Noticeably pleased to be blending in by talking with me, they tell me casually that they’re playing, that they’re part of the game swirling below. Nevertheless, some aspect of them stands ready, at a moment’s notice, to spring from their spots at the merest whiff of an approaching hunter.Infected Pictures 014

Mark McCaig

January, 2009

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Considering your Choices in Education?

Rising Tide School is hosting a January Open House this Sunday, January 31st, from 1:30-3:30pm. Parents, prospective students, siblings, and interested community members are all welcome to get informed about Sudbury education and enrolling at Rising Tide School. Join us at the school, 114 20th Ave SE in Olympia, for conversation and information.
We’ll also be at the 1st Annual Olympia Area Private School Fair. This event is on Saturday, January 30th, from 1-3 pm at 1601 North Street in Olympia.
Can’t make it this weekend? You can contact the school to schedule an Admissions Tour at a time that’s convenient for you. We are excited to share our thriving, growing school with you!

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Why I’m writing this blog

First, I love to write. Difficult though it may be, I feel much better after I’ve been able to share my thoughts or insights with others through the written word, particularly when those thoughts are fueled by passion. (And if you’ve read much of this blog, you know I’m passionate about the topic of education.)

Second, reflection on parenting makes me a better parent. When I have time to reflect on parenting, especially in a public context, it makes me feel that much more accountable for being a good parent.

Third, I want to encourage parents and help them become better at what they do. I want to help them question their own assumptions, and to make choices consciously. In this respect, I see this blog as making a modest contribution to humanity.

Fourth, I want to draw more attention to the Sudbury approach to education. Among alternative educational models, most people have heard of Montessori, and many have heard of Waldorf, but few have heard of Sudbury. I want more people to find out about what a wonderful option Sudbury schools are. I want to see more schools founded and more schools flourishing.

Finally, I want to see my kids’ own school, The Trillium School, continue to succeed. I want my kids to have this option for the full length of their school-age years. This blog will help existing parents of Trillium to stay stimulated and on board. And, by helping spread the word about educational alternatives, it may indirectly draw more local parents into considering Trillium.

Whatever your interest in reading this blog, thank you. Now that I’ve shared why I’m writing this blog, would you be willing to leave a comment, sharing why you’re reading it?

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Warrior Cats of Creek Clan

This week and and especially last, the siren call of unusually balmy weather pulled most students outside. Many played roleplaying games and built things with the bountiful supply of spent plant stalks and downed wood. Others enjoyed the freedom of wandering outside without coats. One day when temperatures approached 60 degrees, a young student complained that she was hot and asked to go swimming, but the creek water is still too cold for that.


Warrior Cats has been a particularly engaging and enduring roleplaying game among students from age 5 through 11. It is loosely based on a book series, although Clearwater students have gone far beyond the books by creating rich new worlds, characters and scenarios. Many of these students are working with a staff member to develop and rehearse an original play using their roleplaying characters as a starting point. (Look for future blog posts about the play.)

For many hours, students gathered materials to build shelters and dens.




One group of students helped some of the warrior cats to build a beautiful medicine cat den (photos below) and spent some time putting together a lean-to separate from the roleplaying activity.



The warrior cats themselves, who are known as "Creek Clan", are prodigious and industrious builders, as well as a close-knit and harmonious clan. They care for each other and have a complex culture and well-organized structure. They have a leader, warriors and warrior apprentices, a medicine cat (or healer) and apprentice, and kits (the young ones), which they take turns caring for and training.

Clan gathering

More text and photos after the jump.

Leader cat and kits

Medicine cat den opening

Medicine cat herself

Medicine cat and apprentice

Medicine cat at home

Apprentice gathering herbs

More herb gathering

The warriors have their own den and the warrior apprentices den up nearby.

Warriors' den at the base of last week's fallen snag

Woodflight enters the warrior's den

Thistlethorn above the warriors' den

Woodflight relaxes in the warrior apprentices' den

Just today three of the littlest kits went out to the clan lands without the elder cats and sought to imitate those same elders by setting up a nursery and starting to build their own den.





End of post.

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